top of page

Nightmare on Emma Street

Sunday 9/15/19

It's after eight in the morning. I woke up very late--quarter past seven. Shaving now. I have to shave in segments because I only shave once a week. The electric razor has dull blades, I don't have a cleaning cartridge for it, and it takes a while to shave off all of the beard growth. I'm going to workout in a bit. I have been physically lazy because it is hard to do anything given this situation. The only thing that is not diminished, or eradicated, is the writing and the amount of it I do. Yesterday I was up at six and working. John is offering to come here for a week in October and help me make this apartment livable again, but I don't know how I can spare a week when I have two books that are due in the next two to three months. Along with whatever else I will have to try and grind away on for pennies. I had a productive conversation with John yesterday which I will go into later. But as I arose for work yesterday morning, a Saturday, tried not to trip in here, I thought about what it must be like to live in a place that is airy and clean, to wake up in a nice, big bed, and lie there, relaxing on a Saturday morning, knowing you've worked so hard in the week and deserve it, having comforts, everything organized. I work better than anyone, I work harder, my work offers more, but it seems like almost everyone has that Saturday scenario but me. It seems like a hopeless dream that I might.

I was going to workout yesterday morning, but a little buddy of mine--who was to play various roles in my day--was already stirring upstairs. This would be one Emma Perez. Her mother was annoyed at her. So Emma wanted to leave the house. When I visit them Susan makes jokes about their apartment, like it is lowly and slovenly, but compared to how I live, it's like something out of Downton Abbey. In between things I will sometimes think about my plan to eventually be out of here as a place in which I live, gut this apartment, buy the apartment on the other side of closet wall, knock the wall down, and use this place as my Boston office. A kind of colinfleminglit Enterprises. I try to be patient. I would like to come into the city from my house in Rockport or one on Cape Cod and tell Emma I am in town and see if she is available to have dinner. John had said to me that I am making memories for her that she will always have, which sounds a little like two people will not know each other in the future, but then I thought about it and it really doesn't, he was saying something different. I want to be able to say in twenty years, "remember that time we took Benny to the dog park and such and such" and for her to see me successful. "That guy changing the world, that everyone knows about? We're tight, man. We used to hang on the stairs in the hall. I was the first person to read 'Fitty.'" And such and such.

I am not effective at saying no to Emma. In a way this doesn't make sense, because if you tell her you have to do something, she is completely unperturbed by this and encourages you to do it. Then again, you might start out doing one thing with her, just a quick thing to do on your way to something else, and then she wants you to do more. I guess that is a kids thing. She wanted to go to, I thought, go to Starbucks, so I figured I would take her there, down a triple espresso, send her on her way, go for my run, but as we are going down the stairs she says she is very hungry and wants to get something to eat at Cafe Dello Sport and can I get it for her and she will pay me back. I don't doubt the latter. Emma is a person of her word. One time she owed me T money and it a couple weeks later there was a Dixie cup outside my door with quarters in it she had presumably found to reimburse me. I hope, at some point, to just be able to get her anything she wants or needs, and I also hope that people who know my work and know me would believe in me enough to see the most roseate financial future looming, and I try to think that day can come to pass. I didn't have enough money on me--I was in my workout clothes, too--so I ran back upstairs and we went to the cafe and I had a black coffee and she had cheesecake gelato--at ten in the morning--and a hot chocolate.

I asked why her mother was annoyed at her and she said she wasn't really, she was stressed out about the dog's examination on Wednesday. There is a lot of anxiety in the family. Biologically. Of course, I have a lot of anxiety and breakdown and quite clearly horrible physical reactions to things right now, but that is after being beaten down, pounded, brutalized, every day for the bulk of a decade. So I would not say that I have anxiety, though I now have panic attacks most days in which I cannot breathe, my heart rate gets up to 200 beats per minute with me just sitting there, I weep violently violent every day, vomit often, and I pass out several times a week. Can't face the world, people, email. Can't function at all, really. But I also know that after a week of this, someone else would have been dead, the second strongest person out there. And I keep going. You have to realize that when I say I want to know Emma in twenty years I also think about what will happen with her if she learns I am dead some morning. This just has to work. It has to work soon. One of the conditions for the dog remaining in the building is he has to pass this discipline test. He can retake it. He'll be fine. Just make take a time or two. But I understand that Susan is someone who would get max stressed about this. Or maybe it was something else. I don't know. I am not there.

At Dello Sport, Emma was telling me about how she was in art class and she answered a question that no one else in the class knew the answer to, and the teacher was shocked that she did. It was one of those questions someone asks where they think no one will know the answer, and then they answer it themselves and roll into a lesson. The question was about the space between lines and outer portions in art and what that is called. Emma's hand shoots up and she says "negative space," which she knew because it's a theme throughout "(field watcher)", one of the new stories I have composed, a work I am increasingly enamored with, which I find reckoningly stunning. Scope, power, emotional intensity, design, and ideas it traverses, subjects it binds. The intertwining. The power of moving from what could be symbol but is not symbol--it's too alive--to that which is not symbol which is alive, so that all is what it is, and also more, encompassing more, while packing so much of its own definitive identity, is unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime of reading, or experiencing many forms of art. She also told me about how she was embarrassed when she was at the salon and her mom, in front of everyone, leaned in and said how pretty she was. I have seen how Susan looks at Emma. It reminds me of how my mother would sometimes look at me when I was a child, and even a few times when I was an adult. I said that she just loves you so much, but, of course, Emma wasn't really embarrassed, or it's that kind of embarrassment that you still want to have. You'd be sad if it was gone, or there was not opportunity for it.

We talked about A Nightmare on Elm Street, which Emma was all gung-ho about seeing at the Brattle at 9:30 that night. She is crazed for horror films, and probably first saw this one when she was like five. That was our big plan. I kept saying, will you be able to stay up, and for days she reassured me that she could not wait. We left the cafe and spent a quarter of an hour in North Square, looking at the new copper statuary that has been installed there, which is quite lovely. I will take some photos. By then it was obvious I was not going to be able to workout, and she wanted me to help her skateboard--in other words, hold her hand so she didn't wreck--so I said I would shower, she waited in the hall, then we did that. She is getting better at the skateboarding. We were outside of the building, something about medicine came up--pertaining to a news story--and I said, speaking of which, are you taking your medicine? She said she had not been because she was out. She takes Prozac, and it is quite plain that she needs to take it and it is not great if she misses a day. It affects her. I asked how long had it been, she said three days. She was at school and could not fill the prescription. Of course she could have, but she doesn't plan. She doesn't look in the phial on a Monday, see that she has three tablets left, but won't be able to get down the street--it's two blocks away, the place to fill this--at the end of the week, so she should take care of it now. This is the smartest person I've known, the most gifted, and she lacks this mental discipline. I say, okay, what do we need to do to get that taken care of right now? She needs her mom's credit card, but she doesn't want to go upstairs, I guess because she thinks her mom is annoyed at her, I say I will go up and get it you lazy clod, she changes her mind, goes herself, we walk down the street two blocks, the health center closed twenty-four minutes before our arrival. So that is going to mean at least six days sans meds. Can't be doing that.

It's still the morning at this point, and she's going to go upstairs to lay down, and I am off to Starbucks to work. Because of course I'm going to work all day, until 8:30, which is when we are going to leave for Cambridge and the film. I see that she has exchanged a few texts with my buddy John on a group text, because she teases him and of course he finds her fascinating because John has known me for more than twenty years and if I find someone fascinating he knows how almost impossible that is to process, given where I am coming from and my standards of what impressive means, so they have gotten to know each other a little bit from a distance, which is doable because both of them convey their personalities even in text. I see that she said something to him at like quarter past eight, so I jump on and ask if she is almost ready to go. Silence. We get to half past eight, and I'm in the hall waiting for her, listening to Kimball interview Don Most on Downtown, and still no Emma. This kid. Ten minutes go by. I text Susan asking if she knows where the child is. No answer. Now I'm about to miss the film. I don't want to go upstairs and knock, but I figure maybe she's in there watching something in the dark with the volume up, and you do hear the TV in the hall, so I knock, and now I have disturbed Emma's dad, who works hard delivering the mail everyday and I am sure does no want to see me or anyone at his door on a Saturday night. After he opened it, Benny, of course, seizing his moment, escapes. I go to round him up, while Emma's dad looks in on her, and when he returns I handed him Ben and he said she was asleep.

I go back downstairs, it's going to be tight if I can get to the Brattle on time, and I think, this freaking kid. But, that's not like Emma at all. That is just not how she behaves. She would not have a problem telling me she couldn't go or changed her mind or was feeling too down--because she has done that before, and obviously there is no problem, I just want her to be well, or if she has something cool she wants to do with her friends, I want her to do that instead, because, well, she should be with them, and we are tight and will see each other later, whenever. I feel like we are each a constant. When someone is a constant for you, the exact moment matters less. You always ultimately come around to your moments, and they are rarefied, but also in part because they are products of that constancy. You know you're always going to feel the same way about that person and they will about you, and it's nice not to stress that, because I think we stress that in almost all of our relationships, even good ones. But not to receive a text? Not cool. What I imagine is the reason is the lack of the medicine. If I see her later today, I am going to say something about mental discipline. I told her once--well, several times--that though there might be a perceived--and an actual--power dynamic and discrepancy with us, that she helps me, it's not just me helping her. I wanted her to know that. Because it is important and it is true, and I want her to see her strengths, and understand the power she has to impact lives, even mine, though I register--for I seem to be this to everyone who has ever known me--as this unreachable power beyond any given person. The power dynamic and discrepancy is usually present in all of my relationships, because no matter my level of suffering, people think I am super-human and they default to putting me in a leadership position, even as I have days in which that day could well be the day I end my life, because who could deal with this? And even I cannot. That's why I say it must change soon. Then of course Emma is a little kid--well, young woman, let us say, but still a kid--and adults, to some degree, have the power in relationships with kids. I say to some degree here, because Emma is vastly more intelligent and certainly wiser than almost all adults she meets. She behaves more maturely, too, but not this time.

Ironically, I just completed an essay this past week in which mental discipline was a theme. Emma has not seen it. I usually don't give her copies of my nonfiction. I print out the fiction for her. I inscribe each printout, so she will have that someday, this box of unsurpassed works of art, printed out the day they were completed, with a note just for her. But in this essay, I write about how I would stay in at recess, and not go to lunch, sitting in a room with my teacher and working on my writing. At Dello Sport, when I asked Emma whether she had any homework over the weekend, she said she did it already when she skipped lunch and sat in her English classroom with the teacher who had asked her if she was okay when she saw Emma crying which was on account of her having read "(field watcher)". That's mental discipline. So it's not like she can't do it. I should have just gone to the film when I didn't hear from her, but I get concerned. It's screening again tonight, but again at 9:30, and my Guggenheim application is due tomorrow and I have so much to try and drag myself through this week. I turn forty-four on Tuesday. I had to take the birthday info off of my Facebook page when I was on there because it became too depressing to see how 421 people would wish someone else a happy birthday, and two people would say that to me. I get not remembering days. John probably doesn't know my birthday. But it was the fact that people would see the day and think, "I hate that guy"--not because of anything I did to them--or "I am scared of that guy," not because I am not nice. I feel like my mind is the worst thing to ever happen to me. Isn't that awful? I posses a mind like no one has ever had, and I feel like it is the worst thing in the world to have it. Then again, if this works out, if it ever, for God's sake, works out, having it really would have been the best thing ever. But right now--yeah, no. So I didn't want people to know anymore. I'll discuss the last three stories in Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls on the radio on Tuesday, the third and final segment on the book, unless I get out of this prison, this tomb, this hell, and the public gets to learn about it and it become a bestseller and then we could discuss it again.


bottom of page