Last night I drank three beers on an empty stomach. This morning I woke up nearly dead. My austere diet of one meal a day doesn’t mix well with drinking. The nausea is in my skin, in my fingertips. I can’t hurl in my room. Must move methodically. If my pinkie twitches then I’ll projectile vomit. There’s a railroad spike in the back of my brain. It hurts to think.
Can’t move. Sit up and try not to blink too hard or look anywhere but straight ahead. How could I be this sick? 3 beers, IPAs, high alcohol content. I don’t know anything about beer. I don’t drink anymore. When I was in my early twenties I got drunk a couple times a week. I’d stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning and pass out with the room spinning and waves rippling across the ceiling. Then I’d wake up wobbly, queasy, with a slight headache. A slow start but by mid-morning I’d be fine.
I had a few bad hangovers in those days, but they followed nights of double digits shots of whisky or vodka. Now 3 beers batters my body. I’ll never be an alcoholic writer. Sitting at the computer, typing and pounding Jack Daniels. Guzzling vodka, stumbling, slurring, genius flowing from pen to page. Working late nights, besotted, uninhibited.
I’ll never be the functional, ambitious, succesful drunk. I don’t understand how people do it. They probably eat more, for one thing. There’s nothing in my body but poison. My stomach is twisting and churning with toxins.
Crawl to the bathroom. Sit on the filthy bathroom floor, eye level with the shit stained toilet. I need to upchuck so I stick a finger down my throat. Strained retching, that sharp, tight feeling in my stomach and abdominals. Forcing fluid upward. Bile burns my throat and mouth but then I feel better. Relief. A cool sweat breaks and I can breathe again.
Only a few more days of isolation. Two more days of work and then I’m gone. I don’t know how I’ll pull it off. I’m having a crisis of clutter. How can I be this poor and have this much stuff? There’s too much material in this world. We’ve made more than anyone could ever need. Books, cups, plates, mugs, papers, bags and clothes. My room could supply an african village.
I’m down to wearing heavy dress socks in the 100 degree heat because I lost all the others. But I have 600 pairs of underwear. Sweaters I’ll never wear again. Sweaters I shrank in the laundry because I don’t know how to set the dryer. Way too many shoes. I want to throw it all away and leave everything behind except a pair of pants, a shirt, shoes, socks, briefs and a MAGA hat. Drive home in a rental car chain smoking the entire time.
But for now I need to go to work. Get on the midday bus. It’s full so I stand. Suppress lingering desire to barf as the bus lurches and stops every 500 feet. 80 percent of the blacks on this bus have walkers and canes. There’s a woman in a motorized cart taking up three seats. Her stomach is distended a foot beyond her face. Her stomach is nearly on the floor, her fat spills over the cart.
Across from her is a man with swollen ankles. He’s diabetic. Mumbling to whoever about how he still has a flip phone. Doesn’t need an iphone. I agree with him there. The bus driver is shouting to another man about how Trump don’t have no brain. And then he talks about Cosby. Those women had it coming. They knew what they were doing. Sorry ladies, says the black bus driver. At least he doesn’t like Trump. This bus is the bottom end of the democratic constituency. Bus riding, Trump hating, diabetic, dole dependent, wheelchair bound, rape excusing blacks.
But you know what I appreciate in these people? The majority of them are happy to be alive. Even though they’re poor, dumb, diseased, shackled with infirmities and iniquities, they still count their blessings. They may be stuck in an unbreakable cycle of poverty and fated with poor genes and low IQ’s. They may not be mentally equipped to understand the nature of their problems, but they have gratitude. Many of them are religious. I felt inspired for a moment and then remembered that I never want to be around these people again.
I need to focus. Have to get my affairs in order. Pay bills, clean, not fuck people over. It’s not easy. I’ve done this so many times. Moving, boxing up junk, grunting and groaning in the summer heat, twisting my spine and straining muscles in my back, lifting piles of possessions at awkward angles. Up and down stairs, jumping up into truck beds, tying down couches and desks. Moving back and forth, in and out of various interchangeable enclosures. Places I never knew, places that meant nothing.
Meanwhile the world continues on its mad course. A white, left wing terrorist shot a republican senator, shattered his hip. I’m days behind on this one. And then a white, British man ran over a Muslim outside of a mosque. Already ancient history. The Manchester bombing, the London bridge stabbings, the baseball practice shooting; each violent event is buried by the next. We talk about normalizing violence. But violence is normal. No one needs to normalize it.
When we don’t like someone, we kill them. When we want something someone else has, we kill them and take it. That’s history. Sure, there are inventions and diplomacy and treaties and love and progress, but behind it there’s always violence. Force, dispossession, displacement, murder, organized theft. Armies burning down cities and cooking women and children in their homes. Genocide and ethnic cleansing. The ancients were irremediable bastards who built empires on the bones of their enemies. They also gave us art and geometry and clay bowls.
We round people up and send them on death marches. Prod them with batons into unfamiliar lands, taunt the defeated and piss on the graves of the vanquished. We break treaties and ignore documents that discourage slaughter. The constitution has always been a point of impotent reference. Executive overreach is normal, powerful interests operating outside the law is normal, bloodthirsty and land hungry leaders acting without congressional or parliamentary approval is normal. It happens everywhere.
Groups don’t like other groups. Groups don’t even like their own members. Looking and sounding like another person isn’t enough to stop you from hating him. Springing from the same soil doesn’t stay the violent hand. We don’t even have in-group peace when we’re fighting outsiders. Civil strife, fraternal discord and tribalism are pillars of human life. We can’t remove them or reengineer ourselves. We can give ourselves space, we can descale and recover a more modest program for co-habitation. Preventing the worst dissonance is more sensible than striving after perfect harmony. We don’t need to mix factious people’s problems together in a suicidal crusade for utopian brotherhood.
I’m surprised there isn’t more violence. Especially in DC. How is this place not under constant attack from every other country? How is not under constant attack from within this country? There should be a bomb going off everyday. When the doors of the subway open blood should spill out. With all the disaffected, alienated losers converting to violent religions and building pipe bombs and stockpiling guns we should all be getting shot in the groin every time we step outside.
Everything is a weapon. Blunt instruments, wrenches, hammers, knives, forks, screwdrivers, power drills, furniture, beer bottles and bare hands. Broken glass and household chemicals. Bleach and corrosive cleaning fluids. We could all murder each other with our cars and trucks. The stakes of violence are higher than ever. Nuclear bombs and gas attacks, drones and satellite guided missiles. There has never been so much firepower. There have never been so many people crowded together in dense urban spaces without a common culture.
All these people jostling each other everyday, all promised things they’ll never have, fearful and anxious about their futures and severed from a stabilizing past. A primal hate percolating, guts bubbling with rancor. Enemies in all shapes and sizes from every station; the rich taking from the poor, the poor taking from the middle; everyone taking from everyone else and cackling about the setbacks and humiliations of their opponents.
We compete for resources on an overworked planet with billions of scarcity minded, status driven, redundant people sitting on a mass of nuclear bombs, machine guns, hand guns, machetes, missiles, rockets and tanks, and we’re surprised when someone loses it and goes out in a blaze of stabbing and shooting.
A materialistic culture that inflames selfish desires and offers vapid cliches about self-actualization while stoking the fires of resentment through technology that invites constant comparison and oneupmanship is sure to be violent and inhospitable. Everyday we aren’t hosing blood off our shirts and sidewalks is a good day.
I’m trying to be grateful. Rather than continuing to live in heart of American darkness, I’m headed for the hills of Indiana, where we have a hobo and heroin problem. Not so bad, all things considered.