Right now, in this electric cage, I let my mind ride the waves of sedatives. The song shifts, and I'm floating again. Flying over a lush field. The grass under me looks spongy and fresh and so real that it makes me want to walk on it. Want to feel it spring up under my bare feet.
"Hold still, hon. Just a few minutes more. You're doing great."
I hold still. A breeze blows my hair back, which I know is impossible, but it still feels so real. And I've got that voice hovering next to me again, a small breath in my ear, like how I saw Julian's breath that day on the bench. "It's so easy," the voice says. Only the e part is stretched so it sounds like eeeeasy.
A strand of hair comes loose and tickles my cheek. I wish I could move it. I try not to think about it, try not to obsess, but it's killing me. Then it's blown back, off my face. "You're okay now. It's all done," Jennifer tells me.
"All done," Gary says. "Be right there."
And, just like that, I have to prepare myself for reentry. Into the harsh light of the room. Into the harsh vibe of this life. I leave that other version of me, the one that could move freely and easily, in that MRI tube. And I wonder if I could have been that girl all along, if only Dr. Jacoby hadn't screwed up.
Looking back on it now, I feel pretty stupid for not figuring any of it out way earlier. It was my own version of believing in Santa—I was told the story so often that I never thought to question it. (We didn't have to deal with the Santa fallout; I'm Jewish. Mom used to go on and on about how proud she was that they never lied to us, as if the worst crime ever perpetrated on a kid was the invention of a benevolent old dude in a red suit who distributes presents. It isn't.)
Dr. Jacoby—or Dr. Jerkoby, as Ben refers to him when we discuss the subject—is probably a good guy. He had a really strong history leading up to my delivery. He's a Harvard Medical School graduate who did his OB/GYN residency at Johns Hopkins. From what I could find online, there were no complaints filed against him. No lawsuits. Very small percentage of C-sections. I'm sure his kids and grandkids love him. He probably volunteers at his church, or cleans stretches of the woods so that animals don't choke on litter strewn by inconsiderate campers. Maybe he builds houses for Habitat for Humanity or serves soup to the homeless.
He may do a hundred million nice things, but nothing he does now will make up for the day he delivered me.
Because the thing is, I wasn't supposed to be like this. I wasn't supposed to have cerebral palsy. That day, something he did caused it.
But I didn't realize that until this past summer.
Ben and I were taking an SAT study course—his idea—and we were in the midst of a vocabulary practice test. I came to a fill-in-the-blank question: "The doctor was accused of...so they settled the claim in court."
My eyes danced over the choices. The root of all of the words was mal, as in bad. Maleficent, malevolence, malfeasance, malignancy, maliciousness. Maleficent was the bad fairy in the movie, and that word in particular meant mischievous. I knew the answer wasn't maleficent, because a doctor wouldn't be evil or mischievous. The other options—malevolence, malignancy, maliciousness—weren't the right ones, either.
But a doctor could be blameworthy. As in, "The doctor was accused of malfeasance..."