The numbers are always deadly

The door creaked shut behind him and the storm door whined after it as he walked toward his car.  He knew the thinking wasn’t healthy, that the activity wasn’t good for him and yet he seemed incapable of pulling himself out of it or pushing it away from his life, whatever that looked like.  He’d only just begun to recognize how ill he’d become.  He wondered most days if the things he did might not be the last time he ever did them.

Cleaning the toilet, making his bed, putting on his favorite shirt, going into work, logging into his computer; were they all part of a list of things never to be repeated again?  Was he some kind of cosmic short-timer, destined to never pass these ways again?  Had he always been?  The questions were too big and he knew from experience, unanswerable.  He’d been down the path before but for some reason this time it seemed different.  It had all started out simply, innocently enough.

“I need to talk to you about something”

The look on her face should have been informative but back then he subscribed to the ‘we’re all the same, really, it doesn’t matter if we’re men or women’ myth and never tried to pick up nor understand the subtle differences so illustrative of the true meaning behind simple statements like this.

“I have a chance to manage the Parkville office.  It’s a great opportunity.  The city doesn’t feel nearly as big as it is and we could always come back to visit on weekends.”

“How soon do they want you to go?”

In addition to being ignorant and dense in his decoding of messages he was completely oblivious to the unintended markers he threw out as he sought facts.  He hadn’t seen how his question about timing inferred they were already going.  He didn’t understand, and might never comprehend, the difference between his analytical thinking and her emotionally-based thought process.  It was a phenomenon so foreign to him that even 18 years later he still hadn’t mastered it.  Bending his caveman, reptilian brain around to this way of thinking made his head hurt.  Often he just gave up, sacrificing understanding and feelings for economy and efficiency.  Of course now he realized this as a fleeting lie because once the shit hit the fan it was anything but quicker or more effective.  He’d resorted to ordering by the numbers long ago and like his simplistic approach to communication; he knew it was killing him.

The slow slog toward death was nearly always apparent to his analytical brain.  It was only beginning to register on the largely unused, mushy side of his melon even though his body had been giving him subtle clues for years.  Unfortunately he chose to ignore or explain away these tiny chinks in his machismo armor.  True to form, like most small pockmarks they grew into larger and larger blemishes and finally holes.  He had only recently entered the necessitated stage of dealing with these in cooperation with his doctor.  Even then he went kicking and screaming.  Ironically, in this arena, his logical, reasoning brain abandoned him.  He became the sort of feeling, hang-up-ridden individual he had never seen nor knew existed.  His reluctant efforts to get and eat clean, to right his ship and live well were full of backsliding, falling off the wagon and relapses into bad, sometimes worse, habits landing him in the state he was in now.  Anger and blame had become an unwanted byproduct, an unwarranted component to his psyche.

“I don’t understand why you wouldn’t at least go back to the doctor.  There’s lots of meds to treat this.  Some of them will work or maybe there’s different regimens you can get on, different therapies…  I read something about hormones and cortisol, maybe you could ask about that?”

“Sure, we could throw some more drugs at it and then maybe some hormones and how about some eye of newt?  I think somewhere around 17 different medications would be about right.  Or I could just stay the hell out of the drive thru and hit the gym more than once every 90 days.”

Ultimately he was angry at himself, not her.  The irony of their transposition of roles was never recognized nor appreciated during these encounters.  It was lost amongst the bewilderment and frustration of two people who couldn’t seem to get back on the same page.  It was a page he wondered these days if they’d ever been on in the first place.  He consoled himself that at least they were still trying.  Their friends had begun to split apart in the past couple of years.  His analytical brain could still deal with this prospect dispassionately however and it was clearly a poor alternative.

He saw the hurt and angry children, sensed the fractured home and day-to-day life and listened to the complaints from both sides of these former unions.  Everyone had an axe to grind and as he listened to them enumerate the offenses of their ex, the trials of their strained, now polite relationships with their former soul mates and the tribulations of their children he knew they had not reached a point where that was worth it.  He doubted it would ever be.  As difficult and painful as it could become, there were bright spots occasionally and for the dark hours there were value meals, fun and super sizes and a murder by numbers he doubted Sting ever considered in what seemed a lifetime ago in 1983.  However, once again he found himself headed down the tortuous path toward a brightly lit sign and a speaker.

”Welcome to Burgerworld!  Can we get you one of our Super World Meals tonight?”

It was nearly nine o’clock, well beyond the time when popular belief said it was healthy to eat a meal.  He’d left in a bit of a huff and frustration over some disagreement that always led back to his health like some trump card whose suit never ceased to run out.  He was out of smartass comments.  These days his much-too-emotional-for-him brain reasoned ‘If you can’t say something nice, just remove yourself from the situation.’  He knew it was a bastardization of the cliché and a justification but just as he was out of comments, so was he out of answers.  As he stared at the perforated post, the speaker of doom, he could see the fork.

‘What’s easiest to do is just as easy not to do’ echoed from the left part of his cranium into his right.  Sometimes at a crossroads the strangest shit from the most forgotten places steps forward and says, “Remember me?”  He bowed his neck mentally and his mouth formed words from a place he neither thought nor remembered existed.

“I’ll have an iced tea, please”

“Can I get you anything else, a chocolate chip cookie or fries?”

“No thanks, that’ll do it.”

Driving away from the window he knew the route home was as nondescript as the over-priced cup of brown water sitting in the cup holder next to him.  In so many ways the journey, like the task ahead, was simple, not easy.

I’m afraid for the most part we all have our drug of choice.  It may not be necessarily bad or good but we all need something.  The trick is to moderate it and keep it under control.

Every week I write about life stuff.  I think a lot of what we experience is universal with a few tweeks here and there for good measure.  If you would like to read more, click this to go to my blog’s home page.  Once you’re there I hope you’ll subscribe for free.  Subscribing means you’ll get an email on Sundays with links to the week’s posts, nothing more, nothing less.  You can subscribe here too if you would like, just click here.