You Disappear: A Novel

You Disappear: A Novel by Christian Jungersen Read Free Book Online

Book: You Disappear: A Novel by Christian Jungersen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christian Jungersen
window. I take my eyes from his neck and look out the other window, through the small vibrating drops that the wind presses across the glass.
    And I resolve with myself that I don’t owe Frederik anything. On the contrary, he owes me, for all the years when I trusted him and suffered so terribly from him never being home. I thought I was sacrificing myself for the students of Saxtorph, while in reality he had something going on with other women in Copenhagen. Year after year. The years of my youth.
    If I became seriously ill, he ought to care for me for a long, long time to answer for that.
    And I decide, as I’ve already done several times in the last few days, that if the operation doesn’t cure Frederik, I’ll stick with him for a year and a half, maximum. Only until he’s gotten as far as he can with rehab; after that it’s over. It feels good for me to think that. It’s necessary to have an emergency exit.
    Frederik’s head shifts over, so it no longer rests against the window but on my shoulder instead. Warmth, the soft press of his ear, the little sounds of his halting snore.
    I start to cry, muted and still. For that’s not the way it’ll be; I know that. In the end I won’t leave him. Not after a year and a half. It’ll be Frederik and me forever.
    Will he keep hitting people after the operation? Will I have to quit my job? Will we have to move? I throw him to the concrete floor of the parkinggarage and pin his arm behind his back, I strike him in the supermarket when he attacks me for not letting him decide what to buy, I hold him down while he struggles on the patio of Thorkild and Vibeke’s summer cottage.
    “Thorkild, could you please pull over? I’m not feeling well.”
    My father-in-law stops on the freeway shoulder, and I tumble out onto the strip of overgrown grass along the roadside. I sink to my knees and raise my hands to my forehead.
    I want to throw up, but nothing will come. Sweat trickles down my back. I try to hawk something up. Again. And again. Then I feel a warm hand upon my brow. It’s Niklas. He learned it from me, that’s the way I always placed my hand against his forehead when he threw up as a little boy.
    It should be me who’s taking care of him. I want to get up and press my hand against his brow. It should be him who’s throwing up. When I finally do rise, he embraces me; he’s taller than me, his arms are strong, he pats me on the head.

Orbitofrontal Injuries
    The orbitofrontal cortex coordinates emotions from our limbic system with our overarching control systems.
    The limbic system sends strong signals to the rest of the brain with messages to flee, fight, mate, feel sadness/pain, or grow angry—survival signals that we share with other animals. The orbitofrontal cortex is the region that modulates these all-or-nothing signals and gives them a more nuanced, human expression.
    Orbitofrontal damage results in the injured person losing the unique, personal way he modulates his emotions. He possesses only two levels of emotion: quiescence and maximum strength. There is no middle ground.
    The injured person will often experience pathologically high spirits and feel strikingly uninvolved with and indifferent to what happens around him. The personality and subtlety in how he reacts to his surroundings have disappeared. Instead, when he cries or is angry, he cannot govern the strength of his emotions—just like an infant.
    Frequently, an isolated orbitofrontal injury will not affect intelligence, memory, or language. Yet it will lead to a fundamental personality change, in which the injured person’s sense of what constitutes a good or bad choice is nullified. He becomes a more fearless, “simple” person, who has a hard time controlling his immediate impulses and making long-term plans.
    It is characteristic of frontal-lobe syndrome that the person who suffers from it mistakenly believes he is healthy and completely unaffected. No test or argument can convince him

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