I told them, you know I told them. Fuckin’ doctors don’t know everything. ‘It’s over.’ They said. ‘Vegetative state,’ they said. ‘let him go,’ they said! I knew it wasn’t over, not yet. I couldn’t tell them how I knew, of course. How would that sound? How could they believe that you weren’t gone, because you’d died once before for several minutes, during your bypass surgery and I knew it, I gave them the time and duration of your flat lining when they tried to tell me it had all gone smoothly? Fuckin’ doctors. Assholes like that aren’t going to credit that I can still feel you. When you’re gone I’ll tell them.
I know, I know: soon, my love. I know you’re not coming back to me either. You’ll be free soon enough.
The bastards knew I couldn’t pay. They already told me enough for me to get that the test was expensive and didn’t pay off often enough for Medicare to pay for it, ever, almost. I knew this wasn’t the time to tell them what I thought of ‘em or try to bitch them into it. If I’m nice, maybe I’m pitiful, husband of fifty years in a vegetative state, maybe they do the test just to comfort an old lady.
Plus, what I didn’t think of, apparently the test is fun. I mean, boys will be boys, and by chance, all the doctors were men and half the nurses too. I know there’s plenty of lady doctors these days, but you could’ve fooled me since this latest episode – last episode! Oh God– of yours. These were boys with new toys, a type we all know well. How this machine is flying under the radar, how it’s not all the buzz, I don’t know, doctor’s want money for us to even know about it, I guess. But Jack, the fucking thing is a mind-reader.
I looked up what I could, read their blog about it a little, and of course it’s complex. ‘Mind-reading,’ that is a very old, low-tech term; of course a brain is not a book. What happens in the brain, they say, doesn’t happen in English. To draw out something specific, something remotely coherent, anything concrete at all – that remains highly unlikely.
Ha – I know what you would’ve said to that, Jackie! I can see you, squinting and talking around one of those huge blunts you smoked forever – ‘Depends, Hon.’ Hooooot. ‘How coherent was the patient when they were conscious?’ I’d agree with you about most patients, Love. Just not you.
So what they say is, they’re not really sure why it works, I mean, they really don’t know why it doesn’t work better, or worse. They can’t say if the view they get of what is going on in a brain suffers from lookng too close, or from taking too high-level or too general a view. They don’t think there’s ever going to be a better version, because they don’t know what they might ever do to change it, apparently, the machines right now either work or not at all. They don’t degrade and they don’t improve. But when they work, what they give is . . . interpretive. My word, not theirs. I kind of read between the lines, but I’ve got eighty years of experience at it – I’m the girl you want for that sort of thing, hearing what it is they’re not saying. Right Jackie? The machines, like brains they say, don’t have English as their operating system, you don’t get email or printouts.
What the machines put out is . . . art. Like dreams, or some combination of the two. There are a lot of views that seem random, like the weirdest of dreams, and the loved ones who see them aren’t comforted, although some see the chaos as evidence that the person really isn’t any kind of conscious. Then the family can feel better about letting them go. I imagine I’d spend the rest of my days going mad trying to understand it - but I can take that risk, at my age. Plus I knew you were still there. Apparently some few percent of the few percent of people who actually get their vegetative loved ones tested get a view that for some reason satisfies them. And for some reason, the ones that give meaning, by all accounts, these views are art, and not just art, but really good art. That drives the human artists nuts. Shades of Frankenstein, a line that was never supposed to be crossed, a machine that dredges the comatose for art! Lucky for me, though.
We never looked at the same thing the same way at the same time, Jackie, not once. I always said so and you always disagreed, proving my point for me, thank you. You always were such a gentleman that way, you knew how to agree to disagree without hurting people’s feelings. But you never admitted it, you never got anything right with me, like we couldn’t ever learn each other no matter how many decades we lived together. You were a gentleman, formal kind of, because, in a way, we never really met.
We were close sometimes, for moments or years, but that was something different, that was time out of time, somehow, wasn’t it? I think we weren’t ourselves, I think we made new selves for each other. The other times, when life was crazy and we lost that contact, when I saw you from a distance, I was sometimes a little shocked sometimes thrilled, but it was always a reminder of our differences. Rich, poor, conservative, liberal, we had them all. I never could see things your way, Jackie, but I always felt you.
I just wish I could have known you.
When we were apart, I’d see you so far away and I’d come back to you. But when I got close, you were always out of sight. That’s how it was, that’s what I thought all our lives together, but God bless you, or God damn you for holding out on me to the very end, I got your image.
As it turns out, my love, it’s all moot, the test. They’re talking to me now, telling me, yes, you were right, he is still mentating, but the test, run over time, shows that you’re fading away anyway, sure as taxes. I can’t feel that, all I know is for now, you’re still here. And you really saw us!
Why wouldn’t you tell me?
just throwing this up again. I know I writ it, but it's the only thing I can find that makes me think about lost ones and gets me somewhere near crying for them . . .