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  • Jason Wood

Past Experiences, Future Specters

By: Matt Billas

Eyelids creak open. Must be morning, but it’s dark? Not even night, but dusk, the evening slowly fading to darkness. Awakening from an afternoon nap? No, I never nap!

Wait, I don’t recognize this bed, and I certainly can’t make sense of this fishbowl. Wide window panes with no blinds, a large glass window to a corridor, like a two-way mirror, and me the interrogee, the prisoner.

I slowly try to lift my arms, shift a leg, any movement is good. Okay, some sensation, but wait, hardly full range of motion. Tethered like a dog on a leash, body wrapped in a cacophony of wires, monitors plastered all over my body, machines whirring, incessant beeping. Oh no, something is clearly not right. Scratch that, something is very wrong. Realization creeps in, I shouldn’t be here, why am I here, where is here, when is here?

It gets worse. A warm sensation, rubbing against my upper leg, like a warm water balloon. Oh no, I’ve heard about these, the dreaded catheter. It couldn’t have been fun having that installed, but fortunately, I don’t remember it. I don’t remember anything. But I do know I’ll remember it coming out.

The door opens to a muffled voice, “Matt, do you know where you are?”

I’m not sure. I don’t know where I am, how I am, who I am, and how I got to this point. I don’t know how I’ll leave here or who I’ll leave here as. Memories may fade, but the scars remain.


It’s been seven months since that hospital experience and as I continue to reflect on that moment I know I will never control all aspects of my life, to my chagrin, but also to my benefit. I’ve seen what attempting to take full control did to me; the outcome was not pretty and in my mind part of the reason I found myself waking up in that neuro-ICU last November.

Sometimes I find myself haunted by the past, a vision of impending doom or despair triggered by some present experience. Yesterday, a partial seizure served as an eerie reminder. I knew it was coming for days; a dull headache, odd dreams, and experiences of déjà vu leading up to it. Then it hit, like clockwork, twenty seconds of headaches, numbness, and tingling. Unsettling to say the least.

Things will happen, but it’s OKAY. I do what I can; I accept what I cannot. And, at the present, I’ll relish in all that I do have: an incredible life, a loving wife, the support of family and friends, and a therapist, nutritionist, and doctor who want me to succeed. Life is truly beautiful; every moment is an opportunity. I woke up from that cold hospital bed and left it behind me; I prefer waking up every day in my own bed. Not every day is easy; no one said it will be, but that’s the joy in life, and I choose to make the most of it.

“Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.”

-David Bowie


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