The Last Memory
From the depths of a day that was not meant to be
So there I stood, rubbernecking at the idea that the spinning washing machine resembled my embryonic headache.
With that reflection in mind, I went for a cold shower, aiming for easy treatment. The antidote lasted as long as the freezing water distracted me from the woodpecker drilling my brains. Not a second more.
Anyway, my thoughts kept reeling back to the washing machine. I wash every Saturday after the soccer game. The one time of the week when I feel like a responsible adult.
And that was quite a Saturday.
It was one of those global warming reminder days with its abrasive heat and lack of air to breathe - perfect conditions to end up as a rag of sweat and other smells while in the pitch.
We lost 4-0.
Deceitful result, according to the team's perspective and generous self-criticism. Missed a couple goals while 0-0, hit the post down one and then our goalkeeper crushed our resurrection hopes with his lumbering hands. On top of that, we played visitors in San Martín, a 40-minute train commute for each leg. A loop to the suburbs to twist our tails and wreck our morale.
"That´s soccer. First game of the year we don´t score. And against these dead zombies", we repeated to each other in condolences.
It was one of those days with all the ingredients to cook flavored memories. Soccer game with my team; some study time for the exam on Tuesday; event with the literature workshop; and finish an epic day with the leftovers from my team´s asado.
But I was not counting on that damn headache creeping up to a non-stop automatic hammer in my head. I am not one to have headaches. Every time someone complained about headaches, I presumed it an exaggeration.
That Saturday, I understood what a headache is.
I hid in bed for a while. "If I rest for half an hour, the woodpecker will go away", I convinced myself.
There was no time to waste. The event was at nine, and I wanted to put in a few hours of intensive study. That half-hour washed by. I managed to sleep for about 10 minutes until the alarm clock went off. 19:04 was the appointed time to sit down with the books.
An impossible crusade.
By this time, the headache had merged with an unexpected upset stomach, that soon mutated to take the pole position among my miseries, folding me into a fetal position.
My lunch consisted of some ravioli with filetto, a banana for dessert, and nothing else. That was all I had that day. I skipped breakfast because I was studying; back from the game, my head and stomach had stolen all my appetite. I did not understand a thing, neither the causes nor the consequences.
Bent over in bed, nauseous, and with a schizophrenic thermostat between hot and cold flushes and freezing perspiration, I tried to hold on and wait for the worst to be over.
But within minutes of assimilating the bellyache, I found myself scrutinizing the depths of the toilet. And yet no gagging was present. Only salivations and slight contractions of the diaphragmatic dome led to nothing but fruitless inclination over the toilet seat.
"That's it, it's all over. If it didn't come out now, it won't come out anymore," I said to myself.
And how wrong I was.
No more than five agonic minutes transpired between me going back to bed to make myself a ball, and me running back in desperation to hug the toilet with the only goal of not varnishing everything on the way.
The vomiting center is located in the medulla oblongata, a common pathway where different triggers that provoke it are integrated. Stimuli arrive through the vagus nerve, directly from the stomach and duodenum (first part of the small intestine). Irritation of this portion of the digestive tract is mainly responsible for vomiting reactions.
When this happens, the vomiting center sends signals that prepare the body for an imminent eruption. With everything ready, emesis occurs. The diaphragm lowers and remains fixed in the inspiratory position; the muscles of the abdominal wall contract; and the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes while the organ undergoes anti-peristalsis movements. In addition, for safety and protection, the airways (glottis and nasopharynx) are closed.
But the anatomo-physiological explanation does not reflect what you think when you find yourself in that flamethrower position of semi-processed chyme.
And with so many things cascading in my body, the first thing to pop up was Anders, the literary critic of "Bullet in the Brain", by Tobias Wolff.
Why you, Anders?
I read the story for the literary workshop. A polished story, different and unpredictable. And one that left me pondering the idea of the last image that one takes of this world.
- Does it have to do with something that surrounds us at the very moment our heart stops beating? Or is it a stubborn synapse that emerges with a last glimpse of this world, even with lost eyes and a declaration of time of death?
- Is it a random synapse like Anders? Or is it a chosen one, our last wish for this life?
It would be such a luminous consolation to have the certainty that one can choose a last memory before going who knows where, right?
I guess it was fitting to recall Anders, who has a vision of his entire life in a fraction of a second before he dies.
He may have appeared for a reason:
- I was feeling anguished. And fragile. And my body was invaded by a powerful death drive.
- Or it may have been a placebo effect to distract my mind and send it in the opposite direction.
- Or it could have been the damp stains on the wall behind the toilet, those stains that nailed his fate.
The truth is, I do not really know why I was thinking about Anders, a bullet, and his splashing brains.
But there I was: my hands tense, clutching the lid and my abdomen almost cramping with contractions, thinking about Anders and his last memory. That grammatical error that, though it disturbs him, he finds a disconcerting beauty in the sigh of his life. All while a bullet pierces his skull.
I can almost see the bullet penetrating his head. And imagine its path in the brain convolutions, destroying its way through gray and white matter. The splinters of bone and blood splattering in every direction, and at the same time, following the bullet like a kite's trail once it leaves the brain case.
Paradoxically, thinking about it calmed me down and allowed me to sort out my thoughts. And it also made me feel a little psycho. How could I be thinking about a head exploded by a bullet while my guts were twisting in pain?
Sometimes it is better not to even look for where ideas come from.
When I was done expelling everything and some more from my insides and somehow found the energy to pick myself up from the floor, I left that state of Inception. I was no longer living in the dream inside the dream, or better, in the memory inside the memory.
Resurrection lasted as long as it had to. Enough to put everything in order, brush my teeth, and fill a water bottle before burying myself back in bed.
Some days are just not meant to be. And it is hopeless to go against them.
If there's one thing I learned from Anders, is that even in mistakes and frustrations you can find beauty and inspiration. A kind of half-full glass for hardened critics.
So that Saturday, I settled to join his leitmotif. And with all the disappointments of a day that ended up literally going down the drain, I curled up in bed and wished that, when the time comes, I will be able to choose my last memory from this world.
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