Coffee, tumors, and brown chicks. Yup.

Here’s a tiny little update.

So this tumor thing, right. Let’s get that out of the way. 99% positive on all fronts from doctors it is benign. It’s still not a GOOD thing to have in your head, and if it’s what they think it is, it’ll come back. But my brain isn’t cancer’d. We don’t know if the problems I’ve already had will get fixed by the removal. I’m still not terribly good at hearing things, but hey. Could be worse. Problematically, some jackoff of a neurological radiologist decided to make my life hell and proclaim I shouldn’t get surgery, thus setting me back a lot in this attempt to get myself fixed, despite every other doctor and test speaking to the contrary. He had them cancel other tests, just as I was a month away from going to UW for some skull splittin’. I’ll be grabbing up a second, third, tenth opinion just to prove him wrong and get my shit handled. I do not like that man, he is not fun and I will not invite him over for tea.

My doctor put me on some form of beta blocker for these crazy heartbeats I’ve had for years. They came with a warning: Don’t miss your doses, and don’t take any stimulants. Coffee included.

Oh. Coffee. No… coffee.

This won’t do. At all. I. Can’t. Help. Myself.

Now, I know, I know. I should listen to the doctor. But it’s coffee. Coffee has been my perfect friend for most of my life, spawning many nights wide awake and tap-tap-taping away at a computer, doing just this. I would marry, make love to, bear the children of coffee, and always swallow.  Okay, maybe not. But you get the idea.

Hell, I’m in a coffee shop right now (I’m in Washington, for fuck’s sake, what else am I going to do with myself?) and it seems to be the only way I can keep myself sitting still for more than five minutes at a time. I’m a jumpy bastard, but somehow the coffee stops me in my tracks. It calms me, forces focus, gives me an excuse to do what I love.

I am trying the half-caf route. It’s going okay. I am not happy about this, of course. I want to buzz around all day wide-eyed and cracked out. It’s what I do! Instead, I have to stick with my run of the mill insomnia, with a dash of caffeine to keep it in check.

When they asked me how much coffee I drink in a day, I was given a look of “really?” Yes, really. I assured them I’ve even quit before to make sure it wasn’t the cause of the palpitations, under cardiologists orders. I just have a fucky heart. It does what it wants and doesn’t like to be told what to do, so sue me.

So for now I’ll have to take my brown death water at half mast. But I’ll shake a fist at the sky every damn time I order it like that, dammit. This is injustice.

And with that bitter little rant out of the way (not a pun, go away,) here’s the least fun thing I’ve noticed this week: Apparently when you’re surrounded by very, very pale people, you become an alien. I’ve been treated like some exotic creature from another world, and it’s very confusing. In Florida, there are brown chicks everywhere. Thanks to this, I am now some sort of token. Whatever works, I guess. I’m going to start using “is this because I’m black” for anything and everything due to these people.

I have some very neat people sitting down with me for stories soon. Until then, have this lovely song I’ve been obsessed with.

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A million strange strangers

Salt Lake was a weird fucking town. I’ve seen stranger, but this had a certain flavor of off. Everyone seemed more or less aimless, glassy eyed, and utterly bored. Granted, this was only within one square mile of the bus station, but it was an interesting thing to view either way. Apparently it is quite the hub of rail hopping and transient kids, crashing in run down apartments or warehouses til some other seasonal job calls to them from far away.

It all started with one little group of self-professed punks…

Pretty sure they "borrowed" over a pack of smokes from me.

Pretty sure they “borrowed” over a pack of smokes from me.

… and ended with the strangest walk to a gas station I’d ever taken (and I’ve taken many.)

The boys above painted rocks with anarchy symbols, cats and a few random squiggles. They bummed smokes, kicked each other in the balls and sold what appeared to be stolen cell phones to a kid we’ll call James.

James was the quieter one of the group, and apparently newer to them all. He was no stranger to life on the rails. I had been speaking with them for a while when James came back from a short walk, coffee and snacks in tow. Having been stuck in this god awful station for 7 hours now without food or the sight of my best friend caffeine, I flat out begged him to show me the gas station.

Note: When you’re doing shit like this, you put far more trust into strangers than you normally would. Asking a nice homeless man to take you through back alleys for a donut shouldn’t be a daily occurrence.

Regardless, I asked, because fuck it. Social conventions suck. Off we go, wandering along — me and my new buddy James.

Except James is a full blown paranoid schizophrenic. I learned this the moment he opened his mouth.

James: “What do you think of Israel?”

Me: “In what c–”

James: “THESE GUYS HAVE A GROUP NOT UNLIKE THE CIA AND TALIBAN THAT ARE GOING TO INFILTRATE OUR GOVERNMENT BUT LUCKILY MY UNCLE IS IN THE CIA AND I CAN HELP THEM BECAUSE I KNOW TH–”

And this continued. For the entire walk. I tried to keep pace with him as he threw his arms up and yelled to the sky along the way to the gas station. Everything was punctuated with  “y’knowhamean?” Too concerned to ever say SWEET JESUS FUCK NO WHAT DO YOU EVEN MEAN? I made do with constant nods of approval and “Yep!” Luckily not everything he spoke of was conspiracy– he was fond of flowers, weed, and the stars as well.

We finally manage to get to this station. I rush in and grab as much crap as I possibly can, swearing silently to myself that I needed enough to ration off as to avoid doing this again. I noted the security guard there was now trapped by his very confusing words, and he gave me a wide-eyed stare as James rambled off at him. I just shrugged and shook my head, offering my best I’m so sorry look. I just wanted to get out of there and back to the mass of people that could be witnesses in case he figured me an Israeli spy and shanked me.

This kid needs help, I thought, as we made our way back through the run down streets and abandoned buildings. I felt bad for him, his family, for his life.

“You know? Isn’t it nice out? Isn’t this great! Most people just like… don’t listen to me, yaknowhamean? They think I’m stupid and I know I say a lot of shit but I ain’t stupid, yaknowwhamean? Right?”

Right there. He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. The sun was shining, and the wind blew dust around us. It was cold and alive, and so was he, eager and hoping for someone to validate him. I realized how often this man must be dismissed, passed over, forgotten and written off. He had nobody in the world to just say “you’re okay, man,” and so many must view him as subhuman. He even said so himself: “it’s like I people don’t want me to exist.” I felt like the biggest piece of shit for considering, even for a moment, that I needed to get far away from him. He hadn’t shown any sort of malice, no violence, and even spoke of his deep fear of confrontation.

“You’re not stupid, man. I know what you mean. You’re a good guy.”

I couldn’t think of some great, inspiring speech to give him. I had nothing to offer, standing in the middle of nowhere in my unwashed clothes and dire need of sleep. I was lost too, far from anything I knew, and I felt like that’s all that was needed. It was just us, two strangers with nothing to give. He smiled at me. I smiled at him. We walked back in silence, his gaze on the asphalt and hands in pockets. But he was smiling. We were friends now.

I lost track of him soon enough. It’s a busy station. Eventually, the bus arrived for us all. I rushed into the rear to take the tiny seat nobody wanted in an attempt to be alone with it, maybe sleep some. James was the last one to get on the bus, and not much was left for him. He made his way to the very last seat and quietly, expecting to be turned down, asked if he could sit next to me.

James, despite, or because of, his delusions then became a sort of bodyguard. He saved the seats, kept watch over the bags, and left me to my attempts at sleep.

Then I fucked up.

We made a few stops, and slowly people trickled off. Finally, more seats opened, and there was enough space for us to spread out. James had come back on the bus as we were getting ready to pull away again, and without thinking he would take it the wrong way, I asked if he’d want one of the open seats so he can sleep more comfortably.

To him, right then, I rejected his company. I watched his face go from neutral to utterly dejected in a matter of seconds. Before I could clarify that I was only asking for his benefit, not to get rid of him, he grabbed his stuff and moved to the front of the bus. Every other stop we made, he kept a distance. I didn’t push the issue, and at first I was a little angry. I didn’t do anything wrong, I told myself. He took it the wrong way. You don’t even know this guy, why are you so worried about him?

But I was worried. I felt bad because by then, he was just glad to be able to talk to someone. The other guys he was travelling with poked fun at him and used his kindness, and while it visibly upset him he didn’t know how to stop it. He seemed resigned to it. I couldn’t help but end up protective.

After another night it was time for me to part ways with the group of rail chasers. They were headed off to California to pick berries of some sort, and keep moving along. With them slipped my momentary friend, a crazy fucker with wild delusions. A few people told me was crazy for talking to the dude, but they didn’t even try. I didn’t do anything special or unique, I just talked to a lonely stranger. Maybe it bothered me because I’ve been in his position before, alone and unsure how to communicate that (minus the crippling delusions.)

I hope someone befriended him. I know I don’t owe the guy anything, and he’s “just another stranger”, but it meant something to him to have someone to talk to. It meant something to me to gain his trust when he trusted nothing. So I’m sorry, James. You’re gonna be alright, dude, somehow.

I’m lost, and that’s okay.

This is the kind of chill I only experienced a few times in my life, travelling in winter. Stepping into the snow for the first time sent my skin into a frenzy– I had never known such a feeling.

Now the mornings are just as absent of the warmth I am used to. Walking down the street earlier, every shadowed area was covered in a thick frost. My breath came out of me in a fog. I’m not used to any of it, but it’s perfect. While everyone else curses and bundles up, I rush outside every morning to catch the freeze before the sun comes. I watch the rise over the mountains, see the reflection off the ocean.

“You must hate this, Florida is so beautiful!”

No. No, this is perfect. This is good.

I tell myself this every morning I wake up, or every night I can’t sleep. This is good. You need this. I pass out in a flurry of nightmares and tell myself, no, this is good. I watch people go about their days and lives, and constantly I tell myself. Every day.

It’s a funny thing that happens to you, when your brain has been so improperly wired for so long. You start to believe you are not just depressed, or anxious. You’re just like this, and that’s all there is to it. You’re not broken– you’re fine. It’s what you’re made for. It helps you create art, or words, or keep a distance from others… which keeps you safe. You’re impenetrable except from yourself.

I tried medication, years ago. Multiple kinds, various strengths. It all ended in public breakdowns, mental breakdowns, and a complete loss of identity. I tried to write and came up blank. I stared at nothing and debated the best way to throw myself from my bedroom window. My more recent attempt (many years ago, still) ended with me running from my home and job to live in the woods. I only came to my senses after nearly dying from the withdrawals after realizing I had to quit. (Never take Effexor, kids.)

Now, where am I? Across a country, exploring a world I’ve never known, trying not to let my one asset and curse get taken from me. Fucking brain has yet again turned on me, hasn’t it? Much more sinister fashion this time.

But I’m lost. And I’ve always been lost. All those days spent among friends, be it at my lover Undergrounds, or in Miami, or the streets of Fort Lauderdale… I was never there. You saw me, you spoke to me, you engaged me in various ways. But I wasn’t fucking there. Back, far away where you can’t reach, is that damn voice.

This is wrong. Why are you out here? What did she just say? I don’t feel well. Why am I angry? What the fuck am I doing here?

I’ve let people down by simply not showing up. I’ve stopped responding to calls or messages at various times in my life, only to pop back up out of nowhere. There’s no excuse for that, really — I’m a bad friend. I am, really. I don’t mean to be, and I’ve tried very hard not to. But in the end, I’m gone. I’ve up and left the state, the city, and my usual haunts without a moment’s notice. Turned down friends, missed birthdays.

I am a bad friend, and an even worse person when it comes to self-preservation. I am fully aware of this. But somehow, there are a few people that stick by my side no matter what I do. I never set out to hurt anyone, and I’d never purposefully upset anyone without cause. Maybe they see that. I will never know, because frankly, I’m afraid to even ask why the fuck anyone puts up with it.

Lately, I’ve seen some people I know admit to their problems and take control. I’m so proud of them, I really am.

I can’t do it. 

I’ve seen what happens to me when I try to “fix” things. Therapy. Medication. Special schools. My last meeting with a psychiatrist included these words from her mouth: “Why are you still alive?”

why are you still alive. 

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I went to med school to say retarded shit.

God, those words hung in the air over my head and crashed through me. Why? A therapist asking me why? I thought about all the things I had told her– I let it all out that day– and fuck, that’s what she gathered? Not long after came the press devouring the whole “depression is bad, mkay” debate that followed the death of Robin Williams, as if people didn’t notice it was bad before, and I got bitter. Really bitter. Suddenly everyone was an expert on how it felt to be that low, and “why don’t people just get over it?” flew out of the mouths of the masses.

I don’t know where I’m headed. All I can do is move around, have momentary encounters with people, and poof away into some weird little world where I only process music and words on a screen that come out of me in no real order.

I’d like to say I will make an attempt to fix myself. That nobody ever needs to worry about me, and I’ll take some pills and end up just fine.

I won’t. I won’t do it again, because this is what I do. It’s not some sad thing, it’s not defeatist. If I can’t make things, I’m unhappy. Not everyone loses that on medication. I hope everyone that tries to get help finds solace, and can end up better. For some people it’s amazingly helpful, but it isn’t for me. I’d rather be an asshole that forgets to hang out, an asshole that skips town, an asshole with a rotting brain and an uncertain future than what all those pills did to me. But it’s okay.

You can take this as some self-defeating, anti-whatever rant. Maybe it is, maybe it’s just me realizing my only hope is to exist as I see fit. I’m not a great writer, I’m not the best artist, but dammit it gives me purpose. I refuse to lose that.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep riding buses, going nowhere, and writing about it. ‘Cause that’s who I am, and what I do.  I’m sorry.