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Unspeakable, p.10
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       Unspeakable, p.10

           Erika Rummel
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IT TURNS OUT I’m not sick. I’m just exhausted. That’s the doctor’s opinion. – I think it’s more complicated than that. Something has gone missing: my second voice, the voice of reason. My brain has suffered a melt-down, that’s how it feels. They keep me in hospital overnight, for observation, but they have no way of observing the process of disintegration inside me. The next morning they send me home. I say nothing although I feel I’m on my second-last breath.

  The media are camped out on our front lawn. My father, who has flown in from New York, wants me to go back with him, to save me from the commotion, but my mother thinks the media will be after me in New York as well.

  “We’ll just have to wait it out,” she says. “If we refuse to talk to them, they’ll lose interest and move on to the next big thing.”

  She’s right. Things quiet down after a couple of weeks, and I start combing my charred insides for bits of my former self, trying to figure out who I am now. My brain hasn’t melted after all, but it has lost its commanding voice. It’s subdued all of a sudden. The balance of power has shifted. Either my physical age has gone up a notch, or my brain has become younger. The two of them – my body and my brain –are about even. They are so closely matched now that it’s hard to tell the difference. I no longer know who’s in charge, or where the commands are coming from.

  And now that I have come out talking, there is no one I’d want to talk to. That includes the analyst paid for by my father. We meet at her office once a week. She asks questions that make me suck in my breath. She talks in a flat voice, casting around, coming at me like a crab, sideways, but I know what she’s getting at. At home, my mom tries a different tack. She asks me direct questions, and I shield my face and clamp my mouth shut. I bet you Zee wants to talk to me, too, but I haven’t been back to the warehouse. I’ve locked him out of my mind. I have no words for him. Let him get away with it! I don’t want to testify against him. I don’t want to relive the trip to the desert, Zee slapping away my hand when I reach for his phone, leaning across and taking the duct tape out of the glove compartment – No! Don’t go there. Stop thinking! Stop the images! Stop the captions! I don’t want to have my memory set to the tune of ugly words, taking root in my brain.

  I keep looking at the wall of my Facebook page for a sign of life from Luis. Nada. I wade through an avalanche of messages from people who want to friend me, from talk show hosts asking for an interview, from magazine editors wanting to publish my story, from journalists offering to write it for me: The Girl Who Learned To Speak In the Desert. My mom says: Why don’t you write about your experience? But I have no desire to explain myself. I can’t. I would have to make it up, a tidy little story of adventure, omitting the most important part: my conversations with Luis, the near death of my brain, the decline of my inner voice, the one that used to be in charge. Has it sunk to a whisper because I’ve stopped saying my old prayer and substituted for it another: Conversations with Luis? I can barely remember the first words of my old prayer: I was scheduled to be born in 1962, in a city 50 miles north of Saigon – really? in Vietnam? It sounds strange. ...celebrating Buddha’s 2527th birthday – how did I know about that? Is it a line out of a history book? I can’t remember the rest, something about a petri dish and a thirty-eight year old housewife. That much at least is true. My mom was thirty-eight when I was born.

  My period is overdue. For a few days I think I’m pregnant. When I do get my period, I wonder: was I pregnant, and it came to nothing because of a stubborn thing in limbo refusing to be born to a teenager? In limbo. Is there such a place? Can the unborn refuse to be born, or did I make that up?

  And Luis? Did I make him up as well? Sometimes I remember the exact tint of his cheek. I see his body resuming its form. I strain to hear him speak, but a gap remains, and I fall back on my new prayer, Conversations with Luis: I was walking under a cold night sky until the desert woke up pale-faced. I came to a broken-back cabin and heard a voice: Don’t shoot. I’m unarmed...

  How does it go on? I’ve lost the thread. I think I’m beyond prayers. I want action. My brain says so, and my body agrees. For once they are in sync. Now all I need is a message from Luis saying: I miss you, Melanie. I’m lonely without you.

  Or is that part of the prayer?


  Check out Erika Rummel’s novels on

  PLAYING NAOMI (Suspense). An actress is waiting for her big break in Hollywood when a different offer comes her way – to impersonate a reclusive millionaire on a popular talk show…

  HEAD GAMES (Suspense, romance). Jim is an architect heading a project in Argentina. Life is stale until he meets Lisa. She has the starry eyes, the sensuous lips, and the tango steps that make all rational assumptions go away. Jim is caught up in a kidnapping scheme …

  For more details see my website

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