To lie in bed, to give way to the counterforce of an immense fatigue, to float between dream and waking, to remember the past, to have nothing in your mind, to have everything in your mind, to see the faces bent over you, looking worried, there’s my wife, there’s her mother. Someone puts a wet cloth to his lips. What’s that strange raspy sound? Someone in this room is having trouble breathing.

There are endless passages through which he must walk, until he realizes he no longer has the use of his legs. There are things he has left undone. It is spring and the window is open, there are voices. They ask him many questions. How are you, how do you feel, do you feel better? Surely they don’t expect him to answer. He hadn’t been able to say, though he meant to say, that he had to piss. He won’t tell them the sheet is wet. They might be angry. He wants them to stay as they are now, with their smiling intent faces - her face, his face. They are holding his hands. How warm their hands are. They have taken him in their arms. He hears the crinkling of cloth. That is his wife on his left side. He can feel her bosom. And that is his friend on the other side. He is in his friend’s left arm. He hopes he is not too heavy for them. There is a big hollow space inside his chest where the pain used to be.

He has escaped the dungeon of thought. He feels elated. He is climbing. It is a laborious ascent. But now the mountain no longer has to be climbed. He has climbed. By a kind of levitation. He was looking up for so long, and now he can look down from this high place. It is a big panorama. So this is dying, thought the Cavaliere.

Susan Sontag The Volcano Lover October 1, 2008
Posted on October 1, 2008