Recently, in the early stages of falling asleep, as the conscious mind began to blur with the subconscious mind, I began to panic in that sleepy way. My body was solid and drifting toward sleep, but my mind began to stalk a fear from waking life. The day before I had taken off the compression socks I wear to increase circulation and noticed a bruise, dark purple and bright red, where the sock ends just below the knee. I wondered then about blood clots, a random thought that snuck in from a distant memory in which a friend told me not to wear the leggings that end just below the knee for this very reason. Could compression socks be dangerous, too? I’d told myself I would look it up online, but, of course, I didn’t. Now, with an ache in my shoulder, (was that the blood clot traveling?), the fear resurfaced, insistent. One part of my mind tried to coax my body out of bed (just check the damn web); another part tried to rationalize the mind into recognizing the absurdity of the fear (just go to sleep).
My fear was bolstered by the fact that my grandmother—who had walked every day, watched her diet, and taken her blood pressure medication—had suffered a debilitating stroke because of a blood clot. She had lain on the floor of her house we guessed for three days before my mom called my brother to go and check on her. He found her lying in her urine and feces, barely conscious. At the hospital, she regained some of her strength, pulling her hands out of their restraints, and drawing the feeding tube out of her throat. But she couldn’t talk any more, only moan, some terrible and awful saga that none of us could translate. She died several months later in a nursing home (a choice that nearly killed my mother), but, of course, we had already lost her.
In bed, a sudden realization penetrated my split consciousness: I cannot protect myself from what happened to my grandmother. She had done everything right, I could do everything right, still she had died and so would I.
Soon enough, I was sleeping.