Thursday, September 23, 2010

heart problem, part two

I feel equal parts happy and sad, like water of the same river flowing in opposite directions. I find contentment in much the same things that trigger the movie reel of Meghan, usually leading to despair. I am lonely. Not alone, or even far away feeling, but lonely. I lack companionship in its perfect form. It was stolen along with the last bit of my happy heart.

Watching life slip from a friend's loved one in much the same manner as I have experienced doesn't do much to help stave off those sad memories. They only make
me see how the world is mostly unaffected by all of it. It keeps going, keeps spinning, either out of determination or habit, unaware of my Meghan, my friends father, your sibling or child. It doesn't care. It's all part of the game were forced to play. It's all a part were meant to play with enormous risk and what gain? I'd be lying if I said this didn't make me weigh the outcome of not continuing. It really does seem pointless, God, gods or not.

A close friend's father is dying and it's beyond a mental and emotional complication to be part of that. First, he can't get medical attention because he's an untouchable. Second, me being foreign, means that I'm as good as a doctor to my Indian friends. I had to remove his IV the other day and I've been dispensing what little medical knowledge I have left and right. Third, it's all too familiar. So much of it reminds of watching Meghan slip away. I can barely have a conversation with my friend without having to bight down on some part of the inside of my mouth to keep from crying.

There's so much here I don't understand and am constantly frustrated by. I can't walk through the market without being heckled to buy someones bag, t shirt or tapestry. This place is filthy, I mean filthy. No one has trash cans, they walk to the front door and throw everything into the street. There's cattle and pigs and mange infested dogs everywhere also throwing their waste into the streets and walkways.

Once a week some boys will come by the school with a giant net and round up a some of the stray pigs, which make horrible, murderous noises when being captured, to be slaughtered and fed to the hotel guests. The same pigs that literally sleep and eat in the open sewer gutter. Families will feed the cows cardboard and paper and let them graze in the trash, then at night those families will milk the cows and use that milk in everything they eat... then they complain about disease and birth defects.

What matters is sticking to the customs of your caste...which were invented by the uppermost caste 1000 years ago. Everyone knows it's an arbitrary system and everyone refuses to upset it. Except my friend, who is at the very bottom of this system slowly fighting his way up. Literally fighting. His family dies because of it and he gets acid thrown on him while he's riding his scooter through town.

I think I was coming here expecting to meet some wise old yogi or something that would walk me through all the things I'm dealing with and lead me on the path to mental clarity...and I feel this has only confounded it. I know my friend is having a rough time and trying to keep himself busy and I know he's frustrated that the world won't stop for him to catch his breath. It's awful to watch the hi-light reel of something that's so fresh in my memory.

I guess all this is good because it's all inescapable. I'm forced to face all of this and figure it out for myself, or just deal with it. All of this bad and hard emotional things are tempered with some good. We drive out into the desert often and that's always fascinating. Three nights ago we drove out for an hour and then abruptly took a left off the road into the dirt for another fifteen. It took me a while to figure out where we were going and then I saw these two tiny lights way off in the distance. When we got there I figured out it was his friend's cell phones they were holding up. It's that f'ing dark out there. We had a pretty amazing and surprisingly well lit meal as far from any kind of civilization as I've ever been. The sky separated from a city's light pollution is remarkable. Our only company being the snakes and scorpions and camels. Stuff like that is phenomenal to be a part of, but you're pretty quickly confronted with reality the second you start heading back to town.

There was a motorcycle crash on the one lane road, they left the bikes in the middle of the road all tangled and blood all around. They put up a strange memorial with rocks around almost looked staged. Half the car thought it was a trap. But we got out looking for people to help and one of the guys saw writing on one of the bikes and decided it was ok to leave them, because they were Muslim. Thank God they were a different religion, otherwise we'd be forced to care about them. There weren't any hurt people around, the ambulance had already come, so that point didn't need arguing, but still. Religion does awful things to people.

If my friend's dad dies, they have to shut down the school for 3 days and keep their home open for forty, so the upper caste people can come 'mourn'. It sounds nice, except the upper caste made up his custom as a way to check in on the lower castes and essentially to bankrupt them. They come into the house and snoop around and eat their food. The grieving families have to provide food for everyone that comes. These people take advantage of a horrible situation through theft and the depletion of valuable resources while the family is simply trying to bury its dead.

There's a strange perfection I've realized in all of this chaos. One single perfect note found amidst a horrible and clumsy chord. I was talking with my friend about life and death. He says we are feeling the same things and that I understand what he is dealing with. Death is not ok and never will be. It's a loss in the purest definition of the word. There is something that once made you whole, gone. My friend said that there are something akin to ghosts when people pass on. Not their physical forms or even spirits but their journey or path or life left unfinished that continues on and 'haunts' those left behind. He said that Meghan is happy and passed away peacefully because her path was entrusted to me. She knew I would continue on for her and was comforted and released by that. He kept asking me why not her brother or father or mother? The answer to those are that they didn't need it and I did. They are where they should be and don't need to find their 'key'. He said this path leads to the key, like Ali Babba's search for the key. All of this is true. His father is at peace because my friend has his path (fighting this system from the bottom up.) He knows he has to continue to get to that key. Meghan passed away peacefully. I was there, I watched it. My friend said that at the time of death they are closer to their god than the world and see things differently. They can understand things that we are unable to. Maybe this is true and maybe it isn't. Maybe more synapses are firing, maybe less, maybe different synapses are firing and people close to that time are more capable of experiencing more. Whatever the explanation, Meghan was at peace. I know it in the deepest part of my soul, I know it completely. And I believe my friend is right, she was peaceful because she knew we were all going to eventually be ok because of our paths, our direction and our eventual discovery of that either physical or metaphorical key.

I have heard and read about so many cultures that measure knowledge and wisdom in the number and severity of scars. They are all experiences that we learn from. India so far has been painful and difficult in so many different ways but each of it's tiny inflictions leave a permanent mark that will ultimately heal. These experiences are instantly jarring, but dissected and explained, or looked at from another perspective have much to offer.


Randy and Pam Warner said...

We have no doubt that you should be there, in India, with these friends and doing this. Your writing today is more evidence of that. We can not know how hard it is for you to be helping your friend with the IV and with his dad. We remember how hard it was for you and Meghan to get familiar those things--the shots and IV's and such. It is still awful, but your friend most certainly appreciates how you were there in his time of need. We didn't expect this to be one of the things you would have to deal with. That one (?) incident spoke volumes to us how you stepped up again for someone else~ and Meghan was right there with you, urging you to do what needed to be done--no matter how awful it was. And she would have been proud of you. And so are we. Keep at it! and keep writing. What you are doing is teaching all of us too.

Nora said...

I happened upon the tv show last nite hosted by mary garofalo. I have the same cancer as Meghan had, the one where, after i have the six rounds of chemo and twenty five radiation treatments (same as she had) I will have a recurrence (her2) and die in the next couple of years. I love the way you write and you have found your career: writer. You are a great writer and your experiences and reflections heal my soul. I have a blog: nora's cancer blog at
Please keep going for my sake. I am with u on ur journey

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