Questions I missed on yesterday’s exam. Checking boxes, doing laundry, washing dishes. Collecting stress in imagination about the future. Measurements of a prom dress. Mundane letters on a cell phone screen.
Stepping foot in the familiar aquamarine sterility of the Neuro ICU. Seeing that familiar face, obscured by an unfamiliar shaved head and tubes pouring out of him. Lives halted, with the rugs ripped out entirely from beneath their feet.
It could happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter how you always wear your helmet or buckle your seatbelt. It doesn’t matter that you always hand bills to the man standing on the corner, or that you are kind and compassionate.
Life hangs on a thread.
When it sways, you are reminded. When you see another’s string snap, you are reminded.
But it’s the ordinary days when we forget. Life will tug at us, but then it always releases and our days continue.
Until we are reminded.
“You cannot imagine the acrobatics your tongue mechanically performs in order to produce all the sounds of a language. Just now I am struggling with the letter l, and the exhausting exercise leaves me feeling like a caveman discovering language for the first time. Sometimes the phone interrupts our work, and I try to intercept and catch passing fragments of life, the way you catch a butterfly.
How dearly I would love to be able to respond with something other than silence to these tender calls. I know that some of them find it unbearable. Sweet Florence calls and anxiously asks me, “Are you there?”
And I have to admit, that at times I do not know anymore.”
-Jean-Dominque Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly