It was finally quiet. No nurses, no traffic noise from outside, no distractions.
Loneliness was there, a misty specter that filled the room and seemed to push away the medicated haze. It was terrifyingly obvious how self-sufficient I had to be. Aloneness quivered with crisis, discordant. Tears weren’t far away.
I turned my head on the hospital pillow, blearily. Self-pity curled down the corners of my mouth. My eyes throbbed. I directed my gaze upwards to the IV bag slowly dripping saline fluids into my veins. The blood hadn’t come yet; this was just to fill my vascular system with something, anything, to keep my blood pressure up. The doctors couldn’t get their hands on what I needed, and though my friends and contacts were out there, searching for my blood, right now it was up to me and me alone.
Taking a few deep breaths, I prepared the image I would begin my self-guided meditation with: the stark white of my bones before a black field. The disembodied trio of my hip bone, other hip bone, and sternum – the blood-making bones in ultra-real purity.
I closed my eyes….
… and the image took over.
Through no direction of my own, the simple shapes of my bones suddenly became a bright, glowing trinity, morphing dramatically. Woah – is this my imagination? Or something else, something… more?
White light traced the lines between them, one two three, back again to the sternum, in an efficient isosceles triangle, which gave a satisfying gleam as it sealed together, complete, like Voltron forming up. Bleeeeng!
My point of view changed suddenly in a revelation of perspective, as if I had stepped through a television screen into a movie. Now it was as if I were floating far above an expanse, no longer seeing my three bones from the traditional position of a human head looking down across the chest, but rather from high above.
My bones had become cities, the connecting beams between them were highways. I soared closer like a helicopter on approach.
The simple dull white of the bones that my imagination had originally supplied was now a vibrant, dynamic, seething, fast-forward white light, cities in the distance, impossibly cramped metropolises of pure, glowing white faceless buildings that in this dreamscape unequivocally meant inhabitation. Inhabited by what, though? Could these be the bone marrow cells, the blood makers?
My one hip was a cluster of skyscrapers, eggshell white, without windows or ornament, more like monoliths than buildings, somehow roiling, bustling, teeming with industry and growth.
Across the black expanse one gleaming highway over, my other hip was surprisingly not symmetrical. It was a different city unto itself, moving and vibrating like an ivory ant colony seen in double speed from miles above, similarly vibrant, yet architecturally distinct; it was less modest, with jutting protruding structures of diverse shapes, and one huge half-arch rising out of the surrounding circus to hang above, like the extravagant wet dream of a Dubai architect, impossible, yet existing….
Then, connected to each hip-city by a shining white super-conduit, lay my sternum. No longer an oblong, slightly beetle-looking piece of bone, it was now an ivory city like the others. Though it was smaller and less buzzing with energy, its smooth buildings radiated power and confidence, like an ancient bank building that knows something, that remembers, despite its subtle appearance. There was no mistaking it – the sternum-city was the capitol, quietly and modestly producing more blood cells than both hips combined.
The dream-vision carried me along. Now I soared closer to the triangle. I became aware that there was something happening in the center, a sort of military army encampment. Each city had sent its legions there for this momentous event – to meet me.
In the center of the center of these three noble and powerful clans there was a stage, or a clearing. I saw it as a sort of stadium field or boxing ring, and I approached flying, circling the vast crowd of warriors surrounding the ring as I descended towards the action. They were already clamoring, roaring in celebration for all the world like barbarian berserkers filling an impossibly large open-air stadium.
But these, my legions of bone marrow warriors, were not human. As I reached ground level and floated smoothly down a walkway toward the center field, I saw in grayscale their bodies were like cells sitting or standing in stadium seats: ameoba, protozoa, whatever – diverse forms with no arms or legs or eyes or mouths, yet somehow their spikey bits were flailing in fanatic celebration, and the cheering was deafening.
Suddenly the vision was put on pause as I realized: “Shouldn’t this be in color?”
Instantly the action resumed, and color – red color- flooded the crowds. All around me and across where I could see the oceans of barbarian fan-cells, streams of blood red streaked through the grays and whites like “the wave,” turning stripes of the world into technicolor red and brown.
I floated onward through the cacophony, buoyed by the crowd screaming their support, like a million spears clashing against a million shields in military cheer.
As I reached the center I felt their presence – the chieftains of the three cities, the bone marrow progenitor cells. The blood makers, the ones I had come to speak with. I could not perceive their forms, as if I couldn’t lift my gaze to look at them, but I knew for certain that they were the ones I had been seeking.
Suddenly I realized: I had never before requested anything of marrow cells, nor did I know how to parlay with barbarian chieftains….
But they were on my side, my staunch allies in this struggle, and I felt confident. I blurted out, “Okay, our priority right now is to make red blood cells, so give me everything you got.”
I was going to continue, to ask if they saw any obstacles to this goal, and proclaim that reinforcements(iron supplements and bagged RBCs on IV drip) were on the way, but….
One of the chieftains, acting on behalf of them all, tossed something at my feet, as if in answer. It was a bundle of thick, dry leaves, long and feather-shaped, each as long as my arm. And each had a large circular hole midway down its length.
I was stunned by this symbol. I had no clue what it meant, but the force of it was strong enough that, somewhere in a different reality, a man laying on a hospital bed thought, “Holy shit!”
The vision began losing clarity. I felt somehow that “thank you” was an appropriate response, and delivered it to the progenitor chieftains.
Then, just as the meditation broke and I lost concentration, I thought, eyeing those dark, foreboding holes in the leaves,
“Maybe this isn’t actually something to be thankful for….”