I used to be more athletic. A lot more athletic. But I spent a few years treating my body in a fashion similar to curing an octopus — bashing it against a wall. Strange to call such an act of brutality “curing.” In fact, at the age of 21, during a particularly rough indoor coed soccer match, I was bashed against a wall. Head first. My skin split open just below the hairline, exposing my skull, which turned out not be white, but more the color of a pink seashell or old porcelain. Everyone crowded over me as I lay there looking up, blinking, their voices like passing cars in a tunnel, their mouths twisted or completely covered by a cupped hand. Six hours, one CAT scan and nine stitches later, I was released from Ball Memorial Hospital with nary a pamphlet on how to care for a traumatic head wound. That night, I went straight to bed, falling into a deep, dreamless sleep. The next morning, I hopped on my bicycle and rode to geology lab, the layers of gauze conveniently keeping the hair out of my eyes as I pedaled along.

Obviously, I was never a “star athlete.” But I was certainly a memorable one. The first varsity soccer game of my senior year, I started as left flank against Fort Wayne-Snyder. Twelve minutes into the match, I collided with a girl of beastly proportions. She was not fat, but made of solid muscle and probably granite. I lost consciousness, woke up a minute or so later from the shortest dream I’ve ever had in my life: a watermelon, a close-up of an ant, closer, closer until all sixty-nine of his eyeballs blinked and blinked and blinked and then — “Oy!” —  the face of Graham, my British soccer coach, above me, his unshaven round chin wagging. “Oy!” he shouted again, “Wake up, Abs! You’ve had the consensus knocked out of ya’!”

My first conscious thought was, That’s not the right word, Graham. That doesn’t make sense. 

Six hours, a CAT scan, and two — ok, maybe three, Loritabs later — I was home, settling into bed.

So, I’ve never been much of an athlete. I didn’t win medals or ribbons; I got “participation certificates.” While this bothered me as a young child, surrounded by so many friends with athletic abilities far more impressive than my own, I don’t harbor any self-hatred for each softball I let fly past me in the strike zone, each faulty chip-kick that landed the soccer ball in the bleachers or in the back of someone’s truck; I don’t keep a running mental tally of each and every one of my athletic failures or mishaps.

This is mostly because, for some reason, I honestly don’t remember them.

player of the year

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red and pink pudding strewn across the asphalt on what is now a Jackson Pollack-ified Baltimore street. It is night time and the rat skitters past an orange alley cat snapping peevishly at its own haunch. A train lays on its horn a half-mile away, thirty yards away, a few feet away, close enough now to hear the clacking of its gears over and over and over again: Baltimore, Baltimore, Baltimore. The tranquil rat turns away from the train to run down the edge of an alley. He is the terrorizing athlete of the night; his resting heart rate is incredulous — 300 beats per minute, faster than the sound his tiny gnarled talons make on asphalt. He is a shadow sprinter, clambering away. The train is still with us, clacking. Now, the rat’s long gone, his talons clicking. I’m on the stoop outside my house, cracking my knuckles, deliberating with myself: Is that pudding? Or are those the remains of a squashed rat? Does red pudding exist? Pink pudding? Surely, rats aren’t pure liquid inside. That must be pudding. Or abstract street art. 

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(Illustration by Brett Affrunti)

1.)    Lately, bus rides feel eerily similar to the short, drifty trips I make each night between waking life and sleep. The lighting is the same flashy colors – the burnt-red-blood-purple of the back of my eyelids pierced, occasionally, by sun slants and shifting shapes. At a stop sign, a man outside the window is a man then a dog then a shadow.

2.)    I’m improving my meditation practices, sure; five quiet minutes at the end of my waking day feels less like the life span of an elephant than it used to. Still, I find myself stuck between a strained, feigned holistic lifestyle, attempting to appeal to true practitioners of such mindful ways, and an urge to throw my shoes out the window.

3.)    Some days, I can drift down the aisle of a crowded bus unnoticed; I can throw my shoes out the window without blame. I am invisible.

4.)    Thích Nhất Hạnh said, “If you love someone, the greatest gift you can give them is your presence.”

5.)    This makes being invisible no good.

 

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wislawa

(One of my personal favorites)

 

Possibilities

by Wislawa Szymborska, Recipient of The Nobel Prize in Literature, 1996

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

From Urbanite Baltimore’s 2009 “Emerging Writers” issue:

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                  Brandi shoved herself through the rip tide of students in the corridor, extending a jazz hand toward me. I glanced away, pretending not to notice her sprawled fingers in my face. “Oh my God,” she said as she squeezed her large frame between me and a trophy case, “I just got my algebra test back from Mr. S. He’s so copious.

I didn’t know what “copious” meant so I shrugged, yanked on a strand of hair.

“What’s wrong, Abby? Didn’t you take your medicine today?” Brandi bowed to meet my hair-curtained eyes. Her breath reeked of Doritos. Her teeth were orange. She was a foul cheese-breathing dragon.

“It’s not even lunch time,” I replied, “but judging from the smell of your breath, I’m guessing you couldn’t wait to eat.”

The aftertaste of old watermelon gum lingered in my mouth. Brandi’s face two inches away made me nauseous. I gagged. The flat flavor of long-chewed gum and the Doritos smell was a gross concoction; it reminded me of the disgusting way my dad mixed potatoes with peas and gravy and steak onto one forkload. I couldn’t fathom that some people considered mixing food scrumptious. You’d never catch me forking a wad of gum and a Dorito chip into my watering mouth, “ooh”ing and “aah”ing at the flavor, exalting on behalf of my delighted taste buds.

I pleaded for her to back up.

Brandi ignored me and waved sheets of stapled paper in my face. “Can you believe I got a C minus on the algebra test?” Her jazz hands were in full effect. She was preaching to the ceiling tiles. “And, unlike you, I don’t even take medicine to concentrate!”

A few students turned around and giggled. I could’ve sworn one girl pointed in the general direction of my brain. I growled.

“I did worse,” I said, “because I hate math, Brandi. Medication has nothing to do with it.” I toyed with the padlock that hung heavily from my belt loop. I thought it looked cool — like I not only owned my locker, I wore my locker. A foot away, inside my locker, were papers chest-high with red Ds and D minuses scrawled urgently upon them. I hadn’t flunked anything yet. And I didn’t care if my fellow students rummaged through my accessible locker because the bad grades were all they’d find. And gum wrappers.

“It does matter, Abby. Math is one of your learning disabilities.”

Brandi knew this because we went to the same psychiatrist. Apparently, we had appointments back to back. More than twice I’d seen her waddling up Dr. Darr’s porch, talking to herself, rehearsing some soliloquy I imagined to be about algebra and potato chips as I hightailed my way to my mom’s car. One afternoon, she followed me into a bathroom at school. She asked why I was seeing Dr. Darr. Over my streaming urine, I’d shouted, “Because I have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder!” After exiting the bathroom stall, I asked her why she went to see Dr. Darr, thinking that, maybe, we were having a “moment”, a nice girl-to-girl chat about psychiatry. At the sink, she leaned over my shoulder, caught my frightened gaze in the mirror and whispered, “Why, that’s none of your business, Abby.”

Brandi and I didn’t get along, but we loved to disagree. For example, in English class I’d raise my hand to answer a question, saying something like: “Well, I think so-and-so should have done blah blah blah,” and, suddenly inspired, Brandi’s big ol’ jazz hand would shoot into the air like a missile, ready to fire off zinging retorts. She’d say, “Well, I think, so-and-so couldn’t have done blah blah blah.” Then we’d level glares, acknowledging the battle between us. What Brandi found particularly threatening about me, I don’t know. But I figured Brandi said tomato and I said to-mah-to. Brandi probably forked her tomatoes with steak and potatoes and Doritos.

In the corridor, I looked Brandi up and down. Her hands were sprawled at her hips; her big brown eyes bounced beneath her thick glasses. When she rummaged in her backpack for a candy bar, I felt sorry for her. But only for a moment.

“Brandi,” I said, calmly. “Please shut up about my medication.”

Before she could snap back at me, I jumped into the tidal wave of students, the din of slamming lockers, and, flicking my bangs back, I walked off.

Brandi’s fascination with my learning disabilities and my A.D.H.D. wasn’t an uncommon experience for me. Sunny Hill Middle School was an “academy” for the “gifted and talented”. I figured I met a quota. One mentally challenged student per thirty geniuses. It made perfect sense. And most of the students knew about my A.D.H.D. because word spread fast. After I’d told Brandi, the other students knew within a week. In order to be recognized as an actual school, Sunny Hill had to enroll a certain amount of students. There were about sixty of us in all. I was in the seventh grade. That meant there were, I think, about four or five other mentally challenged kids. Or three. Or nine.

My brother, Zach, was admitted to Sunny Hill before me. He was a year younger and had a knack for mechanical things, science and math. I’d attended the sixth grade in a public middle school where I stole Jolly Ranchers from a nearby gas station and called my English teacher, Mr. Woo, a bitch. My parents wanted me to get into Sunny Hill. At first, I was gung-ho for it. The idea of being in a school for gifted and talented kids appealed to me. I knew some of the other students; one was even my best friend, Meredith. So I sat down one night and, in six hours, made my entire application portfolio. It worked. I was admitted. But, once there, I felt awkward and frequently embarrassed. Everybody was so smart. One student traveled to Europe to play the violin with a touring orchestra. Another student, in the seventh grade, attended a high school geometry class each day. Meredith, whom I’d known since the age of five, surprised me the most. I knew she was super smart, but I’d never seen her in action. At Sunny Hill, she was the brainiest of all. She excelled in everything. She excelled in excelling.

Of course, I’d gotten another D minus on the algebra test. But I wasn’t about to reveal that to Brandi. She’d love the news too much. I took my marked-up exam from my back pocket and shoved it in my locker.

Algebra class was the worst for me because we were encouraged to learn at our own pace. I usually sat under my desk with earphones on, staring blankly at a textbook, sometimes scribbling down nonsensical symbols that eventually turned into little anarchy and peace signs. Mr. S. wasn’t keen on my seating preference but, hey, we were a bunch of quirky gifted kids. Why not? I day dreamed about throwing my calculator through a window and shouting, “Down with the regime!”

Math is what started all the trouble in the first place. I knew something strange was happening to me when I was younger, say, eight or nine, and the multiplication, the division, the page-long equations about trains and their destinations at so many miles an hour started to confuse me. I would concentrate on verbs. If a train departed at fifty miles an hour from Tucson and another train took off at thirty-six miles an hour from a station in Long Island, where will they meet? I would think funny thoughts like departed means starting slow and eventually working up to a steady pace. Taking off means putting your lead foot on the acceleration pedal making like a jet to wherever it is you’re headed. The verbs and the numbers together confused me. I would think funny thoughts like fifty miles minus thirty-six miles at nine o’clock equals a Boeing Jet defecting a train’s slow departure due to the conductor’s pestering athlete’s foot. Math never made any sense to me. And when I started to learn algebra, mixing math with English, the variables x and y not spelling a damned thing, made my least favorite subject unbearable. The only word I knew with x and y in it was “exactly”. Math didn’t mix with English just like potatoes didn’t mix with gravy and peas and steak onto one fork, or tomatoes and Doritos whenever Brandi was involved, because it was disgusting. Insane.

Dr. Darr had persistently reminded me having A.D.H.D. was nothing to be ashamed or frightened of. She told me to think of having the disorder like riding a bike downhill at a high speed with broken brakes. I thought Dr. Darr was nuts because that’s something to be frightened of. She had presented this example to my mother as well. My mom had jotted the words on a little notepad: attention, deficit, bike, hill, brakes, broken. Sometimes, just to be funny, I ran through the kitchen on an invisible bike screaming, “My brakes are busted, Mom!”

Brandi was always there when I took Ritalin at school. I never found out why – perhaps she was taking psychotropics or prescribed weight-loss pills – but when I was summoned into the nurse’s office before lunch, there she sat, her wide eyes fixating on me, following my every movement as I gently sat the little round tablet on my tongue, took a hearty drink of lukewarm water, gulped emphatically, crushed the Dixie cup and sent it flying in a practiced arc toward the trash can.

It never failed, Brandi would smile when I turned to her afterward, smacking my lips in satiation: “Aaah.”

I was supposed to take Ritalin three times a day: before breakfast, before lunch, and before dinner. Sometimes I’d go and spit a half-dissolved tablet in a toilet or into my hand, gagging it out like it was toxic Tylenol. Sometimes I swallowed the tablet. Once I fed a tablet to my dog, Sadie, but nothing cool happened; she didn’t start reciting the periodic table of elements. Only in school, before an audience of Brandi and the nurse, did I regularly take my medication.

I learned how to cope with my thought processes before I’d started taking Ritalin.  I learned that it might take me longer to figure out some formula than it did other students, but I’d get there eventually. Ritalin didn’t quicken my pace, it just made me focus on one distinct aspect of a problem. If a train departed at fifty miles an hour from Tucson and another train took off at thirty-six miles an hour from a station in Long Island, where will they meet? On Ritalin, I’d think Tucson, Long Island. Tucson. Long Island.  Train. Thirty-six miles. Train. Thirty-six miles. Train. Fifty miles. Train. Fifty miles.  Wait, class is over? But I was so close!

Taking Ritalin before dinnertime was the worst. Once the medicine kicked in I couldn’t help but focus on my dad’s eating habits. At dinnertime on Ritalin, it was peas, gravy. Peas. Gravy. Steak. Potatoes. Steak. Potatoes. Dad’s mouth open wide. Dad chewing, his squirrel cheeks bloated with peas, gravy, steak, potatoes. Dad swallowing, his Adam’s apple pushing the concoction further down his esophagus. Dad smiling as his fork scraped the plate in search of more peas, more gravy, more steak. Dr. Darr warned my mom that loss of appetite was a common side- effect of Ritalin. So when I didn’t eat much at dinnertime, she didn’t pester me about it. She had no idea it was all my dad’s fault.

I shut my locker and ran outside to my bus. I waved “hi” to the other kids as I walked on. A handful sat doing their homework, their textbooks propped on the back of the seat in front of them. Couples held hands and chatted quietly. I took my usual spot near the back and leaned against the window. A moment later, Brandi sat down next to me. I didn’t look at her. She didn’t look at me. We sat humming to ourselves until the bus revved its engine and took off.

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“Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.” 

-Albert Camus

I know this sensation: a propulsion within my rib cage, impelled by dissentient emotions — mostly anger and joy. The anger brought on by thoughts like gathering bacteria; at first, one solitary thought — “I’m not doing anything worthwhile right now” — made bigger by disparaging conjunctions — “I’m not doing anything worthwhile right now because I’ve nothing to offer to the world by writing or sketching or singing or, for fuck’s sake, talking” — until that one little annoying thought is suddenly an archipelago of sickening notions, a “Choose-Your-Own-Pathetic-Adventure”, if you will: “I’m not doing anything worthwhile right now because [A. I’ve nothing to offer the world by writing or sketching or singing or, for fuck’s sake, talking; or B. Even if I try to do something worthwhile right now, I’ll royally fuck it up.

If you choose A, go to the bathroom and stare at your forlorn face for 6 minutes. If you choose B, continue your hapless, pitiful dwelling.]

But, mind you, this sensation, this propulsion, is also impelled by joy. Joy brought on by small victories — “I paid my cell phone bill on time for the 15th month in a row!”

Or by funny memories, like the following:

When I was four, I was on a children’s television show, “The Uncle Al Show”, that ran on a public network channel in the Indiana/Ohio/Kentucky tri-state area. Little kids would gather around Uncle Al on a set that resembled a barnyard — dangerously precarious cardboard cutouts of cows, pigs, red barns strewn about, a talking puppet rooster, and a child-sized carousel that stood like some misplaced prop for a different TV show. Uncle Al would play his accordion and sing enthusiastic songs to the kids. The day on which my brother and I were set to appear, my mom had dressed me in red overalls, a bright yellow shirt, and an oversized cowboy hat. She’d also lied and told the show’s producers that both my brother and I were celebrating our birthdays — “Yes, both of their birthdays! On the same day! That being today! Imagine that!” — though, judging by our difference in size, we were obviously not twins, and judging by my mom’s hands cupped tight across both of our mouths, we had no say in the matter regardless. This little fib afforded my brother and I the opportunity to ride on that rickety carousel and tell the cameraman how old we were. I was four fingers old. My little brother was somewhere between one and three fingers old; he couldn’t decide. When the show actually aired, I was, for the most part, not visible in the group scenes. I played the part of The Cowboy Hat That Occasionally Floated Across The Bottom of the Screen. At one point, mid-sing-along, Cowboy Hat darts furiously out of sight. This is because I’d noticed my shoe was untied and had decided to run, panicked, to my mother in the studio audience, shouting, “Mom! My shoelace! My shoelace!”

This memory makes me laugh, long enough to wash the dishes or clean my room.

Because I so often divulge these inner-workings of my mind, I fear that members of my vast readership (that was an intentional over-statement) might think me crazy. A nutjob, if you will. And if I sit and agonize over that concern long enough, the propulsion in my ribcage will intensify and — uh oh — I’ll be haunted once again by those damn conjunctions. I’ll go from “I reveal so much that I bet people think I’m absolutely bonkers” to “I reveal so much that I bet people think I’m absolutely bonkers and I’ll never be able to host a decent house party with so many people wary of my weird conduct” to “I reveal so much that I bet people think I’m absolutely bonkers and I’ll never be able to host a decent house party with so many people wary of my weird conduct which means, dammit, I’ll never be able to put my new-ish Crockpot to proper use!”

I know this metaphor very well: I am a duck gliding upon the calm waters of a pond. At least, that’s what you typically see. But by writing all of this, I’m allowing you to see my webbed feet paddling furiously below the water’s surface.

Because I know that sensation too.

uncle al show

1.) Miracle. It’s too strong. Too immaculate. Reminiscent of zealous preachers in ivory pulpits, their bald heads shining, sweaty, as they bless the approaching parishioners who saunter through the pews like walking dead. “You are healed, my child! It’s a miracle! You are a miracle of God!”

No, that word doesn’t jive with me. When someone tells me I’m a miracle, I cringe. Hyperbole! I call shenanigans!

But maybe my discomfort derives from a general feeling of unworthiness. I don’t have the proverbial balls to consider myself a goddamn miracle. That could be it.

2.) I’m a writer. The other day, a friend made this observation via email: “You’re a WRITER.” And, indeed, she’d capitalized the end of her statement. It was the first time I’d really ever let that label settle. I play the guitar but I’ve never called myself a musician. I like to sketch but I’ve never considered myself an artist. But it’s true, I’m a writer. My name is Abby Higgs and I’m a writer.

3.) Chuck Klosterman is brilliant. Damn that man. I wanted so much to find fault in his words enough to artfully discredit his snarky narrative style. But I can’t. I’m just jealous of the bastard. And truthfully? His honest, neurotic declarations about loneliness and love are relieving: “And it’s not ‘clever lonely’ (like Morrissey) or ‘interesting lonely’ (like Radiohead), it’s ‘lonely, lonely’ like the way it feels when you’re being hugged by someone and it somehow makes you sadder.” Also, “…I have never understood the concept of infatuation. It has always been my understanding that being ‘infatuated’ with someone means you think you are in love, but you’re actually not; infatuation is (supposedly) just a foolish, fleeting feeling. But if being ‘in love’ is an abstract notion, and it’s not tangible, and there is no way to physically prove it to anyone else… well, how is being in love any different than having an infatuation? They’re both human constructions. If you think you’re in love with someone and you feel like you’re in love with someone, then you obviously are; thinking and feeling is the sum total of what love is. Why do we feel an obligation to certify emotions with some kind of retrospective, self-imposed authenticity?”

Here, here, Klosterman.

(We also kinda look alike.)

4.) Hello, motherI’m reluctant to call my biological mother. She’s had several TIAs over the past few years; her speech is affected, she forgets words and names, the context of conversations. I can’t remember the last time we spoke. Funny thing is, I’ve often thought to myself, It’s a miracle she’s still alive.

I need to call her. She could be lonely, lonely.

5.) I have to put my sobriety first. Call me selfless. Call me altruistic. I’d rather not think about me. At all. By helping you, paying attention to you, worrying more about you, I’m actively avoiding an issue that terrifies the shit out of me: me. But I’ve got to put my sobriety first. I have to remember and say these words often, as cringeworthy as they are (I mean, who wants to live according to such a stigmatic mantra?) But I know that if I don’t, if I “go back out”, then all bets are off – no urban garden, no weekend excursion to New York to attend a Chuck Klosterman reading, no trips to the Rodin Museum or the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia; there will be no rebuilding from scratch the life I’ve always wanted, on which I’ve been working mightily for you, for me, for us. You won’t get to see any of it. I’ll set all my tools down. In fact, you and I? We won’t ever meet.

chuckscribner

In January, I ordered a new pair of glasses. My vision had changed slightly; it had gone from ridiculously myopic to “worse.” For me, glasses are always an expensive, time-consuming investment. First of all, I’m an optometrist’s worst nightmare. I refuse the “eye puffer test” every visit. Sometimes the optometric assistants try to coax me into taking it. “No way,” I’ll say. “I can’t handle the suspense. I’ll yell.” This is no joke. I haven’t taken the “puffer test” since I was a little kid when I’d been tricked into taking it by an assistant who flat-out lied to me: “Don’t worry, Abby. This is not the eye puffer test.” When the air shot out of the machine, I screamed.

Second, I feel the Snellen chart (the chart with the large “E”) is rigged. The typography is seriffed. Outside of the eye doctor’s office, I’ve never seen a capital “E” in that font. It’s dangerously similar to a winged digital “B.” Without some sort of corrective device in front of my eyes, the “E” (winged digital “B”) might as well be a giant inkblot. The Rorschach test for the legally blind. And you can forget about the rest of the letters. When the doctor asks me to start reading aloud, I do one of two things: I either prattle off a series of letters plucked at random from the steaming bowl of alphabet soup in my head, or I’ll mumble, feigning sincere effort, in a slow, deliberate voice: “O-S-C-A-R-M-E-Y-E-R.”

Then there’s the actual prescription test. Ok, I’ve got to admit that, for a long time, I couldn’t pay attention to much of anything other than the doctor saying, “One?” Wait a minute. Make sure to focus on the big “E.” “Or two?” Blink, blink. Again: “One?” Slight pause. Focus. “Or two?” His voice was so tranquil. Like a soft wave crashing on the shore. A wave I couldn’t see. He had to repeat the tests several times because I’d relax into a state of near-hypnosis, slack-jawed, leaning my entire body weight onto the Tron-esque phoropter machine. He should’ve been more militant when presenting my choices: “One or two? I’m not going to ask you again, little four-eyed pipsqueak! Do you want the goddamn puffer test?”

Earlier this year, I bought new specs with transitional lenses. I do not like them. Here’s why: they take over 10 minutes to transition when I go from outside to inside. The change in light exposure throws me for a loop. Nine minutes indoors and my lenses are still shaded. I bear a striking resemblance to Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s life coach.

I’ve worn glasses for 27 years. I consider them to be an extension of my face. But you know what would be really cool? Transitional dentures.

For a few weeks now, I’ve been struggling with an essay originally composed in “list format”: Should I restructure it and erase the “inventory-like” nature of its arrangement? Should I leave it alone and let it die in its late stage of development?

What’s my motivation, anyhow?

Let’s see if I can determine the answers to these questions. I’m going to try, at least.

In David Blakesley’s review of Reinventing Rhetoric: The Dialectic of List and Story by John D. O’Banion, he states:

“List is the form of discourse utilized by logic or systematic thought; story is the form utilized by narratival thought… In their application, ‘List records scientific truth, with logic providing tests of a list’s accuracy and universality. Story embodies aesthetic ‘truth’ (meaning), with narration providing guidance in revealing and discovering such situationally-bound meaning.'”

Personally, I chose the “list format” because the emotional material within the essay was, and continues to feel, raw. For me, a list means I’m compiling ideas and notions in order to both realize and create something much bigger and a hell of a lot more meaningful. For example, earlier today I thought about all the fixings I’m going to need for “Friday Night’s Fajita Fete”, but it wasn’t until I actually started to write down a list that I realized, Oh yeah, I’m definitely going to need aluminum foil for the tortillas and seven more packets of seasoning because I know I’m currently out of aluminum foil and I invited thirty goddamn people to my house.

Memoirists are often cautioned to steer clear of writing about emotionally-charged, unnerving situations as they continue to unfold. This is because whatever can be learned from the experience likely hasn’t revealed itself; in fact, it might not appear for quite some time. I’ve been told by various sources that the default amount of time one should allow to lapse following trauma is two years. This theory had me thinking, So, once the requisite 24 months has passed, it’s okay for a writer to crack her knuckles and FINALLY sit down to release the repressed emotions via Word document, pounding on the keys as she taps into her anger, fear, and sorrow? Like this: I’ve been waiting for this day to unburden my broken heart. I’ve held on to these emotions so long that I can’t exactly recall where they came from. But never mind that…

This is why I think it’s okay to forego the “two-year rule” in order to convey one’s experience as it happens, as long as a certain amount of self-awareness and tact is maintained, PARTICULARLY when the trauma of the experience is confined to one’s imagination. Currently, I believe part of the reason I haven’t finished my “list form” essay is because I haven’t come to any final conclusion about myself. I’ve got to keep in mind that, at this point in the process, I’m looking at my situation the same way one looks at a brand-new 5,000-piece puzzle — my feelings about it include, but are not limited to, confusion and hopelessness, accompanied by occasional bursts of glee (i.e. declaring to the world, “Hey, I’m not feeling so sad about this today!” is like exclaiming, “Look, I found a corner piece! Progress!”)

Now, let me reveal my motivation for writing this essay. What is it that I hope to realize? Well, first you need to know what the essay is about. It’s about the concept of love to an addict, particularly in the first year of sobriety because, let me tell you, 12 months clean and sober ain’t shit when I’m FINALLY deciding on how I want to dress, what music I want to listen to, and what I want in a partnership with someone and, sheesh, in all reality, my emotions were just likely amplified this past year because I wasn’t quashing them with substances so when I loved this past year, it really felt like love and — you know when a baby sometimes smiles because he’s got gas? Well, maybe my reactions this year were all just a little bit off this year and I couldn’t define them so when I felt pain, I smiled and when I was happy, I broke plates on the floor. You know?

Something along those lines. Referring back to David Blakesley’s review: “List is the form of discourse utilized by logic or systematic thought…”, I found it cathartic and significantly more pragmatic to take the aforementioned italicized train of thought and turn it into a list. See below, the beginning of the essay:

1.) Love to an addict. It goes from bottle to cloud. From something tangible to something metaphysical. As time passed between me and the last time I got fucked-up, my obsessive thoughts shifted their focus away from the fading sugarplum capsules dancing in my head, in on the bright sun subordinately shining into my bedroom each morning. Waking up without pain — it felt so nice. But I was lonesome. More lonesome than I’d ever been before. In fact, maybe I’d never been lonesome before.

Maybe I’ll have to abandon this essay. But I hope not. I want to look back on it someday.

Also, you know, I’d like to have it around to show my girlfriend.

Ignoratio Elenchi: (An irrelevant conclusion, irrelevant thesis, or wrong conclusion fallacy; it is not the same thing as the “Red Herring” fallacy.)

Example:

“It is now legal in Baltimore for same-sex couples to marry. The law took effect January 1st, 2013. This year, Baltimore has also suffered a steep rise in gun-related criminal activity. Therefore, gay marriage caused the increase in firearm violence.”

 

The “Red Herring” fallacy: (The “smokescreen” defense; intentional misdirection.)

Example:

Student: “It is not ok to sleep with your best friend’s girlfriend.”

Professor Higgs: “Whose rule is that, exactly? Who said it’s ‘not okay’?”

Student: “Everybody! It’s just something we all know!”

Professor Higgs: “Please name ‘everybody’ to whom you are referring.”

 

Ad Hominem: (An argument directed toward an opponent’s character; one that has little to do with the topic/argument at hand.)

Example:

Reginald: “You’re a feminist; of course, you don’t like men!”

Feminist Frannie: “That’s a ridiculously ignorant argument. It’s an ad hominem fallacy.”

Reginald: “You’re an ad hominem fallacy.”

 

The “Straw Man” fallacy: (The misrepresentation of an opponent’s argument.)

Example:

Student: “Marijuana should be legalized. Alcohol is a far more dangerous substance. People can drink themselves to death in one night. I don’t know if there’s even one single recorded marijuana overdose. People can’t overdose on pot; they just pass out.”

Professor Higgs: “Do you realize how chaotic the aftermath of legalizing drugs would be? Imagine how people would be driving–“

Student: “But I’m not arguing that all drugs–“

Professor Higgs: “Shhhh. I’m talking. If drugs were legalized, there would be such an uptick in overdose-related deaths–“

Student: “You’re not listening!”

Professor Higgs:  “So, because I’m not listening, I’m therefore an ineffective debate opponent? Is that what you’re saying?” (Ignoratio Elenchi)

Student: “No, what I’m saying is, ‘What idiot hired you?'” (Ad Hominem)

Professor Higgs: “It’s not ok to speak to your elders that way.”

Student: “Who made up that stupid rule?” (The Red Herring fallacy)

Professor Higgs: “You just earned 25 extra credit points.”

Student: “Sheesh, because I earned them, that’s for sure.” (Logical argument)