“And Something's odd - within -
That person that I was -
And this One - do not feel the same -
Could it be Madness - this?"
When love is not madness, it is not love. - Pedro Calderon de la Barca
Today I have received the 2nd note this week from a friend that had been spending a semester in new york city:
“Been thinking about you, imagining that Roxy is healthy and beautiful.
Like her parents and brother, of course.
Hope you are finding quality time to spend with the family before the onslaught of yucky students.”
She hadn't heard and i hadn’t told her. (If there were a Stillbirth 101 class and I were the teacher, 1st thing I would stress is this: LET EVERYBODY KNOW BEFORE THEY CAN ASK). I typed some words to her and exhaled as it all came back into focus again, and today's heart sutures came ripping loose. I felt some pain in my cerebellum. Was it a stroke? Panic. Panic, panic, panic. The therapist, who Terra and I are seeing weekly now, had told me that panic attacks did not kill people and that these attacks could be ridden out without taking medication. In fact, she said, the heartbeat could reach 300 beats per minute, and I would survive, just be sure I wasn't driving.
I really trusted and liked my therapist but... fuck that.
I reached into my desk drawer and took out a plastic bag with 3 little white life rafts: xanax!! I placed the tablet into my mouth. I did not have any water but I wasn't about to go to the water fountain. Noooo nononono. There were PEOPLE there, speaking in tongues. The pill was chalky and terribly bitter and took three swallows to get down. I looked around. I stood up, placed the little grey telephone (seriously, it looked like a Fisher Price toy) onto the charger. It was ringing. I gathered up my mp3 player and my sunglasses and I walked slowly and steadily out of my office onto what felt like the surface of the sun. I found my car and unlocked it, hands shaking. It was 98 degrees outside today. The air conditioner is not working properly. The heat, the heat. My head, my head. My eyes were trying to roll back, but i concentrated. “I’m okay…okokokokokok.” My eyes bounced around from clock to odometer to oh shit cars in front of me to oh shit oncoming traffic... I remembered my therapist telling me “concentrate on your breathing.” i did that. I started to feel a little better. I acknowledged this to myself. The acknowledgment ITSELF freaked me out. I started pounding my steering wheel with both fists, alternately. I screamed “fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you!!!!!!!!!” so loud and hard that I couldn't even recognize the voice. I was staring at clouds. I was talking to god. It took me exactly 24 minutes to get home. I walked in through our garage and filed past terra who was pacing around the kitchen, and made my way to another the medicine cabinet. I take another Xanax (I mean, I was on a low dosage, right?!) I looked at her. She was pacing, holding an envelope. I moved to hug her. She hugged back swiftly and continued her pacing. I finally heard Mason yelling at me from the other room, excitedly. I lowered myself onto the floor next to him and placed my hand on his back. He didn’t turn around and was pointing at the television screen to show me that he had gotten to a new level on his ‘teen titans’ video game.
“look!!!!!” he squealed madly… “I got past the, the, the, the really hard part… I beat the green guy!!”
“you did? Wow, you get better at this every day.”
“i know i do.”
I was searching for words… “so the green guy is pretty tough to get past?”
“No. I defeated him already.”
I curled up around the base of his spiderman chair where he was sitting, and stared blankly into the blue carpeting. “I missed you today” I said, and the words were so true, they were an elixir. I felt my heart rate slowing.
“is that why you came home early?”
“Sure it is. I thought you might want to take a nap” i joked.
“Noooo, i don’t want to take a nap. Mom said i could play my game for 60 minutes.”
“i’m just teasing you. I might take a nap right here though.”
“Are you tired dad?”
“I sure am. Do you ever get tired, booger?”
“No, I never get tired. I mean, yeah, I get tired. I don’t get tired when the sun is out.”
I realized that my panic has gone for now and I felt grateful to my son. The day slid into evening. Terra’s mom made fried green tomatoes (we have scarcely been alone in our house in 3 weeks) and the minute hand tick tick ticks. It was Mason’s bedtime. Toothpaste on his toothbrush, water in his cup, I fought my way through “Hubert the Pudge” and turned off his light.
The minute hand stopped ticking.
On this night, like most nights, insomnia was showing her teeth. I felt hollow, scraped out. I paced outside, smoking basic lights and tossing them into brush that my dad and father and law had piled 10 feet high onto our fire pit. I found some gummy bears, ate them. I checked my email. I kept looking at the clock. I panicked. I took more xanax (the bottle SAYS you can take them every 4-6 hours as needed, and I was on a low dosage!!!). Somewhere around 4 am I slipped into this dream:
I am a fighter pilot in something resembling a b-52 bomber. I suppose my mind doesn’t know enough about the design of a b-52, so it invents the rest. My face is different. I am younger. I am in combat but I am not afraid as I usually am in dreams. I am flying through an milky orange early morning sky and shells are exploding all around me. The explosions sound more like human screams than “kaboom kaboom.” I turn to my co-pilot who does not look back. I stare at his swamp green helmet for five minutes. Everything slows down. I know i should be looking ahead of me, but I do not. I let us fly, break-neck, blindly into the madness of this sky.
“who are we bombing?” I ask.
“Chechnya.” his voice sounds irritated and bored at the same time, as if I have inturrupted a revealed answer on “Jeopardy.” (What did Alex say?!! God dammit.)
“Where is that?”
He does not answer me. He pulls a lever and the bombs fall out of our plane. I know that we have just decimated chechnya, and I realize that my last question didn’t need to be answered. No one would ever see it on a map again.
I snapped awake to the sound of a box fan and can see through a crack in the blinds that the sun had just started to hint at rising. It was hours before i actually needed to get up, but I got up anyway. I urinated, pounded a glass of water, headed outside to smoke, and returned to bed to fall into a waking dream or maybe some kind of hallucination:
I hear the sound of a doorbell. I try to move my body to ansewr it, but can’t. It keeps ringing and ringing. I sit up and try to scream “come here” to Terra, who seems so far away. I cannot wring the words out. It does occur to me that I may be straddling two realities but I can't figure out which one is real. I am aware that my screaming (if I am screaming) could wake up and frighten Mason, but I keep at it because someone someone someone is at that effing door. My body is heavy. I try to fling it off the bed, but my arms and legs are dead. I feel myself wriggling and wriggling, trying to knock myself off. I know the impact of the floor will wake me up so that I can, at last, answer the door.
My head shook, no no no no no no, and I was awake. Frightened, I listened... and listened... and listened. I rose and walked into the kitchen to glance at the white front door. The doorbell was not ringing anymore. (In fact, we didn't have a functioning doorbell). Relief. I was NOT going to try to go back to sleep again any time soon.