Introduction to True Strength
Suddenly I was awake.
The words seemed to
come from inside my head, low and emphatic. What
was that incessant, droning sound? I was falling
backward, but I was not moving.
Something was stabbing between
my eyes and pooling behind my head—an excruciatingly
bright heat. That ceaseless noise wasn’t helping
glanced around me as best as I could without
moving my head too much. Yep, I was still in the
ICU, with my new friends, a collection of medical
machines, ticking away, hanging over the bed to scrutinize
my every heartbeat.
But just as I focused on the IV,
the heart monitor next to it disappeared. What?
looked carefully, trying to see the monitor in my
periphery. No luck. So I refixed my gaze on the heart
monitor directly. There it was, doing its job—I
Apparently, my new blind spot was with me
for the long haul. Shit. I closed my eyes and
felt . . . worse. Lightning strikes flashed through
the darkness. How was that even possible? Then the
dizziness hit, and every small movement generated
a new, awful sensation. I was falling, spinning,
freezing, floating. Nausea rolled on my tongue like
a ball bearing.
right: “Don’t move.”
bed was a dingy in rough seas. Oh, no! I realized,
I’m not supposed to move. How am I going to
That’s when it hit me how hungry I was. How
many days had it been? At least three. I heard the
ICU nurses in the hallway, talking, joking, laughing.
One of them yelled to the other one, who must’ve
been walking away, “Yeah, that’s what
Huh. Is there nothing original anymore, ever?
Oh, Lord, how I wanted to get up and just walk out
of there. My ass was killing me. My back ached,
even the skin on it was tender, and my legs were
angry for lack of use. I could just feel my muscles
slipping off my bones. For the athlete in me, this
I was on a Tilt-A-Whirl, but there was
nothing amusing about it. I just wanted some
peace and quiet, to go back to sleep. I wished, for
the thousandth time, that the nurses would shut off
that infernal generator. Its relentless humming
was driving me crazy.
Although the end
had not yet come, I was teetering on the brink of
complete destruction. So I clung clumsily to the
distractions of my circumstances in the ICU of this
famous hospital. And while I examined this new life,
the old one flashed in my memory: playing football
in the snow in our front yard with my neighbors,
driving alone for the first time in my ’67 Ford Mustang, riding the subways in
Paris. It all seemed so surreal and fast. Fear is
an extraordinary artist, stimulating the mind to
reminisce, as if to divine where fairytale meets
horror novel. Through it all I couldn’t help
but think: What did I do to deserve this?