Whale Tongue

Writing a book can be a cruel, bullying sort of practice. You write words and sentences and chapters that you really so dearly love. You bring them to life and delight in them and build them a place to belong…and then you end up axing them in the name of linearity or tone, booting them out of the flock like some deformed sheep who just can’t keep up with the others. (Admittedly, my knowledge on shepherding is limited.)  

But, if the plastic solider on Toy Story taught me anything, it’s that a good solider never leaves a man behind. 

So here are some paragraphs that – as much as I adore (especially my use of ‘whale tongue’) – just don’t fit in the book. I’m leaving them here to live amongst you nice people. Be kind to them, they’ve had a hard couple of days.

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On my twenty-third birthday, I had my impacted wisdom teeth removed. The fact that I assumed this procedure – if done in the early morning – would leave me adequate time and ability for birthday margaritas and crumping shows you exactly how unprepared I was. I rolled into surgery in my yoga pants and glasses, Alright, let’s shake the lead out and extract these suckers – I’ve still got to figure out liquid eyeliner and cover up this shoulder zit before party time. 

The next seventy-two hours are a dim, metallic-tasting smudge.

There was some fiasco with the laughing gas and the nurses had to backhand me into begrudging consciousness.

Erhm cold. Shleepy. Want shurk.

I watched Shark Week and lapped at a pile of yogurt. Drew gave me my birthday gift and the tears and drool created a puddle which I immediately fell asleep in. The first drugs wore off and it became clear that my jaw muscle had been torn in the surgery. Stronger drugs were procured. The drugs intersected at 2-hour intervals, so throughout the night, Drew would shuffle to the fridge, grab the pan of cold, instant mashed potatoes, wrap some pills inside and spackle it on to my swollen whale tongue.

At some point between these feedings, the dreams started.

I’ve always been a vivid and persistent dreamer, my imagination hungry, tearing through any semblance of a sleep cycle. I start dreaming before I’m even asleep, continue throughout the night and wake up breathless and confused. WhatplanetamIon? It’s ridiculous and fun and horrifying.

Blame it on the IMAX viewing of Inception, blame it on the Vicodin, blame it on the fact that my diet at the time consisted of about 90% dehydrated potato.

But somewhere in that 72 hour blur, I dreamed in three levels. It happened, I tell you, it did.

And there’s a video of me somewhere, mumbling in the glow of my alarm clock, mouth full of stitches, trying to make Drew understand. Crying and laughing and completely perturbed. I died, went to Heaven (I could fill another book with everything I saw up there – the curving gardens, the backwards-gravity, the lushness and the splendor. The warmth and the quiet, the joy and the gleam), was sent back to a hospital and then broke to consciousness, gasping and bewildered.

The most affirming, comforting moment in my short life thus far happened then, in a season of Great Sadness, writing this book and wrestling God to see the blessings. In my trippy little Vicodin dream, as the sun splashed into the ocean and I felt the rush of a million birds flying at me and the world disintegrated around me, pulling me into death, the only thought in my dream-dying mind was this:

I’ll see you soon, Jesus.

And I think I can spend the rest of my time here on earth sprinting toward that same steady thought.

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And, just for funsies, here are some screenshots from a ridiculous video of post-surgery me. 

Numbed up and scared of my own lip.

Numbed up and scared of my own lip.

Laughing repeatedly at the word "walrus".

Laughing repeatedly at the word “walrus”.

Talk to me! (I'm a slow but decent penpal)