drenched in sweat. The pain and the pressure were in full retreat, whimpering rather than roaring. “Yes,” I thought, “I am getting better,” and, perhaps more powerfully, “I am no longer an animal. I am a human being.” I kept saying it too myself over and over again. “I am a human being.”
It was 2:30 in the morning. Though still weak, I felt reborn, like a cool breeze had swept all confusion and chaos away, like I had bathed in a cool stream. In reality I was filthy, having slept for days in my own sweat, garlic oil and cumin crusted on my face (herbal remedies), raw onion and fruit scraps lying around me, my anus raw from suppository pain “killers.”
I had a powerful desire to, of all things, read a book. Even in retrospect this appears bizarre for a few reasons, the most obvious being that it was 2:30 am, I had slept little and ate less in the past few days, had hardly been able to form a coherent thought, and had been consumed by pain hallucinations. It all seemed to indicate that I would not be very much capable of involving myself in literature, much less have a strong and unmistakable desire to do so. Yet it also struck me that the feeling I had was not something I had felt for a long time, at least as long as I had been in India, and probably much longer. The past year, even two, had been uncharacteristically empty reading years for me.
Strangest of all was that sitting at the foot of my bed lay the novel Life of Pi, as if by divine will. I opened it and inside the cover was written, “Until we meet again...live life to the fullest and enjoy the ride. Try to stay healthy, it helps :) Greetzz, Bert.” A goodbye gift from a fellow student who I was regrettably unable to say goodbye to. The message was comically flippant when compared with the enormity of my
The quality of light on this afternoon was strange, both silvery and gold, with a breeze more gentle and steady that the gusty afternoons that we had become accustomed to. With my head propped up on a pillow, I looked out at the open front of the beach hut, the view reduced to sky, sun, and the sea; an abstract and perfect sight that I will never forget. The pain was still great. I had tried many tactics to combat the chameleon presence in my head. I pleaded with it, begged to God, tried to fight, to ignore it, to will it into submission with positive thoughts and love, mediation, yoga, reason, hatred. As the sun descended the light became more dazzling, the sea more like the sea of amber spoke of in the ancient texts of India. I decided to accept the pain. I felt sorry for it, not myself. I loved it in its wretchedness. I held on to it like a poor animal I found along a path, crying and unable to walk, feeling the bittersweet love that comes from pity.
That was a peaceful moment. It was as if I had been adrift at sea in a hurricane, and suddenly the eye was passing over, the wind had stopped, and the sun rested over me. The pain was persistent as ever, but for a little while, at least, it was not the only voice; it lived in a house of many rooms. I was happy; happy to know that peace was still possible in this state of being. Happy to know that things always get better.
Not long after the sun set, I descended back into the depths, the pain gradually reasserting itself, reasserting the control as the tremendous weight bore its full force inside me. At some point, bathed in sweat and utterly disoriented, a fever overtook me and, for the first time in three days, I fell into a deep sleep.
I woke up thinking “I have slept well and now I am awake.” It felt like a miracle. And immediately I felt alive again, though