I find it difficult to feel now.
It happened one year ago. My body soared through the air, and my skull caught my fall—my brain shocked by the impact.
It is no secret I’ve avoided writing about this. Look through the cobwebs of my blog. Look through the cobwebs sheltering my desk. Look through the cobwebs of my creative mind. Fluttering through the air, you’ll see the sprinkled dust that comes with old, abandoned places. Almost shiny, like glitter. Spoiler alert: it’s not glitter.
I need to describe the feeling, which is ironic because what I’m describing is a decline in…well…feeling.
Pretend you’re standing across from your wife. You’re facing this person you’ve loved for a long time, this person you’ve married. You’ve sacrificed so much for this person. This person has watched you nearly die. The short of it: you’ve been through so much together.
You stand across from your wife.
But you’re enclosed in a yellowed, plastic mold. Like Jell-O*.
Pineapple Jell-O that seems, at first glance, to offer no particular flavor—you’ve got to risk tasting it to find out if there’s anything to it.
The structure around you is thick, gelatinous, and hard to navigate. Hell, it may even be easy to slice through with the right tools, but with only your hands, tearing it apart is useless. Even after you’ve broken it, there’s no way to grasp the good pieces. The whole bit you’ve broken off falls apart into a semi-liquified mess.
You can see everything you desire, but it’s foggy, and you can’t touch it. You can hear everything around you, but it’s the muffled thumping of busted speakers instead of the crisp, clear sound that you’re used to. You can’t touch anything, but you can rub your viscous outer shell against it all (which may or may not win you any friends). You can taste everything you once tasted, but it’s all tinged pineapple, so even though it isn’t unpleasant, it’s not quite right. You can’t smell at all—not the perfume of your wife, not the scent of your child’s hair—because your nostrils are filled with the same gummy mold that surrounds you.
So, yes, you stand across from your wife. You remember—even feel how much you love her. But you’re walled in, unable to see her beauty clearly, unable to hear her laugh as vibrantly, unable to touch her skin with the same effect, unable to taste the kiss between you two, and unable to recognize the smell of her hair, her body, and her perfume anymore.
You might wonder what the problem is, and I’ll tell you. Your wife isn’t walled in Jell-O.
No, your wife feels everything as much as she used to. Your wife does not find it difficult to feel. Your wife did not land on her skull, did not bounce her brain around—your wife does not have damage to the parts of her mind that invoke feeling. Your wife sees you but cannot see your shell. Your wife yearns for you as you were before but cannot mend your mind.
And it’s not your wife’s fault she is this way. Just as it’s not your fault you find it hard…to feel most ways, most days. She tiptoes up to you, grasping her arms around you, stretching her arms to bring them around the flavored dome that is this wall around you. She stretches, she stretches, she stretches until she is almost broken.
You reach back, and though you reach her, you are coated in the mess. There is nothing anyone around you can see. There is no physical sign. This mess is not visible to the rest of the world. You fight to feel past it each day, and you know you will keep fighting, keep healing, but yes—it is a fight.
And fighting is hard, unforgiving work.
One year ago, I flew fabulously down toward the pavement. When I struck the ground, the start of what was almost an end began.
A blank space exists between the before and after. I remember quesadillas with my wife and her sister. Then, I remember waking up in an ICU, where I spent most of my time vomiting and writhing in pain. Nothing felt the same. It felt as if the atmosphere around me had changed.
Because it did. I’m not the same. And pretending I am is only causing me pain.
It’s time to move forward. Yes, it’s different, but nothing ever really stays the same, anyway.
Per Jell-O’s own website history, on “March 17, 1993, technicians at St. Jerome hospital in Batavia tested a bowl of lime Jell-O with an EEG machine and confirm the earlier testing by Dr. Adrian Upton that a bowl of wiggly Jell-O has brain waves identical to those of adult men and women.” Now, there’s some fucking irony.