The harvest


[A snippet from a writing project in gestation, which will probably make very little sense if you haven’t read the preceding snippets on the the Zia page.]

Much has happened over the course of the last week or so. Circumstances have changed rather significantly. Severe weather and lack of sleep made the journey from Mexico to the United States seem as much psychological as it was geographical. A dreamy haze clouded my thoughts and perceptions as I rode in cars, taxis, buses and airplanes, at turns sitting next to smokers, snorers, pants-poopers and pill-poppers. There were lifetimes floating through space punctuated by sudden quantum jumps through wormholes. After thirteen hours of agonizing discomfort getting to Mexico City, I found myself in a fancy hotel lying in a bathtub full of hot water, splashing around and laughing. Molly and I didn’t even take a nap, despite being up for three days straight. We zipped around on the wireless internet, ate big, delicious meals, and snuggled up to bad movies on cable. It was heavenly. Next thing I know my heart’s breaking as Molly tearfully waved goodbye, me rolling away in a wheelchair toward the airport security checkpoint. I had never seen Molly cry quite like that, as if I were heading up the big celestial escalator on my way to see St. Peter. Then, what do you know – I’m in New Jersey. And let me tell you, Newark never looked so beautiful.

My parents were there to meet me at the airport, despite my prior assurances that a four-hour trip to Albany by bus would be no big deal. I regaled them with tales of Mexico while my father drove and smoked, my mother hardly concealing her joy that the prodigal son would be returning home at long last. The following morning I saw the doctor and he didn’t waste time getting to the bad news: “The ACL is out.” Which means the middle third of my patellar tendon must be “harvested,” along with bone fragments on either end of it. This slice of me will be used as the graft that will take the place of the torn ligament. A guided drill will then bore holes in both the tibia and femur so that the graft can be threaded through and screwed into place. No hay problema!

I don’t much like the idea of being “harvested,” even if it is for my own benefit, but it’s either my patellar tendon or my hamstring tendon, unless I want them to harvest tissue from a cadaver. I like the idea of having some random dead person’s body part in me even less than I like the idea of being harvested. Besides, I’ve been through the whole thing before with the right knee, although that was before Google, so I didn’t know so much about the harvesting and drilling. I just knew I wanted to play sports again, and despite the pain and hardship, I was able to get another seventeen active years in before crippling myself again.

There was some additional bad news that I hadn’t anticipated. The doc said he couldn’t do the surgery until I regained a healthy range of motion in my knee, which I would need in order to emerge from the trauma of the procedure with a decent chance of normal recovery. All those weeks clamped down in the immobilizer did a number on me, apparently. The doc seemed almost as concerned with the atrophy that had set in than he was about the torn-up tissue. He told me to lose the crutches as soon as possible and commence with the most rigorous “pre-hab” regimen that I could stand. The surgery could not even be scheduled until I met his minimum strength and mobility requirements. How long that would take would depend on me, and my willingness to work hard. This pre-hab scenario puts a major crimp in my plan to get back to Mexico before the turn of the New Year. As it stands now there’s no telling when I will be able to return—to Molly, to the mystery of Whipple and his Scroll, to the new spiritual orbit that I was on the verge of establishing. If only I had been a split second faster to the ball—or a split second slower—I would still be building momentum, strength, steam. Instead I’m back to square one. Further back even. Back to the bosom of family, the tomb of the withered womb.

Things are happening so fast and furious that my head feels like it’s literally spinning. At times during my meditation this morning I felt as if I was going to fall off the bed. And my focus has been terrible, my thoughts bouncing around my skull like popcorn kernels. After only a few days exposure to TV, the internet, and various magazines, I can palpably sense the clutter re-accumulating in my mind. The addictive grasping and clutching for stimulation and distraction has already reasserted itself full force, as if all it needed was the tiniest bit of attention to fully reactivate and crowd out all but the faintest trace of the still small voice within. It’s important I take measures right away to catch my breath, to reestablish some equanimity and clarity. I may already be losing touch, forgetting, falling back into the old ruts, but I still have hold of the thread. If I’m not careful, I’ll slip back into the trance, and then there’d be no telling when I might snap out of it again.

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