Conversation with my doctor about a neck injury

December 8, 2014

Doctor: “Well, your neck is a little messed up. Don’t lift anything heavy for a while.”

“How about a chair? I have to move a chair every night.”


“Well, on many nights when I fall asleep let’s just say that I seem to be joined by other people, and when that happens I can’t tell if they’re really in the room with me physically, or just there ... in another way.”

“There are other people in the room with you?”


“Are they dead people?”

“That’s hard to answer. It’s usually more like a parallel universe, though some times it’s clearly something from the past or in the future. For instance, the Indian women I met in Santa Fe have been dead for a very long time, but they’re not dead to me. So I’m not sure ‘dead’ is the right word.”

“Indian women? Ahem ... um ... what does this have to do with a chair?”

“Well, I put a chair behind the front door of the apartment so I know that people can’t physically get into the apartment, at least not without making a lot of noise. That way I can relax when these things happen; I know that these people aren’t there physically, so then I don’t have to worry about them, and I don’t have to try to figure out if I’m asleep or awake.”

“You can’t tell if you’re awake or asleep?”

“Well, once I’m awake, I’m pretty sure I’m awake, but once I go to sleep or take a nap, it’s hard to tell if I’m awake or asleep until I’ve really confirmed that I’m awake. I have to look at my hands; five fingers on each hand usually means I’m awake, any other number tells me I’m asleep, though there have been a couple of times where I had five fingers and I was still asleep. Of course that can be really confusing.”

“Of course.”

Long pause.

“Getting back to your apartment, how do you know that people -- physical people -- haven’t gotten into your apartment through your windows?”

“Good question! I’ve considered that, but I live on the second floor, so it’s a risk I can live with. I figure that if someone comes through a second story window or the balcony, they must really want something.”


“Why haven’t you told me this before?”

“You would have thought I was crazy.”

“So why are you telling me now?”

“Now I don’t care if you think I’m crazy.”

“Well, that’s a healthy attitude.”


“Do these things ever happen when you’re awake?”


“That’s good.”

“You’re telling me. They keep me busy enough at night. And don’t even get me started on trying to drive a car when you don’t know if you’re awake.”

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