I didn't want to leave the hospital.
It was early November, 1999.
I'd arrived in the Emergency Room, my system under attack by bacterial meningitis. I was in Intensive Care for a couple of days, and then transferred to a regular room.
Meningitis messed with my mind. Early on, as I lay unconscious, I was dimly aware of occupying a surreal, but enjoyable world. It was more a feeling than a memory with details, but within myself I had the pleasant sensation of floating, of being removed from the demands of my waking life. When I had conscious moments in the ICU, the world around me seemed wrapped in a vivid cheesecloth and people moved in slow motion. They were dreamy and I felt deep trust in their benevolence.
By the time I was conscious again, I felt deeply emotional. Small gestures, the visits of friends, the sounds of the Buena Vista Social Club or of Jerry Douglas with Peter Rowan, the Ducks winning a close game with Cal all made me want to weep, and I kept thinking that I wanted to hang on to this close contact with my emotions.
One morning I awoke early and out my room window I gazed at a hill just east of the University of Oregon as the sun rose and thin mist shimmered in the sunrise and I felt a rumbling all through me, as if I were seeing the world at the very beginning, as if the creation were happening before my very eyes.
The meningitis had damaged my body, unquestionably. It also left me unguarded and in my defenseless state everything was sublime. The nursing staff seemed angelic. I could hardly wait for another one to check in on me so I could hear his or her kind voice and watch the nurse glide effortlessly to my side and minister to my needs.
The most blessed experience I had was drinking 7-Up. Its crisp, icy, lemon-lime sweetness made me think that the gods had blessed my life with a magical blend of refreshment and
curative. I asked every nurse for more 7-Up. Soon, when a nurse visited, she glided in with a iced 7-Up before I could ask. I nearly wept, I was so touched by the nurses' kindness and by the anticipation of drinking more.
I didn't protest, but when it came time to leave the hospital, I didn't want to go. I wanted to remain ill enough to be able to live longer in this altered state and to feel this mysterious benevolence.
Sure enough, as I recovered, I not only lost this bacterial nirvana I had experienced, I fell into a terrible depression.
All I had felt and seen was lost, and not even when I fell into the deep sleeps engendered by the terrible fatigue I suffered, did I ever again love another sunrise so fully, nor did 7-Up ever again taste so good.