Tuesday, October 15 2019
Before I knew it, I was a changed man. I no longer craved the bliss and euphoria I’d once held to with such intense passion and hope. Instead, I was after things like security and good credit and, dare I say it, maybe even one day a child of my own.
I looked upon my inner self with great despair. I couldn’t help but to hate that slouching beast in the mirror, all eyes sagging and pinned-back greasy hair.
I have always hated you, this is not news, I spoke to the reflection, who in turn refused to maintain eye contact, as it always had. The most disturbing part about a reflection is that you cannot see it without it staring straight back at you. As much as I tried to catch him looking away, just to see a candid snapshot of this haggard and ill fellow, he would undoubtedly catch me looking, and with disdain for both me and himself this bastard reflection would again avert his gaze, knowing what i’d say – he ALWAYS knew what I’d say before I’d gotten a damned chance to do as much as draw a breath to speak.
Bastard. I couldn’t keep ruining my own life like this. To be both victor and villain – hero and nemesis – is to go absolutely insane with grief and fear and humiliation, and not a shred of humility or patience to go around for the either of us.
Even as I pondered this ages-old irony I floundered to escape the catechisms of Alcoholics Anonymous that were flipping about and filling in the blanks, as they were designed to do. Any organization founded upon the relating of one man’s sad sorry sorrows to another was destined to become muddled by day-to-day issues, inconveniences, tragedies unrelated to anything but the Great Unfairness of life, and finally, become totally indistinguishable from a Support Group for Those Suffering from Living, rather than a program of recovery.
“What was it – that man, you know, the guy who survived the Concentration Camps, he lost his whole friends and family, he lost everything he loved in the Concentration Camps to the Nazis – what was it he said about suffering and pain? You know, he said that suffering was a choice, it was different from pain. Pain, it happens. It’s the suffering that is a choice, it’s in the mind, and he was in a Concentration Camp so he knew pain! But he didn’t, you know, choose suffering, because suffering is a choice the mind makes – what was his name, do you remember?” I had been taking constant, long drags from my cigarette and it dropped an ashen cylinder to my lap.
Mark did not know. Speaking to him was often like talking to myself – that said, most of my conversations were one-sided, with me grasping to articulate a thought and causing the other party to bother with when it would be appropriate to speak, if at all – and I did make an effort to pause the tape and allow him to interject an encouraging and benign remark, as I knew he would. This was the problem with me, well, the most Presenting Problem I had at the moment: I fancied myself able to read the minds of others (again the AA gobbledygook resounds – each person is an actor trying to run the whole show) and this was often proven right, and for good reason! I rehearsed nearly every conversation beforehand, playing out the probabilities for responses, my counter-responses, potential hidden or hurt feelings – all in the name of self-defense, protection against ill-will or mistaken judgement. I never minded a disapproving glance if it were earned, see, but one due to misunderstanding? This would be the greatest grief of all, and I would not allow it. I would be the great Self Accountant, accountable to myself and Myself and no one would even feel the need to contribute constructive criticism or corrective guidance.
I suppose that was the demon that stalked my nights awake, prodding me to contemplate just one bit more, or to run from dizzying over-analysis by reading or some other task – but I have never truly been able to name this demon, though I KNOW he is there, lurking as a man just madder than myself, grateful to watch madness greater than his own, finally, and better even that it is of his own doing – I catch his smugness in the eyes of my reflection, just before they dart away in shame.