Thursday, May 31, 2012

I look over the most common side effects of Effexor, the anti-depressant I’ve been taking for the past week.

    I read the list.  

    I check off the easy ones.  Dry mouth.  Changes in appetite.  Tremors.  Decreased sex drive.

    Yes, yes.  I have these.  Let’s continue.

    Then I get to strange dreams.  And I think over the past week.  The dream with that giant mutating spider in my backyard.  The dream on the support beams of that cabin, hiding out from flesh-eating evil elves.  The dream of sexually engaging with that two-headed woman.  

    I think of the auditory hallucinations that have stirred me from sleep almost every night recently.  The conversations I swear I’m having until I spring forward.  Find myself next to a sleeping body.  In a dark room.  No one to converse with.

    I think of the moments during the day when someone says something.  Let’s get some coffee.  Or, I could use a nap.  Or maybe, where is that kid’s parents?  And I have to stop.  I have to cease motion and stand there and scan my memory.  Scan my hold on reality.  Scan why this all seems so familiar.

    And I think of whether I’m progressing.  Whether the steps I’ve taken have moved me forward.  Have increased distance from where I deemed I needed to leave.  From where misery was consuming my life.  

    Have I changed any?

    Am I capable of such a thing?

    Is it possible for me to be happy?  Actually exist, as one, with happiness?  In happiness?  As happiness?

    And of course there’s that fun section - contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following.  And yeah, I experience them.  Who doesn’t?

    Mood or behavior changes - check.
    Anxiety - check
    Trouble sleeping - check
    Impulsivity - check
    Agitation - check
    Restlessness - check
    Hyperactivity (mentally or physically) - check
    More depressed - check

    Right.  Looks like I should make that phone call.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What to write?

The Depression gets me. I fight it. I battle it over the weekend. As it lurks behind me I find ways to evade it. To prolong my decency. Prolong a sense of normalcy.

But it takes hold. It immobilizes me. And eighty percent of victory is immobilizing one's opponent.

I believe I read that somewhere.

Regardless, it cripples me and digs in. Begins devouring whatever positivity I was cultivating. Tears through the layers of optimism and vigor I had been generating. Ravages the remnants of hope within me.

So I do what I've been trained to do. I do what I know best. What I've perfected. What has seemed to get me through every other time.

I head to the liquor store. I drive there mechanically. Robotically. Lifelessly.

I walk in with programmed steps and tersely interact with the cashier.

I leave with a pack of cigarettes and a pint of Jim Beam and take no time to consume the two.

It's only after a few cigarettes lay in the ashtray and the whiskey bottle sits half empty that I come to. That I become me again. That I get to feel once again.

And I feel wretched. I feel so wretched.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

She asks me a question. It's between three and four in the morning, if I remember correctly.

It's after I return from the bathroom. After I stand there in front of the mirror. Peering into my blue eyes for some sort of self worth. Some sort of significance.

My pupils are dilated from all the anti-depressants flowing through my body.

I turn my head down. Relieve myself then leave.

She's smoking a cigarette when I crawl back on the mattress. The room is freezing but we stay atop the blankets.

As I take the cigarette from Her and place it in my mouth, She asks the question.

Are you okay? She asks.

And I've heard these words before. I've heard them throughout my entire life. Daily from my Mother growing up. From concerned loved ones throughout the years. From colleagues. Classmates. Strangers.

But it's this single time that stops me. That makes me pause. The bass in Her groggy voice. The regard in Her tired eyes. The patience of Her folded hands.

With smoke in my lungs, I pause.

And I don't remember the answer I give. All I remember is laying awake for the next several hours, staring at the ceiling from the floor.

Monday, May 28, 2012

    As I write on my iphone, She sits beside me on the mattress reading quotes from Honest Tea labels.

    She has a bag before her full of them and takes them out one by one.  Peels them apart.  Peels them open.  The adhesive makes that sticky parting sound.

    I lay there and type words on the digital notepad.  Writing words about Her.

    She begins reading the quotes.  One after the other.  Places them in a pile to Her right.

    I don’t listen to anything She says.  I hear Her voice.  It’s balanced and calm.  Low and contemplative.  Soothing and safe.

    I hear Her stumble over the pronunciation of a few of the names.  I hear Her try to sound out each syllable.  Pensively.  Cautiously.

    I pause and rest my head on the pillow.  Wonder if She’s reading these things to me or to Herself.  Wonder if She realizes I’m ignoring Her.

    What is the motivation here?

    What’s something you take with you everywhere you go? She asks.

    I shrug my shoulders.  Stare at Her.

    Give me your phone, She says.

    And I hand it over.  Without hesitation, I hand it over.

    She grabs a pair of scissors, some tape, and after a few minutes She returns my phone.

    On the back it reads: The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall - Marianne Williams

    I read it and smile.  Spread myself about the mattress.  Exhale one long, full breath.

    A few hours later, after I’ve left Her house and have ventured out into the heat, I remove my phone from my pocket.

    The words are gone.  

     I dig my hand back in and pull out curled, wet versions of what once was.

    Then I fall.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

She kisses me so sweetly in the night.

I think this happens. I feel like this happens.

In between one of the chronic dreams I have of my Father trying to kill me and a dream I have of capture-the-flag with wild animals.

She kisses me.

Once with her lips over top my upper lip. Once with her lips over top my bottom lip.

She kisses me.

And it's all so hazy. It's all sprinkled in mist and fog. It all sneaks in and rests, then escapes. Rushes out. Leaves.

But I'm left with this sensation. This fulfillment in the absence of Her. This sustaining warmth that lasts and lasts and lasts.

And I may have created all these things. I may have conjured them up with my imagination. They may all be me.

And I'm not sure it matters. I'm not sure I care.

I have the impression within me.

I have it.

And I like it.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

    So, it doesn’t all have to be bad.  The days don’t have to be dripping with sorrow.  With melancholy.  They can turn out alright.

    So I let it be so.

    I move through the day.  I glide on the minutes that pass.  I let them float under me.  I let them go.

    And it’s easy enough.  Sure, there are moments I stagger.  There are moments I stop.  Pause.  Bend down and pry through the seconds.  Pick apart each passing fragment of my existence and analyze whether it means something or not.  Whether it has value.  Whether it’s worth it.

    That happens.  I can’t say it doesn’t happen.  It does.  It most certainly does.

    But I let that go too.  I start dropping everything.  I start dropping and begin floating.  Up and up, I float.

    And sure, the ground is still there.  Sure, with each foot I rise I bear the weight of the fall.  

But who cares?  What is it they say about ships?  About where they’re safe?  About why they’re built?

Well, yeah.  That’s true too.

I come home today feeling good.  I come home from Takoma Park covered in sweat and hope.

There’s a package between the storm door and the front door.  A thin cardboard box.  And it’s for me.

It has my name on it.

So I tear it open inside as a cat settles down to watch.  Dr Suess’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go falls out along with a letter

Life is a balancing act, it says.

And I absorb the words.  The meaning.  I hold them.  I hold it.  I balance it all.

Then I read the book.  Right there on the floor.  

I read the book,

And things are okay. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

    Right, so, words on the page.  Here they are.

    And not much has happened.  Or maybe too much has.  Always so unsure of what’s going on.  Always thinking far too much.  Always bouncing around in my cluttered thoughts.

    I put on my shoes to leave the house yesterday.

    Where are you going? a loved one asks.

    To Her, I say.

    Oh yeah?  How’s that going? she asks.

    And I just stand there.  I look out the storm door.  At the dead potted plants lining our walkway.

    And I say nothing.  It’s still going.  It’s still there.  Life is still moving on.  It still goes and goes, even at the times I wish it’d stop.

    Even at the times I buy a half pint of Jim Beam and a pack of American Spirits and drive around Columbia listening to Elliott Smith.  Radiohead.  Anything that will make my heart writhe.

    Even at the times I return home and my housemates block the exit to my room when I attempt to leave.  Even as I push and squirm past them, all to use the bathroom in the hallway alone.  All to just be alone.

    Even at the times I wake in the night, on the floor, and erupt with terror at how I’ll have to wade through another day.  That the sun will indeed rise and I will have to greet it.

    That there is something inside me that relentlessly pitters and patters and won’t give out.  Will never give out.  Will keep me going without my consent.

    Even at all those times.

    Right.  So.  I guess that puts me here.  Here writing again.  Here doing it again.  I guess, that says enough for now.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Another day.  Begin it well and serenely.  

    Well, at least we’ll try.

    I spend yesterday hung over.  I spend it in low spirits.

    I speak with my Mother, over the phone, as I sit in the driver seat of my Honda Element, with the door ajar, my legs hanging out, smoking a cigarette in the rain.

    You may have some more back and forth, you two, she says.

    And I cringe at the words.  I pull smoke in.  Blow it out.  A white sedan passes and I stare at the couple inside as they laugh about something.  A joke perhaps.  Maybe an observation.  Maybe they’re laughing at me.

    You’re too trusting, my Mother says.  You give people everything and leave nothing for yourself.

    My bare feet have pebbles and strands of grass stuck to the bottoms.  The ends of my pants are damp from stepping through puddles.  My neck aches from passing out on the couch last night.

    Half glass full, remember? she asks.

    Yeah, I say.  I remember.

    But I never see it that way.  I never see it at all.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I was in China once. I received a phone call. One of the translators told me so while I was in the forest.

Justin, phone call, she said.

And I was so excited. I knew who it was. I knew.

So I sprinted up the hill. Across the courtyard. Up the stairs. Through the doors into the lobby. To the red phone on the wall.

I was panting when I answered. With electricity in my voice, I answered.

Hello, I said.

It's bad news, she said.

And I knew the rest from there. Everyone knows the rest from there.

So I hung up the phone. I walked out, to the edge of the hilltop, I walked out. I clenched my fists. Dug my toes in the dirt. Gritted my teeth. Glared out at the smoggy sky and cursed all I knew to curse. Cursed it all. Spewed anger from my being. Exploded with rejected energy.

A few minutes later I walked, shaking, to the nearby shop. Grabbed a beer and sat at a table. The owner was there knitting a pair of socks. She asked if I needed any. I told her no.

No, I don't need any socks.

And now I'm in Maryland. Rejected and in Maryland. Dejected. Discarded. Put down. All in Maryland.

And it feels no different. The feeling still burns within my chest. Still pulsates and bubbles within my veins.

I'm still punctured and bleeding. I'm still alive and dying. Still here and parting.

It doesn't matter where you are. Life will find you. It will find you and it will tear you to shreds.

It will leave you bare and cold.

And my Mother always tells me to write such happy things on here.

Oh well, ok.

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

No one is home when I get to the house this morning.

    I haven’t slept there in almost a week.

A mess of shoes lies inside the front door.  Flip flops.  Sneakers.  Boots.  Assorted envelopes and bills, most likely all mine, are scattered about the living room table.  The kitchen sink is filled with dishes, as it was when I left, and a few empty beer bottles line the counter.

I grab a bowl from the cabinet and pour in some Frosted Flakes.  Some milk.

The french press is still on the table from when I stopped in over the weekend.  The grounds are stuck all along the glass.  I sit down before it.  Begin munching on my breakfast.

One of the cats comes in and pleads for some milk.  Begging.  Dragging her body across my shin.  I ignore her, but she jumps up and sticks her face beside my spoon.  Begins lapping it up.  And I let her.  I frown when I have to pull cat hair from my teeth as I chew, but I let her.

The windows have been open the past few rainy days and the air in the house feels heavy.  Thick.  Like moving through syrup.

I remove my button down and toss it on the kitchen floor.  The male cat arrives and settles down.  Naps on it.

   Once I finish the cereal I sit there with the female, licking her paws in satisfaction, as my tummy rumbles with the first sustenance it’s received in almost a day.

    I’m so tired and get the feeling the cat on the floor has the right idea.  So I slide off the chair and spread out on the sticky tiles.  Dream dreams of better times.

Monday, May 21, 2012

And something alters. It happens in the night. In the dark, cool hours when each rain drop makes an impression on the pavement and houses stretch and crack their weary wood.

It happens while She sleeps.

While She inches farther and farther away from me.

Is this unconscious? Is this intentional?

She moves off the pillow and to the edge of the comforter we lay on. She moves to the carpet. To the wall. I try to keep up. I try to maintain contact. A foot by her calf. Or a hand on her shoulder blade. But She's too consistent. Too determined to get away. Too far gone.

Each time She wakes there's a moment when She looks at me.

I'm relieved at first. I'm warmed. I smile and reach up to touch Her cheek. Reach up to feel something.

But even Her gaze grows more distant. Even Her eyes move away. Retreat. Coil back.

So my hand doesn't make it. It falls short. Lands on the flower stitchings below.

Eventually I give up. Eventually I reason I cannot win. That the blows She delivers are much more powerful than my will. That as She pushes me over and I roll and unreel and unravel there is nothing more I have to combat with.

That I have nothing more.

So I slide back over to my side. Where we both started so many hours ago. Where She fooled me into believing I was wanted here tonight.

That I was wanted.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

    A loved one gives me a hug when I walk through the door.

    I’ve missed you, she says.  There’s coffee in the kitchen.

    I make my way there and sit down at the table, in front of a small bowl of fruit she’s prepared for me.  Pineapple, blackberries, strawberries.  It’s quite endearing, actually.

    Cream? she asks.  The coffee is a bit strong.

    I nod my head and she pours some in.

    How was your weekend? she asks.

    It was ok, I say.

    Ups and downs? she asks.

    I nod my head.  I sip on the coffee.  Take a bite of a strawberry.

    It’s gorgeous outside and the wind pushes at the lush branches of trees in the yard.  I stare at it all.  The red curtain gets pulled against the screen of the window every moment or so.  There’s cat hair clinging to it that floats off in thin strands.

    Where did you go Friday night? she asks.

    I gesture with my forefinger and middle finger, moving them back and forth.  Walking, I say.

    When they went to pick you up you weren’t there, she says.

    I nod my head, once again.  I know, I know.

    Where are you now? she asks.

    Still so lost, I say.  Still so lost.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

We don't leave the room. We don't rise from the floor. The sun comes in and touches her bare shoulder. Kids scream at each other outside. Those deafening high pitched wails.

Whiskey is on my breath. It seeps from my pores. My hips burn and my feet are dirty from drunkenly wandering around the neighborhood last night.

What did this accomplish?

I turn the fan on. I pull at the hanging chain. It hums into motion. Blows smoke across the room.

She says something. What does she say? Something about how this is what she wanted. That even through the grime and scum and filth, this is what she wanted. I am what she wanted.

That even though the odds are against us, and loved ones have advised us otherwise, that even though I cause her intolerable anxiety, cause her ineffable amounts of pain, that I cause her to throw back prescribed medications in handfuls, I am what she wanted. I am it. I'm here.

So I kiss her. I curl up next to her. I lay my head on her Spiderman pajama pants and close my eyes.

And we continue doing nothing.

Saturdays in Dundalk.

Friday, May 18, 2012

    I lay awake on the floor staring at a Care Bears trash can as the television fills the dark room with hues of blue.  They stand side by side, arms extended out towards each other’s backs or shoulders or whatever, with pudgy faced smiles and those stupid hearts or star streaks across their bellies.  The border is all fluffy clouds, and rainbows, and big yellow suns.
I reach over and ash my cigarette into it.
The fan is on high and She has all the blankets.
I’m freezing.

And there’s this pulling within the depths of my gut.  This emptiness that’s sucking in my intestines.  My organs.  My happiness.

I drag hard on the cigarette.

This was supposed to be a good day.  A good night.  That’s where the pressure started.  That’s when I should’ve known it wouldn’t be.  That I’d unconsciously find a way to screw it up.  It’s my specialty.

And here I find myself.  Curled into a ball on the floor as Blue Valentine plays on the box television set and She sits behind me, texting someone on her phone.

Who the hell is She texting?

What a horrible night.

And it doesn’t end there.  It seeps into my morning.  Even though I wake to find myself covered in the blanket I needed so badly.  Even though I wake to find a note where Her body used to be that tells me not to worry about anything.  That tells me She loves me.  That says thank you for everything.  

I still find a way to feel wretched.



So I get up and tidy the mound of blankets we slept on.  I arrange the remotes and throw out the used tea bag that laid on the carpet all night.  There’s a cigarette pack next to one of the pillows and I check it for just one more cigarette.  One more cloud of smoke to cover my life in.

But it’s empty.  

So I just leave.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

This morning doesn’t greet me with very many words.  Very many ideas.

    My body quivers beneath the comforter.

    And I’m still so lost.  I’m reminded throughout the day.  During the transitions between one task to another.  One distraction to the next distraction.  It pops in.  Drops by.  Says hello.

    Yesterday it’s while I’m laying on my bed, listening to muzak through my cell phone as I wait to speak with the next representative of Maryland’s EZ pass so I can drive through the Fort McHenry Tunnel daily without bleeding three dollars each way.

I’m sweating.  My brow is glazed.  My back is moist.  My ear hot.

And I get the feeling I’m not a member of reality.  I delve into the surreal.  I check it out.  Fish around.  Experiment with the idea that I am a foreigner in this world.  That I honestly do not belong.  That my perception and reception of the common and most basic understandings, the general acceptances the greater population has agreed upon in this plane of existence we all find ourselves in is slightly skewed.  Manipulated.  Distorted.

And it doesn’t excite or unnerve me.  It doesn’t elicit much response at all.  I just continue to lay there and listen to how valued my call is.  That I matter.  That someone cares about me.

It’s so hard to believe these things.

It is quite nice to hear them though.  So I stay on the line.  

I make friends with an audio recording.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

       And I have to believe things will get better.  As I lay on Her sister’s bed watching the ceiling fan spin.  While Her hand twitches on my chest and Her leg kicks out over top of mine as she dreams dreams I’ll never know,  I have to believe there is hope for people like us.

I have to believe it.

Even earlier in the night, as I sit on the couch downstairs in the dark, while She argues with Her Mother upstairs and Her sister marches in and out with dozens of friends, carrying dresser drawers and night stands and posters.  As Her Chihuahua growls in its cage and the parrot squawks from the other room.  As Her former best friend, no longer best friend, barely casual acquaintance, walks by and pauses just long enough to see that she’d rather keep moving.  Rather not partake in Her life anymore.

I have to believe things will get better.

Even as we leave the house and pass Her sister and Her Mother’s boyfriend howling at each other over the bed of his pick-up truck and as that Man, who just found out his wife is having an affair, arrives in his battered sedan to spend the night.  Another body in the house.  
Even as we pull away in my car wondering where the hell people like us can go on Tuesday nights when home isn’t an option.

When home serves no solace.  Provides no comfort.  Is not home at all.

I have to believe.  I mean, I have to believe there is hope for people like us.

That’s all I got.  That’s all I have.

And I will not give it up.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

And this isn't as honest as I'd like it to be. This isn't as stripped and exposed as originally intended. This isn't so.

I nude modeled once. For Montgomery College art classes in Rockville. It was liberating in a way. Almost exciting. Standing on a raised platform before a room full of strangers, naked. Peeled. Vulnerable.

My muscles would shake and my eyes averted all others. But there I was. And I got to see how people saw me. Every half hour I had a break when I'd slip on my bathrobe and circle the room. Observing sketches of my pronounced belly, my huge thighs, my small hands. My limp member.

It felt honest. All of it felt so honest. No one was trying to appease or discourage me. No harm was intended and none was delivered. It all just simply was.

And perhaps this is where I've failed. Perhaps this is what I cannot do.

I cannot present myself as wholesome. I cannot be whole.

What awful realizations. What awful things to discover as I sit, shivering beneath a ceiling air vent, in a Starbucks in Glen Burnie on a rainy Tuesday morning. Sipping coffee through a straw.

Someone help me.

Monday, May 14, 2012

We’re walking along the Inner Harbor.

    Hand in hand.

    There are people in line for the boat tours.  And people in line for the restaurants.

    There are people sitting on ledges, and people performing music, and people just being people.

    We pass them.  We walk on.

    Hand in hand.

    Then my Mother calls.  My Mother calls on Mother’s Day.

    The Girl demands I answer it.  Speak with her.

    And I comply.

    I comply as we walk hand in hand.

    My Mother asks how I am and I tell her.

    She asks what I’m doing and I tell her.

    She asks who I’m with and I lie to her.

I lie to her and suddenly, we’re not hand in hand.

    Suddenly I’m walking alone.

    Suddenly, I’m off the phone with an empty palm along the Inner Harbor.