Monday, February 7, 2011

Tunnel Vision

From my journal, 1/30/01
"I can't think of what else to say. It's not like that hole people talk about. It's not shock or grief. It's just a nagging feeling that I'm missing a clue or something. But where do I start?"

I was taking a class on modernism. My professor, whose name I forget, was something of a legend already at UW. Five foot nothing, young, and very strange. Always wore black, almost always dresses. Long, beaded necklaces with huge beads. And the one teacher I ever had who would cut you off if you repeated someone else's point. "Yes, Mr. Jackson already made that point quite astutely. Do you have something new to say, sir?" And we were reading something, right then, with a suicide in it. Ford Maddox Ford, maybe? I'd left class halfway through the day after Peter. Left at the break, and felt I had to explain why. When I got back to class the next meeting, she asked me to stay after. "You may not want to read the last two chapters," she said, looking me up and down, with softness I'd never suspected. "Forgive me for saying, but there's a suicide. I know that might be hard. If you don't read it, it won't count against your grade." I don't remember what I said.

From my journal, 2/15/01, the beginning of what I'm really trying to say
"...And the furnace shut down, too. I can only hear the scratching of my pen and the sounds made by the tiptoeing thieves who aren't really there."

And later in the same entry, releasing to rhyme which never lets me lie...

"I wanna run to New Orleans and Bangladesh. Turkey and Kazahkstan and Tibet and Liberia and Siberia and Moscow and Hawai'i and New Mexico. I wanna see Caracas and Tijuana and Tenochtitlan and Mazatlan and Argentina and Norway and I wanna run with the bulls and dive with sharks and get the fuck out from behind the books and screens and see the whole fucking world from Beijing to Boston and back again old friend no end to the bends in the trail the pail is a bucket with a hole in the bottom and we shot 'em with a 12 gauge sawed off till they looked like stew you do what you gotta do but leave a shoe for us to hold and say we remember the night in December 1993 me and the guys surprised you and you killed us in return burn down the bridges to Babylon rabbit's gone and Cheetah to what to do when the screw is all the way in spin the wheels and deal with it feel the shit hit the fans cheer for the XFL hell can't be as bad as all this piss on Mephistopheles unite and fight like Perikles Herakles buried those dreams in a drive through window in White River Junction function if you can and if you can't just fake it take it to the Maker's Mark whiskey frisk me I've been feeling whispy she kissed me missed me but she hit me with her next shot and got what she wanted dead or alive survive the ride and the tide'll get you sweat suits that don't keep me warm at night are a big fat fucking waste and I sometimes wish my friends would've kept on living..."

And now we're getting somewhere. Two weeks after that, the girl who tore my heart out to watch it beat got married, with me and my friends all there. Three days later, my first real love, Sonia, found the entry that said,

"I don't know how to tell her I don't want to be with her anymore. Hell, I don't know how to tell myself."

I asked for a week to decide. She granted it. And two nights later, on my way home from work, I stopped at the Greyhound.
I called my boss. "Em, I can't come in to work tomorrow night. I need to get my head straight."
"OK. Whatever you need. I'll get your shift covered. Just keep me in the loop, K?"

I didn't have a cell phone, yet. So I must have called from the payphone at the station. I don't remember what I told Sonia when I called her. I stopped at the
little corner store at 9th and Stewart while I waited for the bus. What's the first bus out of here? Spokane? OK, One way to Spokane, please. That's how I want to remember it, anyway. But the first bus was going to Olympia, and that wasn't far enough. So I waited for the second, the Spokane one. It left at 6:15pm. In my memory, it was already the dead of night. I suppose in Seattle at that time of year, it's dark by 4:30.

I had one change of clothes in my backpack from work. I bought a box of Triscuits, a tin of cream cheese, and some candy.

I sat on the left side of the bus. Halfway back, or so. No one next to me. I counted cars, and tried to figure out if the flashes over Bellevue were lightning or searchlights. I was on the road, without a plan. But the world was as narrow as my seat, at that point. Narrow and closing. I had a one way ticket on the first bus that was really leaving, and now I was on it. No idea where I was really going.

I've been hearing from people, for the last few days. Small comments and long emails. With images I never saw, and pictures I'd forgotten. Emails that start with
"it strikes me that the canyons where we were left in isolation were perhaps similar to the ones where the friends lost to suicide had lived,"
"I just started typing. It's long, and personal, and random."
With the kind of memories that stick, like,
"I began to drink too much. I lost my driver's license in a pair of pants after bowling one night, having forgotten it was there."

Where have you run to, when the world closed in around you? What happened in your mind that took you from fight to flight? What weird detail clings to your mind, so that when you turn just so it still comes to you in a flash, unbidden?


Becky Boutch said...

I'm glad you picked up my line about drinking and losing my license. I never lose stuff. Misplace, yes, but altogether lose, no. Not a set of keys, a wallet, money, a license... I went and got a replacement at the DMV in Bothell on my lunch break. My new photo looked like a deer in headlights. A few weeks later I found the old one in my pants and my memory of the evening I put it there was a fog in my brain. It was a wake-up moment for me, that my life would spiral to a bad place if I kept going the way I was.

averildean said...

A weird and awful detail ... The way my dad's face looked just before he died. His breath no longer sounded like breathing, it was a very noisy pump on the verge of a breakdown, and just before he let go, there was a moment of pure horror on his face, as though he saw something terrifying on the other side.

I've never told anyone about that; it was the most frightening moment of my life.

averildean said...

Sorry, that was the most poorly-written comment I think I've ever left.