Years passed and I worked steadily to hoist my reputation back to respectability, reemerging into culture slowly at first, cautiously, then embracing an awkward public image, stoic but proud of my achievements and (sparse) praise from my contemporaries. Perhaps what I am most proud of during that period isn’t that my name was synonymous with genius but with decency. The product of obsessive work afforded me material luxuries far beyond my modest means, so I opened an architecture school in Los Angeles and donated sums to several charities there. I hadn’t any use for money beyond what my work demanded of me, and neither did I seek love or romance in my life beyond what building always supplied. I was alone but social, confused by most everything beyond architecture and forms, contented in solitude and absolute creative freedom.
Three days before my fortieth birthday I suffered a stroke and woke in the hospital to what I can only describe as a brighter world. A strange natural light permeated the room, much different from any previous light I’d known, more revealing. Light broken into particles, granules of light refracting and dissolving into nothing, then compounding into a prismatic synthesis. Even now the words are inadequate to describe the experience. It was an event or variation in the world that I couldn’t compare to the old world, for that was gone forever. It was as if someone had removed the eyes from my head and calibrated them, polished them, or as if a shadow that I hadn’t seen cloaked about the world had lifted.
Unfortunately the clarity proved brief. Several days passed before I regained strength enough to work. Tirelessly I designed and built, built and designed, but just months after the first stroke I suffered another, and a slow recovery yielded to memory loss, minimal at first but then intensified and irreversible, as if the cloak over the world had reappeared but only in my mind. I returned to work as before but something was different—I was changed. I couldn’t remember details. I developed tremors in my sketching hand and often hurled drafting instruments in anger and frustration. Never before had I felt incapable of building as I wanted, as a project demanded. My focus and energy waned. I was plagued with headaches.
The untethered mind wanders freely about the caverns of memory, but many of my memories had fled me, or I’d fled them, alone to meander the empty caves at whim. Naturally my output suffered and rather than continue to build badly or beneath my potential or wait for my colleagues to suggest it, I took a voluntary break from work and fled to the mountains, driving without respite until I ran out of fuel. The days were dreams and the nights were inscrutable. I drove through endless winding roads of shadow until dawn, intoxicated and cleansed. I slept a few hours in the car and drove again, taking the mountain curves as fast as I could. For two days and two nights I traveled those lonely ghost roads somewhere between here and there, a world of fleeting memories opened wide in irony on one side of me, the cold demanding earth at the other. I belonged in neither, searching for my new place, careening narrow precipices of unwinding fate.