Issue 8: Stillness vs. Frenzy
A Publication of the USF MFA in Writing Program


Twelve Minutes

Marream Krollos


He opens the door and sees her. She is the one with a lot of dark hair, and the hard voice. She is the one that jokes, the doctor that smiles in these hallways more often than the others. He has seen her before. She is the only one he has heard in the halls. She walks faster than the others and likes to tell the nurses stories. She is the happiest one of them, and they all seem very happy to him.

Yes, you’re here. Please take a seat. 

He pulls out the chair and pauses, wondering if he will fit. He then sits right in front of her. She looks into his eyes and speaks, smiling.

Congratulations.

She pauses, looking at him, still smiling. Then she begins in what he thinks is her doctor’s voice.

You were right. There is something very wrong with you and we should do something about it. We have located a growth in your eyes. It is spreading rapidly towards your brain and throat, however. That would explain the pain you have been experiencing when you look up while you’re walking. Oddly enough, it might also explain your inability to laugh without twitching and your physical discomfort when listening to people talk for too long.

He nods. His legs are shaking. He has something to say, but he does not say it. He is waiting.

We could possibly remove both eyes at once, but in your condition, this would ensure that you die immediately. However, with your permission we would like to remove them in two separate surgeries. This would instead allow us to record behavioral data during the time frame between the removal of the first and second eye.

She leans in with her arms on the desk. She is closer to his face.

I will be honest with you, you came here because you were hoping we could help you, but we need your help too. We would really appreciate your cooperation. I want you to know that it is completely up to you though. Whether or not you will take on the risks involved with the process is completely up to you.

So how would it work exactly? You would take one eye out and then you would wait for a while and you would come back for the next eye?

Yes, something like that. If you decide to give us permission to do so we would remove the first eye, wait for you to wake up, then give you twelve minutes by yourself before we remove the other. You have to remember that you would not be sedated and you would need to communicate with us during those twelve minutes.

Well, would I be in pain?

There may be some physical discomfort, certainly. But usually with the removal of the second eye pending, most patients in your condition experience an almost euphoric calm. They understand instantly they no longer have to worry about how they are going to pay for their rent and groceries. They don’t need to think about any of their previous regrets concerning what they should or should not have said or done anymore. You may also feel a great deal of relief considering you will be able to eat whatever you want for twelve minutes without worrying about what it will do to you, or the size of your nose and what it is doing to you, or anything really. You know, all those things that everybody else has tried to convince you shouldn’t matter but seem to you to be the reason why you don’t matter to them very much.

He is shifting in his seat. He is irritated. She thinks she understands him. She looks at him as if he is a child with a cut on his finger. He looks at her as if he is an angry child.

Basically, what we need is to observe and record your behavior. For example, during this time, most of our patients seem to experience a sort of physical release. They don’t feel like failures for twelve minutes because they know they don’t have to think about being failures anymore. I am not insinuating anything about you personally; this is just what we have observed, in general. Initially, the sensation is so liberating that some patients say they experience a relaxed, invigorating stir throughout their whole body. Some of our patients just spend this time in bed, happily waiting for the other eye to be removed. They enjoy the twelve minutes.

Some patients?

Yes, unfortunately, other patients undergo the regrettable urge to say goodbye, if you will. They want to see people, animals, plants, objects one more time. Of course, we make sure that they cannot leave the grounds of the hospital. However, despite the nurses’ objections they tend to venture out into the courtyard to touch things just one more time. At this point, they say that color becomes so very vivid to them that they almost feel as if light is pleasantly putting pressure against their faces. This is the only time we find our patients are prey to the use of words like “beautiful” to describe things. I will read some of what the little poets have said so far.

She opens a drawer and takes out a folder. She flips through chuckling occasionally. She settles on a page and reads in a mocking seriousness.

Our patients have expressed the following, I quote: “texture alone has become a cause for celebration,” and “scents have turned into various booths at single second festivals.” All this information is taken down in interviews done right before the removal of the second eye. Needless to say, for us it is invaluable information.

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