from Sarcangelium

Peter Macsovszky

Passus 3

3: Something always parleys. It goes without saying, not always with words. Codes sometimes aren’t codes and sometimes codes can’t be understood at once. Some individuals don’t wonder and don’t ask.
4: And here begins the adventure. The scribe writing down these mental wanderings didn’t have to rush out, attired as a shepherd or beggar like the God-fearing William Langland, to a meadow filled with folk nor did he have to fall asleep to dream of Piers Plowman.
5: The scribe noting down these passages didn’t have to retire to a distant Greek island like John the Evangelist or the poet Robert Lax nor did he have to stop before a thick wood in the midst of this life’s journey.
6: He only paused for a moment at whichever of the crossroads of the ubiquitous net. Such a lot of fish wriggle around in it. And like John the Evangelist, he, too, saw the Beast, Her Majesty Panic, imperiously astride a four-footed creature.
7: Again and again to be born in Bethlehem.
8: Lamentations accompanied her. Occasional raptures and spates of playful definitions too. The first lamentation was a woman’s and it went like this:
9: When I returned from the swimming pool and sat down at my computer, I was suddenly overpowered by the feeling that air was no longer flowing into my lungs. Or blood into my brain. And I was also losing my sight.
10: I stood up and felt a bit better. The next day I saw my doctor. And she told me that it was nothing. That it might have been a momentary indisposition, dizziness, something quite natural these days.
11: And I did feel very well that day. I was even happy. It helps a lot if the doctor is sympathetic. And it works if she says: Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with you.
12: Yet, two days later, I noticed that my breathing was bad again. And my head was spinning. And it seemed to me that my heart was pounding. I felt as if something was squeezing my chest and head.
13: It wasn’t pain, just this pressure. As if someone was strangling me. And from time to time there was a knocking in my throat. Since then, I haven’t been able to get rid of the feeling that there is something wrong with me. It torments me so much that I have to cry.
14: Then came the second lamentation and that too belonged to a woman:
15: I had the first attack when I was nineteen. Now I’m twenty-nine. At that time I moved back in with my parents. I was living out of control. And the gravity of all this finally dragged me down.
16: Once after a party I threw up and the following day I ended up in hospital feeling that I was dying. They checked my heart, but found nothing. I refused to go home. They gave me some pills and after a couple of hours, I left the hospital.
17: I went back under the wing of my parents and lived on. I was sure that there was something wrong with me and that I was certainly dying.
18: It seemed to me I couldn’t eat. I threw up before meals. And seizures would come even as I was vomiting. In the course of three months I lost forty kilos. I used to be chubby.
19: My GP put me through all kinds of hell. Naturally, nobody discovered anything. They recommended a psychologist to me, but I chucked it up after three sessions. I wasn’t comfortable with him. Spring was on the way and I was starting to feel much better. I’d found a new love. All at once my troubles had gone.
20: When this relationship started to fall apart, the deadly anxieties came back. Nevertheless, I gathered my strength to split up and the problems ceased.
21: Last winter we had an office party, I got really wasted. The following day I went to work, but in the afternoon I was very sick. I was sure I was going to die. I went to my parents. I thought I’d get better there. I spent the night in agony.
22: And the third lamentation was uttered by a man:
23: I also went to the devil, hell and hospital. My neurologist came up with neurocirculatory asthenia. And panic attacks. Last Christmas, I experienced these typical symptoms:
24: fear of madness. Fear of incurable disease. Fear that my personality would be destroyed. That it would be stolen. That I’d steal it myself, and not know it. That I’d lose it on the way to a place I hadn’t intended to go. And that it would evaporate. And dissolve.
25: Then the pounding in my heart. Pressure in my head. Dizziness. Trembling in my arms. And again: fears, fears, fears.
26: What if something forces me. Ah! I’ve lost my breath. Forcing me to leave town. Making me sleep in graves. On bare hilltops. What if nobody is able to restrain me? With words or ropes? What if I scream and harm my body with stones? What if I scream this:
27: My name is what it is. Because we are many.
28: I feel calm at the moment. My fear is tamed. I don’t wish to think of the illness. Because I’ve got friends. We are many. Yesterday for example.
29: I was feeling fine. But only until the evening. Then I got scared that it wouldn’t last long. And that my fears would never go away. Moreover, I think that subconsciously I’m driven by fear of doing things. And going to certain places. Because they’re connected to the attacks.
30: I fear that I won’t stop thinking about it. And everything will come back. Even those things that have nowhere to come back from. Because they’ve never left.
31: I fear that I won’t stop thinking. That the grindstone won’t stop grinding. That this wheel of mime artists will never stop turning.
32: I fear that I’ll stop thinking. It’s not that my previous thinking was much to begin with, but the way my mind has been going to pieces in the past few nights isn’t anything like thinking.
33: Can I rely on the instruction leaflet? On the list of side effects? It says that sometimes it takes a week for these to show themselves. When I asked my doctor about them, he just shrugged. He said I’d got nothing to worry about.
34: The side effects were exactly the same as the symptoms of my illness. How can I tell if the drugs work then? My fellow sufferers say it’s normal. To suffer like a dog. They say it’ll never change.
35: The fourth lamentation was uttered and again it belonged to a man:
36: I don’t remember the first time I had the attack. At the beginning I thought others might have had similar experiences. In this or in any other stuffy room. The same thing happened again, but it didn’t occur to me then that there might be a connection.
37: I thought it was natural that a person could pass out in a crowd.
38: In subsequent years, I had several similar attacks. I didn’t get used to them. It’s impossible to do so. I didn’t keep a record of the attacks. I didn’t keep track of their frequency.
39: Some of them were rather intense, others hardly noticeable. They faded fast. But they didn’t stop coming. The birds were singing. You could smell the flowers. You could feel as light as a feather. And then: bang! An attack. Out of the blue.
40: I tried fighting them. I tried sports. Philosophy. Even psychology. They worked. Why wouldn’t they? But only for a moment. An ocean roared in my ears. Or a desert wind would blow. Suddenly I’d get hot flushes. What if I couldn’t sleep tonight?

translated from the Slovak by Ivana Hostová and James Sutherland-Smith