The Migraine Diaries: One [1976]

Tiny little head, big bed. Diffuse curtain light too bright. Is it supposed to feel this way? Drifting miniature fairies dance the length of the beam. “Dust,” mama whispers, pressing the cool cloth gently across my forehead. It hurts more on the other side, but I don’t tell her. I close my stinging eyes, then open them quickly in astonishment. It HURTS. Wait – why? Did I hit my head outside in the chicken coop where there are no chickens? Did the doggie knock me down? Focusing briefly again on the bright stripe and its dust angels – o no not there – quickly look away at a dark corner and notice to my astonishment they are still there, even out of the pain-light. Clear, dancing squiggles. Blink eyes. Still there. Mama still patiently pressing the middle of my forehead, but the cloth feels like ice cream Kleenex.

“Mama,” I murmur, trying not to let the pain and anxiety turn my voice to a whine, “The dust fairies are everywhere, even in the dark.” A deep sigh lifts her reassuring weight away for a moment. “Well honey I haven’t really had time-” Sudden silence. She sits up, removes the cloth, and looks at me for a long moment, her father’s torment newly fresh in her mind. “Look over there, sweetie.” She points at a blank wall.”Do you see them?” I nod, not knowing if this is the right answer. Mama sits still, her face flickering with thoughts and memories. “Do you see anything else, like – like blank spots or flashing lights?” I shake my head. Ouch. No. 

Mama unfolds the damp washcloth and puts her whole young, pretty face in it, her auburn hair now catching the late afternoon stripe of sun. I squint and watch embers dance along its strands. How I want hair like my beautiful Mama’s. She lifts her head quickly, her mouth a straight line. “What side does your head hurt on, Samantha?” All of a sudden she understands that part of it and I try to smile, though somehow that hurts as well, and Mama does not respond.

“This side,” I say with relief, gesturing to the area above my left eye. Mama sighs again and re-folds the washcloth to the perfect size, placing it now directly over the pulse of pain, the pain that came from nowhere. She leans over me again, and I, and my pain, are home. “I so did not want this for you…” she whispers, and I don’t understand.

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