After Mom’s death, life became a tunnel experience. I could only see what was right in front of me. Unless I narrowed my focus consciously, reality had a strange shadow over my line of vision. I went to the eye doctor, thinking I had a cataract, but everything was normal. I think my mind was trying to spare me the full force of pain that, crouching in the darkness of my peripheral vision, waited to pounce.
I watched my automated self get up to the alarm, get ready, eat my cardboard spinach and eggs, work, go home, sleep. Food was tasteless. Dreamless sleep left no sense of peace or rest.
One night, with the clear fall sky dropping it’s curtain of vivid black, cold stars, I stopped at a red stoplight. For some reason, I looked to the right. My eyes fell on the small, brick “Hudson Public Library”. Like a drop of cool water on my dull eyes, I felt a small ripple, and sensed a warmth in the golden glow of the windows of that building. Without realizing it, I had hit the turn signal right. When the light turned green, I turned onto the dead end street, then left into the parking lot. My eyes fell on the digital clock on my dashboard. 8:53. Closed in seven minutes. I turned off the ignition and unclicked my seatbelt, staring at the clock. 8:54.
I couldn’t tell you when I decided to exit the car, but at some point, that’s what I did. It was just me, a red Ferrari, and a blue Dunebuggy. Inside the library, because of the flourescent lights I had to squint at first. In spite of my last minute entrance, I received a quiet smile from the librarian, currently at the circulation desk.
I realized I was still holding my keys, and put them in my pocket. Three computers were across the room, and I selected the first one. I typed in “Cancer”. 1 of 278 possibilities. Instead of scrolling, I noted the first books’ call number, and wandered over to the nonfiction section. Even with the small library, there were so many books. I grabbed one at random, and started to dig through my wallet for the library card I was sure I had signed up for at some point. A relief rose up as I discovered it.
I checked it out, got in my car, and drove home. Instead of falling immediately into my strange void of sleep, I lay on the couch, still in my jacket, and started reading. I finished the entire book in several hours. I don’t remember how, but I fell asleep right right after. I didn’t move from that position until I woke up before my alarm at 5:15 a.m.
After that time, I would go to the library every night. The old book smell, dusty and warm, comforted me on some level. I half expected my skin to start getting the parched, sallow color of the books I read. So much information, but so little practical help. You could maybe change your lifestyle, but there wasn’t a guarantee; you could avoid smoking, and end up with a genetic tendency to lung cancer anyway. A dogged, determined mania would swing to a numbing despair as I progressed in my research.