Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ventilation, Part 12 (fictionalized history)

(In 1952, polio reached its peak in the United States with 21,000 cases of paralytic polio. The first polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. By 1965, the total paralytic cases had fallen to 61. In this fictionalized history series, we will be experiencing the aftermath of polio, before the dramatic triumph of a vaccine. If you're just joining us, go back to Part 1.)




Thirteen Years and 10 Months After Hospital Admission
May 1966 (21 years old)


Julia rested her head and spoke into the telephone receiver. Her voice almost sounded too loud for the empty room. Her mind drifted as she listened.

So many flowers. All white flowers glowing brighter than the sun.

"I wish I had seen it. But I can picture it in my mind. Especially how you describe it. Beautiful."

Recurrent respiratory infections. Choking in the night. My whistling gags bringing the nurses running.

"I just couldn't chance it. I seem to always pay for it when I go out on the portable respirator. Believe me, you're not nearly as disappointed as me."

Missing summer for the first time. Mom screaming at him because he shot me in the face with a squirt gun. But I got him back. Doused him with my straw. I loved him for that. Driving me crazy despite polio.

"I know I'm gaining a sister-in-law and all, and Samatha's great, truly wonderful, really, but you'll always be my little brother. I'm telling you that right now. Sorry, you just have to live with it."

Crying at his graduation. Flopped in a pathetic chair. Respirator chugging on a black extension cord. Nobody giving me a tissue because they're bawling themselves.

"I expect to see all the pictures! That goes without saying."

Watching them hold hands. Kissing each other with their eyes every time their glances met. So uncomfortable. But intoxicating at the same time.

"You have a wonderful honeymoon. I know you will. In fact, I expect you to hang up and be out on the beach in five minutes!"

What skin must feel like under fingertips. Ten miraculous fingertips. And the hard crush of desire. What it feels like on you.

"Well, then again, maybe not the beach. It is your honeymoon, after all. Wink wink."

Mysterious places that no longer exist. Mysterious places some part of me still thinks are there.

"No, I'm not crying. But you better go. Give my love to Samantha. Again, I'm so, so happy for you!"

Can't even feel the cold of this machine.

"Goodbye."


Back to Part 11.

12 comments:

SzélsőFa said...

Ow, how painful...
Julia has really grown out the frames of this series. She *is*.

Sarah Hina said...

Knowing that a whole world is out there that she can't experience. Wondering about it, desiring the desire. Letting her mind engage in what her body can't. But it's never enough. Even while she spares others from her pain, and pretends that she's fine.

You keep giving us new dimensions of Julia that feel right. But her body is weakening, and I fear that this "goodbye" will become permanent soon.

Charles Gramlich said...

A really great element here is where she says that she appreciated her brother driving her crazy in spite of the polio. Really brings to life how she probabaly just wants to be able to be treated like others are treated.

Milly said...

Too hard to read today

paisley said...

awed again... keep going...

jason evans said...

Szelsofa, thanks, my friend.

Sarah, that's a powerful observation. Yes, the mind is wonderful, but there's a place where its power ends, and the pain edures.

Charles, I liked that thought too. The jerk little brother is really a connection to what is real.

Milly, understandable. I hope you're feeling better tomorrow. Hang in there.

Paisley, thank you. I liked the experiment nature of this delivery. I wasn't sure if it would carry the energy I wanted, but in the end, I think it did.

Ello said...

I loved the part where she reminisces about her brother driving her crazy but loving it. That made me feel her longing for normality. This was so heartbreaking!

jason evans said...

Ello, I can only imagine how those tiny, forgettable moments could grow in her mind to heartbreaking proportions.

Vesper said...

This is too sad... A long(er) goodbye...
You've written Julia very well, Jason. She simply lives.

Selma said...

This is breaking my heart. She is so real to me now.

JaneyV said...

I agree with everything that went before. The normality of sibling teasing as a treasured memory is a heartbreaking touch. Actually one of the incredible things about this series is the way you have, through slight of touch, shown how utterly, utterly normal Julia is despite her abnormal situation. I think it was the imagining of what it felt like to be touched by passion that broke broke my heart a little bit.

What skin must feel like under fingertips. Ten miraculous fingertips. And the hard crush of desire. What it feels like on you.

jason evans said...

Vesper, Selma, Janey, thanks for feeling the sting of her yearning here. Understand her makes it a bit easier to bear.