It’s not easy to sit here and tell you what’s wrong with me. Not when I spend so much time thinking there’s nothing. Or nothing I can’t handle—big difference, seems, seems especially now, now, now, now that I’m feeling a little beneath the task of being. What does the past look like and feel like and sound like? I should write about that, get my mind off this, capture nostalgia’s zeitgeist, maybe paint it or something, leave it some cookies and milk and see if it stays.
The sun is warm on my face and down my left side but I think I can feel the deep cold chill outside through my eye vision, first two and third, so I rest them and it on the tiny sink and white cabinets across from the plastic and metal chair I’m sitting in, feet on old linoleum, stained and scratched the way it always is, thinking no one ever uses that, do they, that ubiquitary exam room sink, just the hand sanitizer and I’m not wearing rubber gloves like I’m sure the doc will so maybe, no, no matter. And time passes and I hear it feel it smell it and I think I know the past is painted in thick but runs when it gets wet.
The pull-shade is wide open because I declined the nurse’s offer to lower it. She noticed a squint. Didn’t hear her at first. Didn’t understand, I mean. So I looked at her for a still-squinting second with that dim quizzicalism that sets in when the brain’s a half-step behind the senses as she wrapped my arm in the blood pressure sleeve with the velcro rip and scratchy canvas feel before I said no thanks, it’s fine, and leaned forward in my seat a little and out of the golden rays. It’s fine, thanks.
It’s fine, the pressure, the blood, no need, I think, I’ve got plenty, pressure and blood, though I’ve had this idea since my early twenties, planted there by some prognosis I didn’t pay close attention to, that my blood levels are low, whatever that might mean—thirsty veins, p’raps, and that’s just me being cute though I don’t find it—but I stay mute and let her go on and do it like we’re supposed.
The sleeve hurts the bruised spot in my arm where the intravenous was and I thought about springing a leak. Then I might really be low. New stains for these floors. The pressure subsides with a gradual pump pump till hissssssssss and the sleeve gives me my arm back and she says 110 over something. I say ok, sort of hearing. I’m not unhealthy, I’m just not well. I do not say that. And that’s where we are now.
How often do you exercise? Daily. Do you smoke? No. Drink? Yes. How much, would you say? I wouldn’t, don’t want to. Not enough, thinking, probably still too much. A few a week, saying. Are you safe at home? Yes. Do you feel safe in your relationships? Yes. These two hurt, but she doesn’t mean it. Standard questions, both, for all of us, I’ve come to learn, the great equalized lot of us, but this time I think: how many say no and what do deceptively blue skies and not unclean windows in the sunny cold golden icy gleam mean to them? I don’t ask, though it might give her day a memorable stain too if I do and really I’d rather not. We have enough marks already, the everyday wear and occasionally eventful tear.
* * *
I’ve got a serious case of the touches lately, seriousest of my life. Didn’t tell her that before she left with a half-smile full meant and kindly saying the doctor will be with you shortly or momentarily or in a moment of whatever they always say that’s sort of true and sort of not but reassuring anyway by virtue of being more than nothing. I feel the warm sun and try to inhale the present with the past and I can’t get my lungs full these days so I start staring out the window at the cold pondering the way clear days make the cold go faster, move faster, if cold can go or move, the way winter cold limits, closes in like every bad poet and philosopher ever, and there are fewer possibilities and then my eyes realize they’re back inside at the sink and cabinets and trod-upon floor, thinking, you could say. I wouldn’t. Who feels it more? It’s frigid outside today, in the Fahrenheit teens, and then there’s Ray B. and me in what must’ve been the fifth grade because that’s around the time I started to remember things I read and things I learned and that thought of earlier touches has a way of making me feel both warm and chilled at once so I let it go and just hear the traffic rush by on that godforsaken stretch of ever-active expressway between me and the hospital building I spent a couple nights in a week and a half ago, cold tires on colder asphalt and such is my dystopia, Ray, how’s yours.
The sun is warm and the air is arctic and the linoleum looks old and here I am. This is thinking. Thematic repeats to help hold on—to what? For? Mountain snow was a thousand-some year old poem I once knew and every stanza began that way because sometimes that was poetry when words were more oral but mine are usually silent. I’d be hot if I felt better. Thinking, and here I am. Because I get hot when it’s time to leave and I can’t, thinking. And here I am. Where would I go anyway? Anyway, how much do I tell them, these medical professionals and their multitudinous merciful minions with less training and subtly grander heartsleeves? Words never say it all but they do make me feel better, and I am thereby entertained. I imagine asking the doc if the records say anything about how hearing the train from my hospital bed gave me a little sense of location in what felt like some great big hodgepodge mishmash salmagundi starship space station built of or for or across four dimensions, and maybe five elements—love’s always the fifth, the missing, which at first it was and then wasn’t because she came and I was mostly sure I’d be ok.
Doesn’t matter now, anyway, because here I am. It’s just how I like to describe things to myself when I think someone might later look inside and see if I let them.
* * *
Footsteps, doorknob, hello, hello, nice to meet you, pleasure. I tell her why I think I’m here. My heart, etc etc. But really this pressure inside, this fear, and I need to breathe, caught, blood rushing, hands tingly, trapped in head, in body, and held while it beats out of my chest and then we really have blood on the floor but I’d probably be unable to see it with so many words in my sightline, torrent of words with letters indecipherable, overlaid and under and hatch-crossed, no pretty picture.
What about depression, feeling down, low mood, hopeless? Yes, sure, I have that. It’s like a rash and sometimes people see it. Do you talk to anyone about it, a circle of friends you talk to? Yes, I talk about it. I don’t have a circle of anything, but there are a few who’ve helped me, I say, unsure of proper tense, and family and her, yes, especially her, and she is the fifth element. I wish she was here to hear me say that but I know I’ll tell her later because as many times as I can I need to let her know, before any messes make. And I write, I say, that’s a big thing, that I write, and when I say it I halfway feel I’m asking her to read something so I move swift past that, practiced in the ways of leaving no room for furthers, reflex-mind jumping to break the synapse and clear the thought, and say My mum says we’re like ducks, calm on the surface and paddling like hell underneath, though I don’t say mum I say mom. A snippet sightbite of a smile cracks as I think: I almost didn’t say that right because my mouth is dry and my brain’s fogged, or something, because consciousness caught the saying in the middle of being said and mind said what’s the rest of this? I guess it came out ok; I think I heard it, and I definitely saw her face register a sliver of comprehension to match my mini-grin. Understanding would be too much. And I’m here, still, but a couple blinks behind.
What about thoughts of suicide, any fantasies or considerations of taking your life? I don’t shake my head till she finishes and I see her watching me. No, not “Suicidal,” and I hear it as a “Term.” But thought of it? Yes—wish I’d said Well, yes, I’ve as much of an imagination as the next fool, enlisting the help of commas and context but my conversationals are right now rusty and I just might leave them that way because this stripped down corroded version is more like the truth. Like the truth. I like the truth, even when it scares me. I’m going to get medication. You’ve told me lots of things and asked lots of questions, doc, all good ones, reasonable ones, and I’ve been (mostly) forthcoming, like the truth.
Are you an anxious person? That was the question to which I responded with the duck analogy. I’ve never thought of myself as such, I’d said then, thinking now. I’ve always found ways to handle things, whatever that means, but this recent… “Experience”… and all the thoughts I had through and since are making me wonder if my mechanisms haven’t been quite copey enough. I almost lost my mind, about eleven days ago, I think. I don’t tell doc that, though. In fact, I don’t remember till she’s already asking me her follow-ups to the suicide question. Yes, there’s a history, both sides, I think. No attempts or successes. I mean, not in the traditional sense, the singular type of event sense, the historical moment past present tense sense, time date and place-stamped. My grandfather, you see, well, he killed himself, you might say, but narrativistically. It runs in the family for sure.
… to give you a tranquilizer to take as needed, low dose. Ok, yes, a low dose sounds good—a small nod, a break of eye contact as if I’d just asked her to do something inappropriate for my own personal benefit—I’ll give that a try while I’m on the thinners, as needed, low dose, repeating for conversational and remembrance since I’d just a moment ago drifted away. I hear her say psychologist and psychiatrist, might be good to engage in some cognitive therapy as well, and the back of my mind, way back in the corner says you knew why we’re here, for this. Treatment, drugs, yes, but help, that’s why, the umbrella because. You knew. Ok, yes, I knew. Help. My heart is fine. I think. I need help keeping it that way, I know. My mind is… well… I need help keeping it.
Thank you, yes, vitals all good, deep breaths, blood work again coming… follow up… be right back… your papers… a few weeks… if you need anything… and so on and coat on and hat on and gloves on and out the door and on.
* * *
Night now, and I can’t be alone, not right now, maybe not anymore. Please don’t leave me alone. I might come apart. What do you mean “come apart?” I don’t know, come unhinged, disintegrate. Not again will I snarl and turn from the hand that feeds, the hand that helps. Please help me. There’s something wrong. I’ve looked enough demons in the eye to for the first time now presently see I’m my own worst enemy and now I’m stuck here, within and without, estranged, afraid to hear the whole truth told—what can you give me for that?
“Future” is a word I don’t often use without feeling capitals and quotations. And the cold comes in. Strange times, these, extreme, troubled, and I don’t just mean me. Wonder if I’ll ever again deep delve and how and wonder time turns back to me and says put it behind for now and love and surface, drown deep in those, drown deep down in love and surface, presence and that’s ok. Forgiving. Remember that, remember forgiveness and beware the disillusion.
There’s nothing wrong with you, she says, love. You’re just how you’re supposed to be. And in my head that repeats as through my veins goes the blood and all that spills out is air, warm, soft, even, for now.