Jason has had unsuccessful brain surgery for his epilepsy. My visit to him is now forever associated in my mind with the horror of the gingerbread manby Paul Broks / March 17, 2005 / Leave a comment
Welcome to my head. Meet Ferdie the gingerbread man. He’s a chain smoker. He lacks depth, as gingerbread men do, and when he draws on his cigarette there’s no place for the smoke to go. It perfuses his biscuity body for a second and then seeps out in blue wisps, forming an aura. You wouldn’t want to eat Ferdie. I’d been working hard all afternoon preparing a lecture on epilepsy surgery when the gingerbread man swaggered into my thoughts. He was fully formed—his name, his appearance, his nicotine addiction and his attitude (louche with a streak of menace). He must have been lurking somewhere all the while. I decided to take a break.
I’m pretty sure I can trace Ferdie’s origins. Let’s go back a few years. We’re in a dank crevice of a drab city. I’m sitting opposite Jason in his nan’s back room. He stubs out a cigarette in a saucer and lights another. Jason is bare-chested and decorated with tattoos. He hasn’t washed for a while. I note that it takes an effort of concentration for him to put the cigarette to his lips with the left hand as he reaches for a matchbox with the right. He stops, focuses, and works to co-ordinate the action of striking a match. Mission accomplished, he exhales and sits in a halo of smoke. I open my case, watched in silence by Jason and the dogs. Two barrel-chested rottweilers are stationed like sentries on either side of their master. Jason’s nan brings us tea and biscuits. I have no appetite. It’s the smell of the dogs, of Jason and worse, of shit, wafting down whenever the old lady opens the door that leads upstairs to her bed-ridden husband. A high wall of black bricks overshadows the backyard. I have no idea what lies beyond but I’d rather be there.
The scar across Jason’s head is visible through a close crop of red hair. This is where the surgeon raised the flap of bone to make a trapdoor. He dropped through into the cleft between Jason’s cerebral hemispheres and worked his way down to the corpus callosum. This great bridge of fibres is the main channel of communication between the two sides of the brain. It yields easily to a surgeon’s knife. Jason’s left frontal lobe is now disconnected from the right. This is known as an anterior partial callosotomy. The…