Love and Grand Mals
by Sinta Jimenez


I am running as though from a plot of my own murder. I turn a corner sharply and my eyes catch the blinking of a ramshackle marquee. I recall the pink light of birthday candles from childhood. This is the last thing I remember. A mythic place I can never return to.

The doctors call this phase the aura, a most standard deviation. It’s this phase where it feels like my eyes are taken out and put on a plate for the ravens. Taken into their mouths, held under the tongue, I take flight.

I wake up on the sidewalk to see a young man looking down at me.

He extends his hand and helps me stand.

"Where were you going," he asks.

"I don't know, " I say.

"What happened?"

I look at the marquee.

"An electrical failure," I respond.

A warm breeze blows over our bodies. There's goosebumps on his arm.

"Come with me," he nods over his shoulder, down the street, into the graffitied cement rails of the city. He needs me to believe in him.

I follow.

I'm sitting with one leg pulled up against my chest and the other hanging loose off the table tapping the hardwood. He's got me holding an ice pack to the back of my head.

“I like to go to the Hare Krishna temple for lunch,” I say.

“They serve lunch?” He begins rolling a joint while sitting on a floor cushion next to me.

“Yeah. It’s free. Lentil curry.”

“Does it taste good?”

“Not really. I go for the singing, mostly. I like all the singing they do."

“Yeah, I could see why someone would,” he agrees, pleasantly.

Everything in his place is low to the ground, his bed, his table, his stacked books and vinyl. All of it is set to my size, nothing to chase after, nothing out of reach. But he, on the other hand must always be bent over as though in service or prayer, offering saffron and sandalwood to his worn, sparse belongings.
"I'm going to join a cult again someday," I promise him.

"You'd been apart of one before?"

"Yeah, when I was in college. I learned TM, transcendental meditation."

"What's that?"

"Basically self-asphyxiation. Afterwards, you cry or you laugh."

"I lived in India for a while, just before I moved here. I had a fetish for those guys, you know, those guys --"

"The ascetics?"

"Yeah, that's what they are. But they have a different name. Shra -- shra something. Anyways, I went to many ashrams in India. I had a real fetish for them."

"What else did you do in India?"


I hum a little. I like looking at his face, his green eyes and pretty red mouth.

He's exquisite.

"I was born on Friday the 13th," I say.

"Before I was born, when my mom was pregnant with me, I was exposed to rheumatic fever and it scarred the valves of my heart," he responds.

“Me too.”

“Wow, really. Rheumatic fever, too?”

No, other kinds of defects I explain to him.

Arrhythmias and so on.

But it’s the ability to pervert facts into a suspicious madhouse consciousness that inhibits my life, not the seizures or the arrhythmias they bring on. Kindness, love, gentleness are all perceived as an enemy approach.

The mirrored medicine cabinet is an artillery chest, fully outfitted with holistic and pharmacologic ammunition against the convulsions. The vials and bottles are the records of seasons and seasons passed in the margins of sickness.

On the first shelf are sour teas in dark vials. They are decorated with colorful elephants and pictures of recommended yoga positions to maximize the success of the treatment. Guru Dev Bioflavonoid Mix. Om Shanti Health Epi-Herbs. Innocuous and pleasant. In the East, it is not so bad to die. It is just one samsara to the next.

On the second, third, and fourth shelves there are no more elephants or playful Sanskrit. Orange prescription bottles are pasted with intake instructions and the sterile formality of my full name line together in haphazard rows. Some of them are long expired, half-empty witnesses to the recurrent treachery of my body.

Gabapentin. Topiramate. Diazepam. Trileptal.

They are complicated names and each of the syllables spell out the cosmology of epileptic existence.

In theory the disorder is manageable but I am careless, forgetting the pills and the herbs. Even when I was a kid I liked the hallucinations, the hysteria, the lack of control of the epilepsy. There are no rules, there is no body, there is no mind. A kind of anti-gravity love song. Just before the seizure, the colors and the sounds converge in these breaking nebulas of space and time where physics has no laws. And a feeling of wellbeing I never feel otherwise.

Sure, I'll piss my pants. I'll bite my tongue and wake just as they begin to stitch me up not quite anesthetized. But it's where I reach the fourth dimension, commune with the saints and spirits of the dead. Amen.

In theory it's manageable but people have died, right in the middle of a convulsion. They've died. And weren’t they so obedient, taking their drugs and doing as they should.

I court grand mals as though they were a vacuum, pure of tortured sound, that I am supposed to retreat into. Grand gifts, meant to be preserved and kept for always. It's apart of me, like my arm or foot, like a memory or a lover, like anything else. It is necessary for the recipe.

For several weeks, I’ve got migraines. I suffer the complications. I don’t go to work or school. I stay at home, keep my phone off, and the shades drawn. I listen to John Frusciante's solo shit and feel sad. I move onto occult self-help radio programs from New Orleans and think of lighting candles to Yemaya and spraying the doorways down with lemon oil, salt water and white rum. I eat instant yakisoba noodles straight from the foam cup. I feel thinner than normal and look at myself in the mirror trying to imagine the skull beneath my skin. I've got my grandfather's face, that is neither feminine nor masculine, Occidental or Oriental, but somewhere in between like where the ocean meets the sky at night or Indochina itself. I feel a little comforted in the beauty of this, his face in mine, in the continuation of things after we die.

But mostly, I sleep and sleep. I take the pills like a wayward daughter, finally returned home. I forget life and think about forgetting him. I think he will forget me too. On the borderlands people come and go all the time and no one gets heartsick about it.

When I answer the door, I see him standing there, I think, stupidly. He looks stupid standing there on the doorstep of someone’s house, someone who’s forgotten him as though he never happened. And it’s stupid I’ve answered the door for someone I’ve forgotten. Maybe I should’ve thrown on some jeans before answering but I stand on my side of the doorway, wearing pajamas and one sock.

“Hi there. Sorry, I already bought Girl Scout cookies,” I grumble.

“Funny. Just wanted to check in on you, see how things were going.”

“Been busy. I recently found all my old baseball cards. My Garbage Pail Kids cards too. I’ve been organizing.”

“Those cards were awesome. Adam Bomb! Hey, before I forget,” he says and takes out a 90-minute long-playing audiotape.

“What’s this,” I ask.

“Its Hare Krishna chanting.”


“I figure you’d missed it.”

“I’ll call you in a couple days,” I say, remembering him.

I take the razor and cut a fine line into his fine shoulder. The incision brightens red in delayed response. Blood leaks slowly, afraid of exposure. I close my mouth over the wound. He took my menstrual blood in his mouth earlier. The exchange is my idea.

He holds me against his chest, wraps his long legs over mine.

"You can do anything you want to me," he says.          

His skin is softer than a woman's. I grab onto the thin bones of his hips.

I wonder if we will help each other into heaven.           

"It's me," he says while holding my arms down to my sides so I cannot destroy anything more. My fists are bruised but they often are.

"It's just me and I love you," he reminds me.

He shouldn't say that. He should call me names, instead, like traitor or con-artist.

"No, it's gone, it's passed, it's over."

"I just care. I wish you would care more and try to take the meds."

"Don't you ever tell me what to do," I say threateningly, my body thrown forward as I start to feel lightheaded and nauseous.

I wonder sickly if it’s the sickness in me he’s after, to make himself seem healthier, better, in contrast. This is what people do to make themselves feel superior, surround themselves with the weak. It's disgusts me. He's disgusting me. I don't fly through life with blinders on. I should be left alone so I can continue my private fascinations, my fatal poverty. I know exactly who I am and what I'm doing. But he ransacks my oldest dreams. Who is he to invade the mythology of me with the mythology of us. The anxiety and anger builds. Anxiety and anger bring the seizures. The nerves fire in my brain. Energy and radioactivity, napalm in Saigon, bombs over Baghdad. I begin to convulse in front of him, in his arms. Roman candles and pyrotechnics. Gunpowder and mortars. All just fancy names for grand mals and emotional deformities.

I don't know why later he is the one who acts apologetic, not I. He tries all afternoon to make me smile. He brings me jasmine tea and the I-Ching. Finally he attempts to do a naked hula that does me in. It's not the nakedness or the sound of his extraordinarily long cock swinging between his thighs and slapping his stomach but it's his face. Such concentration.

We say together, at the same exact time, "It was the face."

"Your laugh is infectious," he says laughing with me.

Infectious as mononucleosis, I think.

“Are we friends again?” he asks.

“I don’t think it’s necessary but today it’ll do.”

“Wisecracker,” he smiles.

“At least I’m not a nutcracker. Put some clothes on.”

I am an ill-defined obscenity. I am a hole in his head that he bandages in fiction so that I am worthy to love.

Shame is not classified as an autoimmune disorder but is also arthritic.

I should be banned from his secret rooms. But when he visits me in the hospital he is only kindness, only gentle, only brings me closer to him than before. Than even before the half gallon of vodka and phenobarbitone.

"How are you feeling," he asks.


"Do you remember anything from that night?"

"I felt very sleepy."          

There's some silence. But it is weightless suspended on the sunlight coming through the blinds breaking up the continuity of the bedspread. The silence is natural as my breathing or my dying.

"Will you ever do it again," he asks.

"Probably not," I say.

"Will you --"

"I like your outfit," I interrupt.

He is wearing a black wool baseball hat with a flat brim that has the sticker still on it gangsta style and a worn Joy Division shirt. The Unknown Pleasures one, with the mountains, that make me think of Ian Curtis' bones disintegrating.

"Did you miss me," he asks.

"Yes, do you miss me," I ask.

"I always miss you."

He kisses me then, on the forehead, the chin, and both cheeks. He makes the sign of the cross on my face with his lips. But I'm no pilgrim.

“It’s boring here, I just look up at the ceiling all day,” I say.

“I used to have to do that as a kid, for hours,” he tells me.


“I used to have nose bleeds. I'd have to stay inside instead of playing hockey like everyone else.”

"That's a bummer."

"It was ok. Sometimes, I liked it. It gave me the chance to daydream."

"Did you bring me Sudoku?"

"Yeah, hold up," and he takes out a week's worth carefully cut out from the city paper.

“I brought your shoes too, the black Keds that have the months printed on it.”


I need him like a blood transfusion. Needing him makes me feel uncomfortable, as though I have something to lose. What happens when what’s lost cannot be found?

"I got a haircut before I came, do you like it," he asks and takes his hat off.

"It's alright," I say.

Childhood lingers on him. Not the soft-faced gurgling childhood but the slim limbed childhood that knows the difference between right and wrong and hides in the attic. The childhood that sets itself in the eyes.


photo by Jackie Rhoades