A Purgatory Fragment
I’m rich. I have everything a man could possibly want. And that’s why I’m still here, connected to all these expensive machines that breathe for me, medicate me.
But no one knows I’m alive.
How I got here is a fog – piecing together the bedside arguments between my wife, my lawyer, and my doctors I had a massive stroke while enjoying a marathon fuck session with my athletic young mistress.
Wish I could remember any of that.
My memory other than those final few hours is as good as ever, and I’m still as smart as the guy who built up a billion-dollar fortune by the time I reached forty. My hearing is perfectly fine. But I can’t move a muscle, can’t eat or talk or blink or even breathe…I’m trapped in this unresponsive shell of a body.
My sole entertainment consists of eavesdropping on visitors’ conversations and monologues.
“Damn it, Bill!” my wife curses at my lawyer. “What do you mean I can’t decide to turn off his life support? It’s been five fucking months, he’s a goddam vegetable! What kind of life is that?” Such care and compassion!
But then when no one else is within earshot, “You bastard! You fuck! I hope you rot in hell, it wasn’t enough that you couldn’t keep it in your pants, you had to embarrass me by dying in bed – our bed! – screwing one of your teenage cunts!”
She always was a bitch, but I suppose I wasn’t a great husband either.
The first visit from my children I was screaming, pleading, begging – in my head. “I’m here, please, I’m alive!”
The next visit, and the one after that, I tried even harder. Surely if anyone could see through this and help me, it was them, my precious kids!
The following visit, the doctors left them at my bedside and gave them privacy.
“Brad, come on, what do you need the house in Nevis for?” Kristen whined. “You know I have friends there and in St. Kitts, you can have the Manhattan condo instead.”
Brad sneered. “I got a sneak peek at his will from his lawyer, I’m going to get most of it when we finally end this joke of a life. If you support my petition to terminate, I’ll be generous.”
Ironically, the only person whose few visits I continued to look forward to was my mistress, Monique. She seemed genuinely sad about my condition, and even took an interest in chasing down my doctors for status reports.
“Do you think he can make any kind of recovery?”
“Miss Dubois, we think that unlikely. It’s possible that he is suffering from CLIS – it’s extremely rare and even harder to diagnose – but even if that’s true recovery is a remote chance at best.”
I lost track of the days that I spent raging at the world, at my situation, at my doctors, at my pathetic excuse for a family. It was a catharsis, a rejection of the poisonous reality I had lived in, competed in, had pretended to enjoy but ultimately chose to endure.
But I’ve moved on. Over time, I’ve learned to appreciate the benefits of my situation. Yes, benefits!
The tiniest whisper of fresh air across my skin, the haunting melodies of a favourite song, the deep meditation on topics I never took the time to think about.
Blessedly, there are no interruptions from phone notifications, no 90-second limit on my mental process, no 280-character limit to my thoughts.
I’ve had no choice but to ponder the meaning of life and death, and the good fortune to have had a great education and plenty of life experience to learn from, even if belatedly.
I suppose everyone takes different paths to wisdom, and some never make the journey. This is what it took for me.
I’m still rich. But now I have everything I need.