August 2, 2019:
I walk from my apartment near the Panhandle to Mel's on Geary.
My friend has offered a rescue. In her low-key, discrete, tactful way she's providing a meal. There's a roof over my head but I'm struggling to take care of the other basics: food, showers, job search. I'm so broke I can't afford bus fare, but I'm also so wired that the walk feels helpful, like burning off some of the crazy adrenaline.
I like the hill up Masonic. It's good to feel physically tired. I like waiting at the light outside Sears, with its peeling exterior and its empty despair. The people are invisible. There are people, I know they're people, but they fail to imprint, as though my brain rejects their sensory data as either invalid or irrelevant.
I like Mel's. I love my friend.
Burgers and shakes. We're both still eating beef. Later we both quit.
I don't know what we talk about. I don't know how to name what I'm experiencing.
Martha Manning writes, "The enormity of this struggle obliterates my facility with language."1 Church. But it's at the same time less than that. I literally fail to name the specific reality I'm living. I explain it to myself as grief, but, grief is an entirely different order of experience, with a specific object and a purpose which is ultimately about healing. This is like being blown up in slow motion.
"Slow motion": on the walk home that image is literalized. For large expanses of time my perception operates in steps. Imagine watching an old-school celluloid movie, where a defective projector lingers over each frame a moment or two before advancing to the next. Reality unfolds in discreet jerks, where you have plenty of time to move around inside each frame, lingering over frozen traffic and frozen birds and frozen people before advancing to the next.
Where the tiny circle around which your mind manically races is all about pain, grief, sorrow, loss, loneliness, defeat. And the certainty that, when the grief and sorrow and loss and defeat eventually pass, the loneliness will remain forever.
1. Martha Manning, Undercurrents: A Life Beneath the Surface, HarperOne 1994 (p.65)