This One Time, 22

This one time I was sitting at my desk talking to myself.

Everyone does it, kind of. But my way is special.

I was hugely epileptic. During my childhood in particular. Thunderstorms of neural activity would wander around my brain. I’d get killer headaches. I’d pass out and fall down and thrash. I’d bite the hell out of my tongue. The spasms would clench my muscles painfully. Sometimes afterward I would hurt for days, like I’d been beaten. But sometimes it wouldn’t even be days between seizures.

I was given lots of different kinds of drugs to see what would work best. I needed special help in school because it was hard to study, to read, to concentrate when I was doped up and half-drunk all the time on the medicine. And still I’d have seizures.

The doctors and my parents were worried about what all the medicine would be doing to me developmentally. They were worried that I would be slowed developmentally. We managed as well as we all could until I was old enough to have my brain cut in half.

My older brother is awesome. He took care of me and stood up for me in ways that no one would have ever guessed that he would. I wanted to join the Girl Scouts but, all things considered, it wasn’t such a good idea. My brother was in Boy Scouts, however, and twice a week he and I did stuff out of his books. Somewhere I have a box full of all the badges I earned, hand drawn and colored with markers and cut out of paper, improving in quality as his skill with the arts bumped along.

We would talk after bedtime via Morse code, tapping on the wall between our rooms. We would talk about school and gossip and ask each other about the boys or girls we wanted to go with and about how our parents were fighting and whether I was to blame. I remember him telling me about how when our dog got hit by a car and broke his leg he would bite at anybody who got close even though he never bit anybody ever before that, or after. People are like dogs like that sometimes, snapping and biting when they’re just scared and in pain and don’t know that everything is going to be okay.

I really needed to know that then. And later.

I was shown videos about what to expect after the surgery. There would most likely be two people in my head, trying to share a body. Each person would control one half of the body, and maybe I’d have to learn how to be right-handed. And then there were the videos of people that would get into fights with themselves. Looking at some of those it was hard to see that it wouldn’t be as bad as seizures, and then I saw the way it would clearly be better. The fights, the internal disagreements — those would be under someone’s conscious control, either myself or my other self. There was no reasoning with a seizure.

It took a while to recover from the surgery. Everyone is different in their own skulls and everyone heals differently. The doctors knew this was a heavy-handed and barbaric solution, but until something better made itself available, this was pretty much the last-ditch attempt. If this didn’t work I would just be two people trapped in one head and both having seizures. And it half worked.

I was sitting at my desk the first time my field of vision on one side started going all spinny and one of my ears fuzzed out, filled with cotton and distant roaring. I could feel my left hand tensing up — that being the hand that would reach for things I had just put down and such, and I could feel the panic building. Then my left hand started tapping out Morse code: “nononononononononono….”

I reached for my left hand with my right to try to soothe it and it lurched away and slapped and clawed at me and then I remembered what my brother said about how people were like dogs when they were hurting and scared.

So somewhat slower, because I hadn’t really been right-handed for long, I tapped out on the left side of my chest as well as I could, “It will be okay it will be okay it will be okay….”

And gradually my left hand’s tapping stopped. And then it said, “Are you Carlo?” That’s my brother’s name.

I thought for a moment and tapped, “I’m you. The other you in your head. It will be okay.”

While I was tapping the last part my left hand started up again. “Oh thank god. Blind. Deaf. Seeing things. Hearing things. Am I dreaming? Been hours. Don’t go.”

“Does it hurt?” I asked. “Must be something like a seizure. I’m not going. Can’t go. I’m you.”

“No pain,” my other hand replied. “World is broken. Shattered with hammer. There is nothing here. Everything is here. All at once. Come get me.”

“I am here,” I tapped. “I have you. It is a dream. Like a seizure. Ride it out. It will pass.” I hoped I was right. Half blind, half deaf — I was much better off than my other half, but still.

“Can’t wake up,” my left hand tapped. “Wake me up. Help me wake up.”

“It will be okay. Ride it out.” And then I had an idea. I found my music player and looked for my — our — favorite soothing song. Something I’ve made my brother sing for me during a rough time. I plugged in my headphones and set it going.

My left hand tapped out, “Oh god oh god oh god music…..”

“Sing with it,” I tapped on my chest. “Sing.” And I sang along.

“Hush,” she tapped. “Let music play.”

And the spinny patterns and roaring faded away over the course of the song. My seizures never really lasted more than a couple of minutes, but I’d never really been conscious for them. I guess until now.

“Thank you,” my left hand tapped out after the song ended. And then it added the “ILY” I would use to end the late-night Morse code conversations with my brother. I Love You.

“ILY,” I tapped onto my chest. For a moment that felt odd, but what the hell. I was in this together.


January 22, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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