Written by Coco Ramirez
My first companion, my first love, my closest friends were all books. I didn’t have a normal childhood, but what is normal nowadays anyway? I grew up in and out of the hospital. From the toddling age of terrible two, I was hooked up to an IV and secluded from the world in my hospital bed room. For two years, I lived there. In a hospital room; changing nurses, replacing IV bags.
I watched my world come and go from my bed. No one ever stayed to play. Just me, a room full of books, puzzles and my Rainbow dog. I still have that dog, and in my memories, he was bigger than Clifford. Sitting in the corner of my room, stained, lackluster, faded colors of youth; his now pale orange creamsicle, his once vibrant but now faded rainbow ears and paws covered in smog colored dirt. Rainbow Dog stares into “the nothing,” a small, fraile puppy size stuffed animal.
The only constant in my life were books: books with pictures, and without; books with covers that changed as often as the people who wandered in and out of my room; books became the only thing I could count on, trust in, and feel safe with. Books were my guiding light. I was always fascinated, wide eyed, and full of life when I knew a new book was coming.
Flash to present day, the INSCAPE crew got the opportunity to watch a book be made.
The sights and sounds of the paper room felt like home. I could smell the different pages, delight in ink-stained fingers, and marvel at the universe of creation. I felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka’s factory.
No one would ever suspect the torment I was in just moments before class. I document these painful day to day transgressions through photographs. A visual diary if you will. Reminders that I made it past the enemy lines of mental warfare once again.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch the creation of literary life born before my very eyes. Standing outside the library conference room after the battle, I snap a picture of what it’s like to suffer with mental illness. I had just attended a panel conducted by an outside company on how to effectively support people like me. It was all for nought in the end when I was placed in the center of ridicule and shame. A martyr for what truly happens when most are exposed to people like myself.
I would not let my maddening thoughts take hold. Take a selfie and move on - physically to a scholars journey of empowerment. Wiping away tears and tying back my hair, I enter the printing room and join the rest of the INSCAPE crew. See, everything is ok! I take another selfie, this time in the printing room with the staff in the background. I can see it in my own eyes that I’m not ok.
That printed and embossed smile, a boldfaced lie. I find it ironic that the issue we are printing is an alchemist common book. There is magic and transformation that awaits me in this issue. But, will I ever find the spell, the elixir, or formula that will rid my torment? Standing in this Dr. Jekyll facade, doing my best to keep my Hyde in superfluous, strepitous, subconscious thought. Serpentine thoughts slither boisterously, as coiled anxiety thrust its venomous attack. I need this distraction to focus on anything other than anguish.
I watched copies of the book being spit out like 9mm rounds out of a gun. This Canon Color C8000VP is an arsenal of literary ammunition. So many different printable materials: cardstock, parchment, glossy and non-glossy, magazine, poster board, banners. Here I stood in my Louve marveling at all the art, listening to the humming music of pages in print. Within less than minutes, there on the output tray, were five fresh copies of the Common Book. Pages that felt like satin and glistened like river water at dawn under the soft lights of the room. It was such a magical experience, I glide my index finger up and down the page like an ice skater on fresh ice. My eyes fixated on the rich color and intricate details that show without so much as a smudge or pixelation of any kind. A portrait from 1582 looks back at me and there it is! That time portal that allows me to travel around the world and throughout time while standing perfectly still. This...this is salvation and freedom in its purest form, a transcendent enchantment. I drink from the fountain of youth with every literation, and morph into a limitless immortal. I take a deep breath in, close my eyes and revel in this feeling of utopia.
The journey continues, for to be born isn’t enough clean up and dressing is needed. From copier to BLM booklet maker, the next surgical process begins. Wire stitching that reminds me of staples that once held my flesh together after the birth of my two children now fastens and binds the contents of this newborn book. I’ve lost count of how many surgeries, and how many IV markings, stitches, and staples have held me together over the years. I touch my tracheotomy, adjust my necklace, I know this feeling of being held together, but still able to come apart. I know this feeling day in and day out with anxiety and depression that pulls at my seams, threatening to tear me apart.
Here, Eladio Fernandez “The Sorcerer” delicately holds up an almost finished copy with his spiritualistic fingers. How many worlds has he created? How many marveled printed enchantments has he cast? Crew members study carefully with bewilderment and bare witness to Frankenstein, like sutures, wondering what is the last step that completes this evolution of life.
This last step is a crucial and precise one. It requires mastery, patience, skilled practiced expertise. The amount of precision that is needed will be paramount to the final blessing of creation. Here, in this scriptoria-like room, we await mens et manus (hand and mind) made elegance. Only these magicians hold the secrets to the perfect elements and technique to conjure up these immortal gifts of life.
It’s time...the “final cut,” so to speak. Placed within the “Guillotine,” perfectly measured, tactfully placed upon the altar, fitted with meticulous care unfit scraps of no longer needed empty space will be removed. Swift as a scalpel through flesh paper is severed and discarded like an amputated umbilical cord. Flashes of how many pieces of myself have been severed from me over the years rip like a tidal wave in my head. Wasted, infected, unneeded, defective, outside the lines of worth removed scraps got tossed in the waste bin. What do I share in common with this book? Everything...
Find out what you have in Common by picking up a copy in the English Division office located on the second floor in C-245.
Coco, author of Unicorn Psychosis, Spectrum Publishing Historian, PCC Inscape Managing Editor, Mental Health Advocate, Poet, Writer, Speaker and Performance Artist, resides in Pasadena. She says, "Being born into a life of medical impossibilities, numerous traumas, and abuse, writing provided the strength and endurance to carry on. I am the mother of two boys, which was deemed medically impossible due to the nature of the vast medical conditions sustained throughout life. I was given a life expectancy of 18, armed with determination, now over 40 and fiercely fighting the day to day traumas of life through verse."
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