This Is Called Agnosia by Kate Nacy
You call me and I call you and you call me and I call you and then I call you and I have you.
You tell me about working at the hospital, about how you get there at six and leave around seven, which you say is not that bad. It only takes 20 minutes to get to work, because you can just take I-95. You have a discount at the cafeteria; food is only free for doctors. You don’t have time to eat anyway.
There’s a lady who can’t get the gravity out of her hair. She tells you black people have this problem: they have so much gravity. At home, she has a pomade and it helps control the conflict between her hair and the atmosphere. The pomade is liquid drain opener and it burned her scalp raw and they covered her wounds with cadaver skin. Now she takes antipsychotics and antidepressants but her hair stays full of gravity.
You tell me about the girl from your English class. You say she’s rich; she comes from a fine family of racists in Grosse Pointe. She stopped eating and taking showers and didn’t leave her apartment for four weeks and I guess that’s why she’s there although you’re also there but not for the same reason and it’s funny sometimes who winds up with what.
You tell me about the woman who scares you, the one who walks through the corridor and smiles all day. Her smile says fuck you; it is not a safe smile. She grabbed another patient by the face, you say. She plunged thumbs deep into eye sockets and it took a long time to make her let go. I tell you that vision happens in the brain and not the eye and you tell me that’s a stupid thing to say and you are right.
I tell you I’ve met all these people in Wal-Mart Supercenters. You tell me about neural circuits and I have to think of questions to ask so that we can keep having a conversation.
I ask if Dad told you I’m depressed. You say yes, he did. I remind you that Dad says I have nocturnal eating syndrome diabetes narcolepsy shingles and that he euthanized our dog for an ear infection.
I tell you I am not depressed and I choose (joyful) words and form (exuberant) sentences to convince you that every day is a saturnalia. I meet a lot of people, I say. This is true, but it sounds like a lie. It’s like saying I am the most popular person in my apartment complex or My dentist thinks I’m hilarious or Everyone in the post office wants to fuck me.
I make an elaborate show of complaining, as a depressed person couldn’t possibly have the energy to do. I complain about other people. I complain about the postal system, about having to recycle. I tell you the only reason I recycle is to not get caught not recycling. I say Who do those assholes think they are, in reference to at least three different groups of assholes. I complain about the state of California. I tell you I might try to poison this one lady.
You are buying a textbook on Amazon.com, but I can’t tell because you are doing a good job of saying Really and What and That’s crazy. I tell you I’m wearing slipper-socks from Tajikistan. I can’t stop talking.
You ask if I’m working, which means you’re ready to engage in the Lying Ritual. I tell you I am a conchologist and a lepidopterist and that I am very busy. I employ interesting and fabricated anecdotes to convey that I am:
✓ not eating olives off a steak knife over the sink with no shirt on
I finish and your idea about what I am stays the same and my idea about what I am stays the same too.
I ask when you’ll get a vacation and you say never and I feel bad. I always ask when you’ll get a vacation and you always say never and I always feel bad. Four years ago, you’d say never like it made you angry and sad but now your answer is flat and grown-up and I am ashamed of myself for asking silly vacation questions, for being ridiculous and out-of-touch, for not knowing enough about hard things, for suggesting that you stop going to your job and go somewhere else instead. Today, you are a soft/hard person and I am a fontanel and a lotus-eater.
We check for signs of my unraveling.
Not yet, but soon. Soon you’ll tend to my cancers.
You’ll give me pamphlets about my infertility and expound on the ways I’ve poisoned myself, on the toxins I’ve swallowed and the chemical agents and the pesticides, the oxygenated gasoline, the deranged equilibrium. The times I didn’t sleep didn’t listen didn’t check, the times I didn’t do the things everyone says are very simple things to do, the things that take only an hour but could, allegedly, alter the entire course of one’s disease one’s recovery one’s continued reluctant survival. I do not do those things. I stand in front of microwaves; I sit close to the television; I mix things that don’t mix. I wait for a car door to bash the teeth from my face.
Then I will bring you my amnesia, blurred vision, phantom limbs and sluggish cognitive tempo. You will make guesses as to why my body is dying faster than it should and you will tell me we are the pulpy throbbing colonies of tens of trillions of cells and I will beg beg beg you to please please please take the gravity
from my hair.
Kate Nacy lives in Berlin. Her work has appeared in Ambassador Magazine, Flux, Maisonneuve, Men’s Journal, Die Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Rolling Stone, Schweizer Journalist, and one weird Thai magazine about smoothies and laser hair removal. She is a descendant of Benedict Arnold, the Great American Judas.