Prologue: Bump

In a way, it was a soothing motion—the gentle rocking back and forth as the uneven wheels rolled across the linoleum floor, surrounded by neutral white walls.

“Watch out for the bump,” the orderly said.

In another time, another place, to another person, it would have been hilarious.

“Watch out!” As if I had some control over whether we would be going over the bump or not. As if anything I did could affect the oncoming obstacle. Some part of me must have laughed, but it didn’t bother sharing the joke with the rest of my numbed body.

In terms of humor, it’s hard to beat a hefty dose of irony doing its best impersonation of a cream pie. Wham! Unavoidable, literally in your face—shocking, instantaneous. Today, that cream pie was this orderly, wheeling me to a fate I could never have even begun to imagine, warning me about this little bump when not thirty minutes earlier I’d had the mother of all bombshells dropped on my head. When my life and future vaporized so quickly and completely that all that remained were faint shadows where once they stood.

In the rare moments of lucidity during the slow walk—I guess more of a roll—I marveled at how quickly a life could come apart. How fragile and on the verge of collapse we are that the tiniest thing can be enough to topple our body. It’s like you’re a house of cards that believes it’s constructed from steel and concrete and mortar so tough nothing short of the destruction of the Earth can topple it. That’s why it’s so shocking when you learn the truth—that under the thin veneer of confidence and surety is a wobbly framework ready to implode at the drop of a hat.

A week. That’s all it took for my house of cards to come crashing down. From young adult on the cusp of spreading his wings and embarking on his first flight of independence to a mess of malfunctioning cells. From a bright life ahead to an imminent dark death. And all it had taken was one word.


“Watch out for the bump.” I had as much control over that bump as I did the next few months. Maybe more. I could have gotten out of the chair and stepped over this obstacle. I didn’t, but at least it was an option. My future offered no real options. Chemical warfare or certain death, take your pick. “A wise choice, sir. We have an excellent selection of noxious chemicals for you today, only the very best vintage for you, young sir!”

For both the bump and my new life, all I could do was hold on tight and pray for the best…and hope that would be enough.

Bump-bump went the wheels.

Bump-bump went my heart.

Bump-bump went my life.