"So Let Us Not Talk Falsely Now. The Hour’s Getting Late."
(Inspired by Timothy McSweeney’s Very Intense Heated Passionate Battle/Embrace with They Might Be Giants)
I’m sitting in my living room in Muncie, windows open, listening to the wind stroke the trees outside. The air smells like heavy electric. It’s one of those magical, farm country dark nights when you can imagine the demons and creepy crawlies come out.
These kind of nights scare city folk, I imagine. Me, I love them.
But I don’t know if I love them because I love them or if I love them because I’m here, in my life, and can love them. Or if there’s even a difference. Or if it matters why.
Mostly I don’t think on it too much these days. What I know is simple. Simple, tiny things. Each unto itself. Nothing to get worked up about. And yet I do. Near every day. Because it’s all so new to me.
Every time something happens like that, it feels surreal. Like it shouldn’t be happening. Which, counter-intuitively, makes it more real. At least to me. Because just a short blink ago, that feeling hadn’t existed for me.
- My life changed on May 11, 2008. The last day I took a drink.
- It turned, badly, on Sept. 12, 2008. The day David Foster Wallace took his own life.
- Came to a crossroads on Oct. 17, 2008. The evening a young girl told me it was okay to be sick and then woke me up the next morning, holding my cheeks in her tiny palms.
- And crested on Oct. 20, 2008. The day someone I once knew — it would be disingenuous to call her a friend, but not entirely accurate to call her an acquaintance — took me to my first A.A. meeting.
Those months were unbearable. Overwhelming. Mind crunching hallucinations. Physical sickness. The sleepless days that dragged into nights and on into days again.
Every second, an eternity. Every tick of the clock forever away. No solution. No fix. No cure.
In those moments, time has no meaning. Everything, every emotion, every feeling descends upon your enfeebled mind in unrelenting waves. Just the ragged waves crashing into the jagged rocks. I was being smashed by the churning ocean, grasping for anything to keep me afloat. For a moment of respite.
I broke. Was broken. In tears, vomiting into the toilet for hours, trying to make my heart stop. Or my brain short circuit. Anything. To make it stop.
My relationship crumbled under that weight. Of course it did. Then my living literary guidepost, who talked of the destructive power of teaching in college during a haunting interview with Charlie Rose, committed suicide.
The two parts of my life that I’ve always leaned on — my relationships and my writing — were suddenly without a foundation. There was nothing. Just emptiness for the stir of echoes.
Five weeks to plan how it was going to end. To figure out how to minimize the damage, as if those things are possible, for those around me. To check and re-check the pieces of your life that need to be closed down after you are. To make the transition as easy as possible.
And then a little girl has to go mess everything up. That little girl who I’ve known since she was born. Who I watched use her dog as a stepping stool to reach into a snake tank. Who I watched learn how to open the door and walk outside while sitting with her father. Who climbs up trees like a monkey if you turn your back. Who waits until I fall asleep on the floor to cannonball off the fireplace onto my chest. Who sat on my lap during dinners, kissing my ear.
Who, when I came in through that door on Oct. 17, 2008, took my hand, told me it was okay to be sick and climbed on the futon with me (and her dogs) so that she could take care of me.
The Way We Live Now:
And now, metaphorically and literally, the darkness has turned into daylight. It’s almost 24 hours since I started writing this and I’m sitting in my living room after spending the afternoon on the Ball State University campus, lunching with some new friends, reconnecting with old friends and settling into my new work/home.
I just hung up the phone with the Muse, the girl who’s been through most of the awfulness and much of the goodness of my life. Who has been, in ways that nobody ever has for me, there. I shared some conversations with casual friends from Kentucky and deeper ones with a long-lost friend who found her way back into my life. Even chatting with some former students who are working on projects of their own now, like a proud parent (or “crazy uncle” as one of them calls me) watching them find their own way.
I even found time to color coordinate my three bathrooms. (Yeah, don’t get excited: two of them are half-baths.)
All of these are the little things throughout my day that add up. That make me full.
Back in November, as I came out of the fog, I dubbed myself Brad 2.0. I still like that thought. It’s me in so many ways. But I knew back then that 2.0 wasn’t going to really get started until I got to Muncie. There are things that you just know. A feeling that on July 24, 2009, my first day in my towne home, I felt.
Surrounded by all these little things. That make me full.