“It’s jaundice,” the doctor said. “Definitely jaundice.”
“It’s not,” Conley said.
Conley was glowing yellow like a golden block of cheese. And he’d been puking for days.
“The urine test shows it. Your serum tests show it. I see what you’ve told the nurse about the other thing. The x-ray shows that but the ultrasound shows gallstones too. So it’s definitely jaundice. And the vomiting and abdominal pain, that’s the blocked colon, bile duct or both.”
Conley shook his head in denial.
“We can fix the gall stones and the jaundice,” the doctor said. “But this other thing, that’s another problem. Lower bowel obstruction. And it may be ruptured too. You haven’t been putting those things up there? Any blood in your stool before the constipation?”
“No,” Conely said. “No blood.”
“Laparoscopic cholecystectomy. That’ll get the gallstones. That’ll take care of the jaundice.”
“It’s not jaundice. It’s the glow of transcendence,” Conley insisted. “It’s the glow of mukti or moksha. It’s the glow of ascension. The glow of enlightenment and spiritual transcendence. The halo of pure awareness.”
The physician went on.
“The other obstruction. The colonic one. You haven’t been putting those things up there?”
“No,” Conley insisted. “Ingestion.”
“And you told the nurse, this other obstruction – the one causing the constipation – it’s the Rock of Gibraltar?”
“Not the rock,” Conley said. “But a stone.”
The doctor flipped through Conley’s chart again.
“A stone from Gibraltar? And you swallowed this stone on purpose?”
“Yes,” he said. “Along with some others.”
“This same rock? You swallowed it before?”
“Yes. All of them. I think of it like the circle of life or the sphere of eternal recurrence.”
“Them? Not just one? What others?”
“A piece from The Great Pyramids. A chip off The Whaling Wall. A hunk of Stonehenge. And some chips from the grave of Kierkegaard.”
“For God’s sake, why? They’re surely tearing you colon apart.”
“Meaning. Purpose. Connection to the infinite.”
“From swallowing a bunch of rocks?”
Conley puked in his bedpan again.
“So how’s this connect you to….eternity….did you say? Or infinity?” the doctor asked.
“They pass through me,” Conley said. “My atoms pass into them and some of theirs to me. And this yellow, this jaundice, as you call it – it’s not jaundice. It’s the halo of enlightenment. The halo of transcendence. The halo of connection to the infinite. Like the halos in the paintings of icons, see?”
“Icons? Those old Russian paintings of Jesus and Mary?”
“Exactly,” Conley said, wiping the vomit from his lips. “And the icons of St. Augustine and St. Michael. And the ancient paintings of Guru Nana and the halo in icons of the Buddha too.”
“It’s jaundice,” the doctor said. “And let me tell you, it’s terribly unhygenic to ingest, excrete, then re-ingest anything, whether they’re sacred or not.”
“They are sacred,” Conley said. “And I got a process for sterilization. A good one. So it’s okay.”
“You’re septic,” the doctor insisted. “These stones have surely ruptured your colon. Your lactic acid level indicates sepsis, which would explain the fever too. And the fever may explain these delusions.”
“It’s the fever of transcendence,” Conley said. “Of trans-meditative ascension beyond the earthly. Beyond ego. Beyond your ego, doctor. Your ego that keeps insisting it’s merely jaundice and gallstones and fever from sepsis. If you’re honest with yourself, doc, you now better.”
“I believe you know better,” the doctor said.
“Well, I wouldn’t trust you to fix a stray cat anyway,” Conley said.
The doctor told Conley to lift his gown and lay back. He pushed on Conley’s belly. Conley groaned.
“Where they even come from? Where do you get a piece of Stonehenge or The Pyramids? You traveled there?”
“There’s a black market.”
“I think you’re getting conned,” the doctor said.
“Nobody’s telling me to do it,” Conley said. “It’s my own idea.”
“Then you’re conning yourself.”
The doctor flipped to another page in Conley’s chart.
“The earth makes stone. The body makes stone. Kidney stones. Gall stones. The moon’s one giant rock,” Conley opined.
“That’s deep,” the doctor said. “Okay, nothing here in the chart about any psychoactive drugs. Anything prescribed? Anything illicit?”
“Nope. I’m straight as an arrow,” Conley said proudly.
“Then we’re opening you up later today. We’re going to unblock everything.”
Conley turned in bed and put his feet on the floor.
“Where you going?”
“Leaving,” Conley said. “Ain’t gonna lose the glow. Ain’t losing my halo. Ain’t having you extract my spiritual transcendence from me.”
“You’ll die,” the doctor said. “Impaction leading to sepsis. It’s a rough way to go. Slow and agonizing.”
Conley hopped off the bed. He grabbed his belly, groaning from the impact of his considerable girth hitting the floor.
“No,” Conley said. “In that case, it won’t be death. It’ll be ascension into infinity.”
Conley started looking for his shoes.
“Well, we can’t constrain you,” the doctor said. “You’re free to go.”
“Of course you can’t constrain me,” Conley said. “It’s you that’s constrained, doctor. Constrained by your stubborn insistence on gallstone and impacted colons.”
“Well, I’m sorry,” the doctor said. “But for all the spiritual ascension – all your transcendence – you sure don’t know much about medicine. You ought to give it a second thought.”
Conley looked around but couldn’t find his shoes.
“Where my shoes?”
“Somewhere,” the doc said.
“If you don’t give me my shoes, I’m calling the cops. You can’t hold me hostage. I’m no political prisoner.”
“I’ll get the nurse. She’ll find your shoes.”
The doctor left the room to get the nurse to help Conley find his shoes.