Thursday, August 14, 2014

the familiar Stranger visits

Recently I adjusted the chemicals in my body. The details are unimportant. It was an effort to fight back against mental lethargy, or even, infirmary. An effort to reclaim my ability to think as I once thought, and not so very long ago.

It is too early to claim any lasting victory but I believe I have, at the very least, turned the tide. My brain seems function better. Grasp concepts better. Stretch to envelop a thought versus retreat from the enormity of it. Or, accurately appraise the thought as not so large after all. 

But today I noticed something odd. I would label it wondrous if it hadn't frightened me so. I was writing and concentrating on a piece, three hours in, thereabouts, when I felt like my brain's circuitry was on fire. Gently burning, but definitely burning. It was an odorless sensation, so I couldn't identify it by how we all come to identify burning - by sniffing - but I was nonetheless certain it was burning. It felt how the smell of burning would feel if not a smell. For a good minute or two I sat and tried to identify the sensation, the feeling, as something other than burning, to re-categorize it into some other category that was less frightening than the idea that my brain synapses were burning, on fire, presumably from the exertion I had just subjected them to. But there was not another category. My brain was burning.

As I sat there feeling afraid, I realized I was also thrilled. Excited, at least. That I was able to once again exert my faculties to the point that they wished rebel or resist or self-destruct, whatever this oddness might be, well, damn it but that felt good. The thought of it, correct or not, felt good. Surely anybody might feel the same had they spent even half a day walking about in my muddled head. Finally, liberation! The Short Happy Life of Francis McCumber, and all that. But, the fear remained. Very much side by side with the elation. Also, a bit of anger. Just when I was beginning to feel like I'm getting back in the game and then - Game Over?

There's more. This had happened once before, a few days earlier, similar scenario, and perhaps because of the shock of it, the newness of it, I felt at that time only the fear and none of the elation. Maybe that is why I thought then that I recognized this peculiar burning in my head (the sensation of it felt exactly the same both times, and I didn't mention this earlier but, it felt as if had I sniffed hard enough, long enough, surely I would smell the wiring burning; but, because I did not - the fear was so strong I just couldn't bring myself to do it - and because, given another chance, or ten, I won't sniff long enough, I have no way of knowing for certain if this is true or not) as something inherently familiar to all of us. Some thing we are all programmed to recognize when we make its acquaintance. I felt certain Death was moving about in my head. 

In retrospect, both times I experienced "it" the same. It felt as if I was being - turned off? Not exactly. Fade to black, they say in the movie business. Yes, more like that. But the fade to black hadn't started yet, though I felt I stood very much on its precipice. I felt surrounded by Fade to black. Maybe "I" was the only thing that was not Fade to black. The other distinctive feature is that it didn't feel of my doing. It didn't feel as part of my internal processes, although surely that was my circuitry burning. But I never felt like my circuitry chose to burn, or malfunctioned in any way to cause the burn. So as I sat considering, auditioning explanations, the only answer that fit, and immediately fit once discovered, was Death. Moving about my head. Burning - maybe those are just his footprints? Dawdling (will he allow me a few more words like he did the critic Stewart Gerald Stuart, as regrettable as that decision may have proven)?

I'll admit, there had been times, more frequently than I would admit, when the idea of a long rest, an actual restful rest, was appealing. It began feeling like Path. Is my time spent, I wondered. Has the best of it passed? Yet I continued, put a foot in front of a foot. That is what one does, even when at times it feels like waiting. Killing time, an awful phrase, but there it is. All this while the questioning - to what end? What do I move toward? Do I move in any sort of purposeful fashion or do I merely wander? It feels I only stagger.

The poet Alan Mudd once told me that I will never know I do not exist. We may have been sitting on a patio enjoying coffee and cigarettes and conversation. Enjoying ideas and each other's stubbornness. But it's much more likely bourbon was being over-consumed, Mudd insisting in his insistent drunken way when he instructed (yes, Mudd often self-appointed the position of instructor on the topic of deity) me such. Hell, he may have meant to say something entirely different, which, as humorous, and plausible, as that thought is to consider, it's also irrelevant, because stammer or not, fumble about or not, spill his goddamn bourbon or not, he did, after all, manage to spill those particular words out. Once out, once heard or read, they attribute to him, and that is that.

An admission: my affairs are not in order. There is much undone. Almost everything. Words unwritten, words unsaid. What regrettable timing, I say. I expected timing, you ask. You are right of course. I suppose magical thinking finds root in all of us. In some quadrant of our unawares it flourishes. The unconsidered. Unchallenged. Unexamined. Please forgive the excessive negativity. It is unintentional. And, no, I am not trying to be funny. These are the words that come right now. Shall I just go sit in the corner and be silent? It is too late to pout now. Finally, that is obvious. So I'll push forward the best I can with what I'm given while I wait for the burn to come again.

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