You realize there is a problem when you cannot sort the laundry.
There you are, in the laundry room.
The laundry basket is full of dirty laundry.
You look out the window.
- the sky is a pale blue with cloud streaking across it
- it’s raining and you’re wondering if the roof is going to start leaking again
You bend to sort the laundry.
Typically, you sort the laundry unthinkingly.
Whites over there.
Only, today you can’t do that.
Your brain is broken.
This is because every week you go to a hospital and sit in a blue chair next to a window with venetian blinds.
Through the slats of the blinds, you see:
- if the window is west-facing: a courtyard
- if the window is east-facing: the random plains of the Midwest
Next to the chair, there is a tree.
The tree is metal.
There are two bags hanging from the tree.
You have cancer.
You’re lucky,everyone says.
You’ll be fine, the doctor reassures.
Still, there are different kinds.
(This one is not a good kind.)
The chemotherapy is what you have to do to make sure you get all of it.
Do you feel lucky?
The drugs pump from the bag, through a beeping box, and down a tube to a needle stuck in your chest where there is a subcutaneous medical port surgically implanted below your collarbone and above your heart. This is the best way to do it: to practically dump the drugs right into your heart. You feel the octopus tentacles of the Benadryl tugging at your ankles. You contract into a comma under a green blanket with butterflies on it. The blanket was given to you by the head nurse. It was made by the resident of a nearby rest home for people like you.You slip into a black hole.The machine beeps.You fall out of time.
You hold up a white sock.
White, you think.
You put the sock in the pile of white laundry.
You pick up a black T-shirt.
Black, you think.
You put the T-shirt in the pile of black laundry.
This is how you sort the laundry.
This is what the drugs do to your brain.
You can’t sort the laundry.
How can you write?
You are a writer.
I am a writer, you think, putting a gray shirt on a pile of blue clothes.
If you don’t write, you will:
- go insane
- cease to exist
To your amazement, you keep writing, through chemotherapy.
Your hair falls out, and you keep writing.
Your fingernails turn black and peel themselves from their beds, and you keep writing.
Your brain is a sponge soaking up this toxicity, and you keep writing.
You write because you don’t know what else to do.
Is the writing good?
Is the writing bad?
It no longer matters.
You can’t think about that.
You can’t think straight anyway.
You keep writing, and one year later, you are still trying to make sense of it, even though it’s been a long time since your brain went soft, and you’re better, and you can sort the laundry without thinking about it, which is nothing and everything.
And you keep writing.