Memory

I go to the hospital with my mother, scheduled for an EEG (electroencephalogram). Up to now, I’ve taken two EEGs and they have come up normal. This one is set up differently: the night before, I was instructed to sleep only a minimum, to be awakened at a certain time. Now at the hospital, lab technicians hook me up: small electrodes pressed into my skull, so I feel (and perhaps look) like a big pin cushion. Wires attached to each electrode go from my head to a graph, which records my brain waves. Then, they give me something for sleep and I nod off. As soon as I fall asleep, they wake me up, then begin their testing: flashing lights rapidly, in my face and telling me to breathe in a quick, shallow way, like a dog coming back from a run. Then, more flashing lights and continue with the breathing. I feel panic rise up in me, like a deer whose hoof is stuck in a fence and feel myself begin to leave my body. I grip the armrests of my chair as firmly as I can, willing myself to stay here, then fake the breathing I am told to do, knowing if I continue, I will surely seize.

After the test is done, they show me some of the results – the ink depicted the brain wave spikes so high that they’ve jumped off the page and onto their white coats.

I leave the building clutching my mother’s hand, so disoriented that I can barely walk out of there.

For many, many years afterward, I refuse to take another EEG.

Retreat

I am lying on this couch

looking out the same

window for too many years.

Or maybe it’s too many years

that my brain has been

like this: broken china

left on the floor, upswept.

The same redwoods outside

this window stand vigil,

silently witnessing me

as they have done for

too many years.

I withdraw now a little

from this sometimes

too painful world and

think this is what it

must be like to die –

a gradual retracting,

that final removal

from this body that

for now, sustains me.

~ Maluma

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