Even Better Yet

The Format, 2002

I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, other than that I felt inspiration thump me between the eyes and I immediately dragged out a keyboard to respond in willful obedience.

There’s too much sensory input in the room; the volume on the television is too damn loud because my father can’t hear (and it’s probably not even set to a number that’s a multiple of five), the dog is whining behind a closed door, and my nephew has become a resentful participant in one of life’s greatest ironies: refusal to sleep when sleeping is all you’re really expected to do.

I shuffle to the medicine cabinet for my nightly regimen. It’s become automatic now, and I twist the caps off each prescription bottle without pausing to read the labels. It doesn’t truly matter; most of them end in some form of “-azapine” and they’ll knock me out regardless. Here’s one to stabilize my ever-shifting moods, one to counter the headaches they’ll cause in the morning, one for anxiety (a six-letter word for compulsive cleaning, obsessive thoughts about my impending death by stroke or overdose, needless straightening, heavy sweating, and a side of residual guilt [please note the oxford comma, of which I am particularly fond]), one to put me to sleep that is barely legal in several countries abroad, and one bitch of a drug by the name of Venlafaxine (commonly known as Effexor). Two pills, one pill, two, two, one. Lights out.

The friction of my dad’s sweaty foot against mine and the dog’s fur is too much for me and I’m in flight again, off the couch and back to the bedroom.

If your home is violated, you will no longer feel safe there. You will no longer feel comfortable. You will no longer be able to relax. The same is true for your mind.

Wouldn’t it be nice to drive a car, one hand casually draped across the steering wheel and another tucking a cigarette between parted lips – perpetually twenty-four, deluded enough to believe you understand something about existentialism, unafraid of your eventual death, trusting the car flying at sixty miles an hour across from you? Wind-swept hair, partly-cloudy skies, a decently singable tune on the radio; all is well.

Until you pass the man with the electrolarynx. He was a usual at Fred’s, where you worked part-time. You used to duck and hide from him when he came to the counter, because his computerized voice made you uncomfortable when you weren’t able to understand him. You wondered what could have caused him to lose his larynx. Smoking, more than likely, you presume. He’s there on the corner; you can see the device winking in the faint sunlight.

It’s going to happen.

The smoke is curling in your throat. You were a fool to doubt your own mortality. Throw out the entire box; throw the lighter out the window. Death has crept upon you and now has his chapped and scabbed hands around your own larynx.  Twenty-four seems young now, but twenty-four soon turns into forty, and then seventy-one, until you’re face-to-face with a doctor younger than you, lips pursed in pause at the death sentence he must deliver.

Pop an Ativan. Realize you’ll always need it, and though you’re already coming down from the panic of your imaginary near-death experience, sink back into despair as you contemplate the inevitable seizure you’ll suffer when you attempt cessation.

If I’m going to die anyway, maybe the car should’ve just hit me.