unconditional love

All of this is true. The events occurred right before and during my medical leave from work a lifetime ago. I’ve never spoken of it. Not all of it.

And this is how it happened, how I perceived it to happen, more or less.

………………………………

I’m early to work this morning, and Andrew is already here. He’s always the first person to walk through the door. He leaves the lights off until the masses arrive because the darkness keeps the space quiet. I like how empty the second floor is at this hour and how the dark sits quietly with me while I work.

I have a new pen and one of those desk lamps with a long, green, glass shade. I’ll work under lamplight until daybreak.

My eyes follow the tip of my pen as I inspect every curve of every letter on every word. It amazes me how many glaring errors go unnoticed by multiple people with each pass. Editing can be an endless process if one allows it to be, but at some point one has to let go. An editor has no choice in the matter. I love my job, I was born for it, but the deadlines are brutal. Stress will overcome my sanity sooner than later.

The elevator dings, and loud, obtrusive voices spill into my personal space. Someone flips the light switch, and the dreaded wave of florescent light blinds the room and chases away the serenity. As the quiet disappears and the darkness flees, my nerves rip through my skin. SHUT THE FUCK UP! I growl quietly. I’m pretty sure that Andrew hears me. He moans in agreement.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath, then I exhale and set my eyes again on the page. I squint to blur the words. The page is unbalanced. I mark to move the photo and pull up the text.

shut up shut up shut up!

I put my hands over my ears, and I hold my breath in an attempt to coax my nerves back to their quiet places. Nothing helps.

Focus.

Add comma. Capitalize. no, don’t, shit. Strike, dash dash dash, ^ comma / stet //

Their, there, their…fuck…FUCK!!

The chair lets me fall back before it catches me in a reclined and comfortable position. I look at the ceiling, commending myself for strategically choosing a cubical that is not directly below a light, and I fantasize lighting a cigarette. Coworkers settle into their designated spaces, noisily falling into tired chairs, shuffling papers, typing, and checking emails. Phones ring. The day begins. As does the steady decline of my mood.

.

I unlock the front door, head straight for the bedroom, and then climb into bed wearing everything but my shoes. An unfriendly and familiar darkness emerges from the shadows, slithers up the bedposts, and crawls under my sheets. It cradles my body. I don’t want to be awake, so I wait for sleep to take me.

.

Hours of the day and the days, themselves, start to blend as I fade in and out. Events no longer measure time; wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed—the cycle devolves into a single, obscure moment. I have vague memories of being around people, but I don’t know whether those are memories of recent events or memories of dreams. Whatever the case, they are nothing but echos.

.

I wake suddenly and sit up. What day is it? The house is quiet, and I’m alone.

Walk to the couch. One step. Two. Another.

I sit on the living-room couch, calm but immobile, looking at the backyard through a window. I watch shadows pass from one end of the lawn to the other as I sink into despair. My heart pumps black tar, slowly. I have to will myself to breathe, but I don’t want to.

.

The front door opens.

I’m invisible, and seeing them when they can’t see me is too painful for words.

“Mommy! Come look!”

How does she…

I float toward the back door. I’m an apparition following a precious light, the light of a living embodiment of love, a child. How can I open the door if I can’t touch it? Is that my hand? How did I…

“Look, Mommy! A strawberry!”

Adoration floods my heart and drowns it in despair. Sweet little girls hunch over the little garden. I love you. Can you hear me? We planted those together.

but they don’t remember

they don’t remember me

they can’t hear me

Look, God. The sky. Grey, red, and unearthly. Look, the view of exile. 

I pause and take in the intense isolation, clasping the end of a line that keeps me from floating away. I am terrified.

Is this my eternity, God? Watching my children, forgotten, never able to reach them? 

Is this my hell?

.

The house is now quiet, and I’m alone. It’s another day, I think. The air is dead. Everything is dead. I am dead. To kill myself is pointless.

Except I’m conscious, so it’s not.

.

Cut lengthwise, not across, remember?

but…

Will they emotionally recover?

Will they forgive me?

Where will I go? To that hell? God, tell me it’s okay. Let me die. This pain, this darkness, it’s…

Tell me it’s okay to die. 

A downpour of unconditional love soaks me to my bones as I stand in the shower with a razor blade in my hand.

Despair becomes less severe, and agony turns into dull pain. I don’t understand why the peace doesn’t completely pull me out of the pit. But then, I do. My standoff with the blade is something I can’t overcome on my own, not in a single moment with a single decision. Working through my depression is something that I now see I have greater power within myself to achieve, not without help but with time to heal. I feel a strange mix of relief, gratefulness, numbness, and pain, and I am dumbfounded by my sudden clarity at the peak of my weakness. I set the unused razor down, and I can almost hear the angry hiss of self-destruction as my burning need to die is extinguished in the cool water that flows over my body and down the drain.

I can’t and don’t think beyond the goal of somehow getting from the shower to the bed. I carefully step out onto the bathmat and reach for the towel. I’m too weak to dry myself off, so I carry the towel with me to the bed. Lie down. Hold the towel. Hold it tight. Slee…

.

I open the front door to breathe in the life of bright green grass and blue sky. I can do this today.

But

Where…?

It’s … grey.

Quicksand grabs hold of my body and smoothly pulls me down like a vacuum. I crawl back into bed and will myself to sleep.

…………………………………………………….

This battle with severe depression lasted for several weeks, and most of that time is hazy. I don’t know whether I’ve written these events in correct order or what filled the spaces in between. What’s important is that I survived. The depression still hits hard sometimes, but not like it hit me then.

I never confronted my brush with death. Not really. Not until recently, when I met someone who took his life. I connected with this person, with Chris, on a very personal level. Writing this narrative has made me confront my past, and I was not only able but compelled to write it because of him. 

Chris Cornell brought an ugly darkness into the light for me. He has made me face that demon, and he has stayed with me, giving me strength and courage, the whole time.

.

One of the perks of being human is that there are billions of us. In all the world, there’s someone out there who can understand and who’s feeling the same way as you.

A friend.

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this is pretty great  <—You should click that link. You’ll meet Walt Walker, a wonderful storyteller. And if you don’t already know Chris Cornell, you’ll meet him there, too.

But in case you decide not to click it (you really should), I’ll share this like I have at least twice before.

 

Featured Image Source: Rain Room EXPO 1, Museum of Modern Art, New York

 

 

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A Parenthetical

I need to read those books. I want to read them. They broaden my thinking and infuse their voices into mine. My mind is shaped by the minds I see into, and my words, my form, are a gravy composed of other’s.

Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom are to blame for my choppy, incomplete sentences. Nick Carraway, boy, what can I say about his influence? He shows through now and then, but he holds back too often. Perhaps I should read what he has to say again. Double the ingredient. Rabo Karabekian and Trout and the rest cause me to use conjunctions at the beginning of nearly every sentence. And Rabo brings me down to Earth when I get too ethereal. Winston Smith makes me fear what’s around every corner, but my soul inherently finds thrill in turning those corners blindly. And Mona S. gives me all the creative liberty I care to take, though Denise N. sternly chastises me for ignoring the rules of grammar that she took great care to instill in my writing. James Joyce does the same as Denise does in his hypocritical way. He makes rebellion of proper form an art. He is the mad genius that drives me.

My stories lack maturity. But my thoughts don’t. Translating my expression into narrative form is my weakness. Perhaps what I’m missing is a message.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

What in Fitzgerald’s life made him think of something so profound?

I’m not digging deep enough inside myself to find the burning questions. My life has not been void; the questions are in me somewhere. As a child wrapped up in a world of mystery, I have much to draw from.

The form and content are everything, and I’ll find them. Or maybe it’s the message that matters most. Whatever the case, I need to read those books.

An Infinite Existence

Their new home was a time capsule buried under dust.

Thick, expensive drapes weighed down by time and dust covered the windows. A chandelier with three working bulbs lit the entrance dimly, exposing abandoned webs that drooped between the ceiling and walls. The air was stale with a hint of perfume

They opened the curtains, uncovering beautiful, ornate windows that lit a once opulent room of velvet arm chairs and wooden furniture lined in gold. The walls were wooden with decorative molding, and on one of them hung a tapestry with naked women lounging under a tree. They found formal dresses and tuxedos hanging in the armoire and a treasure of pearls and gems strung on golden strings in a jewelry box on the vanity. Next to the box was a crystal bottle.

.

She stood nervously in front of the mirror, wearing an exquisite gown. Diamonds adorned her neck against the perfume from the crystal bottle, the same perfume that lingered in the entrance the day they first stepped foot in the house. She was stunning, not like she had ever seen herself. She looked different, felt different. She was different.

He waited for her at the bottom of the stairs, wearing a tuxedo from the armoire. His heart leaped nearly out of his chest when she stepped onto the balcony and looked down at him. The moment was magical, familiar even.

The couple dined and got tipsy on expensive wine. They then walked into the big empty room where a phonograph waited. The needle lay on the record gently, anxiously, untouched. 

A sweet waltz crackled from the horn and echoed throughout the ballroom while they danced, entranced. Other couples danced around them, seen faintly at first but appearing more real with every step. And as the needle reached the last curve of the groove on the record, the couples, all of them, faded away as though into oblivion. 

And the house was once again empty, gathering dust. 

But the perfume lingered.

Broken

Sitting up was especially hard. Like gravity times a thousand held him down. So he lay there, staring up through the long long tunnel into the blue sky. He watched clouds drift by. Then night came and the stars appeared. He watched those drift by too. Every day the same, every night the same. But sometimes the moon would pass overhead. He felt the loneliest on those nights. And sometimes the rain fell, which made him cry. But he never moved. Like a rock, the weight in his chest smooshed him down. It hurt.

A leaf floated down the well one autumn day and landed next to him. The leaf and he lay side by side, looking up into the sky. And days passed by, stars too, and he was comforted. When the moon passed over, he wasn’t sad. He shared its light with the leaf by his side.

Then a wind came through and lifted the leaf and him to the surface. He was free of his dungeon but so was the leaf. And off it flew, that leaf, and with it the wind. And when the wind went away, he fell back into the well and shattered into a thousand pieces. And the moon passed over. And the rain fell. And he was so broken that he couldn’t feel the loneliness anymore. He couldn’t feel anything anymore. So he lay at the bottom of the well, broken and numb, with not so much as a tear. He was all out of tears. All out of hope. And with nothing left to do or feel, he closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Dear Stella,

I wandered down blocks of streets for I don’t know how long and watched the ground pass by my feet. When I looked up, I didn’t recognized a single building, not even a street sign. I swear I thought that I had walked to another town entirely. But what I didn’t see right away, what I should have recognized immediately, is that I was at my front door. Not my front door now—I live in an old apartment building with a radiator that chooses at whim when to not let me freeze to death—but the door of the warm home we shared long ago when you still thought I was good at something, so good in fact that you stayed with me all those 26 years. You left when you realized that I never was any good, not skill-wise nor other-wise. You loved me for who I almost was, and I almost loved you back. And all that almost lovin’ was just enough to make us believe that we were happy. And maybe we were.

You weren’t easy on the eyes, Stella, but you could stir a man’s soul. I didn’t care whether you had one head or three, least of all whether you were good at anything. You were a warm body on a cold night, a person who wanted to be with someone important. I was a sorry excuse for a writer, but your blind faith—your ignorance—gave me hope.

I’m home now from my long walk, and I’m typing, tossing and retyping a letter. This letter. This letter to you, Stella, or to me, or to some other cad out there in the world who is amused by my attempt at a thank you. I want to invite you to the book signing, but I can’t decide whether doing so is in poor taste. Surely you’ve seen the window displays in the bookstores with my face and name painted, written, etched, into every corner and fold of fabric in the window cases. The bookstore on 29th has a sign out front advertising the event this Saturday. Maybe you’ve seen it. Maybe you’ll show up. The book is about you, after all, and how you loved and left me. I changed our names to protect our innocence, to portray our life together as a work of fiction by exposing it for what it was. But I left out the most important part of our story; it’s the part that came after us—the part I have reserved for this letter to you. And here it is: Dear Stella, had it not been for your loss of faith in me, I would have never amounted to a hill of beans.

Yellow

What do you mean, you don’t see September?

I mean yellow is April, or it’s June. Depends on the hue.

And it’s an hour?

From 4 to 5 o’clock every afternoon.

It’s a little smokey in here.

You think?

I don’t know, man. That’s some crazy shit. Like, I can’t even think where September is on the map right now, let alone what the fuck color it is.

You’re all fucking idiots. A) September isn’t an hour, it’s a year—last year—and B) it’s yellow.

Knock knock.

Did you invite someone?

Nah, you?

Nuh-uh.

You gonna get it?

No.

Knock knock.

Who you think it is?

Pizza guy.

No, man, we ate that an hour ago.

Well fuck if I know.

Knock knock.

You gonna get it?

Yeah, I guess.

(The door opens. A blue man stands in the doorway.)

Can I help you?

No, you’ve done enough already.

(The man yanks him out of the apartment and slams the door.)

Holy shit!

(His voice squeaks as he stashes the pipe behind the lamp.) What just happened?

Well open the door and look, dipshits! (He gets up and opens the door, looks around outside, then steps back in the apartment and shuts the door.) No one’s there. (He sits back down,)

Should we call someone?

I say we go find him.

No way, man. I’m not going near that fucking door.

Idiots. (He says to himself as he gets up and walks to the kitchen.)

Knock knock.

Shhh! Fuck! (He whispers.)

Knock knock. (Louder.)

I’ll get it, big babies. Someone’s playing a joke. (He walks from the kitchen to the door and turns the knob.)

(A blue man stands in the doorway, grabs him by the shoulder, then pulls him out and slams the door.)

(Crying.) Nu-uh! (He runs to the bedroom and opens the door. A blue man stands in the doorway, grabs his arm, yanks him in, then locks the door.)

I told those motherfuckers it wasn’t yellow. (He waves off the smoke and reaches for the pipe.)

a moment

Her head tilts back—a swan setting its eyes on the sun and giving in to the weight of its own neck. She is putty, malleable body and soul, and he knows how to shape her every curve.

~ ~ ~ ~

Her eyes open suddenly to the sound of prudence, and she shakes off the fantasy as her heart disappears inside itself.