Ann Arbor, Michigan. Two of us were in a small windowless room. It was dark. I was nine-years-old. Outside, my mother waited in the hall. But in the room, leather straps bound me to a gurney so that I was unable to move. Needles had been pressed into the muscles of my upper and fore arms, my abdomen, my thighs, calves, feet and hands. The needles were connected to wires that were plugged into a control board that housed a row of potentiometers. A young man, the second person in the room, turned a dial, and electricity surged into my right deltoid. The current stung, burned, caused my muscle to quiver. I screamed. He returned the dial to neutral.
Mother was born on a ranch in deep Baptist Texas. She had been raised to follow the rules and, this morning, she was commanded by a young man half her age but who donned the authority of a white lab coat to leave her third grader and to sit in the hall. She did what she was instructed to do. The young man turned another dial. Another muscle stung, burned, quivered. I screamed and begged him to stop in the childlike way that nine-year-olds beg adults to stop, “I’ll do anything you want me to! Please, please, please stop! I’ll do anything you want!” It didn’t work. He turned another dial.
When I was five, we lived in Muncie, Indiana. I pressed a safety pin into an electrical outlet in our living room. The current coursed through my fingertips and I fell to the floor.
Another surge of electricity traveled from the power outlet to the board and through a wire into my body. The muscle stung, burned, quivered. I screamed. My mother waited outside the room in the hall. She was doing what she was instructed to do.