Tuesday, October 12, 2021

What other people think

  I was 43 waking up near the end of June in Palm Springs. A town almost as embarrassed to exist as I had become. The day before I spent 4 hours driving in shitty traffic for 4 hours to arrive with limited time to visit the girl who had become my stubborn last stand to try and pretend to still feel correct about an idea which had become increasingly bad over the previous two years to everyone's direct observation who had ever cared for me. After two sweaty nervous attempts to get up to her hospital room I received my first direct clue to reverse course when the shitty candy striper asked me if there was already someone visiting her at the moment. I politely told her I doubted it, which I did, but I didn't know, which I didn't. With a smile I affixed the required hospital regalia to be allowed to advance to the elevator and finally got see my love for the first time in 4 days after watching her yet again be taken away on a stretcher due to complications from overdosing on the dark vacuum drug that has swallowed most of my life to this point. Yes somehow I was still hiding in the back rows of the funeral slideshow for the love and life with her I traded in like so many other amazing opportunities for the dark half digested dream candy of banal safety smelling of vinegar and loss.

Sorry to wax rhapsodic. This is a story of real shame and depravity, not some poetic attempt at making myself sound like something besides the cowardly loser that I have amounted to at this age. Over the hill. Not quite. I nearly avoided the hill and took the lonely way around. So afraid of looking like the loser I chose to walk blocks around the life I had in store. Except today was one of those days I had the rude Awakening that I hadn't been able to avoid the shame and humiliation as well as I thought I had. After pushing the button the elevator I turned to see her mother Nancy staring back at me with contempt and disbelief that I might actually show my face here at the consequences stage. The things Katie shares with her mom are unmistakable but sparse and peppered between very different styles of communication, expression and manipulation. They are both almost constantly in control of the room while appearing to just be agreeable and along for the ride. But while Nancy presents this almost childlike inquisitive kindness, Katie is introverted and withdrawn. It's almost impossible for me to observe her in her natural state or habitat anymore because she never wants to be anywhere with me where there might be new people to use. When I met her, I remember instantly feeling the instinct to protect her. I think that is her go-to tractor beam to pull in her tools with all their testosterone and self esteem still intact. Lucky bastards. For me, however, that sweet, shaken but not stirred vision of warmth has turned into a sulky, arrogant high school girl. Objecting to everything and as self assured as a condensed volume of Nietzsche. Anyway, I'm standing under the humming ,no buzzing bluish light that I can actually see strobing because my brain is that unnecessarily tuned up after the 60 mile 4 1/2 hour drive from skid row straight to the ICU at Riversudden Death Community Hospital. What I'm trying to convey is that it was already an unfortunate condition to be in while arriving 4 days late to see my girl in the hospital. The guilt trained behind me and parted the room like a rich blonde girl from Laguna's wedding dress. Or so I imagine. (Not something I'm ever likely to see first hand.) I turn around to the sound of my name being spoken halfway between question and disbelief. I turn around and run into those disappointed eyes at 60mph. My ears were ringing and I was aware that my eyes were vibrating too much to try and maintain eye contact with anyone. But not only was Nancy there letting me know she was there and I didn't need to be, but Lance was there to make sure I was aware nobody wanted me in the hospital or Katie's life at all. And if Katie thought she did, or said so, it was only because of how sick she was. I only served as a tool she could use to self-destruct, and she would never be crazy enough to want me anywhere near her when she was sober. Lance has been making that point to me for years now, and this was my first time defending myself over any medium other than text message. My best point was the obvious. if only to me, point that Katie is 40 years old, and seemingly capable of making her own decisions. I asked that maybe they let her have a say in whether or not she wanted me near her or not. Especially since she had been telling me she wanted me with her for the previous 3 weeks or so at least. Granted she clearly hadn't always wanted me around her. And that's a point that echoes with more and more volume and intensity each day since this stand-off. But even with Nancy asking me to leave, and Lance telling me what a piece of garbage I was, and telling me I better leave or else... I told them both the truth. If I could stop loving Katie and just walk away from her for reasons of logic, I would have already. But when she asked me to be there for her, nothing short of handcuffs was going to stop me. I guess it felt a little good to tell them that I was her boyfriend and that I wasn't going anywhere unless she asked me to herself... the feelings that followed after they left were pretty vast and empty. I have never known loneliness like this. To be told I was nothing but a part of the disease killing the girl I love, and to be left afterwards with nobody to talk to accept family members who were disgusted with me for doing nothing productive for myself or my family but throwing everything I had into a relationship with a girl who only even acknowledged my existence between guys she liked more than me, and when she needed free drugs. It is a pretty lonely place to be coming down from drugs, facing the dim reality I've been trying so hard to avoid for so long, and having nothing to distract myself with any longer. If I had Katie to talk to, I could let go of all that hurt so long as she was being partly loving. But instead, I have all that rejection, all those questions about my inadequacy, plus the fear that She isn't going to be ok and that maybe I really am the source of all the pain and destruction in her life. That is the very last thing on earth I ever wanted to be. All I really wanted was to make her life better. I know for sure I failed at that, even if nothing else was my fault.

When I got up to her room, I was able to run my fingers through her hair, to tell her how much I loved her, and to hear her say that she wanted me there and ask me to please not leave her alone in riverside. But I also saw that she was no better than she'd been 4 days before. She was in pain, and clearly worried about bigger things than our love life. I was able to get some perspective when I felt how shaky and warm she was. But she did say she needed me. She did ask me to stay near to her. That might have been the best I've felt since any of this happened.
In the days since, she has gotten worse. And I've had less and less access to her. Her mom has been great about keeping me in the loop, but today she asked me to give her Katie's bags. I told her I could drive them back to Eagle so she didn't have to ship them, and I got a polite no thank you. I then asked if she thought I'd be able to see Katie again, and she didn't respond. Katie has her phone. If she wanted to deal with or hear me enough, she could pick it up. She's fighting for her life, and she isn't getting any help from me. I'm starting to think that Nancy is really giving me the best advice there is. I'm not going to do her any good just sitting here in Riverside going crazy and worrying about her. It might be time to let Katie have the freedom from me she's been seeking this whole time. Maybe it gives her the best chances for survival and happiness if I disappear like Lance suggests. I can always show up for her if she asks for me, and I can do it with some actual heart left if I try and find myself and my own worth outside of her validation. Maybe if I walk away and find my manhood again, there is some chance she can find me attractive again someday if we ever cross paths again. Who knows? But what seems more and more true the more time that goes by is that doing anything else is just going to be more of the same despair, loss, and rejection all the way down. It's been a steady trajectory here for the last year. And I never thought I'd let it get this far. I need her to make it. I need her to live and to thrive and to learn from this. I think maybe I have to disappear for there to be any chance of that happening. I was getting her things ready to bring to her mom and some new troubling concerns came to my awareness. Nothing pointing in any different direction though. All signs point to the same place I’ve been trying not to head toward for over a year now.