a selection from:
Intoxicated By My Illness
by Anatole Broyard
(Continuing Part I: Intoxicated by My Illness)
In the first stages of my illness, I couldn't sleep, urinate,
or defecate – the word ordeal comes to mind. Then, when my
doctor changed all this and everything worked again, what a
voluptuous pleasure it was! With a cry of joy I realized how
marvelous it is simply to function. My body, which in the last
decade or two had become a familiar, no-longer-thrilling old
flame, was reborn as a brand-new infatuation. I realize of
course that this elation I feel is just a phase, just a rush of
consciousness, a splash of perspective, a hot flash of ontological alertness. But I'll take it, I'll use it. I'll use everything I can
while I wait for the next phase. Illness is primarily a drama,
and it should be possible to enjoy it as well as to suffer it. I
see now why the Romantics were so fond of illness – the sick
man sees everything as metaphor. In this phase I'm infatuated
with my cancer. It stinks of revelation.
As I look ahead, I feel like a man who has awakened
from a long afternoon nap to find the evening stretched out
before me. I'm reminded of D'Annunzio, the Italian poet, who
said to a duchess he had just met at a party in Paris, "Come,
we will have a profound evening." Why not? I see the balance
of my life – everything comes in images now – as a beautiful
paisley shawl thrown over a grand piano.
Why a paisley shawl, precisely? Why a grand piano? I
have no idea. That's the way the situation presents itself to me.
I have to take my imagery along with my medicine.
[End of selection]