Still Climbing the Fresh Ascent
It is well known that you have to have lows to truly appreciate the highs. (And vice versa in that remembering your highs make the lows seemingly that much lower.) As made evident in the last post, I was well on my way. And I found it. Definitely. Through and through.
As vaguely outlined before, nothing had worked out as planned. I found myself broke, completely alone, and directionless. Suicide was never an option, though I did feel that sometimes death was creeping in through my drafty apartment door.
There were days when I didn’t eat. I had no clue how I was going to pay for anything. In the Catch 22 of life, having no money afforded no opportunity to actually go out and meet people. I am not talking about one night stands. I am talking about the simple idea of friendship. Granted, Emma loved that I remained home on weeknights and weekends and I…well, no. I was gonna say I got to know her better but there is really nothing else to her…her sweet and completely accepting personae is just that. She just exercised her steadfast devotion moreso. It may be that she picked up on my sour vibes. After all, I would stay in bed for long periods, rise and do the needed things, and then return to bed for a few hours before having to go to work. If one is asleep, one does not need to eat or smoke, after all.
In the lowest times coworkers commented on my loss of weight, even though they’d only known me for a short period. My mind, always my favorite part about myself because it has entertained me and provided me with hours and hours, years, even, of enjoyment, seemingly started to unravel. I would go through fits of a white-blindness that I did not understand (in that I couldn’t physically see anything except for WHITE WHITE WHITE). Other’s questions baffled me and everyday courtesies further drove me deeper into my own shell. An unhealthy vortex was beginning and I had all but given up on trying to stop it.
At one point I had to get a car title loan. Yes, those places that advertise on the side of the road NO CREDIT CHECK…I have recently lagged behind on my bills, due to the lack of funds, and knew that there was no way I could get a real loan with a managable APR. I needed the money for my rent knowing full well that my paycheck would not cover it. I swallowed my pride and signed the paper. Handing over my title gave me a measly $300. I was still gonna be short $100 which, to a management company, is the same as being $400 short. I knew that I would have to sell more records but this time it was to be ones that I loved. And that was something I told myself I would never do, no matter the circumstances. Being in the midst of the circumstances changed everything. I readied a stack and planned a time to go to the record store to get only 10% of what they were actually worth.
A few days before I was to sell my most prized possessions I was at work. Those not familiar with the coffee world will not know what a latte art throwdown (or smackdown) is. Simply put, baristas gather (in this case from all over the state of Texas) and enter (with cash) a bracket elimination tournament. There are three judges who pick a winner from each head-to-head, rating each finished drink in terms of contrast, uniformity, and overall design. I have never been one to compete in the coffee industry…over the years of working 40+ hour weeks pouring a variety of drinks eliminated my desire to do so outside of work, even if it meant cash.
Anyway, my place of work hosted a smackdown with a $10 entry fee. I was scheduled to be there anyway and decided to enter, even though I am not much of a gambler. In my mind, though, the chance of winning an unknown amount of money was worth the $10 I may lose. At least I tried.
The night went on and baristas dropped out one by one. Before I knew it I was in the final round. The drinks (a free-pour macchiato) were made. And the winner, myself, was chosen. A total of 20 baristas, some of them regional champions, competed and I stood there as the sole champion. Granted, it felt wonderful to win (inside I was laughing at the hilarity of the situation…no one knew who I was and I was the only one who, honestly, gave two shits about the entire thing. Seeing as how I was at work I just watched around me as the mess continued to worsen…a mess I alone was responsible for) but the real joy came when I learned of my winnings. Not only did I have my rent covered, I even had a little left over. Amazing.
This was the beginning of the upswing.
While I was at my lowest, a more important matter faced myself and, more importantly, my family. My niece, Ruby, was admitted to a hospital with a respiratory infection compounded with pneumonia. At the tender age of three months it was quite the ordeal. Unfortunately that was only the beginning. Upon admittance they discovered a genetic heart condition that was extremely serious. Instead of a normal heart that had entrance and exit arteries both of hers were on one side, greatly reducing her heart’s capacity to not only supply her with oxygen and nutrients but sustain her needed growth. In short, she had only a few months left to live. Luckily it was discovered at a time when it was going to be able to be repaired with an open heart surgery. However she needed to get over the infection and pneumonia before anything could be done. It became a waiting game, with my sister and brother-in-law at her side for three weeks while she slowly recovered.
In South Carolina, where they live, they had access to a prominent pediatric heart surgeon known
worldwide as one of the best. Finally she was flown on a private jet to Charleston and into a new hospital. In short, the surgery went splendid and she is now at home, eating and pooping and amazing the doctors with her speed of recovery.
Not too long after, my father went to Florida with my mother for a planned surgery. While down there, however, mother fell ill and had to be rushed to the hospital. Upon hearing this, I threw a bunch of shit in my car, clothes and dog, and headed east to the outdoor prison known as the Sunshine State. I had no idea where I was going (I knew it was around Orlando) or where my parents even were. I just knew that I had to get there. After seven hours behind the wheel I became dangerously tired and pulled off the highway to take a quick nap. I found a perfect spot underneath a tree and next to a strange carnival. No kidding. After an hour of sleep my phone woke me. It was my father. He had just found out that I was coming and, though very grateful, informed me that mother was better and actually already out of the hospital. Another catastrophe dodged. I turned around and made it home in time for a decent bedtime and ample time in Austin to host a visiting friend.
Needless to say it was wonderful seeing a familiar face. Todd, a former coworker and neighbor, was in town to visit his mother. Now with a tax return in my bank account, I was afforded the luxury of going out, drinking beer, and talking about old friends. Stories became blurrier as the night went on and the laughter more boistrous. A fantastic dinner at his mother’s house and a jaw-dropping electronic set by the fantastic Four Tet, more beer and conversation, and then he was gone. The feeling of welcomeness and kindred spirits left a larger impact on me than I can easily explain. I felt human again. And this human can now interact with others as humans and not the strange beings that they were becoming.
A sigh and a smile.
But, in all honesty, it is one thing that stands out as being the most helpful in my adaptation to this completely different culture and that is my relationship with Apple. I met her years ago when she lived in Chicago and have kept in contact over time via our writing. It was her humor that always drew me in and, upon getting to know her better over the years, our similarities in imagination, love for the macabre, and unavoidable strange circumstances that we both find ourselves in.
In the last few months, but especially in the last few weeks, we have spent a considerable amount of time with each other, and I don’t mean romantically. Inadvertently she has taught me things about myself that I may not have known. For instance, I have always considered myself to be an extremely patient person. However, I have since learned that I have the tendency to not be patient when it comes to other’s needs. Her hilarious stories and quick-witted quips have both entertained me and made me feel less like a strange bird and more a part of a flock. (Not in the sheepish, societal way, mind you.) Her calm demeanor has calmed my worries and her laugh is often and infectious. I feel truly lucky to have someone such as Apple in my life. I say that with the most sincerity.
I now find myself rising early and with a smile. Though I always portray an nonchalant, everything’s-gonna-be-cool attitude on the outside, the inside is now catching up and letting me feel exactly what I display. Gone is the wonder of where in the fuck my life is going and in its place is a fascination for where it’s been and an anticipation of what I’ve yet to enjoy. As the pieces slowly crawl towards each other to form the puddle that will nourish me, I can only sit back and be thankful for everything. Yes, everything.