A Word Comets

A Word Comets

Today, I sat at my desk and watched a brilliant white microcomet rise from my Word document, arc over my laptop, burn out, and disappear. I don’t make note anymore of hallucinations that launch from my damaged brain. Five years have passed since my brain tumor was removed, but the neurosurgeon’s promise echoes in my head like it was yesterday. “I’ll pop the tumor out like a ping-pong ball, and have you back at work in six weeks.”

The neurosurgeon’s cohort, the faceless radiologist, transcribed his “Impression” in Greek or maybe French, but not a language anyone can readily understand. “If this is intra-axial, it most likely represents a metastatic lesion, though there is no associated vasogenic edema. If extra-axial, this most likely represents a meningioma.” I say these sentences when I brush my teeth at night sometimes, or right before I board the bus. I know what they mean. “This is a brain tumor. It could be lethal, or it might not be. Consider eating cotton candy the remainder of your life.” My life.

It’s the words that changed everything. Of that, I’m sure. And those words couldn’t stop themselves from multiplying and splitting in a radioactive meltdown, do-si-do-ing with more words like occipital lobe epilepsy, partial complex seizures,

and I want to say, “ting tang walla walla bing bang” and blame it on acquired aphasia. If I had a giant eraser, I could have stopped it all. I would have erased the lab report and the cartoon bubble above the neurosurgeon’s head. Then, it’d be quid pro quo in the timeline of my life. I’d be at work, sitting in front of a computer screen. I’d drive a compact car, and make small talk with my coworkers. I’d share glasses of wine with them at the chichi bars in the city on the weekends.

But, that is not reality. Reality is the words. Occipital lobe epilepsy means I’m home alone watching comets screw with my laptop. It means the excess of electricity in the occipital region of my brain encourages it to see things my eyes can’t. It means the damage from the brain surgery is deep inside my brain and “there is nothing we can do.” Partial complex seizures mean the yogi asks me if I’m daydreaming in her class. I’m not. I’m stuck in a place, neither here nor there. I hear the end of the yogi’s question. She repeats it, but I don’t answer. Instead, I move on with the rest of the class.

I call the time after my brain tumor, ABT, and before, BBT. The distinction scrapes a line in the sand, separating my current life from the life where I drove a car and thought people who hallucinated were whacked-out schizophrenics. I’m not sure if ABT me is BBT me. I wonder if I’m one of those people carrying the fetus of her unborn twin in her brain, and the fetus has taken control.

My migraine neurologist asked me, “What percentage of your life now is like your old life?”

“27%” was the answer I gave him.

He looked at me and said, “We’re going to work on getting back your old life.”

For the following few months, I had total faith the words hell-bent on destroying my life were insignificant. The line in the sand could be scuffed with my dirty tennis shoe. The concrete wall splitting ABT me and BBT me didn’t exist. The fetus was an ingrown hair. Then, his staff called me and said he moved to Nevada. That was last year.

This year, my epilepsy doctor says, “According to the radiologist’s report, there’s some tumor regrowth.” I imagine a wad of silver duct tape strapped over his mouth. I want these words to stop spilling forth like water over a broken levy. I want my doctors to learn sign language, but a sign language I can understand like thumbs up, and if they can’t manage that, I want them to use words like “Mensa,” “alfalfa sprouts,” and “whoa.” I want them to sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” like Reverend Miller at the little Harpeth Church. I want them to say, “Chocolate ice cream’s in the fridge.” I want the BBT me to pummel the ABT me. I want the words to play backwards so everyone can hear the devil’s squeaky lyrics. I want to grab a seat when the music stops and act like I’m the one and only winner.

Wichita Sims is the pseudonym of a writer who lives in Oakland with her husband and two dogs. The year after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She decided either God hated her or He was giving her a whole lot to write about.

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