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Breath & Shadow

Spring 2021 - Vol. 18, Issue 2


written by

Susan Eve Haar

My Mom calls it Russianizing. And I’m thinking she must be Russian, because she’s so good at pretending and ignoring things. She says the rewriting of past history is something Russians are really good at. Like you get electrocuted so that your body smokes and your guts cave in, and they’ll say you’d passed away in your sleep. Passed is another fake word. Maybe when I go out it’s like passing, I sure am gone. Maybe there’s a place where I go, maybe all the epileptics hang together, the ones who’re having seizures in some kind of extraterrestrial chat room.

“Mom,” I say.

But she’s in her own space, driving me to the hospital, forgetting about the blood test I’ve got to do, forgetting about me. Just busy getting there and thinking about whether to make carrot soup or something. She’s always doing the Mom stuff, but she doesn’t even pay attention.

Maybe it’s my fault.

“When’s the last time Dad did the egg trick?” I ask her, just testing.

“I don’t know,” she keeps her eyes on the road.

I know. It was right before my first seizure. The night before. He only does magic tricks when he’s happy. Actually he only does two tricks, the coin in the ear and the egg trick, where he throws it in the air with some kind of spin, and it lands and doesn’t break. It’s almost a miracle and he won’t tell us how he does it though he says he’s won lots of bar bets on it.

“What’s the difference between epilepsy and a seizure disorder?” I ask. “Why did you say seizure disorder to Pat?” Pat’s the school nurse, and she knows everything about me, the whole trip, in case I keel over in Spanish or something.

“It’s the same thing,” Mom says.

But it’s not. Epilepsy sounds so weird and spastic.

“Can epileptics drive?” I ask.

“As long as they’re under control,” now she looks dead ahead.

It’s like she’s forgotten she has it too. Like I’m the only one with this crap. When she tells me I’ll outgrow it I want to say she never did. But maybe that’s why she’s so totally flipped and she’s making believe I’ll be cured by gelato.

Sometimes I want to punch her and hug her at the same time, I want to tell her that. I want to ask her how come she gets to drive. Probably because she never told anybody that she has seizures before I got it, which is totally weird.

The cab behind her is honking, and the driver passes giving her the bird. Without a doubt she’s driving really badly, way too slow, like she doesn’t want to get to the hospital either.

“Mom,” I say.

“Hmm?” she says. “What?”

What I’m thinking is that I got seizures from her. I just want to say it but I can’t get her to pay attention.  I saw her have a seizure when I was a little kid, maybe four or something, but it’s not the kind of thing you forget. She was up on the bed and her eyes rolled up and she was shaking. She didn’t look like my mom at all and I hid behind the curtains. So it irks me that she’s always pretending everything is okay with her, I know she takes the same stuff I do. I looked in her medicine cabinet.

“Did you bring your pills for after?” she asks like she’s reading my mind.

“No, I forgot,” I don’t know why I say it, I always have emergency doubles in my bag.

“You haven’t had any coverage since last night.”

“So what?” I say.

“Have you been skipping?” she asks, with this fake calm.

“No I never skip. The pills make me all fucked, up and tired, and losing my memory but I never skip.”

I’m getting upset because it’s one thing I always remember. I always take my drugs, because I’m afraid not to.

“Mom, do we have to go today?”

“Yes.” She puts on the butt warmer in my seat. I love the heat that comes up through me, and I love sitting up front. Usually she makes me sit in back, but today is different.

“I’ll go tomorrow. I’m just not ready. Please.”  I try to sound upset, which I really am. She ignores me, and that makes me angry. I don’t want to think about the hospital, the way it smells, and the waiting, and the magazines that are all pawed over and old. I don’t want to think about waiting with sick old people, bent over and coughing up crap. Last time there was this baby with this lopsided beret because something was growing out of his head. They were trying to hide it, or pretend he was French or something, but all you had to do was look at the mother to know it was all wrong. I hate it. All of it.

“When are we going to get a new car?” I ask.

“When the doors fall off of this one.”

Which is what she always says. She’s trying to pass this huge double- parked truck. It looks like we’re okay, going to glide on by, but then there’s this horrible scraping sound like the car is groaning. Mom stops and starts swearing.

“Shit on a shingle!” she says and it’s hard not to laugh.

“Shit on a shingle?” But she’s already out the door, walking around to my side. No one’s in the truck. I’m looking up in the cab and there are these huge green hairy dice hanging from the mirror. I guess it’s for luck. Now we’ve stopped, I can see the side loading steps, poking out low. They’re all rusted and bent, like they’ve been hit a thousand times before. A thousand and one now. Mom comes back and throws the chrome that’s ripped off the side of our car into the back. It’s bent like a pipe-cleaner.

“What are you going to do with that?”

“Fix it or not,” she shrugs but I can tell she’s upset.

“I didn’t see it.” she says, like it’s not obvious. “It was too low to see. They shouldn’t have double parked.”

“Do we have to go?” I ask again. It seems like this is an omen.

“Of course.” She starts to drive, then she stops at a light and looks at me, like she’s just really noticing I’m here.

“It’s not the kind of thing where you have a choice. We have to know your blood levels, how you’re metabolizing it, so we know how the medicine is working”

“You don’t know how much it hurts.”

“You’re right, I don’t,” she says, like she’s thinking about it, and then she’s quiet.

“I’m never getting better,” I say. We are headed up Third and there’s this giant, inflatable rat that’s always there. And we’re passing a Ben and Jerry’s. I wonder if she’d stop so I can get a Cherry Garcia in a sugar cone. But I know she’d never stop when it’s this early, she’s not a strong believer in sugar before noon. And anyway, even if she would I don’t want her to think that she can make it okay that easy, so I don’t even ask.

“I can’t remember anything anymore,” I tell her. “I got a C in the last science quiz, because I forgot most of the digestive system. A C like I’m dumb, like Alexis or somebody. It’s like my brain is shot. It’s shriveling up like a raisin and everything is falling out, and I just want to be normal again.” I say.

“You were never normal,” Mom pulls over. “You were always special.” She looks at me like I’m the most precious thing in the world. It’s breaking my heart that I’m making her sad, but I can’t help it. She pulls me over the console close to her and I put my head on her shoulder. I’m up to her chin already, so I kind of land on her chest. And I feel her breath, uneven, like she’s crying without sound.

“It’s okay,” I say, and I put my arms around her. I hug her, and I feel the bones of her spine. “Most of the time it’s okay.”

Susan Eve Haar works primarily in theater. A member of the Actor’s Studio, Ensemble Studio Theater and the Writer’s Guild East, her work has been produced at Primary Stages, The Women’s Project, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and other venues. Recent work has been included in Best Women’s Monologues 2020, Monologues for Headspace Theater2019, Best Short Plays 2018, Best Men’s Monologures 2018 and Best Women’s Monologures 2018. Her fiction has been published in the Columbia Journal, the North Dakota Quartely, the Saint Ann’s Review as well as bioStories. 

Check out her website!

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