I’ve been on cold meds on and off for a few days, mostly on. This morning in the LA Times I came across an unusually lyrical passage for a newspaper and I read it aloud to my wife. It was about oil pumps and mechanical giraffes and I just dug it to death. She nodded, pretending to listen. The passage flowed nicely as I spoke it instead of coming out word salad. It was the first thing I’d been able to read aloud in a year at least. I tried it again later with another paragraph in the Times, reading aloud to myself. I got through the whole paragraph coherently. Then another. Then I tried an essay (“Citizen Kahn”) I wrote yesterday. The words flowed mostly, stumbling just a little, not enough to annoy a listener. I read the whole thing aloud in my big silverback dulcet tone, no stops or umms or repeated words repeated or missing verbs or cursing and confusion and stopping and giving up. No stuttering on their and they’re but not there. By the end I could feel the spazzy electric buzz in my jaw so didn’t push it any further. But still—there’s must be something in cold meds that suppresses some of my epileptic symptoms. Not all of them. It doesn’t stop hypergraphia (hence this) but it did let me read aloud. Groovy. I can swill cold meds and go to beatnik coffee houses and read my weirdest shit to wide eyed college coeds. Or I can read aloud and nod off in front of the television in an antihistamine stupor. Sounds like weed, actually, except NyQuil doesn’t make you hungry. Or horny. Or giggling at the stupidest things.
Dig that crazy long paragraph. Time to stop writing.
Sometimes when I try to say pharmacy I stutter. If I say farm I don’t stutter. My wife asks if I can say pharmacy if it’s spelled with an F. Farmacy I say. And if it’s spelled with a Ph? I stammered. So you don’t have a problem if it’s misspelled with an F? Apparently not. I can say farm no problem, but if I use a Ph I can feel an electric current buzzing in my jaw. You’re such a big spazz she says.
I can’t read aloud anymore. A sentence, maybe another with brief stammers, then bam, word salad. That’s new, the word salad. Rather puts a damper on my plans of readings. Visions of readings, really, of muscular prose in dulcet radio tones, the phonemes like individual notes, words like chords, narratives as melody, rhythms rhythm, syncopating punctuation. Language is music and music is language. They run audibly through my head, these words, but stumble in the mouth. The jaw goes out of whack, electrons buzz like faulty wiring, the synapses synapsing all wrong, I can feel their confusion like low current electricity for an hour afterward, can feel it now, in fact, the jaw twitching. An epileptic’s life is an endless series of surprises at random times. new symptoms appearing instantly, new disabilities. All we can do is shrug them off. So I read these words knowing they’ll never be uttered aloud, not by me. I shrug. Whatever. Oh well. Damn.
Just spent the afternoon working out next month’s budget down to the estimated dollar amount we will have available by day. This is the way I handled our budget a decade ago. Two years ago I couldn’t even balance the bank account, let alone think ahead more than a day or two. The epilepsy recovery is coming along nicely. On the downside I can’t safely write more than a couple paragraphs, and multi-tasking makes my brain fritz and spark and sputter. But I’m not complaining. This is heaven.
OK, I’m not writing a novel. I tried writing a novel once when a Good Samaritan stepped in and told me it was the worst thing he’d ever read. Which it was. So I write non-fiction. Or try, when the epilepsy doesn’t object.
For a couple weeks now I’ve been pushing myself with the writing, seeing what I can do without setting off my epilepsy. There’s been no fuzziness, no numbness in the limbs, very little stuttering and speech problems, no confusion, none of all the symptoms that make me everyone’s quirky special friend. I’m almost as dull as regular people.
But yesterday I stepped outside and the world was gorgeously two dimensional. The colors were vivid, even at dusk, the perspective flat. It looked like a Van Gogh painting, tho’ I suppose only an epileptic can see the epilepsy in a Van Gogh painting. Tonight it was even more vivid. I really can’t explain how beautiful it is, tho’ LSD has a similar effect. But it’s not a good sign. That Van Gogh effect is an epileptic aura, a prelude of the fun to come if I don’t cool it with all the renewed writing. I hadn’t had an aura since I stopped writing last year. Start up again and now I’ve got Vincent Van Gogh eyes.
Experiment over, I will follow my pal Kirk Silsbee’s admonition and take it slow, take it slow. I think in be bop, but I’ll have to write like a cool Stan Getz, if that makes any sense.
So this’ll be the last essay for a while. Now just jokes and insults and the occasional brief whining.
Anyway, a poet once said:
this was where Ray-
mundo Chandler drunk
and wrote and thunk
he oughta write some more.
Napped. I hate napping. I wake up nauseous. Some fucked up epilepsy annoyance. Not actually nauseous, either. If I accidentally dozed off before dinner I learned to eat nauseated knowing it was just a neurological illusion. Anyway, here comes dinner.
Too much writing on Facebook and my mind is gelatinous trying to work this new smartphone. The air drifts about listlessly in the fan stream like it died days ago and is just waiting to be buried. To be reduced to ashes and scattered in the wind. But there is no wind. Somewhere there are breezes and rumors of breezes. Here there is just stale air and mental fog. The smart phone twitches. My massive digits manuever like elephants across the keyboard, creating a new language of typos. I don’t need any of this stuff. Outside is a whole universe, I can see it out the window. Here are just apps, meaningless, useless apps. I touch one, it lets out an irritating finch like tweep and asks me an inane question. There is no fuck you button. The fog settles in, the fingers go numb and the view out the window is suddenly Van Gogh, and I stop typing to watch it in epileptic silence.
Not being able to write anymore is so strange. Stories still unreel in my head continuously, as always, sentences piling atop one another, everything I hear and see and touch turning into words, but when I put my fingers to the keys I can’t write more than a sentence or two or three before the fog rolls in, and the numbness, and the rumble of electric storms in the background. It’s like having a head full of music and no hands. A bebop of words trapped in my skull. I sit at my desk, surrounded by reference books and notes and ideas, and I stare at them like the ruins of some dead civilization, my own personal civilization, gone forever. The epileptic fog rolls in, the mind slows, and I retreat to the couch in a haze and stare.
Man, I have no sense of time anymore…hour, day, date, even month sometimes, it is just gone. Just flowing along in the eternal present. I walk outside and everybody’s on a schedule, tied down tightly by 60’s–seconds and minutes, you get the idea–and dozens and two dozens and sevens and thirty or thirty ones. All these numbers you guys live in. I don’t. Years of epilepsy took care of that a long time ago (while her’s disappeared in a few endless minutes coding blue). It’s like I look out the picture window at another universe full of math and inside the two of us flow along in the present, segmented only by our circadian rhythms. I look at the fish tank with the two surviving fish (you might recall their killing spree) and I’m like them. They do their thing, having a ball–if there’s such a thing as a happy fish, it’s a zebra danio–their tiny striped lives managed only by watery circadian rhythms. They swim madly about, from impulse to impulse, and I write, mostly, and wonder where the time literally went, because it’s gone.
You know, I have to confess I found my corporate day gig much more rewarding than writing. I don’t mean financially rewarding–though it was, obviously–but more personally rewarding. Writing has always been so easy, and I have to go out of my way to make it challenging, I never really get much a feeling of accomplishment from it. I mean I like writing, and I like a lot of what I do write, but none of it knocks me out. It’s just pretty writing. And now that my brain is so worn away by epilepsy that I can no longer do what I used to do at my day gig, that I was so damn good at, that’s a drag. That’s when I really know I’m disabled. I run into people I used to work with and I don’t know what to say. Of course to them the writing is so much more exciting. They can’t imagine I’d rather have a day gig. That I’d rather not be a full time writer. But I suppose when a messed up epileptic manages to hold a day dig despite all the challenges, nearly all of which I was able to conceal pretty well from my co-workers, and when he is indeed is one of the very best in his company at that gig, that’s a genuine feeling of accomplishment. Making it in the normal people’s world is rare among my sort. Most epileptics can’t manage it. I not only managed it, I thrived at it. Alas, in the long run it’ll eat an epileptic up, as it did me, the mental strain and pace causes too much neural excitement and wears out the brain, burning out the synapses connecting the neurons. Brain functions slip away and you’re left cognitively crippled. Time disappears. Planning disappears. Papers pile up, mail goes unopened, bills are forgotten. Surrounded by things that never get finished you find yourself remembering all the things you used to be able to do but now can’t. So you write about it, and the words flow like liquid gold, so easily, too easily.