Friday, November 8, 2019

Long Division

He had nerve damage: input could not penetrate. The world stalled out at his edges. Sometimes he had trouble speaking to other people, rummaging for language, and it seemed to him that an invisible layer divided him from the rest of the world, a membrane of emotional surface tension.
--Zone One, Colson Whitehead

Hmmm … are we talking about MS here, or about, as the novel intends, a common affliction affecting survivors of the zombie plague, or both? Seems awfully familiar to me. 

"The world could not penetrate." So often so true, right? How many times have we found pieces of common meaning suddenly missing? How many times have we suddenly felt lost on some route we follow on a daily basis. The world has momentarily turned away, hidden itself. Where am I? Where was I going? We experience pangs of panic. I have never seen this street, these buildings before.

Here comes from the anonymous many colored mob, someone I know, but do not know. Here he comes, here she comes, hand outstretched, smiling, and we, forcing a smile, vanily search the disorder of our memory bank. Who is he? Who is she? Input is not penetrating. The world has stalled at our edge. Immediacy itself is a memory, a thing of the past. Our individual moments vacillate between sleepy vacuity and acute perplexity. .

Language, articulation--formerly cozy companions of mine--are found now in the dictionary, by rummaging through the thesaurus. I know what I want to say, but how to transfer that to the proper words? They must be pried now from the prison of my own tongue. It is difficult to carry on a conversation in this manner, all the while thinking How stupid I must sound. Witticisms, wisecracks, the well placed bon mot are tardy at best, therefore superfluous. That train has passed. We are slow, dreary, clueless, dull. They do not understand how very many things we could have said if only we could have said them. And so we are frustrated. We have trouble speaking to other people. 

Multiple sclerosis is that invisible layer, that membrane of emotional surface tension, that divides, compromises, alienates. Is MS, stripped of all the medical jargon, essentially merely a progressive zombification of ones person, lacking only, though thankfully so, the insatiable desire for human flesh?

Sometimes it seems this way.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

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