Loose Screws And Missing Pieces: Gluing My Brain Back Together
“The interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own serves only to make us ever more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I sat there looking at the brick sidewalk trying to force my mind to group the bricks into different patterns. I followed each zig-zagging brick trail with my eyes willing myself not to cry. Just breathe. Breathe. Follow the bricks.
But, I kept losing the trail. The bricks were offset on a diagonal, and my mind wanted them to line up perfectly.
It was also cold outside. Even with a puffy coat and a thick red and white scarf, it was too cold to sit and have a relaxed conversation. The people walking by were walking with a purpose. They wanted to be inside where it was warm.
But, I was outside in the cold staring at bricks with tears welling up in my eyes.
We finally walked inside, and I thought I was fine. Coffee. A bagel with lox. A list of tasks to get done. And, it was warm inside.
I looked down at the tile floor. Squares. The floor was small squares, and they all lined up. No funky zig-zags. The rug was another story. Gray and off-white with a pattern of fancy crosses. But, if you looked at it another way, the crosses became flowers. Or maybe it was crosses and flowers together.
It was too confusing for my brain. I felt the tears coming again, and I didn’t even know why.
I glanced around the room seeing all of the patterns at once. The walls weren’t walls at all but tall rectangular windows. The barstools were made of long lines, and the lights were circular. Outside, the awning was comprised of metal squares. I could see the pattern of the inside ceiling reflected in the glass of the windows. Four red chairs per round table. Two chairs per rectangular table. Rich wood and fake leather. A brick wall behind the counter. A chalkboard menu with sharp white letters on a cool black background.
Nick told me once that when I have a panic attack, I need to start describing what I see out loud in great detail. I did that in the car once as we sat in front of the gym. Mid panic attack I started talking about the bushes and the leaves and the trailer and logs piled up outside.
I couldn’t do that in the coffee shop. I mean, I guess I could have, but it might have seemed odd to anyone who overheard me. I typed it instead.
The windows of the building across the street were grouped in threes. Two narrow rectangles framed a slightly wider rectangle. The small “No Smoking” sign outside on the patio was a square, which seemed odd to me. The salt and pepper shakers on each table were smooth silver, and it was obviously someone’s job to keep them lined up next to each other.
The music was wrong. It didn’t fit the coffee shop. A remix of Men At Work’s “Down Under” was playing. The original would have been wrong also, but the remix was just a shame. It was like they were trying to take a fun, upbeat song and make it as depressing as possible to fit my mood. Then again, the coffee shop didn’t fit me either. I joked when we walked in that it was anti-hippie. Nick said, “Corporate Coffee Shop: Taste the Bureaucracy.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Just like the brick sidewalk outside.
Sometimes, I think my brain is like one of those toddler shape puzzles where you have to fit the square into the square hole and the star into the star hole. Actually, I think it’s more like the game Perfection – a ticking time bomb. There are so many shapes and so many holes, and some of them are ALMOST right but not quite. If you’re not fast enough, then the whole fucking thing blows up.
Nick says the human brain is really good at seeing patterns and categorizing things.
The problem is I spent most of my life trying to jam the wrong pieces into the wrong holes. I have all of this information in my brain that I’ve placed in the wrong category. That means I often can’t access it at all, and I end up with weird gaps in my memory. It’s like completing a giant puzzle but realizing as you place piece number 499 that the final piece is missing.
Most days, I am searching for piece number 500.
When I find it, I am going to stick that fucker in place with Mod Podge so it never gets lost again.