Summer 2009. A double bat mitzvah. Two sisters. We know their parents well, so we’re there in the temple for the full ceremony. Can’t just waltz in later for the reception. No sir, we’re sitting through the entire ceremony. In Hebrew. Must be a conservative congregation.
I hope they see us here.
I have no idea what they are saying, but that’s okay. It’s so rare that I feel this disoriented that I’m liking the novelty. This must be how I felt when I was three years old sitting in church. A back to the future moment.
I’m liking my borrowed yarmulke a lot less. It sits uneasily on my head. Other men’s seem to be cemented in place. Some use pins, others may actually use cement. Mine just drifts.
It’s not helping that I have a headache. And a neck ache. All those micro-movements needed to keep the yarmulke in place, shielding the top of my skull from the Hebrew god, who apparently cannot bear to see a middle-aged man’s monk spot, are just making it worse.
And then everyone stands, so I stand too, and my head explodes. Not literally, but that’s how it feels. It’s like my head is filled to the brim with a highly toxic fluid, and any movement causes some to spill and burn a path of destruction through my brain.
And then we sit and more toxic fluid sluices around in my head, searing more paths of pain.
This is really hurting.
And then the yarmulke slides off my head and hits the floor. Mortified lest the Hebrew god smite me and my exposed monk spot down, I lean down to get it and nearly black out from the excruciating pain. This must be what smiting feels like.
Bathed in cold sweat, desperate to avoid any more head movements, I spend the rest of the ceremony ignoring the ceremony, and the congregation, and the standing and sitting, and the Hebrew god, as I just sit there sweating with my head cradled in my hands.
Afterwards I implored my wife to take me home. It was mid-afternoon, but I headed straight for bed, pulled a pillow over my head, and slept the next 16 hours.
When I awoke, the headache was gone.
What the hell had just happened?
I spent much of the next two years trying to answer this question.
Writing about illness and writing about not writing are two of the most tedious topics to read. And that's precisely what I propose to do. You've been warned.