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Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem

Doubleday, September 14, 1999

Words have the damndest way of taking unmapped detours, journeying from the jumble in my head out over my lips. If only damaged routes could be repaired. Fixitpiglet kid lick!

I’ve got Tourette’s. My mouth won’t quit, though mostly I whisper or subvocalize like I’m reading aloud, my Adam’s apple bobbing, jaw muscle beating like a miniature heart under my cheek, the noise suppressed, the words escaping silently, mere ghosts of themselves, husks empty of breath and tone.

Broken pieces are strewn about. Askew and calling. It’s a battle to resist reaching out—to keep from rearranging mass discombobulation. My brain’s also prone to obsess over numbers and alphabetical patterns. To put items in logical sequence. To make things right. There’s no muzzling a quest for order with the person guilty of uncontrollably heaving arbitrary remarks.

People unfamiliar usually regard my behavior as though I were crazy. I don’t have bats in my belfry. I’m not nuts or cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Okay, maybe a little.

In the best attempts to assimilate, I steady my thoughts. My teeth clamp down on the spongy fat of my tongue. I sit in nervous restraint, keeping conversation in check, hoarding sentences for future use like a bear storing for winter.

So, though I collected words, treasured them like a drooling sadistic captor, bending them, melting them down, filing off their edges, stacking them into teetering piles, before release I translated them into physical performance, manic choreography.

Then, the pain of the bite overfills the trap of my mind, and I blurt out to no one in particular: Motor-mouth run off. Keep it to yourself, piggy-loo! Zip it, nitwit!

The pressure subsides. I think that a straitjacket for impulse could help harness the flailing extremities seeking anything to latch upon in or out of thought. I’d wear the device incognito. I might even finally blend.

Speech was intention, and I couldn’t let anyone else or myself know how intentional my craziness felt.

A physical apparatus for binding language hasn’t been developed yet, though. Doctors suggest prescriptions to level my mountainous plains. To make the world clearer, they say. Haldol, Orap, Klonopin and Ritalin shall save me from myself. They couldn’t be more wrong.

The chemicals slowed my brain to a morose crawl, were a boot on my wheel of self. I might outsmart my symptoms, disguise or incorporate them, frame them as eccentricity or vaudeville, but I wouldn’t narcotize them, not if it meant dimming the world (or my brain—same thing) to twilight.

Just deal. Livewithit. Just do it.

Forgetaboutit. Controlling severe tics is the least of my problems. Someone hurt a friend. Real bad. Dead bad. And I want to find out who. The mystery and surrounding chaos exacerbates my compulsions. My hands grab at pieces of the puzzle, hoping to snap them in place. I sort through clues. Words, for once, cannot get in the way.

I’m an airbag in a dashboard, packed up layer upon layer in readiness for that moment when I get to explode, expand all over you, fill every available space.

The freak has found his calling. Tourette’s navigates traffic. Paves new roadways. Uncontrollable urges invent a capacity to drive me home, while roundabout paths make absolute sense and a rollicking good ride.

Eat me, Bailey gas 'er up!

Sorry. I haven’t been this excited in a long time.