A few days before rehabilitation was over, I ended up in the hospital from a seizure. I’ve never had one before and I don’t really remember anything. I only remember falling down in the hallway and waking up in a hospital bed. I was blind in my right eye; my speech was incredibly slurred, and I had no idea where I was. This led to a second hospital transfer, a dozen tests and a psych evaluation. I learned that I didn't know what year it was, who the president was (I told the doctor Obama) and had trouble remembering my own name. Part of me thinks it was my mind trying to do a total reset and erase the past several years from my mind or it was a mini stroke. It was neither and still a mystery.
After 3 days I was being discharged because of the increasing number of Covid-19 patients that were coming in. I was no longer a priority case. I then learned in that same hour; I no longer had a home to go back to. So, there I was half-blind, confused, numb and speechless (literally). My unfortunate only option was to go home to Maryland. I had no choice. I went back for a little over a month to health, well, everything.
Part Two balances the line delicately between journal entry and independent recovery. I had moments of beautiful clarity in Maryland and a few pit falls along the way. I walked for miles in various woods, befriended animals and complete strangers, saw my father for the first time in 10 years, had a stand off with God and at one point I brought an actual knife to a gun fight. Enjoy the ride.
Outpatient Amendments: Fall on your knees
“But the hero never gets to see that ending. They’ll never know if their sacrifice actually made a difference. They’ll never know if the day was really saved. In the end, they just have to have faith.”
- Epsilon, Red vs. Blue
The current date is December 24th, 2021
For the first time in 5 years, I’m alone on Christmas eve. No home, no Christmas photo in front of our tree with the dog licking my face since he never looks at a camera. No presents, no ornaments that each have their own memory and meaning. No laughter or Christmas dinner. No love to share, to have or hold.
Every day I wake up. Every day, angry that I woke up. There's a moment, when you wake, and for a second in time the brain is aware but no messages are enroute. Instead you look at the top right corner of the ceiling and you quietly exhale and notice the sun trying to sneak through the window and say hi. For a moment everything is quiet until its not and it only takes a second. No one hates me more than me, that I'm sure was my first thought.
My day was spent mostly in silence, walking the streets, sitting on some bleachers overlooking a baseball diamond, looking for something of entertainment in the graphic novel section in a library. Standing at a 4-way intersection too long staring into the middle distance.
The evening wasn’t much different. Wandering in circles and chain smoking my E-Cigg in the back yard like it was the last one on earth. I took a huge drag, inhaled as much as I could and held my breath as long as possible with closed eyes. I was holding my breath at one point until I almost passed out when I opened my eyes and looked through the trees to see a Church and its cross all lit up. I had a rosary around my neck a patient gave me the day before he was discharged. Metal, made in Ecuador, black string, perfect tiny Jesus on a cross. I touched it and felt a tingle in my arm, my stomach and thought let's walk to the church. What's the worst that could happen? I explode into flames upon entry? Fine by me.
There was a service going on for Christmas eve. I stood outside the doors for maybe 10 minutes telling myself to go in. I walked away twice before I said fuck it, go in. Small congregation, half dozen families all dressed nicely and then there was me, a hoodie that says “we smoke the good stuff (BBQ joint)” and sneakers. A half-blind vagabond, some rogue off the street. Out of place. I hadn't been to a church service since my Grandmother passed when I was in high school. I had lost all faith at that point and stayed in nihilism from then on. I walked in and sat in the very back right corner by myself, the only person in the row. An old couple sat Infront of and the women turned around, smiled and gave me a thumbs up and I nodded back with a weary smile. The pastor opened with a welcome from everyone and began his sermon with a reading from the gospel of Luke. Everyone would say “amen” throughout his speech and i’m sitting there having not the slightest clue what he’s going on about.
***Cynical Kyle please step to the front. Ya um excuse me, hi there. tell me, where was God when I fell from grace? where was he when my disease in my brain took hold and couldn't stop myself or ask for help. Where was God when I asked please everyone understand and try, to fucking TRY I’m literally fighting for my life and where is anyone? Why is this so much easier for everyone to cut me out like I never existed? I didn’t kill anyone for fucks sake, I was killing myself.
Tell me oh almighty powerful deity that judges you if you ate shellfish and watches you masturbate, Where the fuck were YOU when the same time I was in the hospital and discovered I was homeless? I’m half blind and can barely speak what is this? What the fuck SAY SOMETHING TO ME. Why don't you help me at all or is this all part of your, some, grand plan and no one can see a blueprint? This is fucking bullshit and I should just leave, there's no point to this.***
I stood when the songs were sung. The pastors 3 children, all daughters, snow whites, blonde hair like their mothers, all singing off key. The exact kind of family you’ see in some indie movie when a church scene was passing through. I put my mask up and quietly sang/mumbled/spoken worded the songs with embarrassment. this was all so alien. People do this every Sunday? after several songs and chapters read, Pastor gave a speech about how you are not alone, how the love of Christ sees you and hears your words and can offer guidance in only ways that you would understand (hah ok). If you are suffering all you have to do is accept his love, to accept love is the greatest weapon you can use against your enemy, against your demons. Fight off your demons for there is no other choice. Love will bring you back to what you have lost. Forge and Fight your way back even if you have to make a new trail to get back.
I thought, easier said then doc.
He was looking at me during the last part as if he knew. He knew what was happening. he knew I was lost and trying to find a way back, any way back. Any method or guidance or anything that could help me understand this. I could see Pastor get choked up when he locked eyes with me and didn't break them. He could see it. He could see the dark shadow on me. When his speech was over he asked the crowd, There are people who are going through suffering this Christmas, there are those that are sick, alone, unsure what to do, let us pray for them for a moment. A silent prayer ensued and the silent was deafening. Pastor said “is there anyone here who is in need? Be it a prayer or for someone else or to be uplifted?
No one raised their hand, everyone in the room was with either their partner or family, I was the only one alone. My left arm was 100 pounds and there was a rock in my throat but I slowly raised my hand. Pastor asked me my name, “Kyle”. Pastor asked kindly, “and what can the Lord help Kyle with this evening”. The room became a tunnel. I felt small. pastel hues in my already color blind vision intensified. I replied just loud enough for my voice to reach him.
Its all I could say.
Pastor said “Kyle would you mind coming up here so the Lord and everyone here can lend you their voice. You are safe here”.
This was my fire walk.
Coals under my feet I stood up and slowly made my way to the front. I could see everyone fold their hands and touched their faces with them, some with a bible in hand, others nodding with approval slowly. I reached the front of the church and Pastor stepped down from his podium and approached me. He was far taller then I had thought. Great jaw line damn.
“We ask the lord and his people to help Kyle through whatever grief and despair is troubling his soul.”
And then something happened to me that I have never bared witness to. Pastor put his hand on my should followed by his family and three daughters. Every one of them put a hand on my shoulder, my head, my neck. Pastor’s youngest daughter, probably no older than 9–10 held my hand and knelt with me. Everyone prayed in silence while Pastor continued his spell. I don't really believe in psychics but I believe in the psychic energy that people have. I felt electricity run rampant through my body. I was shaking and I couldn't breath.
The little girl who was holding my hand whispered “its ok” and holy (ha) shit I cried harder than I think I ever have. gut wrenching sorrowful fat tears. Everything went white, the room buzzed with some untold force I can't explain. I was seeing the world in code.
But more importantly I felt care? Not the kind of care you get from your parents or partner, but from total strangers who knew nothing about me. Its a strange feeling, like when the inside of your mouth itches. They decided to lend a hand and offer whatever help they could, committed to something bigger then themselves in a moment without a second thought.
I’m having a permanent out of body experience and this pain is simply the price for living.
When I caught my breath and stood up, I could see the smile of everyone in the room. Bright and hopeful, giving me courage. It felt…good? I accepted their help and felt something different and difficult that I can't even put into words, not even a feeling or a verb or a song lyric to make anyone or you understand except myself. I'm sure I looked like a holy (ha) fucking terror, all puffy face and snot soaked. All I could say was “Tha-thank you” and Pastor simply replied in a voice softer and cleaner then I could have ever managed “Kyle, WE thank YOU”.
I walked back to my seat and the old lady who gave me a thumbs up grabbed my arm and squeezed it, her face also puffy like mine and gave me a nod that said GOOD FUCKING JOB YOU GOT SOMETHING OUT YOU FELT IT WE FELT IT. I sat in shell shock before having to stand again for the final song of the evening. The lights were dimmed and we all were given a candle that was lit to hold. I thought oh man this is the finale, I don't know if my body can take another cry fest, I'm going to past the fuck out this time come on man. Pastors family went up to sing the closing song O Holy Night.
Now we all know there are songs that rip us apart down to our very being, I can name you 100 off the top of my head but this is not usually one of them. Until Pastors family sang the chorus.
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
They sang it with such life in their voices. Such loud harmony it shook my ears. I remembered I heard this in the movie Home Alone when Kevin went to church and spoke with the old man who salts the streets. The notes they were hitting tingled my spine and I closed my eyes and listened. I prayed with a constant stream of tears under closed eyes. For myself, for her, for forgiveness, for her family, for my family, for my sins, for strength, for a way forward, for this shadow to leave me, for the courage to permanently bury the person I was, for the power to show up and commit and not just talk, for the veracity to change and to rekindle things I've lost, walk back to beauty, For the ability to connect between things. To the absolute wonder. To the absolute best.
Woof that was a lot huh?
The song ended, Pastor thanked everyone for coming and I promptly headed to the door, first one out. I dropped my phone as I was about to exit when Pastors daughter, the one who held my hand ran down the aisle and gave me a hug. Her tiny arms only reaching around my arm and part of the middle of my back, squeezing me. I hadn't felt a real hug from anyone for a month now and the first one is from a child I know not at all. After a moment that was no more than 5 seconds or 5 years the tiny girl looked up at me and said, “merry Christmas Kyle” and ran back to her family. Pastor waved and put his hand on his heart. I nodded and walked back home in silence. There might not be angels, but there are people who might as well be angels. The cold stung my face and I welcomed it.
What happened to me back there I couldn't tell you. But instead of talking about some end, I’m pretty sure I found myself at the start of something else entirely.
When I got home, I lied down in the back yard for a while before heading back inside. Looking up at the sky, listening to the trees crack in the wind as if they were rooting (ha) for me, catatonic and grateful over what I witnessed. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading this a year from now or a hundred years from now. By the end of this tale you will know that I carried my flame into the terrible cold abyss of unknown, to the very brink of my annihilation. And then I carried it back.