I go home. Home is appliances; the refrigerator, which you check on the half-hour, whether hungry or not: it is more like inventory. It is more like Charlie Brown and the football, and yields the same cans of mixed vegetables and souple and the same Hamburger Helper Rice Oriental no one has touched for years.

Home is television. And television is a high school flame, made radioactive; TV is every high school humiliation, every crush revisited in fabulous technicolor, if a bit faded.

Home is shelves of high school yearbooks. It is the voices of your fighting parents, which your try to drown out. It is a tense reunion with my sister, edges softened with vodka and OJ.

It's The Big Fucking Chill. It's Footloose in stereo. The Dukes of Hazzard drinking game, the Saved By the Bell board game, the giant Beverly Hills, 90210 jigsaw puzzle. It is crimping irons and bright red lipstick, when it's not enormous curling irons and frosted lipstick. It is hours and hours of Family Ties and The Adventures of Pete & Pete. It is, perhaps above all, Behind the Music in an infinite loop. And the E! True Hollywood Story. And Biography. It is the pallid, sweaty face acquired amid a Welcome Back, Kotter marathon - the same strung-out look Wayne and Garth got at the onset of the Gulf War.

It is romantic comedies, with interchangeable heroines, leading men, and wacky best friends. It is a conspiracy against my heart. It is every brilliant woman in America dumped on, or won over too easily by an undeserving man. It's a Celine Dion soundtrack. It's a Peter Cetera soundtrack. It is easy to laugh at all of this until Peter Gabriel gets his finger in the pie.

It is comfort food and an empty notebook, in which I waxed and waxed. (Wax on, and off, as the wise man says.)

I did not determine which one of us was wrong. On the one hand, she was justified: You can't respect somebody who kisses your ass, I write in quotation marks. As the wise man says, it just doesn't work. There is the other hand to consider: every sorry face, every Lane Myer, every variation on Brian Krackow wheeling his bicycle down the street. Every Very Special Episode, every peanut butter solution, every refrain of "It's All Right to Cry." You remember that one: the Schoolhouse Rock-esque singer, assures you that "it might make you feel better."

Alarmingly, it doesn't. The sun never breaks through the clouds; the waves of relief never do set in. The good cry is elusive. The good meal is elusive. Some itself is elusive, an endless channel surf, an endless roller coaster of guilt and pity and senseless self-pity.

And I could not leave. Not for hours, not for days, instead sitting zombie-like on an overstuffed sofa, in the moon-blue light of the television screen, making myself sick, making myself stupid in an effort to forget her name.

This is pretty rough. It's always hard when it comes to this, and as you get older it comes to this increasingly often. It's not so bad, you say. Don't worry. Other people have worse problems. Other people have to worry ab out more important things. In the scheme of things, your problems are trivial. What's the worst that could happen. Just calm down. No, don't berate yourself. No, don't mediate on scenarios and solutions. You've exhausted that. You probably exhausted that a month ago. You can't do anything right now. Leave it alone. Leave it alone. Listen to me. Listen to me. You never listen to me.

There are strategies, of course. Distractions. Smoking? No, you quit smoking. Alcohol? No, you did that last night. Food? Not hungry. Internet? Like the idiot you are, you've already read the only sites worth visiting a thousand times over. The tv. The tv. The tv. You hate the tv. There are no alternatives. What an easy call.

The funny part: you still can't stop yourself. It's like a scab on your knee, a pimple on your face, a sore in your mouth. You can't leave well enough alone. Well, big surprise - you never could. At such times, times like these, like right now, you really hate yourself. You really wish you were someone else, anyone else. But that's a lie because even so, for all of this, you think you're better than anyone. Actually, it's not that funny.

And the tv is talking, and you're still thinking, but maybe it's better than before. Maybe, soon, at least until you're too tired to stay awake anymore, you'll forget yourself. Maybe, soon, you’ll stop thinking. That numbness - what a small, good thing.

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