Lim: Mental

“I HAVE bad news,” I tell my sister. “I just got the results of my brain scan.” “And?” she anxiously asks. “No damage to brain tissues or vessels. No skull fracture. No clot. No mass. No lesion.”

“So what’s the bad news?” she asks. “The bad news is that this confirms—all my problems are mental,” I tell her.

“Well, we’ve always known that,” she manages to tell me with a straight face.

Packing for Batanes, I excitedly tell my sister there’s no wifi on the island and no cable TV in the hotel so I will finally have time to read my books. Next thing I know, she has a book in her hand for recommended reading. She tells me I will like this book. It’s about traveling.

I drag my feet but I accept the book. I flip the pages. I stop to read a few lines. With swift judgement, I say, “It doesn’t seem interesting.” But my sister doesn’t’ give up. “Read a few more pages.” I read again. No spark.

It does look like it contains a lot of useful information but I prefer my substance to be delivered in style—meaning, the writing must start a fire in my gut with the first few lines.

Crisp. Concise. Courageous. Frank. Funny. Fierce. Passionate. Profound. Poetic. None of the above. I close the book. “Thanks, but I’ll bring my own books.”

“Those mental books?” my sister exclaims. She thinks I’m a nut case. Really—it takes one to know one but I contain myself and don’t say it out loud. “Yeah—the mental books.”

“Why do you read books about death and dying and books that require so much thinking? Don’t you read books for entertainment?” she asks. “I do,” I tell her, “but I also read them for enlightenment.”

She seems genuinely baffled.

I tell my sisters that when I read a book, I always want to read it in one sitting because I can’t wait to get to the ending to find the message.

“What message?” my sister asks me. “When I read a book, I’m looking for entertainment. I’m not looking for a message.”

My other sister chimes in, “Me? When I read a book, I can’t wait to know the ending so I jump to the last few pages to find out and then I go back and read the rest of the book.”

I can’t contain myself now. I am horrified by this callous revelation. For me, the process of uncovering the plot is sacrosanct—exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement. Delayed gratification at its finest. You defile the process and ruin the reading with a premature ending.

“How can you do such a thing?” I ask my sister. She seems unperturbed.

“You’re obviously mental,” my sister tells me, “who brings a book called ‘Brain on Fire’ on her vacation?”

“Can you believe they found nothing wrong with my brain? I don’t even have brain atrophy. And yet, I can’t remember anything these days. Do you think they made a mistake?”

“It’s all in your head,” my sisters tell me.
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