The Walk to Work
I wish I could remember where my mind was that April morning when the weirdness began in earnest. Because the day started like any other, with more sunshine.
I opened the window, felt the warmth, decided to walk. I had to open with Bridget in Water Tower Place. She’d been on a power trip ever since her promotion to manager.
How far our friendship had fallen in just a short time. I thought of our closeness on 9/11, when I’d walked home from the Hancock, too afraid to take the bus. Arriving home, I heard Bridget calling up from the sidewalk. That’s how I learned the towers had fallen. We spent the next four days at her apartment, sobbing together in front of the TV.
Now here I was thinking “she won’t get me down today.” It felt like a disconnect.
Walking along the lakefront would do me good. The forecast called for 80 degrees, and the morning had a last day of school freshness to it that made me want to run. With Devotchka’s “Queen of the Surface Streets” in my earbuds, I almost did.
The catamarans were out at North Avenue Beach, though it was only mid-April. Waves, cobalt blue, lapped against the skyline in a glorious spring awakening. I took it all in, inhaling the day’s promise.
Making the turn toward downtown, my stomach grumbled. That’s probably where my mind was when it happened. On food. That’s how epilepsy works. It hijacks the most mundane moments. Spins them into opportunities for extraordinary discomfort.
The dizziness struck like a locomotive. While the city basked in golden reflections on the water, my body was seized by a much darker force, magnetic in its strength. Before I could grasp what was happening, I was stooping to all fours, crawling like a toddler to the nearest strip of grass.
A chain-link fence offered scant protection from Lake Shore Drive, and the relentless “whoosh, whoosh, whoosh” of rush hour traffic did little to console me.
For exactly 30 minutes, dizziness pinned me to the ground. My first thought? This was a new type of seizure. It also occurred to me that I could be dying. The blend of spinning and pressure was brand new, even 30 years into the epilepsy journey. I could only lie there, helplessly feeling the universe spin. It spun all the more when I closed my eyes, so I kept them open.
Time passed with the morning runners. The sun rose higher, hotter. My heart pounded against my chest so hard, I thought it would break right through. There was sweating and fear and praying.
Then it ended.
I lay there for several minutes, wondering what it meant. You live your whole life with epilepsy, you don’t need a doctor to tell you to sit up and take note. I knew it meant something. Something bigger than I could comprehend.
I’d experienced a lot of weirdness over the years. Flashing lights in the eyes and on hot days, the sensation that the world had slipped farther away. But nothing like this.
It seemed potent, life changing. Both in the moment — and for years afterward. But I wasn’t going to figure it out enveloped in the stickiness of morning. I tucked the memory of it away, like some secret weapon. Wiped my sweaty palms against the grass. Then I stood, brushed myself off, started walking. It was 9:05. I was late.