Screaming in the desert


The brain is besieged with memories. They never stop. Day and night, even in sleep where they are called dreams. Good and bad. The good glorify, the bad bedevil. You can’t concentrate to read a book. When you watch movies on TV you turn the sound down and just let the scenes roll by. It’s just company to have someone else in the room. Actors never die. Marilyn Monroe will never die. She can be summoned into the room at anytime. Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach, the entire cast of ‘The Misfits.’ In the room with you, riding buckin’ horses and getting drunk and roping mustangs and Marilyn screaming in the desert and Gable practically having a heart attack ropin’ horses and two days after shooting ended actually having a heart attack, but he didn’t die and Marilyn wasn’t murdered and the others and so on and so forth, they are all listed as dead but they are alive and they are in your living room keeping you company, not that you’re really listening to them and only half watching them because your brain is under siege. The memories of S. never stop, the great and the grisly. Not that you want them to stop, you just want them to calm down. Alcohol and weed and pills cannot slow them and when you finally sleep the memories become frenzied dreams. The life you lived together is an endless movie of flashbacks and shock cuts, reality contorted into horror scenes that never happened or maybe they happened in a subconscious other-world, an undiscovered state of wave-being. Someone tells you to see a psychiatrist but why would you do that? Let a shrink mess with your head and put you on a bunch of brain buckers that turn you into a zombie? Hell no! You want to be relatively conscious, drunk and stoned maybe, but at least aware if and when this endless movie ever ends.

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Isolation in a Madhouse of Grief

Every night, his bungalow is a madhouse of grief.

It’s a good thing the old man has no neighbors. Otherwise they would be calling the police. They might wait until they hear a gunshot. Of course an overdose of pills makes no sound. So the police would not be called and his body would lie there for days. The indignity of death at its worst.

In this age of Covid he is well aware of the surreal tragedy overloading our minds like body bags. The nightly news has become the death hour. He reveres the heroism of the doctors and the nurses and the grocery clerks. His heart breaks at the sight of two-mile-long food lines. He knows he should get out of his own mind and his own drunken grief and join the front lines.

But he is confined and his isolation breeds morbid introspection. He is trapped in his own house and he is trapped in his own mind. He holds his self-involvement in contempt. But a person needs a companion when the world is going all to hell. You face it together. You give each other strength. You hold onto each other in the fading light.

It has been sixteen months since his wife died. You would think he would be getting over it by now. A former friend of his (former because he doesn’t call anymore), a man like him in his seventies who lost his wife two years ago, messaged him recently that he had fallen in love again. He said he had found the love of his life. The old man in the bungalow could hardly believe it. The love of his life was his wife. She was the life of his life. And when she died, he died.

He still eats and drinks (copiously) and feeds the cat and watches television and answers occasional phone calls from a couple of friends and members of his distant extended family and he talks to them about possibly moving away and starting a new life somewhere else, and they say amongst themselves, He’s fine, he’s dealing with it better now, he’ll be okay.

But when he hangs up the phone, the ghosts come out of the crawlspace, not just his wife’s but his son’s and his two brothers and he has another gin and takes two or more Xanax not counting them anymore and goes to bed and relives the nightmares and gets up in the morning and boils water for tea and feeds the cat and so on and so forth, but this is not living, this is waiting for death, not that he expects to be with his wife again in make-believe Heaven, but at least they will be together in oblivion and the madhouse of grief will be silent.

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