Once, I slipped on an icy footpath and cracked my skull on the pavement. I fell so hard
that my brain began to bleed and the surgeon had to slice my scalp and separate the
plates of my head like he was opening a clam. Imagine his surprise when the contusion
on my occipital lobe was not blood at all but a list of household necessities — a whole
case of UP&GO, women’s, men’s, and children’s multivitamins, a pot of Gumption to
clean the stains from the bathtub, a bag of oranges, fuzzy pads to put on the bottom
of the new sofa legs so that they won’t scratch the floor, tampons, frozen peas, a dozen
tins of tuna, lactose free milk because maybe the lactose is what has been upsetting
his stomach and it had better be the lactose because I’m not prepared for us all to go
gluten free because how will I survive cooking halfway nutritious and ok dinners after
work without pasta. I heard that the list was so long that he had to spend an hour
delicately untwisting it from around my brain stem. ‘Suction?’ he must have asked the
intern, unsure of even his own training because in this moment what could have
prepared him for the discovery of a half opened packet of butter menthols that had
started to slimily disintegrate because they were left over from last winter? I’m not
sure if he used tweezers to pull out the forgotten bobby pins that had jabbed into my
cerebral cortex or if he just used his gloved finger to scrape out the grubby residue,
faintly sticky, of doctors’ appointments, hair appointments, parent teacher interview
times, visits with the in-laws, a reminder to ring the electrician back, and times I needed
to get the car serviced. All this had accumulated between the folds of my frontal lobe.
What I do know is this: when he clicked the plates of my skull back together again,
he left me clean and fresh as if he had turned my brain inside out and flapped away
the last remaining clutter of my life. I woke up blinking, wondering what had happened
and why I felt so whole again, and so empty.

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE