Thursday, July 8, 2010

Solstice Poultice

Oh hey, it's early July already. 2010's more than half over. Time sure does have a way of kicking us when we're down.

Yes, I've promised more regular and substantive updates on here this summer. So far, I'm still not delivering. In my defense, I've had some preoccupations lately that I think serve as valid excuse for why I've been so consistently inconsistent in recent months. It all began in early May, of course, when I fell ill for a month. I'm not sick anymore, of course - this is old news. Get on with it. Illness then has pretty much been the catalyst for all kinds of awfulness and unpleasant feelings all summer so far. After beginning the Summer of Sickness in early May - about a month and a half before summer actually began - more problems emerged. Being sick did a number on my stomach and digestive system, and I haven't been able to get back to eating fully normally since then. I've been working on getting past that and improving, but I still have quite a few pounds to gain back - thus began the Summer of Starvation. I've approached levels of weight loss since my illness wherein I've come dangerously close to possibly being hospitalized - something to avoid, considering that I'm uninsured. I literally can't afford medical care. The starvation hit an especially unpleasant turning point last week when I became more consciously aware of just how much weight I've quietly lost in the past near two months just before an unsuccessful trip to the dentist to get a broken filling fixed, having been hit by the third summertime hell whammy in the form of drainage from allergies that morning which, when compounded with the toll starvation has been taking on my system, made me far too physically unstable to get the work I needed done last week. This also isn't helped by the general mental discomfort that can overwhelm me when out of the house - I'm not even all that comfortable with riding in cars in motion at the moment now - after months of barely leaving the neighborhood. I'm getting a sense now of where agoraphobics are coming from, and a sense in general of the mental and emotional stress damage inflicted by months of being cooped up inside the house, rarely leaving the neighborhood, feeling like I could die most of the time. Mindfuckery ahoy. And since the allergy problems suffered prior to the dentist last week, my drainage has only gotten progressively worse, so I'm on a nasal spray and trying to find some effective allergy medication that won't mess me up too much in addition to my usual sinus rinse, in hopes of avoiding continuing to wake up choking on a substance I should be evacuating through my nose or not dealing with at all at this time of the year. On top of that, I've undertaken the overwhelming task of trying to clean up and dust the veritable hurricane that is my bedroom. I would like the Summer of Suffocation not to happen. And after having not felt normal or particularly well for almost two full months now, with all the additional psychological weight that comes with longer term health problems, I really, really want to be back to feeling normal and well by sometime during this month. Health problems have basically derailed everything in my daily life these past couple of months, and I can't afford for this to continue. Thus, my excuse for not posting here as much as I should.

Anyway, I obviously didn't get this end of the month short story up by the end of June as I'd planned to either. Naturally, here it is late. And as previously mentioned, it's now summer as of a couple of weeks ago. As such, you're getting a break from the norm in my end of month short story writing this time in the form of a sequel. After comments left made me think about actually continuing a short story on here for once, I've decided to go ahead and do something different this year in continuing one of these stories - Vernal Eternal - through the rest of the year.

Look forward to the third part in September, and the conclusion in December! Now click the post title here to jump to the story. I'll post some more soon. Let's all hope my body stops attacking itself and lets me eat, sleep, and breathe normally soon. The only health highlights as of late by contrast have been going swimming a couple of times for the first time in a decade-plus a few days ago and getting some sorely needed Vitamin D from sunlight and full-body exercise in the process, while somehow not getting reduced to a pile of ashes or turned into beef jerky in the direct sunlight. Of course, now I'm enjoying my whole body feeling like it's made of rubber, which should last for a week or so. The moral of my story - not the story after the jump, but my own personal one - is that being a sickly person isn't much fun, and I'm at least partially to blame for all of it.

Solstice Poultice

While brushing my teeth tonight, I became aware that I was newly minus a small chunk of enamel in one of my molars. I ran my tongue over the gap as I watched the exiled bit of enamel slip down the sink drain amid bubbles of blue toothpaste. I rinsed my mouth out, finding myself not in pain, but sensitive. And when I pulled my cheek to the side to survey the damage, I winced at the sight of the ruddy exposed flesh. I could never have gone into dentistry - people's mouths are disgusting enough to begin with, but when damaged, the sight becomes unbearable.

This change within my mouth accompanied another unwelcome change - the arrival of summer. If spring ambushes us as a predator, then it chases us into the sinkhole that is summer. We thought we could escape our seasonal allergies, but we were wrong. We thought we could go outside and stave off vitamin D deficiency. Wrong again - melanoma says, "Hi."

Stacey walked in on me while I stared at my damaged tooth. "Are we making funny faces? Can I join?" She stuck her tongue out at me.

"Chipped a tooth," I said. "Nasty." I turned the electric toothbrush on again and set to completing its task.

"Ouch. We're finished, you know. Relationship contract stipulates that the minute your teeth start to go, I'm hitting the road." She grinned, comfortably unaware of how often I wondered if she was going to leave me. She was brilliant, and pretty, to boot. What was she doing with a mook like me?

"Well, we've had a good run. May as well go out on top before we ruin this perfectly good thing we've got going." I spat and rinsed my mouth again, setting the toothbrush back on its charger.

"I get your Batman t-shirt."

"Says who?"

"Didn't you read the small print? I get to take a souvenir of my choice - as many as I like, actually. To remember the good times. If you get snippy, I'm taking the laser tag set, too."

I stepped over in her directly and wrapped my arms around her shoulders, leaning in to whisper in her ear, "You nefarious witch."

She laughed and leaned herself against me, letting out a deep sigh. "I'm sorry you broke your tooth."

"It's okay. They can rebuild it - make it better, faster, stronger. Go technology." I held her closer. Touching the skin at the back of her neck, I felt for the moment that this was an authentic moment. Walled into a suffocating sinkhole by humidity, authentic moments were all that I had. She didn't recoil. The world in which she left me behind for a colleague taller, smarter, and more charming than me - with better teeth - was a psychodrama playing out only on the stage of my imagination. At least for the moment, I could bring the curtain down and throw the program away. The actor playing me didn't have any real lines, anyway, only empty gibbering.

At some point, we broke contact, the lights went out, and we ended up in bed. Were life a tawdry rag, I could recount all the ways in which we spent the late night hours corrupting the remnants of our innocence, but I probably wouldn't. Stacey had to be up in seven hours. I had to be up at some point, or rather, I wanted to be. Work had been a bit sparse lately - as usual, there was a shortage of people and organizations throwing money at others for their words. Remember the days when composers had sponsors ensuring their comfort while they devoted their lives to their symphonies? And when national endowments for the arts enabled those who created to jump off the poverty rail and dedicate themselves fully to their media without a single worry as to their financial security? I don't. A few deadline all-nighters would be welcome at this point.

Illuminated but by the dim red light from our digital alarm clock, I could faintly make out the outline of Stacey's face as she slept, her arms tucked under her pillow. The summer heat lingered heavily above us, threatening to crush us both should we make one wrong move. How Stacey could sleep through this, I didn't know. I slipped out of bed and gingerly crossed the bedroom, one foot guiding the next as I felt around for boxes. Once I'd located the thermostat on the living room wall, I adjusted the setting by a few degrees and collapsed back into bed. There was a time, ten or fifteen years ago, when summertime didn't mean eighty degree temperatures at night.

I awoke to the same room at two in the afternoon, long after Stacey had left for work. It was just me and the cardboard boxes. Some full, some empty, and some in a transitional stage. We'd found a decent fourth floor apartment in a high rise downtown last month. Stacey had liked the idea of living in the suburbs, having grown up in the city, but said that it wasn't what she had expected. There was no community - just a pack of strangers - so she was willing to compromise her old dream of home ownership, at least for the moment. The move would put her closer to the lab, and I would be free. The hardest part was getting the landlord to let us out of our lease early. He didn't seem to buy our story that Raymond next door was making us uncomfortable with his terrorist-sympathizing ways. Smarmy bastard.

I pried myself from my linen tomb and showered off the sweat before heading into the kitchen on a mission for toast. The newspaper's opinion page had been left open on the table. Upon closer examination, Stacey had written "Haha!" in black marker by one letter. The letter in question raved about the government putting fluoride in the water to brainwash his children. The kind of letter the paper felt pressured to carry in order to present the image of being 'balanced,' which mostly entailed printing some truth and journalism alongside their buff pieces, and then balancing it out with self-entitled raving and cheering for the American plutocracy. Something about the tyranny of the poor over the pitiable, victimized wealthy social class each and every day.

Following my late breakfast, I picked up the phone and mumbled my way into a dental appointment in a few days. Seven thirty AM. Nobody wants to be awake at that time of day. Clocks are to blame for at least thirty-five percent of all human misery. Schedules make up the next block. Even if I could use a deadline or two at the moment.

With no one to write for but myself, I sat down in front of my laptop and began sketching out a story. In the future, people set to engineering themselves and their offspring as so to both set themselves apart as individuals and iron out all the little flaws as pertinent to our identity as our strengths. This included our brains, which held the most potential for threatening imperfection in their chemical unpredictability. As perfect as humanity sought to become, it could not overcome its own imperfections and perfect its perfection engineering technology. The lead character, Ray, was one of those whose brains turned out defective due to error - whether mechanical or human was unknown - was hard at work on a rebellious manifesto. Its thesis was tantamount to "Fuck all of you who don't do things my way. If you disagree with me, you deserve to lose everything." A man who stood at the center of clumsily developing utopia and shouted, "Fuck all of you! Me! Me! Me!" The story needed some work.

I closed my laptop once I hit a wall. Would anybody want to read this story? Who knows. The sun shined through the window at such an angle that it cast shadows across the carpet, tempting me to step out and get a little fresh air. As long as we're still in the suburbs, I may as well take walks and draw inspiration from the landscape to find further fuel for my unreadable postmodern rage-lit. If nothing else, a walk might clear my head a little. When I opened the front door, a threatening wall of hot air greeted me, accompanied by airborne skin cancer from above. The visible heat haze stared me down and I lost nerve, turned around, and went back inside. I shut the door behind me. The outside world writhed in pain. From my broken tooth, there came a dull ache.


*T-Abby* said...

Aww I know its really hard to get back on your grind after being sick and as soon as one thing attacks your immune system, something else does. You're doing a lot better with the writing than I am but then again this is definitely all your thing. I've been taking my strides outside the blogging world as best as I can though.

Benjamin Fennell said...

Yeah, summer's been off to a rough start so far. Illness, starvation, difficulties eating, dental problems, agoraphobic panic attack flashes when out of the house - all things I'm ready to get back to being without. Good luck with the writing and such projects, anyway. I'm trying to get back into balancing more blogging with work on my second novel, query letters, and a short story to try to get published in an online or print publication. Hoping to make a little money and add more to my credentials as a writer through further publishing.

*T-Abby* said...

Thanks, I'm quite afraid I haven't gotten the hang of being committed to writing even though it seems a lot of people believe I should be a writer. Aww you sound like you need a hug. I wish you the best of luck! we should chat sometime, do you have aim or facebook?

Benjamin Fennell said...

It definitely takes a ton of work and personal commitment, but it's very satisfying once you really make progress on projects. Thanks! I've got both, actually. Chatting would be fun, no doubt.

*T-Abby* said...

I've rarely been on AIM these days but my screenname is RainingPurple16. I'll find you on facebook though. My first name is Tia by the way.