Drugs, hospital stays, going under the knife. I’ve only ever had that experience three times in my life, and once was when I had my tonsils taken out as a very young child. Frankly it was a lot scarier as an adult. Things go wrong. People go under anesthesia for a simple surgery and there are complications. I’m a horrible patient under the best of times, but when control, everything, ALL OF IT, is taken out of my hands by anesthetists and surgeons, even when it’s for my own good, I wonder how I’ll come out on the other side. I wonder IF I’ll come out on the other side. I distinctly remember waking up in the recovery room after both my surgeries as an adult and my first feeling being an incredible sense of joy. Maybe that was just the drugs, but my first real thought, both times was, ‘I made it!’
There are no dreams under anesthesia or at least I’ve never dreamed. It’s like I’m conscious one second and then for however long the surgeon works on my, I no longer exist. I’m just not there. And frankly recovery afterwards demands too much attention to really consider the thought of where I went while I was somewhere else. Perhaps the anesthetist took ME out of my body and put me in a Mason jar by the side of the operating table until the surgeon was done, and then she stuffed ME back into my flesh.
But if I really was somewhere else, and it wasn’t a Mason jar by the operating table, then where was I? Surely I had to be somewhere. And that begs the next question. Wherever I was, was I there alone? And if not, is it possible that just maybe I didn’t come back alone? Sorry! I’m having a goose bumps moment here. Both times following surgery, I’ve come back to myself wondering if I’m still the same me. There are parts missing, parts repaired, parts bruised and stitched and stapled, BUT that’s just flesh. The first surgery, there was blood – someone else’s blood, transfused into
my body, but surely that’s just flesh too. I was just as gone then as I was this last time, and for a whole lot longer. And it only now occurs to me that it was after that first surgery that the stories began to flow fast and furious, and I couldn’t write them down fast enough. Oh I’d always written, always been good at it, but everything I wrote up until that point felt more like stuff I’d just made up. After … well after that first surgery it was different. Afterwards, wherever the stories came from, more often than not it felt like it wasn’t from me. It felt like someone opened up a place in my unconscious and dumped them into me, and I became the conduit, the scribe, nothing more. Sometimes I was a good scribe. Sometimes I could have been better because the material dumped into the conduit made me uncomfortable, made me squirm, and I didn’t want to write it. But if I didn’t write it, if I didn’t get it right, well the characters haunted my dreams, and they weren’t always very nice about it either.
Strange that it took a simple knee surgery to bring all this stuff back to me, to make me think about where I go, where I’ve been, and what that has to do with how the ideas get in my head. But maybe it’s not so strange at all, since the first surgery was major and all of me was much more taken up with recovery. But so many of the pieces fit together now. Where do I go when I’m not there in my body? Well at least this time, I went to Vegas, where I communed with a big-ass dog, a dark man who was brooding and beautiful in a scary as hell way; and a woman with the most incredible hair I’ve ever seen. Surgery, jet-lag, pain meds, and I find myself sleepwalking that big-ass dog through the streets of Vegas.
Well, actually it’s more like the dog is sleepwalking me. I wake up in the Elara, where I always wake up, and it’s late. It must be long toward morning because some of the brighter lights on the strip have been dimmed, and Vegas is as quiet as it ever gets. It’s the dog licking my face that wakes me. And the next thing I know I’m wrapped in a sheet toga-style and I’m following the dog down the Strip heading toward Caesar’s Palace. I don’t know why I keep following the dog. He’s not my dog, and he clearly doesn’t need me to look out for him. He clearly outweighs me, and his teeth are a lot bigger than mine. But I keep following him. It seems essential that I follow him. The Strip is strangely quiet, and dark, and then I realize it’s because I’m not actually on the Strip any more, but I’m down below it, in some strange tunnel.
I dream of tunnels a lot, so that doesn’t surprise me, and neither does it surprise me that though it’s pitch dark, I can see enough to follow the dog. I notice the smell of ozone, like you smell just before a coming lightening storm, and the fine hairs on my arms bristle. The dog stops, and I’m standing next to him peering out into what looks like a large ballroom. People are dancing to strange music, slow dancing, close and sensual, and my skin prickles all over. Then I realize I’m standing right behind the dark man and the woman with the hair, who are watching the goings on of the dance floor. I’m standing there, and I’m listening.
‘You promised me anonymity when I came here,’ the man says to the woman. There seems to be some sort of breeze coming from somewhere, teasing and caressing her hair and making it dance and sway against her back.
She laughs softly. ‘Surely you don’t think it’s your story I want to her to tell. Your story has been told ad nauseum.’
I can see the man bristle with her words, and I know his pride has just been stung. His response is soft, and I feel it more than hear it. ‘They’ll be telling my story long after you’re gone.’
She laughs again, and I find myself fascinated by the sway and shift of her hair with the movement of her body. I find myself wanting to reach out and touch it. ‘No doubt,’ she says, ‘but nonetheless, it’s not your story I want her to tell.’
At first I think it’s the dog growling, then with a shiver, I realize it’s the man. ‘You bring her here to my realm, where you know damn good and well she doesn’t belong and then you tell me it’s not about me?’
‘She’s a scribe,’ the woman says unperturbed. ‘That means there’s no place that she doesn’t belong, no boundary she can’t cross, and right now she works for me. If I want her to tell your story or the story of your mangy dog, or the story of some reclusive blood sucker across the pond, it’s not your business. You’d do well to remember that.’
I work for her? It is at that moment I realize the woman is talking about me! Suddenly I have the overwhelming urge to turn and run, though I’m not sure my legs will support me any longer. Besides I realize I can’t begin to find my way back. I followed the dog. I feel like my whole body has turned to ice, and I can’t move. I literally can’t move!
For a moment there’s silence. The music stops, but the people on the dance floor don’t seem to notice. They keep swaying and undulating as though they still hear the melody in their heads, and the rising wind I think I hear in the tunnel is only my own efforts to breathe.
‘Who then?’ The man asks at last. ‘Whose story do you want her to write?’
She leans forward and whispers in his ear, and I see his shoulders stiffen and his whole body convulses.
‘Who?’ I ask. ‘How can I know whose story you want me to write if you don’t tell me?’ But the woman doesn’t hear me. Neither of them do. And I’m shocked at the sound of my own voice. I haven’t agreed to write any story for her. Why would I? Why would I do anything for either of them? And yet I have to know! I have to.
‘Goddamn it, if you want me to write a story then tell me who it’s about,’ I shout.
And then I jerk awake as though I’ve just fallen from a great height. My knees hurt like crazy, and I’m trembling and sweating in the hospital bed. My husband is gripping my hand. The look on his face tells me that he’s concerned, that my dreams have bled into the waking world. He’s called the nurse. She takes my temperature and blood pressure, gives
me more pain meds and tells me to get some rest.
After she’s gone, my husband says, ‘you weren’t dreaming about a waterslide that time.’
I shake my head.
‘Was it bad?’ he asks.
‘Just strange. I was sleepwalking the dog,’ I manage just before I plunge back into drugged oblivion.