Charcoal Corridor

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While bicycling in Manhattan in May of 1999 I was run down by a car running a "pink" light. I was rushed to the hospital where I was diagnosed with a broken ulna and, more significantly, a broken ball joint to my left leg, in the hip socket. I had emergency surgery about five hours after the accident. I was already out of the anesthesia by 11 p.m. (I was run down around 3:15). I was moved quickly through the procedure. The first night in the hospital I was pretty much totally drugged up and out of it.

The second night in the hospital was a different story entirely... After a day of being forced to learn how to use a special walker, and being poked and prodded by a variety of doctors, interns, and nurses, I was exhausted and had no difficulty nodding off. That night, I have no idea what time, I awoke from a profound sleep and was aware that something strange was happening. I knew where I was, the date, the time despite not having a clock, and completely remembered what had happened to me. I was totally aware of the room number, etc. Yet, I was also somewhere else completely different. I was, you could say, in two places at the same time.

Part of me was in the hospital bed and part of me was walking down a long dark corridor. Actually, I had been walking down a corridor and reached a y-shaped junction at the end. I didn't know which way to turn. My confusion jolted me out of my sleep. 

So, here I am physically lying in a hospital bed in room x (I forget now, but I was very clear about it at that moment) and a different part of me, which didn't really feel like a physical, touchable, corporeal body. But, the body looked and felt just like mine as far as I could tell, and more importantly, the body could walk and wonder which way to turn.

I looked around. The corridor was shades of gray on gray. In the dim light I could make out walls about seven maybe seven and a half feet high and a floor with much of the same gray tone as the walls. I couldn't tell what they were made out of, but they were substantial-like plaster or stonewall and floor. It was pretty bleak, like a cold winter's day with a gray that just permeated everything. There was no color. Like dusk right after things lose their color when the sun sets. It wasn't cold or uncomfortable, and there was a strong sense of impermanence, as if this was a temporary place, not a permanent abode or somewhere I would be staying for any length of time. It was just a zone to take me from one place to another. There was no ceiling, just a lighter gray "sky." No clouds, no textures, just gray on gray. It was almost like a gray charcoal drawing.

I remember how happy I was that I could walk with my leg working again. I also remember feeling that something important was happening and I needed to make some sort of a choice. As I looked at the two corridors splitting diagonally off the one I was standing in, I was at the joint of the y. I understood that I had to choose between the left corridor and the right one. The left meant I would choose to die and the right to live. I recall thinking to myself, "I didn't realize I was this badly injured." (Later, several medics confirmed that I could have died if I hadn't been in good shape and taking care of myself.) I somehow understood that turning left meant choosing to die and leaving my current situation to move onto something else. Conversely, turning right meant remaining alive.

I peered down the left corridor. I couldn't see anything, nothing at all; it was too dark and the walls seemed to just stretch on and at the same time just fade into nothingness. But, I remember feeling this incredible sense of peace and comfort, warmth and security. It was as if all my cares and responsibilities just melted away. Prior to then and since then, I have not experienced anything so incredibly peaceful and seductive. It was extraordinarily beautiful to me, though I could not see anything. I also remember thinking this must be what it's like to be in the womb before birth. I was sorely tempted to turn down this hallway, but I stopped and thought "No. I'm not ready yet. There's still too much I want to do." So I turned to my right and peered around the corner at the other corridor.

Again, I couldn't "see" anything. However, waves of sensation rushed over me - frantic, frenetic, loud, confusing, frightening, flashing, bright, and overwhelming. The only way to describe the feeling is as if I were standing in the middle of Times Square just before theater time wearing a blindfold. It was really unpleasant. Cacophony is a good word for it. I thought to myself, "This is life." It was really not attractive, but I also knew that it was what I wanted at that moment. So I summoned myself together against the noise and light and stimulation that were assaulting me and I took a "step" in that direction.

Suddenly the corridor, this dim, gray place that I was in, melted away and there I was lying in a hospital bed. I was sort of sad, too, because I realized that I had made my bed, so to speak, and now I would have to lay in it. I had chosen to return and deal with all the stuff that we all are confronted with day after day after day. And that was that. Although I had complications after this date, I was on a steady path to "recovery."

I'd swear this really happened and wasn't a dream. When you wake up suddenly from a dream, you know you were dreaming. I didn't "wake up." I just slid back into my body. I also had the awareness that if I had chosen the other path, in the next few hours my vital organs would have started to shut down and I could have slipped away, if I wanted to.

I will carry this experience with me for the rest of my life. It has been extremely comforting. It has taught me, if nothing else, not to be afraid because I now know that there is continuity, and there are better, more fantastic, adventures and wonderful sensations awaiting me when I’ve finally decided it’s time to quit the world that I’m currently all caught up in. It was very empowering to learn the choice ultimately is mine, even when I don’t think it is. I guess it's true that ultimately, at least in some respect, we are in control of our own lives and our own destinies.

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