grand mal


Minutes later, barrelling down Monument Avenue in my pickup truck, I began to experience the mental flashes neurologists call auras. At the time, I didn’t know them by that name, or by any name. They’d been happening since I was an adolescent – maybe every few months, always at times of high stress – and they were so bizarre and difficult to convey that I’d never tried to describe them to anyone. Here’s my best shot: Imagine your mind is tripping through a litany of memories. One memory in particular stands out because it’s simultaneously both familiar and foreign. (In my case, this is always an aural memory – something someone once said to me, or something I heard in a movie, or something I may have listened to over and over again on a storybook record when I was a child.) What is that sound/voice/musical phrase? Where is it from? You try to place it but are unsuccessful, and then – you can’t help yourself, it’s like running downhill and picking up speed – you become obsessed with placing it, and it’s this effort that starts a hot wave pulsing inside you, stemming from somewhere in the vicinity of your stomach and eventually climbing up your neck and welling into your head: wa-wa-wa.

more from Patrick Ryan at Granta here.