, a friend’s email RE: line stated in June of 2003. The message containing this subject line is one I’ve been trying to live down, and live up to, ever since.
And yet here I am, tonight, mourning the loss of my pet gecko, whom my family has had for 13 years (when we bought this gecko, I was in 10th grade; my brother, in one of his last pangs of humanity, cared about this special creature and gave the gecko the name “Herbie,” after the character in “Gyspy,” the TV movie version of which had aired a few months earlier. Rest in peace, little Herbie), feeling that the world is caving in on my sole surviving grandparent (my father’s mother has become so terrified – of living alone, perhaps – that she forgot how to operate the locks on her front door – either that or she has become so obsessed with aloneness that she obsesses over things such as the lock to the point where she can no longer do all things as a matter of routine. My aunt just took my grandmother to live with her, and swears she will never put my grandmother in assisted living or a home. After all, she takes care of herself sufficiently enough that assisted living would not accept her, and has not the total dependency that nursing home patients have. My aunt may be in denial, but it’s a denial that comes from hard lessons learned the hard way), feeling horrified that my first cousin – the first of seven first cousins in my family – to have children – has given birth to twins that combined weigh two pounds less than I did, their faces obscured by tubes, patches, electrodes and wires as they are kept on respirators, when I decide to go out for a walk.
Not to cheer me up. Just for the exercise. I decide to walk around the quite nice grounds of my apartment complex. As I walk athwart the different buildings, I stumble onto the topiary garden, the “second” swimming pool, the “second” laundry room (the ones I don’t use). Something occurs to me, as I am listening to “American Pie” – I have walked through these areas – which I do not need to go through to travel to and from my room – maybe ten – at most fifteen – times – in three years. How much more need be said? The friend whose lease I picked up three years ago, when showing me around (we both already knew I was taking over his apartment; he just wanted to show me what I was getting for my money), knew where these places were by heart. I still don’t know and happpened upon them tonight by accident. My God, this is how shut off I have been from the world – I literally don’t know what’s there in the walls that surround me. People talk to me about the need to “get out more,” to find a girlfriend, and so on and so forth. I have squandered ovef fifteen years of my life at the altar of hard work – a sacrifice made because I did not pay attention to these needs since, shall we say, a family voice made me afraid to do so – and now the full gale force of the price is sweeping me away in a vortex of burnout, depression, anger, loneliness, cluelessness, wan-ness, lethargy……
God, where do I start to fix all of this? The word “fix” implies something was broken, which in turn implies it once wasn’t. I can’t remember when things weren’t broken. I can only say this: I know that I cannot live where I am living any more. The grand experiment of doing so was one for which, in my own feeble way, I was game, but it has failed nonetheless. I am so overwhelmed by my inability to make any kind of social or job progress – and by being overwhelmed itself – that I am paralyzed when it comes to choosing how to spend my time, so I choose to spend it alone, which in turn makes me more lonely, which ovewhelms me, and so on.
A paraphrase of a scene from Star Trek: The Original Series illustrates the point. Spock says something to the effect of “fear of death is illogical”. Dr. McCoy then sagely replies, “You’re not afraid of dying, Mr. Spock. You’re more afraid of living”.
So am I. I so want to conquer this fear, to feel as though I, as Virginia Woolf said in “The Hours,” to have “some say in the matter of my own prescription”. I’m going to find a way, somehow. After all, as another Star Trek character said once, of time, “It’s stalking you. Oh, you can try to outrun it with doctors…medicines….new technologies… But in the end, time is going to hunt you down and make the kill”. Quite true. The trick – and a daunting-to-perform-one it is, is to throw down enough meaningful red herrings while you’re still alive.
There is, thankfully, some magical energy still left in me.