I was subjected to two days of cognitive and motor tests. For one
test, I had to rattle off as many vegetables as possible in five
minutes while an intern wrote them down. “If two shirts costs
$14.60, how much will twelve shirts cost?” asked the intern
who administered tests with names like the Mini-Mental State Exam
and the Kohs Block Design Test. “How the fuck do I know? I’m
never gonna buy that many shirts at once.”
I learned that I had partial epilepsy of the right parietal lobe.
This lobe controls verbal-visual memory, meaning I stutter and my
short-term memory is shot. The lesion on the lobe, my doctors suggest,
is the culprit behind my epilepsy. This explains why every morning
on my way to work I lock my apartment door every morning by the
time I get to the sidewalk I forget whether I locked the door. Before
being released from the hospital and not having had one seizure,
my doctors prescribed leviracetam. It messed with my concentration.
Watching a movie became impossible. I would get up every few minutes
to futz with something. Once, I even organized the books and newspapers
atop my toilet according to size and weight and title. ThenI rushed
into the kitchen to wash and dry dishes. The next time I saw my
neurologist, I demanded a new antiepileptic. He gave me lamotrigine.
I have more seizures now.
Stuttering (blue, round pills)
“Thanks for calling AT & T Wireless. My name is Anthony.
What can I help you with?” The customer service agent was
supposed to help me find my FedEx-delayed cell phone. I had been
putting off this call all morning because, damn it, I hate phones.
The very thought of ...
“Ahh…umm…umm.” I was grasping for air.
My neck muscles twitched.
“DaDaAhDaDaGa Aga…. Dontcha’ know howta’
“As a matter of fact I do. I have a st-st-stutter, OK?”
“I’m sorry sir. I’m very sorry. What can I help
“Ahh…umm…umm. I ne…n-n-n-nee-nee…da...da…”
“Will you please say something. Learn to speak, sir.”
Early on, I think I was about seven, I realized that I didn’t
stutter when I cussed. I was a lucid pontificator, an orator impassioned
by circumstances whose consequences had to be reined in. I took
control and cussed.
“Listen, Tony. I have a stutter. You got that? So do me a
fuckin’ favor: Act like an adult. I expect this type of behavior
from children,” like the kids in my sixth grade class in Pu-Pu-Pu-Puert-t-t-to
Puerto Ric-c-c-c-co-Rico. During English class I was c-c-c-c-all-call
asked to answer something or other. I was inst-st-st—ahhahahahaha-instantly
petrified, but resolute. I began st-st-st-t-t-tst-stutt-stutter-ring
even before I started to speak. Then my leg twitched and sl-sl slslslslslslslslslsls-slammed
against the aluminum bottom of my sch-c-c-c-cool desk. I spat out
rest of the answer; the class laughed.
“I want to speak to your manager.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t. It’s company
“Company policy, huh?” I huffed, clenching the phone.
“You’re fucking joking, right?”
“I can transfer you to our Grievance and Restitution Department.”
“Your what? Oh. They’ll take my complaint?”
“Well, godamnit, put me…
“Thanks for calling AT & T Wireless. My name is Maria.
What can I help you with?” Maria refused to send me proof
of Anthony’s punishment. She cited company policy. I was convinced
my citalopram (for my anxiety) was a major factor in this fit. My
neuropsychiatrist, to whom I had reported this fiasco, also noticed
my speech had worsened. “Well, OK. Let’s try mirtazepine
15 mg. I think it’ll do the trick.”
General Anxiety Disorder and Minor Depression (brown, diamond-shaped
pills; peach capsules)
Mirtazepine with venlafaxine 100 mg really did do the trick. I
wasn’t spazzing out on the subway platform, yelling at disrespectful
straphangers in three-piece suits. I wasn’t frozen to the
couch unable to reach two feet for the ringing telephone, which
was probably a friend wanting to hang out. I didn’t care and
I was sure no one cared about me. On the other hand, this pill combination
also had a keen side effect. I wasn’t always horny. I no longer
had midday boners that kept me behind my desk at work, legs crossed.
Nor was I always considering going to bathroom to pull one off.
My gastrointestinal tract wasn’t so agreeable. I became a
medical statistic. I got the shits.
The only way I could control this, I thought, was to stop eating
dinner. It didn’t work.
On a sunny weekend afternoon walking back from the pharmacy where
I get my meds, my bowels gurgled. I knew what was next. I picked
up my pace, trying to control my breathing, hoping to reach my apartment
before the involuntary evacuation. One last gurgle reverberated
down through my ass. I was only a block from my apartment; there
was no sense running.
In the bathroom, I surveyed the damage. Brown, chunky gravy was
spread thin on the seat of my jeans. Some had even seeped through
my pants. I wiped myself, threw the jeans in a thick, black garbage
bag and showered.
After all, it was the only thing I could do.
Pill regimens change. Side effects come and go. But none of this
is curable. I’ve resigned myself to that much. Nevertheless,
I’ll be damned if I let these brain disorders and their respective
treatments dictate my life. I’m supposed to be straight-edged:
no alcohol, no cigarettes, no nothing. Screw that. Neuropsychopharmacology
may be my bible, my saving grace, but I have made no vow to its
precepts. I am not a monk confined to his cell. I am a man hell-bent