Sometimes when I am having inexplicably dark days, like today, I like to check my pupils. It's a bit compulsive. I stand in the front of the mirror--one eye at a time, open and close. I watch my pupil magically expand and then contract; confirming that despite everything out of control, I can still control the light and the dark my eyes allow in.
When my brother was in a coma, the nurses would come in and check his pupils.
I'd hoover on the other side of the bed, leaning in so close that I would have to steady myself to prevent from falling into the hospital bed, watching and waiting for the results. The nurse would use one hand to pry open his eye; in the other hand, she'd hold the flashlight. The flashlight would flick into his open eye, then a pause, then away again, pause. Then, she would switch eyes and repeat: light in the eye and then light out of the eye. Flick. Flick. Flick. Flick.
Then, she'd write something down. I never asked what. I did not want to know; I wanted to just live in the suspended land of not knowing. It was easier to not acknowledge the bubble of foolish hope that bounced inside me and better to avoid the gnawing, crushing hopelessness that banged and raged on my insides.
Either way, I made myself be confident my brother's eyes reacted to the light. After all, his body was right there in that bed. David was there. Of course, he had control of his pupils.
In the beginning, they checked every 15 minutes, then every 30 minutes, then hourly, then every 2 hours and then suddenly, it seemed they just checked on shift changes.
His pupils never reacted.
He wasn't right there. His pupils were no longer under his control. That automation was over. David was elsewhere--gone and not able to make his pupils expand and contract in the way that indicates the light is on and someone is home.
It was dark. No one was home. Pupils don't lie. Pupils are the truth tellers of the body and they deal in very simple black and whites. They see bright lights--they shrink away. Dark shadows arrive and they widen, desperate to let in any bits of light they can grab. Flick. Flick. Flick. Flick.