Dan: Thank you for these pages, Paul. Normally
pitching is prose. Conversation, really.
But yeah, it sure is fun to imagine.
I had hoped to finish our pitch before
going under. Aware that surgery
carries with it the possibility
of not waking up. Uncontrollable
bleeding. Heart failure, stroke. Clots. Infection
in the days after. In the days before
I start anxiously googling myself,
to somehow assert I’m alive, and find,
instead of my author’s photo, Google’s
using an image of Kevin Carter,
a white South African war reporter
in the nineties, member of the so-called
Bang Bang Club, who won a Pulitzer Prize
the same year as you, who haunts you because
he killed himself. What could it mean? What kind
of sign is this? I leave my wedding ring
on the dresser top. Wear comfortable shoes.
Drive to City of Hope, in the desert,
where in the 1920s and thirties
tuberculosis patients came to die.
Some survived, of course. Like Eugene O’Neill,
though he didn’t convalesce here. He’s been
a hero of mine, till lately. Long Day’s
Journey into Night felt like a memoir
of my own childhood. I saw it in school
and walked out of there like I was walking
on air. I worshipped him. But I fear him
now, his life’s tragedy. I want to live
comedies now. I disrobe. Nurses plug
a hose blowing warm air into a hole
in my paper gown. Make a pincushion
of my veins. Put socks on me. The gas man
stops by to creepily ask if he can
bend my head backward precipitously
while I lie unconscious, the easier
to ram his breathing tube in. Dr. Fong,
my surgeon, is world-famous. He’s smiling
as I roll into the operating
theater. Just another workday for them.
Blue gowns and masks. The bold white freezing room.
More intros offered. Ceiling lights whirling
like UFOs. Or medical halos.
Fong: Oh, about six hours. We’ll open you up
along the same incision the other
surgeon used for your colon resection
in March. We’re going to have to cut higher
though, because we need to reach that corner
of your liver next to your diaphragm
here, on this side. Feel it? We’re going to take
about fifteen percent of your liver,
at least that’s the plan. Your gallbladder too,
just for good measure. Ha ha ha. It’s good
you’ll be wide open! We’ll see more that way,
lesions the scans have missed. I’ll feel around.
—Don’t worry! I’ve done this a thousand times.
What does Malcom Gladwell say? Anyway,
I’ve got that beat. I’ve got a good feeling
about you. Feeling sleepy? Breathe in, Dan.
Breathe in. You like Trump? What are you thinking
Dan: Did he ask me that? Lights slowly
Fong: Oceans of refugees, children drowning dimming.
Dan: A while back I gave him my play
about you, Paul. Inscribed. I was hoping
he might surgeon a little bit harder
if he liked my playwriting. He’d studied
medieval lit at Brown. The next visit
he said he’d tried to read my play. Teared up
as he confessed. It was too sad! he cried.
I couldn’t finish! He seems confused, Paul,
as people sometimes are, as to whether
you’re a real person or just somebody
I made up. They think I’m you. I confuse
myself sometimes too.