Oversharing on Facebook 

A friend recently told me that I overshare on fb. While I don’t think it’s healthy to pretend we live perfect lives, I suppose I do go past balance into Oversharing. That’s just a personal decision I’ve made, to let my freak flag fly, just in case someone is dealing with something that they don’t think anyone they know would understand. I have sacrificed some privacy, but so many people have DM ed me in desperation, confusion, shame, suicidal, etc., that I know I’ve made the right choice (for me. I’m also a social worker so I don’t expect everyone to make that decision and self-care is most important when thinking of taking on other people’s difficulties). I have had people who are suicidal, who I don’t even know (a friend of a friend) reach out, and we still text to this day. And though I can’t solve anyone else’s problems, I know from experience, just feeling comfortable telling 1 person is a great start. I’ve had MANY suicidal people reach out for help. And that’s only because I overshared some of my more difficult personal experiences.

So y’all are right, I do overshare, but with purpose. And I don’t mind if normal people think I’m crazy–as long as crazy people think I’m normal😉

#Love First

I asked a good friend on his deathbed, if there was anything I could do for him? He said. “Yes, let yourself love, unconditionally, without fear, as deeply as you can bare it. I wasted my whole life chasing money, and fun, and status, and if I could give all of that up right now to have one more day, to love my family properly, love (my wife) Sara without qualification or condition, to remember my neighbor’s name and care what his kids are up to, I would in a second. I was a shitty person—and not cause I was violent, or mean, or a jerk—but because I thought the people in my life were disposable, and I only used them when I saw benefit in it. I didn’t wake up every morning thanking God that I may have one more time to see a friend, look them in the eye, and genuinely open myself fully for their sake. Nothing I ever won, or bought, or took gives me any solace in this moment. The only things that provide me comfort now are the tiny memories of when I truly gave of myself all I could for others, and when I received such love—and since those moments were so brief and few, I have little of that comfort now.”
Death is scary, not just for me, knowing I’ll never see my friend again, but he was clearly scared—that he was leaving behind unfinished business, that he hadn’t given those he cared for most, all that he should have. I assured him that we would be alright, and hat he should not feel guilty for leaving. I wasn’t there at the moment of death, but I only hope that it was on as good of terms as a permanent goodbye can be.
I imagined how devastating a breakup can be—saying goodbye to someone you loved so much, no matter what the reason. And then imagined having to break up with every person in the world at the same time—your mother, and father, and children, and husband or wife, and every friend, every person you wanted to say sorry to, but didn’t have the time, everyone you meant to tell how proud you were of them, but forgot to. It must be a heartbreak I can’t come close to imagining. But if all that heartbreak was upon him and he only wished for one thing—to give even more of his heart, to be even more vulnerable, and risk even more of his love—then I have to believe him that selfless, unconditional love is the only thing we can bring with us everywhere we go, even death. And not lustful love, or romantic excitement of a new relationship. Not the half-assed love of a family member we know little about or only call during Christmas. Not the easy love, or fun love, but the love that lets the people you care about know—they are never alone, no matter how dismal things may be. We are all fighting painful wars in our lives, each and every one of us. The person you passed on the street this morning just found out her daughter died of a heroin overdose. Your coworker is in the middle of a violent divorce. Your friend just got cancer but hasn’t told anyone yet cause they are still in denial. Your partner can’t figure out how to open to you fully cause of deep-seated fears and pain and shame that have nothing to do with you. But when we muster the courage to let the vast rush of love swallow us whole and flow through us, we can touch those we care for in ways that touch back and light both souls up with the undeniable light of God. And when we lay in our own last bed, we will not regret the difficult times we labored to give another our love when they needed it, nor will we wish we had saved our love in a jar for later, nor will we leave behind an unfinished legacy we had begun with yearning—but a beautiful story that we told with love and ended with peace.
yuka yamaguchi

#IveBeenThatGuy (after #metoo )

 [please share/reblog/#/etc]

In light of the current #meToo movement (and previously #yesallwomen), many amazing friends and survivors have reminded me that, while pointing out how shamefully prevalent sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are, is terribly important, maybe survivors shouldn’t feel obligated to relive their trauma? Shouldn’t us men feel MORE obligated to take responsibility? The fact is, as both the beneficiaries of privilege and the vast, vast majority of the time—the perpetrators of rape culture—MEN MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. We must bear the burden of the work if the problem will ever be fixed. Helping those heal who have been hurt is terribly important—the only thing that would be even better is if we stop patriarchy, sexual harassment, and sexual assault from happening in the first place—and that can only happen when those of us who are most responsible challenge ourselves to take responsibility.
So I would genuinely Love it if any and everyone who feels comfortable admitting that they have EVER been “that guy”, would share #iveBeenThatGuy
It doesn’t mean you are a predator and it doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It doesn’t mean you haven’t grown and changed since the last time you were “that guy”. It doesn’t even mean you acted out of malice or bad intentions—we live in an all pervasive culture that seeps into our minds and habits, which often makes us support systems of injustice, even when we don’t intend to. And that is really the point: patriarchy, sexism, heterosexism, etc., are not problems because a few bad apples hate all women and think rape is their right—rape culture is still a problem because it’s so pervasive, so insidious, so ingrained that it’s a part of ALL of our lives. Men who work in domestic violence shelters have objectified women, including myself. The best, most kind, woke men in the world have used misogynistic and homophobic language at some point in their lives. Men with strong values have sexually assaulted because they did not know what sexual assault really is, cause our culture teaches that many forms of sexual assault are just “boys being boys”.
The problem is not that women/trans/queer folk are assaulted. The problem is that Men keep assaulting. Of course anybody can be a perpetrator and anyone can be a survivor/victim. But the point of this post and hashtag is to address the specific problem of problematic masculinity that uses privilege and power to make cis-straight-men, not only feel entitled, but Obligated to take advantage of that power and privilege to dominate anyone who is not a heterosexual cis-male. If your friend, brother, boyfriend, father etc. may not be super down with this entire article, maybe copy and paste the middle. Because, while some may get defensive (and understandably so—after all the men I’d like to jump on board are not the monsters who we already know are shit, but all those good guys who have at some point been caught up in the momentum of culture), I think any any honest man can admit that they have at least 1 time in their life, treated a women in a way they wouldn’t want a stranger to treat their daughter.
And let’s not forget that ending problematic masculinity helps us men too; While the overwhelming majority of violence and dehumanization of women is perpetrated by men, the vast majority of violence and dehumanization of Men is also perpetrated by other men.
Let’s also pair our honesty with action:
Step 1: share #ivebeenthatguy
step 2: Share a specific instance of when you have been guilty. Perhaps the time you most regret, if you feel safe and comfortable doing so publicly.
step 3:When you see your friend post #ivebeenthatguy and STILL act/talk disrespectfully,  call them out and point out that pretending to be woke for the Facebook likes, and not backing it up with real world change, is lying and wont be ignored.
 step 4: Encourage the men in your life to share; it doesn’t mean they are bad people, it just means that, unfortunately, if we are honest, at some point in our lives (maybe years ago) we have ALL treated a women in a way we wouldn’t want a stranger to treat our daughters.
 Let’s stop treating Only symptoms. Lets treat the actual cause. Let’s start by admitting that just as pervasive as survivors of rape-culture, are us perpetrators, who, even if we are not aware or didn’t intend to, have participated, and therefore it is OUR responsibility to raise awareness of our own part in the problem.

#ivebeenthatguy

Diary of an Unemployed Dude: Freelance Mason [true story]

I am currently writing a book on the odd jobs and various things I’ve done for coffee money. Here is a ROUGH DRAFT of one of those stories:

A Day in the Life of a Mason

Being someone that will do anything for twenty bucks and someone who can read directions well, I have recently developed quite the reputation for being handy–solely with my grandmother. In an effort to help me scrape together enough money for my coffee addiction, Grandma tells everyone she spends time with about my legendary ability to follow instructions, apropos housework. A month later, this brilliant marketing scheme finally pays off and a little old lady named Cruella requested my services. I gave her a ring. A fast talking stutter answered as if she was hiding from the Gestapo. “Huh Huh Hello who is this hu hu who are you lu lu looking for who are you?”

“Hi, this is Phil. I’m Toni’s grandson. She said you might need some help around the house.”

“Oh?”

I give her a second because I assume she’s old, if she’s been hanging with G-ma—maybe she has to sit down for this. Once politeness turns to awkwardness, I proceed. “Sooooooo, do you need help with anything?”

“Yes?”

“Ok. Do you want to tell me about it?”

“Well I really don’t have much money I told your m m mom I don’t have much money?”

“Actually Toni’s my grandmother and that’s fine if you don’t have much money, just pay me whatever you think is fair. I mainly want experience as much as anything else.”

Cruella responded, “Ok, but it’s supposed to ruh ruh rain this week I need to concrete the cracks in my sidewalk and it cant be raining do you have experience with masonry your grandma said you were handy?”

“I have done little things with cement and caulk. I’m not a professional. But I can read the instructions and follow them”, I repond caustiously and already worried about having to deal with this woman.

“Ok well I’ll call my son and ask him when its gonna rain or not and ill call your mom uh uh uh ok?” Her voice is a constant vibrato like she’s scared of using her words and everything she says sounds like a question, even when it obviously isn’t. I let her go and wait for a clear day to start my career in masonry.

After several calls on several different days—all ending in rejection, I am ultimately able to convince Cruella that it isn’t going to rain and today would be a good day for me to come over and look at the job, so I could at least have an idea of what it will entail. I ride my bike twelve miles to what happens to be one of the nicest neighborhoods in the third biggest US city, across the street from a certain zoo, which will all remain nameless for anonymity and liability purposes.

Luckily, it is only 90 degrees, so I will be sweating profusely, but I wont pass out. I arrive, knock on the medieval lion’s head door-knocker, turquoise paint-chips fall off the door to the crack-striped, wooden porch, and a frantic mouse yells from the basement, “I’m down here the stuff is down here I don’t use the front door?”

I walk down to the sunken basement level and take a look at the broken foundation. “Is this the wall you want me to work on?”

“Yeah I can only pay you $100 though I don’t have much money I have to pay property taxes they’re almost $30,000 I can only pay you $100?”

“That’s fine. I wasn’t even expecting that much. I mostly want the experience. Just pay me at the end whatever you think is fair. I trust you.” The fact that she is apologizing for paying me more than I wanted, made me think that this was going to be more than a minor repair. “Remember, I’m not a mason. I’m not a professional. I am smart though, and hard working, and anything with directions I can figure out, though it may not be pretty.”

“That’s fine I just need this wall sealed up the rain’s getting in and this whole wall is caving in You’re mom said you are handy have you done this before?”

“Toni is my Grandmother, not my mother, and like I said, I’m not a professional. I can seal this up for you, though.”

I explain a few more times that $100 is more than enough and a few more times than that that I am still, in fact, not a professional and Toni is still not my mother. She already has the cement and caulk in her living room. I read the directions and begin to mix the cement to fill the major gaps. I am a little nervous because cement is a pretty permanent thing and what this wall really needs is to be torn down and rebuilt; It is so warped that that the wooden porch is about two feet to the right of where the wall meets the ground. There is no way to fix it, but if I can seal the cracks, hopefully I can prevent further damage.

The cement is fun to mix. I put on my hot pink dishwashing gloves because I’m not sure what deadly effects the cement might have on my skin. I fill a plastic tub with a few scoops of dry cement dust, about two pounds, and add one half cup of water. It only takes the slightest hint of water to turn this dust into rock. The droplets trickle down, bubbling, transforming instantly to what will soon be the new foundation of Cruella’s home.

The cement is very hard to work with. I try to meticulously fill the cracks with a small clean clump of clay, but half of it sticks to my trowel, the other half hangs from the wall like a melting Hershey’s kiss. I can’t seem to swipe an even, flat patch.

Now I take a large glob of putty and slather it on like barbecue sauce on brisket. This excess cement allows me to leave a smooth surface despite the extra sticking to the trowel, but the small bucket Cruella supplied will not come close to solving her problem at this rate. I ask Cruella for more cement or money to get some, to which she responds, “Just pick some up from Home Depot. I’ll add the cost to your bill later.” The 1.6 miles ride to Home Depot is easy, but carrying a bucket of cement on a bike during Chicago rush hour is not. I do make it back—barely, and continue the job.

Every few minutes, Cruella comes out to critique my work and ask for help with another chore. First, I was using too much water in the cement, it was soupy. Then I wasn’t using enough, it was clumpy. I wasn’t spreading it thin enough. It was too thin. She brought out a take-out menu with chicken scratch written on the back. It was her resume, which I edited for her; Surprisingly, there were very few mistakes and it seemed well thought out. Back to masonry. Then her door won’t close, so I removed and replaced the dead-bolt. Back to masonry. Then she asks me to clean her blinds. She doesn’t have any running water and the water bottle isn’t big enough for the cement and the blinds–also, she has no electricity, so seeing the blinds, or anything else inside for that matter, are too difficult to see. I take the blinds down the block, to the park, and wash them in the kiddy water-playground. Back to masonry.

The under belly of the staircase needs to be sealed as well, but the cement isn’t sticky enough to keep from falling down. I use the tacky caulk to build a lip on the wall that the moist concrete can rest on until it dries. It’s not pretty, but it will keep the rain out.

She comes out again to ask me to take a look at her garden. I’d rather get this over with and move on with my day, but I acquiesce to her request. There isn’t actually much to see but weeds and knee-high grass, but whatever. Back to masonry. She follows me back to the front where, after seven hours of back cracking work, she gasps and jumps into a panic attack. “Oh my god! This is Awful! It looks Awful! I thought you said you were a professional?!”IMG_0574

“I know it doesn’t look great, but it will keep the rain out and I told you it wouldn’t be perfect. What you really need is a whole new wall. This is a major project.”

“No no no this is all wrong! I can’t sell my house like this! You said you could fix it.”

“I told you, I’m not a mason. And Toni isn’t my mom either–she’s my grandma. Just pay me whatever you think it is worth—$20. I don’t care.”

“I don’t have any money and this is all wrong. Oh my god, this is so bad. I don’t have any money, but I will get you $50 of food stamps if you want.”

“Ok. Fine. Can I at least get the money for the extra cement I bought?”

“I don’t have any money. And that’s not even the cement I like? Don’t worry. I’ll talk to Toni. Your mom and I’ll work something out.”

“Fine. Let’s just go to the store.”

“Not now, I have to mail something.”

“Ok. I’ll help you mail it”

“No, that’s fine. The mailman is going to pick it up.”

“Ok. Let’s go to the store then.”

“You don’t have a car?”

“I have my bike. And my backpack. I just picked up the cement on my bike.”

“No. You can’t carry groceries without a car.”

“$50 doesn’t get you as much food as it used to. Besides, that’s for me to worry about—what I do with my groceries.”

“No, that’s a lot of food. You can’t carry all that plus I don’t have any food stamps right now. I’ll talk to Toni I’ll talk to your mom We’ll work something out?”

I’m sick of chasing her arguments in circles, so I agree to let her and my G R A N D mother work it out. After a few different brokered deals, Grandma and Cruella agree that next month we will all take a field trip to Aldi’s, with a car, to get some groceries.

I love learning and I love trying new things, so I didn’t mind doing the hard work, for hours, in the heat. I didn’t mind carrying a bucket of concrete on my bike across town. I didn’t even mind that, despite being unemployed, not only did I not make any money on this job, but I spent half of the cash I had from donating plasma on her cement; I actually paid her for the hours of hard work! And that’s just fine with me—It’s a learning experience. What really pissed me off is that she was outside every five minutes, watching me work, observing the process, and waited until I was done to freak out and bail. I don’t like being deceived and I don’t like being dicked around. Just tell me you need help. Don’t bait and switch my good will.

As of the writing of this book, I haven’t seen a dime, or an apple. Though I did go back the next morning to collect the $10 I spent on cement, which she was gracious enough to reimburse. I understand that she is too old to work much and probably has to finagle her way out of a lot of expenses on her fixed income—I mean, she doesn’t even have running water. I don’t harbor any negative feelings about her or the day I spent working there–though I did draw a huge cock in the cement on my way out.

unemployment and masculinity: Journal entry

Unemployment and Masculinity

Many times, I’ve heard the question on the radio or TV: “Does it bother you that your wife makes more money than you?” and wondered how someone could ask such a stupid question? Though unbelievable, more than one time the interrogated uttered an even stupider sentence: “Yes.”

The fact that this is a question that our society even finds askable, shows how insecure and disconnected we are. I would love to have a lover that could take me on trips to Europe and show me things I cannot afford myself. I’ll even stay home and play with the kids all day—sounds way better than drudging to a job I hate, in a cubicle without sunlight, staring at a computer all day. I’ve had sugar mamas before and it, is, AWESOME!

But seriously, I would never date someone because of their money. I’m too easily annoyed to be capable of spending time with someone I don’t like, and I’m not even capable of faking my emotions. But if I enjoy being with you and you want to go somewhere I can’t afford, so much that you want to pick up the check to make it happen—That doesn’t make me feel emasculated. If anything I feel sexy that you want to be with me that badly.

On the other hand, as an adult, I like to contribute my fair share to anything, whether financial, or dishwashing responsibilities, driving on a road trip, etc. And not just within romantic relationships, but among friends, family, or even strangers; If there is an elderly person on a packed bus, of course I’m going to offer them my seat.

When unemployed, I have often had to limit my decisions based on whether someone is going to pay for my ticket, meal, lap-dance (JK) and it makes me feel like a child.  I moved out after high school and for the past 16 years I have always paid for my own way, so for me, it is a status I’m not used to.

There have been times when unemployed when nearly %100 of my everything is being paid for by my family or friends. That is a bit emasculating to me (not less male, but less Adult male). Especially in our highly capitalistic, highly materialistic culture, not spending money, can make you feel a little less human, strangely.

And what about dating? How am I gonna keep the conversation going on the first date when the icebreaker comes my way: “So what do you do?” and I halt the train with, “Nothing.” Surely many women are comfortable and generous enough to stay with lovers when times get tough, but to START dating someone? I’ve had to take every date to the Lincoln Park Zoo, cause it’s free. I know most of the large mammals by their names!

All jokes aside, it can be hard to ask for help, instead of “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps”. But sometimes, it is necessary, and sometimes it is even beautiful. I wish we could all take care of each other more often Money is our god in this country—they say never lend a friend money, if you want to keep the friend—so it can be hard to feel valuable, worthwhile, beautiful, sexy, smart, or dignified when you have to ask, “Hey, can you spot me?” But it is humbling, an that’s always something all of us can use more of–I  know I can.

download

Rough Draft of Chapter 1

UPDATE: I just launched the Kickstarter campaign for the BOOK!!!: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1718933103/so-brightly-black-depression-addiction-suicide-in

This is the rough draft of the first chapter of my book, So Brightly Black, which I’m in the process of self-publishing and will be launching a Kickstarter campaign for soon.

CHAPTER 1 Admission

“Marble-heavy, a bag full of God” –Sylvia Plath

The cop dropped me off at the emergency room. Not the normal ER that you’ve been to, this emergency room was high security, locked doors, and handcuffs. There were no beeping machines, no smell of citrus Pine-Sol. There were no I.V.s—no medical staff running feverishly in figure-8s to keep up. Unfortunately for me, there wasn’t even a TV on the wall of my room, with those three banal channels: weather, CSPAN, cooking—which might have bored me to death any other day, but today, I thought, I’d kill for.

Maybe the alcohol contributed to my confusion, but it was so empty and dead, I wasn’t entirely sure it was a hospital at all and I wondered if the policeman hadn’t accidentally dropped me off at some post-kegger frat-house? As far as I could see, there were no more than two or three other patients in the wing and they were just laying lazy in the lounge—no sign of treatment, no syringes in their inner elbows, no interaction with staff. They just laid there in the recliners passively letting the TV rain on them like beached whales with blankets.  The nurses, behind thick glass, were laughing and chatting—so aggressively paying me no attention that I wasn’t totally sure I was even there.

Blood rolled down my arm from I-don’t-know-where. I was still drunk and wasn’t sure if my disorientation was due to my inebriated state or if this really was a strange place (Was the Ginger, who’s sleeping on the recliner, a nurse or a patient? Those are scrubs, but surely a nurse wouldn’t pass out in the lounge?).

I went to rest in my cage. There were no windows in the building, so I couldn’t tell if I was up past my bedtime or if I was just exhausted from being so historically drunk.  Either way, I headed to bed. But not a $10,000 hospital bed that inclines and declines, lifts your legs, and rolls large massage balls through the mattress, mashing your potatoes so you don’t get bed sores. My bed is a small thin mattress, or maybe a large thin pillow, atop a short plastic box with no corners to speak of.

The police officer had taken my possessions, including my cell phone. Fortunately, I’m allowed to use the hospital’s phone to make as many calls as I want. Unfortunately, in current society, remembering the phone number of someone you love is a lost art, and thus, permission to use the phone, a wasted privilege. In addition, the hospital’s phones are landlines next to the nurses, in effect nullifying my number one reason to call anybody in the first place: to complain about how much this facility and its staff, suck!
~~~~~~~~
It turned out, the staff wasn’t so bad; They were nice enough to search my imprisoned possessions for my phone, so I could retrieve a number. The process takes about an hour for each number, but what else did I have to do? I called a few key people, one from each group of friends and family, so as to make as few calls as possible, to let them know that I am, indeed, alive.
“Hey dad, just wanted to let you know I’m fine.”
“Sarah, hey, I’m at the hospital just south of…”
“Louis, you should be the first to know…”
“What’s up Gregorio? Yo, I was wondering if you can tell the landlord that my rent is gonna be a little late? I’m not sure when I’ll get back to the house.”
My buzz had begun its descent. I was still drunk, but now I was also hung-over. I was sliding from painfully bored to painfully spasmodic. I wasn’t sure if one day had passed or two. I had drunk so much the past few months that my liver was weak and aching. At first I had accumulated a flush tolerance to alcohol—I could out-drink a sink. Eventually, I had gone full circle, overworking my liver to the point of paralysis. One drink became enough to have me drunk for hours, and, as many as I had drank… I was dying to see how long that would do me.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When my first visitors arrived, the nurse informed me I had been there for four hours. I sailed into the visitors’ bay, still three sheets to the wind. Sarah was my ex of nearly 10 years, off and on, all together. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, which we fought and beat together, though the toll on our relationship was so heavy and cold, like running a race with a glacier on your back, that she left me when the cancer left her. We were still close and still cared deeply for each other. She was who called the police, who, in turn, brought me to the hospital.
Sarah’s nickname in high school was Snow White because her skin is so fair. Since we met, during freshmen orientation, 18 years earlier, her hair had been light blonde in high school, red during the summer after graduation, brown in college, and for the decade we were lovers, black, at my request—hair that was so straight, so brightly black, like streams of obsidian fireworks shooting down her back. Sarah and I were exact opposites in everyway possible: I liked steak and bacon; She was vegan. I liked spicy foods; She liked sweets. I backpacked through other continents sleeping in decrepit hostels and alleys; she wouldn’t go anywhere out of the country and wouldn’t even think about staying anywhere without room-service. She didn’t particularly like drinking; I couldn’t live without a buzz. We were an odd couple, but we did have one thing in common. We love each other with the ferocity that a pit-bull loves a steak bone.
Kandace is a very old friend from college. She is a miniature Latina with tiny tornados of curly brown hair and a strong personality who isn’t afraid of life. She feels as comfortable in a mob, fighting the police in protest as she does in the yoga pants and multicolored Air-force 1s she was wearing, just like she is as comfortable discussing the virtues of democratized agricultural models as debating who was more ill—Tupac or Biggie?
The room was just outside the safe zone, on the regular side of the hospital’s double doors. I was anxious about seeing anyone I know and forgot to smile as I entered the small beige room they’d been waiting in. I looked at them a beat, walked over, and sat in front of them. I was in pain and I was numb, not just at this moment, but for a very long time. In front of me was Sarah, the person who had called the cops on me, who would not let me end my suffering. She stole my salvation, and all this excruciating pain I’m feeling now is because of her—yet, she immediately visited me and told me she loved me—that she couldn’t live with me gone. If I felt anything at all, it would have been ambivalence.
Sarah: “How are you? You look tired. I called your dad. He said he’d call you.”
Me: “Yeah, I talked to him already.”
Kandace: “Yo, The nurse that let us in, says we can bring you stuff. I could get you some dope magazines. I got a whole pile I need to do sumpin’ with. I bet there’s not a whole lot to do up in there.”
Me: “Yeah, that’d be good.”
Sarah: “ Are you alright? You seem really out of it. Did they give you some drugs or something?”
“No”, I said, annoyed, “I’m fucking depressed. I’m in agony. I can’t sleep, or eat or have three thoughts without one of them being a fantasy of bashing my head over the brick wall, and it’s so vivid and pulling that I’m not sure I can stop myself from doing it. I’m afraid of my own body! I don’t know what I’m gonna do to myself. Every second, every piece of my body is wracked. I can hardly walk. The only drug I’m on is Dying and I can’t fucking stand it!”
Leading with tears, Sarah inhales, deeply, and begins, “I’m so sorry…I wish there was something I could do for you. Is there anything I can do for you? Anything. Is there something I can do for you, Phil?” I hate to make my misfortunes anyone else’s problem, but I can’t help but be honest here; I didn’t have the energy to formulate a fairy tale.
We sat for a few minutes, chatting about nothing until there was nothing left to pretend-talk about. I took leave first; If they had left first, I would have been alone, until the nurse came back.
~~~
I continued playing musical chairs between my room and the lounge, neither upset nor relieved that I was once again alone. At “Lights out”, the nurse was nice enough to give me a sleeping pill. I am an Insomniac; I never could sleep well in the first place and these withdrawal symptoms made falling asleep like trying to whisper a locomotive to a halt, without brakes. All I could do is think: I should have finished. Then I wouldn’t have to endure this. I’m going to die in here now, a slow, excruciating death by liver failure. Why the fuck…? I couldn’t slow down my train of thought enough to jump off and roll out. It wasn’t until 6 a.m. or so that I had finally sunk into sleep, a few minutes before the nurse came to wake me up for breakfast. She insisted I get up at 6:15 a.m. because the police would arrive soon to take me to the next hospital, one with a more indefinite admittance period.
I tried to figure out how to get out of bed. I was used to sleepless nights, but it had been a sleepless week. A cocktail of drugs, withdrawal, and no sleep had me in a mildly hallucinatory state. I had to vomit. Most people throw-up if they drink too much alcohol. I throw up when I haven’t had enough. My body’s physiology floated on a steady river of alcohol and when that stream got too low, my blood vessels remained stagnant. I’d have a shot when I woke up. I would bring a bottle of Minute Maid orange juice to work everyday, half vodka, to drip, like an I.V., incrementally throughout the day. Then, once home, I’d really be cooking with gas.
I hadn’t had a drink since yesterday, so there was nothing I could do to stop myself from vomiting. The staff saw me throwing-up in my bed, but kept passing, bored. They weren’t surprised. They’d seen me many times before, in other people’s bodies, faces.
Just getting out of bed is a whole production, but the nurse informs me that I must eat and get ready as soon as possible. My cadaver is useless; It takes nearly 5 minutes to traverse the lounge to my tepid breakfast (Lounge? Really? Like they’re handing out dirty gin martini’s while Sinatra serenades the shaking psychos choking down possibly plastic eggs). After chewing for a full ten minutes, I finish a bite of toast, realizing this is the first food I’ve eaten in 3 days. Like a vegan pigging-out on eggs and bacon for the first time in years, my body wasn’t ready for food; I became ill immediately and shivered back to my room, watching the door for police.
Every 15 minutes, for four hours, the police were 15 minutes away. I begged for a Xanax or a Valium, anything to stop the incessant itching and sweating, anything to let my dry skin heal and my moist clothes dry. They won’t give me a single pill—that’s for my next doctor to decide. So Where the Fuck Is He! You wake me up at 6 in the morning, after mere minutes of sleep, and hours later, not a single goddamn word!
~~~~~~~
Finally, my escort arrives. The head nurse assures the officers that I am “good and well behaved”. We drive across town to the next hospital and head upstairs to the psych ward. Admission takes forever, so I lay on the floor with the blanket I lifted from the previous hospital for a nap on the thin blue carpet. Of course, I am in too much pain to actually fall asleep. An hour of tossing and stressing had carried me to the nurse’s question, “Ready to see your room?” But before I’m allowed to see my room, I must strip naked for the staff to inspect my body for rashes that may cause the next outbreak.
I’ve been in hospitals before, more than any thirty year-old should. Besides the many broken bones from skateboarding in my youth and the four or five trips to the emergency room for a heart attack (which all turned out to be anxiety attacks), when we still lived together, Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer and it wasn’t unusual to walk these sterile halls 3, 4, 5 times a week.
I was the only one in the ward in paper hospital clothes. Are all those people in the dayroom visitors? Who are they visiting? There’s not a single person in a gown or paper jump suit? Hoodies, jeans, shoes, socks that slip… I’m not ready to see real people, so I walk down the hallway to my room. The far wall has a hand-painted quotation on it: “A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step—Lao Tzu”. My room had neither a lock nor a handle on the door. It just swung back and forth like the wooden saloon doors from an old western. There was nothing to do there, so I braved the dayroom. There were stacks of board games—Sorry, Monopoly, Candy Land, Cranium, etc. There were books, but all the intense or really good ones were missing—it was all pulp fiction and young adult. In the corner stood a cart full of colored pencils, Crayola crayons, construction paper and Elmer’s Glue. The lone TV had two English channels and four Spanish. Several puzzles laid, half finished, around the room on various tables and that’s when I realized I wasn’t in a hospital. I was in a day care!
~~~
This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I’m a good person. I was a Boy-scout. I went to church every Sunday. I volunteered at a rape-crisis/domestic violence shelter for 8 years. I won the “Graduate Student of the Year” award—in Social Work no less. I was supposed to be fixing the world. I wasn’t the one who needed fixing! I was supposed to get a job in the government, end corruption, cure racism, and save the world. What am I doing in here? Why do I want to die so badly? Why is merely existing so utterly painful that I can’t think—except of blood and gore and stabbing myself in the eye with the nurse’s pen? Why am I having fantasies of drowning under a large ship? Why am I dreaming of jumping in front of a train and being obliterated? Lighting myself on fire? Why is violence the only language I can speak? It is exactly like the scene from A Clockwork Orange, where his eyes are taped open and he’s forced to watch all the violent, disgusting shit in the world, incessantly, without respite, until madness takes hold. I don’t want to see myself hurt myself. Why can’t I control my own brain and why is my brain forcing these, of all things, to be so vivid, so terrifyingly real? I was supposed to work at this hospital and fix people with no control over their brain, not be one!
My buzz from yesterday was finally completely gone and without alcohol on my side, all this was too much to take in. It had been months since I had been liquorless and every one of my nerves were exposed and being drilled—a root canal without anesthesia. Every individual object in the room was vibrating violently, all at different frequencies. The lighting was piercing and loud, a bully of a light. My heart pumped more blood than my arteries were built for and I could feel a pressure throughout my body from the inside, out. I realized, I might die and begin to voice my mantra I use during panic attacks, repeatedly, at the expense of looking foolish in front of these strangers: “Most people can’t, but I can. Most people can’t, but I. can. Most People Can’t. But I Can!” By sheer miracle, my doctor had just filled an order for my detox regimen. A nurse hands me two brilliant little blue pills, which I took with haste, spilling half the cup of water down my chin onto my paper shirt.
Valium latches to the same receptors as alcohol, so I got my first fix since my suicide attempt. I stopped twitching in excruciating pain, stopped sweating. I’m not exactly sure what I felt like—not happiness or ecstasy, just numbness, a feeling I’m used to, a feeling I’m good at. And for the first time that week, I slept. I slept with a lion’s commitment. I slept with the deadness of space and the nothingness of numbers. Like a jui jitsu master, I was so aggressively yielding that I finally won a battle with my malicious mind, by succumbing to it.
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