Visiting Hours

28 Sep
"Rotten Bananas"

“Rotten Bananas”

The first thing I noticed, whole minutes later, was the glass on the floor of the kitchen.

At first I assumed it was ice, that I’d spilled a drink the night before, perhaps the final drink of the night — perhaps, as I routinely and comically continue to think, the final drink I might ever take.

But then, wouldn’t the ice have melted by now? I peeled back the curtain and saw a baseball-sized hole in the window of my kitchen door. Right above the deadbolt. Which was presently unlocked.

"Birthday Snail"

“Birthday Snail”

*  *  *

The next few hours are kind of a blur. I remember screaming various and increasingly creative expletives into a pillow. I remember a burglary detective fruitlessly dusting for prints while nimbly deducing that I had, in all likelihood, been robbed by “some tweaker.”

I remember sleeping with a baseball bat under my bed for several weeks. I remember obsessing over the idea that someone would break into my apartment while I slept and set me on fire. I remember dusting off my old Smith Corona typewriter and realizing it was out of ribbon and the “S” button stuck and thinking, “Fuck it, I’ll just be a painter.”

"Tolstoy the Clown"

“Tolstoy the Clown”

*  *  *

I started this blog in October of 2012 — a year ago and some change. It was a naked and cynical attempt to build an online following in advance of what was sure to be a massive book deal. I had just signed on with my agent.

In the interim between starting this blog and cashiering this theoretical, massively lucrative book contract, I did things. Accomplished some things. People things. I read books, went swimming. I checked out that coffee shop in Polish Hill I’d been promising to check out. I got screwed. I found a job where I think I am liked, or at least tolerated, by my coworkers; I made a few friends and managed not to fuck up my life with a DUI or an unwanted pregnancy; I ate organic food and shopped for seeds at the farmers market and tended my weeds and pretended to not let things bother me; and I guess you could call that happiness.

And yet, I knew something was off-kilter in my life; some cultural madness was going on that I should not be a part of; and this spiritual malaise seemed to stem from the fact that my laptop had become my primary window to the world, and this may not have been an altogether healthful thing.

"cow & crows"

“cow & crows”

*  *  *

Louis C.K. did this thing on Conan recently, in which he talks about the “toxic” effect smartphones have on children. He suggests that the emotional anonymity of the text message and tweet — and the ensuing inability to interface with the world in any meaningful way — has robbed our children of “empathy.”

He goes on to describe how he broke down in tears in his car after hearing Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland” on the radio. He talks about resisting the urge to “check” his phone, and simply allowing the “sadness” to “visit” upon him.

He refers to this feeling of acute, profound sadness as “a trip” and “poetry.”

"Ladybug"

“Ladybug”

*  *  *

Two days ago and some change, a friend of mine — one of only two true geniuses I have ever met — was hit by a train. He had just been released from a halfway house, and there’s some debate as to whether the train hit him or rather more accurately he threw himself in its crosshairs.

His father was at the airport, on his way to Myrtle Beach, when he got the phone call. There’d been an accident, his son might not make it through the night. I learned about it on the news. Two “homeless men” had wandered onto the train tracks. The men were “heavily intoxicated.” As if that needed explaining.

To say my friend is fucked up is a bit like saying the Challenger mission went just a little bit bad. He has massive left-sided trauma, bilateral lung contusions, pulverized legs, a brain bleed. This morning he underwent a craniotomy and tracheostomy. He still does not respond to painful stimuli, but doctors are “hopeful” he will recover neurologically. In any case, he will be having his ass wiped for him for at least the next 3 months. That is if he’s lucky.

I am no stranger to death. Not only have I seen people die; I have assisted in the process. I recognize and accept his grim prognosis. Still, I’m hopeful that he will pull through, that he starts squeezing hands and wiggling toes. I look at his broken, baggy body, and I know that he is in there. I can sense it, like the presence of a just-vacated criminal in an apartment that is no longer safe. But can you ever really know?

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One Response to “Visiting Hours”

  1. Sharon Stephenson October 2, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Thank you for the gift of this piece. Gorgeous.

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