August 3, 2014
I died today.
I remember very little about the day itself, except that I was unusually tired. Thanks to the generosity of Wendy and our other helpers, I was able to spend most of the day in the motor home, and promised to cook hamburgers for dinner as a way of saying thanks. It was hot that day. Humid. By the time I lay down, it was somewhere around 4 pm, and though a normal nap for me might be an hour, I had no awareness at all until Wendy burst through the door at 7:30 and asked in the tone of William H. Macy in Pleasantville, "Where's my dinner?"
The rest of that evening is largely a blur. We went back to the motor home and indulged in one of our favorite pastimes - marathoning some DVDs of Supernatural, curled up together on the sofa bed while the generator rattled along and what was being called the "super moon" was rising low on the horizon. After watching a couple of episodes, we turned in - me on the front bunk, Wendy in the back of the coach.
It wasn't long before I heard myself call out to her. I couldn't breathe. My chest was moving up and down as it should, but no air was entering my lungs. Things had become surreal. I wondered at first if these unprecedented symptoms were just in my head? Was I having a panic attack or was I really on my way to Valhalla?
Taking one look at me, Wendy asked, "Do you want me to call 911?"
Normally we are both extremely conservative people where medical issues are concerned. We don't call 911 unless there is arterial spray, and only then if it can't be contained with duct tape and bailing twine.
To my own surprise, I nodded.
Other words were exchanged, though I understood little of it as I sat on the steps of the motor home looking out at the stunning majesty of the night on which I was destined to die. Clouds shimmered over the moon, illumined from within, while Wendy ran to a friend's RV to get help. It was an incongruous paradox, or so my mind was telling me.
The ambulance came and a female paramedic began administering liquid nitro spray and a host of other medications, all of which did precisely nothing. I had the thought that this was more than enough drama. I was done. Could I please just go back to bed now?
Then I was lifted. Carried. The doors of the ambulance slammed with an odd finality and I wondered where Wendy had gone, wondered if I would ever see her, have the opportunity to say goodbye as life-long companions are meant to. I knew then that I was dying.
"We're here," she said.
The world went black.
A different woman's voice leaned close to my ear and said with a matter-of-factness that was incongruously reassuring, "You're having a heart attack."
And then I died.
I thought it rather peculiar that Orlando and his companion (actually Wendy's double, who answers to the name of "Styx") should be standing in the emergency room dressed more like characters from a Dickens novel than the timeless inorganic energy bodies they really are. Orlando was wearing a fine black tuxedo with a tall top hat, which he tipped in my direction as I sat up from my mortal remains and our gazes locked across the short distance separating us. Styx was attired much the same, though his tux was white and instead of a top hat, he was wearing a white Fedora, looking very much like a modern day gangsta. He was day to Orlando's night, yang to Orlando's yin.
I knew without knowing that they were the totality of ourselves - the perfected projection of awareness that was inorganic, eternal, and altogether immortal.
"Ah, about time you rose from the dead," Orlando said with a grin. "Just let me know when you've had enough of this hospital drama and I can end it. You won't feel a thing - at least not anything that you won't like."
Styx was looking at me the way Wendy looks at me when I'm about to do something incredibly stupid, his waist-length white-blond hair shimmering like those clouds in the light of the moon. He's always amused, always on the verge of breaking out into a storm of laughter.
"Am I dead?" I asked, hopping off the treatment table where a team of doctors, nurses and technicians were scrambling around my lifeless corpse, performing all manner of ritual and seeming oblivious to the fact that I was standing right next to them, waiting for the inevitable determination to be made. 'Time of death?' The fact that no one said it only seemed to mean it was a slow night in the ER and they had nothing better to do than labor over the unmoving remains of a stranger.
So I turned my attention to Orlando and Styx instead. I found myself dressed in old jeans and a ratty yin/yang t-shirt - something I hadn't worn since the day I first met Orlando in the flesh at a post office in southern California in 1988 - and inhabiting a Xena-like body which I found very much to my liking. Time waved from the shadows. I was back in kenpo karate class for awhile, back in the past when Orlando was manifested in the flesh and I was young and strong and healthy and could still turn the heads of powerful men.
Styx tapped me in the center of the forehead to get my attention, but my eyes went automatically to Orlando.
Looking at him was like breathing when I had been unable to breathe before. Luminous warmth. A candle's breath. And Styx was no less mesmerizing.
Time stopped. We regarded one another the same way lovers long parted might regard one another.
"So... now what?" I asked tentatively.
The mischievous light in Orlando's eyes was almost terrifying, but at the same time dangerously alluring.
"That's up to you," he said. "You can crawl back inside your body and go on watching Supernatural, or you can come with us."
Much as I like Supernatural, it was a no-brainer. I had created Orlando to be the essence of my Self, the vessel of my awareness into infinity and throughout eternity. He had lived a thousand lifetimes and some, probably a lot more than that. He had spent the past 26+ years as my onboard instructor - teacher, friend, companion, lover - and there was no doubt in my mind that this was the moment every warrior both dreads longs for simultaneously.
He was the Eagle. And he was the freedom beyond the Eagle.
The secret, it seemed, was setting it up so that the Eagle was the Self. The ally. The betrothed. The eternal Other.
This came as a flash of understanding, but also without much ado. It was what it was. And it was good.
Even as I was fully content with the decision to rush into his arms, seal my life and death with a kiss, and become One with The One, I thought of Wendy. I thought of my animals - Zero and Mickey and all the others. I thought of Life.
Seeing this, Orlando smiled darkly.
Someone in another world said something about a sinus rhythm. I reached for Orlando, but landed somewhere in the dark instead.
Orlando was prancing about in his bright, bright plumage, being the muse I created him to be. Behind him, Styx was wearing that all-white suit again. You can Leave Your Hat On was playing in the background... and they were dancing again. The stuff of legends.
"Looks like you're going to live."
I wasn't certain if the words were spoken by Wendy or Styx, both of whom were standing by my bedside in ICU while Orlando sat by a large window gazing out at the bright afternoon sun - atypical behavior for He Who Loves the Night.
To be honest, I didn't know whether to be happy or disappointed. The thought crossed my mind that I had been given a second chance at life, but would I have a second chance to join with Orlando and Styx? It had been right there. At my fingertips for the taking. What might have happened if I'd simply seized the opportunity instead of hesitating?
I would not have had to skip past the eagle to be free, for I-Am the Eagle and I-Am freedom, the paradox eating its own tail.
As that thought manifested, Orlando turned his head in my direction, took off the top hat and left it on the bench as he came to stand by the bed.
He winked mischievously. "It's not too late to say yes," he said with a seductive smile. "I'll even make it quick." Then, closer to my ear, he whispered, "You'll like it. I promise."
I made him to be that way, of course. Every warrior gives her double the traits that will most efficiently compel her to the journey - whether solely on the level of the intellect, or all the way down to the deepest levels of a lover's midnight caress. Falling in love with the double seals the bond between mortal self and immortal Other.
For a moment or two, Wendy, Styx and Orlando morphed in and out of one another.
Time passed. Passed away.
Wendy had drifted off to sleep, leaving me alone with the two terrible imps who seemed very much to want me dead so that we could all skip off into the night and live happily ever after. Literally.
The thought had a certain appeal. Tied down and hooked up as I was to a breathing apparatus, a plethora of needles, and some contraption literally stapled to my leg, I was anything but comfortable, and far from convinced I was going to live, despite Wendy's reassurances to the contrary.
At one point, somewhere between life and death, I do recall showing one of the doctors my middle finger. They had taken me off sedation just enough to ask what I wanted to be done with myself. This came after I had demanded a writing tablet and pen, seeing as how I could only mumble obscenities around the breathing tube that was beginning to feel like a permanent deep-throat the likes of which would have made even Linda Lovelace gag.
What's odd about The Doctor is that I saw him as a middle-aged man, somewhere in the neighborhood of 55-60, with salt-and-pepper hair and a healthy physique. He introduced himself as Dr. K_____, and I was lucid enough to answer the questions being put to me by the consensus.
I quickly scribbled, Take this crap off of me NOW!
"We can do that if it's what you really want, but you will die," I was informed. "You aren't strong enough to breathe on your own."
Good thing I couldn't speak.
"We can transfer you to Tacoma where they can perform a bypass," The Doctor said, as if that were the prize behind Door #1.
That was when I showed him my finger. No bypass. Watched my mother suffer through two of them, which was enough to convince me never to go in that direction.
"The other option is that I can go in - high-risk - and attempt to insert stents into the blocked arteries." Okay, that's door #2.
No other options were offered.
So I closed my eyes and went back to sleep.
They took my silence as a yes.
The whole thing reminded me of the big production number from All That Jazz, wherein the character played by Roy Scheider has had a fatal heart attack and all his loved ones appear in a crazy dance bit to bid him farewell.
Orlando and Styx were back, dressed more like male strippers. Well, not like male strippers. They were male strippers. Not being a choreographer, I can't really describe the moves, but suffice to say, they made the Chippendales look like amateurs by comparison.
For awhile, they simply moved to a Jamaican drum beat which was actually the chaotic rhythms of my broken heart on the monitor. They danced like lovers, coming close as if to kiss, then just as quickly breaking away in a battle of wills that had gone on for centuries.
"Come dance with us," Orlando said, crooking a finger in my direction.
And so I danced with them. Like a lover. Like a fiend. In a frenzy that was somewhere between a tango and a wild stomp through the jungle.
Wendy later told me that at some point my heart rate went over 220, and I strongly suspect it was during that frenzied, erotic quantum entanglement between the four of us. The fact that Wendy doesn't consciously remember the dance doesn't mean she didn't participate. I was there, after all. I saw her, despite what she might tell you.
In and out of time.
I created me
to create you
to create me.
I created him
to give me a reason
to do any of it
while balancing the multiverse
on the tip of a pen.
Looking at Styx, then at me, he waited, pen in hand, multiverse in the offing. The affection synapsing between the two of them was palpable, a quantifiable force.
"Love is the reason," I said, recalling words he had written or spoken more times than I could remember.
I didn't just rattle it off by rote. I actually felt it down to the tips of my astral toes. Love is the reason.
Somewhere in the real world, Wendy was standing by my side in that cold, dark hospital room. Despite the fact that she was 54, I saw her as when she was 28. And while the essence of eternity was still on my lips, I pulled her down close to me and kissed her with all the stardust and moon beams and love I possessed.
"Love is the reason," I said, though she swears I was mumbling about elves and eagles and shifting quantum realities.
The two immortals went on dancing.
Time rose from the dead.
I was going to live.
Love was the reason.
The only thing I might add would be a rather odd observation that took place when I went to visit Dr. K_____ at his office three days after being released from the hospital.
To my surprise, the man who entered the exam room was not at all like the man I had met in the hospital - although I knew intuitively it was the same person. Instead of middle-aged and gray-haired, he was no more than 35, with dark hair and a more slender build. At first, I thought there must be some mistake, but Wendy clearly recognized him as the same man, and since I had absolutely no voice - I could only whisper for about four months after the breathing tube was removed - I wasn't in any position to tell the guy that he had obviously sold his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal youth.
We spoke briefly that day, the typical exchange between doctor and patient, and shortly after we left his office, we began making plans for the long drive home - a 3-day excursion from Puyallup, Washington back to southern California.
In reality, of course, there was a lot more to those four days on total life support than I can even begin to talk about. It was only a full year after the heart attack that I have been able to talk about any of it at all. Not because it is too painful to remember. Not because it is too scary to remember.
But because it is too far beyond human comprehension, and entirely too mystifying to be captured in words alone.
You had to be there.
One day you will.
Until then... love is the reason.