The transition to delirious mania is marked by the appearance of confusion, more hallucinations, and a marked intensification of the symptoms seen in acute mania. A dreamlike clouding of consciousness may occur. Patients may mistake where they are and with whom. They cry out that they are in heaven or in hell, in a palace or in a prison; those around them have all changed—the physician is an executioner; fellow patients are secret slaves. Hallucinations, more commonly auditory than visual, appear momentarily and then are gone, perhaps only to be replaced by another. The thunderous voice of God sounds; angels whisper secret encouragements; the devil boasts at having the patient now; the patient’s children cry out in despair. Creatures and faces may appear; lights flash and lightning cracks through the room. Grandiose and persecutory delusions intensify, especially the persecutory ones. Bizarre delusions may occur, including Schneiderian delusions [delusions involving control or being controlled]. Electrical currents from the nurses’ station control the patient; the patient remains in a telepathic communication with the physician or with the other patients.
Mood is extremely dysphoric and labile. Though some patients still are occasionally enthusiastic and jolly, irritability is generally quite pronounced. There may be cursing, and swearing; violent threats are made, and if patients are restrained they may spit on those around them. Sudden despair and wretched crying may grip the patient, only to give way in moments to unrestrained laughter.
Flight of ideas becomes extremely intense and fragmented. Sentences are rarely completed, and speech often consists of words or short phrases having only the most tenuous connection with the other. Pressure of speech likewise increases, and in extreme cases the patient’s speech may become an incoherent and rapidly changing jumble. Yet even in the highest grades of incoherence, where associations become markedly loosened, these patients remain in lively contact with the world about them. Fragments of nearby conversations are interpolated into their speech, or they may make a sudden reference to the physician’s clothing or to a disturbance somewhere else on the ward.
Hyperactivity is extreme, and behavior disintegrates into numerous and disparate fragments of purposeful activity. Patients may agitatedly pace from one wall to the other, jump to a table top, beat their chest and scream, assault anyone nearby, pound on the windows, tear the bed sheets, prance, twitter, or throw off their clothes. Impulsivity may be extreme, and the patient may unexpectedly commit suicide by leaping from a window.
Self-control is absolutely lost, and the patient has no insight and no capacity for it. Attempting to reason with the patient in delirious mania is fruitless, even assuming that the patient stays still enough for one to try. The frenzy of these patients is remarkable to behold and rarely forgotten. Yet in the height of delirious mania, one may be surprised by the appearance of a sudden calm. Instantly, the patient may become mute and immobile, and such a catatonic stupor may persist from minutes to hours only to give way again to a storm of activity. Other catatonic signs, such as echolalia and echopraxia and even waxy flexibility, may also be seen.
As noted earlier not all manic patients pass through all three stages; indeed some may not progress past a hypomanic state. Regardless, however, of whether the peak of severity of the individual patient’s episode is found in hypomania, in acute mania, or in delirious mania, once that peak has been reached, a more or less gradual and orderly subsidence of symptoms occurs, which to a greater or lesser degree retraces the same symptoms seen in the earlier escalation. Finally, once the last vestiges of hypomanic symptoms have faded, the patient is often found full of self-reproach and shame over what he has done. Some may be reluctant to leave the hospital for fear of reproach by those they harmed and offended while they were in the manic episode.
Fitting things into a room in the house is like playing Tetris. The rooms are not square but have things jutting out in the middle of them like other people’s closest or something else we don’t really want to know. In my room, Harold’s closet interrupts the middle my room so that my mattress kisses the corner and you have to hurdle over point to get to the other side. This isn’t to say my room is small, it’s rather large, but if I put my bed anywhere else it closes off my closet (which juts into my room).
I’ve hallucinated on multiple occasions. Apparently. I don’t remember them. None of it. My memory surrounding the events has wained and encompasses days afterward and the events leading up to them with only fragments of sentences and the only thing left sticking in my mind is the realization that I lose my mind. I believe it is associated with mania, I think, I’m not sure though. I can snap into a manic episode without much of a push either which means it’s a year round threat. I just drink too much coffee. I probably had too much coffee. I probably drank. I probably smoked weed or from reports was around it. Not sure if I actually did. I don’t ever touch it now. I’m afraid the Council will come back. I’m afraid that I’ll stay awake hours after my medication should flatline me to the point where when normal and I can no longer walk or talk properly. I ditched multiple meds because they failed. I’m not sure what to do if geodon fails. There are really no more drugs left for me to take. All I have are reports to go on. All I have is the hope that it’s in the past, that it won’t surface in class or at work or in a park or on a bus or in public where the cops could be called on me and I wind up in a cell on the fifth floor of the psych ward locked in with people who are just as far gone as I am and the realization of what I am comes flooding back.
I’m scared because I make threats.
I’m scared of hurting someone.
I’m scared of losing what little control I have whenever summer comes around.
I did not hallucinate that summer. I haven’t since, so far. And even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what it was like because I don’t know what it’s like to hear voices or see things. No clue. All I know is that when I found out it felt like the rushing noise of Johnson filled my head as it spun and the details were filled in and I felt sick and disturbed and lost. It is one thing to be manic, it is another thing to be psychotic. One can be a positive force if harnessed correctly and medicated, the other is just hell. I have dealt with death in multiple scenarios both the victim of depression and watching depression happen. In many ways my life is still surrounded by death in one form or another as I am ever closer to it than normal people which makes bipolar disorder not just a disorder of the brain like anxiety that interferes with everyday life and can be pushed down with the use of benzos or buspar or gabapentin but something that goes into remission with the ever present threat of coming back to life and destroying everything. Death is not scary anymore. The fact that I step in front of cars is part of my life and produces anxiety but it does not scare me to my core. I have been around it too much for it to be classified as anything but a really bad day or week followed by another few weeks that disappear. Psychosis, that is the scariest fucking thing I have ever dealt with in my life or ever will.
Cliff was still seeing Unicorn Girl and she had gotten him interested in artwork, well, her artwork, just her, but that came with artwork. She gave him a ridiculously huge 4×8 painting that she had done herself and he discovered that while hanging it that only one wall in his room had studs of any meaningful sort. They were unevenly spaced, some stopped half way up as though there were internal windows within the house letting one room see into the other but such windows were now buried under drywall. This is a reoccurring problem throughout the house. Neither of us could figure out how the house stayed up.
Grace and Harold had cooled. She was done with fucking around and that while it was nice to have sex again she was deathly afraid that he would become attached. Grace wanted to stay unattached, to Harold that is. She told me that she didn’t want it to go anywhere, she wasn’t into guys younger than her, and she wasn’t into guys who were depressed or mopey (she had enough depression with me) (still hung up on Rachel to some degree), and broke it off before he started to get too close because he seemed like he was looking for a rebound and she didn’t want to be the rebound to anything and though he was getting better, she took a breath, she just didn’t have the emotional energy for him. She still wanted to talk to him like a friend and work through anything he might have to say, but she couldn’t do that at the same time she was sleeping with him because that was exactly what Grace thought a relationship is. She always thought relationships were just conversation with the promise of sex afterwards. But this time, this time she wanted to fall head over heels with someone and that wasn’t him at all. She didn’t want the cutsy morning routine that began to nauseate her, she wanted something substantial and he wasn’t able to offer that. She was jealous of what I had and didn’t know how to get it for herself. Harold was just not the path to it. She kept talking about him though, she still wanted the just fucking though, though it wasn’t what she wanted in the long run.
I seemed to be stable. Seemingly is a good word because it isn’t ‘seem’ in the external sense of looking as though but in fact is not but ‘seemingly’ in the internal sense that it approaches normality in a way that doesn’t quite touch it but is acceptable even though it doesn’t actually look like normal. And by seem I seem like I’m jacked on coffee and can stay up late and want sex all the time and go without sleep if I really want to without immediate consequences except for heightening my mood which when I’m seemingly normal it seems like a great idea because it gives me more of the drug that makes me feel better than normal. But seemingly pretty damn close to normal from the inside, but that’s probably just delusional.
Summer was kicked off to this. I was a lot of fun. Rachel discovered this side of me and liked it.
The first week of June I found a job. It was in a law firm and kept me busy as a legal assistant where most of my life was spent reading and note taking and filing and never really the same day twice except for the reading and note taking and the filing. I had to go business casual to work though. And by business casual they meant with a tie and better than my $30 attempt. I swear they don’t know what casual means. I’m casual. Blue jeans are casual. Untucked shirts are casual. T-shirts are not. They’re something else that I’m not sure of what class it falls into fashion wise. I had to buy ties. And pants. At least I had the shirts that only needed to be ironed. I lamented my crumpled don’t-give-a-flying-fuck look. Rachel took me to the mall and headed to Banana Republic, the store where people go to dress up looking like they just got back from a church picnic, and we ran through the ties because BR is definitionally business casual. I tried on some slacks, grey, my favorite color, and they made my ass look good and fit really well in the way that good clothes always do. Three of those. I wanted a normal tie that I could wear with everything. That turned out to be white because I only own dark clothing. I don’t know how that happened, I think it’s laziness. Dark clothing just always looks good and can be matched with just about anything providing that it’s a different degree of darkness. Hue? Shade. That’s it. White looked good but as always, it’s white. I hate white. I hate having only one or two shirts that are white that demand either their own separate load so they don’t become something else other than white or hand washing them in bleach which I don’t want to do either. Every time I wear a white shirt I become paranoid that I’m wearing a white shirt and something will stain it. That’s not a state of mind I want. Especially since that paranoia inevitably leads to staining said white shirt. I can never win.
White ties are cool though.
That I’ll agree on.
We hit Kohl’s on our way out to get some essentials, socks and underwear to replace the old. That’s a new level of relationship as well, it’s not the life or death kind of relationship that forced intimacy on us that we were not fully prepared for but welcomed, it’s the acceptance of the truly humdrum of the other’s life as part of our own. It’s an anti-date. Not just clothes hunting at the mall, but buying underwear. It’s not like she doesn’t see me in them, it’s just buying it. We didn’t care though. When I got back home I quickly unwrapped my clothes from their cardboard supports and removed the insane number of pins that Banana Republic uses to piece their clothing together and then I got to the underwear that I bought so I wouldn’t have to do laundry. It comes in a zip lock bag. What? And this is only with Hanes to my knowledge. I’m not sure what counts as a spree either since manias usually lead to them, but $500 later I was done buying clothes before I even had worked a single day. Work began the next day at 8. I would be able to make it. Rachel and I celebrated alone.
I woke up at six with a naked Rachel draped over my body and while the alarm was sounding I fantasized about turning it off and staying with her. Everyone has this fantasy when with someone they love who is also naked, I shuffled closer to her and our legs intertwined and my brain ran hot with ideas and comfort, but when manic it becomes more of an actual possibility that I’ll just kill the alarm and have sex in place of work. I didn’t cave. I got up and did the businessy things that I had to do. Eat breakfast. Shower. Make sure my curly hair curly and not wavy by scrunching it in the way that a hairdresser told me to way back when after she said I had nice hair and I believed her because I don’t know anything about hair at all other than curly hair is a bitch in the winter because of hats smooshing it and then frizzy as hell during the humid days of July and August. Brushing my teeth to remove the coffee and cigarette smell away as best I could. Also milk breath. Those three things combine into heinous aftermaths. I finished at seven and realized I had about forty minutes left before I had to leave. Forty minutes is a long time to sit and do nothing really. I was too strung out on energy to focus on anything for just forty minutes without it spiraling into two hours and to twiddle my thumbs for forty minutes was equally painful.
I paced. I went to the bedroom and cuddled with a half awake Rachel who didn’t want to be woken up again after I half woke her an hour before — she flailed at the hyperactive beau in her presence. I didn’t want to leave her. Ten minutes passed. It felt like an hour. I paced and left the room and smoked a cigarette. Then another. Then I said fuck all and headed out the door white tie and all with a pack of cigarettes in my bag to chain smoke in front of the law office until doors opened which would at least give me the impression of being a go getter even though I was just sputtering and going absolutely bat shit crazy in my head waiting for them to open so I could get the fucking work day over with. I chain smoked. They opened the doors. They thought I was a go getter and liked me instantly.
They liked me a lot actually. I didn’t need lunch. I kept moving at a pace that they couldn’t keep up with. When up like this I can read insane volumes of pages. I was ideal for a law office. But it was an office and not the Lodge. It was a paycheck and maybe a possible future in a law office, but it wasn’t fun. It didn’t get me in the outdoors for a walk and a cigarette and inside with smelly musicians who traveled around in vans without showering and were either too tired from driving or too hungover from their last gig and came to a place that was sometimes barely held together except by loving and caring and decent people that devoted their time to something constantly on the verge of collapsing in on itself and always needed someone clutch to take over at the last second when the shit went down and I would often get the phone call and even though it meant that I lost a night of my life doing something that I previously didn’t want to do but I silently loved it, I loved the thrill of being behind the board even though I would always swear to never do it again just after finishing a show. I wouldn’t be getting phone calls at 5pm calling me in to work till 1am, I wouldn’t get any phone calls, I wouldn’t be clutch, I wouldn’t be needed. I don’t like being replaceable.
I tried harder to be irreplaceable.
I continued to arrive early and smoke before hand and soon enough others joined me and we bantered. It wasn’t anything interesting. It was mainly people who like wearing suits and business casual clothing talking to me. There was little in common and I grew irritated at them at first though I continued to talk to them with increasing detail about my past lives. I never mentioned that I was fired. I always quit in my stories just before I was fired because bosses were assholes and they were all to familiar with that. I guess we had some common ground.
One worked in retail for several years before getting his act together and following law. Retail is a hellish job that we bonded over. I’d rather stock shelves in Woodmans than do retail. The difference between placing jars on shelves and hanging coat hangers on racks is the atmosphere. Stocking shelves has the atmosphere of physical labor that has to be done and no one really standing over your shoulder watching it happen or criticizing your technique or telling you to stand up straight or imposing a dress code that is anything above casual. The most that will happen is them telling you to lift with your legs or move a little faster or stop playing hockey with the tuna cans. It’s physical, it’s raw, and in its mind numbing repetitiveness it is better than pulling shirts off of a rack or folding clothes or putting things back on the rack and checking to make sure high school students don’t steal. Also, retail is filled with phonies who act like their life is the best even though it’s a life — not a career, a life — in retail — people who have been at it for twenty years and let the time run to their head as though it translated to actual power when it really doesn’t because there is at best a loose power structure in any retail system that is easily circumvented and broken but the boss doesn’t care because he’s been there for less time than the power monster (the power hungry retailer) thinks that the time put in is something to hang over his head as well. There’s always one of these in retail. Always. While the rest of us are just there for a small part of our life before something better comes along or are there because it’s a job that pays the bills, that person has made the conscious decision to make retail a life and anyone who decided that it isn’t a life is the enemy. It’s really just a power grab. It’s a way to feel big in a small pond. It’s sad. But irritating as hell and ruins retail for the rest of us.
I sympathized with him.
In my case the power monster was also the boss.
And he wasn’t really even a boss.
Another once spent a summer painting houses for a sketchy company out in Fitchburg. For the record, I hate Fitchburg. I have no other reason than that I always get lost no matter how hard I try in Fitchburg when using google maps, yahoo maps, any maps map. Always. I avoid it like the plague. It was set up out by the old Triangle company and found the job through the UW job center website. It said that it paid $10 an hour which is decent wage for an undergrad over the summer. He should have noticed something was wrong when the interview only lasted five minutes before he was hired. There was no competition for the job whatsoever. From his story I’ve come to learn that any job that hires you on the spot is more a reflection on them than it is on you. That summer he baked in the heat and his arms went numb from carrying the sprayer and not having enough water breaks made him dehydrated and they paid by the job and not the hour, the hourly wage was a guestimate based on their own assessment of how long the job should theoretically take compared to the reality that it took longer so he was really making less than minimum wage on some jobs. He tried to find other jobs but he couldn’t quit painting because it paid the rent. In the fall he found a job in retail.
Another was a camp counselor for five years before giving it up. It wasn’t a bad job, not like retail or painting, but it was bad in other ways. For starters, it was a Christian Camp and he turned agnostic after the second year there. But it paid well. Really well. So he kept going back year after year to cash the paycheck. He would go to the twice daily sermons aimed at kids and definitely not adults and he had to act like he liked it after the fiftieth time that summer not including other summers that had pretty much the exact same thing going on. He would have to perform the same routines with the same enthusiasm and God forbid (he still says that) that he should ever be selected to perform a play with stilted dialog written by a definite drunk. He did have to do a play. Everybody had to do a play at some point. The kids were clearly disappointed with his Peter (which was a new low for his self-esteem). Of course there was always the group prayer. He said that he felt like he was part of a cult after ditching the church. The group prayers really creeped him out. He hated the mess hall and the sloppy food that he would be rotated into once in a while and then slave away in a kitchen producing more slop. But like stockboys skidding across slippery floors complete with yellow triangles warning of the danger to do so, camp also had its upside. He loved the kids. He liked teaching them to swim, to shoot bows and BB guns. He liked helping them too. After he became agnostic he took a new approach to helping people through ways that are not found in scripture but his own life and experiences. It seems unremarkable but church can do that to a person, it can narrow the possibilities of help down to only scripture and just scripture based ideas. His kids loved him and he encountered some really dark stuff in their lives because of he tried to learn more details than ever before. Once kids start talking, they don’t stop (like Harold), and if you feed them just a little line you can reel them in and find what’s really troubling them (like Harold (but I don’t mean that to be mean)). Those kids he’d give piggy back rides around camp and dunk them into the lake. The female counselors also noticed his love for kids and kind interactions and one of them actually liked his horrible portrayal of Peter betraying Jesus (though that was probably just a cover for conversation) (and another later on also mentioned it so maybe it wasn’t a cover) (and yes, more than one woman approached him over a terrible portrayal of anyone). For all the talk and indoctrination about abstinence it does little to actually stop anything. The next year he brought condoms (and ran out) (but that didn’t stop anything).
I bonded with the smoking club that grew as people discovered others arriving early to anxiously drag away in the slowly warming mornings and bitch about our past lives and swap stories and compare who had the worst life before landing this job. We weren’t friends, but we also weren’t colleagues. We smoked together. It’s an in between bond that extends from the front doors of a law office to the outside of a bar talking about how the team was doing over half time. Lawyers would smoke with us as though we were all just shmucks on the street bumming off of one another. No class, no divide, just getting some air. After a week I started to look forward to work. At work I would look forward to going outside and getting some air with the others.
It was still hard leaving Rachel behind. I wasn’t abandoning her, I just wanted to stay curled up and warm. I never got over that.
Weekends found new energy as I was free of biz-cas clothing and into my normal casual clothing which amounted to no tie and blue jeans. My crumpled days were behind me and Rachel was rather pleased with that (supposedly I’m cute/sexy/kinda-handsome and having an ironed shirt helps — who knew). Rachel and I learned how to swing dance on Fridays in place of our standing date. She finally found the down beat and I finally found the up beat. It was fun, more fun than I ever anticipated it to be. We first learned the Foxtrot, of course with it’s three step pattern to a four-four time signature that took a while for my brain to get over but it eventually did. Engineering messed me up like that. I can hear time signatures and beats in wildly different ways from being exposed to a wide variety of music and dissecting it in between necessary changes on the board. Three and four are different, my math brain and engineering brain said, they forgot about rests. I got a grip on it just in time to learn the Balboa and later the Lindy Hop. I can Jitterbug if I have to but I’ll never do it if you ask me to, I only do that for Rachel. I learned more but those are the ones that I’ve retained and dance with Rachel on the weekends. It would always be our thing.
She loved it to death. When I first proposed the idea to her she launched herself at my torso and nearly crippled my back in the process. She came back down to earth but was still bouncing with excitement and blurted it out faster than her mouth could move when Grace appeared in the living room having heard the excitement from the kitchen. Grace winked at me and attempted to smile. Every night we went out to class she would put on a different dress that she bought from Ragstock or found at St. Vinny’s and deconstructed and pieced together for that friday’s dance. I wouldn’t see her put it on, she would dress and emerge from the bedroom with a spin for me so that the pleats opened up and her dress spun outwards, then she would smile and giggle and give me both of her hands to lift me from sitting on the coffee table. I would get a peck on the lips and then she led me to the door so we could leave early. Grace would tease the both of us about this after she saw the full display happen downstairs, in the open, to prying eyes, to which she only snickered and playfully mocked us the next day when reenacting it with Harold. That’s when we moved it into my bedroom where I would go to Rachel and not the other way around, but Grace was nice about it after our retreat, she felt bad for laughing at us. Rachel was good at swing and breathtaking to swing with. I think it was half the problem I had, I kept watching her and taking her in when I should have been moving. She’d catch me staring and smile back.
We would come back and fall into the rhythm that we established with Grace and Harold. Then we would lie awake talking about the day and the week and what we would learn next week until she fell asleep from fatigue and comfort. She absorbed it all and began to breathe dance and in our spare time she would put on some jazz and when no one was around we’d dance together.
On Saturdays we would all go out, Cliff too if he wasn’t out with Unicorn Girl but that was always the case. At Plan B Rachel and I would practice and Harold and Grace would try to find someone for the other person despite growing comfortable with one another. Other nights we went out to movies or music and our clan grew tighter. I had many friends through the years who I would all call friends, except for Grace, she’s an ex-wife, but Harold started to become more of a friend because of what he did for Grace. He wasn’t a boyfriend who she had to love and care for and worry about, he tried to get her laid and helped her out, and that’s what I used to do. It’s one thing to be a friend to hang out with, it’s another to have one that integrates into our little family so well. Harold integrated well.
I developed more hobbies to do, I wanted to start woodworking but couldn’t find access to a shop or classes so I just wished that I could do it. I tried to keep knitting but found it tedious and slow and humdrum and dropped it even though when I did it I found some satisfaction in doing so. I tried reading but I couldn’t take sitting for longer than an hour doing something so — passive. Instead I began writing my short stories again. They spiraled out of control as I sat for days locked into writing them. I nearly missed work several times while waking up, grabbing a cup of coffee, immediately sitting down filled to the brim with energy all ready and pounding out word after word and page after page brimming with short sentences that knit themselves together in a sort of post-Hemingway kind of style that made sense to me and less sense to others but still enough sense to everyone. Rachel read them as I finished them and some while I wrote them and I overwhelmed her with the amount of material I was sending her way. It was science fiction, in a way. It wasn’t sci fi in the way that Asimov is where it’s half character and half technology, hard sci fi. Instead it was along the vein of Phillip K Dick where science fiction was a vehicle to ideas and plot and characters and I utilized them to feed the world of a pre-apocalyptic society on the verge of collapsing as they attempted to escape earth while the rest of humanity sat on the sidelines waiting for the inevitable to happen, watching their work shoot off into sky leaving them behind to die, killing their children so they wouldn’t have to grow up in a world where they would die slowly, politicians squabbling over the minutia of geopolitical struggle while seeing the inevitability of failure looming over their struggles, the estranged life of those leaving for a new world where they would no longer have any contact with the old or any idea of what the new would hold if anything. It was depressing. Just because I’m up doesn’t mean I can’t be depressing, I can be fairly dark and depressing and even revel in it and laugh at it. I become a touch more callous and while I develop an unnatural bond with the characters and fantasized about them and dream about them in the same way that Rachel once did with her fantasies it doesn’t mean that I have no problem with screwing them over. It’s a fictional sadism. Not that it spreads into reality. Maybe it’s because I release it in fiction.
Though, when I’m up, I can be unintentionally cruel. I don’t take pleasure in it, it just happens. I become callous to the suffering of others because I am so great — that’s what I think. Any challenge can be met and overcome through sheer force of will and anyone who falters and does not match my greatness is not worthy of my affection. Failing is a sign of weakness rather than part of the human condition and deserving of empathy that I readily give when depressed or down or just having a bad month. It is not a virus that I fear that I will contract either, where the person’s failure will bring me down, it’s impossible to bring me down — so I think. And in many ways that’s true. There’s no stopping the warpath of the manic. Even medicated I still rise high and become oblivious and self centered.
It’s not me though. I still exist in there, but it’s not me. This is why Grace rides my manic periods out. She goes clubbing with me and sometimes biking and reads my crap literature and listens to my endless babbling about things that sometimes she finds really interesting and engages me but other times have little basis in reality and she takes the good, the fun, the engaging, the infectious part of it that feels no shame in failing at Swing or trying new things at the drop of a hat, or becomes so sucked into a world that becomes populated with grand ideas and the smallest details, the loving where despite my callousness I love my friends more than anything in the world and will protect them at any cost to myself if any negative word is ever uttered against them, she takes it all because being around someone who is manic is both tiring and invigorating and I see her come to life in the summer when she’s around me.
Harold felt himself pushed to new limits by my limitless energy. My boundless happiness lifted him out of the crisis that I gave him when I stole Rachel away. He had never been to an FBC ride and I took him on the massive cross city drinking tour of the night under a full moon that lent its name to the Full moon Bike Club but I was there at the beginning when we called it the Fucking Bike Club. It was drinking and biking and unadulterated fun. We had a blast with the dozens of other bikers, with whom I’ve ridden in my underwear (slash, without) across the city and through the trails. We were clothed that time, but Harold would slip off some garments later on. Harold was happy again and laughing and playing and talking and I never ceased to engage him. He was caught by the swelling tide of energy mania brought and everywhere we went we biked and pushed ourselves to the point of panting and braked at the last second for streets, sometimes not at all, and traced our way all over Madison.
Rachel fell in love with me.
I fell in love with her.
Though it still didn’t mean the same thing as it should have or could have.
I felt it first, I believe. It was while at Swing. I was doing poorly and missing steps and she laughed at me but was kind about it and I lifted her in the air and she giggled and I felt the reverberations travel down my arms and shook them. She was no longer the girl who crawled into bed with me and needed to be held or the girl who leaned her head against me in a grasp for human touch and affection or the girl that was wounded with cuts crossing her legs like old webs that still showed and would never heal and became normal and the scars would remain with her for the rest of her life and she wore longer skirts to hide them at first but that night she finally wore a shirt skirt and you could see the trailing edges of her knife work and she didn’t care that her skirt lifted high when I lifted her and others would see but instead was happy. Like she was in Chicago. Like the first time. Where the world disappeared. Where she wasn’t sick anymore. Where she didn’t lean on me but was just with me and wanted to be with me. And she wasn’t ashamed like I was ashamed of my illness. And all that was said and was laden and forced and should have never been said because it didn’t mean the same thing as what others meant was gone. I loved her, I had fallen in love with her. She was a rock in my life. She was there in the morning half asleep with an arm half heartedly groping at me to stay in bed for another five minutes but also wanting me to leave her alone to sleep in, who discussed philosophy over breakfast, and ripped Michael Bay movies to shreds but still wanted to see them when they came out just to hate on them with me, who loved swing, loved music, loved life at last. I knew it would go away in six months, but I would be there for reasons other than just fear.
After the first time we told each other that we loved one another we never said it again. One day, in James Madison Park, I would muster up the courage to tell her of how I first decided to end it all. And then I said that it would never happen again. I would never do that to her but be unable to enforce that promise. That one day she might lose me to my disease just as she had almost seen it happen, but I would try harder. So long as she was there. It was late. It was past midnight and I was still lit up like a Christmas tree. The air was warm like it was once before. The waves were not as high and we went to the beach. She took off all her clothes in the sand and ran into the lake and told me to follow, yelled at me to follow with a laugh finishing the sentence. And I did. And I didn’t think back to all those years ago when it first started and I should have seen that everything was wrong but thought it was normal and pushed it away as I would for years and it would nearly cost my life several times before I sought help for what I discovered was an illness and I still thought of that night, I still felt that night many times afterwards, but I didn’t that night. She took the bad with the good, seeing the good, the fun, the happy and seeing the terrifying and she dared me to follow her swimming against the tide. I followed.
One day that would happen, but like all the times you say you love someone it takes a while for it to truly surface to the level of saying it.
We didn’t have sex that night. We slept soundly wrapped around one another like an exhausted young couple spending their second night together in a new home sharing a bed after a tiring move to a new location and what was really wanted was company and closeness and a different kind of intimacy than the oxytocin rush from sex and instead wanted the physical presence of the other to last longer until sleep washed over and we would snore lightly, one in the other’s ear waking them periodically and then return to sleep with a smile and having a tentative future seemed a little more realistic even though neither of us had discussed it or planned it in any deliberative way but it included the other and we didn’t want to think of what it was like without the two of us being in it. In the morning we had sex, it was quiet without screaming without acrobatics without creativity but was the two of us holding each other as I slowly moved in and out of the her with both of us hoping it wouldn’t end. It did. It always ends. Moments never last. But they do build on one another. That’s all that can really be asked for.
We laid curled together after we fell asleep rather than join Grace upstairs for Saturday morning coffee. I woke first and her breathing was slow and long while her heart beat slightly as I cupped her left breast. I didn’t want to move. I wanted to linger, to violate my understanding, my knowledge, of the world where these things inevitably end and I fought against it and dwelled and pushed the reality out of my mind and just held her as she slept. She breathed in and out. My heart was throbbing. I don’t know why, but it pounded in my chest as she slept faster and faster like it was spiraling out of control. She breathed in and out. I pulled tighter and she moved and moaned and shifted in bed and reached around and pulled the covers over her and I reached my right hand away from her body to pull the sheets that had collapsed and snugged themselves between me and her so that I could feel her against me and I felt calm and secure and happy while I felt like my body was spiraling into a panic attack. It ended. It hurt. I didn’t want to think of her dying or me dying before her. She turned over and mmmed and pecked my lips and said ‘morning’. My thoughts calmed down. I was happy. I have only ever felt happy when manic. I prayed for the day that manias would come so that I could be happy. So that I could be light on my feet and thrilled to be alive and overwhelmed by the majesty of a drug infecting my brain deluding it into believing that it holds something substantial when it really is sand flowing through deluded fingers. The sheets moved and I pulled closer. She reached between my legs and made a comment that I missed because she breathed it silently. She rolled over and my body felt electric. We tried to create the last moments at first and discovered that we would never go back, that it was lost into history forever and we found ourselves together, wrapped around each other with a veil of sweat between us, holding each other and knowing that we had been through hell, that we had seen each other’s hell and faced it without fear but with understanding and a panache of calm and that made the silent calm togetherness all the more indicative of the rest of our lives and that we would still have moments and that we really would be together till the other died.
We would say that we loved each other.
But the central vertex was always there.
It didn’t matter in the end.
We didn’t know if we would be together, husband and wife, forever and ever, I don’t know what that means in the end anyways, forever, I doubt that anyone ever does, we didn’t then and we never knew anyways. We knew how it would end, we knew our luck would run out. We didn’t know what the future held. But we knew that it was irreplaceable. What was hollow, what was born of desperation and despair had lapsed. Chicago was all that would remain of her hell. Our animated trips through the exhibits as she taught me what they meant and I would silently rebut her with what they meant to me would be all that was important while death and decay and depression would lapse and though she would go through it again, and be reminded of it again and she would never be that much better, though she would forever as disturbed as I am, that would not matter, and we had been through death with one another, we knew the darkest secrets of one another, we knew all that mattered now, and we stopped caring how many pages we skipped, we stopped caring how we should be together, we stopped caring how anything mattered because with depression and death and cutting and the agony that comes from a mind torn to the point of mutilation and death doesn’t matter because we had both been there at one point. It was finally as far in the past as it ever could be, every summer it would fade. We had more moments outside of it. To us it was history. It brought us to Chicago. It brought us together, in bed together, to holding one another, and now was what we cared about. But it will always loom. Just as if she goes missing and I worry or I go missing and she worries, it looms and we hold onto the good bits in between.
I felt her breasts rub against my chest and her pull closer to me and I lost my train of thought. Rachel smiled and sleepily said ‘hey’ and I whispered it back with a stop in the vowel because my voice was soft from the morning accumulation in the back of my throat. I choked it out but she heard me. She kissed me and pulled closer. She rolled me on my back and hovered for a moment straddling me with a smile and then laid down on me like she used to do when we first started the debacle. It wasn’t sex, it wasn’t intimacy, it was just me that she wanted, she wanted to hold onto a moment that would slip away as soon as we thought about it.
I held her. I’ll always remember how she felt then. How the moment seemed to slip away but comes back from time to time as it surfaces again and again and I feel a touch sick from how good it felt, the intimacy of the moment.
There must be a different word for those who say they were intimate with someone before they confronted the loss of someone and after. The word changes meaning. There are those who have experienced death with another and intimacy is not enough of a word for it. It is too generic, too pedestrian, to easy to throw around by couples born of college looking for sex and and additional element but without anything else with no soul no longing nothing but a hormonal burst of oxytocin providing the cognitive illusion of intimacy without the foundational experiences necessary for it. Intimacy is hormonal to to too many, rather it’s togetherness rather than intimacy, a wash of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin combined with hormones that change thought patterns rather than definitive moments that radically alter the web of neurons. In time the multitudes of events alter that web but certain things permanently restructure everything. It happened with Grace sobbing in a room with plastic over all the outlets, it happened with Rachel watching me take a step, it was there as I watched Rachel decay. Being confronted with death is intimacy in that whatever is born is of death, of loss, of lacking the other that will never recover and it will warp every relationship you have following it and pervert the relationship that was born from it. And down the line, with someone you love, you hold, and think of twenty times a day and spend your life worrying about every winter — that is intimacy of a different sort. It is awareness more than intimacy, though the two are often combined. And you’ll always be aware of what can happen, you know what is coming, it was always there as you counted the days together saying each day how lucky you were to be together, how all the circumstances lined up for everything to come together, but you’ll always rub the place where the ring used to be though the tan line will fade and be unable to become close to anyone again because it doesn’t compare and the artifacts in the house will fade as new ones take their place but a few will still hold on and never move from their original location and the smell will go away though you try to replicate the smell of her hair by buying her shampoo and smelling it in the shower in a vain hope of reclaiming what once was but it only makes it worse though you do it every day and sob over it, it was worse because it brought the past back, you brought back the exaggerated features of her hovering above you where her eyes overshadowed the slight of her nose and the red lips and the profile of her teeth turn bright white but fall away along the parallax of the view and her breasts hang orthogonal to the ground in an exaggeration of their proportion but her face looms above them, it looms in the foreground, it looms, it shapes, it is, it will always be there tainting every memory no matter how much you try to remove it — it was always there, you just forgot about it until the inevitable happened — luck ran out. Waht luck brought together it can tear apart. What it destroys it can rebuild. Togetherness is hormones and closeness is an amazing thing, it can imagine bad dates and spectacular dates together and spectacular days where closeness could never seem closer, it cannot imagine loss or come to terms with it it is lucky in that way, it can distract itself from more serious matters, love cannot either, it makes it worse actually, it tries its damnedest to ignore the ravages that one circumstance, unforeseen, or in our case it was foreseen, can wreck. Love cannot imagine loss. It can imagine many things, it can imagine the seemingly impossible, it cannot imagine loss, it hurts itself to even contemplate it — it ignores the realities of the world that drive its continuation. But what if it already knows the inevitable? What if that was a prior condition to love? That luck would run out. What if it was a factor in falling in love with someone? What is love then? It isn’t love. Though the same word is used, it isn’t. It’s more existential. And then it happens, the prior condition, as though it had the probability of 1, of certainty, all along, and all you can do is put your head down and power through it whether it’s through exercise or eating or video games or books or group therapy or drinking alone it happens and all that remains is a hole aching to be filled but it never will be. However, most love lost will close over like a wound sutured together sloppily as though it was done by an intern but existential love, if that even is a term (it doesn’t feel like it, too coarse, to Sartre, to philosophical), the constant reminder that it will happen, as each absence that goes on too long provokes a reminder that the other might have done the unthinkable and is finally gone and the wound is always there from the beginning and opening slowly as the inevitable comes closer through repetition after repetition of the end closing in and then retreating only to come back again a year later as nothing seems to work or hold it back even though it was for a while it got worse and worse and worse — it doesn’t come like a bolt from the blue that you scramble to deal with in terms that seem sensible, it is an inevitable march and the silent acceptance of what happens was coming for years like a bullet you could see slowly burrowing into your skull but couldn’t avoid and the pain never went away through fatigued acceptance like most pain and even a part of you believed it wouldn’t happen even though it was always there, always would happen, always would, it would always be there reminding you through every action, every decision that the one you love was going to leave you, was going to happen, it always would. It would end. It was always going to end in a grotesque way without you there beside them holding their hand as they passed away, you would never be there when it happened but you were going to be there to find out. And you would always hate yourself for not staying an extra minute or double checking pill counts or placing a phone call or saying a special word, whatever word that might have been thinking that a word would be able to cure it, but that self hate would always be there because part of you always believes that with a little extra effort, a little less self centeredness, the other would still be alive and it was your fault in the end. But in the end, luck ran out. It always does.
That is the story of me and Rachel.
When I knew I loved her, I thought my luck would run out first.
So did she.
But we loved each other in that sense of the word, the existential sense where we knew we would find the other mangled and dead by their own hand but still wanted to be with one another, we still wanted to be the one to find the other dead and blame ourselves for it. And we accepted that. And we loved that. And we loved each other where no one replaced it.
We always had Chicago.
We always had the lake.
Neither of us cared.
We would find props in the scraps between our moods to hold up the semblance of something normal before discarding it altogether. We would find something different, and accept that, we were lucky in that respect.
I think that’s love in the end, love in my world, probably not love in reality — definitely not. But it was the one where we knew and saw the end of the other with our own eyes and still chose to stay. And we did stay. We didn’t propose or say it and when it finally did come it was anti-climatic and surrounded by only a handful of witnesses but it didn’t matter, we both knew where we were with each other.
Luck would run out for one of us.
We both knew it.
We knew it till the end.
But love was somewhere in there too.
Love found in small moments.