Apnea

Hell, from the triptych
The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1504
(Oil on wood, right panel, 220 x 97 cm)
BY Hieronymus Bosch
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

I suppose the oral device could be done better. And you could go the surgery route. Either have your nose knocked into shape or part of your throat cut out. I visited a surgeon, and he claimed that surgery wouldn’t do much good. My tongue was too thick and loose — I was a very reticent child, who knows, maybe I failed to develop the muscle — and it worked as a plug. If I had laser surgery to make it thinner, I would bleed quite a bit, and then, the tongue tissue would regenerate itself within two years, and I’d be back at square one. It was not worth it according to him. My nose didn’t deviate enough to be considered a cause but merely a contributing factor. Weight? He claimed it was pretty normal. Should I become as thin as a yogi? He didn’t think that would eliminate the cause of the apnea. My tongue would be the last to get thin, and the same mechanics would be taking place. My niece, a nose and throat specialist in Croatia, thought that he wasn’t right — that if I became extra thin, I would be all right.

For the time being, I like my nightmares. I think I wrote better a couple of years ago when I wasn’t using the machine and had lots of nightmares. The thing about apnea is that it keeps you dangling in that zone between wakefulness and sleep, where you dream. Sure, you go without the deep sleep and you might go insane from that, but at the same time, your mind is constantly blasted with nightmares, which may be a good pattern for the day and imagination. I wouldn’t be surprised if apnea turned out to be a particularly artistic disease. Balzac, by all the symptoms — big chest, severe coffee addiction, peculiar sleep hours, great appetite, heart attack — must have had sleep apnea, and probably, so did Beethoven and Brahms. I’m not sure at the moment whether my own medical hazard, apnea, is so much part of me that I need it, or whether I should try once again to eliminate it.

I’m writing this at 1:45 a.m., so this is a sort of dream I have, that apnea is good for me. Even the dream I had before waking up, a thousand rattlesnakes advancing upon me, was probably the consequence of the rattle my throat made, but it was so vivid that I don’t need to see a movie.

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