Bug in the Brain (Prose by T. Adekunle)

Tiwaladeoluwa Adekunle / @Tiwalade_A / is a writer and health communication doctoral student from southwestern Nigeria. Her creative writing is published in Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, Breakwater Re- view, and Oakland Review. You can find her on Instagram @tiwalade.a.

A support group is for people who have named the thing bothering them. Biola has not, but she is certain of what it is, so she is going to this group, to talk about the bug in her brain, to people with the same bug. Not the same one of course, but the same breed of bug.  

It starts in one hour. Today’s outfit feels important. She is trying not to look troubled, in case no one else in the group does, but especially if they do. 

Oh, most especially if they do. 

Will they? 

Well, she won’t. She decides on blue jeans with the black t-shirt. 

Very ordinary.

Biola has now been driving for ten minutes, towards the recreational center where the group is supposed to meet, when she realizes that she doesn’t recall locking her door. She ignores that possibility, and keeps driving. She knows she did. So, she thinks instead about who the people in the group will be. How Rosie will look in person.

 What sort of person runs a group like this anyway? And I know she’s not doing it for the money. 

No, Biola is sure it can’t be for the money.

I mean, $3 for each meeting? If there are 10 people–could there be 10 people? 

Did she lock her door?

Did I?

She drives forward at the green light then swerves her car to the left in the next turn.

 I just need to make sure that I locked my door. 

Ten minutes later she is racing up the stairs to her apartment, with some trepidation, but not on account of the door. 

Can you believe there are people in this city, whose brains–not brains! bugs in the brain! Are doing the same things mine is doing. And they are people. Who wake and live anyway. People. 

The steel door knob is cold in her palm, it resists a twist. Locked. She is unsurprised. Still, she exhales. The group now starts in fifteen. She needs to hurry. Biola, are you listening? You need to hurry. 

As she races back to her car, her arm brushes another person walking up the stairs. 

Just great. 

She clenches one fist, an observer might think, casually. When the sensation on her arm fades, she exhales. 

There are people in this city, with bugs in their brains and they are people. Who meet! And talk about it!. 

And name it too, but Biola is not ready for that yet. It’s five minutes to the start of the meeting and she walks a little faster towards the building. She has never felt so normal in her life. She’s just another person, walking to a meeting with other people, to talk about what seems to be, a will she dare? 

Shared experience. 

What is apparently a will she? 

Human. Human experience. 

But where are these other humans? She is at the room 125 and no one else is here. The meeting was supposed to start five minutes ago. 

Maybe people are usually late. 

Through the window of the room, Biola can see a seated girl with brown hair. 

Is she also waiting, for everyone to arrive? What a perfectly normal-looking girl. 

I shouldn’t ask, though. She has a right to her privacy. It’s like walking up to a stranger and saying, hey, show me your brain. What an invasion of privacy.

So, Biola, why are you looking forward to asking anyway?

Oh my goodness, Biola thinks and her heart starts to race. Do I want to invade her privacy? 

She  shifts in her seat. 

Stop! It’s a simple question. 

 She steps outside of 125 and speaks to the girl. She learns that she is only waiting for a friend.

“Oh!” Biola chuckles, but she suddenly feels an uncomfortable heat crawling up her shirt. 

Rosie’s phone is not going through. Rosie had told you to call if you need help finding the room, Biola. This isn’t normal. It’s now ten minutes past the meeting start time and everyone knows that on time means almost late, and late, this late with no explanation is well, impossible. 

Which leaves only one possibility.


One possibility.

I said no! 

The meeting is not happening. It was never real. It was a ploy just to mock you, Biola. I know, who would do such a thing. I know, it can’t be. But it clearly has to be. It clearly is.

Her heart is racing now. Her mouth is dry. Still, Biola sits in the room for the rest of the hour. Swallowing painfully. Glancing at the time, re-reading the room number in the email. 

Biola needs to leave. 

No. The meeting is happening. There are people in this city, with the same bug in their brains, the same breed of bug..

She is lightheaded. She leaves the room, but only to sit by the chair the girl with brown hair left behind. So that she, like the brown hair girl, might look like she’s casually there. But also so that she might be asked by a relevant, normal-looking person: are you here for the meeting?

This doesn’t happen. Another half hour is gone. She gets up to leave, feeling like she surely will vomit. She needs to accept what hasn’t happened. She feels as alone as she has all these years. 

No. More alone. 

More alone. And I told you this would happen.

No you didn’t.

No, I didn’t. 

Biola is driving home. Why are you driving home, Biola? The meeting is 2.5 hours long. 

Doesn’t she know she will be back to check that it is definitely not happening? Of course she will be back to check. And if she leaves again, she will be back again, and again, until the time the meeting is supposed to end, just in case. 

This is how we live. This is how we– are you okay Biola ?– have always lived.

From the Editor:

We hope that readers receive In Parentheses as a medium through which the evolution of human thought can be appreciated, nurtured and precipitated. It will present a dynamo of artistic expression, journalism, informal analysis of our daily world, entertainment of ideas considered lofty and criticism of today’s popular culture. The featured content does not follow any specific ideology except for that of intellectual expansion of the masses.

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