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Eleven

It was bound to happen. My long-standing title of ‘Daddy’ has shed a few letters, and now I’m simply ‘Dad.’ I’m lucky: I existed as ‘Daddy’ up till now, right up to the moment Cayde wiped his feet on middle-school’s doormat a month ago and started speaking the new slang. I can forever be Daddy in my heart, but—if I am to call Cayde to breakfast, or invite him to play a game—I’ll from now on be met with, “OK, Dad.”

“I’m feeling nostalgic, lately,” I told my old therapist Patricia. She smiled and nodded over the rim of a coffee cup.

“That’s nice. It’s a golden sentiment.”

I disagreed with her choice of crayon; nostalgia is not gold, it’s sepia. As in a faded photograph.

“Well—no, Patricia.” And I scratched my head while looking at the carpet. ‘Nostalgia’ literally means ‘the sadness of returning home’ and I feel it all the goddamn time.” I demand concision with words: nostalgia is bittersweet, like a fine chocolate that nonetheless discomforts the palate.

“I never knew that,” Patricia said, her own cup of bitter suddenly metaphor in a room where I was sad and happy at once. Nostalgia is an ambivalent emotion, the palate divided.

It’s Cayde’s eleventh birthday today. My kid, my first-born. I do feel nostalgic, but I’m preferring the photographs I have in memory, their substance and not their sepia tone.

I always think to a moment I had with him when he was three. We were sitting on the playground structure and I pointed out the Children’s Moon—the moon that’s awake in the daytime.

“That’s for us, and when you get older you’ll see the moon at nighttime.”

So many memories of my Boy, all of which I’ve written down. I’m no longer Daddy, the Children’s Moon is no longer the only lunar presence, and may my current sepia be his forever golden. I love you Cayden. All my writings belong to you. May you treasure them.

 

 

 

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Memento Mori

When driving through University Heights today, I ventured past the Buddha Bookstore, which I used to frequent when living on Florida St. The store is a Far-East curio with teakwood furniture and cathedral relics lining its walls. Assorted glass cabinets display ornamenture and jewelry, porcelain elephants and monkeywood sculptures. Hardtack tables sit clothed in damask.

On occasion, I’d purchase items from here: a birdcage or an altarpiece, something to pair with the orchids I grew in my apartment living room. I was always greeted handily, though my purchases were small. One day, near store closing, a bracelet caught my eye. It was a simple piece, a series of ¼” teakwood skulls strung on an elastic band. My mother-in-law had just passed, so I felt the bracelet would be a fitting memento mori.

“Can I see this bracelet?” I asked the lady behind the counter. She walked over, smiling an ‘of course’, and attempted to open the cabinet with a set of keys. None of the keys worked, and—flustered—she confessed, “I don’t have keys to everything. I’m closing for the owner tonight. If you check in tomorrow, I’m sure she can help.”

I returned the following morning to be greeted by a spry, red-haired woman who instantly asked me if I needed assistance.

“I came back to buy a bracelet today,” I replied. “The cabinet was locked last night and I couldn’t buy it then.”

“Oh,” the lady frowned, “Which bracelet?” and I pointed to the skulls behind the curio glass.

The red-haired lady twisted her lips, and said, “Oh. Hmm.”

After a pause, she said: “I just promised that to a woman that came through a half-hour ago. Who did you talk to last night?” She was visibly uncomfortable.

I described the lady I had spoken with, her close-cropped hair and be-jangled wrists.

“Oh,” the owner said. Incense smoke curled upward from its burner, various Buddhas smiled down from their cabinet perches.

“Oh.”

“…”

The red-haired lady unlocked the cabinet and handed me the bracelet.

“Here,” and she placed the bracelet in my palm while holding my wrist with her free hand. She looked me in the eye and lowered her voice.

“It’s yours. The lady that spoke to you died last night. If she promised it to you, then it’s yours.”
I whispered a ‘thank you’ and slid the bracelet onto my wrist. Memento mori. The red-haired lady mustered a smile and opened her mouth as if to say something. She decided against words, and primly turned away while the doors chimed in a new customer.

I still have the bracelet—the skulls at least. The elastic band snapped one day and teakwood heads rolled on the floor like a clattering of marbles. I fastidiously picked them all up and sealed them into a Zip-Loc bag, which I now keep in a dresser drawer. How tenuous everything, skulls wrapped in flesh and hair and fragility, we made to be unmade, this the final truth.

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Tic

Early in his career, Dr. Oliver Sacks treated a patient with Tourette’s Syndrome. The patient–let’s call him Brian–was afflicted with both physical and verbal tics. Brian had difficulties holding a job, and didn’t fare well socially. He, however, had minimal success as both a table-tennis player and part-time jazz drummer. When playing ping-pong, he’d tic and manage unexpected shots that his opponents couldn’t return. Similarly, when he was behind a drum kit, Brian would spasm, hit a hi-hat unexpectedly, else suddenly change meter on the snare; he would have to improvise off his “mistakes” and dynamically shift his fellow players into different and sublimative direction.


Dr. Sacks treated Brian with L-Dopa, the same drug he used with Parkinson’s patients. L-Dopa served to manage the tics and Brian was able to find gainful employment, maintain social relationships. Still, Brian lamented, his table tennis game was mediocre, his jazz drumming flatter. Wistfully, he missed his disease and its overcompensations. He felt he was missing part of himself.


Dr. Sacks adjusted his treatment. Brian was allowed to come off his drug on weekends so that he could tic again, and relinquish his jazz drumming, table-tennis playing other life. During the week, he would return to L-Dopa so that he could function at his job and operate normally.


I related Brian’s story during therapy this week. I’m bipolar, so take prescribed medication to mediate the too-highs, the too-lows. I wish to God I was unipolar, with only mania to address, but I’m not. My highs are paired with lows; sometimes I’m so happy, I climb atop the roof to be closer to the stars. Sometimes I’m so low, the stars extinguish themselves behind closed eyelids and I’m prone for hours, days. I can’t do part-time medication and I have to face the fact that I’m willfully taking pills to prohibit me from mania, my ultimate undistilled happiness. It’s a cruel joke that my best happiness exists in psychosis, but it is what it is. Time to improvise better on the jazz drum, to fashion a new shot with the table tennis paddle. I can do this.

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Sober Sunday

I’ve reclaimed Sundays for myself, which is a long forgotten pasttime. Years ago, Sundays meant itchy wool sweaters and choke-neck ties, church pews and the smell of bergamot and stale coffee. Now I prefer urban jaunts where communion is a bowl of spicy noodles; where church exists in the crosswalks and coffee shops; where sky is the only cathedral ceiling I need.
I attended a meeting today up at Twiggs, then drove across town to North Park Nursery. There was a sad selection--could’ve depressed me because to see the nursery so bare hints at inevitable closure–but I bought some upright Mother-in-law tongues to match my posture. It’s important to stay upright when there can otherwise be an overwhelming and existential sag: it’s proof of resilience, of acceptance over exception when meeting life on life’s terms.
I’ve yet to transplant the Sanseviera, but it sits next to my guitars and typewriter. It’s Sunday, I’m sober, and church is what it is: the accumulation of moments experienced mindfully, a sunny day, and the over-arcing realization that I ultimately am a part of all this.