“I liked you before you knew my name.”
“I liked you before I could remember it, too.”
But you don’t approach a cabinet of wonders with an inventory in hand. You open drawers at random. You smudge the glass jar in which the two-headed piglet sleeps. You filch one of Tom Thumb’s calling cards. You read page two of a letter; one and three are missing, and you leave off in the middle of a sentence.
As a matter of fact, I am making a replica of this text: a huge wooden chest in the shape of my body, with innumerable drawers in which I will store my findings. Some of the drawers will be large and c a p a c i o u s, some smaller than matchboxes. Some will be disguised, some will be booby-trapped. I will hide secret buttons, levers and locks in my carved folds and crevices. You will have to feel your way in.
I pictured the inside of my brain as something like a burrow, a labyrinthine system of contorted tunnels with hairpin turns. Ordinarily, the passages were roomy, pale and dry, like tunnels worm-bored through chalk or bone. When my head ached, those walls became an angry red, and swelled until the passages shrank to fistulas. I tried not to think. Thoughts were dirt, and collected in greasy seams in the walls, and inflamed them. If I could trepan myself, I thought, and fit a nozzle in my skull, I would run a hose into my brain. I could almost feel the cold water stretching its insistent fingers into the labyrinth. That would cure me. Or a high wind, blasting through. One night, I went out on the back porch and screamed until blue pressure lights dazzled out the stars. What was that? my mother said. I thought it might help my headache, I said. Did it? she said. No, I said.