[Above artwork by Tsuruko Yamakazi]
tonight i met a guy who has died six times. his kidney failed a few years back and because of it he suffered a spate of illnesses until his transplant. during the time he was in the hospital he flat lined 6 times, and tonight he kept hesitating in his sentences, like: “when i had…gone—.” i kept giggling like i do at everything and looking wide-eyed incredulous with body language collapsed toward him because he told me he knows what it’s like on the other side. (i’m not even gonna scarequote that because i totally believe him.) when liquid from his broken kidney was filling up his lungs, he lost consciousness and passed. a nurse climbed onto the table and plunged a syringe into his heart to remove fluid and he came back, but he said that the whole time he was dead he was in the air above the bed. “everything the hippies believe in,” he said, “they’re right.”
being alive is a different experience for him now because what’s ever-apparent is that the structures we live in are made up. (the humanities are a near death experience.) that what fills peoples lives is superficiality, posturing, and concern about trite things. i know that everybody has an urban outfitters tee to tell them this but he just said it so matter-of-fact: that when you die you still have consciousness and it isn’t flames or the feeling of soil, it’s the feeling of being present, love, desire, wanting to learn, and acceptance. he said that was all it felt like to be in the room watching the nurse with the syringe. consciousness without the physical pain, without a body. “so what is it like to live now, amongst all this?” i got a glimpse of something vulnerable when he responded, “honestly it’s been really hard.” “contorting yourself to all this you mean?” i said, as he shook his head yes. i told him i must be dead. but i feel like i have a billion tiny ghosts in my body now.
our conversation started after he approached me, commenting on all the people in the room seeming like zombies. he was the only one without books, paper, or a screen. where he’s from (he lives in california) people would be interacting much more and this is how he knew he was in the south. “what is the emotional mood of atlanta to you?” i asked.