Cuando era nino, viví
sin mi nombre.
As a child of the late 70s/early 80s, I remember the pressure against conformity, towards a rugged, American individualism. I also remember a fear of not fitting in, of straying from a norm. Belonging is a human, emotional need. The research is unambiguous. I also have to prepare for dying, everyone is fucking dying, like it's a goddamn meme. This year's spring collection is to die for. It always changes. It is the same every year.
One thing that will not be the same is my name. On Friday, I have a hearing with district court. Hearing number NC22-0352 !!!
After 49.9 years being called the wrong thing, I will become a new me. Ex nomine patris.
We spent more time in the ER this week, and the table is covered in stethoscopes and sphygmomanometers and benadryl and maybe some kind of antidepressant. I don't know what the future holds, just that it needs to be held, this fundamental, emotional, human need to belong to its tribe, to any tribe, and I have never felt so secure or so helpless in its grip.
Will we be all right? Yes. Yes. Absolutely.
The nurse attendant was named Mila, which is the same name as my dog, and I almost blurted out, 'YOU HAVE THE SAME NAME AS MY DOG!' which I would have meant in the most affectionate way possible, but in houndsight (ha! Yes, i'm loopy) it probably would not have come across as intended.
I am no doubt not the person you want holding your hand when you are dying, especially if you are not actually dying, because if there is anything all those years of being an EMT taught me, it is if you show emotion, the person who is dying will die even more so.
Of course, this makes me come across as absolutely unfeeling in the eyes of my family (I suppose I could have avoided checking my email while the medics were checking her vitals...)
Everything is fine. Better than fine, in fact, because they gave her valium. Plus, I have wine in the fridge in case she is unwilling to eat all the pills. But that is not likely, because, as I said, she is dying, not insane.
* * *
As is evident, I am incapable of starting at the beginning. On Friday, I was in Salt Lake City on a huge freelance gig,, when Alex suffered a major anxiety attack back home while watching Iron Man with her friends. (Thank god they didn't go with Speed Racer!). And they went to the ER and the doctor said, 'You are 32 years old and have never suffered an anxiety attack before? Either you are lying or you have brain cancer. Why are you crying? HEY NURSE, WHY IS SHE CRYING NOW? WHAT DID I SAY???'
Yesternight, after a few days of relative calm, Alex decided to allow her sister and mother into the house, who promptly said, 'ARE YOU STILL DYING? DID YOU TAKE MAGNESIUM LIKE WE SAID? WHY DO YOU LOOK SO PALE? ARE YOU DYING?' And then they rushed into my room and said, 'OKAY, SHE'S DYING NOW! DO SOMETHING!'
I should, in all fairness, point out that Romanian women are somewhat protective of dying. During communism, it was the only thing they were actually free to do, and, oh my god, the relish. There are women who make their living being paid to wail at funerals.
In further fairness, Alex and her mom and her sister have experienced one traumatic death after another. Her grandmother, her father, and in particular, her uncle, all died agonizing, drawn out deaths at home on the same couch. So as much as I wanted to look at both women and say, 'Please, please stop with the hysterics, you are not making this any better,' I just couldn't. They were convinced Alex was hemorrhaging, and every time they said so, Alex fell deeper and deeper into panic. Her mother kept exhorting her to breathe, until Alex's blood was so saturated with oxygen that a single spark would have likely exploded our entire block in such a fury that even the terrorists would have hesitated to claim false credit.
And they called 911, and soon my house was filled with all the old firefighters I used to fight fires with, including my parents and the guy who turned Alex in for running a stop sign.
* * *
The thing is, it reminded me of one of my earliest memories when I suffered a pain like I had never known, and that is saying a lot because Land of the Lost had recently been taken off the air. The pain! But I remember writhing on the floor watching in horror while my mother dressed up, applied make-up and otherwise put her face on ahead of our big night out where doctors would be present. I was absolutely fine, physically, but although there is much softness in a child, resentment is a hardness at any age. We were so poor, and so lonely, I think. It is so hard to embrace death when life has yet to make its debut at the ball.
Tristan is going to ask me about love in the near future, and I am going to have to come up with a response sooner or later. But watching my wife face her greatest fears and fall, I am struck by an answer. Love is laughing alongside her when she is laughing, and smiling when she smiles. It is also dying alongside her when she is dying, and falling when she falls.
She was dying, and in that moment, I was dying, too.