Alt Journey-Control

Part 7

Shana’s soul, busy with re-orientation to life in the cosmos, still yearned for its’ connection with Phoebe’s soul. While the pair were given privileges due to El’s love and respect for Anam Chara and the Tri-Eloh, a complex universe required division of dimensions. Limited to dreamtime, Shana’s soul showed Phoebe compelling details of what it experienced, a compulsion to share with her ingrained. Everyone thought they knew what true darkness looked like, whether closed in a windowless room without light, or free in a forest on a cloudy night with unrecognizable wildlife noise, but this blackness was more than visual. Shana shared a weightless darkness where nothingness smelled faintly like a baking cake, tasted like honey water. In sweetened darkness Phoebe felt a vibration inside as she floated and heard Shana’s voice, “Gurlll…”

Merkaba adobe stock image

Rays of light fell on the nurse’s hand as she poured water from a pink plastic pitcher she brought in full every day with identical instructions. Phoebe raised her red and swollen eyes to look out the window at a blue sky for the first time since she arrived, blossoms on an apple tree branch tinged pink and half unfurled. She decided grey and dismal was more to her liking, this change a painful reminder of time’s passage. A dove alighted outside on the sill, soon joined by its’ mate. “You know the drill. There’s a clean hat in the toilet. If you don’t swallow your meds, we’ll know. You really do need to eat more today if you want the doctor to discharge you.” She nodded toward the tray of cold scrambled eggs folded in a sheet, dry white toast with a rock-hard marble of butter on top and a tiny paper cup with two pills. “Yeah, I know. If you’d give me some coffee with sugar I could choke the toast down.”, Phoebe said with a sniffle and more tears as she laid down and turned her body to the wall. Fucking doves and fake eggs, Shana. She told herself to get it together or she’d never get out of Resting Pines, but it just made her cry harder when she thought of walking into their empty apartment.

Dr. Pressman with her pristine white coat and gentle-but-firm demeanor entered a short while later, her hair unbraided and worn in a wavy afro that gave her kind of a halo-effect in the sunshine, “How are you today, Phoebe?” She settled herself in a chair she pulled up next to the bed and clicked her pen, the demon Kaz assigned to her already transformed into a light being by Dinah Pressman’s full heart. Phoebe flipped over to look at the most powerful person in her world at the moment. When she’d insisted she did not now or ever intend to kill herself, outraged by the repeated accusation, the doctor stoically told her it was not unusual for a young person in her situation to attempt suicide after such a hard loss, especially with no other family for support. In the days that followed, she remained immoveable, steady in what she told her was her commitment to Phoebe’s safety. She did not argue with Phoebe, but neither did she affirm faith in her mental stability. Phoebe imagined her a formidable poker opponent. Dinah Pressman’s kind bedside manner did not include weak fences around her own emotions, but this young woman engendered a protectiveness usually reserved for her pediatric patients. “Honestly? I’m pretty wrecked today, Dr. P. I guess it is really sinking in that she isn’t coming back.” She grabbed another handful of tissues and wiped her wet face, blew her nose. “I think I need to move”, Phoebe blurted and shook her head back and forth slowly, “I’ll always be looking for Shana there.” After she made an encouraging note about the patient’s active engagement with reality, the doctor leaned forward, “Phoebe your friend Doyle Regan came to see me this morning. He informed me that you have exams in two weeks and that your courses will be dropped if you don’t return to class next week. You’ve put in far more work than average, in his opinion as a graduate T.A. He’s concerned your academic career may be irreparably damaged in less than a month’s time due to Shana’s suicide. I’d like to help you, if you want to sit for finals, that is. Normally, I require another adult reside with a suicidal patient when I discharge them, or in cases like yours, in-patient therapy here is extended.” Phoebe’s mind felt like it housed a pinball machine, each of Dr. Pressman’s statements setting off bells, whistles, dangerous urges and screams. Was this another episode like with Dr. Cooper and Farwin? Her confusion registered on her face, eyebrows drawn down when the doctor said Phoebe was lucky to have a friend like Doyle. Lucky wasn’t how Phoebe felt whatsoever as she wondered why Doyle bothered. “He’s in the hall. Why don’t I let you two discuss his suggestion, and you can let me know what you decide tomorrow morning. If you’re agreeable to outpatient follow-up in addition to his help, I think a return to class would be good for you”, she declared, as if it was normal to buddy up to your best friend’s killer.

Doyle stood at the end of the bed and took in how Phoebe’s pallor matched the stark white walls and bedding, her copper greasy hair the only contrast in the cramped room except for himself. When she raised her head he sucked in his breath at her gold eyes. “What’s wrong? You look like shit, Doyle.” Phoebe felt some satisfaction by his apparent shock. She noticed his eyes were as puffy as hers when he came closer to drop her voluminous 19th Century Lit text down next to her untouched breakfast. “Yeah, well… I guess I look how I feel then.” Anger boiled within and made her flush. “Don’t even”, her voice thick with disdain, “I’ve got no reason to pretend anymore that I don’t see you for who you are, you, you… UGHHH!” “Go ahead. Yell at me. Hate me. I deserve it, but I swear I didn’t mean to hurt Shana”, he said as he walked to the window to put a bit of distance between them. Phoebe’s eyes are blue, he reminded himself and shook his head. “What do you want from ME, Doyle? ‘Cause if it’s sympathy you should be the one in here.” She stood up and walked over to him. “I want to help you, Phoebe. I… I think Shana would want me to do what I can for you.” Her pale arms gestured in the air as a flood of emotions rushed up in Phoebe and she shouted, “Look at me, Doyle! Everything, everything that meant something to me is gone! She’s gone! What did you do?” Carrie poked her head in, a look of concern on her face, but quickly backed out when Phoebe glared at her. “I don’t blame you for being angry, Phoebe. Let me just help you get through the next month. I promise to stay out of your way”, he held out an envelope, “I had my trust guy draw up something for your trust guy so I could pay for Shana’s cremation. Figured you’d want to pick out the container”. Phoebe had never hit anyone in her entire life, so it rattled her when she felt the urge to sink her fists in his guts; she would not let this bastard change her like he did Shana. Instead, she snatched the envelope out of his long fingers, and turned away from Doyle and blue sky. “Are you serious? You have control of my money?” If she hit him she might not be able to stop. Air suddenly seemed in short supply as Phoebe struggled to take a deep breath and steady her nerves, to climb out of an emotional tidal pool. While Phoebe depended on Shana to fight whenever they needed a champion, Shana depended on Phoebe’s logic and discernment, both in short supply in that moment. It had been a week since she died, so maybe Doyle had only done what was needed. But Phoebe couldn’t help remembering the little and big ways he’d controlled her friend. Shana spent more nights at Doyle’s than at home because he said he slept better with her there, and then there were the drugs. At least it appeared the conservatorship was constrained to only her monthly allowance for two months, at which time the petitioner and attorneys would review Phoebe Monteer’s mental status per reports from Dr. Dinah Pressman and other staff involved in her therapy, as well as the opinion of her live-in conservator, Doyle Regan. “What the hell do you mean you’ll stay out of my way?” “Live-in conservator” connected with what Dr. Pressman said about conditions for discharge like a key in a lock. “It’s just for a little while, just to make sure you’re safe. You don’t know how much I wish I never left Shana alone. I won’t make that mistake with you, I promise.” Kazmir planted anxiety in Phoebe regarding exactly what Doyle meant, but that damned text book owned too much of her attention for it to take hold. She would need a different tact than her soul friend to break her, he thought as he made Doyle smile at her and pat her shoulder. Phoebe cringed inside just as Kaz knew she would. “There’s something I need to know before I decide whether I want to be discharged tomorrow. What happened that night? Why did she do it, Doyle?”

If you or someone you care about is having thoughts of suicide, please dial 988 in the U.S., 45645 in Canada, 116 123 in the U.K., 13 11 14 in Australia for someone to talk to or reach out in another fashion. 5 ways to help a person not proceed with suicidal thoughts.

Not Today, Death

“Don’t cry. Stop crying,” she commanded, as I trapped my sobs and focused on her words. “Don’t cry. You have one heart, one body, one life. YOU have to fight for it. Stop crying.” The Infectious Disease Doctor seemed exasperated with me, as if my tears were drops of weakness that made me sicker. Briefly I thought my illness must seem measly to the towering Serbian blonde. In that moment I felt so small in my hospital bed. It was day 4 and despite innumerable tests, no bacteria had been found despite the appearance of my lungs on x-rays and a CT. “Maybe you aren’t finding anything because RA is doing this to me.” “You have fever and pneumonia, all signs of infection. This is what we are treating with antibiotic, ” she waved her hand at an IV bag hanging from one of the poles next to my bed. An oxygen machine ringed in pale blue gurgled and hissed in my left ear. The night before a child with big eyes stood at my bedside wearing a dress in the same shade. Intuition said I should keep that to myself.

When I created this blog 5 years ago I was 44, and fresh off losing a tough, unfair battle for my health and career. I’d been fighting since I was a kid, for myself and sometimes for those who I thought needed a champion, and I was spent. In hindsight, other people, especially those in power, not only preferred women who didn’t make waves, but rewarded them for not fighting. Maybe if I adopted a quieter, more graceful approach during the 5th decade, life would prove less bruising. In any case, I needed time to heal. What I didn’t know is that my fighting spirit would one day be the difference between life and death.

Lying in that hospital bed a few weeks ago, I feared going “…gently into that good night”, dying of pneumonia as the poet Dylan Thomas did, but after 5 years of curbing my fighting nature I was sorely out of shape. There are dreams I haven’t realized because I laid ambition aside, trips I haven’t taken, and works I haven’t written. Death takes who it can snatch away, especially if one cannot fight. Medical professionals are often champions when we are weak, their educated treatment hitting a bullseye and chasing away mortality. And then, there is luck and those who rage; “… rage against the dying of the light” – Dylan Thomas. One physician listened to my mumbles about rheumatoid arthritis as I was sliding near intubation, the ICU, and a large sucking mudhole next to my bed (According to a study published by the American College of Chest Physicians, every day a patient is delirious brings a 20 percent increased risk of prolonged hospitalization and a 10 percent increased risk of death). Once he consulted with my rheumatology office and hung a high dose bag of steroids, the mudhole disappeared. For me, rage didn’t look like the screaming, swing at the fences anger of my younger years. It looked liked grasping, holding on and repeating my assertion that RA affects the lungs, despite feeling small and weak. A reward for my tenacity is more time to write and dig my toes in the sand. Love is sweeter now, too.

My sixth decade begins in a couple of months, time enough to regain my strength, embrace my true passionate self, and resolve to live as loudly as I want. I understand now that I don’t have time to waste. Death is funny that way.