The mind is a trickster. Salma stood paralyzed, watching it thrash, “Who am I? That fabulous porcelain jug, do the others see the folds in its curvature? Does the pearly glow touch them the way it reaches my eyes? Why do I feel like I want to break free of my body and soar far away, liberated of the chains that life hooks into me? My heart is beginning to pick up speed. What if I scream? Will these people think I am crazy? Is there anyone here I can speak to without being judged or helped or rescued?”
The laptop beckoned her. She detached herself from her surroundings and settled down over the scrolling screen, “Depersonalization disorder,” her fingers manipulated the cursor expertly. There were stories online of the symptoms, the cure, and the experiences. A buzz began to grow in her ears. Her head gathered weight and the temples began to throb. In an unconscious gesture, she brought her hands up to cover her eyes, reading fearfully through splayed fingers.
One man had lived outside of his body for twenty years, settling for phone sex with his wife as a result. An ambitious young student had struggled with a blurred vision for months before seeking help from a doctor. There was a thirty something there, struck down with a malady during a high brought on by marijuana, battling his surrealist senses for ten long years. Salma read and moved as though she were underwater.
“Don’t you have class today?” her eyes flicked over her mother’s questioning face. Momentarily distracted by a grey hair poking that familiar mole on her chin, Salma shook her head viscously, all of a sudden feeling hemmed in and out of breath. “Are these my hands?” she narrowed her eyes at the two bands on them, the stones needed cleaning. She flexed her fingers, “I have lived with these for twenty eight years, but it doesn’t feel like we belong together anymore.” The sense of disconnect was growing and unknown to her family, Salma was going under a bell jar.
She boarded the metro train however, at her usual station that day. The drill was pat down and by sheer force of habit, she got up and began to move to the right sliding doors at her destination. But wait a moment, if the doors had not begun to whoosh right behind her. Confused out of her mind, she rotated around and stared at the opening gap, lurching forward abruptly in an attempt to make the exit. She stood shaking, watching the train sucked into the tunnel ahead, completely alone in her disorientation.
A throbbing had begun to emanate from the painful knot in her stomach. It felt like her innards had turned to sand and there was a dark, bottomless hole caving into her soul. She shook her head to clear the glop bubbling at her. But she was already beginning to see herself. There she stood, forlorn and frozen on the busy platform, a passenger stuck for direction.
Salma watched herself move ponderously onto the escalator. “There I go up in the lift,” she bobbed at a height over her body, “I have taken the wrong turn, the office is to the right.” The two continued their lumbering another few hundred metres or so, Salma and herself. “A tattoo salon?” Her body walked up to the artist who directed her to a chair. “This too shall pass: I want that on my forearm with a tiny butterfly in rust and yellow here,” the artist broke open a fresh needle.
Salma looked on at herself then shut her eyes, “I have got to feel! I have got to take my body back!!”