Hector Vila invited me to join this exploration of “A Field Guide to Getting Lost.” I ordered the book from Amazon and never received it because it got lost. I have reordered, but meanwhile I’ve been thinking, and I have especially recalled one of five occasions of getting lost in my life. So I will include it, albeit it not Kosher to do so. Maybe I’ll find a chapter to match it? This particular incident, as I will soon say, tore all my familiar sense of my Self out of me. So I submit it as an experience of being really lost. Thus:
My phone rings in funky harmony with the dryer’s buzzer going off. This sends a micro-wisp of pleasure through my mind.
On the phone is my daughter Kia, sounding cheerful: “Hey, Ma, how you doin’?” Too cheerful. Exponentially too. So then I find out she’s sitting next to my younger son Karl, who is unconscious, in an ambulance headed for Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York city. Karl is unconscious. Karl has had a stroke: he is unconscious. Prognosis, as they uselessly say, unknown. He is unconscious, Karl. Karl has had a stroke. Forty years old. Unconscious in the ambulance to Columbia Pres.
My daughter abandons the Cheer-to-Protect-My-Mom and sobs extremely hard.
My elder son Yani has been dispatched to pick me up, and together we’ll.
I am tacking around on the stupid driveway like a Roomba. All that has been me in any domain of my self’s being has fled my husk. (My autonomic nervous system seems to be hanging in there because my heart.)
There is one preternatural particular pebble in the driveway gravel. It’s about the size of a chickpea and has a greenish tinge. One half is smooth and ovoid; the other half sharply fractured away. All this waiting time he may be dead. I’m looking keenly at that pebble when Yani drives up.
The very many many cars on the West Side Highway are all driving to unique particular somewheres. I spit on all those lives in our way. Plus which also: What is happening now inside my daughter and son here? I must: I have to. This is a time of how to do anything now.
That night everyone gone but he and I. “Not out of the woods yet” they say. Almost all night I very very gently hold his bare hand. Forty or not, his Mom holds it.
Nurses never come in to see Karl. They’re there in their monitor room watching critical monitors instead.
I stop one other nurse in the hall and PULL her: “You’d better come and see my boy. See him. He’s not your fucking blips.”
She waits till I stop crying and she brings me a worthless cup of tea.
There isn’t one thing I can do all the night so I very gently hold his clay heavy hand.
There is no way anymore for me to be his mother who helps him; to demand help for him; for anyone to help me help him.
The sere oatmeal hue of the bathroom tiles in the bathroom next to his bed makes the work “sanitary” oxymoron. This oxymoronic hue nauseates me. I heave. In that oxymoronic oatmeal-hued bathroom, when I look, there is blood. After twenty years. As if I stupendously can will fertility, to give it to him, Karl, to keep him, as once it asked him to be.
The Hudson river water very dark, dull now. Honey light between buildings’ silhouettes. Early morning of the next day. And: “Maahhhmmmm”?
The word “miraculous” was hurled around the hospital a lot, and we all loved it. There was lots of shaky joy. It took awhile afterwards for everyone to be OK. They told us he has a hole in his dear heart the size of a pinprick; that 30% of all people have this wee hole but most never know. That people who have such a stroke as Karl had are then really disabled, or else they die.
So I ask Karl, four years after his stroke, how he feels. He tells me that when he plays the bass in any of his bands, his left pinky feels a little stiff. I kiss his bristly cheek and tell him to suck it up.