The Music Of What Happens – John Straley
My doctor leaned forward and for some reason his voice snapped into a pattern of words I could recognize: “Cecil, it’s called a transitory ischemic incident. Just try and say that, if you feel something coming on again. Your head injury, probably coupled with your past substance abuse, created a strokelike seizure and it affected your memory, at least temporarily. You had a fluctuation in your neurological function that caused a deficit in the area of your brain that delineates cause and effect. You are not crazy … well, you’re neurotic and a drug abuser, but that’s not it … really it’s … it’s just … weird brain shit.”
“Weird brain shit? That’s your diagnosis?”
For some reason the psych ward didn’t make you ride a wheelchair down to the front door. This was also a disappointment. I had been looking forward to the ritualized hospital departure where I could take my first emotionally oriented steps away from my wheelchair into a waiting taxi as if I were bringing a brand new baby home. But that was not happening. The doors opened with a soft whoosh and I had about a two mile walk home through a blustery spring day.
I wasn’t depressed, which was also kind of a surprise for me. But my mind was relaxed and untethered like a lumbering zeppelin floating awkwardly in the fast-moving clouds. I reached into my pocket and took another Xanax, then another, just to be sure. I made it out to the road and up onto the bridge across the channel to town. Wind etched faint straight lines off the tops of the whitecaps, but the sun was out and clouds were light and hazy off the horizon. A group of oldsquaw ducks floated in the eddy behind the fuel dock. I began to reappraise my feelings about insanity. I was perfectly at home in this little island town: the fishing boats looked clean and well-painted, the cars were moving slowly without honking their horns. I could see down the street to the backdrop of the green mountain dropping to the sea, from the old post office to the Russian cathedral, from the retirement home to my favourite bar. The sunlight sparkled and seemed to bind the whole vision together, like a lively tune or the manic scattering of sun in Van Gogh’s painting of the orchards. I had remembered being unhappy in the past, but here I was walking one step in front of the other, breathing in the salt air thinking, “What could I have ever been unhappy about? How could a person be sad in a world as lovely as this?”
This was excellent medication.