“ Her name is Dulcinea and her rank must be at least that of a princess, since she is my queen and lady, and her beauty superhuman, since all the impossible and fanciful attributes of beauty which the poets apply to their ladies are verified in her; for her hairs are gold, her forehead Elysian fields, her eyebrows rainbows, her eyes suns, her cheeks roses, her lips coral, her teeth pearls, her neck alabaster, her bosom marble, her hands ivory, her fairness snow, and what modesty conceals from sight such, I think and imagine, as rational reflection can only extol, not compare.”
–Don Quixote on Dulcinea
“You didn’t see me, I was falling apart/ I was a television version of a person with a broken heart.”
–Matt Berninger, ‘Pink Rabbits’
“Oh, Thom. I didn’t need your poetry.”
In the Pink, Grayly The room this time is more to my liking: informed by at least a tertiary knowledge of feng-shui, stone and fire elements in their proper corners, water taking the form of a perfumed vapor that dissipates as quickly as a cetacean plume over the slightly glowing diffuser. The last room did not cater to as calming an effect. I was forced to sit in a white leather sofa not of my choosing and the embroidered throws were garishly turquoise with gossamer threads that resembled ill-spun spider webs. It was an office in the Del Mar hinterlands, and so much of my recovery was spent there; horse stables, coastal aloe, Spanish tile roofs. We were not in Del Mar proper for we did not belong there. We were relegated to the exurban corners, this the white leather office, also La Casa Palmera with its near institutional bent. We did not belong in the city proper with its charming avenues and Gallic flourishes, streets named after Parisian rues; no, we did not belong there. We were untidy by virtue of our diagnoses, intergalactic trespassers if you consider the workings of the synapses something cosmic. We were ill. I am ill.
This office, I repeat, is more to my liking and how eerily prescient that it sits next door to Amethyst, which will be my future home when the core is breached and when my life comes to an end. I shouldn’t say ‘home’. I will have none. I will have no home when my diagnoses become me, or at least have me interpreted as such; in sickness and in health, it will all become a lie.
Erik sits across from me and he is appropriately sympathetic. We are on new pills—we have to be. We are ill. The last doctor miscalculated me—I am if nothing an exception to most rules—and she took away my manic tendencies in exchange for a soul-crushing flatness that threatened my continuation on this terrestrial plane. I have lost God’s address and am mortal again, mortal in both senses of the word, for I tarry with thoughts of terminus, of travelling to the next station, which isn’t the depot where I currently reside, the one where I wallow with my ever-present elixirs and erstwhile cigarettes, where I smoke every last Parliament down to its end as metaphor for the greater extinguishing. I am not only ill, I am dying, and I’m urging the death-wagons forward. Vraylar, Latuda, vodka when those don’t work. Vodka even if they were to work. I just want to live in some bovine comfort, in bucolic contemplation, but I’m disallowed pasture. Grass is become chaff; I chew a disarmingly irritative cud.
There is a church inside me though, an idyllic white church with steeple and clapboard windows. It is surrounded by pasture whereas I reside in briar. This church is where I keep Jenny.
“How are you and Jenn?” Erik asks, and I am drunk. Or at least I have softened the corners this morning. This is an increasing problem, I am aware. Erik knows to ask about Jenn. He is a meteorologist and this is the truest barometer of my wellbeing. I oddly think of feathered things, maybe because my Icarus wings are currently ruinted and I have—for now—my bird job.
“The thing about flamingos,” I say finally, “Is their color, right?”
Erik takes the non sequitur in stride; he has proven himself a patient man and I—I am practiced at using words to describe other words. The tireless if not tiresome poet. (Next door at Amethyst, I will end my transformation, finally, and just become words, feeding off of their honeys; I will be an alphabet eater).
“They’re pink—they get it from the food they eat.” I briefly describe the science: “Carotenoid pigments from algae and plankton. They store the pigments in their livers. Now a feather begins as a living structure, ok?” This, it should be said is different from hair, which Erik has smartly combed; I am most likely a two-day old mop.
“It’s fed by a blood vessel that delivers the nutrients needed for the feather to grow, to unfurl. Well, those pigments travel in the blood and color the feathers pink.”
This is rudimentary. Eric follows, though it’s not evident as to why I’m talking about feathers. They after all, are living structures whereas I am a fast dying one.
“Flamingo parents—they give their kids milk, you see—flamingos and pigeons are the only birds that produce milk—and this milk contains a lot of pigment. Now the flamingo kids, they get the pigment from their parents so that when their adult feathers grow in, they’re pink.”
Science lesson concluded, I ask:” Do you know what happens to the parents?” Erik shakes his head, but remains attentive. My last therapist would, at this point, be reaching for her samples bag. She was a galaxy-destroyer, and liked to steal away my stars. With Erik, I can constellate.
“They become gray, Erik. Without their pigment, they’ve nothing to stain their own feathers. It’s a beautiful metaphor, really. The parents give all their color away to their kids, they give a piece of their beauty away, so that the kids are something gorgeous.” I pause.
“I’m gray, Erik.”
“I’ve given all my color away.”
“I’ve given it away, and you ask how Jenny and I are doing? She’s beautiful, Erik. More than that. She used to be such a..a self-deprecating girl. ‘Just a silly girl who drinks pink tea’ she called herself. Or: ‘Oh, beauty queen—that’s me,’ she’d say, downplaying herself. Well, she’s pink now. Of course, she was going to be. I know that. I just lent her my color in the meantime is all.”
“And I’m gray. I’m gray but I love that she’s pink.”
There is inequity here, I am suddenly aware. Jenny wants me pink, too, like I am capable—or was once capable–of being. I know this, but I’m the broken courtier right now, a male songbird with faded feathers. My constant irritation comes from an existential discontent and a keening cognizance of my own monochromatic decline. When I first acquiesced to pills, I was better. I had a flush to my cheeks, a serenity that had its particular ebullience. But then it was too much Escitalopram, and I went manic; it was the sudden absence of Escitalopram and my wings broke off. I either flew too high to have my color rightly seen, or else became the color of gruesome wreckage. I wrote a lot about plane crashes during this time. I wrote about being a fuselage without wings. I wrote in grays and reds. I wrote about flying and falling, the alcohol serving to maintain my bird-ness by contributing to both. (At Amethyst, I will be a spatchcocked something. I will have irreversibly landed, free of substance, but with my wingtips sheared off and tucked into my corpse. Appropriately, Amethyst is called a Landing).
Erik tries to circle the metaphor back to parenting. He should. The cetaceous vapor of the atomizer does its breathing thing, and it is a low and constant hiss, like a constant deflating. Erik mentions Cayden and Finn, and the color I have given them; it is indeed the parental sacrifice, how we become wizened while our sons ripen into smooth-fleshed fruit, how we first lend them our blood, then ferry its course throughout their beings, enriching it with the salts of our own harvest. It is a vegetal thing as much an animal thing, a seeding, a grafting of one’s parts. I love my children but in this moment I don’t want to talk about that. I don’t. I’ve written hundreds of pages on the subject, have written down the rules of my particular parenting which I developed when I was a young age, when I first felt the effects of a perhaps improper rearing. “Don’t ever tell your children they don’t know what love is,” I wrote when I was seven. See I loved Reagan White then, and her improbably straight, waist-length hair. I sat side by side with her on the elementary school rug, knees touching, she in her Strawberry Shortcake dress. I was devoted to her and allowed her to catch me during every playground chase so we could collapse in a fit of knowing giggles. This was love. This is love, just one that a seven-year-old is capable of mustering as a yet unripe achene, a fig still seasoning on the vine. To be told love is only for the fully wisened is to rob a child of love’s caprice. I think of Reagan White, I think of Jenny. I think of love, and its maturation. I think of giving your color away because it is a compulsion, the way in which rain is compelled to fall from a fully seeded cloud. That giving is not an option when you at last love someone more than you love yourself.
Perhaps it is easy for me to love Jenny in the way that I do, the fact that I love her more than I do myself. I have willingly given her my color because pink is off-putting on such an otherwise gray template. Thing is, I would drink poison for her; she would not for me, I know. Our ‘Romeo and Juliet’ would have a lesser body count, in which case the play would just be called ‘Romeo’, I playing the role of the tragic fool. Still, I have integrity in offering her all of me, though I must be unlucky to love. I must be a wretch for–though I don’t know it sitting in Erik’s placid office—I will ultimately have my greatest fear realized, and I will be abandoned by the love of my life. Illness: I am privy to it and proof my own septicity. I have hurt, in both manners of the word. I cannot fully love myself, therefore no one fully loves me. A wholly loved person is not suddenly left to their own devices, and I have always said, ‘Death before divorce’, the most superlative thing I can think to say. (At the time of this writing, I have five months to prove myself integrous in that regard) In the meantime, Erik and I discuss pabulums and pills to combat the ideation, that death be the option waylaid. I tell him I have given all my color away, so hope that everyone wears Taxi-cab yellow to my funeral, a corpse needing proper lighting. (I am very funny). He gives me Wellbutrin; there is ‘well’ in the name, as in ‘well, why not?’ I have taken anonymous pills before without so much as a forethought—this one at least suggests tranquility. If it fails its promises, I still have the white steepled church with the clapboard windows, the green grass which I devotedly keep watered. Jenny, she is my forever.
(It is not to say, however, there doesn’t exist a ‘church of me’ harbored within. I am not without ego. The church is just subterranean. There is no raising high of the roofbeams, no proud campanile extoling any virtue. It is underground, belfry muted by soil, its doors blocked. No one sits in its pews and as corpus there is me and my crown of mirrors. The eucharist, it is always full, and on a disused altar. ‘Why has thou forsaken me?’–this has replaced the Lord’s Prayer).
“One more thing, Erik,” and I trail off. I want to express something, I’m not sure what. I have yet to become words. In sickness and in health has not yet become a lie.
“Never mind.” I take my scrips.
Nights I would lie next to Jenny, she naked from the waist up were I to have my way after making love—I would feel her chemistries flow correct and aligned, me my own irregularities. I would cup her breast and press my chest to her back, never the twain of our heartbeats meeting. Inevitably, Jenny would turn me over, half asleep, and put her arm around me. We were a sideways Pieta, smother me Mother. My heartbeat was fast, hers a lulling thing. I could be happy. Sometimes and despite my gray, I could even be in the pink.