In the beginning, there is the brick.
The brick sits in your frontal lobe, growing. It’s hard to hold your head up. Your neck crooks down and your shoulders curve forward.
Well, not really a brick. That’s just the weight of it. You weren’t paying attention.
You can’t ignore what’s happening to you anymore.
The narrow end of a funnel is wedged into your skull. Sand pours into your head from a bucket.
Each grain is a thought, and each thought is loud. They jostle for control. One grain screams loudest, then another.
Finally, a single thought stands apart.
This must stop.
Because you are one of the lucky ones, you ask for help.You meet a doctor in a small office with bookcases, a desk, chairs, and a couch. The doctor does not wear a white coat, but all the possible names for your struggle listen on a shelf behind her, inside a book as heavy as the sand in your skull.
You talk for a while. Thirty minutes in, you put your face in your hands. Sand spills on the floor, but the doctor doesn’t seem bothered by your mess.
You set another appointment. The doctor types a prescription into her computer. Moments later, her order reaches a man behind a counter.
The man wears a white coat, but he is not a doctor. Bottles, boxes, and vials stand on row upon row of neat, well-organized shelves behind him.
The man sets two orange bottles on the counter. Each bears a white label with precise, black lettering.
“Have you taken either of these before?”
“No,” you say.
He holds up the larger bottle. “Take one of these once a day.” He twists off the lid and shows you the narrow capsules inside. You lean forward to see, trying not to look too eager, but a few grains of sand scatter on the counter. The man does not seem to notice.
“They take a while to build up in your system,” he says. “Stick with it. No sexual side effects.”
You exhale with relief, then think about your last, swept aside by your sand, leaving just you again. Still, possibility is all you’ve got. You’d like to think you could respond fully to another, if given the chance.
The man behind the counter picks up the smaller bottle and shows you the tiny, circular tablets inside. “Take one of these as needed, like you discussed with your doctor. They act quickly and may make you drowsy. Best not to drive or operate heavy machinery.”
The man behind the counter does not say that he has no idea why these two little miracles will slow the flow of sand and maybe, one day, help you pull the funnel from your skull.
But that’s not his fault. The doctor doesn’t know why they work, either, though she can tell you about chemical interactions too small to see with your eyes, the years of testing and approval that separate science from magic, and how it’s all about balancing the benefits with the risks, anyway.
The important thing is to help you, before you blow a hole in your head big enough to drain the sand. Like Dad did.
It’s best to get started.
When you get home, you shake a capsule from the larger bottle. You take a breath, throw the capsule into your mouth, take a sip of water, and swallow. You put a reminder in your cell phone to do this again tomorrow morning, and every morning after that. The planning steadies you.
You open the smaller bottle and put a tablet on your tongue. You let it dissolve a little, then sweep it down with water.
You’re not sure when it happens, but you notice that your neck isn’t crooked. The funnel is still wedged into your skull, but the bucket is upright. The sand is trapped, inches above your head.
You know the bucket is still there, full of screams. One day, you’ll have to start sorting the grains. But right now you’re not worried. Your mind is swept of sand, and thank God.
A few grains overflow the bucket, fall across your face.
Your eyelids get heavy.
Matthew S. Rosin is a dad, husband, and author based in California. You can keep up with him and read/hear his reflections on fatherhood at www.matthewsrosin.com.
Read an interview with Matthew here.