A Monument to Hands and Your Best, Best Friend.

For the one who would slay a dragon for you over and over again.

Spontaneous combustion.
Boston. A few evenings after Thanksgiving. I awake in agonizing pain, biblical even. The nerves and muscles inside of my left shoulder are exploding. I stagger into the bathroom, left arm going numb, my left hand, and then instantly soaking wet from head to toe. The intensity is so acute my body passes out. Thwack, the spot between my eyebrows smacks against the corner of the sink. Splat. Gravity tips diagonally. I fall backwards.

This story starts with me, but it’s really about a monument to hands — and the kind of friend who would slay a dragon for you, over and over again…

Meet Amy Sudarsky.

Amy & Darla, Boston 12.31.13

Like many holidays before, dearest Amy invites me down to Boston to spend time and to feast on Thanksgiving. I’ve known Amy for decades. Her hands taught me painting and drawing at The Art Institute Of Boston. Her hands held mine during the most harrowing and most glorious moments of my living.
I have built myself to be a vulcan, a soloist. However, having eyes on you — the ones that can truly see you — can make you real. In my experience, having a witness to the arc of my life is rare, and one of the greatest gifts I can imagine. It can override antiquated self-invention. Amy teaches me this.

All hands on deck.
My first medical emergency. Ever.
As I lay there convulsing on the bathroom floor, Amy rushes right in. Her son had found me there, thank goodness that he did. She peels me off of the tiles, I am hyper-nauseated, paralyzed by the pain. But what penetrates the agony, and the freezing and the drenched and the body quaking from trauma are Amy’s hands on my back. The contact saved me psychically, there was a transmission. Even in this state I could code it. History, Love.

Amy Sudarsky, Drawing

A new pair of hands charges in.
Amy recruits her next door neighbor, Dr. Susan Bennett. She gets me down to the floor, props up my legs, covers me with her long down coat. Looks like my body is spinning a pizza or shaking a martini. Susan calls 911 and briefs them, calls the hospital and gives them the narrative.
Her generous attention is warm and helps me to partition fear and confusion. Thank you Dr.Bennett.

Perhaps you’ve had this experience, a mutiny of the body. You transition from a person, to a human, to an animal and then you hit — terrestrial. All trace of personality and time are gone.

Amy Sudarsky, Painting

Pit crew. A flurry of hands.
Ten new hands race up to the second floor of the house.
The gurney slides under, straps are buckled, neck brace secured, my forehead is taped down. Muffled questions and shouting, they call to me as if I’m moving away, or slipping out of consciousness.
Not Cleopatra.
Five men carry me down two flights of stairs, no socks, the New England chill rolls in.

Ten hours in the emergency room.
Cue that dragon slayer.
Amy’s energy never wanes, like Scorsese.
She circles my bed, with one eye on me and one on the stream of nurses and doctors that shoot in and out of the pastel curtain, she fields phone calls, speed texts my husband, all the while calm, steady and so damned funny. Scene — Nurse Jackie was here — morphine and valium drips from a bag, pounds of warmed blankets, a handful of CAT Scans, more neurological testing, stitches, more meds, more shaking, more nausea and no food, no water for ten hours. They may need to operate, they may not, they’re not sure why the drugs aren’t affecting the pain.

Amy Sudarsky, Drawing

The head nurse looks like Sam Shepard.
He’s whip smart with those dark brown shark eyes. Deep. His hands are beautiful, intelligent.

Before the doctor attempts to stitch me up, I tell him, ” You better have the hands of a Roman God.”
He laughs and then sprints around the ER looking for some micro thread. His hands are elegant, precise.
Amy partners him, overseeing everything. She has a relentless exactitude, a silvery rigor, like Mamet.

Finally stabilized.
Sam Shepard pours me into a hideous maroon vinyl wheelchair. “Since you’ve been here for so long, the least I can do is see you out.” Surprisingly, I manage to reproduce a recollection of — Swoon. An avitar nurse pops through the curtain, sticks a tiny plastic bucket of meds under my chin. ”Really, you want me to take these six pills on an empty stomach with massive dehydration?” Gulp.

Sam and Amy roll me out into a towering atrium fully trimmed and sparkly. The height over head makes me dizzy.
Nurse Sam kneels, “I’m so sorry we couldn’t make you feel comfortable.” His eyes get glassy, water presses out. Swoon #2.

A flash of heat. I look up at Amy and in my best Clint Eastwood, ”You have thirty seconds…” In fifteen she repurposes the plastic cup full of ginger ale and parks me in back of a forty foot Christmas tree. I’ll spare you the details. At this point, Amy and I are virtually wed.

Too fragile to fly, I stay at Amy’s for the next ten days. She feeds me, keeps watch, helps me to get well enough to catch my plane back home.

Amy Sudarsky, Painting

Next new world.
Since being back in New York, there’s been more MRI’s, extreme fatigue, doctor’s visits, nerve tests, (don’t ask) and aggressive meds. I’ve wiped my calendar clean and have put my book proposal on hold. A neurological virus (cue The 1812 Overture) is likely responsible for this crux eruption. Physical Therapy is next…slow and steady.

This is dedicated to Amy, and to you and your dragon slayer.
If you are in recovery, wrestling physically or otherwise — I send you good healing and patience.
Know that everything will be alright.
If you are that mega-mench, that uber-bestie — know that we need you, love you and we celebrate you.

Amy Sudarsky is a figurative painter living in Brookline, Massachusetts. She teaches at Lesley University College of Art And Design (LUCAD). Amy also paints portraits of hands. Contact her: sudarsky.amy@gmail.com

This article was first seen on my monthly newsletter.

Hi there, thanks for reading. I’m Darla Villani, a multidisciplinary artist living in New York City. Feeling adventurous >> hop on my monthly newsletter. Sending goodness your way…

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