There began to be a glimmer of daylight outside when I walked to the store. I saw a driver do the most obnoxious thing coming out of the parking lot: honked at the car ahead of him and then swerved around it into the turn lane to pass it altogether. I’m beginning to think the little market is a guy place, a place for bachelors, blue collar working joes. You don’t see many women in there anymore, and sometimes the vibe is not very friendly— as opposed to the stores on River Road. Also I haven’t seen Patty in many months, who used to shop at the market twice a week when Belinda was the owner. She had a disability like me. Maybe she goes to the store off of N Park; but I haven’t seen her at the agency either. I can’t put my finger on the atmosphere of the market now. It doesn’t feel warm and friendly like it used to; it’s more impersonal and the people are kind of greedy and aggressive.
Maybe my eyes are a bit bigger than they were before.
I’m sitting down by the fountain in Fifth Street Public Market. I’m alone, but it’s still nice and the weather is clear and sunny. Actually, there are other people around, shopping and just hanging out. I mind my own business just watching people and chilling out (quite literally; it’s rather chilly outside). I feel comfortable enough. At Smith Family I bought an old copy of Kierkegaard in hardcover for $20. The truth is that anything is better than staying home, being housebound all day. Some philosophers cloistered themselves in an attic and never saw anybody. Not that I’m a real philosopher. A wise person ought to be experienced in social stuff, and that’s not really me… It’s beginning to get too cold in this spot, so I’ll get up and wander around a little more. Life is very strange and alienating for a few people.
Quarter of two. Home again. On the ride back, we stopped at the big hospital to drop off two passengers. This meant a detour to Springfield before I could go home, but for $7 you can’t ask much more. What really struck me on my outing was how cold and impersonal most people were. At the bookstore, the women clerks were nicer than the guys, one of whom was almost rude to me. I browsed the shelves of the “modern classics” when a woman came in, boasting that she would be Mayor in a short time, and asked the manager for a donation. She also said she’d been homeless recently. And you know, that’s just how it is. Everybody’s invisible and fighting to be seen and heard; just to be acknowledged by others as human and alive and worthy of love. All of this goes on in broad daylight on a sunny day in Eugene Oregon. The sun, 93 million miles away from us, is friendlier than people are to each other. This is what I’ve seen.
Nine twenty five.
I walked through the foggy morning to the market where it surprised me to see Doug behind the counter. I have no idea what the situation is, and maybe it’s none of my business. I got in and out of there and didn’t say much to anyone. Again I observe how the store has become less personal and human than when Belinda owned it. Now it’s an economic enterprise, a game of numbers and quantities above all else. The customers themselves are numbers as well… On my way there and back along Maxwell Road and N. Park I went very carefully, keeping my eyes open to the traffic. I dunno anymore. Everything seems so desolate and lifeless— dead, like the Ireland of the James Joyce story. We need an infusion of humanity in our lives, but we stubbornly persist in error. We’ve made a desert of the places where we live, refusing to love each other, rendering ourselves robotic and heartless. I’ll be looking forward to Groundhog Day, which happens to be Joyce’s birthday, and the anniversary of the publication of Ulysses a hundred years ago. They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Perhaps the centennial is a test of this proverb.
Quarter of eight.
There is Todd today at ten o’clock and I have to be ready to go at nine. The clouds are salmon and ice blue in the east. I’m putting off my trip to the market until after this appointment. I grow tired of being treated like a child by the agency and the church, but I think everyone gets their share of condescension from society. And yet I think we deserve better than what we get for choices. Life ought to be more than a coloring book with the shapes all provided. The pages should be blank so you can draw the shapes yourself. Though if you reflect on it, the book of your life is really of your making anyway and not determined like the old poem by W.H. Auden, “The Unknown Citizen.” A person may even opt out of Christmas and create her own savior story. Supposedly we are dictated all these different options to live by. As if no room for creativity still remained. You could invent your own language, and from there, your own universe, and truly this is what every individual does anyway, seen theoretically… I just told my dog that I have to leave the house in twenty five minutes. Now he’s staring at me with some resentment. A text from Oregon Taxi confirms my ride this morning. Now I feel a little like the Unknown Citizen.
Nine twenty. I’m waiting in the lobby of the agency right now, feeling not quite awake. I miss my morning Snapple tea. The receptionist is not wearing a mask. No one asks questions. I don’t want to be here, and maybe in a way I’m really not.
Quarter after eleven. Well I got back home okay and then went to the convenience store like I do every morning. I could hear Aesop howling as I reached the curb. Roger was standing by his garage and told me the dog stops doing that momentarily and it doesn’t bother him, so I thanked him and moved on. At the market, Michelle had already left and Cathy helped me at the checkout counter. A strange thing happened on my way back: a woman in a red car hailed me and asked for directions to a certain “Hatton Avenue” which was supposedly near “the school.” I told her there were two schools on Howard Avenue and guided her to them, but I think she was hopelessly lost, and had incomplete information for her rendezvous. I had never heard of a place called Hatton Avenue.
Four thirty in the morning.
I wasn’t sleeping well. I got up and trimmed my beard with my electric razor to see my face again. Then I took my Vraylar for the night: just one of those things I have to do. At eight thirty I have to be ready to ride to see my hematologist. These visits are always pretty brief, but I guess they’re necessary. Better to err on the side of caution with hemochromatosis. When the store opens at six o’clock I’ll go do my daily shopping.
I didn’t like the news headlines this morning, so I trashed the email. There was one about platonic parenting that I thought was stupid and unromantic. It’s just another symptom of how people are going wrong with depersonalization and asexuality. We don’t love each other anymore, and in this way we’re going out not with a bang but a whimper. In this way we are the hollow people, yet we keep signing it into law and tacit rules, so that a real romance will be an unlawful scandal. Why are we doing this to ourselves? We’re committing suicide but we don’t believe it. If I am old fashioned, then so be it. Probably I’ll be arrested for saying so.
Quarter of six.
I had a lot more bad dreams during the night, mostly about church, but also I was worried about having enough money to pay my bills… I’m not having much fun with social media anymore, and finding true friends is getting harder to do. I feel very depressed, and I know I’m a wet blanket for people to be around. Everybody needs love, but I don’t think social media is the way to do this. Everything is getting more and more impersonal with the passing of time. Nowadays, D.H. Lawrence is regarded as a controversial figure, but when I went to school he was canonical. His writing was prophetic of what has happened since his own time. People can’t really connect with each other anymore. You could do much worse than to read his Sons and Lovers… I had another dream: I was singing along with Freddie Mercury on “My Melancholy Blues.” And a poem by John Milton occurs to me, where he says he bears the “gentle yoke” of God; and somewhere in the Bible it is said that “his yoke is light.” Now I don’t know whether I agree with that or not, but when people are going wrong, where else can you turn for friendship but inward?
Seven forty. I’m going to church today just to be around real people for a change. I told Heather I was tired of social media, and she said social media is a “bastard.” Interesting word choice, because recently I reread The Winter’s Tale with the scene of carnations and gillyflowers: nature’s bastards. If anything is artificial and illegitimate, it is cyberspace and the way we abuse it… Heather had forgotten my name and asked me to remind her. I thought that was rather odd. But you know, a lot of things are going haywire, though it could be my depression causing everything else. Probably not everything is going wrong, but my perception makes it so… The morning is cloudy and gray and not very warm. There’s still time to redeem the day.
Quarter of one. I recognize now that I was very delusional Sunday and yesterday. The devil has nothing to do with everyday life, so it was only my illness flaring up. Dealing with religious fanatics doesn’t help the situation at all.
Here I am at the cancer institute, waiting on the second floor. I don’t know how I feel right now; kind of washed out and not very awake. Definitely lonely for a friend. But I’m hopeful for the future. This year has only just started. I miss my old friends from four years ago.
Three forty. I was treated impersonally for my appointment. I waited in the exam room for 25 minutes, then the doctor spent only 2 minutes with me, and was obviously in a hurry to get out of there. Next, the scheduling desk person kept me waiting for five minutes while she jabbered on the phone. When my turn came, she didn’t want to bother the doctor for the approval on my next visit— so I stood there and forced her to do it. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Finally, in the breezeway of the building, I asked the attendant if Joann the oncology nurse still worked there. Her eyes got big and she shook her head slowly. Simultaneously my taxi showed up and it was time to go home.
Passing the marsh by the Delta Highway I saw out the window some large waterfowl, including a white crane with an S curve neck and some darker birds with huge wings. Also we drove alongside the old gravel quarry before you get to the Fred Meyer to the right of the Beltline. Observing these familiar sights, I thought of my parents and felt like the last man living on earth, and for a purpose I couldn’t fathom.