Sunday, January 24, 2010


The grayness of it all frightens you, the lack of contrast, the drab sameness. The squirrel, the fence, the oak, the roof, the stone wall, the shed, the lake, the sky -- all gray. People too, walking around the lake, only the red mittens or the blue scarf they're wearing to distinguish them from the rest of the visible world. They walk with their heads down, into the wind, behind their nosy gray dogs. Pain starts out gray too, the infinitely small early gradations of pain, as in the beginning of a migraine when the first awful throb grips the nerves behind your right eye and that little wormy vein that runs to the right temple begins to bulge and heat up. In a moment, the gray is gone. You close your eyes and see all kinds of colors, iridescent, glowing like hot coals, mother of pearl, fireworks. Open them and the world is gray. In the end you are always left with the world the way it is.

You stagger to the bathroom to run cold water, wet a washcloth, wring it out, and apply it carefully to the right side of your face. There is now a fire under your right cheek and a horrible ache just above the jaw-line. You imagine a unnatural lump behind your right ear, but there is nothing there, just a locus of pain. If you move your head one millimeter in any direction you will surely fall off a cliff. It comes in irregular waves, like an electrical surge charging across a blasted network, after a lightning strike. The smell of creosote and melting polymers. You imagine your neural networks resetting themselves, the computer analogy having been so deeply assimilated into your thinking. But you are not thinking, for pain trumps thinking. Then comes nausea and the gag reflex.

Now the fact that the outside world is gray strikes you as hilarious. Here you have all these colors at your mind's disposal, coming at you in a rapid-fire slideshow, without a pause button, and meanwhile all color has been drained from the natural world. It's an effin hoot. The loud reports coming from Cherry Ridge Shooting Range travel swiftly through the damp air and interrupt your reverie of pain. Remorse. You have lived badly and deserve to die like an insect on a pin, otherwise why this pain? You will never take a drink of alcohol again, nor caffeine, nor eat a grain of chocolate. You will change your diet, your hours, your sleep patterns, you will do anything in exchange for the absence of pain. The sound of gunshots is like a lifeline, your eyes fill with salty tears and you bow your head to the God of Pain, trying to bargain for your sanity. Arsehole. There is no God of Pain.

Your gray exterior -- skin, hair, sweatclothes -- floats above the inner body and looks down in judgement, with distaste. This is no time for self-dramatization, or contemplation of suicide, your exterior admonishes you, even as your innards writhe and crackle, this is a time for self-control and
holding on. You are going through a period of adjustment, synaptically speaking, after which you will feel deep gratitude for being alive. Breathe deep, stay still, and listen to your beating heart. Should I wait then for this fiery knot in my forehead to untie itself? Wait then, yes. The world is gray and so shall you be too, some day.

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