Salts in the Brain by Anthony Cordello

Salts in the Brain

I lost feeling in my legs when I entered the bathroom and of course I fell in every kind of way: one elbow smacked the lid closed on the way down, the other elbow overturned the trash scattering tissues and applicators, my shoulder smacked against the salmon pink tiles, while my head landed perfectly in the center on the purple rug hugging the toilet.

I could not move my head. I wanted to look down and see my legs but I could not move my head. I could not breathe and I could not see the rug as anything other than an island a mucky sea. Waves lapped on the shore. Salmon sizzled in the sand.

I woke up in the living room to my roommate rubbing my chest and blowing air into my nose. The dog was curled up in the exact center of the rug with his snout buried in his tail. When he noticed us he sat up, tilted his head, pricked up his coal black ears. He must see everything that happens in the house. He must have been the one who called 911 because my roommate remembered he was late to work and rushed out the back.

By the time the doorbell rang I was able to stand up on my own and let them inside. Over the kitchen table I explained that my legs and elbows and head were fine. Everything was fine. They looked tired so I offered them tea or coffee or soda, anything with caffeine, anything they wanted, but they still wanted to take me with them.

The ambulance did not go as fast as I had imagined. In the emergency room they asked me about hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, medication. I shook my head until I burst out laughing. After an EKG then a CT they discharged me with an orange sheet of paper: You were seen today for syncope. Syncope is a sudden temporary loss of consciousness. Follow-up with PCP within one week.

“Do I have a PCP?”

I took the longer route home to make sure my legs worked. I stopped at a liquor store to buy my roommate a twelve-pack to thank him for doing what he could but I ended up just leaving six at the foot of his door. That night I slept better than I had slept for days.

Next morning I realized I should not have left the discharge instructions on the kitchen table. On the way to the bathroom my other roommate recommended I spend time with him because he possessed a miracle gene that suppressed syncope in both primates and lagomorphs. His mere presence was a blessing to my immune system so he snatched the beer from my hand. I let him have it. I had to cover my bases.

For the rest of the month I avoided the bathroom to the best of my abilities. I kept two watering cans in my closet, one yellow and one brown, and emptied them in the morning before the buses were even running. It was a chore but at least I got to see the sunrise every day.

And at least there was one body out of the rotation as there were fourteen, fifteen bodies crammed into ten rooms and forced to share one cursed bathroom. Not to mention the dog, the cat, the hamster, the mouse, the two bunnies, the three rats. Nothing stayed secret for too long in that house.

Less than a month later, on the morning after a party, a letter appeared under my door informing me that if I did not cease or desist immediately I would have to start paying rent again. It was adorned with fourteen, fifteen signatures as well as nine paw prints.

So I tried the bathroom again and managed to take the entire medicine cabinet down with me, filling the parched sink with orange pill bottles, the open toilet with shattered glass. I passed through the shower curtain and crashed into the tub.

The last thing I saw was my foot heel up on top of the faucet, my big toe caught in the sunlight beaming through the small window, my nail a jagged mountain with a team of climbers dangling off the final leg of the trail, connected by a single rope strung through their navels and hooked into my cuticle. They paced themselves, took their time, and eventually every single one made it to the peak. When I woke up I had a brilliant idea drilled into me and the brilliance gave me strength to walk out of the bathroom.

From the hallway I fished every bottle out of the sink with my roommate’s salad tongs, carried them to the kitchen, lined them up on the counter making sure all the labels faced away from the window. I boiled chicken broth on the one working burner, added some olive oil, some mustard, and gabapentin, take one tab every four hours as needed.

There were pills for sleep, constipation, high cholesterol, kennel cough, herpes zoster, mood, shoulder pain, pasteurellosis. For the capsules it was better to crack them open and tap out the powder on the edge of the pot, but the tablets I just dropped and watched them dissolve in the boiling water. The steam opened up my pores. I looked for a clean spoon and found one under the oven.

The second ambulance lived up to expectations, or at least it seemed to from where I was strapped to the stretcher. I could not feel my head, toes, legs, arms. Next to me an EMT sat hunched on a bench writing on a metal clipboard. The dog sat on the other bench with his paws crossed in front of him. He wagged his tail, licked my face.

 

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Anthony Cordello has stories published in decomP, Apocrypha and Abstractions, and Jersey Devil Press. He has a MFA from Fairfield University.

 

(Next story: The Geometry of Desire by Gary V. Powell)

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