Too little, and Despair crawls out from the depths of your Soul and mires you downward.
Too much, and you're a delusional fool.
On Tuesday, November 9th, I was invited to take a trip to the beating heart of the Bay Area, San Francisco. The UCSF Medical Center is roughly two miles southeast of Golden Gate Park.
Once inside, I made my way to the 7th Floor of 400 Parnassus Avenue. I took the stairs because elevators are home to body odors of unimaginable strength and duration.
The Surgeon, Social Worker, Financial and Transplant Coordinator's seemed pleased to see me.
After six and a half years of Life Crushing Dialysis, Hope had made its presence known.
I'm at the top of the UCSF Transplant Ready List. Fucking go time.
When I arrived home later that day, I heard something whimpering in the far corner of my bedroom, under my Fortress of Solitude. (That's what I call my bed, for obvious reasons.)
I knelt down and pulled back the comforter that was blocking my view underneath. My computer bag, duffel bag, and veteran backpack were all resting comfortably in their usual locations.
But the whimpering continued. Louder. Filled with suffering and pain.
I moved my meager possessions aside and grabbed my portable flashlight. I had to find out what the hell was going on.
His eyelids cowered in the direct light. His body moved side to side abruptly, attempting to avoid the invasion.
He was a round little fuzzball, about the size of a regulation baseball. He appeared to be originally snow white, but years of neglect had darkened him with the dust and dank of time.
"Hey, I remember you," I said in my softest voice possible. "Its okay. I promise I'll be nice."
His eyes widened and he turned his back to me. I hadn't been very kind to him in the past.
"Listen to me very carefully. I...won't...yell. I...promise."
I reached my hand slowly under the bed and placed my palm upward. My fingers acknowledged it was okay to approach.
For what seemed like an eternity passed before he budged an inch. Trust was being formed, but it would take time.
Eventually, but slowly at first, he rolled his frail figure closer and closer to my hand.
Once in my hand, I could feel the caked on dirt. It smelled of neglect.
I slowly brought him into the light. We smiled at one another. No other words needed to be spoken.
Hope was alive. Less than healthy, but alive nonetheless.
An hour later, Hope was on the top shelf of my bookcase with an incredible view of the room. I had gently, with great care, cleaned him. Before I was nearly done, he started to giggle. Apparently it tickled.
Suddnely his face furrowed and he looked as though he might finally speak.
He wanted to know where I had been.
The story spewed out of me. Recklessly. Furiously. With abandon and hate.
I spoke of Dialysis and His resurgence in my Life. His macaroni shaped body, covered in lesions and sores, had reappeared with a vengeance this past year.
Each treatment was the same, creating a tapestry of woe and misery I keep to myself. Every evening, roughly an hour in, He would clamp down on my fistula with His razor sharp teeth and leave me blinded by insufferable pain.
There was no relief.
In times like these, Asshole Stacy resurfaces. He's not a pleasant guy. His weapons are words filled with vitriol and spite.
Much like a sobering drunk, once treatment ceases, he fades into the seams, apologetic and shamed.
He's the one that brings the Evil Thoughts.
Over the years, I've experienced many, many comic books and superhero films.
When I was a child, the division was so easy to understand. As a young boy, I rooted for the hero and pitied the villian. That was the way of things in my young, naive brain. I could never quite grasp how the antagonist could be so very bad.
Dialysis has taught me otherwise.
I understand Evil. I've basked in its shadow and thrilled to its strength. It can be so very delightful in its unending machinations.
But here's where I'm fortunate.
True Stacy was always nearby. Waiting. Watching. Pulling back when needed when Asshole Stacy was far too weak.
That's the only thing that saved me. My true Self. The Self from my memories from so long ago.
For some time, even before the call, True Stacy emerged. A joke here. Silliness there. The honest nature of True Stacy.
Although these are momentary moments, for I tire so easily, they are welcome reminders that True Stacy has a chance.
As I used my flailing limbs and stomping feet to share this story with Hope, I finally felt that the stream had ceased. I plopped down in my office chair, exhausted and spent. I finally had the courage to look into the eyes of Hope.