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The drumbeat in my temples

The first time it happens I think I might be dying.

I’m in third grade. I’m sitting in the classroom and there’s a spot in my vision, a speck that shimmers in the morning light.

At first the speck is small and unimportant and I think that if I ignore it, it will simply go away.

And then it grows.

The spot grows and grows, eating everything in its path. First, a pencil eraser. Then it gobbles up my name, traced in graphite at the top of my worksheet.

It curves, a shimmering blue crescent, a lake of opacity that dominates my sight.

It mesmerises.

I’ve never experienced anything like it. No one has ever told me that you can have a shimmering pool of not-quite-moonlight-on-water in your eye that grows and grows, blotting out everything in its path.

I do not interrupt my teacher, not then, not at first. Not so much because I am not frightened, but because I am not certain of what words might be used to describe my problem. I am not sure how to speak of this pounded-silver crescent that has developed in my eye.

I say nothing about this spot and it’s growing-ness. I watch it as it grows until, just at the moment when I am about to panic, it begins, once more, to recede.

Evaporating from its edges like tidal waters dragged out, once more, to sea.

My vision returns.

And then the agony sets in.

I go home from school that day and my mother teaches me the word for migraine. She calls my shimmering crescent a “visual aura” and tells me that they come and then go and are followed by a headache.

She gives me Advil and a cup of tea because the caffeine will make the Advil more effective.

It is the day I learn that Advil doesn’t help a migraine. Not even if you take it with caffeine.

There will be other migraines after that first one. Several handfuls before I mostly grow out of them somewhere between middle school and high school.

Many will be treated with some Advil and an ineffectual cup of tea.

Some will be so bad that I vomit from the pain.

And it will be many years before I can face the aroma of a simple cup of tea without the echo of a drumbeat in my temples.

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