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Excerpt from the book Grand Mal

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This is an excerpt from my book Grand Mal which is forthcoming. Obviously no obligation to read. Thanks, s.r.p.

Chapter 3

I don’t really know what happens next.

Alice falls down the rabbit hole all in a golden afternoon…
I wander the streets of Provincetown, prowling up and down. It feels like a carnival to me and the crowd seems to swirl around me. I walk like a blind person, arms stretched out before me because I am seeing double right now and am afraid of falling. I seem always to fall to my left, the side Dr. Caviness tells me is the locus of my seizures ~ the point of origin. I feel my way through the air and people move out of my way. I think they are laughing at me. Pointing and laughing.

Whether they are or are not, I do not know.

At last, I pop into a shop and buy a pair of ridiculous heart-shaped sunglasses. As I am being rung up, I realize that I do not understand the concept of currency or money. I cannot even do the simple math, and worse, every word the teller utters echoes in my head and I feel like I am going to be sick. I chalk it up to sunstroke. Or perhaps the gin and tonics I had been drinking were stronger than I had thought. Perhaps perhaps perhaps. Epilepsy never once crosses my mind.
* * *
I somehow make my way back to Ian and to the restaurant where I meet him out front, just as he said he would be. It is nothing short of a miracle that I find him, given everything, but I do. I will not remember about the argument or the mood until he tells me about it later. For now, I meet him and we go inside and order. We are not there for five minutes when I go to the bathroom and catch my reflection. At first, I cannot stop laughing. I mean, hysterical laughing at my own reflection. Then I think I’ll be sick again, and that out of control feeling comes back to me.

Nothing is funny. So why am I laughing? This is epilepsy; everything out of control. Your world spinning beneath your feet, and while everyone else manages to stay glued to the earth, for some reason, you cannot. You are always hovering there, slightly off-balance.

Back at the table, I sit for a minute, then I say, “We have to go…” I say with urgency. I say it with meaning. I say it so that Ian understands that I don’t mean in five minutes. That we need to go right this very fucking minute.

I think I am going to vomit. My head is hurting even more. The echo is ten times worse. I see a lattice work, the kind that roses climb. It flashes before my eyes in quick bright strokes over and over again.

Ian says, “It’s okay, baby… just one minute. The food is almost here. You’ll be okay.”
“No, I have to go now…”

It is here that I try to stand up. I make it about half way, when I realize I cannot. The weight of it is too much. Gravity is so heavy. How does anyone stand up ever, I wonder? As I start to fall, two women at the next table say, “God, call 911 .. NOW!”

Imagine being at the bottom of a deep lake. You open your eyes and see people above the blurry green surface. Their faces are morphed into colors and sunlight dapples around, making strange shapes. Sound is muted and soft – everything is far away. None of the sound, the hub-bob of the world above could possibly have anything to do with you. Not you. You are too removed from that world. You are apart from it.

The sound comes in and out. What at first was muted, begins to sound like a speaker that is being hooked up. The sound fizzles in and out, echoes.

Then it happens: you realize that you have forgotten to breathe. Damn it. How stupid. You try to drink in a huge gasp of air, but instead find that you choke. It is like water filling your lungs. You are surely drowning. You want to cry, Help, help! But the words won’t come.

Finally, someone leans over you and puts a mask over your face. Nectar! Hallelujah, you can breathe again. You drink it in in long, greedy hungry swallows. You have never tasted oxygen this sweet, this delicious, this wonderful. You wonder, How could I not have noticed before now what a gift it is to breathe?

Just to breathe….

Because your brain has shut down, some or even all of your organs may not respond as they should. You forget to breathe in and out. Your brain forgets. So you forget. You forget that breathing is an important thing for you. And when it occurs and you find you cannot breathe, you panic. You reach through that fog and grab and clutch at things and people.

I remember reaching out and grabbing someone’s suspender. Probably a fireman or EMT. I remember the vivid color of it; how it seemed to be calling my name. I answered, Please, help me… But the words would not come right. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t speak. I could not ask for help.

It was magic that they EMT knew to put that mask over my face. They took oxygen and pushed into me and suddenly I could breathe again. It was heaven and I remember the taste of the oxygen; sweet as hay and mowed grass on a summer’s day.

This is what it is to come out of a seizure. You wake to a changed and muted world. A flurry of activity over you, but all of it experienced by you as through a padding of gauze; a buffer between you and the rest of the world.

* * *

What really happened, that is, what other people saw, is what Ian tells me. There is my reality, which is equally real for I have lived and experienced it and can attest to its authenticity, and then there is the reality witnessed by others. Still, my experience o f it is of little import even to my doctors. Ultimately, they will want to know details like: How long, How hard, How many, How conscious, How much incontinence, and other things like that.

Ian says You fell, just as You were trying to stand up.

I was sure I had made it at least all the way up, he says No, you got halfway and then just collapsed. It was scary. Your eyes rolled back into your head and you fell on the floor and then your limbs jerked for a good five minutes. A bad five minutes, I think.

Someone had called 911 and so that’s why the EMTs are here, he told me, and the Fire Department and everyone else who could be there was there. I was certain that by now, the whole of Provincetown knew. I could hear them on their bakelite phones, “Yes dear, a pale girl with blondish hair had fallen down, yes pissed herself, dear, and was having convulsions all herky-jerky and all at The Gourmet Fish, Yes, I know, can you believe… I heard she speaks in riddles.

Everyone in the restaurant was staring at me. I was laid out in the middle of the floor like some spectacle and besides, I was a spectacle, had been one. Even though I had not planned it, wasn’t this attention seeking behavior? Oh sure, it wasn’t my fault, but it was behavior that got attention, that much I knew. Whether I wanted to be or not, I was the center ring.

Onlookers watched as I was being rolled onto a flat gurney to be carried out to an idling, flashing ambulance. There was a wet spot beneath me on the restaurants’ floor where I had pissed myself, a fact about which I was deeply embarrassed. Everyone stared. I could hear the echo of whispers. I could feel their hot stares on me. I could feel them judging and wondering about this pale and seizing girl who pisses herself and bites her tongue.

I hated that they had seen me at my most vulnerable – That they had seen some part of my life that even I had never seen and would never see. I hate that they would all have a “story” to tell about this vacation or something to tell their friends later about “the idiot spastic epileptic girl” at the restaurant who did the dance of the seven veils and they can all laugh about it jollily and tuck it away in their scrapbooks. A holiday souvenir.

sadi ranson-polizzotti

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