Here I am, many months on, weeks ago I started paroxetine again to remove my descent into uncontrolled thinking and negativity. I am an existence without feelings, a sense without sway, an exhibition without mood swings; commenting only on the events as they swing by.
My head is filled with empty noise, floating through the ether as the day’s reverberations slowly dissipate out my ears, out my nose, out my eyes; food and taste keep my mouth closed. I want to sleep, I want the sleep to last, the night to take my mask and only remove it upon the later hours of morn when work bids my bones to gather some sprite and move from my bed to employment. There I hustle the hours for money to compliment my bank account. It is a means.
The early hours – one o’clock, three o’clock – have had me waking before the alarm’s six o’clock disruption. I wonder if my brain is registering time to sleep on my usual clock, and I wake to attend to that time of the artist’s burial. But I usually make my bed to sleep in it when I arrive back from work as an hour or so to tear away the tiredness of ten hour shifts. And then I rest at the later hours of night – nine o’clock, ten o’clock – before the early morning hour call wakes me up to go back to sleep again. The sleep interruptions are rough, but Sunday’s day of rest and extra sleep as the day passed made up for some of it.
I have hope of a new abode. This room that is rent but not a home has done its duty, for the summer holiday I gave myself took me through half of my novel, and I hope when this season’s work of cardboard box building battles for the kiwifruit and apple orchards ends I will have a chance to take up that paper and pen, keyboard typewriter, and return to where I left off again.
He flicked the lighter, staring into the small flame that ignited. “She’s a hard worker, unlike Jansuell. He hasn’t shown any interest in anyone other than himself.” The flame went out leaving a trail of smoke in the air. “And those damn notebooks his parents left behind.”
A steel-string acoustic trickles down from the speakers in high corners of the cafe-restaurant, sultry hushed vocals whispering notes of longing and wonder. Chatter across the seated tables ignore the minute contemplations spent on remembering love.
Amy busies herself with the chicken burger dripping soft avocado, cranberry and Camembert across the plate, a knife and fork is employed to quarter and then dissect until bite-sized pieces will fit in her mouth.
Clouds have greyed out the often blue sky requiring a two bar heater to help keep the customers warm inside, puffy jackets and wool scarves not enough to ward off the striking cold whistling down from the Kahurangi hills. Escape swirls the cranberry sauce up with avocado, holds on with some freshly cooked soft bun, and launches the sweetness at her tongue. Escape remembers that love is broken sometimes, and musicians are there to remind; songs will invade the quiet and calm in sultry whispers, breaths that fade into chattering voices.
A bus load of school children stop at the intersection outside, last day of term, homeward bound they run. A blonde girl looks in at the customers, raises a hand and waves. Amy is not sure if it's her the girl is waving at - child eyes are peering through a layer of glass doors, see-through canvas that squares off the café’s sun area, and the bus's own dirty and unwashed window. And Amy knows there are customers behind her.
But she smiles, raises her own hand, twinkles some fingers and returns to her burger, sopping up more spilled cranberry and Camembert hoping to avoid any embarrassment if the girl on the bus had in fact been waving to someone else. But Amy is sure she caught a smile out of the corner of her eye as the girl returned to looking forward and the bus moved out of sight.
The smile imbued the cranberry and Camembert with satisfactory sweetness.
Clicking keys invade the silence, but here I have a place to think without the discriminating judgement of a landlord: Sour and contemptuous eyes probing the footpath under his bushy moustache as he walks past my windowsill.
Some people believe one has to work a lifetime to earn the right to not work at all, to sit in a room and read, to reserve time for the contemplation of existence. Once such a time existed when men only required the mere privilege of being born into the world, women twice as much - first to be born, and then be married off for these luxuries.
We evolve, though.
At least some of us do.
Cultures that remember the sacrifice of generations past supply the rewards for future descendants. This is that reward.
So I sit and contemplate mid-life, unemployed, poor; cappuccino expenses diminishing the bank balance that occasional work forays bolster.
This is my privilege: To be born without privilege in a white privilege soaked culture, an unrelenting mind searching for what the culture couldn't provide. An affected temperament forever dissatisfied with other people's management.
I should have been a manager. Obviously.
The doctor said "try not to do work with that arm".
I looked at her blankly, palms exposed in my best Jesus Christ pleading pose: Doctor, doctor, why have you forsaken me?
She returned to the computer screen, clicking and wondering why she couldn't read the extensive notes I had previously typed to make her job easier. The consultation was over.
This second visit, a waste of time, a waste of hard-earned tax-payer money. How am I not supposed to use my arm when I require my arm to do work that generates money for my bank account which in turn puts food in my stomach and keeps a roof over my head? What kind of brilliant doctoring advice is that? The cheap kind?
No scans booked (or even suggested!) to determine the extent and exactitude of nerve damage to my shoulders? No tests to find out what areas of my wrists are injured and what that means for the future? No follow-ups to discuss strict exercise and stretch implementations in an attempt to resolve the issues?
No. The answer is No. Like a fish on a hot pavement slapping its tail in search of bodies of water, it is all just floundering around in the dark until the shoulder, elbow, and wrist injuries are so exacerbated that the only option is to operate. Or the arms become so damaged that they be put out of commission for the unforeseeable future.
How's that for well-spent tax-payer money?
Just cure me.
I don't read like I used to. Irlens Syndrome defocusses the mind from the words in front of the eyes. Thoughts drift beyond the page to other plains. I flip paper words like it is their job to interest me, not my job to make an effort for them. A gesture of the greatest disrespect.
The books on the table are just for show.
Surely she notices me though . . .
A bachelor, a spatula; whatever it matters.
The page turned its white background and black shapes over to reveal black lines and musical notes. I nearly cried. The thought of losing music, that biggest part of me, an abject lesson in how much it really means.
I failed the lesson again and again: Short-term goals traded for the loftiest heights, sabotaged by the higher standard of uncompromising fortitude.
The full circle comes around . . . again.
This diagnosis four years ago was not a surprise - the struggle to read and focus had been blighting my sight since as early as 1998, though recognising that 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke wasn't the most engaging read of that year (though, unsurprisingly, the novel's "stargate sequence", stylistically completely different from the film's, still remains memorable twenty years later), the struggle to focus continued with blurry spaces in brightly lit short distances. A failed eye test during a driver's license reapplication prescribed glasses that are probably more to blame on not having enough coffee before leaving home that morning. Twelve or so years later an optometrist wondered why I was wearing glasses at all considering how slight the diminished sight was, myself acknowledging that driving was better without them and I could see upcoming signs far better than my ex-bandmate who hadn't been prescribed glasses and could see jack-shit when it came to reading upcoming road signs (yeah, I preferred to be the driver on the way to gigs).
So off they went never to be worn again.
I revisit the past often while acknowledging there was no other way I could have lived it, not without a different upbringing. The privilege of opportunity, working-class desperation for a better education; the privilege to squander each door that opens.
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.
The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.
This form, this face, this life
Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me
Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,
The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.
What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers
And woodthrush calling through the fog
- from 'Marina'
By T.S. Eliot
Some updates to keep me updated.