portrait-of-yseult-fayet-1908
SELF-PORTRAIT
by Tobi Cogswell

She always had some tingling in her hands.
The tips of her left thumb and forefinger were numb,
sometimes her face got tingly and sometimes
she would walk down the hallway at work and
hit the corner of the wall. Numbness and tingling
happened to everyone and it just wasn’t that
big a deal. She might have twisted something
or pulled something. Occasionally she couldn’t
fasten her necklace but she didn’t have that
much jewelry anyway.

One day she had double vision. If she covered
her left eye she saw perfectly. If she covered her
right eye she saw perfectly. If she uncovered
both eyes she saw double. Not like the time
Tommy Jackson sat on her glasses in third grade,
just double.

She called her parents, not to worry them but
to let them know she would be going to the
hospital to find out what was wrong. She covered
one eye, and drove herself.

The doctor was a very nice man. He told her
to “hop up and let’s see what’s going on”. The
room was dimly lit and she worried that
he wouldn’t be able to see. She got on the bed
with no blankets or pillows and stared at the
ancient black phone on the bedside table. Somehow
she had changed out of her clothes but couldn’t
remember when, she was so scared.

The doctor positioned her perfectly – on her left side,
knees bent, left arm under her head, not knowing
what to expect. Her parents were there but
her mother was so upset she stayed on the other side of
the pale white-blue curtain. Her father stayed to comfort
her mother and there was no one to hold her hand.

The pop of the spinal tap came with excruciating pain.
She would never forget the champagne-cork sound
of the needle puncturing her spine, she could not believe
any human could withstand what was being done to her. And
then the doctor held up a syringe of spinal fluid for her
to see and said “the fluid is clear, you don’t have
meningitis” but that was the beginning of her own private hell.

IMAGE: “Portrait of Yseult Fayet” by Odilon Redon (1908).

Tobi - lapses and absences

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tobi Cogswell is a multiple Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. Credits include or are forthcoming in various journals in the US, UK, Sweden, and Australia.   In 2012 and 2013 she was short-listed for the Fermoy International Poetry Festival. In 2013 she received Honorable Mention for the Rachel Sherwood Poetry Prize. Her sixth and latest chapbook is Lapses & Absences (Blue Horse Press, 2013). She is the co-editor of San Pedro River Review.