Grim Reaper is ripping his way into Mindtwist's kidneys. As I write this, plastic tubes of blood loop in a tangled mess from Mindtwist's arm into a fat hemodialysis machine. The machine is a tall, vampiric box, sucking all five liters of Mindtwist's blood, sweeping off its creatinine, toxins, and free liquids, and shooting the blood back into his system. Works as dandy as a shiny, brand new kidney, except that it doesn't.
Just two months ago, Mindtwist was diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), which explains his cheese-colored eyeballs, his plummeting high blood pressure, the tightening in his chest, the dizzy spells, the pukey feelings, the lack of appetite, the acidic miasma reeking off his mouth and nose, his bloated elephantine feet. The list goes on. His ESRD has toppled a domino of symptoms.
He used to believe he was a healthy, happy, thirty-year-old individual, living the ordinary life of an ordinary citizen through every ordinary day, until he received news that his kidneys have failed him. I was there in that tightly spaced clinic, when the doctor took the plastic dummy kidney in his hands and pinpointed its parts with a black ballpoint pen. We don't remember everything the doctor said, but he mentioned something about human piss not getting filtered, and the toxins getting stuck in the body.
We weren't surprised at all when we knew Mindtwist's kidneys have stopped working. After all, the kidney is as mysterious and seemingly pointless as a spleen or appendix--it just isn't as frightening as having heart disease, HIV, or cancer. But when the doctor started saying, "I hate to break it up to you but," that was when Grim Reaper started clawing at Mindtwist's stomach. "I'm sorry," said the doctor to Mindtwist, "but you're in dire need of a kidney transplant."
Shock, worry, panic, fainting on the floor, mouth frothing with a lava of saliva--we didn't have any of those. It took some weeks before it sank in: that Mindtwist only has three to five years to live without the transplant. With the transplant, he has fifty-fifty chance of survival. What's worse, the kidney transplant costs about a million pesos. Shock, worry, panic, fainting on the floor, mouth frothing with a lava of saliva--now we're having some of these.
Back at the hemodialysis center, Mindtwist is reclined in a kidney-colored chair and cocooned in a thick brown blanket. He is flanked by two tall vampiric boxes, one sucking the blood out of him, the other sucking the blood out of another patient.
Twenty such blood-sucking boxes line up parallel on the walls of the renal center, in between each box, a reclining chair; on each reclining chair, a renal diseased oldie. Slightly slanted from the ceiling are television sets, one facing each patient. It's the cheapest form of entertainment to fill in the four-hour dialysis session, three times a week, until the patients get a transplant.
Here, Mindtwist is the only patient who doesn't have wrinkles. The rest of the patients, all of them are old and wrinkled and dying, with depressing tubes of blood going in and out of their depressing bodies. It's one of nature's tricks, this getting old, and as you get old, your internal organs get old and wrinkled and dying, in short, all the more fucked up, as you do. But with Mindtwist's case, he isn't old nor wrinkled nor dying. He's just been awarded with two abnormally tiny kidneys the moment he was born.
That's nature's gift of fucking him up.
Of all the seven billion humans in the world today, nature randomly picked him to have this randomly picked disease. It's like this mix and match game in a massive casino with an endless line of neon lights. You put a coin in a slot machine, pull the lever, which randomly matches pictures on the screen. And without you knowing it, the machine pisses coins. You just won two malfunctioned kidneys, just like that. Bling bling bling.
But Mindtwist doesn't fail to fight for his life. Of course, that's what people with life-threatening diseases do, don't they, this fighting for their life. Then again, how exactly does one fight for his life? It's not like you have to fight a demon-possessed fist homing into your face, over and over and over again. This disease is something else: it grows inside you, like an abominable alien life form with ultrasharp fangs that eat you up from the inside out.
Once you survive that, you can very well say you fought for your life. Fighting equals survival, but fighting for one's life doesn't make any fucking sense. In other words, this "fighting for your life" thing is a self-delusion to trick yourself into getting well. And it works, of course, according to survivors.
How do you feel, I tell Mindtwist, how do you feel now that you have a gun pointed at the back of your head? He tells me he is saddened that he hasn't experienced being completely human yet, not without experiencing marriage and having kids and growing old and having grandkids and dying old and having a plant growing on top of you. Aw, I tell him. The ordinary man has ordinary dreams, after all.
But then again, that's what living is about, isn't it? To fully experience the horrors of being human. Isn't that what we're all after? Experience? Whatever meaning you could squeeze out of this lethal disease, one thing's certain: it's an epic wake-up call. You'd rather pinch yourself awake than let the disease kill you in your sleep.