I took a nasty bump on the head and lost the meaning of all language. Don’t worry, I’m mostly healed now, although I do have the occasional termite.
The day it happened, I had been put into a hospital. A nurse entered my room and asked if I’d like some jello, and for whatever reason, I assumed she meant she would make my room colder. Objects and concepts rattled in my head, but I could not recall the associative names for anything. Kept putting the wrong plugs in the wrong sockets. I said I would like some jello and the nurse brought me a wobbling pile of what I would have called gumption. The gumption wobbled in its bowl.
“Hi honey,” a man who might have been my lover said when he entered the room, “I brought your phone.” From this I imagined a long descending tube. Pho-o-ne. Why had he brought me a long, descending tube, I thought.
“May I see it? My phone?” I asked and when he handed it to me I said, Oh yeah. That one.
He told me I could always talk to him if I was having problems and I kept imagining the small waves that inhabit a rug when a chair or table leg is improperly placed upon it. I was not having those.
I got up to perform the action of a hug to him.
“Give me a, come here,” I said. We hugged but I didn’t know what to call it so I kept calling it a together in my head.
We togethered for a good long period, his hand rubbing the small plateau of my back like he was collecting its warmth. The hospital smelled and looked clean, yet missing, filled with absence, chock-full of lack. I also felt absent, felt like things I couldn’t describe. I tapped my pendulums against my phone and experienced an exploration of muscle memory, the tiny rituals I could recall performing. There were a series of unanswered blinks from people checking in on me. At some point, I would blink them back but I wasn’t quite ready to do it. My phone would perform a tiny coin each time I received a new blink. Whenever a new blink came, the phone chirped; coin, coin, coin.
My Probable Lover removed a board game from his bag and asked if I remembered how to play.
“I thought you might want something to do,” he said.
I asked him to give me a rundown, just so I was certain. He pointed and named pieces and cards and sections of the board and my brain felt like a flushed toilet. The words “flushed toilet” weren’t in my grasp but the sensation was very present— twirling, gargling, diminishing. I felt diminished, far away, like my brain was at the end of a long hallway and my body were at the other.
We tried to play the game but it wasn’t going very well. I knew a few phrases, like sorry and that makes sense and oh I promise it won’t happen again let’s just keep playing, and I used them often. Eventually, the game was abandoned. The air around me feel buoyant, ebbing and flowing and bobbing me with it.
My Probable Lover nibbled a small section of loose skin from the tip of his something, like he was nervous. When we gazed at one another, I felt a Christmas tree of sensations. Boiling water, an extinguished candle, chalk dusting, the face a dog makes while it’s using the bathroom, the smell of a dish in the oven that’s certainly gone burnt.
“Do you remember our last conversation?” My Probable Lover asked me.
“I’m not sure I remember any conversation.”
Another look. More sensations. A book getting rained on until the pages distorted and smeared. Ice melting in a glass of water until it was just a glass of water and the ice existed only in memory. The flicking of a light switch only to hear the gentle crack of a blowing bulb. These were different sensations.
“Can we,” I asked, “Can we together again?”
“I don’t think we can,” he said. So we didn’t.
Tucker Leighty-Phillips is an Appalachian writer living in Tempe, AZ. His social media is @TheNurtureBoy and his website is tuckerlp.net .