Born lame, he died climbing Everest.
I kept during my oldest son’s third heart surgery in 2007. I wrote these during the months and days before, during and after the surgery. As difficult as this experience was for my family, it was nothing compared to what others have to bear.
We just visited with his cardiologist yesterday and everything is fine. We are truly very lucky people.
My oldest son is thirteen and he’s had his heart cut open twice. He was born with a condition known as “sub-aortic stenosis.” This is not a terrible thing. In fact, as cardiac abnormalities go it’s fairly simple. He was born with a small ring of tissue, – much like scar tissue – in his left ventricle right beneath the aortic valve. The net result is increased pressure in the left ventricle and more turbulence in the blood flow as it pumps into the aorta. Sounds benign enough. If he had been born twenty years earlier, it might have been diagnosed as a heart murmur and left at that. He might have been one of those people that drop dead of heart failure at 30 and everyone says ‘he was so young.’ Fortunately he was born 13 years ago.
He had his first open heart surgery at three.
Remember when I said that sub-aortic stenosis is fairly simple? Well when I said that, I meant it’s not as complicated as a ventricular septal defect or a tetralogy of fallot (trust me, I didn’t know what the fuck those were either until I needed to), but fixing it still involves cutting him open, sawing his sternum in half and prying it apart with something that looks like a medieval torture tool, and then shutting his heart off for forty-five minutes. After that they just scrape out the offending tissue and close him up.
He had the second surgery at five.
The first one didn’t take. Apparently, sub-aortic stenosis has a recurrence rate of about thirty percent. At least it did when he had his second surgery. Pediatric cardiology is a lot like the Internet in that their technology advances in three-month years. Today the recurrence rate is about ten percent. When he had the first surgery, they didn’t even have numbers.
The problem with his condition is a result of the increased pressure. This pressure and the subsequent turbulence have two negative effects that manifest themselves slowly. The first is an enlarged heart. Pushing the same volume of blood through a narrower tube causes the heart to work slightly harder. The heart is a muscle. If it works harder it grows bigger and an enlarged heart will eventually fail before it is supposed to.
The second problem is a compromised aortic valve. The valve does not completely close when it is supposed to. This one is the real bitch. It’s the ticking time bomb.
Right now the resulting leak is just crossing the border of negligible and entering the realm of “mild concern”. If the valve fails he will need a valve replacement and that is a significantly trickier process.
I have spouted all of this as background.
Today we took my son to Yale New Haven hospital for a cardiac catheterization. The doctors have decided that it is time to start planning another surgery. The hellish little sphincter of unwanted tissue is back and it’s time to cut him open and chop it out of there again. This qualifies as completely shitty news in my world.
I spent today in a shitty waiting room watching an episode of Will and Grace. (I had never seen this show before. Wow did it suck.) While I waited, a probe was inserted into the artery my son’s groin and pushed up into his heart. Then they shot some radioactive die in there and took videos. After that, they came out and talked about planning the next surgery. This was something that had always been discussed as a possibility. Now it is a reality.
What this means to me in a nutshell is that for the third time in my life I will spend a little over an hour in a waiting room full of uncomfortable furniture waiting for a pay phone to ring. The call I’ll be waiting for will be from the doctor. He’ll be calling to tell me that my son’s heart is once again beating on it’s own. The second sentence will deal with whether or not the procedure was successful.
I don’t want to do this again.
It sucked the air out of me both times before and I know it will again.
My son is a fucking trooper though. He will put his head down and get through it with a grace and poise that brings me to my knees. He will carry the entire family through this experience on his thirteen-year-old shoulders. It’s truly amazing. I mean, on a daily basis he’s a pain in the ass teenager. He whines about everything, he doesn’t do his homework and he tortures his little brother. I know he’s scared about the surgery but he knows everyone else is scared as well so he puts his game face on and pulls the rest of us through. It’s awe-inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time.
His younger brother is nervous. Until the surgery is behind us, every wishing well he throws a penny into will have him wishing for the operation to go well and for everything to work out. He won’t tell us what he wished for once because telling might dispell the magic. Yet when the waiting room ordeal comes, he will know just what to say and when and to whom to say it. He’ll actually work to make us smile when the tension gets thick. He’s nine years old, for Christ’s sake. How does he know how to do that?
Today was not a great day. In fact it really sucked until I had time to reflect on how my children handle themselves when confronted with a shitty situation. Anyone who says they can’t learn anything from children should be strung up by their squishy bits and beaten with sticks.
My kids are my heroes.
I tend to internalize stress. It’s not a conscious thing. It just happens. I write about things when I need to and I also talk about them with people, but my emotional level set is usually pretty positive. It’s just the way I’m wired.
So I’ve had a day to absorb the situation and reflect on it some. The whole situation left me pretty spent and most of yesterday was spent chugin through the routine as if nothing was changed, but my body chemistry knows different. Last night I woke at 3:30AM with a migraine headache that felt like an ice pick was sticking through my left eye from the inside.
A migraine headache in the wee hours is how my system processes and expels whatever stress puts into it. An hour of sweating and extreme pain, then it’s over. I can return to my default state and apply some reflection tot he situation.
I learned two things during the short meeting with the cardiologist two days ago I thought I knew everything there was to know about the procedures that my son endures and their results. I didn’t know these two. Apparently my son no longer has a pericardium. A pericardium is a membrane, much like a sack, that surrounds your heart. When you undergo open heart surgery they have to cut the pericardium open and when they are done, they just leave it. They don’t put it back together because you don’t need it. The second thing that the doctor mentioned was that his heart is fused to his chest wall with scar tissue. Again, a result of his previous surgeries.
Now both of these things are standard, expected byproducts of open heart surgery, but I think that these two things are what really put the smack-down on me. Sounds goofy, right? Here is some perspective.
During the first surgery, my son’s left bundle branch was destroyed. Your left bundle branch is one of two nerve bundles that tell your heart to beat. It’s a redundant system. You don’t need both. A ruined bundle branch is another one of those things that just happens during cardiac surgery. One of his cardiologists explained it like this:
“In the text book the bundle branch is green. When you are actually operating, everything looks like steak.”
So “left bundle branch block” is basically a cost of doing business in my son’s scenario. OK. No problem… Well there is one problem, actually. If the right bundle branch gets wrecked he will need a pace maker for the rest of his life. That would suck.
I have known about this for ten years now. I also know that every time he has a surgery or a catheterization he could die or be permanently damaged in about five different ways if everything doesn’t go just right. So why did these two relatively inconsequential bits of information send me into a tailspin? The only way I can explain it is with yet another anecdote.
The night before his first surgery I was giving him a bath. He was having a ball and I was looking at his three year old chest and realizing that this was the last time I would see it without a long scar running from just below his neck to the bottom edge of his sternum. It was the last time I would see his chest pristine. I still get a little choked up thinking about that.
Without getting into the metaphorical ramifications of scars, suffice to say that the two little pieces of info I got during a short conversation with a pediatric cardiologist on Tuesday afternoon stuck me pretty good. Two more permanent changes in my son’s body that I’m sure will be echoed somewhere in his brain and his larger being.
Trials and tribulations make us who we are. There is no growth without conflict. Still. When you can see the event coming at someone you care about, when you know that they will be forever changed it hurts. It really hurts. That’s what woke me up last night with hammers in my brain.
I’m two days past the bomb-drop now. I know this is going to be a bumpy road, but this is not entirely new territory. He’ll get through this, as will we. His second surgery was done at the University of Michigan in Anne Arbor and I think we will end up there again. The surgeon there is the best in the country at dealing with sub-aortic stenosis so we are in good hands. In the life, lemons & lemonade department, there is some pretty decent sushi there and my son loves sushi. We won’t finalize the date until the end of March so there will be breathing room for a bit. And that’s where it stands now.
I guess I have exercised my current stress demons and started the mental preparation that will take the next couple months to complete. I feel better for having written about it.
A Thin Line
I’ve been thinking about writing here for weeks now, thinking about it, but not doing it. Part of what stopped me was the need to organize exactly what it is I’m trying to accomplish here. I started this diary in what can only be described as an emotional convulsion, a paroxysm brought on by the news that my family would once again be following my oldest son through a third heart surgery. This Diary section had opened its doors the previous day with the offer of a place to write about anything and I needed to write about something. Notice the word “needed” there?
Need is one of those words that carries two shades of meaning that sit very close to one another. For instance if you tell someone you “need” a minute to think, or that the soup you’ve just tasted “needs” salt, you are talking about a requirement. You need oxygen to breath. You need big shoes to be a clown. Requirements are very much organized and relatively antiseptic things.
The second shade of “need” is sloppier and less pleasant, like a crippled sibling. It’s the meaning that implies neediness. That’s a slightly uglier version of the word. It’s the cigarette-bumming, pan-handling, heroine addicted meaning that makes most right-thinking people cringe a little and then walk the other way.
Well. That’s the meaning I was using back there in the first paragraph.
I broke both of my cardinal rules of conversation in the first two entries here. No whining and absolutely no droning on about my kids. I actually have a reasonably high threshold for both of these things when they are volleyed in my direction. I don’t know. I just like conversation. I’m not sure where the rules came from, but they are tattooed straight into the tissue of my social brain like birthmarks so I usually avoid these topics like a third rail. Apparently I forgot about them when I got going here.
But there was a higher motivation. Really. There was.
The subconscious mind is a freaky animal. At least mine is. The way your subconscious just DOES shit, without any deliberate input from the rest of your conscious mind is discomfiting. It’s like any other involuntary, bodily function. It makes me feel unnecessary, like a stowaway inside a breathing and dreaming contrivance that would function with or without my presence. Of course that’s not the case, but still…
Anyway. I think my subconscious mind knew the surgery was coming before the rest of me did. I think the idea to write about the experience this time was planted before news of the surgery was received. The initial intentions were based more in the first meaning of the word “need.” It was my higher-brain saying, “You need to write about this,” as if imparting some advice. “Write about the experience this time and it will allow you to analyze it, maybe even to learn from it.”
To say that this internal advice was buried under an effusive splatter of emotional response would be a pretty dramatic understatement. I was less analyzing and more opening a vein. That’s what happens when the fish brain takes over, but I think it’s occasionally unavoidable.
The hospital in Michigan is working on setting a date for the surgery during the week of April 20-something. Now we are just waiting. There’s not much going on now but I’d like to follow this experience here. I’ve even loosely planned to carry my laptop into the waiting room during the surgery just to give me something other than god-awful television to occupy my head with. At least that’s what I think I’m planning. I’m sure my subconscious mind is way ahead of that by now, and the fish brain is trying to think of ways to fling emotional paint balloons all over everything. We’ll see how it pans out.
I’m not what you would call a decisive person. I need to explore the grey areas before I can pick a direction. They say the devil is in the details and I guess I believe that. It’s the nuances in any given set of choices that truly paint the picture necessary for an informed decision and I have to explore them before I can make a move. Maybe I am hoping that something will emerge to push me in one direction or the other. Maybe I’m just a paralyzed by choices. I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I am completely unsuited for life in an Intensive Care Unit. I mention this because I am headed for another 5 days of spending time in one.
Let’s be clear on one thing, I fear the ICU experience. I’ve been thinking about it constantly for the past two weeks and I think I’d rather eat spiders than have to spend time in that nexus of organized insanity. It’s like an emotional whitewater. Two weeks of obsessing over it has trickled down to a basic understanding of why the ICU makes me so uncomfortable. There are no grey areas in an ICU. Everything is black or white, right or wrong, life or death, joy or sorrow.
The last one is the real heart of the beast. If the range of human emotions exists along a circle then the extremes are right next to each other. Euphoric joy and abject sorrow are shoulder to shoulder with nothing but a thin line to separate them. An Intensive Care Unit is a place where you stand with one foot on either side of that line, constantly. I can’t even fathom what it must be like to work in one.
There are usually four beds in a pediatric ICU. Four beds, four patients, four nurses and a cacophony of tubes, wires and machines that do everything from monitoring vital statistics to aiding and replacing normal bodily functions. Every nurse and every machine exists for one ultimate purpose. They keep people who are close to death from stepping over the line.
The last time I was with my son in the ICU there was a kid in one of the other beds who had been in a bad car accident. I never got his full story beyond a few basic details. He was a high school kid from Michigan. He was a football player. He was in critical condition.
On the day of my son’s surgery the whole extended family was at the hospital. There were eight of us, which I thought was a lot, but there were about twenty people there for this kid on that day. His whole family was there and there were classmates and his teachers as well. The waiting room was covered in hand made posters with good wishes and pictures of him. Only two people per patient are allowed in the ICU at any given time so both their group and ours were taking shifts. The place was thick with worry and hope.
By the next morning the kid had died. He crossed the line. The first outward sign that this had happened was the complete absence of his people in the waiting room. My family and I came in with coffee and stuff and found the place empty. Most of the posters and flowers and gifts from people wishing good things were gone, but you could still see remnants. I remember wondering who was in charge of taking that stuff down. It was one of those idiotic trains of thought that your mind boards when it just needs to get out of the current situation for a while. My son was recovering well that day. The ICU was whirring along like nothing had happened. The kid’s bed was empty.
This kind of thing goes on every day in an ICU. It’s impossible to avoid. There are emotions splashing around everywhere and they are all at the absolute extremes. When someone you care about is in there, you’re vulnerable. No matter how well your story plays out, you can’t exist in that space without taking a hit. At least I can’t.
We have a date for my son’s surgery. May 15th in the morning. ICU here we come.
The Rhino is In The Room
My kid has been stuck more times than I care to count and he has never gotten used to it. He hates needles. I remember before his first heart catheterization they had to inject Novocain in each of his thighs. They put this numbing cream on and had him sit for ten minutes. My wife and I kept telling him not to worry, that the cream would make it so he wouldn’t feel it. Fat fucking chance, that. It took two male nurses to hold him down while a third did the stabby thing. He screamed his fucking head off. He was three then.
I know that heart surgery is like having a fucking mole removed these days, but it still scares the shit out of me. I think that all of us, my whole family, are floating in a pre-freak-out limbo now. Aware of the storm over the horizon, we’ve been content to pretend it’s a long way out. We’ve been ambling through our daily lives and ignoring the worry, stress and nerves that each one of us feels. We’re all complicit in this and I like to think it’s because we are all close.
It helps that things have been a special flavor of hectic for the past two weeks. My business partner decided to leave a few weeks ago as part of what looks to me like a mid life crisis of epic proportions. The net result has been a combination of easy and crazy. The legal split was easy. Done in two weeks. The result of the split is me doing the work of two people, which is crazy. I did two weeks of working at a full sprint, taking a couple hours of sleep each night and then running like hell again the next day.
As crazy as the last month has been, it’s been kind of nice. The surgery was still something we could all see in the distance but could just as easily ignore. Time keeps moving though. We’re less than a month out now and it’s getting harder to miss the rhino in the room. Over the past two weeks we have been solidifying all the plans for the trip to Michigan: What to do with the dog, travel and hotel arrangements and the need to alert my clients of my upcoming hiatus. The upshot is we’ve reached the unavoidable end of the denial phase. Things need to be dealt with.
Way back when he was three and they had just given him simultaneous thigh-needles, he was really pissed at my wife and me. The needles had hurt and we had said that they wouldn’t. That’s a long-scar-guilt-bummer for a parent. This time is going to be much stranger. He’s thirteen. He knows the deal. Over the past couple years I’ve seen him develop the desire to be courageous about needles but even when he’s trying to be brave I can see the fear struggling to get out. It’s heartbreaking to watch your child learn to dissemble.
My son seems ready. He’s showing a fair amount of bravado with respect to his upcoming ordeal but I know he will find that harder when the rubber meets the road. We are flying into Detroit on Sunday the 13th and driving to the hospital in Anne Arbor. Bright and early Monday morning starts all the pre-op work and that is where things will get a little tougher for him. More specifically, that’s when they unveil the first needle.
I’m scared for him.
The Gut Punch
We had a conference call with the knife man two mornings ago and he has introduced some new and rather unexpected information into the mix.
Here’s what we learned this week. The recurring problem with my son’s heart is a result of an undersized aortic valve. Yes there is a little ridge of skin in there that’s making trouble, but the reason it keeps coming back is because of the valve. The valve is too small and it has to go.
This is a bit of a twist because it was our understanding all along that we were cutting him open repeatedly in an attempt to save said valve. Not true. Apparently all of these surgeries have been aimed at preserving the ventricle itself. Preventing it from thickening or developing too much scar tissue. Well fuck. It’s not like we haven’t asked questions. My wife is a pit bull when it comes to doctors. Somehow, this is the first we are hearing about all of this, but OK. I’ll chalk it up to the rapidly advancing field of cardio-thoracic surgery.
What they are proposing is called a Ross procedure. A Ross procedure involves replacing the aortic valve with the pulmonary valve and then putting a human donor valve in the pulmonary valve position. Why not just replace the aortic valve? The aortic valve endures a lot more pressure than the pulmonary valve so a replacement will wear and calcify over time. Even a human donor valve would need to be replaced every 3 years or so. The pulmonary valve has an easier job. If you replace a pulmonary valve with a human donor valve it will only need to be redone every 10 years or so.
By executing this valve switcheroo, they are hoping to eliminate the recurring problem with the aortic valve and the sub-aortic stenosis. Because they will use live tissue from my son’s own heart, the valve should never need replacing. The added bonus is that the procedure will also remove the stenosis and leave us with a ten year tune up schedule for the pulmonary valve. Every ten years for the rest of his life. Is anyone else’s head spinning?
Here’s a picture of what my 13 year old son’s heart could look like by late afternoon on May 16th:
The Ross procedure is recommended for several reasons. One, my son is young and has a long life expectancy. That’s good. Two, my son is young and therefore can endure a very long and very complicated heart surgery. That’s a little sketchy from where I’m standing. Three the whole 3 year cycle I just rambled on about, and four, if they replaced the aortic valve with a mechanical version he would have to be on blood thinners for the rest of his life. Not good.
So here is the weird thing. This is really crazy news. We just went from a fairly simple surgery, as far as open heart surgery goes, to a procedure so complex that it boggles my mind a little. Everything I’ve read about a Ross procedure says it should only be attempted by extremely skilled surgeons. This is major fucking kung fu here. Strangely, I’m almost unfazed by this news. My wife is the same. We both said “fuck” and just moved on. The surgeon in question is one of the best in the world and frankly I think we are just so close to jump street that we can’t stop to process this. I know it’s big, though. Everyone in our extended family is now scared shitless. They were scared before, but this is orders of magnitude larger.
It’s funny. I know that I was just punched hard in the stomach, but I can’t feel it yet. I want to think good things about doctors, but doctors mixed with surprises rarely engender warm fuzzy feelings. The surgeon was nice as hell, he really was, but nice means fuck all in this case. He could be a gold-medal-winning motherfucker as long as he knows what he’s doing. I know that his warmth and approachability probably made the blow easier to take. Still. It doesn’t matter how nice a guy is when he hits you.
This fucker better bring his A game to the table on the 15th.
Air Travel Sucks
I’m thirty thousand feet over North America on my way to Michigan and I feel like throwing up. I hate flying. I used to love it when I was young and single, but the first time I boarded a plane as a parent I nearly shat myself. I’ve loathed the whole process ever since. I’m trying to read CHANNEL ZERO but there are two guys sitting next to me talking about nothing non-stop. It’s one of those oneupsmanship conversations about verbally bitch slapping douche-bag coworkers. An hour and a half of “Then I said… then SHE said…” and “Oh, and by the WAY…” I’d like to suffocate these two baboons with the complimentary barf bags.
Oof. Am I overreacting?
We are safely installed in a room at the Med Inn here at the University of Michigan Health Center in beautiful Anne Arbor. On the way from the airport I saw one of those odd religious billboards. It was all black with white letters and it said “As my apprentice, you’ll never get fired. -God. I think I know where the guy who wrote that was trying to go but it felt like he missed the mark by a bit. It was just weird.
After some scrambling around I managed an internet connection through my phone so I can check email and get some work done this week. It’s gonna be a bit of a haul. We found out that the actual surgery will take four or five hours. Bit of a shocker there. His last two were forty five minutes each. I used to drive home to Connecticut from Washington DC in five hours. That’s a long fucking time. I have two FABLES trades to get me through, but I’m going to chew through them both during that wait. I’m hoping this town has a decent LCBS so I can stock up for the rest of the week.
Tomorrow is testing. They will do an echocardiogram and take blood and ask a bunch of questions. We won’t actually get to talk to the surgeon again until right before the surgery on Tuesday, but tomorrow we will find out how much of that four or five hours will be spent on the heart/lung machine. That will basically define the time we’ll wait for that phone in the waiting room to ring on surgery day. I know that 45 minutes felt like forever the last two times. Four or five hours? Jesus Christ.
My son is now starting to show some nerves. Nothing crazy, but being in this giant hospital with a 9:00AM Hypodermic needle call is bringing home the ground reality. We’re all pretty scared.
In the mean time we went out and gorged on sushi tonight. Here is a picture of the toughest kid I’ve ever had the honor to know.
We are five hours from go time.
I hate this day. Here’s the thing. I know we’re at a great hospital. I know that the surgeon is one of the best in the world. I know the vast weight of probability says that my son will come through this surgery fine. I’ve been through this twice before and I know that statistics are on our side. So why am I afraid?
I’m afraid because I have to kiss my son goodbye today and I have to really mean it. I think all the worry and stress comes down to that one kiss. It’s a kiss with a lot of baggage.
It’s a hard thing to do, to kiss your child goodbye when it could really mean goodbye. Statistics don’t mean shit then.
It’s done. We’re home. Everything turned out well.
In the end, the complicated valve-juggling act was not necessary. The surgeon was able to sort out most of the problem without compromising the valve or destroying the conduction system. That was apparently quite a feat of daring do. Even he was surprised at pulling it off. Right before the surgery he told us his goal was to avoid the Ross procedure. That’s a funny thing, eh? This guy gets up every morning and fixes hearts as big as your fingertip for a living. He does two a day, three days a week and that’s what he does. He’s the nicest guy. I honestly think he views hearts a little like a good mechanic views carburetors. “Tricky little bastards, but I’ve done a bunch of them and I’ve got a few tricks.”
What he could not tell us was that the problem was fixed for good, quite the contrary in fact. He couldn’t imagine a scenario in which my son would not need more surgeries. Because of the close proximity of the stenosis to the aortic valve and the conduction system it was impossible to remove the entire obstruction without destroying one or the other. That’s why it keeps coming back and why it will continue to do so. Continually excising this tissue will eventually lead to a combination of damage and scar tissue which will eventually lead to larger problems There is a very high probability that he will eventually require a valve replacement or a pacemaker.
That kind of sucks, but it could be worse. The silver lining is the time frame. The Surgeon of Oz thought it might be another ten years before we have to revisit this. Ten years. My son will be in his twenties in ten years. I have experienced the rapid advancements in the field of cardio thoracic surgery first hand. Ten years is science fiction time in that business.
I’m choosing to consider this good news.
It’s funny how a week in the waiting room and the ICU can sledgehammer your perspective back into place. Once again I met a lot of people facing circumstances much more dire than mine. My son was out of the ICU in less than 24 hours. He was walking around 3 days later and we took him to lunch at a Mongolian barbecue place on day 4. He was discharged from the hospital and flew home less than a week after surgery. Today he was in the park, running around with his buddies. Damn.
I met a lot of people last week that have way harder roads. During my son’s short stint in the ICU, an infant in the next bed went into cardiac arrest and had to be defibrillated. The jolting burst the stitches on his heart and he needed surgery right then and there. The baby’s father was from Kentucky and man this guy loved to talk. We had met the day before while both of our children were running the gauntlet of pre-op testing. His baby boy was actually born with a tetralogy of fallot. All of his organs were still outside of his body at birth. I heard a lot from this guy about his child. He said his boy was a fighter and had been since the day he sucked air.
I ran into him a couple times after my son was out of ICU and every time things were changing. One day was good, the next he would come back from getting coffee to find that no, he could not get back into the ICU to sit by his son’s bed and that he should call any family close enough to get there fast. This guys’ roller-coaster was way fucking crazier than mine, and he was one of many.
I never got his name, nor the names of a few other people whose hospital journey’s paralleled mine. It’s weird. I think it’s because the bond we shared was worry but not about the same thing. Each of us had our own very personal locus of worry. It’s hard for people to form real relationships when they are busy thinking “I just want my kid to be OK so we can get the hell out of here.” There is just too much necessary yet uncomfortable selfishness to deal with. It’s not something you want to be reminded of.
We’re done for a while. My son picked up a viral infection that slowed the recovery for a week and gave my wife and I another set of myocardial infarctions, but he’s good. He’s healthy. He’s already becoming a real pain in my ass again.
Yeah. I’m definitely going to consider this good news.
It’s a matter of time before a social-media addicted public hungry for information that isn’t there is going to latch onto misinformation broadcast by an irresponsible news industry and an innocent person is going to get lynched.
What made them suspect him? He was running—so was everyone. The police reportedly thought he smelled like explosives; his wounds might have suggested why. He said something about thinking there would be a second bomb—as there was, and often is, to target responders. If that was the reason he gave for running, it was a sensible one. He asked if anyone was dead—a question people were screaming. And he was from Saudi Arabia, which is around where the logic stops.
“A 2.7-hectare enclave of opium parlours, whorehouses and gambling dens run by triads, it was a place where police, health inspectors and even tax collectors feared to tread.In Cantonese, it was known as the City of Darkness.”
That leaves one final question. What kind of commodity is Bitcoin if its not a currency? Well, its a technologically-impressive product out to revolutionize the world with absolutely no fundamentals to justify its billion-dollar valuation. Its the ultimate dotcom stock, minus the sock puppet.
I am flying. The world skids beneath me, fat and verdant. Sun winks off the ocean and the air around me is cold. Tiny drops of frozen vapor glitter with morning.
I am soaring. There is light inside of me. I’m filled with it. It spills behind me in a blinding contrail as I bank over land leaving a shimmering wake.
I am controlled by thought. The clouds graze quietly as I rush past. The view is dizzying. I can see the great curving arc of the planet’s horizon.
I am laughing. I roar over the tops of mountains and and make for the edge of gravity’s great well. I pass through layers of sky, troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, and dive into the great empty ocean of space.
I am free. The aerodynamic rush of air is gone. Without it’s resisting push I am silent and frictionless. The universe stretches out before me, an endless field of stars and cartwheeling galaxies.
I am coming apart. The edges of my solid form fray and fall away. Holes open and spread. I am disintegrating. My body dissipates and my spirit expands to fill the volume of an infinite vessel.
I am everywhere. I am everything. I am never and always. And all around me there are angels singing.
In concert with
The city woke with a start. Where empty streets had lay languid and cool there were cars. People crowded the sidewalks their shoulders rubbing and purpose painted grim and hard on their faces. Steam shot from underground tubes and passengers rocked in racketing train cars. Morning had come to the city. The day had begun.
An armada of small boats set sail from the docks, their sails bellying with wind as they shot towards the open ocean. Warehouses filled with fishmongers. The catch was hauled in from great trawlers and mountains of wriggling small-fish were tossed into buckets. Apprentices scurried with slat-built buckets of clams strung across their shoulders on yolks made of wood. And blood ran in rivers accross wet concrete floors as caarcasses were parceled into glistening, ruby loins in an orderly ritual of long knives and gloved hands. Cylces swarmed from warehouse to shop as awnings were lifted and front doors unlocked.
On Whistle Street the bakeries opened great ovens. Iron doors swung on sturdy hinges and the city filled with the smell of fresh bread. Nearer the center of town coffee shops filled with distracted people reading and shaking off the measured pace of home. Telegraph wires hummed and vaccum tubes sent capsules rocketing between buildings as pidgeons soared skyward in fluttering clouds.
The farmers market erupted. Grocers stalked stalls knocking on melons while plucked and headless fowl hung like feathered ornaments over bowls piled with eggs. Baskets of peppers spilled onto the floor. Buckets and bowls piles with berries were picked over and inspected by jacketed butlers and sous-chefs with bags made from burlap strung over their shoulders. Tulips and roses lay prone in great bundles between mountains of nuts and figs and dates.
Outside the train station, street vendors leaned over billows of steam as great rings of sausages sizzled in round metal pans and customers lined up groggy and blinking. And the roads filled with trucks bringing livestock to the auctions and slaughterhouses where men wearing blood-spattered aprons smoked cigaretters and sharpened their tools.
It was as if a great switch had been thrown and the city, once silent and motionless, had been electrified to life in a sudden shock.
In the midst of the awakinging chaos stood a small man dressed in a dust-covered coat and a frayed top-hat with a feather tucked into the band. He was poishing his glasses and humming. Above him a road ran from the city’s thumping heart to the top of Bell Hill where the mansions and manors of the wealthy sat gated and gardened.
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