The idea for this trip came while staring at the wall. I was thinking maybe if it collapsed on top of me I’d feel something.
By this point, I’d spent four years getting intimately acquainted with this room, this bed. One moment, I was a high school athlete and scholarship prospect. The next, with no warning or explanation, my tomorrow was drowned by an immobilizing wave of sickness.
At first, each day felt closer to inevitable improvement. People get sick, and then they get better. But months passed, and nothing changed. I shipped off enough blood samples to nourish a coven of vampires. The doctors, for all their training, had nothing more substantive to offer than some shit about how “time heals all wounds,” which I’m pretty sure they got from a Hallmark bereavement card.
Read: they don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me. Half of them suspect that I am inventing symptoms for attention. The prescribed treatment consists of crossed fingers and positive thinking.
I’d trade, if such a thing were possible, for something with a punchy title. Cancer patients get casseroles and sympathy cards and timelines. I get polite incredulity. On the upside, I’m alive, from a medical standpoint.
Imagine that you can’t think. Can’t move. Your body is wracked with chills. Your mind plays tricks and you never knew that fatigue could be painful, knife-sharp, and all-consuming and unrelenting. The sun rises, and it sets, and time becomes meaningless when you are a slave to the whims of your functionality. You wake, and you wish you hadn’t. When you must crawl across the room, every slow inch a victory and a humiliation, you begin to wonder if you are still human. You are stripped of hopes and dreams and plans until nothing remains but a raw animal, clawing to survive the next breath.
Maybe a camper-van odyssey seems a bizarre answer to a debilitating medical condition. They said I had no option but to vegetate, marinate in hopeless uncertainty, stew in my own suffering. Fuck that. I tried it for a few years, and it didn’t agree with me. A Plan B, however crazy, can only be an improvement. A lack of itinerary means we can work around my body’s functionality rather than at cross-purposes. This isn’t the sort of thing one can outrun. But as I stared at the wires protruding from the ceiling of the van, gathering strength to insert an improvised light switch, I felt a whisper of hope. Clarence, complete with propane stove and folding bed, is the only thing in the world that is properly mine. This staves off the fear of watching money trickle from my bank account with no means to replace it.