Last night, sleeping was hard, so I hardly slept. I had one dream. The Cubs were in the NLCS again. They're still in it. Game six. Who're they playing? I can't tell, it's inconsequential in the way many dream details are. Mark Prior is starting. It's the second inning. He clutches his shoulder. Something is wrong. They're pulling him out of the game. Baker has done it, he's ruined the pitcher of a generation through overuse. Baker you idiot! Now the Cubs are losing, and Tom Goodwin is in center. It's all falling apart. How many times do I have to relive this?
Awake, I grab a drink of water from the fridge. Back asleep, and this time I awaken from sleep in a dream itself. I'm lying in bed in a strange house, my new house. I know this the way you just know certain things, intuitively, in dreams. My mom and sisters are sitting in the room. They're over to help me unpack. How nice of them!
And then I'm at a party, and someone I haven't spoken to in ages, someone I suddenly realize I've wanted to chat with for the longest time, is there. She asks if I want to catch up over dinner. What a good day I'm having.
Such vivid dreams last night, and I don't know why? I usually associate those with deep sleep, and I slept terribly last night. All day I was foggy, one foot in the subconscious.
It reminded me of the best sleep I've had recently, induced by anesthesia for surgery last week...
...I quite literally have an itch I can't scratch. There's a spot just to the side of my upper lip that itches. I'm not sure how, since I can't feel my face. When I try to scratch it, I can't feel anything.
The doctor in his scrubs, with his shower cap, looks ridiculous, like baseball managers who have to wear the same uniforms as the players.
Before the operation begins, the doctor, nurses, and anesthesiologist make small talk. Oh, you work at I love that site. A godsend for us busy medical professionals. How long have you been there? Six years? Wow, you must be loving life. Do you like needles? No, you're right, no one likes needles. Okay, here goes, prick and burn. There, see, that wasn't so bad.
Just when we are pushing against the boundaries of small talk, they put a mask on my face, pumping curious smelling air into my lungs, and I start to feel woozy. This gas will knock me out any second now, and I strain to stay conscious to feel the moment when it happens. But we never remember the moment when things go dark, only moment-of-unconsciousness-minus-one (U-1). At U-1, I'm giggling. At U, I'm U.
Waking up from general anasthesia is wonderful. My brain, usually a semi-symmetrical multi-processing machine, can only process one train of thought. Wrapping my mind around any object or idea is strenuous, like trying to focus one's vision when inebriated.
Meanwhile, my synpases and muscles and nerves all are firing at about one-tenth of their usual speed, which means that each order from my brain takes about 10 times as long for my body to execute. This is what surfing the web on a 28.8 modem feels like [though I suspect my body, even drugged to the nines, still processes more data and has an effective bandwidth many times that the data network at work]. If this is what dying feels like, then I can understand why people go peacefully into the light. Staying conscious is a lot of work. If anyone asked me anything right now, I'd come straight out with the truth because it's just a whole lot easier than expending mental effort and energy to manipulate and massage the facts. Lying is hard work.
Without the distracting feedback from all the nerves in my body to process, my brain experiences a wonderful lucidity, a near perfect focus on its own train of thought. I can tap into my memories as if wandering a darkened warehouse in near silence, like the vault in the X-Files where the Cigarette Smoking Man hid all the evidence of UFO's and aliens and whatnot. I wonder what it feels like to be Stephen Hawking. I remember watching Asian cartoons as a child, ones that involved humans sitting inside a cockpit of a skyscraper-sized robotic warrior. The human would be attached to electrodes and mechanical levers and would control the robot by moving his arms and legs, the robot moving in exact mimicry.
I now realize those cartoons were all wrong. A perfect interface for controlling one of these skyscraper sized robotic warriors would actually involve a human pilot whose body had been sedated but whose mind was still awake and accepting visual and auditory stimuli fed directly into its various low-level neuro-interfaces. In this state of zen-like concentration, the human and robot would move with lightning speed of a near subconscious level, the way that someone like Andre Agassi can process the path of a tennis ball struck by his opponent and strike it with his racket while the ball still on the rise and direct it exactly where he wishes with unreturnable pace and spin. I myself can make all the shots that Andre Agassi can make in my mind, but my body cannot carry out the instructions of my brain the way Agassi's body can process the plans generated by his cerebral cortex. Of course, such an interface for controlling a giant robotic warrior would not make for great visual drama and thus is unlikely to ever supplant the more physically active interfaces seen in movies.
The patient next to me has adenocarcinoma and is opening up to her nurse. About her two young children she's trying to be strong for, about her poor husband who has to operate their family business on his own now. About how scared she is, how much she dreads these visits to the hospital for chemo. How easy it is to open up to strangers who know nothing of our past and have no expectations for us to live up to, unlike our friends and family.
For a moment, I'm an open book, ready to bare my soul. But no one's around, so I lie there, for a moment, at peace with the world.