Epilepsy; or, How I Ruined My Favorite Shirt
I flittered my eyes open for the first time. The first light I had ever seen entered my eyes. It was blinding and filled my throbbing head. I jammed my eyes shut and felt my skin instead. I was on a cool surface. It was hard stone and I was on my side, pressing firm against it. My head, though, was not on the stone. I felt under my face, eyes still closed to block the assaulting light. It was a cloth.
I squinted at it. The cloth had been balled up into a makeshift pillow to spare my head from what I was beginning to recognize as a tile floor. Next to the cloth was a pool of bloody syrup directly below my mouth. I starting coming-to and I naturally ran the test I do every time I wake up: I ran my tongue against my front bottom teeth. The raw flesh burned against my teeth.
I rolled onto my back, being sure to keep my head on the makeshift pillow, and let out a deep breath. I knew well the painful day I was in for. I ached all over. I looked around and tried to get my bearings. This was not my Oregon home. I had never been here before. Why was nobody helping me? I was bleeding on the floor and I couldn’t get up. Was there no one home? I looked at the cabinets to my left. They were beginning to seem familiar. I studied them deeply and squeezed the answer out of them. I was in Australia.
I slowly sat up and rolled onto my hands and knees. Immediately, no sensation seemed real or familiar, like I was learning how to feel again. The cold tile on my hands seemed far away and difficult to process. A surreal and painful dream. I grabbed the kitchen counter that was above the cabinets and tried to force myself up. I weighed a few tons and my muscles ached. I pushed up and got to my feet, holding fast to the counter with two hands now. I looked around. There was no one in the house. There was a knife on the a cutting board stuck into some half-cut ham right above where I was lying.
“Jesus. I had a knife in my hand…” I didn’t dare speak it out of fear of moving my tongue.
The room was swaying, not yet real. There was a draft on my side. I looked down and saw that my shirt had been torn open in my thrashing. My tongue throbbed in rhythm with my head. I had pulled a muscle in my back. But I thought of only one thing: three months.
I shifted into second and began to pick up a little speed. That little speed was the fastest I had gone in two and a half years. I was lost in the smile that was ripping my face in two. The wheel was back in my hands and my feet were back on the peddles.
“Shift, you knobhead.” Andrew’s thick Australian accent took me out of my moment. The car was revving loudly, still in second.
“Shit.” I focused hard, pushed the clutch down robotically, and tried to shift into third. I missed and the gears sounded like they were grinding to a powder. To be honest, I don’t know what Andrew said. I wasn’t used to his accent yet, but I caught “fuck” and “cunt” in there. I raised my hands up like a cop was pointing a gun at me and pushed the clutch down and he grabbed the stick and threw it in neutral. The ute slowly rolled to a stop on the vacant road we were practicing on. I still had my hands up and we looked at each other. We started laughing.
“You’re bloody hopeless, you know that?” He raised his shoulders up to his chin when he laughed. He let laughter consume him.
I went to sleep that night thinking about shifting gears. Thinking about how I wanted to continue to get better. Thinking about how after two and a half years, I was finally back behind the wheel. Thinking about how good it felt to finally be living seizure-free. Thinking about starting a new life with the freedom to perform everyday tasks. Of driving, of getting a job, of living.
Zero months. That’s where I was now. The viscous cycle wasn’t through with chewing me up. I kept both my hands on the counter and didn’t move for an indeterminable amount of time. Fatigue was setting in. I knew soon I would sleep for twenty hours. But the longer I was anchored there, the more an hourglass of rage poured into me and scared away the fatigue. Rage was the manifestation of my realization that there was no new life. I couldn’t escape myself. I was doomed to repeat this cycle into endlessness.
“Fuck!” I screamed it through the pain of my tongue. I opened a cabinet and slammed it shut again and again. I threw the plate by the cutting board across the room. “Fuck!” The rage dripped into me.
I reached for the knife. And then there was blackness.
I woke up in my bed the next day. I rubbed my tongue against my teeth. The sharp pain confirmed to me that yesterday was reality. I didn’t leave my room.
more by KRAMER LINDELL
photograph by Caleb Wright