by John Seaberg
Prose on Brain Injury
For about a year, I had a shit-eating grin.  Literally.

Nate was a baby; he cried and whined too much about how he couldn't do it, couldn't do that, simply because he had a brain injury.  I couldn't help but crying too, especially with those braces on my legs. I was a baby.

Some folks, like Nate, deserve to be hit by a truck, or shot in the head, like I was. That sounds awful, but I honestly felt that way at the time when I entered my very first transitional rehabilitation facility called "Sheltering Armpits" in muggy-ass Richmond, Virginia.  I remember feeling ashamed that I was one of them, one of the brain injured, robotic, dreadful freaks, who shuffled like lifeless zombies.  Brain injured freaks.  I cried. Or I don't know if I felt anything then.

I cleverly assumed things during the infancy of my brain injury. Like an all-knowing clever, blue-eyed monkey boy that babbled vacantly, drooled, was in diapers, I artfully interpreted things to make sense to me.  I thought the sprinkler system in the darkened tomb was both drearily cool and silent at the same time due to the 'shut door no noise' policy enforced by a pudgy and pompous, Groucho Marx-eyebrowed neuropsychologist who thought he knew too much.  But I knew his tricks, the clever monkey boy that I was!

Now where was I?  I was thinking about how to conceptualize into words that I somehow "knew" the sprinkler was for showering and ablution, just like I "knew" that my sister was a nurse who clucked and lisped over me daily when in reality she was miles away in Kentucky. I pissed the bed the first night I was there, and a mean black man with a voice like a shotgun blast hollered that if I ever peed in bed again, I'd have to clean it up.  I then shat myself, promptly snacked on it like pizza, and laughed hysterically, and stuttered "cclean uppp". Arrogance and gait belts do not mix - that's an incredible realization from my standpoint, a lesson that I failed until much later on to appreciate.

Basically this was a time when only the bowels and bladders counted; where extreme, murmuring paranoiac fright arced its way across the right frontal lobe of my brain, like the cocktail of crank, coke, scag and morphine I used to inject daily into my pulsing, needy, greedy veins for years. Unlike Lenny Bruce, I wear the track marks half ashamed, half proud as a testament of sorts of how artfully pretentious my "hard" life was.  Back then, my brain was an asshole, having a death wish out for my body, but I think I'm better, now, or at least hope I am.

Wait a minute: my brain wasn't wrapped up totally in its own death wish; I happily wished death upon others.  I took the time to flip people off when I was first let out into the world; unintentionally, of course.  I don't know how it happened: I would be walking with assistance, the best thing ever, in my humble and brain-addled opinion, some people in a green car were politely staring, and the brain sent signals and infinitely subtle motor impulses, and voila, a middle finger for your dining pleasure, madams et monsieur's.  Eat well, farts and cordials served afterwards.

I feared and loathed and was depressed and intimidated by my psychiatrist's intelligence and demeanor as well - a cocktail of emotions that's only appropriate for a Glasgow scale coma 3-4, posturing, semi-vegetative, mother-worrying, selfish prick with a brain injury.  Savvy, I used to drool and daydream of Burrough's famous baboons, bare-assed, fresh from the depths of Africa, so their paws would be full of bacteria, performing brain surgery on the good doctor of physical rehabilitation, tearing at his brain and squishing it into an infinite amount of pieces to try and find the puzzle as he attempted to unlock the inner workings of the essence of me, my brain, the sum totality and future environment of what I dreamed what would have been, instead of what I was - what I had the potential to accomplish.  Life seethed within me but life bombinated in me as well...brain-raper, I wished those screaming, symphony of gnashing, wild-eyed baboons, en masse, would crouch their red-asses over you and explosively shit in your innards, screaming profane monkey invectives, all the while bobbing and pinching their lovely cheese out to make sure that they spewed the very last of the hemorrhagic, deadly feces into your body, Dr. N, such was my hate, fear, loathing of you.  And love, admiration, and tremendous respect for you, Dr. Nazzler.  I lusted after your brain, and one day, hoped I could be as greedy and arrogant as you were, in my nascence of brain injury.

A year later, when I was recovering more and made my self, I met this brilliant neuropsychologist and was telling him a conversation where I subconsciously fawned (methinks) on Nazzler's ego, and asked him where he was trained, or what was his nationality, I think because I had ideations of him magically developing tartive diskenesia, a condition in which the medicine he obviously had stock in causes the facial muscles to twitch. Permanently. This guy was crazy if  he thought I was going to fuck up a perfectly good modeling career. Anything except my beautiful face he could have, but I secretly fawned on him and wished he would have a sudden attack of tartive diskensesia and twitch himself to death.  My body you may have, as I legally defaulted it on the night of the 28th of January, 1998 when I held that loaded gun drunkenly in my hand and woozily shot myself in the yolk, the cradle of life.  My soul?  Possibly, as I was practically a grey zombie, you Faustian psychiatrist sumbitch, but you absolutely wouldn't take my beloved pretty boy face.  I'm serious, now, you hear, Naz?  I almost forgot one thing - it's incredibly difficult for us brain injuries to sequence, especially those damaged in the frontal lobes, to do things in order, because thoughts jumble words string together like tangled, multicolored fuzzy yarns constricting themselves tighter across until like Brie cheese, the brain slices, leaving the victim of the injury in a web that he or she wants to tell but can not stutter out the words if fortunate enough to be vocal.

I thought long and hard about what it's like to have a brain injury.  There are no words and thoughts for such a thing, as it's impossible to describe, but I suggest you give it a try by falling off a 12 foot ladder, or by a savage and bloody beating with an air-conditioning pipe, where you are left for dead in a garage only to be discovered by a horrified family member twenty hours later, an automotive accident where alcohol or drugs are involved - anything's possible in what I have now come to call 'the universe within', the brain.  It's only the slightest, subtlest change in the brain that can wreak havoc, only a mere matter of neurons that can leave a person shipwrecked permanently, drifting alone on an island, with white hands and a surgical sea of doctors' gloves, begging for help.  But the tide's going out, eventually, and there is nothing that can be done, except wait for a miracle, perhaps.  Final curtain.  Lights out.  Nada. "That's all, folks"!

I was that miracle - plenty of brain injuries are, slowly coming back as gaunt, pale shadows of their former selves, miracles all.  What does the brain think about murdering the brain, the fragile egg, the life yolk, and the universe within?  The average person can blink anywhere from 30-40 times a minute.  Depending upon the nature and location of the brain trauma - it's my understanding that the area that's responsible for involuntary functions is the motor stem - a brain injury is lucky if she can blink (with hours of practice) as much as the average Joe can.  In the blink of an eye, life can change.

This is my attempt to turn the unblinking eye of a brain injury inwards, to feel as honestly about, and recall as best as I can, the year in extensive rehabilitation during my capture.  Capture because I considered myself a wild, coprophilous form of organism, almost prehistoric in my purple rage.  In my infancy, I hated everybody and anyone that dared come into my dim and grey hospital room.  I felt sorry for those nurses, all except one, whom I had the biggest crush for, as he was hot, like a big-bellied, 70's, sheriff, mirrored sunglasses, toothpick and all.  I wanted him to breed me, and I imagined that when he'd give me an enema, it was his warm, milky seed that he was releasing into me, and I would try and hold on to his sperm for as long as possible, until I couldn't anymore, and suddenly my bowels, loosened like after a meal of collard greens, would empty, leaving my lover's 'pearls' down in the toilet.  After my nurse lover left, I would lay listless and forlorn in those dim white sheets, aghast, almost bitterly, but fondly loving the fact that Fred had tapped into the very roots of my inherent, primeval need for masochism, not saying very much as he gruffly pulled my ass cheeks apart, and like the unwilling participant that he was in my dreadfully fantastic daydreams, roughly shoved the glistening end of the enema, 'til he found the deepest, darkest spot, and then he roughly shoved it in… I tell ya', that's heaven personified for a fearless masochist as I was back then.  But I'm better now, or at the very least, think I am.  For that, fuck you brain, and the head you rode in on.  I vow to get you back, one of these days, by shooting myself in a different area of the brain, maybe.  Perhaps, perhaps not.  Depends on my spleen, which, as you may or may not know, is a wholly different area than the brain.

Let me tell you, first that this is not some story about mere coprophilia; it reaches beyond that, into the deepest recesses of the inner and injured brain: it is about the dread clawing motion, the uncontrolled hand that scratches perserveratively on the tension hose 'til the red blood spurts out, the awful hand to-mouth motion, and the reptilian patois of the brain that controls the basic instinct of fight or scuttle...

Now, where was I?  Oh, right - I was telling you THE STORY! Wish me luck, because I'm not as honest as I could be, or strive to be, anyways.  That French guy, Jean Dominique Bauby, who wrote the book, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", was right when he wrote that the dreams you have in a coma are forever printed in your brain, tattooed, seared like a laser image.

What did I dream in my three-day coma?  A proliferation, enough to last me a lifetime without ever dreaming again.  I dreamed that I was the first nuclear poet, arisen from a sad and bleak realm of charred ashes, to call loud and clear the possibilities of what could have been but never was to be, in a bright and cheerful rhythmic voice, happy for the future and its promises, but at the same time cautionary, stern and almost chiding.  I dreamed about Scully and Mulder of the X-files.  They were on a boat, and I was its shadow, but this amazing craft could disappear at will, leaving nothing for a shadow to do, except perhaps draw up and posture like a white rodent, hurrying, and worrying the clucking, conscientious respiratory therapists and neurosurgeons out of the grey ICU room where my body, all but dead, lay in a transparent white gauze.  Dreams?  Let me tell you about dreams, of coma-laden stupors like I dreamt: there was a civil war, and there were black- powder guns firing.  I was in a covered wagon, driving foaming, wild-eyed horses with veins popping out of their necks, and my face was besmirched with dirt, and I and other soldiers, dressed in tattered uniforms, were transporting a deadly weapon, circular, made of sticks, in a circular pattern, to destroy the 'enemy'.  This weapon had the power to focus in the sun and wipe out our 'enemies' using the power of the sun; there was no sun.  I felt calm, like a Buddhist or a Tibetan monk, but the soldiers were panicking.  Then I had the dream about a luxury sports car that could travel in space and through time.  It was an Acura-type vehicle, and the 13 white suns of the universe flashed off of its iridescent paint, seeming to light the universe in a brilliant white, the 13 suns illuminating with a blinding white depression.  For to me the color of depression is not black, but glaring white, a white that will blind and hypnotize you if you should dare to stare at it for too long.

I awoke from my coma and faced the white, blinding, hopeless light, and the thin-legged rope man, depression, jumped the white ice to greet me eagerly.