Though I have one of the best active vocabularies of anybody I know, I am nonetheless a terrible Scrabble player. I suspect this is because I am flummoxed by the limitations of the seven letters provided me. In most areas of my life I crave limitations like I crave chocolate, but this appears not to be one of them. I use the word "perforce" in casual conversation, and yet if confronted with an open e on the board and the letters prfrcoe in my tray, I guarantee you that the absolute best I'd be able to come up with would be "fore," or, if I were feeling particularly inspired, "crepe."
Similary, though in general I have a superb long-term memory, this faculty fails when it comes to women's ages. No matter how many times a woman tells me her age, I will never, ever be able to remember it. For this I blame not the terror of limitations but an incident from my childhood. Once, when I was five, my family went out to dinner; I suspect it was to a fine dining establishment like Red Lobster. At some point during the meal, I turned to my mother and asked, in my loudest five-year-old voice, "Mommy, how old are you?"
Without missing a beat, she turned to me and said, "Seventy-six."
Now, even I, a cognitive work in progress as it were, could tell that my mother was not seventy-six years old. And yet somehow my brain accepted that as the truth, just as it had accepted her explanation the week before that the expression "colder than a witch's brass tit" came from the olden days, before modern weather-measuring equipment, when people put brass witches out on their back porches and felt their tits in the morning to see if it would be a cold day.
At any rate, I date my inability to remember women's ages from that moment at Red Lobster.
It is occurring to me that my problem is not that I am cognitively deficient but that my mother was a pathological liar.
A medication that makes you both so depressed that all you can do is sit on your ass and watch TV and so anxious that you can't take in a word the characters are saying is not a good thing. I met with my psychopharmacologist yesterday and we decided on a better option, which I'm starting tomorrow: chocolate.
Today (well, technically yesterday by now) I went back on medication.
The first interesting result is that I am, for the first time in months, awake past the hour of 1:00.
Let's just hope it doesn't turn into 2:00 or 3:00. Because I've really had quite enough of the demons that have been chasing each other around in my head for the last hour, since the third straight episode of Law & Order finished and there was no longer anything on television with which to blunt their cruel efficacy.
Yesterday, E.S. insisted that we have a day with no agenda. That meant no checking e-mails, turning cell phones off, and not doing any planning beyond the present moment.
It was horrible.
I mean, it was wonderful, of course, to be so carefree. (When I say "so carefree," you must understand this in context; my carefree is another person's locked up in unbreakable chains so tight as to induce temporary if not lasting paralysis.) But to be sitting in Ben and Jerry's eating peanut butter cup ice cream (why, oh, why have they done away with chocolate peanut butter truffle?) trying with all my might to be relaxed and yet feeling the twin dread of Things I Ought to Be Doing and Bad Choices I Have Made hanging over me like modern-day Swords of Damocles--well, in the end it got a little tiring.
We ended up going to see Taking Lives, and I must say it was a welcome antidote. I mean, no matter how bad I feel, it's unlikely I'm going to end up as a serial killer or his victim.
Though if I were a serial killer I'd probably be a lot more relaxed than I am.
I've been feeling for some time that I'm holding myself together with bits of string and tape, that my life is just waiting for a mild breeze with particularly inopportune timing and aim to blow it gently to bits.
If I needed confirmation of this, each of the last two blog posts I've made has contained a typo. For someone whose AP English teacher called him a grammar Nazi, this is particularly distressing.
I've rectified the situation and am thankful to the person who brought the one I hadn't noticed to my attention, but, still, it leaves me quite concerned. I mean, if I mistype a letter today and my hypervigilant linguistic superego doesn't notice, can I be that far from running around naked on an island with a conch shell, shrieking "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!"?
When I was a senior in high school, someone with distinctly more school spirit than I decided to organize a three-on-three basketball tournament.
Even in high school, I was good at many, many things. Basketball was, however, about as far down on the list as you probably imagine it was.
Nevertheless, Kevin H., Allen H., and I--the three least athletic kids in school with the exception of Max B., who smoked a pipe and did a great Corazon Aquino impersonation--decided to form a three-on-three basketball team for the tournament. The fact that I'd had any number of sexual fantasies involving Kevin H.--in fact I'm feeling somewhat warm under the collar remembering some of them--had nothing, I repeat nothing to do with my decision to join.
We realized that the most vital thing to do, far more important than, say, learning any of the rules of basketball or, oh, practicing, was to come up with a name for our team. And so we did: Stegosaurus. The next most important thing was to get T-shirts. And so we did. They were a hideous salmon, with stegosaurus decals on the front and our individual team nicknames on the back. Kevin was "Earthquake," Allen was "Killer," and I was "The Blade." (Our coach, Mr. Moore, our AP English teacher, was "X-Terminator.")
During the weeks leading up to the tournament, we spent long minutes strategizing. When the day of the tournament arrived, we were brilliant. We showed up in our Stegosaurus T-shirts and struck fear into the hearts of all. Play started, and, though the heat was on, we kept our heads cool. As planned, I pretended to lose a contact lens, thereby putting myself in position to body-check a member of the opposing team, a move I accomplished with great aplomb. At another crucial moment, Mr. Moore--wearing, if memory serves, a seersucker suit over his Stegosaurus shirt--blew a boat horn and distracted the other team, thereby causing them to miss a point.
Nevertheless, by the final moments of the game, we were still behind. I don't remember the actual score, and I can't even make anything up because I don't know how basketball is scored, but suffice it to say, things weren't looking good--
--when all of a sudden I got control of the ball. Under pressure I instantly became a basketball genius, dribbling and whirling and making my way to the basket, where I shot and, astonishingly, scored.
I was still jumping (literally) for joy when someone informed me that, because of a rule about playing on a half court or something, I'd actually scored the winning basket for the other team.
If I'd had any dreams of joining the NBA, they would have been quashed right then and there. Luckily, all I wanted to do was sing baroque opera in all the great capitals of Europe, so I was a-okay.
Note to self: in the future, when suffering from early morning insomnia, do not travel west. If you do, time zone changes will lead you to find yourself sitting awake at the local time of 3:00 a.m., unable by hook or by crook to fall back asleep. You will not be able to call your boyfriend for at least another two hours; in the meantime you will work yourself slowly but surely into a passion of self-recrimination and fear. You will try to ward this off by watching the DVD of Bring It On Again, the straight-to-video sequel to Bring It On, but, inexplicably, the attempt will fail. You will end up reading but not taking in Steve Martin's very funny piece about Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ in The New Yorker, a magazine you don't usually read because it makes you feel ignorant, while you eat muffin after sugar-filled muffin and wait for the rest of the house to wake up so you can eat more muffins with them and then spend all day avoiding the scale because you really don't want to know how much weight you have put on and not calling your boyfriend because you don't want him to know how much weight you have put on either, though of course he'll find out soon enough when he sees you.
The solution to all this would naturally be to travel east by a couple of time zones. Unfortunately, implementing this plan would land me smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where insomnia would be the least of my problems.
When I was six, I picketed my house, hoping to be allowed to eat breakfast before getting dressed rather than after.
I marched back and forth in front of our front door, carrying a sign that said "BREKFAST FIRST DRESSED LATER."
My parents, being civil rights workers, didn't cross picket lines, and that was the only way into or out of our house,
so they were trapped there until they acceded to my demand.