LIKE NIGHTSHADE AND PERIODONTOLOGY by Rebekah Bergman

She scheduled all her overdue appointments for the same week. She went to the doctor, the dentist, and the gynecologist. She came back with three minor diagnoses and referrals for two other specialists.

It was right around this time that all science started feeling like pseudoscience, modern medicine especially. It began with the nightshade.

She could no longer sleep through the night for the itching. A rash that looked like raspberry jam had formed on the back of her neck. 

The allergist told her to stop eating nightshade. She was unsure if she had been eating nightshade.

What was nightshade? It sounded like witchcraft. She began to question what food she put into her body, and what her body did with it.

Two weeks later, her wisdom teeth were impacted. The pain in her gums was a fact she held onto. Still, she could not fully fathom that her body had grown these appendages—wisdom teeth. They were only mentioned when they failed.

She became, slowly, sicker. As she did, she became more of a skeptic. She questioned what her body held inside it. And what it didn’t. What it was capable of. And what it wasn’t.

She had never seen, for instance, that she had such a thing as a brain or a heart.

Some days she could convince herself that her own sense of self was a kind of delusion, like nightshade or periodontology.   

Had she always been like this?

A memory of a chilly day in childhood. Sitting beside her father on a picnic blanket in the backyard. Him, reading her a book and sipping his coffee. Everything around them cozy, golden. She’d felt so loved, so hopefully curious in a world full of wonder.

When you die, she said, interrupting her father mid-sentence, can I cut your body open and look inside?


Rebekah Bergman's fiction appears in Hobart, Joyland, Tin House Online, and other journals. She was a 2018 winner of The Masters Review Anthology Prize. Rebekah is an editor of NOON. Her dog is named Speedy, which might be short for Godspeed. Read more: rebekahbergman.com.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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