Category Quick Jump
The Sickness Returns
The Sickness returns. Inertia. Do I go for a jog or bike to Donald’s at Hastings and Nanaimo, buy groceries and come back? Or just start working: attempt to get the last 4 hours in – scratch that – work on my client’s site so he’s happy with me?
I don’t want to work. Nor jog. Maybe I would have went to my friend’s media event, or even to a yoga class… Blaaaaaaaah. I wish I could stop existing. Yesterday was a perfect day; today, in contrast, is evil.
I can’t get off when I have sex. As I said to my bf, I don’t have the energy anymore, to go there. The neurons play around each other, but they don’t actually connect. Blaaaaaaaah. Old, worn out parts – a dying sexual self… Blunted, constant itch that won’t go away.
I’ve noticed that in other parts of my body. I’ll itch but directly scratching my leg where the itch is produces no relief. I’ll scratch around, trying to find the spot with varying degrees of success; often, muted, unfulfilling success. It’s like my skin is thickening and I can’t scratch through it to the root of the itching.
I can’t read small print anymore, without removing my far away vision glasses; my hearing is losing the upper registers (though according to a recent hearing test, apparently, it’s still above average).
My shoulders, neck, knees, etc. hurt easily, throbbing with pain if I’m not careful during yoga pigeon poses, or if I carry my laptop in a shoulder bag for too long…
There’s no excuse now, for not sitting here typing: I’m old, right?! I can’t work anymore! I can’t produce!
There is freedom in loss, if you look for it.
I remember when I decided to go to art school. I was pregnant; it was a few weeks before Christmas; I was delirious with flu. I had eaten a huge amount of perogies with onions. Liver may have been involved; I wasn’t vegetarian then and had weird cravings.
I called my parents. “Hi Mom, how are you?”… small talk, then, “Um, by the way, I’m pregnant.”
“We have people over right now, dear, can I call you back in an hour?”
I hung up the phone. “That didn’t go so bad,” I thought, "Maybe they’ll be ok with it?”
Two hours later they call back. “Do you know who the father is?! Do you know who the father is?!” Mom is yelling at me, and my Dad, on the other phone, “You’ve been on welfare all your life; you can damn well raise a kid on welfare!”
Can’t remember how the rest of that phone call played out, but I do remember my thought process afterwards: I took stock. Friends? Nope. Family support? Nope. Father of the child growing inside me? The last news I’d heard was that he was instigating fights at punk parties, trying to get people to beat him up in, as usual, a drunken stupor. Money? Nope. Job? Nope.
What did I have? Freedom, I realized: no family to make happy; no friends or boyfriend to answer to… No boss or employer… I’d have to have an abortion. This wasn’t great but I did not have the resources to even live through a pregnancy, I thought. I certainly was in no shape to have a kid, even a little Tasmanian Devil who’d come screaming out of my womb yelling “Slice” as B, my boyfriend/father of said potential Tasmanian Devil, said. (“Slice” referred to “Buck a Slice” pizza; B’s and mine’s diet staple at the time, not to knives or anything sinister like that.)
Freedom. Just like Janis Joplin. Nothing – absolutely nothing – cause I’d lost every friend I’d had over my relationship with the drunken, self-abusive B. Fuck, I’d even dragged along my best friend for the ride, hooking her up with B’s best friend (my first love, in fact; B., being my second choice), who borrowed thousands of dollars from her for sound equipment before he made such a nuisance of himself that she forbade him from seeing her, writing off the loan as money well spent if it got him out of her life, and me, not so immediately, but just letting me slip away as I increasingly preferred the company of alcohol...
She gave me a box of photographic paper – that, along with the camera my alcoholic roommate left as collateral for unpaid rent when I kicked him out, got me into photo school and through most of the course that in turn, got me off of alcohol.
It’s not easy to drag yourself to a dark room at three in the morning, knowing you don’t belong. Everyone self-assured, calm, while you’re bedecked with plastic jewelry and metal t-shirts, laughing too loud or not speaking loud enough, alternately. Re-exposing the same print 25 times because it’s never quite perfect… Re-exposing until you’re just too tired to care anymore, but thankful for the chemicals, darkness and red light. Thankful for the chance to communicate how much you love these people who hurt with you, these beautiful men you are photographing, not the other way around. Knowing that you’re working towards something; knowing at some level that you’ve made the right choice in being there – rather than drinking at the Art Gallery, which was really just an apartment the guys who rented it called a gallery. Thankful that you were moving towards something that was NOT life in an unheated, animal feces splattered, punk art gallery. Mediated love: a box of photographic paper, a camera that a roommate/sometimes lover never bothered to reclaim and a professor willing to sign the papers saying you didn’t have to attend daytime hours classes so that you could look for work and continue to receive welfare.
Mediated love may hardly be the real thing but if it’s all you got, it’s pretty fucking delicious; you can even learn to prefer it.
I wish there were a climax to this subplot of going to the darkroom at three in the morning and working til the students started filtering in for their morning classes, but there’s not, really.
I just got good at doing things without caring what people thought because I didn’t want to drink. I offended the class with pictures of B's and mine's crotches but those pics probably got me accepted at Canada’s two best art schools (which, in retrospect, is not much of an achievement, but from the other side of the experience, with the odds of being accepted, was an achievement…)
I was acknowledged as an artist, I felt. I could pursue this secret dream, something I had never pursued openly because it was impractical; something that would have made my parents cry and wring their hands in fear. Something that would have made them angry.
But of course, what they thought or felt didn’t matter anymore. I was going to have an abortion. They didn’t know about the first one; they were going to know about this one. Whatever. They weren’t going to help me have a child, even if I were going to give it up for adoption once I had it.
My Own Life. Finally, at age 28, I had my Own Life. Half working; taped together with obsessively made photo prints of the same five faces and a bunch of nondescript locations around town; crumpled; lying beside the trash can of Importance, unwanted by the creators and avoided by the other trash around it. Wow. I finally had a life my Mother didn’t want. Freedom. Freedom. Freedom.
The Janis Joplin reference may be cliché but from the viewpoint of someone who has lost everything, it’s a wonderful lyric about new life and potential. Dug a hole, climbed in until the parade moved on, then climbed out into the sunshine, unblocked by the shadows of the Big People and clowns. Tired, worse for wear, still alive. Self-owned and free.
Image from: http://0daysound.blogspot.com
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