Half-Life

In this poetic, moving memoir, Joshua Prager tells the story of the bus crash on an Israeli road that broke his neck and turned his life into “before” and “after.”

  • Byliner Original
  1. Prologue

    Truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast.

    —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

    ***

    Through the faded blue metal frame of my open window, I watch the morning light approach. It crests the skinny cypress trees atop the hill just over the valley, rolls down the bone rooftops of Jabal Mukabbir, rises to ripen the red-yellow nectarines on my sill, three stories above Naomi Street. My floor, tiles of salmon and olive, brightens, and my glass tabletop reflects the worn copy of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly upon it.

    The light reminds me that I have just come back to Jerusalem, and I smile at a thought: “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” I appropriated the sentence long ago from the Psalmist, and I slide my left foot into my plastic brace, calf-high and erect in an empty brown shoe. I take hold of my wooden cane and walk to the staircase. There is no handrail on my right, so I descend the three flights slowly, right forearm pressed against the powdery concrete wall, left hand unable to grasp the banister available to it, left leg—hard to bend—preceding the right down each of fifty-five steps.

    I turn right on Naomi Street, right again on Hebron. My left foot is closer to the street than my right. Sidewalks the world over slant down toward the gutter, and I am careful to give the extra smidgen of clearance the slope affords to the half of me that swings forward...

Originally published in