I feel like ass today.
Yesterday I drank two big glasses of cheap white wine, a pinot grigio, on an empty stomach, because I felt like I deserved it. I thought it would do something for me, something positive and expansive. Instead it merely made me drunk.
I had to work late and I wound up working through the buzz, reviewing code for an application deployment this morning. So I worked late, then woke up early, about six, and performed the deploy. Now I am sitting around staring at my computer screen monitoring the application to make sure it’s behaving correctly. If I did something stupid, students and faculty at the university I work for will start to have problems using applications. The probability that I did something stupid is higher from the drinking.
I woke up in the middle of the night, around two in the morning, and couldn’t go back to sleep. It’s been long enough since the last time I drank that I’d forgotten about this state of detox insomnia. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It felt different. My days are so same-y that sometimes it is nice to feel and experience something that I haven’t felt in a while, even if it’s lousy.
And it was lousy. Pins in my eyes. A fat, swollen tongue and a headache that shifted like a kaleidoscope, piercing in one location at one moment, then a different one in the next as it rolled around. I got up, took a couple of ibuprofen, drank some water, tried not to think about the drugs rotting my stomach, got back into bed. J didn’t budge, fast asleep. I lay on my side to reduce the chance of snoring, felt J’s warmth radiating out, tried to clear my mind.
Instead of blankness, memories came to me.
Sitting at the table of J’s parents on the day before Thanksgiving. J’s frail mother Chrisanthy who looks like a cross between J and Professor Farnsworth on Futurama. I look at Chrisanthy and wonder if that is what J will look like in thirty five years. Probably. Her dad next to us, 95 years old, slowly eating mashed potatoes off a plate. I look at the ceiling. There are a number of small black rings in sizes ranging from cigar burn to table leg. They crisscross one another as though they are linked, a multitude of Venn Diagrams. The backdrop of the ceiling itself is yellow and gray — darker than the rest of the ceiling, mottled. I wonder what could have caused this. Some kind of cooking fire? That would produce the gray but why rings? Maybe the rings came from the other side. Maybe the rings were from a leak above, a bad part of the roof, water through the drywall.
My head pulses, the icepick moving from the right hemisphere to the left. I wonder why headaches roil like this. Brains have no nerves. You can stick a nail in someone’s brain and leave it there and they wouldn’t know. Why, then, does your head hurt so much after drinking? It must be blood vessels. Nerves in the blood vessels detecting changes in pressure and inflammation.
The kitchen smelled like urine because J’s dad pees everywhere and the home help they have can’t keep up with it. It gets into the fabric. I am sitting on molecules of pee. I try to push my awareness of it down but what is left to do with my focus? I can’t talk to these people. J’s dad is deep in dementia land. Chrisanthy has Alzheimer’s and struggles to have any conversation more sophisticated than “do you want more pie?” J leaves the room for fifteen minutes to talk to an IVF doctor on the phone and I have no idea what to do with her parents. I ask her mom questions for a few minutes. Did you see your son T this morning? Did his wife come? How about your granddaughters? Are you going to Church tomorrow, is there a service? Then I give up and pretend I am interested in my food, which I am not, because I have gotten it into my head that it tastes slightly of urine, even though I know this is not true because I cooked it myself in my own home. Finally I talk about myself to fill space. This is not something I am good at, not something I am prone to do: share my life with other people. I talk about making pumpkin pie. There’s one at home right now, I said. We will bring it to R’s place. I talk about the process of making it, reciting the recipe from memory, ingredients, do this, do that, bake at that temperature for x minutes, rotate, bake more. Tinfoil over crust edges to prevent burning. I spare no detail. Why bother. I am killing time and filling space in the air. They are killing time too. We are all killing time. J’s dad moves his fork onto the plate, adjusts it so it extends sideways. Then he pushes it down, extracting a tiny cross section of mashed potatoes from the main pile. Then there’s another adjustment to the angle of the fork, a forty five degree rotation that allows it to scoop the bite of potatoes onto it. I wonder how he can be so fully in the throes of dementia but still have the skill to eat like this. Before dinner, when Jennie was in the room, he declared “Peanut!” In English instead of his native Greek. J asked if he wanted a peanut and he didn’t understand. “He doesn’t even eat peanuts,” said Chrisanthy. Mysteries of the unwell mind.
I wanted to see my mother for Thanksgiving but couldn’t. She is home with my brother, sick. I wonder if she is awake right now too, at the same time as me. She often can’t sleep.
I think about writing my brother an email telling him how upset I am with him for various things and I have to catch myself, stop the thoughts, because instead of making me tired they are raising my levels of alertness.
I think about how the vast majority of my life has been an utter waste. I am a conduit. Life flows in, life flows out. What remains inside of me? I do work, I process the life and expel the waste products of life and work through everything like a good little boy. It is a state of constant transience, I have decided, which seems contradictory, transience implying temporary nature, but what I mean is that the states constantly change but nothing is retained. I tried to, for example, recall details of last Thanksgiving and could not. So my memories from just a single year ago are already gone. This thought makes me feel as though I am merely a shell, filled with bits of this and that, things I’m not even aware of, like I’ve been force fed while anesthetized with various unknown meals, so when I go take a dump I don’t even know what’s coming out of me.
These thoughts make me wonder what the purpose of life is, which is probably not the best thing to be thinking about in the middle of night. I try to bring up a different image. I think of Thanksgiving at my friend R’s house the day after instead.
His father came, all 400 lbs of him. Hands shaking. He’s a drunk and needed a drink, I realized. R’s stepdaughter E was there but without her husband. The next day R told me that E and her husband P have an open relationship. My wife J thinks that is going to lead, in fairly short order, to a divorce. J is probably right. We went to E and P’s wedding a few years ago. It was beautiful. The thought that it is going to end soon – that it was all a lie — fills me with a new kind of melancholy. I remember the end of my relationship with S, who I was with for almost 15 years, and how broken it made me feel inside, how long it took for me to put my life back together. R had a dog, a cross between a great dane and a lab, named Ghost Boy. J and I took him for a walk and I had to hold the leash so tight around his neck that it felt as though I might be choking him. But once I did this, he stopped fighting me, relaxed, walked next to me calmly, eighty pounds of lean muscle covered by a sheet of black fur, a black ghost, if he was, in fact, a ghost at all. They just got him the Monday before thanksgiving. A foster dog. Trying him out.
Over the weekend Ghost attacked R’s wife C and that was that. They returned the dog. C left with bruises, bites did not break skin, but Ghost was super aggressive and they can’t deal with that.
My wife J predicted this would happen on the drive home from their house on Thanksgiving evening. too much dog for them. i saw the way you had to hold him on that walk. He needs someone to dominate him. and probably needs 2 hours of walking a day too, because of his size. You think they are really going to do that? They’re lazy!
I know, I said.
I know how it’s going to go, she said. Ghost will get all wound up from not being walked properly and eventually he’ll start playing a little too aggressively, bite someone, and R and C will use that as an excuse to get rid of him.
Maybe, I said.
Then R and C will post on facebook about how the dog attacked C and the comments will all be “well you gave it a shot, C’s health and safety is the most important thing!”
Definitely, I said. Does it ever make you bored knowing that you can see the future?
Yes, all the time.
All of the things that J predicted came to pass. We all say the same things. We all do the same things. We execute our programming. Ghost is a good boy until he is not a good boy, then C’s health and safety is paramount and Ghost becomes homeless. Telly and Chrisanthe are OK at home until they start shitting themselves, and then they have to go and live in hospice care for their own good. My brother M is doing all right with my mother until he starts complaining that her health issues are preventing him from getting a job, at which point I realize he’s a lying psychopath because there is no way that 10 minute check-ins a couple of times a day are stopping him from becoming employed. We are OK until we accidentally reveal a crucial detail about ourselves. A tell that shows how sick we really are inside.
It was around here that my brain finally decided it’d had enough fun torturing me and I managed a few more hours of sleep before waking up to do my early morning work for my job. More early morning work tomorrow, then again on Thursday, and again on Friday. Also Tuesday and Thursday of next week. The job sucks. I would say I can’t wait for Christmas but with Christmas comes more family stuff and I could do without it. I read an Onion article to J on Sunday. Man Getting High And Eating Taco Bell Thousands Of Miles Away From Family Having Best Thanksgiving Of Life.
I think we should take this message as advice on how to spend our own Christmas, I said to her while she was laughing. We really should do this, I’m not joking, I said. She laughed harder.
Sometimes laughing in the face of despair is all you can do.