Seriously? What do you think your brain smells like? You know what feet smell like, you know what genitals and armpits smell like even if you don't want to admit it. You know what having a fever smells like, and what the contents of your stomach smell like, voided. You know what tears and blood taste like, and you may have even been around the aroma of someone healing from something big. All that viscera. But what about your brain?
There is something both terrifying and comforting about going to the Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC and watching my mortality stare back at me in the face of a prehistoric giant sloth. Going there, seeing fossils and absurdly giant skeletons and preserved ocean creatures, I gain an appreciation for my place in the world. And that place is really, really tiny.
I got the same feeling in many ways from this book I just finished reading, Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath. Ayano picked it up at the library and I hesitantly devoured it. On one hand the stories are so heart wrenching and terrifying that initially I reacted as I do to the evening news: shut it! Get rid of the sensationalism that does nothing but breed fear in me! But I sensed a necessary engagement, an appreciation of the complexity of brain injury and its ramifications, both on the immediately physical level and on a larger scope in the context of state and federal health care, policies, and accommodations. Plus the guy is a great writer. It gave me one of those "oh shit, anything can happen at any time" feelings, one that has become more and more familiar since becoming a parent, and since my mother was diagnosed. A simultaneous feeling of urgency and purpose. It pitched me into a wave of gratitude for the simplest of processes: blinking my eyes, riding my bike, touching my toes. I fell into an astonished trance of possibility and thanked my lucky stars for having made it this far intact. And then looked around me in utter dread... kind of like when you take a CPR course and then see everyone you encounter as a potential mouth-to-mouth waiting to happen. Yeah. That's kind of what this book did.
I am really missing Alex today.Really really.