And I open my eyes. I must have seen this grey ceiling many times, and the white curtains that are being tossed in the wind blowing through the open window.
It is a minute to seven and I disable the alarm clock before it starts ringing; I won’t be needing that anymore. There’s the window with the view I walk towards; a view that must be very well known to me. And yet I do not know it, and I do not know this room with its contents. I do not know the sounds the creaky floor makes as I walk across it, or the pointy edges of the bed sides I bump my knee into as I am maneuvering to inspect all corners of this apartment that must be my own. And my hands – I do not know my hands; I have never seen these wrinkles before, or the pigmentations on my wrists, or the lines across my nails. There is a mirror in the corner of the room, and this face, I have also not seen before. But watching it, many things are becoming apparent: this hollow face, the eyes sunken, its pallor, the blue tinge of the lips – I must be ill. Of course there is also that feeling of increased gravity pulling down on me, and the weakness of the limbs I stand on trying to defy that gravity. And there is the bottle of pills on my nightstand, with the yellow label reading capecitabine, so it must be cancer and I must be losing, because on the same nightstand there is a leaflet that reads Palliative care.
I move through these things as a stranger trying to learn who I am, and yet with everything I see there are connections coming up in my mind. They must be memories of things I learned, but they are most curious. Watching the poster of the solar system on the wall opposite from my bed, I can see the orbits of the planets in my head as they move around the sun, and there are intricate formulas to join this image, with which to calculate the distance between Earth and each of these planets across the seasons. And I can see these numbers changing, most gradually, at the 4th decimal place in real time, without any effort. I do not know who I was before, but I am sure that my mind was not this sharp then, or I would have lived in a castle full of riches, not in this Spartan apartment. It is as if my mind has reached full culmination, remembering everything I forgot before, and those connections have filled up all the potential of the neurons in my brain, re-writing what they stored before. This must be why I don’t remember me, or this place, or anything I ever did, but why I know everything else by just looking at it. I have all the knowledge distilled from experience but without the context, without the personal side of history – I have lost myself to gain what must be ultimate insight, an ultimate clarity of mind, and a repository of knowledge that is blooming, even though transient. Because this body I inhabit is near death, so the mind might have found culmination, but the body has too, in that its lifespan is nearly achieved. This life is nearly completed. But before then, why not use this clarity for one final gift to all those people I must have once loved, but who are now forgotten? And for all others unbeknownst to me, struggling with the same problems I must have struggled with, so that they too may find more time to give their gifts and to do their things.
I carefully step over the blown-out candles near the window and sit down on a cushion that’s been placed there on the floor. There’s a large volume that’s been shoved aside, as if angrily, that reads: Oncology, on the arise of tumors. Was I trying to cure myself? Curiously, I open it, and the text comes alive as my eyes speed over the words. I turn page after page as I see malignant change arising in a derailed cell, genes mutating through ultraviolet radiation, ever so slowly taking years to get a significant change where this cell is allowed to start dividing crazily. And even then it is only a small thing, kept in check by surrounding tissues that protect the body from being harmed truly. And then, it breaches the barriers and starts compressing the tissues around it, perhaps leading to pain as it presses itself into nerves, or spreading unnoticed as it gains access to the bloodstream, flowing with rivers of blood to lodge itself in a new, non-colonized space. And those colonies there will cause additional problems, secreting small chemicals to egotistically promote its own growth, irrespective of the damage induced on the body as a whole. By that time, weight loss will have set in, and anemia will follow. That dead tiredness that has taken possession of me derives from that growth inside of me. It has grown into my bones, which are continuously at risk of cracking as they are hollowed out by this malignancy. And there is the heroic attempt of doctors to kill these derailed cells without killing the organism – without killing me – with all these toxic compounds; the stuff that has made my hair fall out. And there’s the radiotherapy, where you use what causes tumors to kill tumors, because cancer cells can often be killed by what kills normal cells.
Then why was I not cured? The answer lies in that, to cure me, you would need to kill all of the tumor cells. If only one of them were to remain, invisible on an X-ray or an MRI, it would regrow relentlessly, rendering me sick again with cells resistant to treatment, and death would follow. But how can you kill the sick cells only, leaving the healthy cells alive? As I read and read and time goes by, the sky changing color, the answer starts to form in the images playing through my mind – something not in the books, something marvelous. And I know, in this brilliant moment where the doubts subside, that I have the cure. So, in the empty pages at the end of the book, I start writing down what is needed for this final battle, to reverse the cancer and to save its host. But doing so drains me of my power, and having completed these instructions, I lay myself down to sleep, placing the book next to me, an eulogy of hope. And watching the revolution of the planets on the inside of my eyes, I find myself slip away, gradually, into a darkness beyond darkness, into a state beyond life, neither waking nor sleeping nor being, and all is quiet, and all is complete.