I have a small window of opportunity in which to write this. The limited time in space is of my own creation, but knowing what I do of myself and the road I’m currently on, I understand that I need to do this now and not wait for an hour or two, lest this become a cacophony of disjointed, nonsensical, random thoughts…worse even than this already promises to be, given my current frazzled state of being. Plus? As soon as I hit “publish” I am on the move again, off into the night to the nearest bar for liberty and libation. I’ll not be imprisoned any longer, at least in this physical space. This house is boring me tonight. I had a taste last night. Now I have an insatiable thirst for it all.
Last night. When I meant to compose these thoughts and send them off. Something else happened instead. One of my former college professors has been trying for 2 years to get me to come speak to his class about life as a writer. I refuse. I appreciate it, don’t get me wrong. But public speaking – even to a group of barely post-pubescent college students – is so not my thing. I’m barely comfortable talking one-on-one to people I’ve known forever. The idea of getting up and speaking to any group larger than say, two people? Yeah, not gonna happen. Anyway, he’s been busting my chops to get me to do this. Last night he called me to tell me he was taking this particular group of students to Patriot Place for a night out. This is not a college activity I remember…going out drinking with your professor. Anyway, they were going to 5 Wits, followed by dinner at one of the many fantastically overpriced restaurants adjacent to Gillette Stadium. He asked if I’d join them, and funnily enough I was in the mood to escape my own personal reality so I agreed. I popped 4 xanax and was on my way.
I met them at 5 Wits and we got our Espionage on. 5 Wits is an hour-long interactive theater experience. It was interesting. It was meant to serve as an exercise in group cohesion. Basically there were a lot of nervous giggles until we got the hang of what was happening. Anyway. Following that, we had to decide where to go to eat. It was cold and Patriot Place is huge, so we chose the closest place. It was a frou-frou wine bar/bistro place. I don’t remember the name. All I know is that I can now cross off my bucket list the following: Go to a classy joint and act like I belong there. Heh. Yeah, I’m working-class Boston. I dig blue-collar sports bars. Wine bars? Not so much. Seeing the ridonkulous dinner prices, we chose to have a couple of drinks and several slates of cheese, and head somewhere else for dinner. Slates of cheese. Cheese served on slates, with the type of cheese written in chalk beneath the thimble-sized samples. What the hell? My intent was to drink water, eat some cheese, and head home. Instead what happened was I ordered 5 flights of wine to pair with the various cheese choices. Five flights, three glasses in each flight. I don’t even like wine, but it seemed like the thing to do. That’s not entirely true. The thing to do, in my mind, was to get numb. Really, really numb. And so I drank wine. Then I had a couple of Stella Artois, then a couple of cocktails, which I ordered because they had really fun names. I drank and I ate smoked goat cheese, aged cheddar, and brie infused with lavender. Yum. Know what I discovered? Never again do I care to patronize a place that serves popcorn infused with duck fat ever again. Duck fat-infused popcorn. Dude. Drown it in butter. Now you have my attention.
We left ritzy wine bar place, and skipped over to CBS Scene, right across the street. Though it was less cold with a few cocktails in me, walking far still wasn’t an option for different reasons. CBS Scene is fun. There are over 100 televisions broadcasting every sport imaginable. And they serve food on plates, not slates. And they have beer. And nachos. That’s what I’m talking about. We ordered good old red-blooded American fare, drank our weights in whatever ale was on tap, and had a grand old time talking about literature, writing, and sports.
We closed the place, and my professor escorted his group out of the restaurant and back to Milton. I walked back to my car and realized fairly quickly that driving wasn’t a good idea. Public transportation had stopped an hour earlier, and I’d spent every penny on food and libation. I thought—wrongly—that I’d be able to sleep it off in my car and drive home at first light. It was way too cold, so I stumbled down Rte. 1 to the nearest motel, plopped my credit card on the desk, and took a room. Thankfully traffic was light on Rte. 1 because I vaguely remember using the yellow line as my guide, walking gingerly down the middle of the highway, singing some random selection of tunes at the top of my booze-addled lungs.
Last night. That was trip. I got home this morning and slept for a few more hours. I felt like death when I woke up. No surprise there. Screw it. Numb is good. My diet today has consisted of pain and anti-anxiety pills, chased at one point this morning by Robitussin to deal with this incessant cough, and soon to be chased by a glaringly obscene combination of any bottled booze I can get my cold, aching hands on. Hence the need to get this post out now.
A brief non-sequitur:
I found some peace in Maine, on the lake, in the cabin. It may be as close to God’s country here on the East Coast. I fished there when I was a kid and never felt closer to God. I so yearned for that sense of peace.
Do you fish at all? I don’t know what it is but it’s the most serene feeling. To be in the water amid the silence of everything around you is a beautiful feeling. I read a book years ago called “A River Runs Through It” and fell in love with the peaceful setting described by the author. The book was set in Montana.
“Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters. “
These sentences in the last paragraph of the book are perhaps the most gripping I have ever read. It’s the story of Norman McLean and his brother, Paul, who was beaten to death in 1938. It is about not understanding what you love, and about not being able to help. More significantly, it is about passion, and what happens when you don’t have it. It is the truest story I have ever read; it might be the best written. And to this day it won’t leave me alone.
It all reminds me of a time when, as a youngster, I experienced the true freedom of youth (and the repercussions thereof) when I stayed for a week at that cabin with my cousins, my aunt, my uncle, and my grandparents. We were young and in the midst of the great outdoors. The adults’ idea of fun was far different than our own, and we saw to it that certain rights of passage were met head on that week. One night, around dusk, my oldest cousin, Kristen, and I decided to take the canoe out on the lake and do some fishing. Sure, we had been warned against doing this. Sure, we had been threatened with serious punishment. Sure, neither of us knew exactly how to work the oars, steer the thing, avoid sand bars, and navigate our way back to land once we were out there…but it was the danger that made it exciting. Up until that night all we had caught on our lines had been sorry looking fish and a few dead eels. We threw back out catches anyway, but what it made it ours was the night sky and the silence of the lake and the adventure of doing all this against the express direction of those who were in charge.
So we went out and rowed our way to the middle of the lake. There we sat for 2 hours, surrounded by nothing but the call of a few loons and the gentle lapping of the waves against out tiny wooden refuge. We hit a few sand bars, but we were resourceful enough to make or way out of the situation. Eventually we made our way to the opposite end of the island where, to our dismay, we saw the flashlight signals of the adults calling us to shore. We made it to land and were met with the stern disapproval of our caretakers. As part of our punishment we were made to carry the canoe back to the cabin through the brush, over the dirt and rock road, on our shoulders, in bare feet. It was a painful 45-minute walk back to the cabin. But thinking back on it, I’d repeat the punishment time and again to feel for one second the freedom I felt out on that lake, with my cousin, in the silence, safe and happy.
The things that are most true I can’t bring myself to write tonight. As I reflect on it all, I can now draw at least one conclusion. It’s fear and uncertainty that influence me on every level these days. My existence seems almost mechanical at times, as I try to bury what I can’t bring myself to face. So I work too hard, and I stay awake too long, and I indulge too often, and I try to forget. But in the process, I’ve forgotten what the whole point is, or perhaps I never knew it. I think I did though, because I remember a time when I could feel. I just want that back.
I wanted to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult? When I was a child I wished only to feel safe and at peace. Loved and protected. My wishes have not changed much. The people whose duty it was to love and protect me unconditionally instilled in me form a young age that I was not worth the effort. For 38 years I have believed that with my whole heart.
I’m left tonight balancing precariously on the precipice of sanity. I’m not sure what to do next. I’ve put it all out there and I don’t know what to do with it. It’s left me feeling raw and terrified and vulnerable.
I’ve stopped believing I deserve better. I don’t. I can’t. This is the easier road. It’s the road of the weak, the forgotten, the unnecessary, the meaningless, the lost, the unloved. It’s the road I belong on.