Lap of Fate

Quarter of ten at night.

Living in American culture hasn’t done me any favors as a person with a mental health diagnosis. Even my family rejects me, as I actually predicted in a story I wrote when I was 19 years old. Sometimes I feel like a perfect pariah, like the monster in Frankenstein, totally cut off from humanity except by the power of his rhetoric. Only his speech gives him any kind of place among humankind, kind of like my own situation. I can remember the lectures I heard on Frankenstein by Professor Pyle when I was a student. It was in the springtime, and occasionally while he was talking, a yellow jacket would fly in the open windows and dangle above his head. I sat next to a young lady named Lori who was nice looking and very smart. She worked for another professor grading papers and exams. Her plan was to join the Peace Corps after graduation and then be a teacher wherever she wanted. I had no such plans after college; I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I had a nebulous dream of being a rockstar. I guess I sort of dropped it all in the lap of fate, though I knew I didn’t want to leave school. Now I’m not sure what happened to me. But I think I knew there was something different about me. And underneath it all I still count on being catapulted to fame, however quixotic this expectation is. I don’t know where I got such a beautiful idea. 

Exile

Quarter after ten.

Life is hard. Kim’s husband started drinking again after being sober for 16 years, so a person in recovery is never really safe. Today I feel like a humbug. I wish the holiday season would all just go away. Since Sunday morning I’ve morphed back to my normal self more or less. People can be very persuasive, but only if you allow them to be… I passed Willie and his dog Rosie on the street. He’s the guy with a booth at Saturday Market, a happy old hippie. He made a comment about smiling under a mask: how can you tell when someone does that?… Michelle said she was aggravated by the customer who had just left the store. He always gives her a hard time. Then she told me that she and her husband got talked into hosting a Christmas party at their house. She was far from enthusiastic. Sometimes people only want to relax and get away from everything. It’s unfortunate that society doesn’t give us any reprieves. If you do choose to opt out, you’ll probably be alone— which may not be so bad. Though I haven’t read Frankenstein in many years, I always remember the image of the monster fleeing across the arctic wastes to go and live in utter solitude. This is kind of like life with a mental illness. 

Dodgeball / Mary Shelley

Wee hours Wednesday.

I have a rather stupid song playing in my head, called “Jenny,” a cheap imitation of “Message in a Bottle” by The Police that got airplay in 1981. Forty years ago is a very long time. I guess I was feeling sort of bitter all day yesterday because of how my doctor appointment went: just strange and awkward for some reason. And then I began to personalize the whole pandemic, saying it was all my fault that it was happening. Like I was the ultimate jinx on humanity. Also I felt guilty for doing pretty well in these times while many others are less fortunate. So yes of course I felt bitter and resentful for the way I was treated at the cancer institute. It was as if they blamed me for doing okay. My crime was simply to be a survivor, I guess. I feel the way I used to in grade school when we played dodgeball. I was good at avoiding being hit, but otherwise I was a lousy player. At least once I was the last one on my team still alive in the game, and the ones who were out shouted at me to forfeit so they could play again. I was just a useless piece of slack to them. So maybe that’s what I am in this pandemic as well, but hopefully my analogy isn’t true… In fall of 2008 I bought a copy of The Last Man by Mary Shelley because I had left my job and I felt lonely and alone in the world. I didn’t realize that my choice was prescient of a real pandemic that would hit us in another 12 years. It’s very odd the way things play out. And someday maybe one of us will indeed be the sole survivor and the true last man.