I think my brain might have turned on me. It’s pissed off. The thing is starving to death. You guys, if I may, a confession. Deep breath. Ready?
I haven’t read a book since August.
I know, right? This is unprecedented. You may have noticed my book list widget hasn’t changed for a while. And maybe you just thought I was being lazy. I assure you, I was not. 1Q84 has been sitting on my table gathering dust. Taunting me, that big bastard. I’m about halfway through it. Have been since August. Fucking August. I’ll finish it. And then I shall immediately talk about it with Jessica from Seattle and the Pantsless Book Club and report back here post haste. There’s a lot to talk about in that one. It’s a weirdo.
Meanwhile, I really think I’m having some withdrawal-type side-effects. It’s so strange. For example, I’ve been having the most whacked-out dreams. Like last night, when I wrecked my bicycle on a road strewn with wrecked bicycles. Assuming it was a trap, I ran down an alley and ducked into a big blue door, where my manager from the Giant Evil Bookstore and my husband’s aunt were standing in my high school gym like the creepy almost-twins from The Shining, silently offering me glittery trays of soft, white, sinister-looking burritos. Or last week, when I took my dog to the movies with Neil Gaiman and we cuddled on a huge white leather couch. Then we went to dinner at a fancy restaurant that only served macaroni and cheese. Matt Mira sat at our table, next to a guy with Down’s Syndrome who wouldn’t stop telling racist jokes. And then Gaiman left with my dog.
You see? It’s all very unsettling. Neil Gaiman would never steal my dog. She’s a beagle. She’s not his type. But my brain is all like, “This is what you get, bitch. I run the Matrix. You’re in my house now.”
There are other side-effects, as well. My reaction times are slowing down. I don’t feel safe when I drive. I can’t do basic math quickly anymore. I’m starting to forget things and misplace stuff. I think someone should do a study on how long it takes a smart person to become dumb when intellectual stimuli are taken away. Like Flowers for Algernon, but in reverse and without all the dead mice and crying at the end. Damn, that’s a sad book.
Or, when I heard that Lou Reed died the other day. I was shocked. I took a shot of whiskey to brace myself for the impending sadness that should, by all rights, have followed pretty quickly. I love Lou Reed. I put on the banana album and waited for the sads. And the sads never showed up. Logically, intellectually, I am upset by his death. But I’m not sad. Is it possible that I’m so braindead that I can’t even feel sad? That doesn’t seem right. Maybe I’m just learning more about my weird relationship with Lou Reed’s work.
But it’s frustrating, you know? I did not take a months-long intellectual hiatus on purpose. I believe that the brain is a muscle and if you don’t use it, it will atrophy like any other muscle. Not to minimalize anyone else’s pain here, but this is how I imagine it feels when one has to go to physical therapy after a bad injury. “Damn it, leg! Do your job! We both know how this works!” Only, you know, not nearly that horrible. I’m just having trouble remembering the words for things.
“Yeah, yeah, Vanessa. Whine about it some more. Weakling. Who cares?”
I am aware of how bitchy and stupid all of this sounds. But it’s not just about my having no other positive attributes or marketable skills beyond intelligence. I do have a legitimate reason for all this brain-related panic.
My grandmother died of Alzheimer’s. And we weren’t that close, honestly. She was always a little weird, as Depression-era folks from coal mining country tend to be. Washed and dried her aluminum foil, saved candy wrappers, that kind of thing. This woman refused to give me a whole stick of gum until I was almost fifteen. She always said, “Love, Grandma” at the end of her phone messages, like she was ending a letter. Just an odd lady. But she was good, genuinely good, and she worked her ass off her entire life for her family. Because that’s what you do. And when she started to forget things, we just thought she was old. I mean, she was old, but we didn’t really think it was scary. Not yet. Then she started to call everyone by the wrong name and talk about conversations that she had the day before with people who had been dead for fifty years. She forgot to take her medicines and went out in the snow in her nightgown. She broke things and then forgot they were broken and called the police, thinking she’d been robbed. When the cops got there, she’d stepped on the broken pieces of a lamp and hadn’t even noticed that her feet were bleeding. By the end she couldn’t swallow, the parts of her brain that controlled those muscles were gone. So when I tell you that I’m scared of ending up like that, it is not about vanity. I’m not being a know-it-all who just wants to keep on being a know-it-all.
I just don’t want to be…what? Vacant. Hollow. Lost.
So, I eat my leafy greens and I take my vitamins and I live in fear. That’s really all I can do. There’s no way to know when the disease is coming for me, if it’s coming at all. But if it does, I’ll probably be blind by then, so I hope I can at least live in a calm, dark bubble of happy memories.
Gah. Downer. Sorry. Shake it off, guys, shake it off.
I think I’m going to take a day off and sit in the sun with my dogs and read a book. Or two. I’ll pick something good, so I can tell you about it later.