Brain

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On summer bummer.

Published September 5, 2017 by mandileighbean

Good afternoon, all. It’s absolutely gorgeous in the Great Garden State; a little warmer than most would like for September, especially after a cool spell of a couple of days, but even though it’s a bummer, summer is winding down. I reported back to work on Friday, and was back in the building today. Truth be told, I’m excited to be back and I’m more than ready for fall. This summer has been a rough one for me, and even though I haven’t been updating regularly (it’s been over a month since the last time I posted), I’m back and ready to take my life back from whatever gross apathy and complacency has settled upon me. And I’m going to start with this blog.

Some thoughts for today: as I was walking the boardwalk (trying to get my weight under control), a sweet old man stopped me to tell me about a turtle he saw. I listened patiently, nodded encouragingly, and then simply kept on keeping on. It made me think about how all anyone needs is a little compassion, a little effort on the part of someone else to make them feel like they matter. I’m going to do my best to do more of that.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #6.2017: Months after receiving a gunshot wound to the head, a patient is discharged from the hospital. She wears a pendant made from the bullet that was embedded in her skull.

Luna stared deep into her own reflection and she was trembling. She was in the ladies’ room of a fancy Italian restaurant that required patrons bring their own alcohol. She was dressed in an emerald green dress that glimmered like the scales of a fish – or a mermaid’s tale, if she was feeling especially fanciful – when the light caught it in just the right way. Her best girlfriends had insisted the color did wonders for her complexion and for her eyes. Luna assumed that same would be said of her hair, as it was the same shade of brown as her eyes, but her hair was gone. Her head was shaved. And although it had had about four months to grow back, her hair was taking its sweet time to return. The imperfections of the shape of her skull were exposed for all to see, and she felt so vulnerable. Her trembling hand moved to the side of her head, and trembling fingers traced the scar that ran from the front of her skull all the way to the back. It was ugly and purple and bloated, and it separated her hair in an unfashionable line.

The bullet entering and exiting her skull had done the same, had separated her life by an unfashionable, hard line. There was life before the bullet, and then there was life after the bullet.

Luna had been walking her overweight, long-haired Chihuahua named Teddy in the park just a block or two from her apartment building. It had been a marvel of a September day; warm enough to forego a coat beneath an unblemished blue sky. She saw the kids playing basketball and heard their raucous shouts and laughter. They added to the atmosphere, became ambient sound, and so she paid them no special attention. If she had, she might have dropped to the pavement when everyone else had.

In the shot of a lifetime, a stray bullet from an attempted drive-by shooting traveled through a chain link fence, across a blazing blacktop, and through another chain link fence before coming to halt inside the skull of Luna. She collapsed to the ground, falling at the same rate as the blood that spurted from the wound and splattered the fence. It made a neat pool on the ground around her, but Luna didn’t really remember all of that. She didn’t remember anything. It was all a black void until she woke up in the hospital about a month later.

When Luna was released, the doctors presented her with the bullet they had extracted from her skull during surgery. She had it melted down and molded into a neat oval, and she wore it around her neck. Her mother said she was morbid, and her friends never talked about it, but all of them had encouraged her to move on, to keep living, to be happy for her second chance. And Luna supposed she was.

But it was hard. It was hard looking like some oddly feminine monster of Dr. Frankenstein’s while trying to date. And it was hard to keep from crying when someone asked about the pendant she was wearing. And it was hard to escape to be confronted by a mirror.

bulletbrain

On life changing news.

Published May 14, 2012 by mandileighbean

The copyright came through for my novel. 🙂 I have to make a copy of the certificate, and send it to Martin Sisters Publishing. One step closer, my friends; one step closer.

PROMPT: Life-changing News
  You go to the doctor for a regular checkup and she gives you some life-changing news. Write this scene.

PIECE:

I felt the paper beneath me and could hear it crinkle as I shifted nervously from side to side. I was trying to sit still, honest, but I was too nervous. The migraines had been getting worse, and using Google to self-diagnosis had been a disaster; I was convinced that at any moment, I would die. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt and without any kind of medical training, that the blood vessels in my brain were too small, restricting blood flow. Lack of blood to an organ meant lack of oxygen which meant death, and if my brain were to die, what would be left? These thoughts had been running through my seemingly lively brain for the past week or so; from the time I underwent the MRI and the CAT scan to the time I was now breathlessly waiting for the results. Filled with nervous energy, I was not only swaying on the paper runner, but I was wringing my hands, like some female character in a Shakespeare play, moments away from a horrendous downfall. My fingers, which felt swollen and numb, kept stumbling over the mood ring on the middle finger of my left hand. It glowed an ugly shade that bordered between brown and green, indicating that I was stressed. I sighed, frustrated with the obvious – why couldn’t the cheap conglomeration of metal and plastic tell me something that I didn’t know – and I heard my mother clear her throat.

“Would you stop shifting? You’re making me nervous, and believe me – we don’t have anything to be worried about,” she said. My mother spoke plainly and clearly; there was not a shred of nonsense or frivolity in her speech. Being so certain was supposed to make me feel comforted, but instead, it made me feel hostile and argumentative; that had always been our relationship.

“What if I’m dying, Mom? What will you say then?”

“You’re being dramatic.”

“So? I might be living on borrowed time; I can be whatever I want.”

She rolled her eyes. “I don’t have time for this.”

I laughed. “Neither do I!”

My mother inhaled sharply, storing enough breath so that she may force some sense into me via her vocal abilities but as my luck would have it, the doctor walked in. She was pregnant – about to burst, actually – and I saw her rotund belly, full of life, before I really saw anything else. She hadn’t been anywhere near when I was sent through a cylindrical tube that shook, rattled and rolled. Nor had she made eye contact and offered a comforting smile when there had been needles and tubes and that awful, cloying smell of sterilization. Despite her recent and poignant absences, she had a pleasant face so that when she smiled, I did feel … okay. She had a round, dark face with dark, straight hair and exotic, dark eyes. She wore a white lab coat over plain black pant and a plain black turtleneck. Her accent was thick, but it didn’t distract from the all-important meaning of her speech. I saw my mother’s round, green eyes dart back and forth between me and the doctor, like she was waiting for my anger and anxiety to explore. I wondered the same thing myself – would this be a showdown? Would the results of the test send me into a blind fury?

She sat across from me on an office chair with four wheels that was covered in an unremarkable plastic that was the most hideous shade of blue I had ever seen. Maybe I only hated it because I imagined she ascended it like some kind of throne; like she was taking a regal, royal seat far above and removed from the chaos of the coliseum below, and she would decide whether or not I lived or died with a simple turning of her thumb. “Hello Amanda, I am Dr. Gupta, and it a pleasure to meet you.”

“You too,” I replied, amicably enough. In hindsight, I realize my gritted teeth may have been less than friendly.

“So I’ve looked at the results of your tests, and your MRI came back fine,” she said, smiling. My breath caught in my throat. If both tests were fine, she’d mention them together, at the same time, right? The color left my face and pooled at my feet which, much like my fingers, suddenly felt swollen and numb. What did it matter how my feet felt? She was about to tell me I needed brain surgery or something equally as frightening.  I saw myself robbed of my faculties, one by one, while my family and friends looked on helplessly. I’d be dead within five years, give or take, and why? Because I had really bad headache who symptoms mirrored that of a stroke? Because I couldn’t talk or remember my name, and because I couldn’t see out of my left eye, only rotating diagonal lines, some black and some white? I could live with those minor inconveniences, because really that’s all they were and all they would be if I were just allowed to live – that’s all I wanted. Tears crowded at the front of my eyes as I braced myself for the impact of Dr. Gupta’s devastating diagnosis. I wanted my mom to scoop me up into her arms and sob, and simultaneously promise me that everything would be okay.

“Your CAT scan came back positive as well, so I think you need to cut some stress from your life,” Dr. Gupta advised. She was smiling.

I looked to my mother, confused. What had the doctor said? I was fine?

“Why are you so stressed, Amanda?”

 

The rest of the visit was a blur. I remember Dr. Gupta suggesting I remove caffeine and chocolate from my diet, and that I should increase pleasurable activities. More than anything else, I remember her saying I was going to be fine. Silent, I walked behind my mother a few paces to the car. My mother was silent as well, but I knew her mind was a flurry – she was trying to think of the right words to say. On my best day, I was delicate and temperamental. How was my mother to know what my reaction would be on a day such as this, when I received what should have been the greatest news of my life?

Upon arriving at the driver’s side door of her large, white Ford Expedition, she turned to me. “Well, that was good, right?”

I started sobbing.

Was I disappointed I wasn’t dying? Was I missing the possibility of the dramatics that would have ensued, had I been given my expected death sentence? Why was I not leaping for joy? I hugged my mother tightly and sobbed and heaved and carried on in a somewhat empty parking lot on a brisk day in February.

 

What the hell was wrong with me, indeed.

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