signature she lay
under the tower clock in her restraints, a needle in her
vein, an i. v.
butterflied onto her arm. The hill outside was ice. The
said, “Now.” He squeezed the works, and she was under:
paralyzed: no breath.
Her husband looked down at the pond behind the old
Warm spill stumbled into a thawed spot from the ditchbed.
he had watched her drinking through September, picking
up odd men,
painting the residue of nightmares, then not sleeping, then
that the phone company had put transmitters and receivers
under her scalp
which finally she had to shave in patches to slice open to
remove the bugs.
First, she had to leave him: his whole brain had been
replaced at work
with boards of microcircuitry, no point in struggling any
more with him,
though she did telephone their children, asking if the
might have scheduled them for odd procedures. She called
That first afternoon she missed, he knew. He drove straight
to the studio
he rented her over the fishmarket. She liked the smell. It
ultrasound, she said, and maybe infrared and microwaves.
It made him
weep. He rang, knocked, slipped a plastic card into the
and found her out cold on the bathroom floor, hair wet with
phone off the hook, hi-fi and radio and television on full
Uphill from the pond, below the hospital, a cloud poured
from an open pipe
and sheathes of ice formed on bare honeysuckles and
to conceal the ditch. Elsewhere there was a dust of dingy
His fingertips felt cold inside the rabbit lining of his gloves.
The shrink with caliper in both hands hunched his
to place the two electrodes at right temple and right
He said, “OK.” The anesthesiologist rechecked the settings
on the panel
labelled Hittman, pressed the button, and said, “Here she
The Hittman hummed its low note, and the shrink
removed the caliper.
Her husband stood far off, feet frozen in two-hundred-
He gazed into the uprush of the steam among the crystal
remembering at college when they showered after
midnight in her dorm
how fierce she turned! How her improvisations tested him
and pleased him.
Dress-up games. Disguises. Flagrancies in public parks. In
Fingertips and whispers. Teases. Thrills of a forbidden life.
Bohemian was how he wanted her, and made himself as
as men need be: the MBA, the classic width of his lapel,
the Tudor house,
with weekends at the club arriving in a fashionable choice
to talk collegial, congeneric talk. Her paintings pulled him
meanwhile, into a smear of orchids and odd persons. It was
The nurse was scanning for the signs of seizure: fingers,
toes, a twitch,
a few goosebumps, but nothing, she said, “Nothing.”
”Right,” the shrink said.
So the meterman cranked up the juice and hit it. Waited.
Her tenth treatment.
Her resistance up. He set the knobs again, said, “Third
time charm.” Again
he boosted her. The shrink’s mouth formed a small hurt
smile. He saw
her limbs gone stiff under the storm of brainwaves jump,
And it was good—that this week she could sleep again; she
their last talk, but she knew who he was, forgot his name,
but she no longer
feared him, since the phone company did not control the
hospital; her husband
loved her, he was not a cyborg; voices spoke, but she knew
they did not
exist, she told herself that, and they faded. Now, though,
the nurse’s face
was in her face, the mouth was moving, and a voice said,
you’re awake. The treatment’s over now. That’s it. We’re
So there she was, this person bursting into tears, hearing
her own voice
whimper, “No. I’m sorry. I just. . . . Please. I’m sorry. It’s