"How many special people change? How many lives are living strange? Where were you while we were getting high?"
"It" is happening again.
The "it" that is happens not as much as "it" used to. Which strangely isn’t comforting. The "it" is a creeper, lying dormant for long stretches of time. Hiding. Always watching. Waiting.
Which is what "it" does. I know this about "it", which makes "it" not so terrifying anymore because I have a name for "it". And names make everything better.
Maybe not better in the sense that you think. For me, better simply means the shakies go away. I don’t know why that is. I don’t know that I care. Because when the shakies are gone, and all that’s left are the restless nights, the pacing, the wall climbing, the staring. That, somehow, is okay.
"Join the club."
That’s a flip statement I made to a friend tonight. She responded: "I’m in."
"Oh, there’s no room," I replied. "It only fits three: me, my ego and my self-loathing."
I can name the men who have viscerally influenced the man, the teacher and the writer I am today.
- My dad: taught me what it means to be a man. What it means to be loved. And what it means to live with flaws.
- Bucky: taught me that fear can drive you to achieve the unachievable.
- Greg P: taught me that excellence comes from defeat earned by trying to achieve something beyond your reach.
- T; taught me the mind can will you to success.
- Dave: taught me that perfection can be found. That physical mistakes are forgivable, but mental mistakes are not. That you are always just one part of something bigger.
I spent the last 24 hours watching and re-watching Miracle, the story of the 1980 men’s Olympic hockey team. There are many stories. Proud stories. Kids who toppled the Soviets.
Indescribable stories for those who weren’t around at that time. So much so that I remember watching the game when I was 8 years old at my grandmother’s apartment.
But of all the stories, the one I most identify with is Herb Brooks, the strong-willed (headed?) coach who refused to compromise his methodology. Who created a team of men out of boys. A team that feared him, hated him, loved him and then won for him.
I tell you all this, but it should noted that the first thing my family said when they saw my office: "It looks like your mother."
David Foster Wallace, in an interview with Charlie Rose, said that teaching college ruined writing for him. Not at first. At first he discussed high concepts with students, analyzed writing, spoke in the metaphorical nature that seasoned writers understand but novices scoff (because they know better. They are going to write and if we can’t see their brilliance. Well.).
He realized they were incapable of playing those high-minded games until they had tools. So he set about doing what teachers do. Creating lesson plans. With day-by-day breakdowns.
Until writing becomes rote.
Devastating. For him.
The thing that worries me is entirely different: I simply don’t have time to worry about such high-minded things since I’m too busy creating day-by-day lesson plans. Because when I talk of writing like the oceans, with waves of words cascading forward, forward, up and down, but always pushing forward until they crash on the readers. They just stare at me.
And probably won’t notice that my sentence structures in this section look like a wave. On purpose.
I can recall, in my stomach, the moment I realized my high school girlfriend didn’t love me anymore.
I can recall, in my whole body, the moment I realized my college girlfriend stopped loving me.
I can recall, mentally, the moment I stopped loving my first post-college girlfriend.
I can recall, by the distinct empty hole, the moment I realized I’d done too much damage to the Muse.
And I wonder if I’ll recall anything else.
Sobriety has slowed my world down. In actual, physical turns. I can feel the words climb through my throat, slide up my tongue and grab for my lips as they drip out. My arms swing slower when I walk. My gait lollygags.
There is nothing that moves fast anymore. I can’t will myself to fast. To second gear. To third gear. Any gear. It’s a nice, pleasant coast.
And I wonder if this is the feeling old gunslingers had just before the end.
"It" is fear.
Not in the way that you know it. Not fear of drinking. Not fear of dying. Not fear of loss. It’s something far less profound than that, a fog settling atop the Bay waters of San Francisco. Or wrapping itself around the houses in Muncie on a chilly late summer morning.
An envelope. One that will burn off. Soon enough. Strangely beautiful in its mystic nature. Where did it come from? Science surely knows, but why Google the grey beauty and ruin it.
I’ve named it. That’s all that matters.