CLIII. Three and Thirds -

Third time’s a charm.

Three strikes, you’re out.

It is this counter-intuitive rule of thirds that has consumed my life throughout the past 12 months. This time period preceded, went well-into, and past, my graduate academic career. Three near-death experiences that I can call my own; that I have control over and that I had control over; all of them intertwined in their own deceivingly mischievous way.

Mirrors were not reflecting what was presented in front of them. Sensations emerged that felt altogether supernatural and yet were, and remain, as natural as those sensations felt after one of early summer’s mosquitoes land on human flesh. I use this analogy because the scenario played out in front of me. A little over a week ago, to be more exact, and which at the time was a little over a week into summer.

An opaque black mosquito landed above my left eyebrow, while I was sitting indoors.You would think that you would feel something should a spindly-legged creature be traipsing all over your skin and piercing it in an attempt to suck blood. Sure enough, you eventually see the mosquito pulsating and in tandem with your own struggling to stay afloat-blood vessels.

If only momentarily, fleetingly, really, the L-shaped legs are midair, away from your grasp. A nonexistent grasp because I would never even consider cupping my shoe-string fingers - covered in a spider-web like vasculature that can be seen through my translucent skin - around that blood-sucking parasite mid-flight.

Suddenly - a sensation. This one, normal. This one, expected. Surely an itchy pimple-like reaction will ensue. I looked in the mirror. A huge swelling had appeared on one side of my forehead within seconds. It was red and looked like a large blotchy patch, but it did not itch and perhaps in minutes, or perhaps even in a time duration that could still be quantified into seconds, the large tumor-like swelling had disappeared.

My skin was tauter than ever. The elasticity of our largest organ on full display and yet this stretched out smoothness covering my forehead was anything but a sign of rejuvenation and youth. Ironically, I had just reported and written a 5,000-plus word length article regarding the use of one’s own blood to achieve a rejuvenated, rosy-cheeked, and healthy appearance.

My cheeks, known for being plump and uncannily similar to my father and his mother, disguising high cheekbones that my older brother had also inherited but were not hidden underneath cheeks - sacs of skin that looked like what a fatigued person’s under-eye circles would appear like through a microscope. His high, downward-angled bones were on full display and chiseled. Then again, he’s a male and I always loved my face - a doppelganger to that of my paternal grandmother.

“This is my moneymaker,” I would always say, referring to my face - lovely-arched eyebrows, dimpled chin, and plump rose cheeks conferred around a prominent nose, the bridge of which was slightly elevated - a characteristic of my both rustic and majestic Punjabi ancestry amongst my patriarchal paternal side. I, the lone daughter. Externally I always dismissed and insulted my nose. I always resented my larger-than-life cheeks. Internally, however, I felt blessed. I felt pretty.

My face would have this innate quality to take on a milky and delicately porcelain pallor during the end of fall. This healthy-pale skin pigmentation would last into winter and early spring. In the late spring and summer (my favorite season) months, my skin would become darker, bypassing any olive tones, instead heading straight for the copper-nickel hybrid tones. My face is unlike any other.

Not like any other no more, that is. Now, my face is not what it used to be. The cheeks are deflated. Despite a lack of sleep, there are no bags, only hollows. My face is angled in all the wrong ways. My jawline is akin to a haphazard etch-a-sketch creation instead of a linearly-defined contoured shape. You know what I am referring to, don’t you? Some of us have an oval shape, others a square, some with a cleft, and another subset of the population with a heart-shape.

Back to the pesky mosquito:

And here’s where the supernatural (or so I thought) came in: The short shelf-life, as it were, of my swollen mosquito bite that was no more, was not a sign of me having defied the aging process.

Instead, this was a signal. This was it. This was the last straw.

This my friend, was the sign of death.

Let me clarify. This was not the sign of a premature death. Death was to be expected. That explains why this was the sign of imminent death. It had been jogging - or to be more exact, race-walking - behind me for days, weeks, months, a year.

Sometimes I wake up to believe I can continue on with the course of my day. Minus this year, I mean. Take out the daily schedule from this past year and replace it with the one before the involuntary nervous system crept up to claim a stake in physiology. As I remember from biology courses, all too often the involuntary system was overlooked by its more popular counterpart: the voluntary, or somatic nervous system.

Perhaps the involuntary system suffered from an inferiority complex because something that is involuntary means that it is not something that is controllable. It’s expected. It’s not impossible. It’s not extraordinary. By definition, it is bound to happen. By definition, it is definable, it’s finite, it’s limited and thereby, it’s power is curbed.

Now was it’s time to shine.
Now was it’s time to take revenge.

See the parallel between the above and the third time’s a charm v. three strikes, you’re out, dichotomy? I certainly do.

No matter how many times you’re told you’re not the only one affected. In all honesty, you truly are. No one else has your nerves and feels their body pulsating, tightening, feeling weighed down, or unbalanced and light. Nor does anyone else feel the poking and prodding performed in an attempt to reach something that just barely exists. No one else is conferred lackluster advice and given unwanted and furthermore, ignorant, advice and artificial concern over, and over, and over again. No one else but you are physiologically feeling what you are feeling.

That is why: You are, in fact, in control. You can do this. I can do this. And as soon as I do, I would not dare return the favor of offering feigned advice that is actually a disguised opportunity to satiate the need to gossip.

I would rather a stream of people fill the landscape that I see when I look over my shoulder, trailing behind me as I move onwards.