:: My surgeon has done his surgery. And now I lie in the dark, cold turkey, shaking, neurons misfiring, anxiety spiked so high that I actually use my psychiatrist’s cell phone to call for advice, and if you have a psychiatrist then you know how consequential that is.

A TIGHT TRAIT

They cut away a piece of my spine.

Eight weeks ago, the nerve pain unbearable, the first doctor, Bad Brad we call him, titrated me up to two thousand and seven hundred milligrams of gabapentin. He insisted it would help. Brain a haze, limbs weak, but what choice did I have?

Post-op, The Surgeon said I would stay on the gabapentin until my nerves healed from the damage my own body had inflicted upon them, and then I would titrate off.

Titrate. Such a lovely word. Sometimes my brain sees words as sounds instead of letters, tight trait. A thing about yourself you value so much that you hold it close.

Post-surgery, the nerve pain is different, but equally unbearable, tazing down my thigh, lighting up my calf until the muscles spasm into a Charley Horse that rarely stops. My husband massages the muscle as hard as he can while I clutch his shoulders.

Charley horse: Unknown origin.

My horse is named George even though she’s a mare. Before, I saw her every day. Now, I haven’t seen her in months. George is a red bay with a perfect white stripe down her face, a leggy jumper, sixteen hands one inch, small for her job but with the grace of a cat, and the springs too. She can jump out of the arena you say about a horse like that.

Autistic girls, according to research, tend to be obsessed with horses. We also tend to be bullied. They teased me about my horse obsession while they smushed gum in my hair.

My life, defined by equines. No longer. I can’t drive, can barely walk or stand. Riding in cars, even for a little while, torture. Now, I send my son to ride George and pet her white stripe.

“Part of me,” I tell my therapist, “Doesn’t want to go. Is that wrong?”

“No,” she says. “You aren’t ready to see what you’ve lost.”

One of my unspoken fears that I will speak here: I will lose horses forever.

Two days after surgery, when the tazing starts, I call The Surgeon for help. The Surgeon’s medical assistant (but never The Surgeon) tells me to stop the gabapentin cold turkey. The Surgeon, through a game of kindergarten telephone as I can hear his voice in the background, tells me the medicine isn’t working anymore because I have developed a tolerance.

Cold turkey. Disputed origins, early 1920s. Silly. I try to picture my Very Serious Surgeon saying cold turkey and it would make me laugh, except laughing hurts the hole in my spine, so I make do with a dark smile.

I worry about his instructions, however, because The Surgeon does not know my full medical history. He, like Bad Brad, did not bother to gather it.

Ten weeks ago, Bad Brad gave me nine hundred milligrams a day.

Nine weeks ago, Bad Brad gave me eighteen hundred milligrams a day.

Eight weeks ago, Bad Brad gave me twenty-seven hundred milligrams a day, and never followed up to learn that the pain never lessened. Desperate, I took the drug, hoping one day it would kick in.

Kick in. To begin. Or, to break something (someone) down.

The Surgeon never asked why the dose rose so high or whether it ever worked at all, despite Bad Brad’s insistence that it would.

From the very start, gabapentin never broke the circuit of the live wire inside my leg. My leg, one of my tightest traits, which allows me to walk and dance and crawl on the floor with my children. To jump George out of the arena.

Surgeons do surgery, my father always tells me. He’s an emergency doctor with Sabine-River wisdom that appears at strange times. When I was seven, he told me Katie, remember, all snakes bite, after teaching me the difference between a copperhead and a banded water snake.

The Surgeon has done his surgery. And now I lie in the dark, cold turkey, shaking, neurons misfiring, anxiety spiked so high that I actually use my psychiatrist’s cell phone to call for advice, and if you have a psychiatrist then you know how consequential that is. She tells me to take whatever I needed to get through it.

It: lying with blackout shades drawn, wondering when the pain will end, if ever. Fiery glitter lancing through me, words and fears and memories lost, until I’m nothing but pain itself.

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