Wednesday, May 25, 2011

November Spawned a Monster

It was in the fall that I started watching "Obsessed" through my Netflix account. You see, I normally dig those kind of shows. Mindy and I went through 10 seasons of "The First 48" in a month or two. I can't get enough real death in my t.v. show watching. It's like exposure therapy for me; the more I see, the more I can come to accept the fact that I, too, could be gunned downed at any moment. Or more importantly, really, we all must die. And this might seem strange to you if you know anything about my career(s). I love skeletons because I fear them. I love dead people because it is the only truth that every creature has. No matter what and who, we all rot. The end.

Obsessed appealed to me because I got to watch people acting totally crazy: washing their hands a million times a day or guzzling vodka and barfing vodka. At first I laughed at the people with their anxieties and thought how I could really keep my shit together compared to most people. How, after all we'd been through, I was really holding up well. One woman wouldn't drive the highway because it reminded her of the route to her parents' graves. Her double digit kids had never been to the zoo because the only way there was that highway. One man lived in a sterile house of stainless steel and white couches. Some other woman was afraid of the dark, especially looking at her face in a mirror, in the dark. The therapist's cure was for her to sit and stare at her shadowy self. I smirked at the first few episodes, but I started to find myself imaging doing what they were doing. I could starve myself to gain back the control I'd lost. I could exercise 10 times a day like that other guy, just to take my mind off things. Eventually, just seeing the next episode listed on the screen was enough to get my heart racing, anxiously, like all of them.

One day in November I was sitting at my desk trying to grade papers, trying to prepare for the two classes I had later that afternoon. My head started pounding. I never had headaches. I was listening to music, but it all sounded like it was on a turntable at the wrong speed. Slowing and speeding at the most undesired times. I pulled out my ear buds and stared out of my window towards Lincoln's library. It's a fabulous building which is built to be reminiscent of a castle. It even has a moat (swimming with only Koi). It was too much to handle. My heart was pounding. I put my head in my hands between my knees, trying to center myself. I couldn't be there any more. I had to leave. I had to think of a place to go to feel better. I considered the library, too many books I hadn't read. I'd feel inferior. I'd drive down to the river there in Jeff. No, even though the river is my friend, there wasn't a familiar place I could go to talk to it. Home. I considered driving to Portland to mom and dad's. Yes. I'd just sit down where it was comfortable, down where I'd been nearly every night of my childhood. NO. I couldn't. I wasn't sure I could stand the 30 minute drive only to have to leave and drive 60 minutes back to Columbia. My obvious choice was home. Home was where I lived. But it was where I lived with my preemie son who was still on house arrest. Where I lived with my exhausted wife. Where I lived with my teenage daughter. Where I came home to cook dinner for them, and sometimes my mother-in-law. Where every three hours my son must be hooked up to a machine to eat. Where I was existing, but thinly. Silly putty stretched to breaking, those hair-like tendrils wafting in the wind. But my only choice was to go home. So I did.

The Vodka Swilling Twenty Something episode really had me jealous. If only I were an alcoholic, I could go to rehab where all I had to do was worry about myself. There'd be discipline and food provided for me. In my spare time, I could go to therapy or whatever. I could read and write. I'd live in a nice place in the woods. If only I could become an alcoholic. There wouldn't be 80 students bothering me about essays they don't even care to write. I wouldn't have to deal with opening that measly check eight months a year. What could I do to get myself into one of those rehabs? What could I do to still my brain and have time to think and heal? I've never been suicidal, but I had a strong notion that I could pretend. That I'd be a perfect candidate.

I wondered if I was an alcoholic, anyway. Two to three drinks a night was my standard (more than most people drink I guess). But it wasn't affecting my relationship, my job, my son. I still argue that I had to, to put my mind away from all the horrors I'd seen in the spring. Even if it was my unhealthy coping mechanism, it wasn't enough to get me into one of those places. Those drinks helped me get to sleep with my snoring wife and my mind always wondering when my son might walk, speak, eat with his mouth. When we'd feel like we were a normal family. When would that happen? I let the drinks rock me to sleep, half consciously dreaming of the days when I had only to worry about myself. Then the days when I worried about Mindy. Those days, years in the future when Cyrus will have grown into a man. A chiseled jaw and bouncy blonde curls. Those blue eyes. All he'd have left of it would be a linear scar on his torso, a small hole healed (like a piercing straight through to his stomach!), and he'd wear contacts or glasses. And this is how I spent most of last year.

But now it's May. School is out. I'm working on a friend's farm. I spend about thirty hours a week working outside with my friendly boss (or alone when she must leave). I sing to any song on the radio as I seed, weed, paint, whatever. I don't care. The nearest neighbor is more than a mile away. I don't mind doing much of anything when I'm outside and there is music and nary an essay to grade. Cyrus is allowed to go out in the world, too. It looks like he'll walk sooner rather than later. He has baby glasses. The helmet will be history in about a month. He still doesn't eat with his mouth, but he will. We all have faith that he will, or that he can. And if he never does, at least he will speak. At least, it seems, he's all there. And I'll say that again because I'm not sure everyone understands how fucking amazing that will be. My son, who was less than two pounds, had seizures 13 weeks before he was supposed to have been born. As far as we can see, he is all there. My son is a whole.

I've tried to quit watching those fucked up shows about drugs and addicts and anxiety. Because sometimes, I guess, reality shows hang in that gray space between what is real and what isn't, like staring at yourself in the mirror in the middle of a really long, dark night.

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