I look to my left. The orange flames burn bright against the dark background of the midnight sky. They’re so bright, in fact, that it’s hard to look at them directly for too long. I know that if I were to touch them, they’d scorch my skin and burn me. The burns would be an irritating pink. They’d leak pus, and they’d hurt like Hell.
But would it be worth it just to feel something, anything? I’ve been numb for so long, and the razors don’t do anything for me anymore. The sight of my own blood no longer thrills me, and neither does the slicing of my skin, once so clean but now tainted.
I look to my right. The crystal-clear water swishes in the orange bucket. I know from the condensation on the outside that the water is so cold it’s almost ice. If I stuck my hand in there, it would ache. The blood would run slower, and my bones would become rigid. The pain would be awful, but it would be a feeling, something I so desperately need.
I stand on the concrete, tapping my toes inside my old, black tennis shoes. I contemplate how best to hurt myself, then think to myself how silly that sounds. The corner of my mouth twitches ever so slightly, the closest I can get myself to a smile. I roll up on the balls of my feet, looking between the fire and the water and imagining the unique sensations each would give me.
Then something peculiar happens. It starts in my stomach, feeling like a dead weight. It starts to travel up toward my chest, knocking the oxygen out of my lungs. A sense of dread falls over me. What is happening?
My eyes start to water and tears fall, and I am completely caught off guard. I start to shake, and I cry out. I stumble forward and suddenly I am blinded by rage. I haven’t cried in years, and I had sworn to myself that I would never cry again. I’ve lost control of my own body, the only thing left I had control over. I growl, and I rush forward, stepping into the fire and letting the flames engulf me.
I scream, but I am not burning. All the sensations I imagined that I would feel when I touched the flames came to nothing. I am standing in the fire, and nothing is happening to me. I have no control. My rage intensifies.
I run to the right, grabbing the orange bucket with a death-grip. I dump the ice cold water on my head, but again, I feel nothing. I attempt to inhale the water as it falls, to see if I would choke on it, but nothing happens.
I take off running. I don’t know where I’m running, but I need to get away. I need to leave my feelings and weakness behind and gain control of my body again. I need to be strong and powerful again.
It seems I have only run in some sort of damning circle. I end up where I ran from, where the fire is still intact and the water is back in the orange bucket. I scream again, or maybe I’ve been screaming the whole time. I grab the bucket, and I throw the water onto the flames. The flames only erupt into bigger flames. I drop the bucket, and I see myself walk out of the flames.
She walks toward me, and I step back. Suddenly she stops, grabbing her stomach. She starts to gag, and her eyes roll back in her head. From her mouth seeps crimson blood. I know it is all the blood I’ve lost from dragging razors across my skin every day for so many years.
I step back yet again, horrified. She follows me; she speaks in gibberish and more blood falls from her lips, down her chin and onto her chest, soaking her shirt. My shirt. I take off running again. I come full circle again, and this time, when I come to the fire, I don’t stop.
The flames engulf me at once, and the horrible burning sensation is like nothing I’ve felt before. I scream, and I am out of the fire. From the tree above, I watch my human body disintegrate into ashes.
June 15th, 2012. A day that I will never forget. But this story starts long before that day and long before I was ever even born. Flash back to the 1985. My parents were in their mid-twenties and had just gotten married. One day, two months after they had gotten married, my dad suddenly felt an immense pain in his chest and lower back.
A relatively healthy 25 year old, he had no idea what was going on and was rushed immediately to the hospital.
They had no idea what was happening or how to fix it. My dad died that day. But luckily a miracle happened and after over a minute without a heart beat, they were able to revive him. Had that not happened, I would not be here today. Doctors later discovered that his aorta had ruptured due to a genetic disease called Marfan’s Syndrome. No one in his family had the disease, so he was a fresh gene mutation. Marfan’s Syndrome is a genetic disorder of the connective tissues in the body. Connective tissue is one of the four types of biological tissue that support, connect, or separate different types of tissues and organs in the body. These tissues are found all over the body. Marfan Syndrome causes those tissues to be weaker than normal and sometimes deformed which caused the connective tissue in my dad’s aorta to be weaker than normal and burst under the excessive growth.
Despite all this, with his second shot at life my dad took advantage of everything he could.
He went on to start his own business and have three children. But the issue with Marfan’s syndrome being a genetic disease is that it was hereditary, and my parents had a fifty-fifty shot of passing it on to their children. Good thing they weren’t gamblers because all three of us ending up inheriting the disorder.
The early years of my life with Marfan’s were practically normal. Other than having to go to the doctor once a year and take medicine every morning, there was nothing drastically different about my life. Sure, I was a lot taller than the rest of the kids because Marfan’s causes the legs and arms to grow longer than normal, but that has definitely ended up more of an advantage than disadvantage.
As the body grows larger, so do the internal organs. The accelerated growth of our hearts was concerning to doctors because they didn’t want the same thing that happened to our father to happen to us. They told us that once the diameters of our aortas reached a certain size, then they would have to intervene. As a thirteen year old boy, I basically brushed this aside and said there is no way that I would have open heart surgery. Even knowing what happened to my dad 20 years before that, I still thought there was no way it could happen to me. Even when my older brother ended up having to have the surgery, I still believed that somehow I was different and I would not need it.
The bubble of ignorance I was living in was finally burst when I was 16 years old. During my annual summer checkup, I was told that I would most likely need to have open-heart surgery the following summer. I was in complete shock and disbelief. How was I supposed to undergo a life-threatening and life-altering surgery the summer before my senior year of high school? I became angry at the world for dealing me this awful hand. Things that I used to love seemed to not have any meaning to me anymore. I stopped caring about everything. I started drinking way more often than I should have been as a junior in high school. I was constantly anxious.
I lived like this for an entire year. It was one of the darkest periods of my life. Eventually the time came for the surgery and I was trying to be tough and strong on the outside but on the inside I was a complete wreck. The day before my operation was scheduled, I was walking on the street in between some of my pre-op appointments when an elderly man stopped me. He handed me a piece of paper that had a prayer on it and nothing wanted to do with religion at the moment, I tried to hand it back to him and keep walking.
But the man grabbed my arm and looked me in the eyes and said, “If you say that prayer, the holy spirit will come through your chest and bless your heart.” then went into the store in front of us. I was so shaken up that I just sat there and stared at the piece of paper for a little but then I went into the store to find the man. He was nowhere to be found. It was a small store and there wasn’t an exit in the back so I have no idea where the man could have gone. I am not trying to imply anything and I don’t know if you reading this are a religious person, but I am just trying to say what happened. After this event I was weirdly calm and comfortable about my surgery the next day.
I woke up from the operation on June 15th, 2012 feeling like I had a new lease on life, surely similar to what my dad had felt 30 year before that. After a recovery period of about a month, I went back to my normal routine but with a completely different outlook. I had been given a second chance and there was no way I was going to waste it.
These days I try to take advantage of every opportunity possible. I don’t complain about the little things because I know it could be ten times worse. And most importantly any time that I am down, I think of that strange man that gave me so much comfort in my time of need and that comfort comes rushing back. It truly feels as if I had one life before my surgery and another life after it. June 15th, 2012 is the day that I was reborn.