My aunt and my mother walk in front of me. They’re trailing my luggage and their purses. I am only holding a bag that drapes over my shoulder and my teddy bear that wears a shirt that says “Happy Birthday.” Every time my Mom talks to an authority figure at this hospital, I swallow the golf ball as far as I can and grip onto a gum wrapper I’ve found in my pocket. We’ve hopped on a lot of buses to get here. I don’t like buses, especially when she grips onto my hand and asks me if I’m nervous. I don’t like buses at all, especially with luggage.
17th floor is the NYU Epilepsy center. I walk slower. My mom keeps her eager pace, her shoes clinking against the clean floor.
My aunt keeps turning around and flashing big smiles at me. There are a bunch of nurses behind the desk, all on different boxy computers. One has a sweet face, hard to understand, and talks fast. She gets out a thread of yellow bracelet and grabs my wrist from over the counter. It says CAUTION: FALL RISK on it, with my birth date and name in the corner. All of the nurses are talking now and someone is screaming in a room a few feet down. Two of them rush to the room. They look tired. I want to ask why they chose epilepsy out of all things as a career path.
Miss Martin? Did you hear me? You can’t take this off. You will be accompanied every time you go to the bathroom because you have the risk of falling since you are an epileptic patient. You could hit your head.
I look her back in the eyes. They’ll take my heart rate as soon as I get in my room, so I put my hair up and take my glasses off my face. I just nod, as my Mom asks questions, and the nurses mumble back and forth in heavy Spanish accents. I grip onto my wrist where my bracelet is and try to pull my sleeve over it. The old woman is having a seizure in the background but I pretend I can’t hear her screaming by staring at the door. The golf ball is more like a rock now. I nod more.
I look at the door the whole time she explains the video EEG. There will be a round of doctors, she says, around 12pm, that will start giving me my new medication. They’ll ask me when I got diagnosed and when my last seizure was, even though they’ll have all of it in front of them. Shortly there will be electrodes on my head and a man I can’t understand will be wrapping me up in bandage, with an array of colored cords that fall out of my bald head. At first it will feel nice, like someone laying their body weight on yours. Then it’ll get itchy, the glue will start slipping onto my forehead, pick up lint from the hospital’s pillows, and I will want to rip it all out. My mom will say I look pretty because all of my hair is out of my face. She’ll try to take a picture of me for our family group message.
I stare at the door. I look at the people passing who don’t have shitty brains. Maybe they’re visiting their Grandpa with a broken leg or trying to figure out what that lump on their back is. There are little girls that skip with balloons and I feel sad for them. The nurse taps me on my shoulder again, and mom gets worried I’m having a seizure because I have been dozing off for a while. My mom says I’m pretty when I’m sleeping.
I will be ugly by the second day.