Ten years ago:

In the midst of everything I must have missed a bill or two, and my phone was unceremoniously shut off sometime in the night. I went the next morning to check my email only to find I was once again cut off from the rest of the world. One of the things I had been priding myself on was being able to take care of all financial matters for the first time in a long time, and now I found myself stumbling back into the same pit.

I tried not to beat myself up about it, but I had spent the previous few days pretending like I was a fucking adult for a change, so letting myself down came as a bit of a slap in the face. I wondered if I would ever actually have the wherewithal to take care of myself, or perhaps it was something that I would never completely get under my control. It seems silly now, but that little incident made me wonder about the entirety of my personal function. I wasn't sure that I could hack it at my own life. This despair was the episodic upheaval of my life pushing against me one more time, and I can see that now. At the time it was another piece of the static, and it wasn't so easy to segment it like that.

Losing the internet was much more shocking than losing voice contact. Living in that apartment provided me with the first consistent internet access I had been able to procure since the college lab days of 1997. It had been nearly impossible to get a working computer and net access during the broken days in Horseheads, and the Cortland system was still mostly a VAX setup in the time in between. So much of my life had begun migrating online that it felt like part of my memory was severed, and going back to scrounging up access was a world that I was not happy to be revisiting.

I called up Ameritech and practically begged them to turn it back on already please thank you. We argued as to whether they could take my debit card over the phone before explaining to them that I had a "credit card" and read them the same number, which they happily took. They said I would have service back in a few hours, but I spent that time obsessively taking the phone off of the hook and listening for the tones to come back because I am a giant loser. Having it back wasn't a relief or anything, but simply a return to normal. Then I could believe that I hadn't done that to myself.

 


 

Isabella and I wandered over to the mall restaurant after close one night to drink and chat and such. It was strange hanging out with her and knowing that I would probably never see her again in about a month's time, but I was still trying to keep myself from being a shut-in so I embraced these little moments.

We were talking about my move back to New York, and all of the motivations involved. I felt like I was doing a good job of explaining how I felt disconnected and alone, and how I felt like Holland would never be a home for me. She thought I was being hasty in my decision, and that being there for only a few months didn't really allow myself to embrace the area as I could have done. I told her about the things that had happened to me since I had arrived, and the relationships I had fucked up, and the job that seemed to want to take more from me than it was giving. While I was saying all of this I saw a disapproving smirk go across her face. Not that I was offending her, but rather that I was coming off a a bit more cynical than I should have been over all of this.

It did make me wonder, if only for a moment, if part of my motivation for going back might be driven by a sense of exhaustion rather than a real summation of what was or wasn't best for me. Without saying so much, I think she was being a sounding board for decisions I had already made, despite the futility of trying to argue such things with me. It made me wish that she and I had started talking months before, when I really could have used someone to talk to about these things.

While I know that I actually should have felt better for the talk we had that night, it only served to bum me out.

 


 

The first thing I ran out of at the apartment was food. Because I had spent my last paycheck on bus tickets and cleaning supplies, and because getting to the grocery store involved begging someone to take me, I wasn't really able to go and acquire more food. This was okay with me, as I thought at the time I really should be eating less anyway. But these are easy things to say within the first eight hours or so after a meal, and not easy when it has been a while longer and the actual hunger slides into place.

The only food left at in the cupboards were the remnants of a box of food the Cortland kids has shipped to me many months before. Among the remains were a few boxes of macaroni and cheese, the debris left from a box of rice that had gone over to whatever bugs live in boxes of rice, and two bags of blueberry muffin mix. I didn't have any milk, so the macaroni was out. After looking at the muffin mix I discovered that I would need to grease the pan in order to bake the muffins, and I was completely out of grease as well. Being as hungry as I was, I did what any reasonable person would: I opened up the mix and went at it with a spoon.

This wasn't as bad as it appears at first glance. The mix was full of sugar and happy little starches, and tasted really good. I found that if I mixed it with a little water it turned into this goopy slurry that made it easier and a bit more fun to consume. I was proud of myself for overcoming such adversity. At least, I was proud until about an hour afterward when my stomach realized what I had actually done.

The stomach distress I experienced was unlike anything I had experienced since. I had basically laid a concrete foundation in my stomach, and it was unable to process the sheer bulk of what I had poured in there. My digestive system ceased functioning, and I was doubled over in pain until my stomach eventually worried its way out of the situation.

Looking for sympathy, I called the girls in Syracuse, hoping they would be a little understanding about my predicament. They were, until one of them asked if I was really out of butter. Well, I did have butter in the house, but what does that have to do with the muffins after all? And they they laughed at me for not using butter to grease the pan, and I learned a very important lesson about making muffins.

I made my brother take me to the grocery store the next day.

 

Notes on a life in exile: A retrospective
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