883-896: Gately in the hospital. His sponsor, Ferocious Francis G., visits. Gately also has a notepad and pencil, but has trouble writing left-handed.
Gately wants to tell Ferocious Francis how he's discovered how no one second of even unnarcotized post-trauma-infection-pain is unendurable. That he can Abide if he must. He wants to share his experience with his Crocodile sponsor. And plus, now that somebody he trusts himself to need is here, Gately wants to weep about the pain and tell how bad the pain of it is, how he doesn't think he can stand it one more second.A Pakistani M.D. is talking to Gately about possible pain meds he should be taking.
'And so you are now ready to let us provide the level of analgesia the trauma warrants instead of Toradol, simple headache ibuprofen, which these medications are boys doing a large man's duty here, yes? There has been reconsidering in light of the level? Yes? ... For I am Moslem, and abstain also, by religious law, from all abusive compounds as well,' the M.D. says. 'Yet if I have suffered trauma, or the dentist of my teeth proposes to perform a painful process, I submit as a Moslem to the imperative of my pain and will accept relief, knowing no established religion's God wills needless suffering for His children. ...The M.D. thinks that Francis G. is Gately's father and suggests he tell his son to let the hospital staff give him the necessary pain meds. But Francis G. says: "Not my business to say one way or the other. Kid's gonna do what he decides he needs to do for himself. He's the one that's feeling it. He's the only one can decide." Though as he leaves the room, he does add: "Might want to Ask For Some Help, deciding."
'Surrender your courageous fear of dependence and let us do our profession, young sir,' the Pakistani sums up, standing right up next to the bed, the left side, his professional lab-coat hiding F.F., hands behind his back, the dull glint of the metal corner of Gately's chart just visible between his legs, immaculate of posture, smiling cheerily down, the whites of his eyes as ungodly white as his teeth. The memory of Talwin makes parts of his body Gately didn't know could drool drool. He knows what's coming next, Gately does. And if the Pakistani goes ahead and offers Demerol again Gately won't resist. And who the fuck'll be able to blame him, after all. Why should he have to resist? He'd received a bona fide Grade-Whatever dextral synovial trauma. Shot with a professionally modified .44 Item. He's post-trauma, in terrible pain, and everyone heard the guy say it: it was going to get worse, the pain. This was a trauma-pro in a white coat here making reassurances of legitimate fucking use. Gehaney heard him; what the fuck did the Flaggers want from him? This wasn't hardly like slipping over to Unit #7 with a syringe and a bottle of Visine. This was a stop-term measure, a short-gap-type measure, the probable intervention of a compassionate unjudging God. A quick Rx-squirt of Demerol — probably at the outside two, three days of a Demerol drip, maybe even one where they'd hook the drip to a rubber bulb he could hold and self-administer the Demerol only As Needed. Maybe it was the Disease itself telling him to be scared a medically necessary squirt would pull all his old triggers again, put him back in the cage.
When the M.D. continues to pressure Gately, Don G. finally reacts:
Gately's good left hand skins a knuckle shooting out between the bars of the bedside crib-railing and plunging under the M.D.'s lab-coat and fastening onto the guy's balls and bearing down. The Pakistani pharmacologist screams like a woman. It isn't rage or the will to harm so much as just no other ideas for keeping the bastard from offering something Gately knows that he's powerless at this moment to refuse. The sudden exertion sends a blue-green sheet of pain over Gately that makes his eyes roll up as he bears down on the balls, but not enough to crush. The Pakistani curtsies deeply and bends forward, crumpling around Gately's hand, showing all 112 teeth as he screams higher and higher until he hits a jagged high note like a big opera lady in a Viking helmet so shattering it makes the crib-railings and windowglass shiver and woke Don Gately up with a start, his left arm through the railing and twisted with the force of his attempt to sit up so that the pain now made him hit almost the same high note as the dream's foreign M.D. ...Awakening from his dream (it was a dream, right? It's hard to tell.), Gately recalls crewing with Trent Kite and Gene Fackelmann and his relationship with Pamela Hoffman-Jeep (cf. possibly Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow's Nora Dodson-Truck?)
The dream's vividness had been either fever or Disease, but either way it had fucking seriously rattled his cage. He heard the singsong voice promising about increasing discomfort. His shoulder beat like a big heart, and the pain was sickeninger than ever. No single second was past standing. Memories of good old Demerol rose up, clamoring to be Entertained. The thing in Boston AA is they try to teach you to accept occasional cravings, the sudden thoughts of the Substance; they tell you that sudden Substance-cravings will rise unbidden in a true addict's mind like bubbles in a toddler's bath. It's a lifelong Disease: you can't keep the thoughts from popping in there. The thing they try to teach you is just to Let Them Go, the thoughts. Let them come as they will, but do not Entertain them. No need to invite a Substance-thought or -memory in, offer it a tonic and your favorite chair, and chat with it about old times.
When McDade and Diehl from Ennet House stop by and present him with a card they stole from a store, Gately starts feeling sorry for himself:
It's probably the pathetic unsigned folded hot card, but Gately's suddenly stricken by the heat of the waves of self-pity and resentment he feels about not only the card but about the prospect of these booger-chewing clowns not standing up to eyewitness for his se offendendo after he just tried to do his sober job on one of their behalf and is now lying here in a level of increasing dextral discomfort these limp punks couldn't imagine if they tried, getting ready to have to say no to grinning Pakistanis about his Disease's drug of choice with an invasive tube down his mouth and no notebook after he asked for one, and needing to shit and to know the day and no big black nurse in view, and unable to move — it suddenly seems awful starry-eyed to be willing to look on the course of events as evidence of the protection and care of a Higher Power — it's a bit hard to see why a quote Loving God would have him go through the sausage-grinder of getting straight just to lie here in total discomfort and have to say no to medically advised Substances and get ready to go to jail just because Pat M. doesn't have the brass to make these selfish bottom-feeding dipshits stand up and do the right thing for once. The resentment and fear make cords stand out on Gately's purple neck, and he looks ferocious but not at all jolly. — Because what if God is really the cruel and vengeful figurant Boston AA swears up and down He isn't, and He gets you straight just so you can feel all the more keenly every bevel and edge of the special punishments He's got lined up for you? — Because why the fuck say no to a whole rubber bulbful of Demerol's somnolent hum, if these are the quote rewards of sobriety and rabidly-active work in AA? The resentment, fear and self-pity are almost narcotizing.896-902: Undated (probably November 20). Hal Incandenza walking the halls at ETA.
I was moving down the damp hall when it hit. I don't know where it came from. It was some variant of the telescopically self-conscious panic that can be so devastating during a match. I'd never felt quite this way off-court before. It wasn't wholly unpleasant. Unexplained panic sharpens the senses almost past enduring. Lyle had taught us this. You perceive things very intensely. Lyle's counsel had been to turn the perception and attention on the fear itself, but he'd shown us how to do this only on-court, in play. Everything came at too many frames per second. Everything had too many aspects. But it wasn't disorienting. The intensity wasn't unmanageable. It was just intense and vivid. It wasn't like being high, but it was still very: lucid. The world seemed suddenly almost edible, there for the ingesting. ... But the panic was there too, endocrinal, paralyzing, and with an overcognitive, bad-trip-like element that I didn't recognize from the very visceral on-court attacks of fear. Something like a shadow flanked the vividness and lucidity of the world. The concentration of attention did something to it. What didn't seem fresh and unfamiliar seemed suddenly old as stone. It all happened in the space of a few seconds. The familiarity of Academy routine took on a crushing cumulative aspect.Hall starts to think of the total times he's schlepped up a particular stairwell or how much food he will eat over the rest of his life. Day after day after day. And he imagines a room full of the waste he will produce. It's the opposite of Gately thinking about building a wall around each second and concentrating on abiding for that one second.
Hal recalls many things, family history included (on page 898, we get the book's only mention of Avril Incandenza's full name!), and the reader gets the clear impression that these are important facts and should be remembered, but there are so many of them. (It's the same feeling reading the Gately sections.)
It now lately sometimes seemed like a kind of black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit, and could go on caring this way for years on end. Could dedicate their entire lives to it. It seemed admirable and at the same time pathetic. We are all dying to give our lives away to something, maybe. God or Satan, politics or grammar, topology or philately — the object seemed incidental to this will to give oneself away, utterly. To games or needles, to some other person. Something pathetic about it. A flight-from in the form of a plunging-into. Flight from exactly what? ... To what purpose? This was why they started us here so young: to give ourselves away before the age when the questions why and to what grow real beaks and claws. It was kind, in a way. ... The original sense of addiction involved being bound over, dedicated, either legally or spiritually. To devote one's life, plunge in. I had researched this. Stice had asked whether I believed in ghosts. It's always seemed a little preposterous that Hamlet, for all his paralyzing doubt about everything, never once doubts the reality of the ghost. Never questions whether his own madness might not in fact be unfeigned. Stice had promised something boggling to look at. That is, whether Hamlet might be only feigning feigning.902-906: Gately in hospital. He recalls parts of his childhood and teenaged years, playing middle school football and his introduction to alcohol and various drugs. It is amazing that Wallace holds back - until page 900 - a lot of meaningful childhood incidents pertaining to one of the novel's two main characters and its probable hero.
His head had been huge, even as a kid. By the time he hit puberty at twelve the head seemed a yard wide. A regulation football helmet was like a beanie on him. His coaches had to order special helmets. Gately was worth the cost. Every coach past 6th grade told him he was a lock for a Division 1 college team if he bore down and kept his eye on the prize. Memories of half a dozen different neckless, buzz-cut, and pre-infarcted coaches all condense around a raspy emphasis on bearing down and predictions of a limitless future for Don G., Bimmy G., right up until he dropped out in high school's junior year. ...
He smoked his first duBois at age nine, a hard little needle-thin joint bought off jr.-high niggers and smoked with three other grade-school football players in a vacant summer cottage one had the key to, watching broadcast-televised niggers run amok in a flaming L.A. CA after some Finest got home-movied crewing on a nigger in the worst way. Then his first real drunk a few months later, after he and the players'd hooked up with an Orkin man that liked to get kids all blunt on screwdrivers and that wore brownshirts and jackboots in his off-hours and lectured them about Zog and The Turner Diaries ...
He was classified Attention-Deficit and Special-Ed, from grade school on, with particular Deficits in 'Language Arts,' but that was at least partly because Mrs. G. could barely read and Gately wasn't interested in making her feel worse. And but there was no Deficit in his attention to ball, or to cold foamers or screwdrivers or high-resin desBois, or especially to applied pharmacology, not once he'd done his first Quaalude at age thirteen.
Just as Gately's whole recall of his screwdriver-and-sinsemilla beginnings tends to telescope into one memory of pissing orange juice into the Atlantic ... in just the same way, the whole couple years before he discovered oral narcotics, the whole period 13-15 when he was a devotee of Quaaludes and Hefenreffer-brand beer collapses and gathers itself under what he still recalls as 'The Attack of the Killer Sidewalks.' ...
It was amazing that none of this stuff seemed much to hurt Gately's performance playing ball, but then he was as devoted to football as he was to oral CNS-depressants. At least for a while. He had disciplined personal rules back then. He absorbed Substances only at night, after practice. Not so much as a fractional foamer between 0900h. and 1800h. during the seasons of practice and play, and he settled for just a single duBois on Thursday evenings before actual games. During football season he ruled himself with an iron hand until the sun set, then threw himself on the mercy of sidewalks and the somnolent hum. ...
Gately's sixteenth year is still mostly a gray blank, except for his mother's new red chintz TV-watching couch, and also the acquaintance of an accommodating Rite-Aid pharmacist's assistant with disfiguring eczema and serious gambling debts. ... When he finally returned for his sophomore year of class and junior year of ball at seventeen and 284 lbs., Gately was enervated, flabby, apparently narcoleptic, and on a need-schedule so inflexible that he needed 15 mg. of good old oxycodone hydro-chloride out of his pocket's Tylenol bottle every three hours to keep the shakes off. He was like a huge confused kitten out on the field ... On offense, Gately lost his starting spot in the third game to a big clear-eyed freshman the coach said showed nearly limitless potential. Then Mrs. Gately suffered her cirrhotic hemorrhage and cerebral-blood thing in late October, just before the midterms Gately was getting ready to fail. Bored-eyed guys in white cotton blew blue bubbles and loaded her in the back of a leisurely sirenless ambulance and took her first to the hospital and then to a Medicaid L.T.I. out across the Yirrell Beach span in Pt. Shirley. ... The first gasper he ever smoked was that day, a 100 out of a half-finished pack of his mother's generics, that she left. He didn't even ever go back to B.-S.H.S. to clean out his lockers. He never played organized ball again.