May 14, 2005

Alfred

David almost died last week. His heart stopped for twenty minutes. It happened in the hospital, just as his doctors completed heart surgery. Later the doctors told him that very few people survive such an experience with functioning brains. If his heart had stopped just a few minutes later, after they had wheeled him into the recovery room, he would have died for sure. What saved him was immediate access to oxygen. (Later the anesthesiologist said that his hands shook the entire time, which I can totally imagine: you take five seconds too many and the patient ends up a vegetable.)

I saw him yesterday at his apartment, and he told me about a radio play he wrote in his head while recovering in the hospital. It’s called Alfred Saves Himself and it’s almost entirely silence. It lasts five or six hours. Periodically you hear the sounds of different machines. A phone rings but no one picks it up. Then it rings again, and this time it’s answered. There’s some terse dialogue about Alfred deciding not to come over. At one point you hear the wheels of two janitor carts and distance voices. (The wheels were my idea. I suggested them after David explained that the voices belong to janitors.)

What’s happening is, David is dying. Each time I see him he’s farther along, farther away. We don’t talk about it.