It was an afternoon in the 1990s, one that is not remembered anywhere else but here. She was in her own world, walking down George Street, only vaguely aware of other people pushing past along the frontages of cinemas on the fantasy circuit; oblivious to the man up a ladder detaching the letters of some defunct feature and letting them fall like leaves to the ground below. It was upon one of these, the letter O, that she inadvertently stood; and just as if it had been a banana skin in the tired old vaudeville routine, her right foot slid out from underneath, her body flew backwards, airborne, her head smacked hard against the concrete of the pavement rising up to meet it. Dazed; perhaps in shock; she struggled upright peering at the strangely altered world. The fellow on the ladder—hardly more than a boy—looked whitely down at the frightful consequence of his error; two young men, exiting at that very moment a neighbouring cinema, hurried over asking was she alright? Standing either side of her with their hands fluttering like wings. She saw the pores in the skin of the nose of the fair one opening like stomata; the black hairs, razored diagonally across the tips, that grew upon the cheeks of the second, he with the moist brown eyes. She felt like weeping for the kindness of strangers; but would not allow herself. Yes, she said. I’m fine. The young men tried to urge her inside. You must tell them, the fair one said. You must make a complaint. She saw light flare from glass doors, a dark and fabled interior, a terrarium in which equivocal shapes moved liquidly through a viscous obscurity. No . . . she said. No, I’m alright . . . resuming her progress along George Street; with just a tentative forefinger to the lump forming at the back of her head, seeking the dampness of blood seeping from a crack in her skull; but there was none. Years later, in another city, analysis of an MRI scan revealed a mass of scar tissue at the base of her brain, the ganglia matted about the old lesion like hair on a wound; and with some incredulity she realised the fits that troubled her since she was a child of six had ceased with the fall outside Greater Union. As if the trauma somehow unscrambled defective circuits breaking like waves upon a hidden shore; as if all that agitation, frontal lobes overloaded, shorting sporadically, electrically, spontaneous as summer lightning, was replaced by a still heaving calm; so that, now and forever, in a way it never had been before the world was hers: an O of astonishment, the very breath of wonder.
with Maggie Hall