Pectus Excavatum

Pectus Excavatum

Picture Credits: vtsr

Take two and the bathroom tiles churn, rippling easy as water. Think wavering heat off pavement. Think dry mouth like sucking a besser block. Radio silence inputs, twists into radio static feeding your head’s contents. Your pupils bloat to black moons swallowing a gray-blue iris.

Take two with tea. You’ll find licorice and mint better carries the tankards down, your esophagus generally uncooperative with such human matters as eating or passing the pallbearer of sleep. Too often the capsules stick behind your hyoid, catching ridges of larynx to prematurely erupt with acid: HCl. Think ashing a cigarette internally. You close your eyes and pretend your swallows quench the matchlight burning just where water cannot reach.

Take two and wait fifteen minutes, maybe twenty-five. Wait as shadows turn molten, twisting quick with the magmic churn of your mind. Cool / Condense / Solidify.

Your body slows now for the forgery of sleep.

Each night, blood pressure lowers and body temperature cools, slipping according to the circadian. Lava that has cooled and lost pressure too rapidly foams up to porous silicone-rich stone: Pumice.

Pumice. Bubbles carbonate the surface of your skin, frothing all thought back to this sensation. You are a skin-sack of grape soda as artificially purple as the contents of those pills.

Dizzy?

Think tripwire. Smash into the calloused fists of the fever-dream. Brace against swallows of obsidian, the fractured thousand-edged nadir crystallizing about you as a flaking inky surface to cool your forehead.

How did you get in the bedroom? Stand weakly from your oak desk and lurch down the hallway to relieve the tea that’s already traced your insides. Avoid the mirror this time.

Obsidian fills the pupils of the statues of Easter Island.

Obsidian is better than surgical steel in scalpels.

Best not to slice to the other side so quick. Best to teeter at the blade edge. Think held breath. Think a bridge-jumper’s pacing.

Say the word slice aloud without putting any air or voice into the word and you’ve repeated the sound of the motion itself. Contemplate this.

The mirror dances. Your own hand is terrifying, amorphous in your vision. Your heart rate quickens, stutters nervously. There is a symbiosis between the anxiolytic drug effects and their propensity to, like a djinn, conjure mirage, all smoke and mirror. All smoke and mirror and your inability to prove it to be just smoke and mirror.

You inhale. Hold your breath, pressing lungs against that vagus nerve to control your sway. Easy now.

Take two. Take them on an empty stomach. This is how you survive. When the bile rides too high make sure you have hard candy at the ready – butterscotch is mild enough, and cough drops suffice. Pastel-colored wrappers have clustered over your windowsill, spilling under your bed and into the sheets beside you. They are your co-conspirators. Sometimes you wake with them stuck to your skin with sweat and sucrose, like buboes of a personal plague, an insomniac’s plague.

Take two. Wait. Note how your limbs have turned leaden.

You’ve drawn their formula, the active ingredient of the pills: two perfect carbon rings plus one Oxygen plus one Nitrogen. The 2-D chemistry resembles a pair of scissors left open. Your Chemistry professor would be proud.

A whirring, a loose wire.

Your neck twists to once-over the room for any well-meaning boogeyman come to set you straight.

Fear clots the dark – how dreadfully human of you. You’re afraid of the dark? Hah!

Awareness counterweights ascension. With each deep exhale you collapse against the squealing protests of the bed frame deeper, deeper, deeper, drowning the fear, drowning the night, drowning the bedroom entombing you to a temporary death, a sleep, the strangest need of all. A passive need. A need fed by inaction, by stasis. The counterweight to the frenzy, the day, the proverbial hunt.

Scratch peeling nail beds against the cheap gray-blue twin sheet. Canonize with the patience of a saint.

Your mind twists the bricks of the church outside your window into a Jungian mandala, a flippant form constant, a whirling kaleidoscope.

Turn to the rest of the room now, spine facing the October draft through your window. A breeze licks your ear. Shudder. Imagine yourself rising to gather a second spare towel to mash against the window frame. You won’t. Don’t move. You can’t.

Your chest, there’s a hollow feeling. Yes, there, right there, right below the sternum hollow, that flesh valley, that pectus excavatum. A simply sinkhole in the sternum, a collapse of the chest skeleton. Think of your girlfriend absently tracing it with her thumb, telling you about burned coffee and traffic and— and— and – she is not here tonight. She is not here to fill the hollow with her whole curled hand.

You’ve told her you cannot sleep with her here, just yet. You’ve told her, once I’ve got a handle on this, I’ll kiss your spine goodnight and kick you awake in my dreams. She’d laugh and draw her hand back to press her ear to your chest, to listen, like an infant, skin-to-skin.

A whirring, a loose wire.

*

Pectus excavatum: the most common congenital abnormality of a person’s center. The hollow conspires some false secret: the absence of a lung, a heart misplaced. Your organs are just suffocated by sternum, viscera squeezed tight like the sediment shards of clastic rocks: chert, coal, oolite, flint.

When you were little, you’d imagine oblong stones appearing, stacking loosely in the cavern of your center. You’d listen for the clacks of stone against stone, cold, a piling of desaturated colors drawing skyward while pressing you down. And you’d shut your eyes, lifting something else, a second self, some alternate from the anchored rib cage.

Let this second self hover now, peeling off your body… Think soft plum velvet lining your body’s perimeter. Think easing off as easy as steam from a mug of tea.

Your tea – it’s cold. Well, tepid. It’s the temperature of the hand that dips into it, just the first knuckle of the first finger of your hand. It spills, and you sleep.

Leo is a queer writer with a penchant for the medical and occult. They are a student of the health sciences and can probably be found foraging in your local woods.

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