The first time I heard 2 conversations going on at once, and was able to tune in to one at a time, it was so long after injuring my brain that I no longer realized I was going through a world of chattering humans without a vital superpower. That’s the difference – that feeling of strength and freedom and empowerment, between a person with TBI or Post Concussive Syndrome and your average ordinary Pre-spider bite Peter Parker who probably feels nothing like a superhero, ever.
It was like suddenly having a pair of binoculars for eyes, but instead of magnifying the lens to SEE close up as I focused on the people talking, it magnified the SOUNDS attached to what I saw. Specifically, the words I was witnessing being exchanged.
Have you ever thought about how, if you used a telescope and it zoomed in on a small area but ALSO kept everything in the periphery around it in your view – at “normal” size, how disorienting that would be? I mean, you close your other eye when you look through a telescope for a reason! How would you make sense of what you were seeing magnified, and its position relative to everything else around it? How would you focus without getting dizzy?
Until that very moment that I stood in line to check out a book at my local library, waiting for either of the two librarians at their posts to finish chatting with patrons, the blurry telescope was the BEST I could do at observing the world of other talking humans in my orbit. And it was as if I was a bird who had never looked down and seen her own wings, never felt them flap with promise as the wind blew threw her feathers. That I never was conscious of having them at all, until a wall in front of me was knocked out, and I stood instead on a great precipiece before an expanse of empty space and air and sky, into which I – like the bird, had been made to fly. And I felt every piece of me – alive.
I turned my head slowly to the left. The conversation to my right faded into oblivion. My ears zeroed in on the private small talk, that art that women have perfected together – and until now, the bain of my Post-Concussive existence. No pain cut in from the background to make me jaggedly aware that I was in fact, trying to straddle two streams of information. No static buildup of indecipherable sounds clouded my thinking to create the impenetrable fog between me and the details of what I was listening to. Marvelous!
I turned my head in equal measure to the right. My superpower was as steadily present as a heartbeat. The previous conversation receded from the shore of my awareness cleanly, immediately replaced by the gentle washing up of the next one.
For the life of me, I never did bother to register the substance of either of their conversations in my memory. It was honestly enough that they were not torturing me. I went back and forth, over and over between the two. I could never tire of it. And my brain did not either! This moment was permitted to stretch as long as the world around me was willing to wait.
“Ma’am? Ma’am!” Ah, the bain of the helpful intrusive! Another librarian signaled me over. “Just a moment” I said, with a dismissive wave, too carefree to explain. I was the only one in the queue, and I luxuriated in my miracle, basked in my power to both penetrate the world around me and keep it out as I willed, as I chose. In my ability to pluck from the fruit of human activity around me and savor it without being stung by its nettles. This world was Eden. I had returned. I had been readmitted and all the food from the trees of the garden were again permitted me. The second time so much sweeter than the first, because it could not be compared.