By Judith Hannah Weiss
Your head is in a helmet studded with electrodes. A giant eye is watching you. You look like a million dollars, rather, a million dots, in a screaming, thumping tube.
My brain is numbered. Probes puncture my scalp to survey my mind. Temporal lobe, occipital lobe, you name it; there’s a probe for the lobe.
Everyone wants to be trusted and this is especially true in a close, personal relationship. Like a brain. They test mine a few thousand times and find files have disappeared. Like the file that encodes new memories and the file that integrates physical movements so you don’t fly down the stairs.
My brain broke on a Tuesday. This is called brain damage. It takes years to retain those two words and even more to say them. I later learn I was hit by a drunk woman wielding a truck. I learn and forget that a few hundred times. She ran out of beer and ran into me.
I can only recall so many things at any one time. Sort of like only so much can fit in a box. The things I saw in my life, the things I knew, don’t fit in the box. I keep slamming into walls. Objects may seem further, bigger, nearer, smaller. Subjects may rearrange.
You reconfigure any shards you can find of anything you ever knew. You are repurposed and so are they. You start scratching scraps of anything you recall on any surface you can find. Coffee stirrers, paper cups, cup lids. You stash scraps in shopping bags, then forget the shopping bags.
In a few years you find them, shake them out like confetti, place your fingers on a keyboard, and commit the scraps to screen. You call this Scrap-Book. It shuffles, scuffles, blows apart. You shoot from one self to the other, then slam back and forth like a hockey puck. You take a step without seeing the curb or feeling your feet and don’t own your body or brain or life.
In Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Private Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. Let’s try that again. If Orr flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to.
I encountered a Catch-22 in year two of Brain Training. The head guy (pun intended), who looked like the Wizard of Oz, said that I was both too screwed-up and not screwed-up enough to receive help. If I were more screwed up, they could do something. If I were less screwed-up, they could do something. But I wasn’t, so they couldn’t.
Judith Hannah Weiss made headlines for 30 years, promoting print and broadcast for clients like Time Warner, Conde Nast, Hearst, Hachette and HBO. Excerpts and partial versions of her upcoming book, Amnesic Memoir, have appeared or are forthcoming in Dogwood, The Rumpus, Creative Nonfiction, Literal Latte, and Mid-Century Modern. You can find her at www.judithhannahweiss.com.