Perpetual dusk pushes down. I feel it in the back of my eyes and the tightness between my shoulder blades. Walking, eyes down, downtown streets. So few people, so badly put together. Track pants and jump suits. December 19. Where have all the well-dressed people gone? Where they are wanted. I am sure.
It’s day two. Also four weeks. They strongly advocated taking the pills. I’ve taken anti-depressants before. They liposuction out the colours of your life and you are left to bask in grey. So far this has not happened. But the muted gnawing of my trademarked nihilistic sadness has been distracting me. It’s the force—or presence—that cannot, will not be silenced. It’s only been four weeks.
I’m afraid to drink. I want the pills to do their job so I can do mine, which is to stop smoking period. If anything else positive comes about as a result of this course of medication, well and good, but please, please don’t ask me to have a good time. It’s simply not on the agenda.
Why hasn’t the government promoted a ‘walk on the right’ campaign to alleviate some of the pedestrian puerility that makes navigating city sidewalks next to impossible? Whose responsibility is it? To educate people. Isn’t it to their benefit? Streamlined walking. Yes, it is. Imagine if people drove the way some people walk. Apparently there are pedestrian traffic managers in Manhattan. Let’s not get started.
I need a pressure relief valve. Cigarettes aren’t it. I do know that, thank you very much. And it’s only day two. I’m not craving, although I did have a bit of a knee-jerk reaction when I saw people marching down the sidewalk (yes, on the right hand side…) with lit cigarettes. It’s like after a lengthy relationship of convenience ends and you find yourself walking down that person’s street toward their house. It slowly wells up in you where you are and— Wait a minute. Why…? Why am I here? I’m not supposed to be here.
Perhaps I looked longingly at the thin white cylinder excreting smoke, felt a little tug or push, I don’t know if it spoke to me, inside, or not. Smoke! I don’t know. The not-young person in me smiled knowingly. That’s right. You can’t do that anymore. Ha! And you should be ashamed for wanting to.
I would like to say that I can’t be bothered with shame. It’s too heavy and my shoulders are weak. I have fashioned a personality out of avoiding revealing my true thoughts and feelings—except for when they slip out of my tight grip and spew out, covering anyone nearby with ick and me with shame. Back to shame. Always back to shame. Shame that I should have less control but do not, that I should know and do better although I do not, and shame that what I do or say is, quite simply, unacceptable and I, therefore, am unacceptable, which should not come as a surprise because… Those items, those integral inner truths have been relegated to the safety of the written word and the printed page. The messages I received when I was young (and not so young) were that it was of utmost importance for me to hide my true self. But after decades, this tactic has left me bereft. Being in the negative is very untidy. It casts a heavy, leaden inner weight. Very hard to breathe and walk upright and establish eye contact and speak directly to people. Perhaps smoking is not the only thing I am quitting. Good. (I want to replace that period with a question mark.)
I rent movies and stop at the dollar store to search for environmentally-friendly dog pee pad substitutes. What I leave with are a dozen microfibre kitchen towels. [The pee pads are made of plastic and at the rate my dog lets loose (these days, about every 35-45 minutes) I’m racking up too much bad environmental karma.] It’s astounding how much junk food is piled up to the left and right of the line-up to the cashiers desks. Anybody ever hear of fruit? The guy in front of me buys a single, solitary chocolate bar of the average fit-in-your-palm size. He asks the cashier for a bag. She takes the chocolate bar and places it in an enormous plastic bag. Nothing… Nothing makes sense to me anymore. Nothing.
So as I walk home, a mishmash of thoughts and almost-feelings, thinking that I what I really need is to communicate, but it’s countered by the almost-feeling that such a thing just might kill me. (Because of who and how I am, ‘communicate’ does not mean an actual conversation with another actual person. It means sitting down and writing.) I plan it out as I walk (on the right). It will be obtuse, dark, with slits of humour and perhaps too much personal information. It will be the excavation of my state of mind. Perhaps if I get it down I will get it out.
I open the door to my apartment and there is that (unfortunately) familiar smell. The dog has let go. He has no problem letting go. Maybe there is a lesson here. I ponder it as I wad the drenched baby blue plastic pee pad into the garbage, douse the floor (covered with no less than two layers of protective coverings; one vinyl, one rubber) with vinegar. And the smell of urine and vinegar and Pine Sol and, occasionally, shit. I don’t mind the mess, but I do. I don’t mind the work, the smell, the changes it has forced upon my place of residence… But I do. Maybe this has something to do with love.
Because of love you are capable of overlooking the things that irk you and make you gnash your hands together and question your sanity and reasons for staying and around and around it goes in circles. But, detached from sentimentality, there is the basic fact that because you endure it and your love endures and is possibly strengthened, you are both more and less. Or less and more. Less capable and also more capable. It’s not equal. There is no balance. You recognize this strange duality as such, but it’s a blip. More importantly, you want the object of your love (in this instance, my dog) to know that nothing, absolutely nothing could diminish your love for them. Not all the poop and piss in the world, getting in between the cracks of your parquet wooden floors and forever lingering in your nostrils and memory… could make you feel any less love for them.
You know it. And if you know it, surely he knows it too.
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