David Rakoff – This American Life – The Invisible Made Visible
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[David Rakoff – This American Life – The Invisible Made Visible]
[Intro] Source: LYBIO.net
Act Five. Stiff as a Board, Light as a Feather.
In our bodies, blood moves, cells appear and cells die off, proteins form and are consumed, all invisibly to us. Until the moment that something goes wrong. And then of course we have no choice but to see the effects. This next story, is from David Rakoff. (applause & cheers)
[David Benjamin Rakoff (November 27, 1964 â€“ August 9, 2012)] Source: LYBIO.net
It hardly merits the term dream, it’s such a throwaway moment. But I’ve had it three times now. The dream, or dreamlet, goes like this. I say to an unidentified companion, “Hey, watch this.”
It’s the punchline to that old joke, what are an idiot’s last words? (laughing) Except in my case, it is already too late. The idiot has already acted upon his idiot brag, the shallow part of the quarry has been dived into, the electric fence down by the rail yards unsuccessfully scaled, and my Trans Am has already failed to make it around Dead Man’s Curve or down Killers Hill or off of, I don’t know, Prom Night Suicide Cliff. (laughing)
I had surgery last December my fourth in as many years to remove a tenacious and nasty tumor behind my left collarbone. I’ve also had radiation and about a year and a half’s worth of chemo and counting. This last operation severed the nerves of my left arm, which relieved me of a great deal of pain. I’d spent three years prior to that popping enough Oxycontin to satisfy every man, woman, and child in Wasilla. (laughing)
But the surgery also left me with what’s known as a flail limb. It is attached, but aside from being able to shrug Talmudically, I can neither move nor feel my left arm. It now hangs from my side heavy and insensate as a bag of oranges.
But this is a dream after all. So “hey, watch this,” I say. And up goes the left arm. The resurrection of the dead limb feels both utterly logical and completely magical. But it is precisely that magical feeling that lets me know immediately that I have moved in error, and the jig, as it always is, is soon to be up.
I either literally pinch myself or snap my fingers in my ears trying to establish some reality. Or I ask someone, “is this real?” But I already know.
There are some questions in life, the very speaking of which are their own undoing. Am I fired? Is this a date? Are you breaking up with me? Yes. No. Yes.
The voice, my voice, that is asking “is this real” is the sound that is waking me up to the world where– alas – the dream’s a total cliche. Anyone with one working limb would dream it, which frankly, yawn.
The one difference I might point to is how I move in the dream. The limb floats up like a table at a seance. I am one of those empty windsock men outside of used car lots who suddenly billows up into three dimensional life. The arm rises and there at the top of my gesture, my fingers frill like a sea anemone caught by an unseen current.
There is no functionality to it. I am not reaching for something, pulling the pin from a fire extinguisher, or hailing a cab. Mine is an extremely graceful and, I’ll just say it, faggy gesture. Unmistakably, a gesture from ballet class, a gesture of someone who danced. Which is very different from having been a dancer. (drinks water)
I danced a lot, all through my childhood bedroom. It’s an incredibly generic trait for a certain type of boy. Like a straight boy being obsessed with baseball, except it’s better. (laughing & applause)
And after that, I danced fairly serious in university. But I was never really that great. And it’s close to three decades ago now.
I took classes across the street at the women’s college, not the most rigorous of places. And as a boy, one of at most any three males in any of the classes, the standards were even laxer. Any illusions I might have had about my scant abilities were blown to smithereens by the occasional class I took at a proper dance studio down on 55th Street in the real world, where actual New York City dancers came.
It was an exercise in humiliation and trying to make myself as invisible as possible. The only saving grace, grace, indeed, the only reason I really went at all, were the 20 minutes in the men’s changing room before and after. There’s almost no way to explain it to a younger person, but you cannot imagine the rare thrill it was to see beautiful naked people in those pre-internet days of the early 1980s.
I would walk slowly to the subway undone, clinging to the sides of buildings like someone who’d just come from the eye doctor.
If I retained anything from dancing, it’s a physical precision that certainly helps in my new daily one-armed tasks. They’re the same as my old two-armed chores. They’re not epic or horrifying. Some of them don’t even take much longer, but they’re all to one degree or another, more annoying than they used to be, requiring planning, strategy, and a certain enhanced gracefulness.
Oral hygiene. Hold the handle of the toothbrush between your teeth the way FDR or Burgess Meredith playing The Penguin bit down on their cigarette holders. Put the toothpaste on the brush, recap the tube, put it away. You really have to keep things tidy, because if they pile up, you’ll just be in the soup. Then reverse the brush and put the bristles in your mouth, proceed.
Washing your right arm. Soap up your right thigh in the shower, put your foot up on the edge of the tub, and then move your arm over your soapy lower limb back and forth like an old-timey barbershop razor strop.
Grating cheese. Get a pot with a looped handle, the heavier the better. This will anchor the bowl that you want the cheese to go into. Put the bowl into the pot.
Now take a wooden spoon and feed it through the handle of the grater and the loop of the pot, and then tuck the end down into the waistband of your jeans. Clean underpants are a good idea. Jam yourself up against the kitchen counter and go to town.
Special kitchen note, always, always, always have your bum hand safely out of the way, preferably in a sling since you now have a limb that you could literally – no joke – cook on the stove without even knowing it. Which makes me feel not like a freak, exactly, but well actually, like a freak. (drinks water)
At dinner with friends recently, the conversation turned to what about yourself was still in need of change? They all seem to feel that they were living half-lives.
One fellow hoped that he could be more like the god Pan, unabashedly lusty and embracing experience with gusto. Another wanted to feel less disengaged at key moments, able to feel more fully committedly human, and less like that old science fiction B movie trope — what is this wetness on Triton 3000 face plate? Why, space robot, you’re crying.
We were going around the table, so the natural progression of things demanded that I eventually get a turn to weigh in as well. Suppose you’re out to dinner with a group of triathletes, all discussing their training regimens. Oh – and you have no legs.
They can’t flat-out ignore you, and they also can’t say words to the effect of, well, we all know what your event is. Getting all that marvelous wonderful parking, you lucky thing!
It was uncomfortable, and I suspect more for me than for them. I have no idea. But thanks to my rapidly dividing cells, I no longer have that feeling– although I remember it very well– that if I just buckled down to the great work at hand, lived more authentically, stopped procrastinating, cut out sugar, then my best self was just there right around the corner.
Yeah, no. I’m done with all that. I’m done with so many things.
Like dancing. I’ve no idea if I can do it anymore. I’ve been, frankly, too frightened and too embarrassed to try it, even alone in my apartment.
There was a time however as recently as about a couple of years ago, when I was already one course of radiation and two surgeries into all this nonsense – when doing this simple barre exercises while holding onto a kitchen chair achieved what they always used to do. What they’re supposed to do.
As best as I can describe it, it’s the gestures themselves, their repetition, their slowness. It all hollows one out. One becomes a reed or a pipe, and the movement and the air pass through and you become this altered, humming, dare I say, beautiful working instrument of placement and form and concentration. But like I said, that’s a long time ago. And a version of myself that has long since ceased to exist. Before I became such an observer – I’m sorry.
[Irving Berlin – What’ll I Do]
One dream is kissing you – I do. What will I do with just a photograph to tell my trust to you. When I’m alone with only dreams of you. That won’t come true, what will I do. What’ll I do with just a photograph. To tell my troubles to?
Look, mine is not a unique situation. Everybody loses ability – everybody loses ability as they age. If you’re lucky, this happens over the course of a few decades. If you’re not – but the story is essentially the same. You go along the road as time and the elements lay waste to your luggage, scattering the contents into the bushes. Until there you are, standing with a battered and empty suitcase that frankly, no one wants to look at anymore. It’s just the way it is. But how lovely those moments were, gone now except occasionally in dreams, when one could still turn to someone and promise them something truly worth their while, just by saying “hey”.
David Rakoff – This American Life – The Invisible Made Visible. It’s just the way it is. But how lovely those moments were, gone now except occasionally in dreams, when one could still turn to someone and promise them something truly worth their while, just by saying “hey”. Complete Full Transcript, Dialogue, Remarks, Saying, Quotes, Words And Text.