Sunday, November 1, 2015

7383. BELOW THE WATER LINE, pt. 61

(pt. 61)
All that time I spent in the hospital, after getting hit
by the train, that was some momentous stuff. Until
I awoke from my coma, then it was pretty boring.
All right, I'm making a joke with that. I do remember
so slowly coming back to life, or consciousness, or 
whatever this here is. It seemed to take forever, and 
was as if I was being dragged back through something
that was like a honey or molasses, but instead was made
of light but with the dragging viscosity which sort of
personified reluctance to get dragged back. And the
little me that was me, this Gary character individual,
he had little to do with it. But that was me, and yet it
wasn't me either  -  the one getting pulled or drawn back. 
I recall the sensations being of like having feet planted
somewhere else, but with a form around me shaping 
another place to which I was to have to go, to put an
allegiance. I wanted to, but didn't want to either. There
was just light, and no real 'commanding' presence anywhere.
It was pretty free-flowing, it seemed, and almost anarchic
in what I could have made from it  -  intentions and ideas
all seemed to quickly become manifest, like I was creating
(my own?) worlds at will. I kind of came back an adult, in
ways, knowing already the 'importance' of the momentous
things I could 'produce' by intent and concentration. I always
figured that was the archetype thing, the basis of the 'Creation'
myth and all those early societies. When all your body 
knows is that it just recently learned how to make fire,
there's really yet not that much interest in spearing the
great metaphysical 'fish' out there around you. When you're
still scared of the woods, you don't go studying, quite yet,
the darkness the woods produce. Everything takes a long 
time, in Reality  -  all of society included. But a lot of the
myths, I knew right off, are initiated out of this initial and
internal 'struggle' I was going through in here being 're-born',
or at least 're-placed' on this Earth fiery stupid globe of being.
I didn't really want to come back, but, whatever. 
As soon as I got out of the hospital  -  which took a really 
long time too  -  I arrived back home to Inman Avenue, on
crutches and a little twisted up and still under doctors' great
care. I don't know what people made of me, what all my 
friends had thought or done while I was away. No one ever 
mentioned any specifics or questions about specifics to me.
It was like all kept mute or mum about. Maybe everyone was
perplexed or scared. I don't know, 'cept I knew that I wasn't.
Really, I didn't even care. My mouth was wired shut, had 
been for months. Broken jaw stuff made it necessary to seal
my mouth from movement  -  I ate, for months, only baby food
sucked through, from a tablespoon, my wired-shut (like braces
that sealed your mouth closed) teeth. That was a long time, and 
the day those braces things finally came off I remember pretty 
well. The doctor or dentist or whatever he was, gave me a big 
pile of gum to chew on, and said to just keep chewing  - to
bring my jaw and mouth-muscle stuff back to working order.
It was OK. He also said I'd probably have a lot of problems
in my late teens with back teeth and stuff, but that never really
happened, that I know of anyway. Once I got back to the house,
I was pretty freaked out, as I walked in, when I saw that my 
Uncle Joe and my Father had, in my absence, and as a welcome
home present, set up this big fish tank, with filter and all that
stuff, atop the television set or whatever  -  in it were angel fish,
brightly-colored other fish, sucker fish, little snake-like fish, all
sorts of things, in this grand, bubbly water scene. It was really
cool, and I liked it. Over time, now, I can't recall another 
damned thing about it -  which is weird. I don't know who
took care of it, where it went, or how and when all those
fish died. It's just a curious black-hole in my recovery
memory. Hmm. Something fishy there!
Once I really got started, I was very fast on crutches - it
became a sidewalk sport of sorts. I can remember an 
almost-running pace, on them, with that slapping sound 
they'd make on pavement. I can't recall how I finally and
over time got rid of the, but I did. My mother, I remember,
as I finally returned to School 5,  put me in these really 
hideous white buck shoes, a'la Pat Boone, a singer, who'd
made some of that stupid wardrobe stuff quite popular. It
made me more self conscious than being on crutches  -  those
dumb white-buck shoes that hardly even touched the ground.
I must have looked like some ridiculous poster-child for poor
child-maintenance or something. But, I can't remember, 
and before I knew it everything was back in place, and  -  I 
guess  - I was walking and things like a normal kid. Just 
can't remember. In the same way, I cannot remember 
the crunching, numbing action of the train hitting us either.
None of it seems real, or the me to whom it all happened,
maybe, really did die. I know I came back refreshed and 
different, and understanding, or at least aware of, a lot more
things, things in some 'heightened' way. I don't know; can't
ever really say. It was a brutal snowstorm, my mother couldn't
control the car, she was driving me back from Claire Avenue
in Woodbridge, and the tracks right there on Rahway Avenue  -
still there and still in constant freight-train use  -  which had
only blinking lights then, no service arms to come down and
block traffic (not that it would have mattered) were the tracks 
we slid on the ice/snow onto, right in front of the approaching
freight, which really jiggered us up, cut the car in two right down
the middle. Left my mother's section right there, and took my 
section a bunch of feet down the tracks with it, until the train could
stop. And there I was, all smashed and crumpled. I was told they
figured I was dead, until I moaned when they tried extricating me
from beneath the metal dashboard which had twisted around me.
Whatever; all tales are tall tales. Later, when I found out about 
it all, I actually felt more sorry for the poor engineer than for 
myself. He must have been a wreck. He was William Pasterak,
49 years old, from 27 Hamilton Street in Fords. I'd imagine 
he's dead now, poor guy. I wished I'd have spoken to him. The 
fireman of the train was William Gleeson, of Philadelphia. That's
all I know. They both worked for the Reading Railroad.
Since I was stone-cold out of it for months after that, I have no 
idea what transpired at all. Everybody told the stories over and 
over, who did what, how my father found out, all that. It became
one of those family tales that get re-told, and change around a
little with each re-telling too. For a period of time, after I awoke,
the kid in the bed next to me  -  tonsils or something  -  was 
John Hoffman, older brother, as I recall, of Michael Hoffman,
a school-chum of mine. I can remember various parents coming
to visit me, in the company of my own parents, and I remember
Myrtle Yacullo, mother of my friend across the street, Jimmy,
coming for a while everyday, and bringing, each day, some 
custard which she home-made  -  it's like a pudding texture 
stuff. I wound up hating it and almost getting nauseous each
time, but could never tell her. It was, in her eyes, and my
parents' too, a great food and the right consistency to be 
sucked in through my wired-shut mouth. Yep, just as good
as that creamed-spinach baby food which I loved so much.
One funny thing  -  which has always remained with me, was
triggered by the Hoffman kid in the bed next to me. (It was a
large ward, of about 20 or even more, beds; not a private or a
double-room in any sense. Everyone was just thrown together  -
young and not young, in all their varied sorts of ailment and
injury. A strange assortment, like some Civil War battlefield
hospital. 1958 remember). Here, the thing was this John
Hoffman kid had never been a favorite of mine  -  he was very
peculiar, a goody-goody type, all proper and polite, and  -  in
any case  -  had never been anyone I cared to spend time with.
It was a weird feeling, But yet, I had thought, if I've been
somewhere else now, and if I've come back into this life with
another meaning  -  a new Matterhorn of my own, as it were,
to climb  -  why then would these previous thoughts and
knowledge about this Hoffman kid still come to the forefront
as they had. Isn't that the boring old stuff again? I could never
figure that out. I think Life itself is all smoke and mirrors, and
the interpretation of everything is all up to us.
I was all trussed up, for months, in traction and casts. My body
had been fairly well scrunched up, all on my right side. I looked
like one of those cartoon characters you see -  arm in a traction
sling, sticking straight out, leg in another, sticking straight out,
head wrapped. All that white gauze stuff. I remember I had a
male nurse, a Philippine guy. First off, the idea of a male nurse
wasn't cool with me; it just didn't seem right. And he wore blue,
not a white nurse thing, with which I felt more comfortable. He
was always hanging around, walking to various beds and doing
things  -  clean-ups, chores, etc. A real drub of a guy. (I don't
know what a drub is, but I'd made that word up for him). The
reason I ended up hating him  -  besides all the horrid bed-pan
stuff  -  which I hated too  -  was because he'd come by to change
my sheets and bedding, which meant he'd have to, just a little,
lift me up off the bed, for a moment. It hurt like the dickens, and
he consistently did it, and knew it hurt too. Jerk. Later on, when
I got mobile enough for a wheelchair, they'd let me roam around,
spin and roll in and out of the ward, and enter hallways and things.
Here's the scoop : the hospital was way over-crowded (old, original
Perth Amboy Hospital). The wards were overflowing, and there
were beds and people in the beds, all along the hallways. No room
at the inn, so to speak. So I'd just roll past all these weird cases
of people and their wounds and injuries. Te thing that always
flabbergasted me, and which I've never really gotten to the bottom
of yet, (and this is true, believe me people) is that there would be
people, I guess with bruised heads or eyes or something, I never
knew, in their beds with slabs of red meat, like a steak or something,
on their faces or wounds. Sounds ridiculous, but it was true. I
could never figure that out. Ever. And, one last thing and then I'll
move on and come back to this later, was that  -  it being a serious
hospital ward scene, kids under 12 or something weren't allowed up.
My sister, Donna, was about 6, and wished to see me, or they wanted
her to come see me, whatever. To do so, my Grandmother, wearing a
long Winter coat, took my sister to the elevator area in the lobby, told
her to stand on my grandmother's own feet, and then my Grandmother
wrapped he big, long Winter coat around them and proceeded up,
elevator and all that. It worked. My sister got to my bedside, walking
by not walking, instead just sort of riding while hidden, on my
Grandmother's shoes. Pretty strange transport, but it worked.

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