Dreamed the week of 1993/9/8 by Chris Wayan
Ow! A sharp pain starts in my left kidney, growing over an hour or so. So bad I start to shake uncontrollably. My housemate Lily drives me to the emergency room at St. Luke's. They suspect a kidney stone, so they won't let me drink. Saline drip instead. But they slipped a big dose of Demerol in it--without asking me. It doesn't reduce the pain a bit, just makes me woozy. Now my arm starts to hurt too--I'm either allergic to the drug or to the plastic tubing. I protest groggily but they don't listen and leave it in. For hours I shake and writhe in pain... Endless X-rays where one or two would do. Why? My friends Roxana, Ann, Linden visit and start protesting about all the X-rays. The technician even forgot the lead shield, they had to remind him. What is it with this place?
Or is this normal for Western medicine? Been so long since I'd been in their clutches, I'd forgotten.
The X-rays show one stone. They assume it'll pass naturally. Tell me "Go to our clinic and see a urologist right away." They send me home with no info on what'll help, what'll worsen it--just "drink a lot" after forbidding me to for hours. At home, I call their clinic, but they won't give me an appointment. I have to come in, sign up with their clinic, get a primary care physician, see him/her first! It shouldn't take more than, oh, ten days...
I'm furious. Ask Lily to call her friend Polly the nutritionist instead and make an appt for me at Haight Ashbury Clinic where at least I know I can be seen soon and learn what to do.
Force myself to drink water. Ugh. Keep waking up and drowsing off. When I finally wake clearheaded I figure it's 3 AM, but find to my astonishment that the long night of sipping water and sleeping has been only three hours--it's 9 PM! Fall asleep at last...
I'm dead. I'm in the afterworld. It looks like a theater lobby. It seems to be run by Christians. Ugh.
I have no idea if this is heaven, hell, or purgatory. It doesn't seem fun enough for heaven, but I never could tell the others apart that well even in Dante. A tall man with a pinhead comes down the stair. Seven feet at least. He says "I'm Adam." Ohhhkaaay...
He asks "Have you lived a blameless life?" I bet this is one of those trick Christian questions, you know, if you grovel and confess all sorts of stupid shit then you're humble and you get in; if you admit you really don't think you did anything particularly bad, then you're in denial and you gotta suffer till you're properly humbled.
"Nobody's PERFECT" I say, irritated by not knowing what the game is--or if I want to win. Why go to heaven if it's full of seven-foot fundamentalist pinheads?
Now one of the Trinity shows up--I can't keep their names straight, but it's definitely a face of God, not just some angel--and God starts gossiping with Adam. Then God turns to me. "Hey, we're torturing the Pope, you want to come help?"
Adam warms up when his boss does, and says "Yeah, you want to be in on it? You know--the barrel, dipping his feet..."
I say warily "Uh... yeah, of course." I'll go along, act like this makes sense... Maybe it's one of those really nasty Renaissance Popes, with assassinations to his credit. Feet, huh? I don't know much Church history, was there a pope who dipped people's feet in nasty stuff to torture them? Pope Podiatrus IV?
I still wonder if this is hell or purgatory. But definitely Catholic, some kind of updated Dante. How'd I end up HERE? I don't belong here, I should be in some pagan afterlife, or reincarnated. Why am I going along with these people? What a jellyfish I am! I don't need humility, I need a spine!
Wake up and write the dream. Trapped with Christians in their purgatory? Oh. St. Luke's Hospital... right.
TWO DAYS LATER
I still haven't passed the stone but I feel good enough to drive to my first session of hypnotherapy.
Hmm! After years of mistrusting therapists, I trust Shelley on sight! Dive right into trance. Chattering little voices deny that it's real, but my familiar Silky, in horse-form, appears in my head and OKs the situation. So I just go with it, critics and all. Silky runs in a protective circle round the office.
Shelley tries to talk to my "fear of intimacy", and I promptly get dizzy and my pulse races. My finger signals "I don't know." I'm scared (and a little insulted?) by her focus. Expected her to start with basic survival stuff--health and illness. Fear of intimacy is neither a safe issue to start with, nor my core issue. I say dreamily, while still in the charmed trance-circle, "Of course a therapist sees intimacy as the biggest thing. It's their life-work. But it isn't mine."
Till Shelley dragged intimacy in, I didn't know I wanted something else. What? I let the inner voices tell me who I DO need to face, and they say "The side of you who punishes you with illness for any worldly pleasure--including some quite unrelated to intimacy, like making or spending money, taking up too much space, spending too much time on your body or health--punishes you for having a body at all! Intimacy that doesn't drain your health and energy doesn't frighten you a bit."
While my head debates on and on, my body observes the floods of dizziness with a sort of tired, scared eagerness. Tired of fighting the dizziness! I want to dive through it, and let that side of me take over and talk to Shelley. But she doesn't push that far. Probably wise--first time after all. An amazing initial session, powerful as a psychedelic drug trip.
Afterward, I don't want to drive till I'm sure I'm fully out of the trance, so I walk slowly around the park a while... looking hard at my life.
I'm living two blocks from a park where gangs sell drugs, hearing shootouts every night, afraid to go out on my own street. I'm unemployed, my income's below the US poverty line. I'm chronically ill, without insurance. I'm single, ten years with no girlfriend, only one real relationship before that and it was abusive...
I have things going for me--friends, art, brains, knowledge, spiritual strength. But I'm facing a lot more than neurotic little fears of intimacy...
I take the magnesium and B6 Polly recommended, and go to bed.
Can't sleep. Hours.
Fever? Or... I recall at last that I quit taking magnesium supplements years ago because they made me insomniac, though the books all said it helps you sleep.
Then the bed starts shaking and I think "EARTHQUAKE! On top of everything else..." But I notice nothing else is moving. I watch closely. It's my own body, involuntary tremors! Starts again. Like the dizziness in therapy, but stronger, the worst whole-body ones I've noticed in years. I wonder now. Could these be triggered by high levels of Mg? It's supposed to suppress epilepsy, what if it has the opposite effect on me in this regard too?
I suddenly see the horrible possibility I'm caught between low-grade epileptic fits and convulsions if I take the magnesium, or agonizing kidney stones if I don't. Doze a little at last...
WILL THE PACK OF CARDS REBEL?
I'm in a steep-walled valley with a flat floor, where a huge housing complex sprawls. It has four wings, one for the soldiers of each color. They're like suits in a card deck--four hierarchies, distinguishable from the front, wearing a disk of their color on the breast with additional devices on the helmet and armor; but from the back, like cards, everyone looks the same. Also like cards, and unlike any army in history, there's only one of each rank in a color. No squads, yet not equal either--a pecking order!
These four play war games, dominance games, that parallel human history, but not exactly. I think the abrupt disappearance of one whole wing, which happened last night, is the analogy of our French Revolution! Only this color-wing had read our history, anticipated its own extermination, and cleared out in the night. They may come back in disguise--it's easy enough. Just tint your disk!
In the morning, a band of Red Disks comes down the steep hill road. They play music and dance and sing, seeming playful, but I know it's a mask--like everyone in this game, they hide an urge to power. I follow them and join a dance, whirling someone around... yet watching. Are they trying to provoke a fight? Unclear.
Their war can also be seen as baseball. Of course baseball's become theater, really: it doesn't matter how well you play, but how well you entertain the TV audience. I meet one player, a small man, who has a batting average near 400. But he's not telegenic--a shy little guy who just doesn't look major-league. He's mad about the low pay he's been getting compared to his performance... and worries they're won't even renew his contract at all. Others give juicy interviews, and get rich; he produces, and gets nothing.
Another scene later in the competition. Three prisoners are pinned to a wall-board, which has a grid of holes to put hooks in and hang up dozens of captured players... One is a greenish dragon-girl, twined around the hook like a bean-vine tendril round a nail in the wall. Two are male, and look human, and have more standard armor, but I wonder now if all their scales are steel... Are the players shapeshifters?
They're all supposed to be deadly enemies, but they begin to talk. They suspect they've been pinned here almost within reach to work up hostility so they'll fight each other... to the benefit of their captors, who want them dead, but don't want to be blamed for the killings. So they make a pact not to fight. The grid begins to release them, dropping them down the wall, yards to the ground. Hurts, even for a dragon. In pain, and their enmity is partly instinctual not just political; it's hard for them to keep from lashing out at each other. But they do it, scuttle away from each other, restrain the urge to fight... knowing it's a set-up.
They survive to go back to their communities to tell them: "We CAN co-operate!"
NOTES IN THE NIGHT
WYVERNS AT THE WATERHOLE
I'm lying on rocks by a silty pond or cove. Concentric, scalloping lines in the muddy sand show several high tides... and another sort of level, tides of what, energy, insight? It won't come clear.
Several beings, not all human, lurk in the water. I feel great tension about continuing the war/struggle, but also great excitement, for I'm attracted to one or two of these beings--Puff again, and a Mermaid or Wyvern-girl, also scaly but more human. I think I was female too, so I wasn't sure what my chances were. Are there lesbian dragons?
But flirtation came second, behind survival--behind wary negotiations, as we fought to free ourselves from fighting! We'd been taught to fear each other as enemies.
By our real enemy.
SHOTS IN THE NIGHT
And I wake to gunfire, perhaps ten loud pounding semi-automatic shots. I was dreaming and my body's still in REM: almost paralyzed, penis erect even though I can barely recall my dream and don't think it was erotic anyway. The war-dreams and the gunfire and the horrible documentary on LA barrio kids mix in my head and convince me I'm in danger of being shot if I get up. But I must get up. Sharp pain in my cock near the head. Instantly I know it's another fragment of kidney stone. There IS more. But I'm still half in REM state--I can't even get up for a couple of minutes, half-paralyzed. Lie in pain desperately trying to will away the agonizing erection. Bitterly think "This pretty well sums up my sex life! And I've been calling it a phobia." It's 4 AM. I finally stagger to the bathroom with the filter the hospital gave me. Can't pee till the erection subsides. Then... a huge dark red-brown stone pops out! This is not another fragment, this is the main thing. Big as a coriander seed. I'm amazed it came out so quickly and easily. Nothing compared to the earlier pains.
I lie down and start to drift back to sleep by 4:30... one more distant gunshot, but I don't care.
Wake dizzy, sleepy, faint... but painless! I hope that's the last of the kidney stone. I write intermittently till 1 PM, lying on my bed and staring at the zooming vortices of cloud as they wisp and dissolve over Bernal Hill. This is where the San Francisco fog ends. Amazingly like sea-waves breaking as the tide shifts, just so big and far up you can't see any parallax to judge depth, and so slow you can't see grasp the overall time-patterns, just the most dramatic clashes... like this last week of my life.
THREE WEEKS LATER
The gunfire trailed off, as neighbors organized to stop the drug deals in the park... I wasn't involved--I mostly lay around listlessly--my arm was infected by the hospital IV, greatly slowing my recovery.
The hospital bill came. Twelve times the maximum I suspected they'd try to con out of me! Absurd--and not itemized. I write a letter saying "I won't pay a thing till you fully itemize this bill and explain these costs. All you gave me was a radiation overdose and an infected arm."
I never hear from them again. And so ended my last great encounter with Western medicine.
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