I am a dichotomy. I live two lives. I guess I have always been that way to some degree, but the opposing sides have become
increasingly separate. I don't know if you can relate to anxiety. If you have ever had that feeling of both a speed rush and
intense sadness, accompanied by intense pressure at the front of the skull, you know what I mean. The place where you
have to do something, but everything seems like a bad idea. Hopelessness. That is how I feel a lot of the time. It didn't happen
overnight. It was a progression. It started with legendary and devolved into lost.
It is July 23rd. I wake up early in the morning in the small house on Heights Street. I have owned the place since about 2000. I got a great deal
when the old lady who lived there passed and her son was hot to unload it. I call it a hobbit house since it has those rounded
entryways into each small room. The ceilings are low, the walls are thin, but it is home. Glancing around my small bedroom with
the single bed and a desk, I see the first glimmers of sun sneak by the towel that serves as a curtain over the solitary window.
In the corner is my blow up Spiderman punching bag. It's really for kids but I give it a kick every once in a while. I wake early
to get a little bit of quiet in the day. You see, my home is a boarding house. Ever since I was a kid I took up for the underdog.
After the separation from my wife, it just got worse. I took in strays. One of them is my sister Jessica. She was once lead
purchasing agent at a local hospital, but since a crash and burn with crack cocaine, she can't hold a job. She is a heavier
girl with red hair and a temper to match. My other boarder is Jason. He is disabled due to being HIV positive. He has long
brown hair and a face full of scars, most of which Jessica gave him. They have a love-hate relationship that often manifests
as hate and intense violence. She has attacked him with coffee cups, her fists or anything else on hand and beaten his face to
hamburger. This is my familty.
I quietly descend the short staircase, thirteen steps, turn forty five degrees and cut through the living room into the kitchen.
The kitchen is small with limited countertops and cupboards. It was once an isolated farm house on top of the hill, but the town has grown
up around it. Now it is surrounded, too closely, by it's larger neighbors. So closely that you feel bad about taking a crap since
the neighbors pool is ten feet outside the bathroom window. I go to the coffee pot, put in some water and the cheap coffee
that we use. It is a little harsh but has plenty of caffeine. Ever since the service I have had a weakness for the stuff. I take it
black. I always felt that if you are going to contaminate it with cream and sugar and flavors, you might as well have hot
chocolate. I take my cup of coffee and head for the basement door. I descend the steps into the dank basement, cut
through the furnace room and a storage area into the part of the basement that used to hold coal. It has a sliding barn
door that exits up steps to the outside. I take a seat at the heavy table with the folding steel chairs and open up the cabinet
at my right hand. Inside are the tray of weed and the gravity bong. Ever since my separation seven years ago I have indulged
in the illegal substance. I say it is for back pain, but the pain it soothes is deeper than that. There is pain that comes from the conscience
when we violate boundaries in our lives, when we compromise on our beliefs. I am supposed to have higher standards
than most but I still feel enjoyment from the acrid smoke that hits my lungs and sends a sense of euphoria to my brain.
After a couple of hits, my dose, I am good to begin my day, or so I thought. This particular day would take me places I
had never imagined.
I go back upstairs to the kitchen, cut through the laundry room and out the side door. The porch isn't much, just a
metal overhang covering a cement slab and one concrete step. I cover ground to the Suv, a 2004 Hyundai Sante Fe that
I had taken the payments over for. There is a story here. I had a good friend, Dez, from high school, who had become
a congregation member. She was married to a shy guy named Elmwould who wouldn't say ship if you gave him a mouthful.
Anyway, Dez contracted a nasty flesh-eating virus that consumed the flesh on her stomach until there was nothing left to sew to.
She spent many painful months in the hospital and then passed suddenly without warning. She had gone to the car dealership
with another congregation member and instead of being the main payor, Dez was co-signer. When Dez passed, the payor was in
danger of having to have a car repossessed for non-payment so I took over the payments. Payments that are way too high
for my income. All is good till I miss a payment then the Payor calls to piss and moan about their credit rating which would
have been decimated by letting the vehicle go back, not to mention the remaining balance that would still have to be
So, I get in my overpriced vehicle and head off to the church desperate for a cup of coffee. First stop is a visit to Jack
Croon, a local artist who has reaped the consequences of a life of hard living, he is finishing it up on an oxygen tank. Jack
is a character. He retired from local film business, was a charter boat captain, and an honor guard member in the army. He has a story
for every occasion. He's also very good at making up voices, you know the dramatic voices that actors use. He has German
voices and French voices and Arab voices that he uses in his stories. Today the story is about a German gynecologist and
nuns. The headmother brings the nun to the doc because of morning sickness and the nun turns out to be pregnant. The
headmistress tells the doc that the girls are in bed by dark and the gyno agonizes over how to tell the headmistress that
girls can get pregnant in the daylight too. It's funny when Jack tells it. I have a good visit with Jack and then am back in
my overpriced SUV. I stop in at the church to check messages. My church is in Lock Boon, a small hamlet in upstate
New York. It resembles the typical country church with white tile siding and a steeple and stained glass. For a small
church it serves the community well. I climb the winding staircase to my office on the second floor. There is a faint
musty odor in the air, the one that accompanies most old buildings. This one has been here since the 1830's. A lot of history
has happened under this roof. My buzz is starting to fade so it is time to lock up and head to the state park across
the highway from the church. It's not much of a park, 2 benches, a couple of charcoal grills embedded in concrete
and a view of the old canal and the huge granite stones that make up it's banks. The sun is peeking out from
overcast clouds but it is warm, in the 80's, good weather for July.
I stop by my friend Ted's house. Ted is one of those people who never grew up. He was in the workforce till
about 25 or so and then started having emotional problems that eventually led to a decision of disabled. He hasn't
held a job for the last 15 years, but it is nice to have someone who is always home when you want to pop in
to pep up your buzz. Ted is 5'10, with longer dirty blonde hair and a middle aged paunch. He is opionionated
and has a hard time seeing anyone's perspective but his own. A character, like many people in my life.
I roll up on Ted's about 2:30pm. He lives in half of a farm house on a tributary road that gets very
little traffic. The door is open when I walk up. I give a knock and walk in. Ted is on the couch with a bowl
of weed and a cup of coffee beside him and a playstation controller in his hand. That is how you find
him most days. We settle in for a couple hours of Grand Theft Auto, then I have to head back to the
church to check phone messages. The church is only a five minute drive from Ted's so I get there
quickly. I go in the front entrance and make an immediate left turn that places me at the foot of a
winding staircase that leads to my office. The church is all lathe and plaster construction, and the
walls curve with the stairs. At the top of the staircase is the door to my office, which is always open. It
also serves as the audio/video control area with a large window that faces out over the sanctuary.
I walk to the far end of the office where my desk sets. I punch the play button on the answering
machine and listen to the two messages. Nothing important. I look around to see how well the
cleaning person has been maintaining my office and I decide it is a good job. I head back to
the stairs and ascend to the front door. I check to make sure the door is locked and then
go to my suv. I head back to the house on Heights Street for a visit to the basement to pep
up my buzz. After a quick session I ascend the steps to be greeted by the large mastiff
pitbull mix, Ares, my sister's dog. We have two others, a chihuahua and a mutt. They are all pretty
good dogs for being in such a small house. There are also cats in the house but at this time
I couldn't tell you how many, it fluctuates as they run off and disappear and others appear.
I have a quick snack of a packaged snack pie and head up to my room. I stretch out on
my bed and just relax. I can feel that warm feeling that means that sleep is not far behind.
Just as my eyelids start to flutter closed I hear the dogs going crazy. That usually means
that someone is at the door. I slowly climb out of my comfort zone and descend the stairs.
Just as I get to the bottom I see one of my friends, Mark, crying to my sister. I get closer and
Mark grabs onto me, he wails that our friend Ted is dead. I can't believe it. I have known Ted
since before kindergarten. Mark tells me between tears that he found Ted dead on his bedroom
floor that morning. We would find out later that he had died of complications from a shoulder
surgery he had recently. A blood clot had broken off and gone to his heart. It was quick.
I don't know how to respond. I feel sort of cold, stuck in unbelief. Then I start to feel the pain
of sorrow. The hurt of loss. The realization that you will never see that person again. Mark
and I share tears and then he has to go since his ride can't stay too long. We hug and
he leaves. If there was ever a time to visit the basement, this is it. After getting
totally stoned, I spend the rest of the night watching images pass my eyes and sounds
passing my ears, but nothing registers as I spend the evening in my head lamenting
the loss of my best friend. Later in the week, I and a common friend that Ted and I
had, Rory, would go to the top of the hill where the town watertower is and burn
a candle and say a prayer, and catch a buzz in honor of Ted. A stoner's send off.
About 11pm I decide to give in to fatigue and go to bed, I hope i can get some decent