A Kiss before Falling: The Noir of MS

There is no end to the variety of styles we can use to tell the story of how MS entered our lives. I’ve always been a fan of noir story-telling, and the darker the better. Most always a thriller, one popular premise is that a stranger comes to town and changes the lives of good and bad folks alike. In noir, the line between them isn’t all that clear. The overall tone is fatalistic; everybody is on the same train, nobody can make it jump the tracks and they know it, though most are in denial. They are slaves to their greed or weakness or complacency or fear.

Some noir characters are after something, a thing or an idea, like the Maltese Falcon in THE MALTESE FALCON, or Rosebud in CITIZEN KANE, or diamonds in THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, or insurance money in DOUBLE INDEMNITY. This thing or idea is a plot device that motivates the characters and moves the story forward and is known as a “MacGuffin.” The best description of a MacGuffin is uttered by Sam Spade himself in the last line of the MALTESE FALCON, when Ward Bond asks Humphrey Bogart what the statue is, and Bogie responds: “The stuff dreams are made of.”

The MacGuffin in our own little noir saga is the cure for multiple sclerosis. If you've been paying attention to the buzz in the MS community about the recent influx of new RRMS disease-modifying therapies, you know the volume has gone up considerably on our aggravated grumblings that the research community is knocking out band-aids rather than developing a cure. We are redefining our MacGuffin as being more than a cure, however; it now includes restoration and rejuvenation in the form of nerve damage repair and disability reversal. We are not ashamed to demand more, and why not? It’s just the stuff dreams are made of anyway. If we’re going to dream, why not dream really, really big?

In Scene One of our little MS noir drama, the stranger that’s come to town is multiple sclerosis. See how easily some famous crime classics lend themselves to our predicament:

“You were dormant, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like causing suffering and self-doubt, oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you would attack or where your victims would fall. Me, I was part of the nastiness now. Far more a part of it than I could have imagined.” ― From Raymond Chandler’s crime novel: THE BIG SLEEP

In the next story, Multiple Sclerosis could be the femme fatale:

“He told himself she wasn’t really such a bad person, she was just a pest, she was sticky, there was something misplaced in her make-up, something that kept her from fading clear of people when they wanted to be in the clear.”  ― David Goodis, from his novel DARK PASSAGE

And our own story? Let’s name this MS noir A KISS BEFORE FALLING. The opening scene could go something like this:

That night was like any other that sported a full moon: Bright enough to find my way along the narrow unlit side streets of Frisco and dark enough to swathe my face in anonymity, which was an important feature of my night time ambling. I was the kind of young thing attracted to shadowy, sad, lonely places and ideas, mostly out of boredom. Nothing much had happened to me. I was too young to be bitter, to have had my heart broken, to have lost everything I owned or lost a loved one to death. I feared loss and at the same time yearned for it. As though that was the only way to build character. To give my life a fresh purpose.

I heard it a split second before feeling it: a crackle, the static electricity kind you hear pulling a comb through your hair on a cold day. It felt like somebody brushed a live wire across my lips just to make me flinch. But I was alone. I flinched all right; my legs crumpled beneath me as though the juice got switched off. My arms were useless, too, I couldn’t even raise them to protect my face on the way down. I collapsed in a loose heap like a marionette with all the strings cut.

A cloud moved in front of the moon, further darkening the alley where I now lay helpless on the pavement. I thought I’d had a stroke. It wasn’t until much later that I learned the name of my stalker: multiple sclerosis.

* * *

How did your story start? Were you alone outside when it happened? Were you young or middle-aged, at work or on vacation? Did it happen during the warm months or in the dead of winter?

If you could choose which kind of noir hero you resemble, would you pick Mike Hammer or Roger Rabbit? Or some other kind of story character entirely?

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