Because it is a beautiful day and the rain has swept the sky, leaving in its wake a trail of Ruisdael clouds, I decide to take a walk back from the meeting, and it’s roughly two miles—my car has blown a head gasket—and, eh, no Uber today. It’s a good stroll, some up hills.
The lady who lives across the way from the Alano is mocking me again. Though I’m dressed down in a faded cardigan and a band T, she still says: “There he is, Gavin McInnes”, and we laugh together, but ho-ho-ho, how she’s triggering me. I, for the second time, am not Gavin.
And Sam walks by, having made brownies for the meeting, but his hearing is shit and he’s got ocular Sputniks out of both sides of his head at age 80, and when I say ‘hi’, he—like Dionne Warwick—walks on by, unhearing and halfway sightless and I just say, OK. Guess you didn’t hear me.
And I’ve got this book, which features Cheever, and Cheever says: “The tonic or curative force of straightforward narrative is inestimable” and the force of that makes my air harms do magnetic things. Cheever also says: “When I find myself in danger—caught on a snow-lift in a blizzard—I immediately start telling myself stories. I tell myself stories when I am in pain and I expect as I lay dying I will be telling myself a story in a struggle to make some link between the quick and the defunct.” I hope that makes your arm hairs do goose-bumpy things, too. Does for me.
Because a story is not a lie. Note the word: ‘tonic’, though, and for reference Tim O’Brien wrote a great short called ‘How to Tell a True War Story,’ which has its parameters outside of Vietnam.
Darrel tells me the only thing I need to read is ‘The Big Book’, confesses that it is the only book he’s read start to finish and I’m immediately suspect: Marie Kondo my library? Hell no. Read only the Big Book? I’m told I’m already a man without legs because of my disease: why cut off my head, too, and throw all my books into the fire. Darrell recommends this and he has a wide forehead which could accommodate a third eye, but I want to suddenly poke the middle place above his nose, and claim, “You’re not getting it” whilst he tells me “You’re not getting it” right back. He says “Put the books away.”
He says, “There is a solution.”
I want to say: “I find it difficult to imagine cleanliness. I can claim to imagine this but it would be false. It would be though I had claimed to reinstall myself in some afternoon of youth.”
We look at each other and, of course, it is raining outside.
A word about Cheever: he got sober and his practice was to swim in bracingly cold mountain rivers. He developed Stage 4; the Doctors said he could drink. He said, ‘No,” having found serenity.
A story (or two): On the way back from the Alano, I am crossing the street and a man in Dodge (it’s always a Ram) almost turns into me. I give him the WTF? signal with my arms outstretched; I am the pedestrian and I have the right of way. The man has a bad goatee and a ballcap; he gives me two fingers. I yell, “Right of way,” because I’m in my right, and I get a second flock of birds from his ringless fingers.
I’m not a pacifist, not entirely. He pulls past me entirely close, so I take the opportunity to pound his back window with closed fist, again saying, “Right of way.”
(I’m gonna get my ass kicked bad someday).
Truck screeches to a halt, and the guy opens his door to announce that he ‘COULD kick my ass, motherfucker,” but he doesn’t get out, only halfway, and I just repeat: “Right of way,” which is my stubborn and otherwise flock flown to the will to power, and I give him a Buddha nod probably to piss him off, but to calm me down as well, and we leave off with him screeching away and my jaw intact. Cuz, y’know, serenity.
The way home entails me either taking Pershing entirely or, risking less bodily accident, cutting through Morley Field. And so I take Morley, through the disc golf course though it’s bad on my shoes seeing as it’s just rained; I know I just have to pass through Hole 7 to be of any bother. I quag through 7 and a gathering of golfers and—god forbid—the overseer in a golfcart—are in presence.
I point with my book, duck to say I’m just passing through.
I exaggeratedly shake my head ‘no’ though I have discs in the back of my car for Gods’ sake, and who can regularly claim that?
“If you’re not playing, you’re trespassing!!” says the lady in the golfcart, and I know this to be wrong on multiple accounts.
I just point with my book that I’ll return to the road where I’ll have to avoid whizzing traffic, and they all cluck at my reticence—“She’s not your Momma, but you don’t have to ignore her!” because I haven’t actually spoken. But no one was tossing anyway, and the rules of Morley are only about overhand or underhand tossing, not trespassing for Godssake, so everyone can get off my serenity and check their moral compass. I’ll just go and be hit by a passing Dodge Ram on the road where there are no identifiable sidewalks. I wave my apology, should be something else, but I am bodhisattva.
“The tonic or curative force of straightforward narrative is inestimable” and Darrell says he knows who’s lying and who’s not in meeting, and I find this perhaps true, though shares are stories and stories are not lies.
“I tell myself stories when I am in pain and I expect as I lay dying I will be telling myself a story in a struggle to make some link between the quick and the defunct.” I don’t get hit by a car on Pershing, but I am left wondering: Did I get it?