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


Twelve Minutes

Marream Krollos


She puts the folder down. And she looks up at him smiling.

And now I feel I should warn you about what happens to your lips and tongue.

My lips?

If you are one of those that wander away from your bed you will find that you will want to put everything in your mouth to taste, and so identify it, like you did when you were an infant. So, recognizing the origins of the kiss will make you want to kiss. Wanting to kiss makes you feel your lips intently. You then realize that you always pressed too hard when you kissed. The nerve endings on the lips and tongue were never designed for that. Usually at this point you will start to feel like you never really got to kiss or were never kissed yourself. In general, you may feel that you have been cruel to yourself and to others when you think about how abruptly you did most things you had to do with your mouth. You will wonder why you did not put your tongue against everything more carefully without pressing so hard. Why you didn’t pay more attention to what you did or did not want to push against with your lips.

He is confused, then hurt. He wonders if she thinks he is ugly.

Well, not everybody experiences it through their lips. You just seemed like a lip person to me, I could be wrong. Some people actually try to walk back to houses, apartments, what have you. Even when they realize it is impossible they still keep moving their legs. People that were not important before the twelve minutes become very important suddenly. Patients insist they need to talk to this person or that person just one more time. It is somewhat amusing, almost ironic, I think. With their one condemned eye they want to stare at the faces of those they would have themselves forgiven. It’s no wonder our little poets come back inspired.

She laughs looking away from him. Then turns her head and stares at him again. He wishes she would go back to using the doctor’s voice.

But yeah, that’s basically what happens in a nutshell. This is often the most unnerving and uncomfortable experience during this process though. Yes, with the one condemned eye you may actually want to acquit those who have wronged you. It’s hilarious.

She laughs. She yells out in a childlike tone.

And so you reminisce about irony, irony makes you think of wit, which makes you think of humor, which brings to mind the sound of laughter, which cannot exist without tears. All this may remind you of music, which may remind you of all the songs you will never hear.

She stops yelling. She laughs and laughs. She calms down and looks at him again.

But for your sake I hope that doesn’t happen. All the dull bits and pieces become not so dull, and all those people you thought were so awful stop seeming so awful. This can make everything seem awful.

I don’t care about my lips.

Well, the experience is slightly different for everybody. You, for example, may look at a table and feel this jolting shriek escape from your chest. For somebody else it could be hills, or oranges, you never know.

She picks up the folder again.

Let me read you some more of these here: “my skin has a voice, it is screeching for the  grass,” and “my fingertips are dry mouths stepping with their thick lips towards the wetness of the grass.” Funny, huh? Our little poets. So, what do you say?

I don’t want the twelve minutes. I will remove both eyes at the same time. I just want to die. Remove both eyes at the same time.

Thank you. I think you have made the right choice. I just wanted to make sure you were comfortable with the consequences. Some patients, I explain the situation to them over and over again and they still don’t really comprehend what I am saying. The nurses get all flustered running around after them. Even after I have told them, Please remember, only twelve minutes. All right, one more thing you need to know. If you don’t feel ill anymore after the twelve minutes, which is often what happens when you want to live again, we still have to continue with the rest of the surgery. However, removing both your eyes will not kill you at this point; we can’t do anything about that. If after the twelve minutes you want to live then you will not die but we will still have to take the other eye. You understand, once the surgery is scheduled we still have an obligation to take out the other eye. There is nothing we can do; we are obligated to remove both eyes at this point.  So you would still be alive but you would have no eyes, do you understand?

I don’t want the twelve minutes. I am not agreeing to the twelve minutes. Take both eyes out at one time. I want you to take both eyes out at one time.

You may even want your first eye back in this case. There is really no chance of that happening, or of us being able to cancel the rest of the surgery. Do you understand, under no circumstances will we be able to return your first eye or let you keep the second eye? 

I don’t want the twelve minutes. I want both eyes removed at the same time.

Just making sure you understand.

Take both eyes out at the same time. I want you to take both eyes out at the same time.

All right, good. We just have to make sure. Some people change their minds. All of a sudden they start screaming, I want my eyes, I want my eyes. Sometimes we change our minds too. We just take one eye out and watch you for an indeterminate amount of time. We watch until you stop moving around so much, until you stop talking about color. It really helps us with our research.

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