Cassandra – the story of Casey and Alexandra — Chapter Two

17 Mar

The story of Casey and Alexandra

Chapter Two: Alexandra’s Memoric Exhibition

They say people who are in comas can hear everything around them.

That really wasn’t my experience. Frankly, it would have been counter-productive in my case.

What I needed was what I got: deep, deep sleep.

I don’t think being aware of all the machines keeping my body alive, or the incomings and outgoings of the medical personnel, or my father at my bedside, and then my mother, and then their arguing, would have done anything but stress me out.

What my coma did, in addition to isolating and protecting me from the chaos around me in the physical world, was to give me the opportunity to wander about in my memories.

It gave me a unique perspective to look at things that happened to me and to reconfigure how I understood them. I changed my mind on a whole bunch of things, like, who my friends were and who should be my friends. Or how my nerdiness wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to me (I had already had that sermon preached to me a gazillion times by Mom, but had never believed it before). Or, how maybe Hickory wasn’t the absolutely stupidest town to grow up in, and maybe how I should think about staying – or coming back after college.

So I had a chance, in my deep, watery state of mind, to reconcile a lot of stuff.

And an extra bonus was memories I would have never been able to dredge up in a conscious state. Like my birthday – my literal birthday!

Like the feel of linoleum floor when I crawled into the kitchen, and grabbed that piece of onion skin and popped it into my mouth. Then not able to get air – and the desperation and panic that shot through me as I choked.

Or finding dead flies in the living room, feet up on the carpet under the windows. They are crunchy and a bit on the sour-side as far as taste goes, by the way.

Not moment-by-moment memories. More of a highlight reel that featured things like smells and textures and sounds and “aha” moments – as when I first understood a word.

The nice thing was I didn’t feel rushed going through my memoric exhibition. That’s what I called it: Alexandra’s Memoric Exhibition.

I strolled leisurely down corridors, stopping to pluck a memory from here or there.

I found they were categorized for me. For example, I could go down one hallway and turn left at its end, and on the left, a bit higher than I could reach flatfooted, were memories of kindergarten. The classroom, my teachers, the other students.

And color-coded. The cool colors – greens and blues – were nondescript memories. The yellow-orange-red colors were more emotional in nature. The black ones were a bit scary, and I had to repeatedly tell myself they were only memories, and also they were colored by my age and development at the time they occurred.

Still, the black- colored memories were ones I decided to leave on the shelf, for the most part.

And, there was appropriate music and smells. Some were inviting, some were bland, at best, and some – well, you can imagine. One whole hallway, I am certain, was dedicated to gastrointestinal memories, and I thought, once you’ve smelled one of those events, you’ve pretty much smelled them all.

Lemon. That was my favorite odor. Sweet and tangy.

There were memories you couldn’t smell, like sugar and salt – that had to be tasted to be distinguished.

One of my memories was thinking I had found a part of a bit of popcorn under the dining room table. Obviously I wasn’t able to reason well at the time, because we never ate popcorn in the dining room.

But, like the onion skin before, into my mouth went the “popcorn.”

It was a mothball – or p-dichlorobenzene (I looked it up once). Mom used it to pack with her sweaters for storage so the moths wouldn’t eat holes in her clothing. How it got under the dining room table wasn’t in my collection of memories, but my reaction to it was. Gastrointestinal!

The pleasanter memories were warm breezes, and the sound of the surf at the beach – partially-muted voices of children playing in the neighborhood as I was roused to awareness from a nap in my crib. Uncontrolled laughs, and the sweet succulence of a ripe plum. The smell of my dad’s aftershave and the comforting cushion of my mom’s breast.

So, no. I don’t remember hearing anything in my stay while I was in the ICU those first hours and days.

It’s just as well.

There wasn’t anything I could do about it, anyway.

My last memory? Going through the intersection, windows down, radio blaring NPR Science Friday — Sci-Fri, they called it. And Mom was blabbering about something and I was thinking would I ever get invited to a school prom. And then I looked up and saw this white car coming into the intersection, and a teenager not paying any attention to driving, but intent on her iPhone, texting.

It was slow motion, our collision. The girl looked up just before we struck her, and she and I were a matter of feet from each other, and our eyes locked. She was beautiful. I remember thinking she mouthed the words “Oh, shit!” just before we struck.

And then, nothing. Except Alexandra’s Memoric Exhibition.

© L. Stewart Marsden, March 17, 2013


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