Vertigo Suite No. 1

Sara Greenslit


Gravity's Claim and Rigor

When I'm tired, the solid surface of things falters—walls tip inward, the floor quavers, people lilt, sounds thicken—it's the vertiginous blur, the hazy gaze, a line (wavering), a closed-eye tilt-a-whirl.

When it begins eleven years ago, the slanted world elongates from one dizzying day into one week into uncounted muddying months—standing, I fall backward or sideways (shut your eyes).

The heart beats harder—forceful, not faster. Hands shaky, my sight's not quite blindered, but the aperture's reduced.

Slow down, consider each step, the triangulations of cane use, the uneven sidewalk, the categories of catching your fall. A headachy spate of days, then a tapering, respite, a gently curved horizon—

In the split second as you succumb to gravity and the vertical warbles—it's almost pleasant, this falling into instability, into the chasm of the unsteady, that space/place, stretched and compressed.

Your feet sometimes slap the ground when walking, soles swung out trying to catch yourself, and you get caught, almost tripped by your own gait.

You twirl while not moving. Your eyes feel thick, your vision blurred, and there's a shadow of a headache sneaking up, a cascade of blur.

And you get very tired, even a little clouded, word order stumbles out of order, out of your mouth, stutters, sputters.

Mildly buzzed by the lack of a center, like a quickly downed cocktail gambol-saunter.

Gravity increases its heft, pulling backward. Add a backpack, and the lean is inescapable. The spinning begins.


Topsy Turvy

What causes the brain to say "the turquoise" when I meant to say "Colorado," looking at a license plate?

While taking notes during lectures, why did written words sometimes spill into the illegible, the wrong-lettered, the stalled? As if I had taken a walk to somewhere but then, for a splice of time, I had no recollection where I had been going. The writing hand was off-time from the writing brain, mismatched. One couldn't keep up with the other, never clear who was in charge.

Lost rudder, compass overboard. Map left at the dock.

What my first neurologist mistook for a brain lesion—aphasia, a tongue-tumbling stumbling for words, seconds elongating as others stare, waiting for a coherent phrase, the right word, for the world to proceed with imperatives.

See the stained slides of the inner ear's saccule and utricle, the macula, the semicircular canals, a perplexing territory seen in one-dimension. The raft of balance and hearing is cast from spinal nerve tracts, lodged in stony bone, called petrous. How this affects language is a mysterious stew.


Be Your Own Tide

If you slow the rattle and clang of thought, try to tether a bit of internal silence, then you might feel the way your heart moves your body. The way your heart's chambers fill and contract.

The beating heart, yours, your ears to a stethoscope, can you imagine the four individual valves? Look how your pulse speeds up when you inhale, slows when you exhale. Sinus arrhythmia.

Perhaps I never really sat still before the onset of vertigo, or perhaps I am less able to restrain my body's more subtle movements now, but when my symptoms were more severe, I felt my own tide of blood move my torso to and fro. A slight swing back and forth. The heart beats faster than the breath, so it was a second current, instead of just my chest rising and falling. A micro-tide, a gentle waving lapping.