“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.”
~ T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
One year ago I got hurt. One year ago my portion of luck was misplaced. I was struck by a cyclist on my way home. I spent the next nine days in a coma, burr holes drilled into my skull. When I awoke I discovered that I had suffered a serious brain injury. – The term discovery is too gentle a way of describing the experience. Discovery suggests excitement; discovery suggests adventure; discovery suggests invention. Discovery does not suggest trauma.
It was not exciting—nor adventurous, nor inventive. It was Hell. I have written at length about the experience due to my—eerily precognizant—decision to begin keeping this journal. You will find my discussion in the archives. (Unsurprisingly the collection lacks much in the way of organization. I apologize for that.)
To mark this anniversary Whirl and I took a trip with our friends Smokes, Jim, Liz and Dr. Rob to Las Vegas. A year ago I declined an invitation by these same friends to join them on a last-minute plan to go to Vegas. Liz went to run a half-marathon; the others went to cheer her, play some poker and generally have a good time. Whirl was in Washington with her cousin. I decided not to go to Vegas. I decided to stay close to home. Looking back I often wonder what would have happened had I decided to go with them. One half of me—I cannot decide if this is the Optimist or the Pessimist—believes nothing would have happened. I would have escaped. The other half of me believes that being in Las Vegas would have changed nothing. I still would have gotten hurt. I still would have been in a coma. What would have changed is that now I would be 1500 miles away from home in a Nevada hospital.
With this information, anxiety and speculation well in mind we concluded that my “brainiversary” should be spent in Las Vegas. We thought this would be a good way to exorcise all the demons of the past year—to just do something fun together with Whirl.
I have not been to Las Vegas since 1981 when my family took a road trip vacation to California—we spent a night in Sin City on the way out. I remember the children’s arcade at Circus Circus and getting my father in trouble by intentionally grabbing the handle of a slot machine.
This trip we stayed four nights at the Tropicana. I played poker and craps. When I ran out of my gambling allowance I watched others play. One evening, I watched a game of craps at Caesars Palace. I talked to one of the dealers and the stickman. The table was slow and they began to explain the game to me. A couple congenial guys from Texas came up and started playing with $25 and $100 chips on my side of the table. They overheard the lesson and picked up where the dealer had left off—explaining to me why they were making the sorts of bets they were making. This gave me the opportunity to learn both the mechanics of the game as well as some rudimentary strategy. After about thirty minutes their wives came down and the Texans left for dinner. I stepped away to see a man about a horse. When I came back, a new guy was at the table playing with $1000 and $5000 chips. The entire tone of the table had changed. The earlier conversational attitude was gone. The High Roller turned and asked me to step back. I initially interpreted this as my sign to walk away when he broke the ice with “I’m not superstitious or nothin’,” and smiled.
I stuck around for about 15 minutes. In that time, The High Roller lost over $45,000. Perhaps this was my own naiveté, but I have never seen anything like that.
Self-reflection is a difficult task under the best of circumstances. When dealing with my fractured mind I sometimes find it unbearable. I fixate on confusion. I repeat the same problem-solving steps with the honest expectation that they will generate new results. I cannot find the words I want to use even though I know they are right there. – And I grow angry or mournful, jealous or defensive in turn. I am emotionally significantly more labile. I had fun in Vegas: I learned a new game; I got a chance to relax. I saw and experienced things I have wanted to try for a long time. But now that the year is over, I see fundamental changes in myself. I am not the same person I was.
I admit these may be the effects of sentiment or nostalgia. They seem real. They feel real. – They feel justified by reason; and because of that I stubbornly reject the notion that they are anything but real. I have changed. This injury has fundamentally changed me.
Because of the actions on the 29th of January, 2005 I am not the same man. That fact wounds me still.