Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Friday, March 24, 2006


It is a wonderful time to be self-medicated. The smoke spirals and swirls before the monitor, and the big band sounds innocently tinny on the radio. I imagine a time before stranger danger and the advent of television news, when a couple created scandal by holding hands in public. Children played hardball until dusk, pretending to be Stan Hack, Andy Pafko, or Phil Cavarretta, who would cut out your heart for a run. Tussles broke out over the words "fink" and "keister." The air smelled dewy sweet, and even your old lady's keister tasted like candy.

I medicate myself with fermented barley and hops. It is the only medication that is sufficiently diluted to stretch the process of insanity long enough to analyze its components. Beer slowly disables those safeguards and self-delusions that enable one to maintain a socially acceptable train of thought.

Tonight's insanity seems to be composed of childhood viewed through wax paper. I see myself at midnight, tickled on shag carpet, convulsively laughing, gasping, "Stop, stop!" I know, though, it will never stop, these fingers in my armpits and in the hollows of my ribs. I squirm and shiver and scream for help, but the fingers cannot hear me, and would not care if they could. The fingers belong to disembodied hands, and the hands belong to something in my mind that loves to hear me laugh. I need to pee.

I see myself throwing my best friend's hard little poop-ball at his head after it bounced off my back at the kiddie urinal. Then we are in the principal's office, in big, big trouble. Covered in tears of shame, I yell that he threw the poop first. Panicked, he does not deny this, but he claims that it was some other kid's poop, as if that would be better. Our bathroom privileges are suspended.

At recess, I see myself hiding beneath the boughs of a pine tree with a large dark spot on the front of my red corduroy pants. Outside my disgraceful cavern, Tracy giggles and taunts, "He made ca-ca in his pants! Come look, the little-boy made ca-ca!" Tracy is older and Korean, but, "Ca-ca," I think, "isn't that poop? Maybe I'm too young to know the difference between pee and poop. I thought that I learned the difference when I was three years old." I hold up three fingers. Head down, I exit the cavern at the teacher's imploring. I am whisked away before the laughter grows to a crescendo, but inside it already has.

The doctor in my head, who I know as Paul, but who you should know as Dr. Sarducci, asks why I take medicine if I don't need it. Well doctor, why do I eat taquitos if I don't need them? Why do I listen to the Glen Miller Band if I don't need to? Need is a powerful term, often misapplied. The only things I need (in the next three weeks) are oxygen, water, and a way out. Medicine is a way out, but not the only one. There is also the front door.


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