Nine fifty at night.
If bipartisan politics is a trap a person can fall into, then it has happened to me lately. But I see politics like a Hegelian, a force of history striding left to right as a yo-yo or a pendulum swings. Still, enough isn’t said for the unity of humankind, and maybe this is because my family is a divided and broken harmonium. Today I made a discovery, if my guess is right. The girl who cashiers at Carl’s Jr., Alexis, may be the daughter of a musical friend I used to know, Roman. We had a friendship that ended in a disagreement over politics, and also my drinking problem got in the way of good judgment. The small world I observed has shrunk even smaller. And there was a reason why I was buying Peace Tea at the market around the corner. My hunch about Alexis could be wrong, but do I have anything to lose by asking her about her family? It’s very possible that she remembers me from when she was a five year old girl. How amazing if the discord of the past twelve years could be repaired and harmony was allowed to sound among us again! It’d be like grace.
Eight twenty five.
My trip to the store was kind of nice, though the day is very dark so far this morning. I haven’t seen Roger outside of his house for several days, so I wonder what could be wrong… I just saw him go out in his old Ford truck. When I was walking down my street I thought of Victor Hugo and what motivates me to read. A large part of it is the aesthetic beauty of the book’s cover and manufacture. It’s a pleasure to hold a beautiful book in my hands and absorb the printed words on the pages; almost like a romantic relationship or a marriage of true minds. A book is a totem for me, and everyone’s life is a book… I dreamed about my old psychiatrist last night. He wanted to meet with me for a chat about current events. He had changed a great deal since I knew him. Sometimes I dream of his first office in the Minor Building downtown, such a long time ago. I’d like to get in touch with him because I care. It might be good to make my peace with him and bury the past.
Nine thirty. I like to puff myself up with libertarian pride, but now I’m not sure what is true. Just a lot of intellectual pretense, probably. Roger’s Ford came chugging up the street and stopped short of his driveway. I wonder if Alice has been sick… I left a message for my former psychiatrist. If he has time he may return my call. This would make my day.
It’s only a little bit foggy, and I felt a few drops of moisture on my walk. The only thing like Halloween was the crows, but you can see them any time of year. I noticed a couple of cars that were electric by their hum and I half wished I could get one for myself. Inside the market was rather cosy and comfortable. I observe what a realist I’ve become in the last ten years; hardly any imagination, but I’d like to change back to how I used to be. Or maybe I’m okay as I am. I see squirrels everywhere on my street, and hear them even more, rustling in tree branches and drumming on the roof. I haven’t read Madame Bovary, though I understand it’s about a married woman’s fantasy life when she feels trapped by her circumstances. It may not be worth my time. I think it’s a desirable thing to cultivate consciousness and not stagnate with unconscious daydreams. It’s a puzzle for me to solve. Meanwhile Aesop is getting hungry, and mouths to feed will always be the reality.
Ten o’clock. It continues cloudy. I saw a bird with an elongated tail that I believe was a woodpecker fly across the street in front of me. Are we more entertained by a horse with wings or a man with the head of a bull?… Part of me wants to take Andersen’s fairytales off the shelf. The other side of me is curious about Thomas Paine’s writings. Somewhere at the rainbow’s end the two shall meet and mingle their wisdom like a great treasure.
Five thirty five. Well, the weather has been beautiful today. And seeing it through sober eyes must surely make a difference from times in the past. Erin and Lisa, the receptionist, were both very friendly to me today. It tends to give me a new opinion of Santa Clara, or maybe the medical offices in the Square form a pocket in an otherwise “red” zone. Or perhaps my first assessment of River Road north of the Beltline was a fallacy. Which indicates again the dangers of generalization. People are people everywhere you go, diverse and various. I am more open now to letting my family pick my brain if they are curious about things. I believe that it’s possible for all of us to adopt an objective point of view, to not be passionately committed to just one side of any given issue. In this way, there can be a free exchange of ideas and the potential for growth and greater understanding. The only obstacle to this mutual comprehension is alcohol abuse or some other extravagance. In other words, the truth and happiness we work for mustn’t be compromised by a lie in any form. Mendacity and delusion always pose a threat to the good life. Of course no individual is perfect, but at least we can work on progress.
Quarter of nine.
It’s a gray and wet autumnal morning, the normalcy of which is promising. Aesop grows older and mellower all the time. Tomorrow I have physical therapy to go to. I know that Ridesource will get me there ridiculously early. But there’s a lot that I don’t know. I love October, especially now that I’m on a medication that works. I can remember how I felt 18 years ago, always scared that I would go to hell. The delusions arose from who knows where in my brain. They leaked into consciousness through a hole in the floor. Today, my brain chemistry is totally rearranged. There is no floor, no above and below. This model makes little sense to me now. It’s just a theory on paper, and equally flat and two dimensional. Outside, the blueness within the gray emits a glow, and there is a wind blowing. Aesop gets Blue Buffalo Santa Stew for breakfast. Three minutes and counting.
Quarter of ten. I watched him eat every bite: I think he liked it. Funny how the wildfires robbed us of a normal September. Rarely did we see a blue sky. Now I’m thinking about my family, and who really trespassed against whom. It seems to have gone both ways, so the way for us to heal is to forgive all around. I believe I understand my sister better than I did before: there was never any guile in her heart. Alcohol and madness kept things complicated from my end, but I wasn’t the only one who drank. It’s good to see it all more clearly, and forget about those wasted years. Or instead, understand them and take away a lesson. Our conversation yesterday was a bit of a minefield, but we got through it without blowing off a leg. And to some degree, time itself is a healer of all wounds.
Quarter after one. Some people like to believe that 2 + 2 = 5, but for me it’s very difficult to make that leap. I left a voice message for Polly. I imagine she’s out shopping or something. Abruptly the sun comes out. We really need some rain to help with the wildfires. The church will be ringing the bell again this week. I realize that the antipsychotic throttles my imagination and clarifies my thinking.
Four o’clock. I’ve been on the phone with Polly: it went okay. I can actually appreciate her viewpoint now. She is very stoic about morality, very upright. She believes in hard work. I can’t argue with that, because she’s probably right. But as far as how I live, I’m the laziest person I know. Nor do I condemn myself for this. One way or another, I do the best I can. I received a megadose of bad parenting in my youth, plus I have the challenge of mental illness to contend with. Well, whatever. I don’t have to defend myself against my sister’s stone heart. Mom was entirely different. She had passion and sensitivity. Is it really fair to call such things “selfish?” By its nature, art is egoistic and expressive, individual and eccentric. While my sister is religious, Mom was aesthetic in the purest form. That’s why they didn’t understand each other, and why I’m still stuck in between… This Thursday, I think I’ll go observe the bell ringing at the church just for the romance of it. There has to be a locus where religious and aesthetic meet. “Let there be commerce between us.”
There’s still the bug in my ear that I should call my brother, especially if Polly refuses to talk to him. I never guessed at a day when Jeff would be a black sheep of the family. Perhaps we are all equally sooty? How is my sister better than my brother aside from being more honest? I think racism is a terrible thing. Next door, Jennifer is smoking pot and throwing toys for her dog. Everybody has a hard life. You have to be sympathetic because life is suffering. I don’t know how it feels to be like my brother or anyone else. Forgiveness is very tough, and maybe I’ll never succeed in it. Still I feel bad for Jeff and regret that he must be living alone. Underneath everything, we all crave love and we fear hate and rejection… Casey from the blood doctor’s office hasn’t called back yet. Possibly Todd overreacted to my results. The weather is beautiful, the sun shining and the sky sporting puffy white clouds. If I’m going to call my brother, it should be at around eight o’clock tonight.
Three thirty five. I’m charging the battery for my iPad and thinking about what I was just saying. The same Joni Mitchell song occurs to me as on last Saturday morning. I hear it with longing and deep sorrow. I was 39 years old in 2006. My body was more resilient and my mind more retentive than today. It’s amazing how much hurt I withstood when I was younger. My family was brutal to me before I finally had the confidence to confront them and scream out my frustration. I had to let them know that it was not okay to treat me badly. Well, maybe I dished out some poison of my own to my siblings. The resentment of each other on both sides was incredibly malicious. They took politics and the vote too seriously, as if they were the ultimate reality. Politics and current events were likewise the rage at Laurel Hill during my employment there. After the 2016 election I’d had enough and resolved not to follow the news anymore. It was only a weapon people wielded to hurt one another. My family always voted to thwart each other’s interests, like using some kind of voodoo dolls. Now, finally the battlefield is still, with the maimed corpses littering the place as far as you can see. Am I asked to be forgiving after all that? The reek of blood is yet fresh as the sun sets on the war zone. Why did my siblings hate our mother so much? This is something I’ll never understand. Mom was just a human being, not perfect, but also not a monster. Jeff refers to her as if to the devil or something. The things I’ve been through are just crazy and childish, immature, and illogical. All the backstabbing and treachery haven’t been worth trying to make it work. Yet here I still am, weighing the pros and cons of making a phone call to my brother sometime soon. Is blood thicker than water? Or will I persist in being logical and fair minded to the point of excluding my relatives from my life?
Quarter of nine. I feel rather victorious over Polly after yesterday. But it’s not as if we still had to be enemies. Look at the long crucible I’ve been through this year! It has been a trial, a test, and just when I’ve been staying sober. People in recovery babble about how sobriety has made their lives easier. That doesn’t ring true in my case; or if so, the benefits are Pyrrhic… The black worker just walked by with a tube of caulk. His coworker Alex hasn’t shown up. Somebody should be working on the interior if I am to move in… I miss my mom right now, poor nervous wreck mother. She wouldn’t have had to be lonely… Another worker arrived… Seeing Polly has shaken some memories loose. Polly herself is a nervous person. Her hands worked constantly while she was talking to me yesterday. They worked and writhed together anxiously, as if she were knitting with invisible needles. Could be dyskinesia? Mom had that even worse, in her mouth. It was most evident when she played the piano. I have it in my extremities… There’s no reason for us to hate each other anymore, unless one of us starts it up again. If we can forget then we can forgive too. A little like Pride and Prejudice…
Noon hour. Lunch is done. Things really are changed on the new medication. I’m not so paranoid anymore, and I don’t read into people and situations as before. Polly remembered that I volunteer for the food pantry. It really is good that I don’t drink anymore. I was in very bad shape for a long time… The fall colors are beautiful again today. Sun is out, illuminating the golden leaves. I feel good. Sobriety and sanity are always good things. Mom definitely had a mental disorder that made her paranoid. And I had to grow up with that every day… I’ll go to the store before long and get some treats for both of us. Funny, the things I remember, Polly has no recollection of. So that forgiveness really is of paramount importance. Remembering trespasses and holding grudges avails nothing when others don’t even recall what happened. Just let them go and be happy. The sky is cerulean and deep to me, but for some it is merely blue. Memory is an asset sometimes, but other times it can be a curse. The present is the best gift. I will open my senses on my way to the store, try to feel everything. Breathe it all in for the future.
Quarter of five. Polly called about an hour ago. Lunch Thursday at eleven o’clock. Okay, here we go. She admitted that she tries to take care of others more than herself, so I emphasized that she needs to do the latter. Polly sees herself as a second mom to me still. I know she really cares about me, but it can be meddlesome. It can cross boundaries. Anyway she will pick me up in the same old Toyota van and we’ll go to Shari’s or something. I haven’t been there in years. It’s still there in the Santa Clara Square, together with Albertsons and Subway. I’ll be on my best behavior and try not to prejudge the scenario… unless that’s what I’m doing right now. I vaguely recall another day we ate at Shari’s; it was the time when Polly told me that Ed had lost his sobriety after five years. I myself was still drinking then. I was a different person because of it. Plus, my medication didn’t work so well. My will must’ve changed; maybe even my character, my personality. Hence Shari’s restaurant will look new and different to me this Thursday forenoon. I think Polly designated eleven in order to avoid the lunchtime crowd…
I hear a flock of seagulls on the wing: it was trash pickup today. Trash day also brought out the homeless people who rummage through the roll cans. I saw one this morning in broad daylight pilfering from my neighbor’s garbage. I guess it isn’t illegal, but it’s unsightly and a sign that times are hard for some people. The conservative attitude is, Oh, she could get a job if she really wanted to. My sister used to talk like that. I don’t know about now. I was never one to blame the homeless for their own plight. No one would choose to live that way; the imputation is nonsense. Maybe Polly doesn’t remember having that attitude. She said it eight years ago, after we’d had dinner at Outback Steakhouse. But that’s just it: people change. And most people definitely forget things, especially after years go by. I can only hope for the best.