Alive

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(2002)

It always waits until after you're asleep.

(You think: Who are you? )

(And then you remember.)

Memories. Not the unyielding, excruciating moments near or at the end, but the better times. Or even worse, the arbitrary moments in life that dug in deep, long before the mind has discarded them.

In the dark, afraid to close my eyes now, afraid of the not-quite-nothingness that awaits me there. Like a boy, again. Afraid of the dark; afraid to close my eyes.

Too much like death?

No. It was too much like life.

Sleep and death both prolonged peacefulness. The quiet, uncomplicated ability to forget suffering and self. Awake (I think, therefore I am, I think).

What are you doing?

I can't find an explanation for how I came to be here, but there has to be a story. There's always a story.

(There's a dark space between what we can tell others and what we'll only tell ourselves, and that is Truth. And there's a darker space that contains the things we can't even tell ourselves; those things speak their own language-in dreams, memories, and mistakes-so we try to make sense of it any way we can, and that is Art.)

Here's the story: Everything had played out pretty much according to everyone's expectations. It all more or less happened the way I'd envisioned it would. And I'd had plenty of time (all that anxious time, all those empty hours) to imagine how it would unwind, which was not necessarily the way I might have foreseen it, beforehand. Before it all began.

After the long wait and eventual end of it, there was the afterward, that first day of the rest of our lives.

We did it, I thought. We made it.

At least, I thought, the hard part is over.

No. I knew, even then, that this wasn't true. It was too soon to say that.

Okay. At least the worst part was behind us. It had taken five years: from first surgery until the day after, almost exactly five years. It had taken more than any of us could give. It had taken more than any of us could bear to give up. Now (I hoped), all we had to do was somehow go about the business of living. Just live our lives, I thought.

The worst (I knew), was over.

No, that's not the truth.

The worst was only beginning?

No, not that either.

Only this: We had the rest of our lives to live.

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