Kick the Can

“Where there are men, there can be no peace,”—Mr. Wickwhire, The Twilight Zone 

Switching back to standard time after months of Daylight Savings feels fucked up in it’s own right, but add in Molissa’s complete collection of The Twilight Zone, and you have a recipe for total batshit oddness. Tonight, 3rdworldimagineer presents my three favorite episodes, excerpted here for your enjoyment.  Why, you may ask, do I have three favorite episodes of an early 1960’s sci-fi show? Excellent question. 

As some readers may know, I was very sick as a child. The story goes a little something like this: On the morning of September 3rd, 1994, while my identical twin sister was choosing her socks for our first day of 3rd grade, I was suffering acute spinal shock, the result of something called transverse myelitis, an autoimmune diseases they sometimes name-check on House, MD. You can Google it, if you’re curious. 

I would spend the next month in Kaiser San Francisco’s Pediatric Ward—part of it in the ICU, but most of it in Room 603, where, over a period of about three weeks, I would watch some two or three dozen episodes. I was eight, and paralyzed from the waist down. 

What I remember of that time is limited to tiny flashes. I remember my bed strung with cards from what would have been my class, and the names of my small army of stuffed animals—mostly bunnies—a little one I think was called Ginger or Brown Sugar, the yokel-looking Peanut in his blue suspenders and and  the gray, lifelike Pom de Terre. I remember NG and baby IV, the giant white rabbits in easter dresses that sat at the end of my bed who I named for the tubes that snaked out of my nose and from my arms. I remember my gay night nurse, my day nurse, Dottie, and Dr. Lighter, the white-bearded and be-speckled neurologist who put me in agonizing pain every morning when he would run his car keys up the bottom of my foot. I remember trying and failing to read my first Goosebumps Book—The Werewolf of Fever Swamp—and reading the Stinky Cheese Man over and over again instead. But what I remember most was the feeling that as long as I was in the hospital, it was just a matter of time before they fixed what was wrong and it all went away. I believed this even as a struggled to blow the bar past the lumpy red wuss monster to the burly and snarling yellow one —past the monster who stood between me and intubation. Even when I was too weak to play with the coveted Fischer Price Dream Doll House in the play room, the one that was fucking pristine because nobody was ever strong enough to play with it. 

Though I didn’t know it at the time, in most ways, my childhood ended in that hospital bed. Or rather, the sixth floor of Kaiser San Francisco was, for me, a miniature Twilight Zone, a place between the healthy, normal life I’d lived before September 3rd, and all the days after October, when my life started up again, real, but never the same. For the three and a half weeks I spent there, I truly and honestly believed that things would go back as they were, that as quickly as the lower half of my body had turned off, I would be able to turn it back on again; that it was all simply a matter of finding the right button. Of course, the moment they discharged me, that dream shattered. But recently, like the old folks at Sunnyvale Rest Home, I’ve gone back looking for those lost days between health and sickness, where my childhood disappeared. 

That’s how I found myself watching the Twilight Zone, three episodes of which I’ll share with you now. 

 What did I do with the weeks I spent on that ward? What was I thinking? What would it have meant hearing Charlie in “Kick The Can” say that you lose your youth the day you stop running if I had known, at 8, that I would never really run again?

 

What did it mean to watch a woman’s body go suddenly stiff and lifeless in “After Hours” just the way mine had?

Why was I so intensely drawn to “Elegy”, an episode about three spacemen who become trapped on an asteroid turned cemetery designed after Ike-era Earth?  

Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe I was just a bored kid with nothing better to do but watch the taped-over copies of an old TV show, one with good wholesome values that nobody could object to. If you want to take the time to watch the episodes, I’m sure you can decide. 

 

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