I stare at my arms. These arms. They’re not mine, but I’m
wearing them. They’re thick and muscular and covered in hair.
The veins run like rope down the insides.
I squeeze my eyes shut for the hundredth time, hoping that
when I open them, I’ll look down and see my own thin arms. My
own delicate veins.
Oh, God, do I need help. I need help. Now.
I stand and my head spins. Grabbing onto the desk, I wait
for the dizziness to pass. Wait for my head to clear. It
I look from the desk to the bed to the floor to the walls
and see where I am. Clarity won’t come. Can’t come. Because
I’m not where I’m supposed to be.
My eyes travel to the mirror and the face staring back in
terror. “Please,” I say. The face says it back, but sloppily.
Like a drunk. “Please,” I beg again. “Where are you?” This
time the words feel formed. This time my lips, his lips, work
the way I expect them to. Or close to it.
But there’s no response.
I lift a hand. Take a step. My movements are staccato.
Jerky. Clumsy. Like electrodes are flexing these muscles. Not
me. Everything about this body is heavy and long. I take
another step forward and it’s smoother, but I’m not used to
the bulk of this body.
And I don’t want to get used to it.
I want out. Of him. Of here.
August: Life As Usual (yeah, right)
“Rise and shine, Sylvie,” Dr. Hong says, his voice full of
forced cheer. “PSG’s done. You have a couple hours of free time
before the MSLT. Go crazy.” I open my eyes and the first thing I
see is the bramble of silver hairs sticking out of his nose. Note
to self: Buy Dr. Hong nose hair clippers for Christmas.
He helps me sit up and I look down at myself, feeling like
something out of a horror movie. Sticky pads with wires dot my
legs and chest. I can’t see the ones above shoulder height, but
their glue makes my chin, forehead and the areas around my ears
and eyes itch. A heavy ponytail of wires cascades down my back
and leads to a machine on my left. Probes tickle my nostrils.
Doc rearranges things and unhooks me so I’m able to walk
around. I almost thank him, but catch myself before I do. I’m
here because he doesn’t believe me. He’s brought me here to
prove himself right. As with all the other tests I’ve taken.
But so far, he hasn’t proven anything. It drives him nuts.
It drives me nuts, too.
I go to the window and open the blinds. Outside, the sun is
bright. Another stifling summer day in Wisconsin. Outside, I
know the air sticks to your skin like Saran-Wrap and feels thick
as cotton wool. I can almost smell the fresh-cut grass, the
acrid scent of blacktop burning.
But here, in the lab, it stinks like antiseptic. And it’s dry
and cool. The perfect sleeping temperature. That’s what I’m here
to do: sleep. It’s the last weekend before school starts, and
while everyone else is tanning on the sand, I’m snoozing in a
Talk about social suicide.
Dr. Hong writes something on my chart. “I’m turning you over
to the team,” he says. “I think these tests will help us figure
it out, Sylvie.” When I don’t respond, he goes on. “You know,
the cataplexy – that’s where you have the sudden loss of muscle
tone. Then the sleep paralysis ... ” Here he looks up from the
chart and directly into my eyes. “And, of course, the
Of course. The hallucinations. I stare back at him
without blinking. He breaks the gaze first and I feel a
ridiculous sense of victory.
They’re not hallucinations. That’s what bothers me
the most, what scares me and pisses me off: Dr. Hong insists
it’s all make-believe.
“Your mother’s worried about you.” Dr. Hong’s voice is
accusing. Like I’ve been giving my mom problems on purpose. If
there’s one thing I don’t want, it’s to make my mom worry more.
“There haven’t been any more incidents,” I say.
Dr. Hong narrows his dark eyes at me. I know he doesn’t
believe me. He never believes me. I might actually be offended –
if I were telling the truth.
“Well, that’s wonderful, then. But with all that’s going on–”
“I’m doing fine. Really.” No need for him to play shrink any
He’s silent a moment. Then he says, “Okay, Sylvie.”
“Everything’s set for school?” It’s a yearly ritual. Tests,
tests, and more tests. Then the paper that declares me fit to
fester in the classrooms of my high school.
“Sure. We don’t need these results to know that. I’ll contact
St. Anthony’s and let them know everything’s in order for your
–” he picks up my chart and looks at it again “—junior year.” He
sticks out his hand and I shake it unenthusiastically.
“I’m sure school will be a lot of fun. You must have the boys
lined up.” His eyes crinkle as he tries a smile.
“The only boys lining up are those who are trying to get
away,” I say.
It wasn’t a joke, but Dr. Hong looks at me and laughs loudly.
He throws his head back and I get a direct view up his nostrils.
Note to self: Forget the nose hair clippers. Buy the guy a