Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Author:Jennifer Niven [Niven, Jennifer]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780141357065
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Published: 2016-10-05T18:30:00+00:00

The lab is busy. An assistant leads us to Dr. Amber Klein (light brown hair, sharp cheekbones, glasses). She is dressed all in black, her sleeves rolled over her elbows, and her hair swept up in a kind of no-nonsense way. She’s probably around forty. The lab is also black, floors, walls, ceiling. The room is divided into cubicles by curtains—black, of course—and it feels like we’ve wandered onto the set of a music video. Libby wears purple and I’m in green, and we stand out like beacons.

Dr. Klein offers us chairs behind one of the black curtains, so it’s as if we’re enclosed in a small room. She boots up her laptop and says, “I understand you need to be home by late afternoon?” She’s wearing an actual watch, and she checks it now: 9:54 a.m.

“There’s a bit of a curfew situation.” I smile at Libby and she smiles at me. She’s still wearing the bow over her left ear, but her smile reminds me of the one my mom wore during Dad’s chemo appointments. Like she’s determined to make the most of things for the sake of him/me, when she knows how hopeless it really is.

“I’m going to run you through a series of tests.” Dr. Klein sits down and starts clicking away at the keyboard.

Libby says to me, “I’m actually going to wait outside. I saw a Starbucks nearby. Just text me when you’re done.” She takes my phone and types her number in. When she hands it back, I feel this weird panic.

She hesitates over my shoulder. “Unless … I mean, I can stay …” But I can tell that she doesn’t want to stay, and I wonder if maybe it’s the whole doctor/brain setting that’s bugging her.

“Nah, I’m good.”

I watch her go, hair swinging.

Dr. Klein says, “Does anyone in your family have prosopagnosia?”

“I’m not sure. Why?”

“Face blindness is often genetic, but there are three categories of prosopagnosia: acquired, developmental, and congenital. It can also be a symptom of other disorders, such as autism. Did you ever experience a fall or a childhood illness of the brain?”

“I fell off the roof when I was six.”

“Did you hit your head?”

“Could something like that cause face blindness?”

“Yes. It’s not as common as developmental prosopagnosia, but it’s possible.”

“I banged it pretty hard. I had to have stitches.” Instinctively, I reach for the thin raised line along my scalp.

She types away, and as she does, it hits me: This woman is going to dig around in your brain. You can’t hide from her.

She wants to know what kind of tests were done after I fell, and then she wants to know if I was able to recognize faces before the age of six.

The honest answer is I don’t know. Yeah, I had every test imaginable to see what damage had been done to my brain. But did I know people by their faces back then? I’m not sure.

She says, “Certainly your parents would have noticed a difference if you suddenly had trouble recognizing everyone.


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