Seth is a surgeon. He operates on part of the brain to remove or implant memories, depending on which service you require. It is a radical technique, very new wave -- "post-medication" Seth calls it. He explains:
"There is for certain people an event or series of events which from their past reach forward and mark their present in uncomfortable or even dangerous ways. The event may not be a problem in and of itself, but there are conditions replicatable in the laboratory which trigger the memory of the event to transform malignantly and metastasize across the body. This ultimately give rise to development of clustered symptoms such as depression or mania, anorexia, and even the so-called Axis II personality disorders, to name a few. In recent history physicians have treated these conditions with an approach that amounts to intrapsychic fire-bombing: flooding the neural pathways with dopamine, preventing the re-uptake of serotonin, and otherwise dosing the body with chemicals that interact with a person in complex, unpredictable ways.
"Do they work? We don't know. Are there harmful effects? It is unclear. What I offer is an alternative to what will surely look to future generations like ECT looks to us: a chance to seize the problem by its roots, and yank it out."
Q: Isn't that just a lobotomy?
Seth scratches his chin. Behind him windows let in the tall Manhattan sky, split by pointed skyscrapers. An airplane moves lazily behind his head.
"It is nothing like it. The prefrontal cortex is left intact; no connections are severed, no brain materials is removed. In fact, the procedure is completely non-invasive."'
Q: Non-invasive surgery? That's impossible.
"Because I am a surgeon, and have worked for many years restoring functions of the brain in stroke and accident victims, it is understandable that you assume the procedure is a form of surgery; and it is true that the word surgery is a useful albeit misleading term for what we do here at the clinic." Seth gestures around him to windows and the walls which hold his library and diplomas.
BOOKS IN SETH'S LIBRARY
The Interpretation of Dreams
A Field Guide to Non-Physical Reality
Indikation Und Praxis Cerebroprotektiver Massnahmen in Der Neurochirurgie
The Art of Seduction
Plastic Techniques in Neurosurgery
"But that is to misunderstand its use as metaphor, which is really what we're working with here. My procedure is no more a surgery than a finger pointing at the moon is in fact the moon. All we do here is metaphor: the scalpel, its blade, the operating table and the incision through the skull that let us in; none have any more body than the memories themselves."
Seth goes through the door and turns right into the operating room. He gestures broadly.
"See? All metaphor."
COMPLETE LIST OF OBJECTS FOUND IN SETH'S OPERATING ROOM
one (1) chair
one (1) coffee table, low, finished wood
five (5) speakers mounted according to Dolby surround standards
one (1) subwoofer
one (1) ashtray
"Did you know that the brain surgery is perhaps the oldest of the practiced medical arts? No hard evidence exists suggesting a beginning to the practice of other facets of medicine such as pharmacology -- using drugs, chemical and natural ingredients to help a fellow human being. There is ample evidence, however, of brain surgery, dating back to the Neolithic late Stone Age period. Unearthed remains of successful brain operations, as well as surgical implements, were unearthed by archeologists in France, circa 7,000 B.C. And the success rate was remarkable. Pre-Incan civilization used brain surgery as an extensive practice as early as 2,000 B.C. In Paracas, Peru, a desert strip south of Lima, archeologic evidence indicates brain surgery was used extensively -- with inordinate success.
"Brain surgery was also used for both spiritual and magical reasons; often, the practice was limited to kings, priests and the nobility."
He stops and drinks a glass of water.
"But we live in a society built on the promise, if not the realization, of equal opportunity for all. My patients are not kings or priests. They are men and women and yes even children, and they are just like you. They want to walk through their day without falling into a trap set by depression. They want to hold their husbands and wives and hear their voices not as if from the bottom of a well. When they make love they want to feel their partner moving with them in a moment of perfect at-one-ment. They do not need the hands of ghosts reaching for them through the walls. They do not want their bodies to turn against them, serving long-dead masters. They want to live while they can and face the silence of whatever comes next with dignity, and strength. Don't you?"
Q: *** ****. * **** ****** **** ******.
The team has arrived. They are young men and women with intelligent eyes. Seth nods and everyone goes to their place. It is easy to feel cared for. You are a moving point through the present tense. In the room it is dark with the lamp off but for the lit end of the cigarette that is almost, but not quite, like a small orange moon. Did you run, or did they come through the walls anyway? Do you orbit your memories, or do they orbit you?