You’ll have to sit down. This may take a while. He lowers his gaze. Shuffles some papers. You know that every few months I have to re-administer your tests. He pauses. Then. We’ll start with vocabulary. I’ll say the word. You’ll say what you think it means. Here we go:
MELANCHOLIA and she says a sad indisposition?
Indisposition? he says. You meant ‘disposition,’ maybe? Indisposition is wrong. Incorrect.
But she believes she has a right to her incorrectness. On some level. It is hers to defend. She feels that when one is sad, one is INDISPOSED.
IMAGINATION, he says. and she says bright?
But, why the question in her voice? Though he doesn’t interrupt her this time. He is getting lost in his thoughts of how he had labeled her on the last battery of tests he had administered – NO AFFECT. ANTISOCIAL. ANOMIC. APHASIC. DEPRESSED. DISSOCIATED. HALLUCINATING. INSOMNIAC. LETHARGIC. etc. etc. – and of how it is all applying beautifully to what he’s doing now. No. Not APPLYING. CONFIRMING. Ah, yes. That’s the correct word.
a blooming flower, she’s saying
but not fully bloomed ‘cause then she’d be dying
just a little bit every moment that passes
And he has to look back down at his test manual to remember the last word he had read to her: IMAGINATION. And what else? he says. And she says
a change but a good one
like sun after rain
And he says, How about a specific example? SPECIFIC. Like a geographical exactness. Like a point where latitude and longitude cross. But he is speaking inside her head. It is one thing to speak about what is misfiring inside someone’s head. To speak so clinically. So whitely. So crisply. But it is quite another to pinpoint the actual location of that
to go deep
inside that deep winding deep winding
deep and riddled with networks
only half able to
or even function on a superficial level and
how would he determine the dosage of
would he know how much of it would be needed
for her to begin to redistribute her
ANIMATE OBJECT is that the person that lives inside me?
INANIMATE OBJECT is that the same person but quieted by meds? the one that is like a wild animal hunted and stuffed and mounted on a wall?
GENE is that the legacy of my parents? is it the kingdom of my diseased mind? am i answering the questions correctly? am i giving you what you want? are you happy? am i happy? can one emote with a diseased mind? and is it the heart or the mind that feels emotion? or is it the soul? is the soul an organ? can they EXCISE it? EXORCISE it?
DIRT filth squalor
a skeleton in a closet
a dirty skeleton dirty bones
Her mind is porous. But she knows this much: if a surgeon were to open up her skull, her brain could possibly. potentially. disintegrate. in a zap. if her brain were to lose its container. if touched. it could fragment. just like that. fragment and become fragmented grey slop. but if handled carefully. with caution. it would be kept all fresh and beautiful. intact. like a peach with its skin still on. like a relic. preserved. FORMALDEHYDE. then. later. when they were good and ready. they would take it out of that fluid. slice into the grey matter and take a SPECIMEN that they would then MOUNT on a GLASS SLIDE and STAIN so they can see it clearly and they would cover it with a COVER SLIP and shoop they would whisk it under the MICROSCOPE and all of a sudden a piece of her brain would be captured like a photo. EXPOSURE. but how would they then reconnect all that dead tissue? SPLICE.
And he says, I’d like for you to look at a few images. Look at each one and tell me what you see. Card III. What do you see? And she says
two people? tearing a brain apart?
tearing a heart apart?
blood between them?
blood behind them?
And he says, Card IV. What do you see? And she says
a huge beast? with the biggest feet ever?
And he says, All right, then. Card VIII. And she says
an animal? and its mirror image?
looking into a pond? so sparkling and clean?
Interesting, he says. But why do you say your answers like you’re asking a question? Are you unsure of your responses? But she doesn’t answer that question. And his eyes are fixed. Fixed on her unmoving lips. Now unmoving, now trembling. Fixed on the shiny sweat pouring off the side of her face. And her eyes are fixed, too. Fixed on the image in Card VIII. It
off her eyes
into the back of her head
into her throat her breath
that catches with
muffled cries she wants to both
inhibit and inhabit
and the dream enters her and she
enters the dream
and they take her back
to Ward 9 on Floor 6 along with
all the others that are like her and they
give her 30 mg of Oxazepam
30 mg crushed and placed
on her tongue
the bitterness covering her eyes
in floods of oblivion
delaying the world as unchaos
so the excess of it seeps onto her pillow as
vomit blood phlegm bile
and though she sleeps she sleeps
the sleep of the troubled
and her dreams form lesions in her
that she dresses with
cushioned by the
because she knows the light would blind her
with the brutality of its unbearable reality
andDESIRE he fires at her in her dreams. And she says, Something I will never feel. But this time the vocal inflection suggesting a question is gone. And she says, You can take that word off my vocabulary list. You can use NEED or NECESSITY or even WANT. Just not DESIRE. And can I ask you a question? When I am old, she says. When I am very very very old… will I still be here?