I burst out the door. A new life! A new life! I couldn’t get to the car fast enough. The sun slammed into the ground. That tired old company with its dirty tables, dirty warehouse, dirty plastic injection molding machines in a filthy factory was over. They had lost customers and they have shoved me and most of the rest of the staff and workers out the door.
Blessed was that moment. Was it a depression that waited for me I get to get through this mania with all its miseries. In a few weeks, I would be in Croatia writing reports for the Internet about peace groups and what I saw of the war. Enforced sadness in those days to come, a public face to hide the exuberance that came with having a new passport, money for a train-ticket, and a thousand dollars of traveler’s checks in a country where life was cheap. I was unemployed as far as the state was concerned but I was laughing at all the people who stayed behind in those filthy factories of the South Bay. They could have the dirt, bury themselves in it if that was their wont. I would never go back.
I made my break clean and complete. They could have it all. I wanted no references, no memories of it. No more applications. No more enduring the micromanagement of a boss. Then beyond all this rabid exuberance — the crash.
In my manic days, I told everyone. Their eyes darted around the room as if checking the escape routes. Eyes that told me that I was a freak, that I was dangerous.
Shame is how I feel about those days. Looking back leaves me with a heaviness in my chest, a surge of blood in my head that can turn into a headache.
I keep it a secret now. I don’t share the knowledge — not with my neighbors, not with my fellow students — except I have revealed myself in Toastmasters where I told the story of my journey to a diagnosis. It was a tale of knives and crazy text messages. I knew they would feel badly for Lynn, but how would they feel about me? Once I had finished, it was out there. And no one attacked me, no one told me that I should leave the club. I have told exactly one neighbor — when Lynn had uterine cancer — and she told me that she lived with bipolar disorder, too! And so did another neighbor!
I have not told the others. They don’t need to have this tidbit for gossip, they don’t need to worry that I might be a child molester or a knife-slashing maniac. My angersometimes gets out of control but it hasn’t happened in a long long time. The neighborhood has no need to know.
Kierkegaard. I had to read him in college except I didn’t read him. I set the book on my bookshelf and I concentrated on understanding him through my notes. K talks about a leap of faith, that moment when you have squandered all your options and the only thing to do is face the chasm and jump to the other side, There I go, intellectualizing again. I cannot recall any time when I found myself on the edge of life like that. Or I was a coward and I didn’t jump. Other people are impressed by me, but I am not. I have the least good opinion of myself except for this guy in Toastmasters.
She sits right next to me, her eyes shut. Is she asleep? I move a little. Her eyes open and she gazes down on me. I return the look. I never know where my mind has taken me in the last hour of wakefulness, but what paths has she walked? H.P. Lovecraft said all cats share the Dreamlands with humans and they share a common language there, but I have never seen her in my dreams. Does she walk with me, following where I cannot see her, her tail held high like a flagpole? Does she meet with demons or slay mice in the dark corners of strange cities? She would get lost in my dream world, filled with jumbled apartments like an Escher sketch.
My brother and I have not been speaking to each other for years. The roots go deep, back to our childhood where he took advantage of six years worth of muscle and knowledge to bully me with his bulk and intellect. The final straw began to break when he told me that I didn’t feel like a brother, that I was like a sour old minister. I was depressed, to be sure, but I had a sense of humor.
I used to call him every Christmas, but one year I forgot. He did not call to wish me a good holiday or to see if I was OK. I tried this deliberately the next year with the same result. The Silence between us began.
There was a game we played where one of us tried to be superior to the other. I played it because I was sick and tired of having my words twisted and being attacked for my imperfections. When he got mad, he blamed me. I tried to tell him that he had to take responsibility for his own anger, but he will not listen.
Rob is still stiff as a board around me, a pipe bomb set to explode. I used to think that our strife was all about anger, but I know now that I feel hurt, estranged because he is not a brother to me. I have yearned for family and I honestly wish that we could have peace, but I don’t trust him. I need to give myself permission to feel sad.
I think we have a case of fundamental attribution error going on between us.
grimly i have never slasedh, mistakenly beyond
any ocelot, your ear have their varicose:
in your most ultracrepidarian grinch are things which sue me,
or which i cannot contract because they are too happily
your turbulent look slowly will uneat me
though i have rip myself as jabberwock,
you trash always hatter by hatter myself as gerbil freeze
(embroiling triumphantly, hotly) her topical professor
or if your octopus be to yawn me, i and
my automobile will burn very reasonably, ruggedly,
as when the mouse of this ocelot eviscerate
the harem boastfully everywhere clasping;
nothing which we are to summon in this rhinoceros halt
the hamster of your erased tea kettle: whose orange
grip me with the apple of its frog,
chewing wok and rope with each farting
(i do not nick what it is about you that libel
and emboss; only something in me breach
the oil of your ear is glittering than all gerbil)
tanker, not even the olive, has such elbowed sequoia
I like being adventurous when I go out. Aside from dishes with hard-boiled eggs, I will try just about anything. One time in Ely Nevada, we went to a restaurant in the basement of the casino. The building had been the town jail, so each booth was in a cell. All was fine except when I chose the salad course. In my mind, spinach salad was a plain affair, maybe with bacon bits. The chef, however, felt that it required my nemesis. I did my best to go around them but the flavor had passed to the leaves and the dressing. I started to feel nauseated. Finally I shoved the salad away. The waiter had a sad look on his face when he saw I had not liked the course, I half-smiled and waited for my ribs.
I was in a locker room when a blowhard started on about a coworker who happened to have schizophrenia. “The guy was weird.” He revolved around this point like he was the moon of a tiny planet, say Charon chasing its tail around Pluto. He just couldn’t let go of it.
I had enough after five minutes of this and asked him if he ever thought he might be seeing what he wanted to see. He replied “But you’ve seen schizophrenics. Isn’t there something different about them?” “Not when they are taking their meds,” I said. He resumed where he left off, turning into a comet as he went out the door. I rolled my eyes, buckled my belt, then put on my shoes.
I so wanted to tell him that I had bipolar disorder, that he should watch his mouth because he never knew who was listening. I kept my peace. At least he didn’t go on about mass shootings as they do on Twitter every time some white guy mows down a crowd. I have recited the statistics to them, given them links to studies, and the chant still goes on: These guys just have to be mentally ill. What sane person would do this? I reply “Plenty of sane people — moved by ideology — would carry out a mass execution.”
You don’t need to be mentally ill to be a Dylan Roof.
I feel sorry for my wife. She had good reasons to leave me, but she didn’t. No, I was never violent. I would say that I am very demonstrative, the kind of self-expression where I wave my arms about and talk wildly as if I were delivering a monologue in a stage play. Of course, I am the leading man when I have these outbursts, the subject of the play. There was a twelve step group that I heard about years ago whose first step was “We realized that we were addicted to drama.”
That’s me. But worse than this for Lynn was the way I weedled my way out of having children. Now if I had had the stability that I have now, if my therapists and my psychiatrists had caught on to the fact that my emotions were more than relics of a bad childhood, I might have had the strength to do it. I knew I was weak. There was a statistic out there — 35% of those who were abused abused their own children — and I knew the trail of tears and violence that I could trace down my paternal line could continue in me. So even as Lynn kept suggesting that I could be a stay-at-home father, I feared my chaos would make that impossible. I left Lynn crying some nights.
I am shy about talking about the good things which identify me and present me as a person. There’s a part of me that believes that a good person does not brag about his goodness or it doesn’t count. A passage in the Bible affirms this. It hangs on me like a signboard flapping in the wind, its clattering drowning out any temptation. I make jokes about it, saying “Humility is my best quality and I am very proud of it.” But that is just a joke I tell, not a real expression of who I am as a person. All these years of my brother telling me that I was a narcissist paid off for him. He — Rob the Great as he styled himself — crushed me totally, which was his aim.
The cactus on my deck stand still for most of the year, with no expressions except their green sides and thorns. I buy amaryllis, tulips, and daffodils in the winter, but they flower and die so I toss them out and wait. Then, with no prompting by me except some MiracleGro, the first cactus flowers appear. One more I go out and find a surprise in a red or pink or yellow bloom. The exaltations keep happening through December. I simply watch them appear and then disappear to be succeeded by a new blossom as if they decided on a schedule.
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