My Visual Diary class has unofficially extended itself into meeting every other Tuesday at a gallery in Soho. We are a smaller group and I am the only woman other than Susan, who is leading the gathering. It is lovely to be back with these guys. I enjoy talking about photography, looking at each other's work and growing into an intimacy and trust that allows us to reveal more vulnerability and doubt as we hunt around inside our creative processes looking for openings, and new discoveries. That can only happen when a group bonds and becomes a "safe space".
Tonight I suggested we go for something to eat after "class" and six of us went to "Spring Street Natural" - the solid, stand-by restaurant in my old neighborhood. Everything about that neighborhood is still home - every store, sign, window, and building, even though I moved away a year ago. Towards the end of dinner, the young guy sitting to my left, keeled over. As he was doing so, we thought he was joking, but in a second Dante, who was on the other side of him, saw his eyes roll back in his head as I was noticing that his legs were stiff, and he said "This is real". He held the boy's head in his lap and tried to get his tongue which was impossible because the jaw was hammered shut, his body rigid. I held his back while Dante kept talking to him softly. Finally he stopped vibrating and was absolutely still, his face had turned blue and his eyes were in the back of his head. Dante was still talking to him, but I thought he was dead. He was lying partially in my lap and partially in Dante's lap, and I had my hand on his heart because I was trying to feel if it was beating. He felt perfectly still and I thought "We've lost him." I motioned to the others to phone for EMS, but the restaurant had already done that, we simply did it again. Then he coughed and I realized he was alive and he ever so slowly started to come back to life. At first conciousness he was completely beligerant and angry and wouldn't let the EMS workers touch him. He had, as his mother explained later, learned to defend himself against the medical establishment in New York City, which shoves people around at great peril to their health. I sat with my arm around his shoulders, talking softly to him, every nurturing element of myself in full flower as he became in one instant my Mother, my cat Mable and all the other wounded I have ever wanted to shelter by holding them to me.
This young guy has a heart condition, which we all knew. It was not until much later, when he was calm and he had allowed the doctors to load him onto the ambulance, that I was standing on the street and overheard the medical history. He is only 25 but has the failing body of someone 85. I realized that he holds tenaciously onto life and his feisty nature and his quick mind are the threads that pull him through. They are tough threads, because despite the frailty of his body, his will is fierce. I keep remembering the feel of his small back in my hand as he was in the grip of the forces at play in his body. His feistiness turned gentle when he did start to listen to me as I whispered in his ear, "We love you, you scared us, you did have a seizure." He was certain that nothing had happened.
This was such a reminder that life is fragile. I love him for his will. The street cat that will fight even when he is torn from wounds. I go to sleep tonight, my hands still cupped from holding.