by John R. Killacky
OIL STICK AND INK ON PAPER
at bedtime. MRIs locate a tumor inside the spinal cord. A hospital
gurney takes me into overhead white light. I wake up screaming,
covered in blood and iodine, paralyzed from the neck down. Body
and mind are ripped apart. I cannot stop the jerking of my limbs,
unclench my hand, or move my toes. There is no location on my left
side and no sensation on my right.
All I have is Larry.
His eyes say "Don't Die." Dawn is the worstwith
him asleep and the medical shifts changing, I stare back at the
world, whimper, and cry What's the movie today? I fantasize getting
to the window, breaking the glass, slitting my throat.
Two boys down the hallmotorcycle
crashes screwed cages into their skulls. No one's told them they'll
never leave. The elegant woman across the wayflawless on top,
but her legs are dead. Another surgery gone wrong. My roommate lost
toes to diabetes and had another stroke. His wife screams on the
phone to come home.
People worse off make
me feel less sorry for myself, until someone more mobile shows up.
I'd rather be alone glaring at my swollen and skewed left side that
is flaccid, sagging and lifeless. My movie in this room has the
helmet kids not shrieking, the young men walking upright, the old
ones not drooling, and me tapping my fingers.
Six weeks in the hospital
and two months in a wheelchair at home, then I navigate life on
the outside. Alarmed expressions, sympathetic smiles, and open-mouthed
pity: the more generous people are to me, the more I resent them.
Few really care to know, most want only to be reassured. Each encounter
makes me smaller.
Meeting other crips,
I never ask my real questions. I'm frightened when Jack regresses,
Stephanie gets depressed, Judy breaks her hand, or Mark dies. The
movie here? Stephanie's legs untangle, Jack walks unassisted, Mark
gets published, and Judy rides her horse with me running free. I
still dream fully able, they all do too.
Life at home revolves
around getting to work and fitting in rehab with Larry as my soccer
mom. Cooking and cleaning, the dog and me; I'm a burden to him.
While my relation to living remains elusive, I donšt know how to
ask his forgiveness to go first. As we drive across the Golden Gate
Bridge, I imagine us as Thelma and Louise, blissfully accelerating
With no sensation, sex
is purely visual. Reciprocating with my enfeebled fingers and locked-in
neck is short-lived. Often, I disassociate to retrieve stored memories
of thrusting, receiving, grasping, hardness, wetness, stickiness,
and release. It's not enough. The movie should have us rolling around
wrestling and jousting, fucking and sucking with gleeful abandon.
I am despondent whenever
my body fails and it always fails me. Sadness and anger, frustration
and tears are constantbut private. As the neuropathy increases
in my legs, I obsess on long-term survivors whose over- compensating
bent frames refuse to give in. My debilitation fuels self-loathing.
I embarrass myself with fear and shame.
What I wanted to be temporary
is permanent. There are no happy endings for the movie today: no
transformations, no miracles to celebrate, and no heroic deeds.
There's just Larry and me, holding on to one another, slowly making
our way in the world, careening side by side.
© 2000 John Killacky
R. Killacky is a filmmaker, writer, and arts administrator living
in San Francisco. The text published here is the voice-over and
narration for "Necessary Action," which he wrote, narrated,
edited, performed, and shot on color Mini-DV.
BENT: A Journal of CripGay