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No Two Brains

2016-09-18-14-47-12

I went to visit my cousin in Philadelphia a week ago. As a way to stimulate my little nephew we took him to the Franklin Institute. He was asleep for most of our time there,  to our amusement, which gave us more time to enjoy the exhibitions engaging to both children and adults.

Halfway through our tour, we made it to the exhibition pertaining to the brain and all its processes. I spent a lot of time in there, given my condition with seizures. I couldn’t help myself from spending quality time in there, like I have in other brain exhibits. I had to fill that need to see what’s inside me, or better yet what’s the part that’s defective.It’s the parietal lobe, to my best knowledge, that’s affected. It may be the temporal but I’m not sure, it’s been years since I’ve gone through the medical reports.

There was one particular spot of the exhibit that was caught my attention, so much so that it triggered my instincts quickly. It was a physical representation of the neural pathways of the brain, but in this lit-up trip of a display that was climbable. So naturally, I climbed in.

 

 

It was clearly meant for smaller frames, but I said “fuck it” and went through the ordeal. As I pass through, I recalled all the times I’d think of how those rogue sparks in my head would start my seizures. Would they look like the way I’m latching onto the net, its steel a representation of neurons?

I stood at the top for a few minutes, looking down and wondering at the irony of having a seizure within the maze – I didn’t, thankfully. When I came down, I had a sense of relief and understanding, in that while I know metaphysically I was just completely up my ass at that moment, I saw what it felt to be the defect. And I didn’t hate it for that one moment.

 

Train Writing

I have a new job, one that has me leaving the house after years of working in my pajamas. So that means a commute, which I’m comfortable with. This has afforded a small moment of peace, as turbulent as that sounds, since I am away from the family and the office for a combined eighty minutes give or take when the next train comes. So, of course, I write. I keep three notebooks in my bag along with all my other items. Lately I’m using one of the smaller ones since I’m working on my new Haiku Mixtape project, which doesn’t really need a lot of real estate as far as paper is concerned. The larger notebook comes out rarely, but when it does it’s only when I can sit down waiting for the next train, and when i really need to put down something long and drawn out.

This isn’t a new thing, I’ve been doing this for years. What makes it different is the ritualistic nature of it now. The pulling out of the black book and pen, the faces of daily commuters surrounding me becoming small easels for facial descriptions, etc. It isn’t like the weekend train ride. there’s a permanence to it now. This continued mobile isolation of sorts will be a productive one, hopefully. Until the job drives me insane.

(Note: parts of this were made in repeated drafts written on the PATH train on Monday and Tuesday of this week.)

Can’t Let Them Catch The Midnight Writer

The first time I can remember writing alone was in third grade. It was well past my bedtime and I barely sat on the kitchen table enough to scribble down on one of those composition books with the scattered black-and-white patterns throughout the cover and back. I don’t quite remember what it was on – insects, perhaps – but I remember the time being past the 11 o’clock news and no one being in the room with me. The only reason my parents didn’t try to stop was because these were the days in which my mom went into work around six in the morning and my dad’s hours were completely fucked from all the residency he did at multiple hospitals.That was around 1995.

It’s 2002 and my sister is fast asleep. Years of staying up late writing or playing games have added up by then and the internet have mixed it all up and made me into a huge mess of insomnia and information addiction. The Compaq PC was the only computer my family had  at the time, and I was the one that was on in more than anyone else. When I wasn’t downloading music at the speed of Congress getting any work done, I pulled up document files while I talked to other friends with sleep problems – mostly girls – and wrote. I played music at very low volumes so that no one noticed I was awake, at least not until it was two or three in the morning. I pulled many all-nighters writing topic and country papers for Model UN (yes, I was that kind of nerd, and I’m not ashamed of it). My brother introduced me to energy drinks because of my nocturnal writing patterns, and I learned the concepts of deadlines and how to produce quality work. It just took the darkness.

More sleep disappeared in college, as I wrote my fiction/poetry out of boredom at night when I wasn’t working on lab papers during the day. There was less sunlight there, creating days with an illusion of perpetual twilight. And that was all I needed to keep the words flowing. I was pretty much a wreck at that point and well on my way to the major crash that would occur near the end. Every night has a dawn, and some are painful and blinding.

When I finished school and my brain finally decided it was time to go haywire, I had to give into a set sleep schedule. I had help from someone, but the more I slept the more I lost the night, and there went the dark and the silence and the click-clack of my fingers on something. The first rounds of medication didn’t help either – they dulled everything, from my physical hunger to my thoughts. I took a considerable amount of time to write again, and to no surprise it came back to me in the dark, when I was working a night job with a bunch of Mexican guys. During breaks I would take out a small notebook and jot down pieces of a story inspired by what I was doing.

As of this writing, it’s almost  6 AM and the sun is just making its way up. The sensation is the same as it was years ago, and I am spell-checking and fixing any grammatical errors on my sister’s paper after doing some of my own personal work. The rush of night writing, the liberation and isolation it allows me to have, is amazing, but there is a new thought that crosses my mind – will this always be the way it works?  I hoped I could find a way to do this with the sun but I never can. This thing, this path that gives me strength, it’s unhealthy and this will hurt eventually but I don’t see any other way to do this. I’ll just continue writing until the light comes, then find my way to sleep if the day allows it.

On the PATH with Sanam

[This is a repost from my Tumblr from something that happened two years ago. I decided to put it here just in case something happened to the other site in the future.]

 

The heat of the 9th Street PATH station was the least of my annoyances that night. I sat down on the only free spot of a bench with no back rest, next a loathsome group of men in pastel polo shirts and women in garish colored tight dresses. The ladies’ voices dripped with superficiality and their conversations were infested with horrible pop culture references and appending “hashtag” to meaningless words. It reminded me why I never understood the newfound attraction people have in moving to Hoboken and become like them. The train on route back to New Jersey came in, and I entered few cars away from that group. It made no difference – this time a group of completely hammered Hispanic men and women stood a couple of feet to my right, swaying near a connecting door, slurring lyrics incoherently as loud as possible.

As I am wont to do on late-night trains, I activated the gentlemanly part of my mind that I had shut down earlier at the club. I let the elderly and women exhausted from their own partying take any seat that could have been mine. Tonight I was especially urbane, as I needed atonement for a brusque exchange with a lady in the mood for a dance or two. Those dances did not happen, of course.

I kept to myself, holding a pole and hearing the conversations around me. Three men gave someone directions to Newark Airport. I looked over to see who was on the receiving end of the advice. A girl about my age sat at the end of a seat. She had a light frame and wore a short black jacket, holding on two pieces of rolling luggage that if stacked on top of each other would block her out of view completely. She had wavy reddish-brown hair with black roots that looked natural-colored. From my preliminary look at her I saw that her skin was a healthy white, but she was not Caucasian – perhaps a mixed race Asian. She had a tired look on her face.

I waited until the stop the Hoboken purged the generic party crowd before I walked over to the pole nearest to the girl. My second examination made it clear the she was Arabic, Turkish most likely, from the deep black eyelashes surrounding hazel eyes and full lips that were amazing in spite of no lipstick.

“You’re trying to get to Newark, right?” I asked her.

She looked up wearily but with enough energy to smile. “Yeah,” she said.

“Just follow me then, we’ll be at Journal Square soon. OK?” She nodded.

The rest of the ride to the transfer station consisted of making fun of the drunken Latinos. They were amusing until one of the men who decided standing between the cars and bouncing around was a sane idea.

“Hey dumbass, get back in here, I don’t want a delayed train!” I shouted. I turned back to the girl. “I promise not everyone from New Jersey acts like them,” I said.

“Well, that’s good,” she said. She didn’t stop smiling.

The seat next to her cleared on the next stop. I sat down and finally asked her name.

“Sanam.”

“What does that mean?”

She laughed. “It’s a bit embarrassing, actually.”

I told her mine.

“Like, Jesus, Jesus?”

“Yup. So trust me, your name won’t make me laugh any more than people have laughed at mine.”

“Well…my name means something like “woman so revered that kings would fight over her.”

I looked at quizzically. “How is that a bad thing?”

She laughed and shrugged.

The rest of the trip to Journal Square I let her tell her story. She was on her way home, in Vancouver, to visit her parents before visiting family in Montreal – I told her I had family there as well. After that stop, she said “I’m going back to uni in Istanbul. I have to learn more Arabic.”

“Why? What are you going to school for?”

“I want to be a war correspondent.”

The image of this shy and beautiful young Turkish girl wearing the stereotypical bulletproof vest, with her hair tied down but still moving to the winds created by jet fighters and mortar fire, appeared in my mind. I pushed it away to listen to her internships – one at Reuters, another for the Associated Press – and her experience in a boot camp created to prepare journalists for the dangerous areas ahead in their careers.

“The first things they gave us were a bulletproof vest and a helmet,” she said, and her excitement from the memory increased the broadness of her grin. “And the only thought I could think of when they gave it to me was… awesome.”

The train stopped at Journal Square. I moved into gentleman overdrive and reached for one of the luggage pieces and pulled it in the open door’s direction. She tried to dissuade me with the oh-you-don’t-have-to’s and are-you-sure-you-can’s but I calmly told her I couldn’t just leave her dragging those beasts on her own. This was one of the few times I was glad the late night Newark train took its sweet time.

I kept my answers to her questions brief. I used my San Francisco card rather well, and she asked about my immigrant story. The only thing question that caught me off guard was:

“Well, now that you’re back in New Jersey, do you think about leaving again?”

I paused and gave her some vague answer, but I know that the true answer is yes, I do always.

We reached Penn Station and after passing by a toothless homeless woman throwing obscenities at the two of us, I hailed a taxi for her and let her go. She hugged me and I gave her a quick kiss on the cheek – I have absolutely no idea why I did that. I was picked up by my normal ride, and in hindsight I should have asked if she wanted a ride, but that would have been a very suspect proposal.

It’s been a week and she is still on my mind, with that sheepish smile. I think she will have more men fighting over her soon – this time with actual guns.