Algebra

I flunked out of pre-Algebra in high school, so they had me take it in summer school where I passed with–I kid you not–a D minus. I think it was a mercy D-minus. I have an excuse, though, because whatever thought processes are used in any math beyond basic arithmetic sets off petit mal seizures and I wind up out of it and nauseous. It took me years to figure this out, though. I thought I just hated math.

My IQ test results must have been interesting. I probably did well on the language stuff, and the basic arithmetic stuff, then bottomed out when it went beyond that. Finally the reason dawned on me one boring day at work when I started one of those online IQ tests. This was years ago. As soon as it got to the more advanced questions with shapes, etc., my brain fizzed out and I felt sick. Limbs go numb, tongue heavy, and this fuzzy thickness descends and a sort of creeping nausea comes on. Ah ha, I thought to myself, and have avoided anything like that since.

Can’t believe it took me thirty years to figure that out. The exact same thing used to happen to me in math class. I was a tough kid, though, not prone to complaining and figured everyone was like that too. Never imagined it meant something was wrong with me. My neurologist wasn’t the least bit surprised when we discussed it a few years ago. It happens, he said. With epilepsy anything can happen. Some epileptics talk to God. Some have spontaneous orgasms. Me, algebra makes me sick. Not as fun, though probably less embarrassing.

I’m very leery of physics and philosophy for the same reason. I could never make head or tail out of either and I suspect it’s because trying to think like that sets off little electro-chemical firestorms in my frontal lobe which then spread to the temporal lobe and fuck shit up nicely. Maybe not, I may just not be bright enough to figure them out, but why take chances. Life sciences I’m fine with, though. Earth sciences, linguistics. My great regret in life is not pursuing a science career, in fact, but there was no way. You need math to be a scientist, real math, and all I can do is simple arithmetic.

Certain kinds of modular maps will set me off too. Not long after I made the mistake of taking that IQ test I made the mistake of trying to read the stupid modular map in the Getty’s Top of the Hill garage. Hiply modular it was, way modular, expensively modular. A regular map just wouldn’t do, not at the Getty. I studied it for maybe fifteen seconds and suddenly I was in a haze, lost, and I couldn’t remember anybody’s name. My wife got us to our seats.

Anyway, I eventually learned that if trying to read anything made me feel out of it or sick, to stop reading it immediately. Took me thirty years of epilepsy to figure that out.

Some writing will set me off too. It used to be a problem. Apparently over the years I’ve learned to write in ways that doesn’t set off my epilepsy. Couldn’t tell you how, but I rarely get sick writing anymore.

But I can take all the strobe lights ya got.

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