Disease is a hard word to approach. You think of maggots, mounds of bodies in black and white photographs curling at the edges. Soften the word, however, and think of brain, think of the delicate pink city up there, pulsing, pink, alive and singing at its best--tilted, bent, even(more) dented at its worst. All you need to do is fall off your bike without a helmet or trip on the sidewalk on the way to the mailbox and you can lose your grip on the concept of toothbrush.
My sister's best friend walked in her neighborhood in Minnesota last spring when the snow was finally gone but the hard crisp air still lingered and a bicyclist coming from behind, apparently oblivious, hit her full on. Her body was grievously hurt. Her brain even more. She was in a coma for weeks, rehab for months, and is still not the same, her left arm no longer available for use. She is "with disease," the subtle kind, the not so subtle, one of the towers missing in her cerebellum, or slouched down, clipped by the tire of a boy on a bicycle.
You ask me why, in the clear light of morning, my fingers nimble on the keyboard of my laptop, I am willing to write about disease, and I can't tell you. Monday, sitting on the porch of my closest and dearest friend--view of the Sound--she said, "Notice, the bird on the wire...a blue jay, no, it's a robin." With eyes that move clearly, its shutter-blink up and down, delicate fringe eyelashes like everyone's, I saw the bird, poise for flight, then pause, then hop sideways on the wire because it could. The beautiful city of my brain is missing significant streets but I can see. I can see beauty.
She was the funniest person I knew. She could get me to laughing so hard, I actually would tinkle a bit. I hated when she would do that to me in public. On the spot, she could think of the most wonderful sarcastic responses. I thought her brilliant.
It's been years since I laughed like that.
I just didn't know. I didn't know she was sick. I had never been around someone with that kind of illness. I thought she was unique, eccentric, moody...I never imagined her mind was tortured.
Now when she acts silly, I find it hard to laugh. The doctors have said that her silliness is an abnormality of her mania. Can I laugh when a sick person is showing symptoms of illness?
Now when people stare, I beg her to stop. It's not funny any more. It is crazy.
She cut her hair off once with a pair of kitchen scissors. I knew she was not "fine" (as she always answered).
When she left, friends and relatives told me that she was doing these crazy things for attention.
They have not seen the jagged thick scars up and down her arms and on her thighs. They were not there when she was vomiting black blood after overdosing. They did not ride in the ambulance with her crying out, "I'm so sorry. So sorry."
No. This is not for attention. This is so much more.
She calls me now when the voices murmur in her head. She says that it helps to talk to me. I just listen. She asks me, what will she do when she can no longer tell that the scary images are not real?
I am quiet.
No. I haven't laughed like that in many years.(less)
Hypo-tension. Not directly lethal. It contributed severely to his procrastinating tendencies, at least, according to him. And also why he claimed he had no heartbeat. Besides just to annoy the doctors.
Addiction. It should've been lethal when considering the sheer volume of everything he did. Instead, he used(more) it to his advantage in gang wars, wherein the withdrawal symptoms made him extremely violent. Now "reformed", mentioning even beneficial medicine makes him an apologetic wreck.
Anemia. A form of Cursed with Awesome, because it still won't kill him. It's a shame he's type AB blood type, and thus can't give the oodles of spilled life-juices to anyone but type AB. But still his older brother takes utmost pleasure in liberally applying the smack-down, and he bleeds, and bleeds, and bleeds... and Sato is most displeased when it gets on his floor.
Congenital analgesia. Combined with partial deafness, and what could've been colorblindness, he was ironically aware of how his body would quickly give out if he didn't keep tabs on himself. It's one thing to not realize there's a cut on your finger. It's entirely different to not notice your arm is nearly severed.
Heat exhaustion. It made him useless when tilling the fields of his and the neighbors' lands. But still his younger brother encouraged him up, and made him come for formality. And when he passed out every hour or so, weakling that he was, the wives who were preparing harvest lunch kindly kept him cool in the shade.
Yet these were hardly the things that defined them. Even if it could be used to explain away their peculiarities. They all chalked it up to them being them. And even if it was sometimes debilitating, they could live with it. Mostly.(less)