“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.
Yet he knew that he had been left impaired, that he no longer had the capacity to feel in the way that he had once felt. He felt as though his capacity for loving had been blunted, the nerve endings severed. He had not intended to wound Elin; he did not enjoy seeing her cry; yet the ability to feel empathetic pain seemed to have closed down. A small part of him, in truth, had been mentally planning his route home as she sobbed.
Alcohol buoyed you up and it washed your eyes clean. In vino veritas, they said, didn’t they?