So buried under eighteen inches of snow. What do I do? Finish watching Six Feet Under’s last season and wondering WHY IT TOOK ME FIVE YEARS TO GET TO IT. Amazing show, truly. I love witty banter and strong script writing, and this has skyrocketed to my top three Best TV Writers list (the others being West Wing and Californication).
Speaking of Californication, just got my grubby little hands on the soundtracks and of course, Warren Zevon’s track destroys me. If you’ve watched the show, most notably season two and its finale, you’ll know why.
Trying to get back to work, being blocked by doctors who want to poke and prod me like a science experiment. I feel better, get sick less than I was. Here’s to hoping things go well and I get the releases I need. It’d be nice to not feel like a flake, to go to work and to stay at work. I’ve never been so fragile before and I’m not sure I like it.
As an aside, here’s a small piece of my newest writing project. This is written for a young adult audience. The last, which we finally titled The Chronicles of Null: Awakenings, is in the hands of my capable co-pilot. It should be shipped out sometime this month for its grand debut to People Who Can Make Shit Happen.
In the meanwhile, enjoy a bit of Sara’s story.
I died on Tuesday, January 7th at four thirty-three in the afternoon. At least, that’s what people told me. I was clinically dead for nine minutes. Seven hundred chest compressions and a defibrillator got my heart going again. Some people say during that time, the twilight time one nurse called it, there’s a white light at the end of a tunnel with celestial choruses singing hallelujah. Other people claim to feel God’s grace beckoning them to the afterlife, or to see dead relatives. Not me. The operating table and the accident that got me there were patches of emptiness in my brain.
At the time I didn’t understand why I was so different from everyone else, why there was no great heaven for me. I was a fifteen year old girl. What could I have done to not deserve the last homecoming? Was I that bad of a kid? Did I steal or maim or kill or covet my neighbor’s property? I tried to wrap my mind around what type of person was denied God’s twilight time, but there were no answers. Incessant mulling became incessant frustration.
Because I remembered nothing before the accident.
Doctor Cole called it Dissociative Amnesia. I remembered how to talk, to eat, to use the bathroom. I could do math, I could even speak French pretty well, but I don’t remember how or why I could do those things. I had no recollection of family or friends. I didn’t know where I came from or how I got into the intersection between North Elm Street and West Center Street that Tuesday afternoon. The driver of the Dodge Ram that hit me said I must have darted out from the gas station on the corner, because one blink I wasn’t there and the next I was in the middle of the street. He didn’t have time to stop. I was thrown twenty feet and my head smacked off of the pavement. They had to cut into my skull to relieve the pressure, leaving a nasty scar that wound from the back of my head to just above my ear. The fractured ankle and ensuing bright red cast were negligible in comparison.
They didn’t say it, but the social workers thought I was a suicide kid, that I threw myself in front of the truck. It was my own fault they made that leap, with my talk about white lights and heaven, but the little voice inside of my head said they were wrong. It didn’t resonate. That’s the best way I could describe my associations – some stuff resonated as true and absolute and I knew it related to my life before the accident. The how of it was the difficulty. Things people said, certain sounds and smells triggered a gut reaction that I couldn’t connect memories to, but that didn’t mean the associative emotions weren’t there. An example was wind chimes. I loved the sound of them, to the point that my therapist Lynda gave me a set of brass and glass ones to hang in my hospital window. I watched the splash of prismatic colors dance across my walls for hours sometimes. I knew this pertained to the before, just not how. The same could be said about the smell of apples. They ‘seemed familiar’ – but again, that was as far as the recognition went. When I’d get one on my tray with lunch, I’d smell it for a while before biting into it, hoping something would click. One of the nurses went down to the gift shop and brought me a small Yankee candle jar to put beside my bed. I couldn’t light it in the hospital, but I’d sniff it sometimes and it made me happy.
Amnesiacs often get their memories back, and Doctor Cole said my “resonating triggers” were a good sign. Once the brain makes a connection, it’s easier for it to make others. He described it as a domino effect. He counseled patience, not trying too hard to force it, and I tried to listen, but it was difficult. One of my nurses had a “Rather Be Fishing!” coffee mug with a picture of a little man sitting in a boat holding a fishing rod. I felt like that guy. I was isolated in the middle of a pond. I’d cast a line into the vast blue, and there was nothing else for me to do but wait and hope the fish were biting. For the man, it was peaceful. For me, it was exhausting.
After I’d stabilized, the social workers went to the media with my information. There was instant buzz – my face was on the cover of newspapers with an 800 number for people to call with information. My parents were supposed to step up and claim me and the rest of those gaps would fill in. The town I got hit in, West Bridgewater, had only six thousand people or so and no one there had gone to the police. From what Lynda said, it was one of those places where everyone knew everyone else’s business, too, so it was unlikely I was from around there, but maybe someone had been passing through.
There was nothing. Not a peep. The girl with the “dark brown hair and cinnamon colored eyes” as one reporter put it was no one’s lost relation.
Local coverage quickly became national coverage. My picture went from newspapers to TV’s and the Internet. There was a similar incident with a girl my age who disappeared from Washington and showed up in New York some time back. Thanks to the news, her dad was able to bring her home. They figured I’d be like that girl. After a few weeks, it was evident I wasn’t going to be – no one spoke up. There were a few leads but none of them panned out. I was the unknown teenager that no one wanted, some reporter said. That single comment had the astounding effect of making me a media darling. Adoption offers started pouring in from all over the country. I got teddy bears and flowers from people I didn’t know; classes of kids sent me get well cards with hand drawn suns and over sized smiley faces.
Throughout the hubbub, Lynda kept trying to remind me of my worth as a person, that my real family simply hadn’t seen my picture yet but look at all the attention I was getting from complete strangers, like it was some attestation to how special I was. Maybe she thought I was depressed about being abandoned. The strange thing was, I wasn’t. Resigned, perhaps, but definitely not depressed. How can you miss a family you don’t remember? There was no point in mourning the faceless ghosts of my past. Pragmatic to a fault, that’s what Lynda said. Maybe she was right.
The doctors and therapists kept me in the hospital for two months, partially in hopes of my memories coming back, partially because I’d been dead for ten minutes and my memory loss was the only sign of brain damage. They wanted to make sure nothing else developed. My vitals continued to be fine, though, and it got to the point that they needed my hospital room and I needed to move on with life. As Lynda talked to me about foster parents, I realized how lucky I really was. It sucked to not know who my family and friends were, and I’d seen so many doctors and specialists that I’d lost count, but at least I was expected to recover and at least there were good people willing to help me out.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was something.