there is a soundtrack that accompanies my life in its current state, one that accurately and poignantly reflects the highest of the moment’s highs and the lowest of its lows. it is these sounds that creep into my dreams at night, reminding me of the events of the previous days and illustrating how completely and suddenly things can shift from one moment to the next.
the careful and steady beep… beep… beep… of the monitors in the hospital. the soaring refrain of the guitar solo written by the man i love as it bursts through the speakers in a basement venue. the ringing in my ears. the clanging of the pipes in my apartment as they throw themselves angrily against the walls.
there is rarely silence, as i take comfort in the presence of such a commandingly consistent auditory landscape. it is during the silences between each event that something tangibly shifts: the beep changes pace, it slows, it’s time for more pain killers or another dose of nausea medication, and the moment comes crashing down around me. i’m forced to take a breath, to look around.
in the hospital, all visitors wear masks and gloves so that my uncle’s newly hatched immune system (a gift from my father’s donated bone marrow) will not be contaminated with any of the germs we may have gathered while outside the boundaries of Sloan-Kettering, a cancer hospital on the upper east side. when entering my his room, we must sanitize our hands, slip on the appropriate garments, knock on the door. this covering up of our faces creates a sad and strangely beautiful phenomenon: we must all communicate with our eyes. our irises, eyelashes, pupils and corneas are our only tools, as our noses, mouths, chins, necks, facial hair, dimples, teeth, and other distinguishing facial features are shielded by hospital-made paper and plastic. we cannot touch andrew with our skin, only through the thick rubber of the gloves. it’s suffocating, this desire to press my hands against my uncle’s face and hands, this need to touch this person that i care about, someone who’s hurting greatly, and being allowed to do so only through a layer of manufactured material. putting my skin against the skin of someone else at will is something i never realized i was taking for granted.
as a result, for the past few weeks, i have tried to make myself acutely aware of skin-to-skin contact with other humans: the gentle pressure of a woman’s forearm pressing against my thigh on the subway, the tight protective hug my mom gave me before leaving for the airport at 5:30 in the morning, the quiet assurance of my boyfriend’s arms around me as he sleeps. these moments of contact are pressed into the pages of the last few months and the soundtrack, ever-changing and always relevant, accompanies them dutifully.
the beep. the echo of the speakers. the ringing in my ears. the silence in the room and the hope in everyone’s eyes as we look up at the bag containing platelets, stem cells, white blood cells; the ingredients of new life.