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Excerpt from David Bergen’s Out of Mind

Join us for the virtual launch of Out of Mind hosted by McNally Robinson Booksellers as part of THIN Air 2021! Starting at 9:00 p.m. ADT on Wednesday September 22nd, the live event will be available for viewing at this link: Don’t worry if you’re late! The video will be available for viewing thereafter. Till then, enjoy this excerpt from the book.

Sometime after Martin died, perhaps a year later, Lucille found that her thinking was disconnected. She had dealt with clients who experienced dissociation, particularly as a reaction to trauma, and so she knew the signs and the dangers. She confessed to her psychiatrist that she was terrified of what was happening to her.

I’m all over the place, she said. I am standing in a wheat field and a crop-duster keeps buzzing me, and at some point the crop-duster takes off my head. Just like that, my head is gone. And then I’m eight years old, and I’m visiting a friend named Kimmy, and we are running naked through a house after a bath, and Kimmy’s father is there telling us to run faster so we might dry off. He is sitting in a chair and cheering us on. It is an old schoolhouse and there are children’s desks and blackboards, and on the blackboards, someone has drawn pictures of chickens without heads. And then my mother with her back to me, looking over her shoulder, and I feel so much love for my mother that I fear I will not be able to breathe. And then Morris’s mouth moving, telling me that Martin is dead. And there are times when I think Martin is still alive, and I even pick up the phone to talk to him, and only when I hear that the number is not in service do I understand that he is dead. I don’t know what to do.

Silence in the room. And then Dr. Helguson asked her if she was able to sleep.

Some, Lucille said. But I wake from nightmares, and I am afraid to go back to sleep. I should write the dreams down, I know, but it would be like reliving the nightmare.

And so, I imagine being held by my mother. Back when I was young, she did the best she could. She was sick, as you know, and she was in the hospital for a time, but when she came home, I was delirious with gratitude, and did everything to keep her from leaving again. And so, you are afraid. That you will be left again. That you will be alone.

I am alone. Completely.

But you are here. Talking to me. What about your daughters? Your grandson? Do you have conversations?

Yes. But when I am alone again, I am exhausted, simply because I had to work so hard not to sound crazy. The other day my daughter Meredith and I were talking about a recipe, and I told her that Martin had it, she should ask him, and of course she reminded me that Martin was dead. Meredith thinks that I am going nuts. I think that.

We have talked about it. Should we again talk about how he died?

Lucille shook her head. I’m okay, she said. And she began to cry. Oh shit, she said through her tears, I told myself I wouldn’t cry. She wiped at her face with the back of her hand. She waited. Closed her eyes. She opened her eyes and she put a fist against her chest and said, I can feel it way inside me. It’s like I have a cave there and it goes deep. I didn’t know that it was possible to have that much space there. So much space. And so deep. I do not think it will go away.

You are very clear right now, Dr. Helguson said. That is good. I see no problem with your mind.

I hate November eleventh, Lucille said. I hate people who wear poppies. I want to go up to them and ask what right they have, wearing that thing.

It is personal.

And illogical.

Is it possible that you have earned the right?

But I don’t want to have earned it. I want nothing like that. I want to go back.

Of course you do, Dr. Helguson said.

But I can’t, Lucille said. She folded her hands and held them in her lap and looked down at them.

Excerpted from Out of Mind copyright © 2021 by David Bergen

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