My world's confined, grown smaller, and my mind plays in the reflected light on four white walls. Strange what I remember, games when I was a child when I watched headlights travel over my bedroom ceiling when I was supposed to be asleep. I used to imagine one day it wouldn't be a car, but a spaceship that would come by. Used to scare myself silly imagining an alien just beyond the window, a monster come to eat me up, or worse.
What I can't see might be anything. Hours I have to myself and I sink into these thoughts. They creep up on me. Has the world changed? I can see a square of garden through my window, a patch of lawn and a branch of the laurel. What's round the corner? What hides out of sight? How do I know what's around them is the same as I remember: The rest erased but for this part I see. Then I'm taken out, or moved into a new position and it's a relief each time to know. Just to know things are the same.
I'm fed and changed, moved and bathed. Maggie in the day and Will at night. They're both efficient and good at what they do, but I wish those skills weren't needed. Wish no one needed this kind of help. Especially me.
No, don't want to go there. Don't want their pity. Don't want my own. Self-pity; now there's a thing you can wallow in for years. Don't you feel bad? Don't you feel glad this isn't you?
I wish my wife would just go. I wish she'd find someone else and take the boys. Having her around is like a kick in the teeth, makes me remember and wish for what we had before and that's just no damn good. She needs a life.
I think that and then the next moment I'm in a flat panic, sweating, thinking she'll come in and say she's leaving. I want her to go, but I couldn't bear it if she did. I don't know what I want.
Late at night I hear people talking. The thoughts I've given names; they've become separate entities. They tell me what I want to know. Sometimes they tell me what I don't want to know. I try to clutch on to my sanity but it's a slippery fish. I drown out the voices with the tv.
Moving on. Moving. She should move on. Lights drift over my ceiling. Aliens come to make me well again. I dream I can walk, am making coffee in the kitchen. My wife comes in and brushes my neck with her lips, cold as ice-cubes they ran over my tongue in the hospital. Makes me shiver and I wake up, and wish.
I can feel tears in my eyes. At least I can feel those. It's almost pleasurable; the knowledge there's still something I can do. tv again and I devour everything on stem-cell research. I need some of those little guys, alien cells in my body fixing me. How I measure my time.
When I was a kid I saw a program about an iron lung, and didn't understand it. A boy slept all day and at night played alone in a garden of statues, each one staring down at him with their stone eyes blank and unfriendly. That wasn't what it was about, but that's what I saw. Lights outside cast the reflection of that laurel branch on my ceiling and the shadows of leaves weave and sway. My own midnight garden, my own unopened world to explore.