Sunday, August 8, 2010
I wake up to unfamiliar faces and a feeling of extreme discomfort in my throat......
...concerned eyes gaze down at me and as i struggle to rise up I realize that there are about ten wires attached to my chest and multiple IV's streaming from my bruised and pale white arm. Everything is a blur and all i can think of is getting something to drink. A nurse comes in like an angel hearing my thoughts and hands me a cup of ice chips to suck on since actually swallowing water is not only prohibited but nearly impossible. Slowly everything from the past week starts to flash back in my brain. I remember running into him on the street. Scraps of conversation tinged with longing and regret and the thrill as our eyes probe deeper and inevitabbly we kiss, our last kiss. The taste of cocaine and booze on the tip of his tongue, the static shock of his touch as his fingers touch my cheek and the look of satisfaction bacause he knows I'll always love him and I can tell he feels the same. Yet we break away and go our seperate directions, the love confused with lust, the longing masquerading the pain, the connection broken, unrepairable. I remember slowly sinking into a funk for daze, unable to express my feelings as they build inside me, trying to avoid them by digging deeper into work. I try to go out and distance myself from the pain, but everything irritates me, the final straw being a fashion party where everyone is drunk and having fun and falling into faux fabulousness that only reeks to me now as i realize that it is no longer my world, nor one i wish to ever indulge in again. I remember the final shoot with a new muse and editing the fim in a clouded haze of counterfeit happiness. And that's when it all goes black. I wake up five days later to a destroyed apartment, bottles everywhere a sinking feeling of disgust that I had allowed myself to fall off the fucking wagon again. But what's worse is something is wrong with me, a swelling in my throat that defies description and an inner sense of impending doom that something terrible is about to happen. I pull on some clothes without realizing I've paired purple jeans with a fuscia vest and in great grape ape mode dial 911 and head downstairs to wait for my chariot which arrives within minutes and deposits me in the ER at Mount Sanai. By this point i can barely breath, I'm woozy and all I can think of is whether or not I turned off my laptop and if i backed up the 5000 photos I had shot in the past week on my hard drive. Completely sick. The doctors examine me and look grave, multiplying in number until i realize something really messed up is going on. A very cute doctor straight out of Grey's Anatomy McDreamy status looks me straight in the eye and tells me I have acute Esophagitis and because of my HIV status there's a possibility that the anti-biotics won't work unless they induce me into a coma and stream them into me by IV. This freaks me out because it's basically how my father died four years ago after surviving stage three lung cancer only to have the chemo scar his lungs and make him uncapeable of breathing so he was induced into a come from which he never woke up. Thirty days later I was the one to pull the plug and I've never really gotten over the fact that I wasn't able to really say goodbye to him. I basically spent the next four years unable to grieve him and sinking deeper & deeper into my addiction, in and out of rehabs, destroying relationships, almost killing myself and distancing myself further & further from the increasingly wonderous benefits of my burgeoning art career and unable to enjoy the fuits of 30 years of intensive labour & carreer ups & downs and an undying dedication to being creative on a daily basis. All of this floods through me like tsunami of emotional torment and I don't even feel the injection or realize that I am going under until the last image in my mind are his blue eyes telling me i love you and that everything will be alright when I fear that it won't and that this is the end and I've fucked it all up for the last time and there are no more chances left. I have finally outlived my more than 9 lives. And then I wake up. Two days later, a little worse for wear and a storm of confusion becomes clear as I focus and hear the first words that make any sense at all..."Walt, you're awake. Thank God. You almost died"...and I realize I have so much more to live for and that everything is going to be alright if I can just learn to let go and open my heart and not keep everything inside and ask my friends and familt for help instead of beating myself to a self destructed pulp of fractured fiction. I'm in the hospital for a week, unable to swallow, afraid of my future and wishing it had never happened. But my friends rally round me and fill me with love & support & guidance & help me make right choices. I get my stuff in order once I'm released from the ICU and spend a few days cleaning up the mess of my life and taking a few last pictures and saying goodbye for a bit. Today I'm 46 days sober. Trying the whole thing again, hopefully in a more clear way and without the baggage to distract me. Setting myself on restart, repramming my brain and looking at the glass as less than half empty and more than half full. Not afraid of the future, but wise enough to learn from my mistakes. Humbled & haunted, raging but unregretful, sad but sanguine, beaten yet beyonder. Ready to come back and once again start all over. Comfortable to be alone? Not really. But willing to give it a try. realizing that my mistakes and choices were all mine and that I from now on everything I do is a desicion I make alone, not blaming others or myself, but looking at a future fillied with infinite possibilities and the realization that things don't have to suck. Satisfaction is possible and personal bliss is of my own making, something I have to search out within myself and not the fleeting moments of ecstacy found in indulgences with others. That love is possible only if I can learn to forgive myself. Not forget, but learn from the past and keep the future open to everything and anything that comes my way.
text & photos by walt cessna