Drive, she said.

Driving  a Long Island highway after dark,  air cool and damp the way it does when winter turns to spring, how it does in early summer near the beach, air so heavy with moisture I turn my wipers on to shear away the mist, the beach air, and the cool and damp; loud music, turned up to 11; blacktop gently curves. I move smoothly between broken white lines; turn the music up until it drowns out the car, the other cars, my thoughts; following red tail lights going as fast as I am, passing the ones who refuse to speed up to double the speed limit whatever the speed limit is and there is that moment. That moment when I am here, right now.  And here, forty years ago.

Speeding down a Long Island highway at night coming home from a day caring for my mother slides into that other night/many other nights, four decades ago, driving home to my mother’s house from Long Beach after a crowded club and loud bands, Twisted Sister turning it up to 11. I exist in both nights, two of me occupy the same seat in one car, two cars become one: the 1975 Ford Pinto is the 1999 Volkswagen Golf. One littered with empty cigarette packs, beer bottles, and cassette tapes. One with empty candy wrappers, water bottles, and CDs. Steering wheels feel the same, the cool damp air still keeps me alert, and driving calms my nerves. I’m twenty and I’m sixty.

I taste vodka in the back of my throat. I have not had a drink since summer, 1990. The ashtray overflows with cigarette butts, all Marlboro. I smoked with delight, with panache, windows open, smoke and scarves and common sense flying out the windows behind me, Isadore Duncan without the talent, or the untimely death. There is no ashtray.

There is no ashtray.

Like rivers and creeks, time eddies and swirls, spins in and out of little whirlpools, diverts, evaporates, pools in gullies, returns as rain, seeps into the ground/pulls me into the mud/deeper still, rises as mist, settles like dew, washes me clean, pummels me, and chills my bones.

If a pack of Marlboros appears on my dashboard, I will smoke without a single thought. If a glass of vodka and seven was nestled in the seat next to me, with a single red swizzle stick, I would drink the same way I had night after night after night all those nights ago. Drinking, driving, smoking, and speeding. Some nights are just made for that, no matter how fast you’ve driven, how long, or how far you’ve come.

I Am Bread

I had entirely forgotten that my bloodwork had come back as “borderline diabetic.” Forgotten like I never even knew. Diabetes? You have to be fucking kidding me. I’ve beat tougher things than an insulin imbalance.

Severe ulcerative colitis. Tonsilitis. Hepatitis. Lots of itises. Some I’m sure I’m forgetting. One broken nose, two broken wrists, countless broken dreams. Junior high school. School lunchrooms. Processed cheese product. Canned string beans. Bad haircuts. Questionable dye jobs. Questionable men. Bad men. No men. Too much money. Not enough money. Twenty dental extractions. One abortion. Three miscarriages. Countless near misses. More one-night stands than there are weeks in the year. My parent’s bad marriage. My not exactly legal, but still exactly lousy marriage. Four attempts on my life.

I’ve had a gun to my head. A knife to my ribs. Amoeba tried to eat my liver. There was Drugs. Booze. One sociopath. Four car accidents. Two motorcycle accidents.

I jumped off a cliff and out of an airplane. Flew without an engine. Slept in Washington Square Park in NYC. Slept in Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans. Slept…around

Food poisoning. Alcohol poisoning. Jealous girlfriends. Suspicious wives.

Cat scratch fever. Heartbreaks. Psychotic breaks. Family therapy. Ten different therapists

I’ve been mugged, kidnapped, raped. There was one stalker.

I made it through the public school curriculum. The. Campfire. Girls. Puberty. Suburbia. Summer camp. Yiddish. Cultural. School. Gym class. Frosted eye shadow. Community college. AM radio

The East Village in the 70s and the entertainment “biz” in the 80s. Four different apartments in 3 ½ boroughs of NYC.  Two in which the ceilings collapsed. The NYC subway system. The blackout of 2003. The transit strike of 2005. The blizzard of 2010. The great cockroach debacle of 1979

Both hurricanes Sandy and Gloria. That Portuguese man of war. The UnderToad.

Thirty-five years of cigarette smoking. Twenty-two years of drugs and booze. Nembutals. Seconals. Tuinals. Quaaludes. Crystal Meth. Crank. Heroin. Cocaine. Yukon Jack. Vodka. Halcyon. Elavil. Valium. More vodka. Gin. Tequila. Frangelica. Harveys Bristol Creme. Beer. Wine. Boilermakers. Pretty much anything that could be snorted, shot, or put in a glass and poured down my throat.

Driving while intoxicated. Driving while very intoxicated. Driving in a blackout on the Long Island Expressway. Flying without an engine. Trying to fly without a plane. Or wings. Or feathers.

Every single hair color found in nature and many that are not. A beauty school perm.

The rollerblade craze. The disco era. Platform shoes. Spiked heels and potholes.The Hells Angels. The Hellfire club. Plato’s retreat. The Continental Baths.

The monsters. In my closet. Under my bed. Behind the shower curtain. In my head. That speak with my own voice.

Measles. Mumps. Chicken pox. Three bouts of strep throat. Gonorrhea. Trichomonas. Insomnia. Lethargy. Apathy. OCD. Frozen thumb. Osteonecrosis

Lust. Gluttony. Greed. Laziness (I know it’s supposed to be Sloth, but I like sloths and I don’t want them to get a bad rap). Wrath. Envy. Pride. Shame.

And menopause.

So, this week, instead of buying bread, I bought English muffins.
Next time, flat bread.
Time after that, maybe Zweiback crackers.
Baby steps. One step at a time.

In steel-toed boots.

 

 

 

Me, Nick Flynn, and Vicodin.

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 11.35.59 AM
Nick Flynn – from The Rumpus, February 8, 2014.

Me, on Vicodin (inspired by Nick Flynn)

I hate Vicodin. Ten years ago, at ten years sober and a day or two after some major dental work, I found myself with not one, but two full vials of Vicodin, and no memory of getting the second, of convincing a pharmacist that I’d already gone through the first in a single day when the truth was I hadn’t taken but one single pill.

That second vial? That was just in case. Just in case there was so much pain I needed to take two full vials of Vicodin before morning to stop it. Yeah, well, that was the pain from first 30 years of my life, wasn’t it?

While on the phone with a friend, I dumped both vials in the toilet. It wasn’t will power, it was willingness and surrender and I don’t know why sometimes that’s easier for one person than another. Or why sometimes it’s easier today than it was yesterday. And sometimes it’s harder today than it was yesterday.

thirty years later…

I had to take a little time off from the “other” blog, from writing in general. I’d written about the rape. Again. It’s hard. I was going to say You don’t know what you take from us when you rape us. But, I’d be speaking to people who either don’t care – those who rape on uncontrollable instinct, who feel entitled; or to those who do care – those who rape with the intent of breaking our soul – pimps, mercenaries, warriors.

The rape I wrote about was almost thirty years ago. I think I should be over it already. But, apparently, I’m not.

It was not my first. I was in a blackout the first time and only put the pieces together afterwards. It probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been drunk enough to black out. But I was. It did. And I don’t remember the details. Blackouts are a mixed blessing that way.

And truthfully, the blackout is only the first time I can bear to think about. What came before are scattered puzzle pieces, each belonging to a different puzzle picture.

The rape I wrote about wasn’t even the last time I was attacked. Statistics show that once a person is raped, molested, assaulted, the chance of it happening again, rises. Here are some statistics.

Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.

  • 1 in 3 American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
  • 1 in 4 college women have either been raped or suffered attempted rape.
  • 1 in 7 women will be raped by her husband.
  • 1 in 12 males students surveyed had committed acts that met the legal definition of rape. 84% said what they’d done was definitely not rape.
  • Only 16% of rapes are reported to the police.
  • Only 6% of rapists will spend a day in jail.

FAIL: The United States has the world’s highest rape rate of the countries that publish such statistics. It’s 4 times higher than Germany, 13 times higher than England, and 20 times higher than Japan.

Survivors of sexual assault are:

Stop it, okay? Just fucking stop it.

Statistics from: RAINN.org and Coalition Educating About Sexual Endangerment (CEASE)

ode to my depression

Alcohol was my answer to The Depression. My first answer. It worked for a while, until it didn’t. It worked until it needed something…extra.

Tuinals, nembutals, lysergic acid diethylamide, seconals, amyl nitrate, mescaline, peyote, cocaine, crank, quaaludes, heroin. Just a little something extra on top of the alcohol, for the deep soul sucking hole inside of me…The Depression. It worked. For a while. Then…

Something extra, on top of the alcohol and the already extras, prescriptions were added like the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae, the finish touch. Sinequan, Valium, Elavil, Desipramine, Halcyon.

It’s been almost twenty years since I self medicated. Twenty years since I stopped taking two parts of this prescription and adding it to three parts of that one. Most of those years I don’t even think about The Depression…

except when I do.

And then there was Buspar, Effexor, Paxil, Lexapro, Wellbutrin. There were meetings and prayer. There was gluten free, lactose free, de-caffeinated, organic, hydroponic, hormone free, free range, steam distilled and still, sometimes, there is The Depression.

The dictionary definition of depression includes this: sadness, gloom, dejection.

That is not My Depression.
My Depression has romance. It is alluring. It is seductive.
It feeds on isolation and it stays hungry. My depression is paralyzing.

It tells me I have nothing to say.

JD Salinger is dead. Catcher in the Rye did not change my life. I am not JD Salinger
Charles Bukowski was a drunk,
Burroughs was a junkie.
I do not read Bukowski and I am not William Burroughs.
Jim Carroll is dead. Carroll changed my life; he made me want to be a junkie.
Dorothy Allison made me believe there is an audience for the darkest of stories, but still, I am not Jim Carroll or Dorothy Allison.

My Depression turns me away from tenderness, whispering in my ear that a tender touch or a soft word will kill me, will cause my house to crumble beyond repair.

It is avoidance and it is obsession.
Clutter & filth & unopened mail under piles of clothes and it is cleaning grout with a toothbrush. It is writing for eight hours

and getting nothing written.

It is deprivation and punishment.
It is not showering, or eating. Holding off meals until this and that are done and not doing this or that. It is meals that consist solely of chewing gum. Or tea. It is nausea and headaches. My Depression fights sleep until my muscles ache and there are sharp pains in my neck.  It is not being able to sleep because there are aches in my muscles and pains in my neck.
It is early mornings and not enough sleep.

It is overscheduling classes & workshops & bells & whistles. Adding this here and that there and not taking care of here and now.

It is writing this,
now.

My Depression is sleight of hand.
It is the twinkling Christmas lights covering my house that keep you from noticing what is going on inside. That the floorboards are rotting, the plumbing is leaking, the windows are cracked and a cold wind whistles through the house.

My Depression has romance. It is alluring.
It feeds on isolation and it stays hungry. My depression is paralyzing.

It tells me I have nothing to say.