it’s a war I’m waging with the enemy.

Soft Mint. That’s the color I’m painting our kitchen. If anyone witnessed the method in which I employed to roll the first coat of paint on the ceiling at 52 and a perfect size 3X at 5 feet 5 inches, the improvisational act would air on America’s Funniest Videos.

I’m lying in bed several hours later when my husband gets home. It’s after eight and I’m wrestling with the pain and ache that could tame a wild boar. I didn’t partake in the drinkeepoo; the bottle ran dry the night before and I’ve pledged, once again, to stop the consumption [pledged to who?] and started reading Tim O’Brien’s July July, figuring some good futile carnage would put my discomfort in perspective.

When the words begin to blur as if I’ve knocked back the last pinch of the 6-ounce tranquilizer, the novel falls out of my grasp. I envision a young soldier, dirty and bloody-faced, bandage in the form of a shirtsleeve wrapped tight and knotted around his head to keep his brains from falling out, refusing the medic’s Syrette of morphine.

An exchange between the two ensues.

Soldier: Don’t want it.

Medic: What the fuck is wrong with you.

Soldier: I decided it’s time to quit.

Medic: There’s a goddamn war on.

Soldier: Mama will find out.

Medic: I saw you smoking a big fat doobie just this morning.

Soldier: No mo’.

Medic: You’re fuck-all crazy.

Once upon a time I lay on a gurney, my mind, the faculty of my consciousness and thoughts, remaining numb to stimuli. There’s no perception, no transmission; it’s void, dark, deadly quiet. My brain is busy sustaining that void, deploying an arsenal of chemicals to compensate for the split in time, suppressing the sensory receptors from the blunt trauma—my broken bones, the hit taken to my abdomen that’s pulverized tissue and organs, and punctured veins and arteries. My heart, the renegade, the betrayer, as always, is not listening to my brain—its pumping blood out at a spastic rate through the holes. An external disturbance registers. A voice. It’s relentless, miraculously breaking through that mechanism of my brain’s fortification, bringing me into the present.

Breathe, Virginia, breathe, it commands.

There is only one person who calls me Virginia. My mother. The person who heard the forecast and eyeballed the elements herself and tried to protect me so my brain wouldn’t have to.

I am granted a fleeting window of awareness. But not through my eyes. My lids are heavy, steel traps. A depiction of involuntary desperateness is felt in my body. Each gasp caused by my choking, thrusts a knife’s blade deep into my gut. Choke. Stab. Choke. Stab.

“Airway’s bloody.”

Something foreign is tickling the back of my throat. I listen to my mother, it’s a precedent. I stop resisting. A tube slips down my windpipe. I can breathe. The stabbing doesn’t abate, giving rise to the melodramatic statement, it only hurts when I breathe. And not breathe. My brain is wrestling, calling me back to unconsciousness; the pain galaxies beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before, flirts with my semi-consciousness, invites me to become fully awake. It’s a struggle. A shot of morphine provides no contest. My brain, working in concert with my mind, fires the artillery it has left. A barrage of fireworks ignites behind the closed lids of my eyes. I fall into that quiet dark place again.

You see, in this instance, I could not refuse the sedative. Now, I can.



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