I said, Dad, you have to come get me; he said I had to get an ambulance—he was 400 miles away. In my head, I was calm. It had taken so long to figure how the phone worked, to figure out Dad started with a D, to figure out Send.

I said I didn’t need an ambulance; Grace said she would drive. The two of us hobbled down the stairs to her car—Grace at my right side, completely numb.

Months later, Grace said she had seen the MRI of my brain—all gray with a white gash in the middle. While we waited, I kept saying how strange it all was to be the one lying in the hospital bed. The doctors kept coming by and saying I would have a room soon. A crazy lady was yelling in the bed next to mine, hospital attendants were apologizing. Finally, they took me upstairs. The orderlies wheeled me lying down. The walls were too low; the ceiling too high. Imagining I looked calm, I was out of control, panicked. In my room, Grace fell asleep on the little pull-out couch. Driving from San Diego to San Francisco, my brother got to the hospital at three in the morning.

One doctor with huge pearl earrings said I was so young, it was so strange. They found it mentioned only a few times in the literature. My carotid artery had dissected; I’d had a stroke.

About Nikki: Nikki Thompson is a poet, book artist (aka Deconstructed Artichoke Press), and happily failed architect. She fled Southern California for UC Berkeley, where she earned a degree in architecture and edited Berkeley Fiction Review. She remained in the Bay Area and earned her MFA in creative writing from California College of the Arts in 2002. She has worked extensively with Small Press Traffic and the San Francisco Center for the Book. Her work has appeared in Paragraph Magazine, Spork, and Palimpsest. She is the host and organizer of the Deconstructed Artichoke Press Reading Series in San Francisco’s Mission District. She currently teaches special education at South San Francisco Unified School District, while residing in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights with her fiance and Boxer-Pitbull mix, Billie Holiday.