Vignettes of Central Control

Jenny M. Liu

The machine circles my cranium and brings what’s hidden into the limelight. A fluorescent mind, all three hundred sixty degrees. I can’t look away.

The doctor takes a cursory glance at the images. His pen, used as a pointer, taps every part of my brain. He avoids the darkness. He affirms.

“Looks like everything’s accounted for.”

What he means is that I’m still here.

I ask for two copies of the most comprehensive view, an 8x10 to frame and a 2x3 for my wallet. The nurse takes my credit card. A second later, my hand reaches out again. I’m radioactive.

“And you’ll email the digitals?”

The doctor humors me. He turns back to the computer and clicks the mouse a few times. “It should be there in just a sec.”

I take out my phone and refresh my inbox. I download the attachments right away. I have nothing to be ashamed of.

My sister is getting married in April. I think she’s starting to get cold feet because she tells me all she wants for her bachelorette party is to do shrooms with me at my place.

“I just want to like, expand my mind, you know?”

She twists her engagement ring—it’s nice. Custom, lab-grown.

I raise an eyebrow. “Is it getting a little too tight up there?”

She makes an exasperated sound. “You know what I mean.”

I stick my entire hand in a bag of jasmine rice. The grains are cool, friendly against my skin, enclosed in my fist. I withdraw and let them slip through my fingers. I find I like the sound.

Later, when I’m making a cup of tea to soothe my headache, the drizzle of honey settling at the bottom of my cup is pleasantly thick. I like how the drag of my spoon gets easier with every round of stirring.

Everyone was broke in college except for the ones who weren’t. It was fun to see who tried to hide it. I think about this as I make a payment toward my student loans. I think about the professor who made us write about conformity, then compiled our common threads of thought. How worse than beating a dead horse, I had never seen an entire stable torched so fast.

When the bachelorette trip is over, my sister decides to call off the wedding. She hugs me amidst the clothes on the floor and the 8x10 framed on the side table and buries her face in my neck, the way she did when we were kids. She says quietly that the smell is what’ll fuck you over.

I catch her taking pics of my laundry detergent. I give her a bottle of my perfume.

We enjoy the migration of Canadian geese from my balcony.

Here is what I learn: Hive euthanization only occurs in instances of extreme aggression or the presence of American foulbrood. It only makes sense to cry as you lift the lid and see layer by layer the death of all those bees.

I go back to the doctor in a few months. I guess what I mean is simple.

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