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Wednesday 6/2/21

I was talking to someone yesterday over text and she dropped in a reference to what turned out to be the various antidepressants she was on. At first I did not know what she meant, because she used assorted abbreviations. I asked for clarification. I'll do that. If you say something to me and I don't know what it means, or I can't understand, no matter what it's about, I'll ask you to explain it to me. It's one of the ways I learn. She filled me in, and then this was interesting: she made a comment about how I was fortunate not to know suffering or pain, because if I had, I would have known right away what the abbreviations stood for.

That's quite a conclusion. And quite a lot of projection. I would not begrudge or belittle anyone for doing what they had to do for help, or seeking out what they needed medically. I don't think anything in those areas would be a negative comment upon them, either. Quite the opposite, in general.

But this is a different level of strength here. I don't think that's an obnoxious or self-serving remark, and I should also think to anyone who reads these pages that it's an obvious one. I take no prescription medicines. Additionally, as this got worse and worse, I stopped drinking. I cut out that crutch. In turn, I noticed that this made some people detest me more.

I face all of this completely on my own, alone. Someone once erroneously remarked to me that I was depressed--I had to be. Given the quality of my life. Who could live that way?

They were wrong. Depression is something of the inside. It's influenced by external factors, but the source is internal. Change the external factors, and the depressed person remains depressed. That's not my situation. Almost all of the pain here comes from external sources. On the inside, I am like a person has never been. I am strong, I am self-aware in the extreme, I have changed, grown, developed, honed all internal parts of myself. Going back to 2012, I have walked nearly 30,000 miles. Thinking. Reflecting. Do you know what that does to a person? Creating. I don't listen to music when I walk. I think. Do you know what you have to be to be able to walk 30,000 miles with nothing but your thoughts? The things I have faced. The things I have stared down. The things I've accepted.

When and if my external situation changes, I will be completely happy. Sometimes I actually worry that I might be too happy and I'll have a hard time dealing with such an extreme in the positive direction. This woman went on to tell me how her vision is worse now and her hair color changed because of these medications, and sent me these weird chat-things she wanted me to join about how monsters attack her and what not. I tried to be kind, but I also have no interest of knowing any more unstable people. I've known far too many. And my kindness has ended up hurting me. I will just move on now, or simply not engage. Plus, I knew she would quickly burn herself out on whatever she was trying to do with me, and move on to whatever was next for her in that regard, which is what happened. Godspeed and may you be well--but best do whatever you do elsewhere.

It is hard for me not to try and help people. Empathy comes too easily. I can put myself in other lives and situations. Someone else phoned me last night at half past twelve. I'm like a farmer, usually, in terms of when I go to bed. I have some nights when I'm up all night, and I may work for as many as two and a half straight days without sleep, but as a general rule, I'm asleep early and up early. Early is four. It's not six. Despite knowing this, this person, a father, who is another person now to weigh in on one of these recent works of fiction, was all shook up by this story called "Die Graduatio." Shook up as a father.

The story is about a young woman. She's in her college dorm room for the last time. It's graduation day. Her mom goes down to the car to get the camera--which she defers to on "special" occasions rather than just the cell phone--and she's alone in this dorm room with a guy named Roman. He's technically her stepfather, but she's never called him that, never referred to him this way.

There are these boxes, and on top of one of the boxes--it's moving out day--is this photo collage of the young woman's friends when she was in high school. It used to be taped to her headboard at home. Roman is a contractor, with a speciality in building decks.

I'll give you all of the information in the story. It'll be in there. But I won't spell things out. Because life does not work that way. It'll all be clear. But it will be clear from how details accrue and what those details mean when taken in the aggregate. Another reason to do this is because then certain meanings will also accrue in a natural way. Motives. Implications. That's why my stories feel massive. They feel like worlds. Totalities of human existence and humanness. I'm distilling life, but I'm giving life at its essence.

So we can learn when this young woman's father died (summer after eighth grade), and that this new man comes in, takes over, in a sense, by Christmas of that same year. Her mother is oblivious to much. She's looking after herself. She's absorbed her own brokeness and loneliness, if you will--but it's more the fear of loneliness as she perceives loneliness and how it may descend upon her. She's not a good mom. Or at least she isn't now.

Roman tries to ingratiate himself with the girl by talking about his decks, and if she's ever been at a party with some of her little girl friends--that's how he puts it that first time--and been outside on the deck, it was probably a Roman deck. The Romans were conquering people, and there is a lot of Latin backloaded into the graduation ceremony. So this is all sort of coalescing in the meaning/impact stew.

It was a one-income family, and we have the sense--again, we're not told outright--that the mom is too proud and too scared to work. That she fears it will impact her social standing or how she ought to be perceived. She's also just a very scared person. She had stability, it's gone, and she wants it back. She had Family Part I, and now she's trying to create Family Part II. She can't afford the tuition for college when the time comes. And the girl doesn't get her scholarship for other violin or volleyball. There's a line about the failure of V's. That's going to play off of something that happens vaginally. That last word, or a form of it is not used, but again, it's set up as a progression in the reader's mind. It need not be at the conscious level. There's plenty of viscerality happening there as it is.

We're let in on these thoughts that the girl had about her father. He wouldn't read to her at night in bed when she was little--she'd read to him. Because he said she had such a special way of communicating stories. And they had this rule. One rule. They wouldn't lie to each other. They'd get around or over or through whatever it was that other people might have lied about or kept back. But they would stick to their rule. So she knew he wasn't lying to her about what he said, wasn't just trying to be nice, wasn't indulging her. And she figured, in theory, that she probably had the same rule with her mother, but as she adds--or the third person narrator does kind of on her behalf, or behalf of her thoughts--they were very different people, her mom and dad.

Roman ends up having sex with her a handful of times. When she is still in that house. He's the one with the money. He's the way for her to go to school. The one glimpse we see of one of their encounters, in her bedroom--where that collage of her and her friends is taped to the headboard, the one that is later in her college dorm room, on top of the boxes on moving-out day--is as economical and gutting a sex scene as there has been in literature. Her mother has no clue. She's oblivious.

One Thanksgiving break at college, the girl comes home. She wants to drive to Cape Cod to see this baseball field where her father was a star catcher. There's a line about how she liked when he talked about that, because she wanted him to know that she was proud of him, too. Think about this. A baseball diamond. It's the last thing you'd expect here as this special thing to see. This isn't Fenway Park. All small town baseball diamonds look pretty much alike. There's not a lot to see. But she wants to see what he saw. And that baseball diamond because this totem of complete surprise, what the reader would never see coming. We get these attendant associations. We piece all of this together. And in that way we experience the connection these two had in a deeper way. A way you never would if you just said, "Erm, she and her dad were super duper close," which is how everyone else would do it.

She's driving and it's snowing hard. She's really focused on the road, squinting through the snow. It's just the two of them. We have the sensation that she had to work to make it so it was just the two of them. Had to convince her mom to go, and to leave Roman behind. She's in college, so she doesn't drive much, and that's making it harder. The mother clearly doesn't really understand the point of this excursion. She's using it as an opportunity to natter on about how much Roman has done for the daughter, why can't she try harder. She's someone who doesn't get it. It would be so easy to let this spillage happen. Of events, of truths, but the girl says nothing, she keeps driving to this baseball diamond where her father starred thirty years ago or whatever it was.

And the story ends up back in the dorm room, when the mother returns with the camera for family photos in the better light outside.

This person calling me was all a wreck as a dad. That's why they were up. They couldn't sleep after reading it. The reading scene in the bed, and the car scene. Went straight through them, and then again and again, like lightning on a loop.

This is what publishing will not let the world see because the industry hates me. Fears me. It's but one story of 400 available. As was mentioned in that letter I put up on here earlier this week, it's also remarkably only 850 words long. It's a novel in 850 words. But it's also a song. You can play a song over and over again. No one is ever like, "'Good Vibrations' is three minutes long, that makes it this lesser thing." You play it more. A story such as this is that way. You read it and can read it again, again, again, again. There's always more to get, and it feels like it always changes. Because life is that way. And so too is my art.

I just completed another story called "Side-Scrolling Games." It's about two boys playing Pitfall on Atari over a summer in the basement of one of the boy's houses. They're sticking close to home because that boys father is a Vietnam vet who is due to die. We don't know exactly what injury he sustained, but various doctors were confident in pinpointing the amount of time he had left, so presumably it's some form of gas-related ailment, affecting the lungs. He's stopped work. The doctors had given him a piece of advice, to live his life by a certain point.

Now he's sort of gone past the deadline, which wasn't a hard deadline, but a ballpark deadline. The kind when you know the Christmas coming up is the final Christmas, but whether you go in March or July, who knows. The other boy--presumably a man now--is the narrator, and he had this crush on his friend's sister. He's trying to be a good friend, but he also has a vested personal interest beyond friendship in being there all the time. Pitfall, by the way, was one of the first so-called side-scrolling games, where the screen and action moves left to right, and feels continuous.

Watching the Celtics last night--talk about a forgone conclusion--I was struck again by how easy James Harden makes it look to score. He's like, "Wheeee! Another easy drive starting from out by the three-point arc with no one coming close to me as I make another routine lay-up." He looks like someone who can score whenever he wishes. Having said that, if I were a Nets fan I would not be encouraged by this series. This Celtics team is depleted and it sucks even when not depleted and they got a game and scored a mess of points in others. Offensively, outside of Tatum, they have nothing. I'd expect Tatum and Brown to bolt first chance they get.

The Red Sox are starting to slip. Without that nine-game win streak, their season is a .500 affair. They're fast becoming what maybe they only had in them to be all along--a team that wins 81 to 85 games and finishes three, four, five out in the WC and third place in the division.


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