Recently I awoke from a coma. Well, it wasn’t really a coma. I had a flu. Well, it may not have been a flu. I didn’t go to a doctor, so I can’t say for sure what it was. So for now, I’ll call it a coma. I hadn’t really been home in a month or so. Besides a short stint here and there. To be honest, the month prior seems blurry too. Time itself seems to blend together like a child’s water painting, washed out by the tears of confusion from having utterly failed an art class. And much like time any narrative or linear thought device has gone down the stream like Moses, or Krishna, or one of the gods and prophets that history erased. I was semi-conscious through my three day comatose-esque journey, and maintain memories of battling through the jungle of my bed to laboriously roll from the puddle of, what I hope was sweat, to the dry spot of the mattress only to resume the coma. Then wake again, and repeat the process. There were, I believe times in which I drank water, two of which involved battling out of the minefield of my bedroom to the kitchen sink to fill my water bottles. Having been on the road for the past month, I had made sure there was no prepared food or perishables… which I greatly and immediately came to regret. Though I was happy to have found some apple juice which saw me through until I could reach enough consciousness to make it to the store. At times, I remember considering calling an ambulance, though finding my phone seemed far too out of reach. Best that I didn’t because as it turns out, rest, was of course just the medicine I needed; and ambulance fees are very much a real thing. Somewhere in the abyss, I reformatted a grant application and submitted it. Somewhere else I was able to pass on the printing and filing responsibilities of another grant Tom; who, as always, came through. And one day I left the house to finish some work which was a bitter bitter mistake that extended the coma journey for at least another day. (For those who envy the life of a “professional” artist, I can assure you it is 80% paper work, 10% creative incubation, 5% studio time, and 2% sleep. The additional 3% is usually spent dealing with regret and anxiety, though much of this is wrapped up with the 80% paper work.) But all this aside, the important thing is this: recently I awoke from a coma. And things seemed different.
As I stumbled around the shambles of my home, I prioritized sustenance. I knew a simple diet would be all that I could consume, and so I made it to the store and back armed with the necessities of childhood comforts. I suspected I could eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That proved erroneous. Very erroneous. I was undoubtedly overly sensitive to nearly everything around me, and the first small bite of strawberry jelly felt more like mouthful of Dunkaroos on speed. Not the children’s lunch snack. More the mascot for the children’s lunch snack. The cool kangaroo who’s name I assume can only be “Dunkaroo” (why all Kangaroo’s seem to have the last name “roo” I assume is something like why so many Sikh’s are named Singh). Imagine that scene in Fantasia, where the infinite miniature brooms relentlessly gather water. Now imagine that instead of brooms with water, they’re kangaroos with attitude, on speed. Suffice to say – jelly was a no go. So I made soup. Tomato soup, very plain and from the can. Again, far too much. This I would liken to drinking hot ketchup. And as I have no tapeworm to fatten that I am aware of – this too was something I did not need. Finally, I was able to drink the broth of “Oriental” flavoured Mr. Noodles. I lay in bed questioning if my body itself had resigned to death considering the only thing it would take lacked nearly any nutritional value. A day passed. And eventually I could eat solid food with great difficulty. On my brother’s advice, who I was now communicating with via text, I thought to order Pho. But no where in the entire city of Toronto seemed to want to deliver with less than a $25.00 order. As a vegetarian, even the largest Pho possible costs around $10.00….and I resolved I would be made a wasteful patsy by no man! (Although the person on the phone I believe was a young girl…but you get the point). Again, what’s important was: things were different.
I don’t know if it’s because I was away from home for so long that I felt so defamiliarized, or maybe that I was of course semi-conscious. LIkely a combination of the two… but nothing seemed to be the same. Food tasted differently. Water tasted differently. Outside – downtown Toronto by the train tracks – was silent. I could hear myself blink. Somehow I felt more receptive to everything. Whereas before I was in auto-drive, manically planning, working, rushing, now I was stopped. Completely. Did I die? Did I die and then not die? There was no bright light. Well there was the bright light of a computer screen, which the sight of made me feel ill to my stomach – but there were no tell tale signs of death. Then again, I’ve never been dead before that I can remember, so who’s to say?
I spent the next day (now able to move a bit more) cleaning and doing months of overdue laundry divorced from the outside world. Again, the smell of laundry – was different. I opted to keep my sinuses clear in the best way possible, by watching several hindi films and weeping. Like a big big man. Not out of sadness necessarily. Or if it was sadness, it was celebrated as the tears allowed me to clear my head of congestion. One thing I will always bow to “bollywood” films for is their ability to use pure emotional dramaturgy however “pop”-ed the specific form. They know what they’re doing. And they do it well. “You’re so right Shahrukh Khan! She cannot love you! For she loves Shahrukh Khan! And you are not Shahrukh Khan! You are only Shahrukh Khan pretending to be Shahrukh Khan so she will laugh again! But the true tragedy, Shahrukh Khan… is that though yes, she loves the Shahrukh Khan you pretend to be… she actually loves the Shahrukh Khan you truly are inside! Ayaaaaaaaar! Shahrukh Khan!!!! Let us weep together!!!!” Excellent film by the way.
Today, as I somehow energetically trudged through the snow to get real produce again, things had changed. I could hear people for the first time in what feels like years. Their conversations. Communicate with people genuinely without feeling burdened by the monotony of small talk. Instead the effort of doing small acts – the logic of actually digging through and selecting the best tomatoes (the greenest, of course) – and the very simple joy of placing a pineapple in my fruit bowl and saying, “I will be here long enough to cut you and eat you” (to the pineapple) – these things all felt so new. So maybe I did die? And maybe this is the process of coming back to life? Whatever it is… it’s not bad. It’s actually, mundanely exciting.