EMG (electricity)

Ann Arbor. One hundred miles from home. The two of us were in a small windowless room. It was dark. I was nine-years-old. My mother waited in the hall outside.

Leather straps bound me to a gurney. My body was already weak. But the straps made certain that I was unable to move. I lay there with needles that had been pressed into the muscles of my arms, abdomen, legs, feet, and hands. The needles were connected to wires plugged into a control board. The board housed a row of potentiometers.

A young man, the other person in the room, turned one of the potentiometers, and electricity surged into my arm. Its current stung, burned, made my muscle quiver. I screamed for my mother.

He returned the dial to neutral.

Mother was born on a ranch in deep Baptist Texas. She was raised to follow the rules. This morning, she was commanded by a man half her age — a boy, really — who was donned with the authority of a white lab coat to leave her third grader in the room with him. She was told to sit in the hall and wait. She did what she was told.

The young man turned another dial. Another muscle stung, burned, quivered. I screamed for my mother and begged him as I sobbed, “I’ll do anything you want me to! Please, please, please stop! I’ll do anything you want!”

He turned another dial.

I was five when we lived in Muncie, Indiana. You could say it was there that I was initiated into this particular morning. I pressed a safety pin into an electrical outlet and 220 volts of electricity coursed from my fingertips up through my arms to my chest. I fell to the floor. I screamed for my mother.

He turned another dial.

A surge of electricity traveled from the board, through a wire, into my body. My muscle stung, burned, quivered. And I screamed for my mother. She waited in the hall like she was instructed.