Monday, September 27, 2010

Burnt, burned, still breathing

With jittery fingers, through a haze of strong pharmaceuticals, today I look out at my 33rd year.

Friday came with flames. I don’t know where it started, but the smoke was everywhere. It was near enough to block the sun with fumes. From my downtown office run, back up and across to the west, on this day, my city burned.

Fitting then, that I should spend the next few days choking on its used body.

I worked and schooled through a sore throat on Thursday, and it was worse the next day. I ran around tending to small bureaucracies – a student loan here, a health card there – and all the while, gritty grey steam threw itself into the air between me and the sky. If I had been thinking about it, I might have compared it to breathing asphalt, but I just popped cold pills and hauled on my inhaler, oblivious.

At home I did the things you do when you’re sick; open the windows for fresh air – then close them again to drown out the sounds of sirens and the smell of burning plastic, wrap up in warm layers, draw a hot bath, take more cold pills, doubled my cortical steroids. Huny and roommate and good friend all celebrated joyously, one at a time. Toast with roomie – thanks for the bottle lady! Alone time with huny, and just keep your prying eyes out of our bedroom, living room, kitchen and shower. A few more puffs and pills and it’s off to dinner with good friend. Curry makes everything better.

Pills and tissues all day on Saturday, and not in the way that makes for a good, badly written evening drama. It hasn’t been this bad in a while, I think, why now? Sleep.

Sunday is the day of reckoning. Nothing has been accomplished, I’m pretty much at square one and I can’t even get started. My chest is heavy and pulls downwards, the kitchen table, my desk, the bed. Did that cement I breathed in coagulate? Can vapour do that?

Technically Monday, at 1:24 am, we haul off the emergency room because I just can’t breathe. No-one is around and the burning smell has evaporated. I get more of the same, always the same. Someone told me once there’s a cure for this disease but no-one will fund a proof clinic, or whatever it’s called, for the doctor who discovered it. Oxygen from a tube, light from a cylinder, steroids from a canister. Food and sleep waiting at home.

X-rays, then nothing from 5:30 to 8:30 am. We leave to go and sleep. I sign something that makes it sound like a doctor is right in front of me trying to help and I’m stubbornly leaving in a huff. No-one has seen us or spoken to us in three hours.

I cab back after a phone call saying now there are results ready. Pills; oh my old friend and insomniac Prednisone. Huny rehearses downstairs. He’s slept two hours.

Tiny flames remind me not to be consumed in minutia. A deep, proud tenor sax bellows my weary embers.

This year, everything burns.