A glimmering ray of light enters through a crack in the door
of the ward. Has someone entered?
Mottled colors, floating in the air, whisper amongst themselves.
The whiff of air that entered through the open door,
caresses the surface of my skin, and settles in the pores that are
gradually losing sensation. Something is making a sound. Am I
hearing a sigh or dragging footsteps? Is the tiny circus in my
body putting on a show?
I turn my head, and with what remains of my sense of
vision, I try to gaze at the source of the sound. My eldest daughter
has hung a bell there, for good luck. The bell, reflected upon
the screen of my retina, is but a blur of light, like an unidentified
floating object. I pretend to listen intently, as if I can still hear the clinking of the bell. But it is just pretense. I cannot deny that
these are the only sensations that I have left.
It is just pretense. A sigh sinks deep into the desolate well
of my heart. The echo is almost imperceptible. I pretend that all
is well. As if I can still see the Chagall painting on the wall. The
lines and dots of Modernism. The light of day and darkness of
night. The faces of the folks I remember from long ago float in
the air. With an air of detachment, I gaze at them with the third
eye on my forehead. The nurse checks in on me regularly, ripping
the curtains open, stabbing my arm with a syringe. I pretend
to groan in pain. I cannot help but wonder: why can’t I feel
I am losing all my sensations. I can no longer pretend that
all is well. The world of sensations consisting of sight, sound,
smell, taste and feelings is slowly leaving me. Like a sarcastic
rondeau. The mutiny of my body happened while I was listening
to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, when my senses were fully
involved and the volume of music had reached a crescendo. It
was a very humid afternoon, and as usual, I was playing my 45
rpm vinyl record. I allowed my senses to be swept away insidiously
by Beethoven’s roaring music, accompanied by the occasional
hissing of the vinyl LP. The first movement started allegro
ma non troppo, then the symphony took off, brimming with
aspirations for love, happiness, and hope. I anticipated each
note, my heart throbbing to the rhythm as the violin music snuck
into my blood stream, sending currents of electricity through my
body. At the clap of thunder, a slight tremor passed through my
nervous system. Strangely though, the thunderous timpani evaded
my sense of hearing, shyly hiding away, deep in my ear
drums, as if mesmerized by some kind of spell.
Let’s put the alchemy of time to one side and skip past the third movement to arrive at the choral finale, the Ode to Joy
where, I thought, I would regain my senses. The symphony
coaxed the baritone into song. Human voices merged into a fivecolored
rope that soared through the clouds to knock on the door
of the Heavenly Kingdom and from there erupted in thunderous
joy, as if the six billion people on earth were singing together.
The voices converged on a giant page of musical notes, singing
in unison. I stood tip-toed in the last row, straining my ears. The
volumes of feelings that moved me have departed from my
body. The symphony ended, and I heard the rumbling of the
turntable spinning around and around. I wanted to stand up to
turn off the record player, to break the spell (my first misconception
was: thank God, this is not really happening). But a gush of
emotions swept over me, an unfamiliar bewilderment in the face
of an unknown destiny made my skin crawl. I felt a sense of desolation,
like the barren plains stripped of tents and animals and
people after the nomadic tribes pack up and leave. How can I
describe this tremendous sense of loss? How?
The next day, I found myself sitting in a strange but
sparkling clean examination room. I started to describe my
symptoms to a young physician. I took my time, describing what
happened to me while I was listening to the Ode to Joy, like a
cellist afraid of missing a note. The physician looked at me suspiciously
as rays of light reflected from the plastic lenses of his
eyeglasses. “Come, let me check your hearing,” he said.
The physician tapped my knee, and asked me to open my
mouth and stick out my tongue. He then told me to close my
mouth, stand up, and turn around twice. A probing flashlight
shined on me, and I was told to look up. I meekly followed the
physician’s orders, but discovered that the beam of light had
transported me to a faraway place, far from the hospital. I found myself in a desolate place where the stars were a faint glimmer
in the distant skies.
More examinations followed. X-rays (the radiation that
pierced my chest was exceedingly sweet). Electrocardiograms,
brain scans (they parted my hair, but could not find the portal to
my soul). I was then referred to the neural surgery department.
The equipment there resembled twisting neural circuits. I lay
exposed on the hospital bed, feeling the slowly fading rhythm of
my life. My cello teacher from childhood had told me to feel the
rhythm of my own body when leaning to play on the strings of
my cello. I remember complaining to the teacher once, saying
that I could not feel the rhythm of my own body. Now, with the
beeping rhythm of the EKG by my side, and the numerous tubes
and wires connected to me, trying to decipher my deepest
secrets, I still know nothing about the rhythm of my life.
On the day the examination results came out, the physician
spoke to my daughter outside my ward in hushed tones, with a
frown on his face. My daughter came in through the door, and
hung the ceramic bells by the window for good luck. “Daddy, no
need to worry,...