“My feet. That’s the signal. They start twitching. And I know it’s coming,” C tells me.
Out the window of the rushing train, the sun climbs up out of the eastern horizon of Colorado. I met C early this morning for the first time after she agreed to be interviewed for a project I’m working on that involves Denver’s transit system.
She continues, “You know like on a roller coaster when the car slows at the top?”
“Oh yeh, of course,” I say “There’s that ‘clack, clack, clack’ as the car slows and groans beneath the weight and incline. Then it gets to the top and pauses.”
“Well, when I feel that—that twitching—I sit down ‘cause I know it’s about to happen.”
“Sit no matter where you are? Middle of the street? Anywhere?”
“Anywhere. I have to.”
“And then…I drop.”
“Like that roller coaster. It gets to the top, then pauses….and then—bam—drops.”
“Is it one experience or two? Does that even make sense? Do you experience falling in your brain and at the same time have the realization that you’re body is hitting pavement?”
“No, it’s just one thing, really. And besides, I don’t really hit the pavement, at least not usually. When the twitching starts, I lay down.”
“Is it pleasurable?”
“No euphoria at all? I mean, you know where I’m going with this, right? The famous Dostoevsky style aura?”
“Yeh, but no.”
I lean back against the vinyl train seat across from C. I know I know I know, it’s such a cliche to ask an epileptic whether she experiences euphoria or an aura before a seizure. Still, I feel deflated by her answer. The cliche expresses a desire, a desire for a kind of cosmic accountancy. I (we?) want to live in a world with a karma bank account that gives with the right hand if it takes with the left.
But for C it just takes. She experiences no compensation, nothing resembling the divine like Joan of Arc is rumored to have experienced, no urge to write like Dostoevsky. Nothing but waking up from a seizure alone, confused, sore from her muscles firing constantly during the seizure, exhausted and needing to sleep.
C’s seizures started at age two, after she took a baseball bat to the head. She tells me this and I don’t ask who or how. Who stares into the crib of a two-year old and picks up a bat?
I get my answer later she tells me her father is in prison, that he beat the shit out of her mom. When he went to prison, she and her mom lit out West, changed their names, reinvented their pasts, started over.
But she couldn’t really start over. Her seizures came with her. The state won’t give her license, and for years she couldn’t hold a job. But she finally found a medication that stopped the seizures and she hasn’t had one for ten years.
“This might sound weird,” I ask, “But now that you don’t have seizures, is there anything you miss about them?”
“Is there anything you love to do now that you couldn’t before, when you were still having seizures? ”
“Oh yeh, on my days off, I’ll hop the train over to Elitch’s and ride their roller coasters all day long. I love the Mind Eraser.”