Signs

More and more of these signs are popping up as I run through Elkins Park with Cass: “Hate Has No Home Here” all along Beech Hill Ave. Subtle, I guess. I assume it’s meant to be comforting to the other, yet non-political, arguably a structural antagonism at this point. Must be nice to have such a small magnitude of skin in the game.

What they should say: “Hate Has No Home Here, but the general complacency, loathing and heir of superiority we’ve always had, remains.” Shit has to be signed into law for folks to notice, niggas need to be getting bagged and tagged, lives physically altered in such a way that even your pet goldfish might raise an eyebrow, before folks consider putting a sign on their lawn. Or some poetry in a few windows. Mass emails about the Social Justice Network at school. Sure, they were cute at first, but then, reaching their peak around the time 45 signed that executive order, I couldn’t help but think about how these folks could be getting their people instead.

Vaguely liberal women married to or fucking structurally incongruent humans (see, 45 supporters), folks with those jovial, yet racist, sexist, homophobic as shit family members who they got nothing but love for, and tenured professors with closed mouths and the like are really the problem. Basically, you can either get your people, or quit the false allyship. Throw away those fucking safety pins. Shut down the SJW network. Rip down the signs in the windows, trash the ones in the yard. Stop tryna blur lines and shit, ya’ll aint Robin Thicke.  

“Like Suicide”-Soundgarden or Seethar?

I’m still not entirely convinced that wanting to die–or entertaining the idea of suicide–is a completely irrational thing to do. From an atheist standpoint at least, it’s over. Problem is, it goes wrong so fucking often. Even holding the gun to my temple seems nearly impossible; the weapon gets heavier the closer my finger gets to the trigger. Probably nerves. Because from a practical standpoint how could that not hurt? Lostallhope.com (I can’t even type that without laughing, cause it’s way too emo) explores some of my worst fears in potentially failed suicides. Somebody is always making it through.

Then what?

Languish around the SICU like the vegetable you now are, drooling on people, having your family drop by less and less (or no one) while your nurse tries to keep you comfortable and talks about how great of an organ donor you’d be? Fuck that. Plus, if you die, you can’t drink Golden Monkey and listen to The XX and The Cold War Kids while writing shit like this. It seems like the ultimate violation of autonomy though, for someone to suggest that suicide is out of the question, mostly because they’ll miss you. Isn’t that more selfish than the suicide itself?

In that case, to be manipulated in such a way by other people’s assumptions about how one must feel at any given moment–and subsequently, how one could potentially feel, given drugs, talking etc–can only make existence worse. Control is a big thing for me. The fear of losing it, as well as thinking about the parts of life where it’s already long gone. It’s fucking terrible. It seems like every empathetic perspective, or at least what we’re taught about suicide leads people to strip away autonomy first.

 

Every time I’m on a 1:1 with a suicidal patient I ask them about the reason they’ve either considered it or tried to hurt themselves. Okay, sometimes I judge them for trying to end it in really corny ways like taking Tylenol or whatever, but that’s not the point. You get some interesting stories out of those conversations. It’s like the peak of the human experience. More than “what’s bothering you?” It’s like, “what are the multifaceted aspects of existence that are bothering you so much that you’re willing to end your fucking life over it?” And at that point, when you’re already down and busted, and someone legit wants to know, and not to diagnose you or send you to Germantown Crisis, but legit wants to know, you might as well spill it. All that sexy, gushy, honest, painful experience that actually allows me to know you instead of just hypothesize about your life and shit.

I’ve found out about a myriad of molestations, beatings, deep seated hatreds, betrayals and self-doubts this way. Sometimes, of course, there is a legitimate medical reason for the suicidal ideation that can and should be rectified. Sometimes it’s stuff that was already in the patient’s chart too, but in that stale, dry manner. In those cases, hearing the full story matters. Most of the time the chart doesn’t actually say why, which really, is the part I’m interested in, not for any diagnostic possibility but because it feels good to know. The same way reading or watching something sad feels good in that relatable sense.

Sometimes the patient and I end up laughing about the whole thing. The ludicrousness of it all. The kind of hard laugh you engage in when you know the sadness will circle back around soon. The one that Colson Whitehead might share with fellow Anhedonians. It’s the greatest relief to feel, lavishing in the temporary state of the thing you can both share like people as opposed to statisticians, diagnosticians, or people who haven’t considered suicide because their rainbow actually is enuf. I never actually tell them anything about me though. Seems unprofessional. Gotta leave all that personal shit at home, or on your blog or whatever.

Jojo’s Lunch

I was in the kitchen, listening to Trevor Noah’s memoir on the bluetooth speaker I’d gotten for music festivals. It sits atop the stove and whenever I’m cooking or cleaning it’s always on Spanish news or gangsta rap or old school Usher or whatever. Something to sit in the background and make it all nicey nice. This time though I was stuck on this part about Noah and one of his friends getting caught stealing. The friend, a darker South African boy was being reprimanded, while everyone watched the scene on video. They couldn’t recognize Noah and thought he was some white boy, so essentially he got away with it.

I was reminded of the time I’d gotten caught stealing those Gundam Wing models from K-Mart. I forget who was with me, but it might have been Jonathan? Who knows. I had to go back for the paint though. I’d been getting bolder, and just building the models and putting the stickers on wasn’t enough. They had this special paint for them, shit was expensive too, but I was an artist. I needed it. I was almost out the door with two of the models after stripping down the packaging in the bathroom when I told my friend.

“I’m gonna go back for the paint,” like a dumbass. To this day I’m not sure why I thought I’d get away with it. I do remember I needed that paint though. I loved those damn models and around that time I still thought I’d be an architect (I’d decided that cartoonist wasn’t a high enough paying gig). Anyways, I went back in, grabbed the paint headed straight back out through the door but as they slid open a security guard grabbed my arm. I froze. When it came down to it I was still more soft than furious at this point in life. The guard didn’t even say anything and I’d already started sobbing, like a dog who just ate the trash or chewed the computer cord I frowned, held my head down and just knew. I just fucking knew.

You know who else knew? Jojo did. When I dropped packaging from the cheeseburgers in the trash; mind you, he begged me to have cheeseburgers for dinner and was behaving pretty well so why not. This fucker had thrown his entire lunch from school in the trash: both sandwiches, the chocolate yogurt he begged me to get, the snack crackers, tropical applesauce and juice. I had just asked him how that chocolate yogurt was because we’d disagreed on it’s potential “deliciousness” and he’d told me it was “awesome.” When he saw that I saw, he froze. Then he started stuttering.

“I.. but.. Because.”

I hadn’t said anything, but he couldn’t say anything. He started crying heavy and stomped in frustration.

“Do you remember what you told me a second ago? Go ahead and explain yourself, you have to calm down though,” I said. Not gonna lie I was kind of amused but kept a serious face.

“I didn’t want you to be mad at me,” he said.

“For what?”

“Because I didn’t eat my lunch. I forgot it.”

“So, why wouldn’t you just eat it tomorrow instead of throwing it away?”

“I don’t know!” he yelled. He was crying even harder. He flailed his arms and twisted his body around.

I wanted to be more angry, but the trash was empty anyway and his lunch was still wrapped.

“Take it out and put all your food in the refrigerator for tomorrow,” I said.

He couldn’t really believe it. He started to ask me if I wanted him to do pushups or flutter kids but then he caught himself. “What should I–”

But he didn’t feel like he’d gotten away with anything either. Instead, he went into the living room and quietly started doing his homework, neatly and taking his time, without my having to tell him. I guess any other time I would have been furious at the bold lie, but my mood was more like, oh, kids do the darndest things.

Memory and Memoir I

Funny things happen with memory when you’re writing a memoir. Just a few weeks ago, I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt what went down during the blizzard of 96’. I, or the weaker version of myself I tend to forget, was at Saint Christopher’s hospital for one perfect week. Pneumonia. As far as I’m concerned now, it was one of the greatest things that has ever happened. Baller ass hospital food (my how times have changed) for that week, three times a day and no one complaining that I was “eating them out of house and home” or saying I had a tapeworm–the nerve, those Ramen noodles are damn near free anyway, and that’s most of what we ate at home, motheruckers need to calm down.

Anyway, the nurses there were nice to me. I remember that being my first encounter with a mob of friendly adults, and the first time I thought about women sexually. I loved that damn hospital. I tried to make all kinds of excuses to stay, though I remember distinctly, my grandfather coming to visit me there. He called me a pussy and such, the routine as it was, and told me to man up. Then that was it. Next thing you know I was back home washing dishes and hating shit.

But my mother tells a different tale, in between getting on my goddamn nerves in the kitchen this weekend when I was trying to cook of course. She says that she had to trek all the way up to Saint Chris from our apartment on Paul Street in that snow and then she stayed there every night. Said Earl never visited. Then she said she read stories to me every day, and all the other kids started to hang out in my room so they could hear said unspecified stories. And then–

That’s when I had to cut her off.

“You,” I said. “Read me stories.” I slanted my eyes at her over the popping grease, fried something was about to happen.

“Yes Joey, every single night,” she said.

“And it was so captivating that all the poor motherless children had to come join in huh.”

“I don’t know all that Joey, damn, they just came.”

I laughed. “Okay,” I said. “I’m still gonna need you to get out the kitchen so I can make food that actually tastes good.”

“Whatever Joey, I’m gonna go call my man.”

And then, I wrote a poem about it. Yes, that seems to be my life in emotional intelligence 101. Anger = Poem. Still though, I think the whole event reeked of the many times she’d claimed to be around but so clearly wasn’t. Sure, the first nine months after conception are accounted for, but after that…naw son. And read stories? That got me. Especially since I don’t ever remember her reading. Ever. I mean I assumed she could because now she’s constantly sexting old dudes for money, but still. Not a single memory of my childhood–maybe Nika or Julian remember but I, as the oldest don’t–involves my mother reading anything to anyone. Let alone a group of eager, sickly children.

But, I have to challenge my bias about that. There are other ways I can verify things, blah blah. I mean, she was right about the jail/hospital I was born in so whatever. More importantly though, the writing continues.