01 June 2009

Tory Dent

[from Tory Dent's HIV, Mon Amour, Sheep Meadow, 1999]

Fourteen Days in Quarantine [excerpt]


My physician arrived every day at about 9:00 am, announcing himself with
    that jingle
of raps on my door which signifies a friend, not foe, outside. He never
wore the prerequisite quarantine mask, perhaps because he knew the
of exposure and didn't feel his short visits to be a danger or perhaps because
he thought that communicating with a full face was important for our
for my confidence in him, in the treatment decisions, in myself as something
more than another verified statistic with tubes flowing out from my
limbs attached to plastic bags of clear medication, my form reconfigured as
needing something larger than a god, something scientifically derived in order
to be sustained. For the most part it worked, the matching up of my two
the reality of me sick and the memory of me well, centered my soul like glass
slides containing a blood smear for microscopic inspection. Particularly in the
contact when we discussed the alternatives, in the pauses after when we
looking at each other in mutual contemplation of the seriousness of the
I would sense myself positioned thus between the imagined researcher's
And the gut feeling I had always associated with the word "Tory", the specific
white pine amidst the general landscape, would be brought into sharp focus as
gently held down, trembling vase on rudimentary table within the bomb
security of the room. We would watch almost as if a third party were present,
the potential for it to be blown apart like any ordinary structure in a tornado,
where wooden fences lie prostrate and barn animals soar upward into an ever
sky; where I, a juxtapositional series of flashbacks and idiosyncratic urges
superimposed upon each other like pages of a memoir that comprises a
    kinetic, almost
moaning kind of narrative, might disappear also into the indefeasible spiral


On the eve before the TB drugs were reintroduced, my physician and I
tossed a coin in order to decide which one would likely cause another
allergic response akin to that which had required hospitalization a week
earlier. The embossed profile of George Washington signified Rifampin instead
of Ioniazid, a choice that brought no reassurance since the outcome remained
equally uncertain: I continued revolving, a quarter dollar in the air, glints
of fluorescence ricocheting off our forefather's cheekbone, the claw-foot of
the eagle alighted atop of neither branch nor rock. I beheld, beholden to the
sight as if some mystical vision, the literal turning of my fate, its infinite
axis where, like a glistened pig self-reflecting on the spit, or a convertible
that, having overshot its ultimate goal of the highway, teeters upon a
cracked precipice, I lay as if held out, a barbaric gift. A slab of marble
was the gurney cot of my hospital bed and the springs digging against my back
could be interrupted as actual pressure from the vast, the pale, from the
frameless filigree of winter branches, skyscrapers and truncated river. To
that from which no voice would emit I was forced to entrust my failing body
my life's possessions in a bundle and stick willed to their abandonment.
It seemed as if the days and nights I spent in quarantine evolved into a
kind of extension of that eve, that particular night a metonymical event
occurring within the greater overarching eve that delineates this world
from the next, the schematic of which one experiences as sinking into twilight
the way the shipwrecked do into the ocean, the way HIV overrides my body as
if overwriting the flesh, the waterline rising above my upturned, gaping face.
It was as if my body were asking for the privilege to be viewed as remains,
to be given the opportunity to float unfettered away from me, to struggle
for a while, alternately bob and drown, allowed to live or die on its own.

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