Brain Strings & Disconnection | Lydia Trethewey

Brain Strings & Disconnection

By Lydia Trethewey

For the DUETS AND DUVETS Award (part II)


As I walk I watch the oxide coloured freight train flashing through the gaps in the trees. It rumbles along my limbic brain, smell of metal on metal. Then it’s gone, and again I can hear the soft sound of my footfalls.

The air is the consistency of a spider-web, wet dirt flicking up into my shoes. It’s these trees, this walking trail, where we meet, Lance stepping out from behind a tree like a vaguely threatening phantasm.

Sometimes he waits on the other side of the tracks, and when the train is gone I can see him.  He can see me. The screech and the roar make a kind of music.

As I move through the quiet terrain I step carefully, so my thoughts won’t get caught in a crack in the pavement. Lance notices, but he doesn’t mention it. I brush the back of my head, trying to disconnect the strings. There’s a soft spot at the base of my skull, and I think that if I touch it I might die.

Lance and I wander down the tunnels of our imagination.

“It doesn’t feel natural,” I say, not knowing whether I’m addressing him or myself.

Lance doesn’t reply.

“I mean, it’s basically masturbation, right?”

“Not really. It’s only self-indulgent if you can grasp the ends of your own thoughts, which we both know you can’t. I don’t exist on purpose.”

“I feel like other people must have more control over what goes on inside their heads. Do you think they do?”

Lance shrugs. “Does it matter?”

“Seems like it should.”

We pass a lady walking her dog, and I smile and nod. She smiles back.

“It’s like I’m cheating on Henry with you. Like the attention I devote to you should go to him. If I really loved him, you wouldn’t be here.”

I think of Henry, who hasn’t arrived home from work yet.  He doesn’t know about Lance. When he pushes through the door, sagging with the weight of another work-day, he says hello and often I don’t hear. I’m disappeared into my own head, lost somewhere along the freight line.

“I frighten you, don’t I?” Lance asks.

He glides with heavy footfalls, somewhere in the periphery, nowhere, peering in through the cracks in reality.

“Maybe a bit. I don’t think other people are like this.”

He laughs. “That’s a very self-centered attitude. Lots of people talk to themselves inside their own heads. It’s how they continue to function.”

“Yes, but do they create imaginary lovers? I feel like a pervert. I’m basically infatuated with my own construction. It feels so wrong.”

Lance smiles, because he always knows the answer, which is somehow comforting.

“You use me to figure out yourself. That’s not perverted, that’s normal.”

“Really? Because that just sounds like I’m trying to convince myself everything’s ok.”

One of the brain strings gets tangled in a hanging branch, unsettling something under my face. I flex the muscles in my cheek, trying to straighten it out. My flesh feels uncomfortable, unnatural. I know, logically, that nothing is wrong. But I have to twitch my cheek, to loosen the sense-knot, make it feel right again. I think that if I don’t play the game Lance might disappear, and the monsters will come crashing in.