Travel of Sound

 Nicolas Destino, Nonfiction

1. Numbers

In the beginning of his departure from health it would be our hope in medicine. In the beginning of his treatment with medicine it would be our hope in statistics and probability. Statistically speaking, he would have a 70% chance of survival; out of ten chemotherapy medications, seven would not destroy the 100% of his love for combining water and fire to keep people from burning. He would probably consume seven out of ten potato wedges I cooked later one night because three of them would be eliminated by overcooking.

Loss of body mass is the gain of a room’s area. He would surrender 25% of his body structure to our house. Distance from the bed to the bathroom would grow. He would plan navigable routes in the house. Objects would become obstacles for the weakened body to walk around, amidst. The house would become an arduous landscape.

55% percent of our friends would ask if Jeffrey was HIV+ because we were each 100% of ourselves. 2% of that 55% would ask twice, even after explanation that he was not. The distance between friendships and foreign objects would diminish. Probability supported that Jeffrey would be respected by nearly everyone who met him. Odds of disrespect would appear as foreign.

A woman appeared, a mother of a friend. She would appear as a foreign object. She would ask if Jeffrey’s illness was due to his lifestyle. I would say she has a 100% chance of dying. I would tell her that statistically speaking, Jeffrey stands as a small percentage of the United States Air Force, and probability supports that he would eat potatoes, combine water with fire to keep people from burning, and dance happily when eating a good cookie. This would be the style of his life, but this formula would not support the woman’s conditions for illness. I make a point to revise her compassion by omitting the period from the end of the sentence

In Jeffrey’s presence I would ask nurses questions in ways that might encompass his voice, as he remained conscious and alert but unable to move or speak. The sepsis brought on by chemo complications put him into multi-organ failure, but still the fourteen lines of chemicals would continue to drip inside a body without means of filtration. “How are his liver enzymes? Jeffrey, do you want to hear an update?”

The microwave flashes 12:34 all day and night. A microwave is relatively short: Just millimeters to one meter in length. We’re growing in increments. Your kidneys are improving. Your kidneys are flashing 1-2-3-4 all day and night. You have four beats per measure. The quarter note gets the beat. Let’s play in 4/4 time. Each kidney is a half note. Remember to talk to them. Imagine light flowing through them. I cannot conduct your kidneys. Did you drink your light today? I have to go home.

Seven people would send healing white light in his direction. Thank you. Very good. Haven’t seen light. I am embarrassed. But can’t see macrophages either. Understood. Can’t see airborne chemicals dispersed or settled in the lungs from Twin Tower debris, but they have inside Jeffrey’s. Understood. Human vision is stubborn. Hearing is better. If you lay your ear upon his chest for twenty seconds, walk ten feet away, the memory of heart rate remains for five minutes.

Equal parts light and sound wave mixed into an IV bag. Nurse would tell me the combination appears as whirling phosphorescence and spinning arpeggios. Something trying to escape very fast. Nurse would then tell me her husband is twenty-two years her senior. She is forty. “I married him because I wouldn’t have to worry about him chasing a younger number.” Understood. There are no equal parts of anything. A part is apart from a part. I would not see the seven parts of sent light. I would hear from seven mouths of seven people: It’s on the way. I would not see the balance of Nurse’s marriage. But I would hear about fidelity, hear about light, hear the memory of heart rate from ten feet away. A partner apart from a partner.

Consequently: Jeffrey becomes part of a ratio. In the way we have two kidneys / one bladder. You / I / are / am. In the language that tries to create the text about one partner to another it is one cigarette / one paragraph. In the language that tries to equate one partner to another as equal parts it is one person / five physicians = one request /one administrative regulation. “May I, unequal part, speak to the intensive physician?” Twenty requests / Twenty rejections. In the language that tries to discern a partner from a monster. Absolutely not.

There are 956 notes in one movement of a particular violin sonata. In 2008 it would be decided that 478 Statue of Libertys’ worth of toxic waste can be buried in Erie County, NY. Or it would be settled to only half that amount. I increasingly find myself increasing the divisions. No. Would this happen? Jeffrey, and someone you love, has died. Reader, I would go to fractions over the pieces.

On a morning in Erie County, NY, you would not see toxicity over breakfast. You may go to Roswell Park Cancer Institute for breakfast. Roswell Park Cancer Institute is one of the top cancer research centers in the country or world. To get exact rank you divide the world into countries. A top cancer research center in the most toxic region of a country.

I have to consider the numbers. Beginning with the violin on a morning in Erie County at a top cancer research center, hearing is better so I would play a particular movement of a violin sonata in Jeffrey’s IC unit. I would explain to the nurse and Jeffrey: There are 956 notes. That is 956 chances for error. Who can bear this risk? Nurse suggests one note per hour. This would ensure accuracy.

Recovering from sepsis is a slow process. Jeffrey would regulate pulse of various machines, some breathing some beating: beautifully stable metronome. Underground I imagine rows and rows of Statue of Libertys lying on backs, each sealed with care but each a chance for error. Sepsis may occur through intestinal leaks. I wouldn’t find it in my hands to play.

“Jeffrey, here is an update”: It is today ½ gone on the fifth day of the week. One out of six nurses said she’s forgiven us. She has seven letters in her first name. There are three syllables. Soon you will relearn to speak. I don’t know why your neck is purple. We’re relearning to speak. Syllables come intravenously.

There are 956 syllables in this particular movement of a violin sonata. I would have to begin this movement four times before finding the right voice once. Long ago in a far away position there were 1,365 people watching one violinist. He ended on the open D-string’s long tone. The audience walked one-hundred feet and two minutes away. The memory of a ringing D lasted half a year in five-hundred different locations of one country. In the event of an emergency it would take me twenty-two minutes to drive thirteen miles to Roswell Park Cancer Institute. It takes seconds for the ringing D to get there.

Beginning a fourth time to the completion of 956 syllables of music: I would look at his immobile and voiceless body in a room of sound and motion. Each tone sounds at a different frequency. Each tone travels at a different speed. This cubic den of recovery/ decay would contain immobility against travel of sound. Every note trying to escape very fast. I have to go home. \


2. Pre positions & Possessives

The pre position is that it was your body. The pre position is that it was your voice. As a child you were taught to use your body and your voice toward the creation of language. In the beginning of mapping the environment through your body and voice, toward the creation of language with sounds and motions, you were told: this is good. Because you have this tissue and nerve den that is all you really own. That is all.

With stands as a central preposition. You will take your den with you to every arrival. Go to the grocery store with your body. Just try to leave it home. With you is you. Go to the concert hall. With you is you, your own arrival and departure. The pre position is that it was your body occasionally leased by others. After the loss of your voice or motion is removal of language. Ownership expires.

Shifting is an exercise practiced by violinists to learn to move smoothly from one position into another. The smoother one shifts, the more accurate the pitch and tempo. Be prepared for what follows. Maintain control over your bow. Elbow, wrist, fingers flexing toward coordination. Maintain the balance points and equal weight distribution of the bow from frog to tip.

In 1839 there was a violinist whose musical voice was celebrated throughout Venice. He was known as a vocalist. The sweetness of his violin carried like the human voice. His fine muscle dexterity translated into crystal clearness in fast passages. But when the cadenza approached, he temporarily lost flexibility in his fingers and wrist. He lost tempo and pitch. Things fell apart. He was booed off the stage.

The pre position is that it was his body and his voice. In practicing, he learned to use his body and voice toward the creation of language, vio-linguistically. Being booed off the stage was a rejection of an entire body because it fell apart. He has not been forgiven. Many years later I find myself agitatedly stalled behind an elderly pedestrian. I am trying to forgive myself for the loss of motion in her body.

Forget illness. Illness is out of fashion. It’s only fashionable to be slightly late to the party. Illness deducts speed. You’re not invited. Sick people don’t dance. They don’t tell jokes. They don’t have sex! It’s best to start speaking of a sick person in the past tense because they don’t move and shake, but crawl and tremble. I wonder about our intolerance of slow motion.

Anywhere in the world, any number of thousands of years into history, where the first sadness occurred when the human body’s limitations were revealed; no one knows. Was it the inability to keep up with horses? The inability to escape from a running lion or swimming shark? The envy of speed and efficiency resulted in wheels. The rolling of wheels resulted in the hitching of humans to horses. Today in a fire station they are taking thirty-minute breaks for the chance to slow their motions, relax. Terminally ill people are too dissimilar from motion. Jeffrey wouldn’t shift smoothly from rescue worker to patient. We have to shift somewhere illogical to fetch the condition.

Into is an intimate preposition. You grow into another person as another person grows into you. Into is a total absorption. In the beginning of your partner’s departure from health you may also shift into a new position. But what? When a concourse of parts falls apart, then what? You can’t really divide a human body then call it a body. It is fractioned into malfunctions. The total absorption into loss. Lose your voice. Someone will speak for you. Shifting is an exercise practiced by violinists to learn to move smoothly from one position into another. Into is an intimate preposition, and I would also lose my voice into Jeffrey’s silence.

Challenge: Shift love into pornography. Holding Jeffrey’s hand and kissing his forehead would begin to feel like pornography in the presence of others: one/one + lips + forehead = comfort + discomfort. You would not have to ask this for me to tell you. There is an anxiety of shifting between two dimensions. The pre position is that it was terribly silent. The post position is that it was terribly silent. Jeffrey would come home from reserves into himself and into ourselves. Shifting is tricky. Lose your voice. Someone will speak for you.

Before and during, I wouldn’t realize the wrenching of after until an aftermath. Now. Or an after calculation of numbers. When I would try to recount the previous day’s heart rate but found interruptions by new and unevenly shifted positions of data, then what? Now entering the after with and into the departure from sounds. Now, the music of machinery, and I would see light sent out in digital numerology. In 2009 you might hear Vivaldi’s music and wonder if he knows what happened after himself:

Now. After. After what? After you were born. After you were born, then what? After you were born and then luminous. After you were born and then luminous what? After you were born and then. After you were born. After you were. After you. After. “He’s in a better place.” Now. No! Human vision is stubborn. If you want before, during, and after in one field of vision, then you have to go to a better place before you can speak of it. I have to go home.

I take my body to a car I bought with loaned money. Having borrowed New York State’s toll road, anything could happen in the twenty-two minutes it takes to get home from Roswell Cancer Institute. Sometimes I may want to feel thankful for loaned lights on thruways. The sun: Sometimes I may feel thankful for the sun because I can say it is mine—in that it belongs to no one in particular. Driving into orange light—it is mine: total absorption—away from an orange-tinted Jeffrey whose liver is on loan for observation by physicians at Roswell Park, whose body was never mine or anyone else’s. I may want to become possessive: of the numbers, of the data, of the concourse of malfunctioned parts simplified as his ‘body.’