I feel like I've met more people in my life that complain about the heat than the cold. Maybe it's because heat's effects are so visual. Even coastal living beach lovers don't see much appeal in sweat stains and body odor. The logic explained to me by heat haters is usually something along the lines of you can always bundle up if it's too cold, but you can never really take clothes off. Or else just a simple man up - be glad it isn't hot.
But layering doesn't help at all. The cold and the way it affects you is so internal. It creeps into your bones. It slithers around coating every part of your skeletal frame with this curse you could swear was liquid fucking nitrogen until you can't move, you can't blink. No, no I don't like the extreme heat, it's not my friend and it's a drag, but I understand how to sit and suffer with it. But the cold is a cage. It infects you and laughs at you derisively. It knows you can only run so far and for so long before it crawls into you again.
The heat of summer plays the exact opposite game. It plays inside wants out - the sun is a magnet and it's looking at you. It draws from you like a well, and it'll tell you itself when it's done. If the cold is spinning your wheels locked in park, then the heat is driving with the emergency brake on. It is bearable, certainly, but oh what a drag.
When I came back home from 3 weeks on the road my landlord told me that our downstairs neighbors had moved out on the first day of July. A few days later, he found the spare key to their apartment and took a look inside to see the condition it was in. Apparently it was in decent structural shape, but was badly infested with cockroaches, fruit flies, and other smaller household pests. The windows and doors were kept shut, and the place was pretty well insulated except for (of course) the roof/floor that separated their apartment from ours.
And what does all that heat from a musty, uninhabited place with no air circulation want to do? It wants to rise. Of course. So what I'm left with is a brutal living environment, even where ceiling fans, box fans, cheap air conditioning, and open windows are perpetuated, I'm still left panting through my afternoons and sweating through my sleep. It's been exhausting enough to live in my own apartment that I try to get out as much as I can. To spend time in other houses, cooler, less overwhelming places. Where I can spend time with friends.
I lost a friend earlier in the summer. She moved back east shortly before I hit the road. I still remember her last night in town really well. I was meeting with some mutual friends of ours at a small after-dinner party at Kyle's house. She was drunk as high school, talking to me on the phone while I explained step-by-step how to get from where she was to where I was (which only involved two streets, but still proved to be challenging). I hadn't been drinking that night myself. I was in the process of renewing my vows against alcohol. But I'm glad I was stoned. If I had been drunk or even sober I don't think I could've kept myself together.
We sat outside on the porch steps, tolerating the mosquitoes. We talked about friendship, how I felt like she'd wasted all her time down here with shitty friends who didn't want her. She told me not everyone's like me. We talked about how nobody deserves to be forced to face their demons alone. She told me she's the exception. She told me about the different places of her skin she's cut into. She told me how she's gone into the veins other people are too scared to go to. She told me she doesn't bleed like normal people. I didn't say anything.
We talk about why I even bother with her. Why I'm so eager to shoulder her burdens. I picked it up from you, I tell her. You kept me from jumping off a parking garage this time last year. Twice, I told her. And I felt really eager to be that guardian angel for someone, to be exactly the point of derision, release, the wheelbarrow that she is.
But does she want to be that person? No. Of course not. She's an adopted child raised on a family that didn't want her and couldn't love her, she's never had a chance to grow, and she has never wanted to be the scapegoat she has so gracefully, beautifully become. All this time she's only ever wanted to let go. To give up. To find somebody who can make her care about herself, or else to just rest. So why the hell should I want to be her? I'm a fool, she says. She's right.
I walked her back towards the party she'd been ditched at, knowing this would be the last time. She smoked her shitty menthols, I smoked my Spirits. We talked about how this time when she repelled away from me like a satellite on a tether she'd be doing it forever.
That hurt like a motherfucker. But she's still one of the greatest and closest people I've ever had, even if I could never really reach her in the end. She gave me so much, and the last one was the best. She helped me understand that I don't have to be the smaller thing, or the weaker thing, just to be able to help someone become better and teach them how to love other people. I do not have to lead by bad example, I can care for myself too. Seems so obvious. But that's a lesson that took a long long time to get to me.
We get to the street corner, where she would turn towards her bad company. Time to leave. We nonverbally decided to compromise between a handshake (too cold) and a kiss on the cheek (too hot). We embraced. It was close. And tight. And long. She said the second best last-thing-you-could-say-to-someone in the world. I love you, she said. I love you too, I said. Mine was better.
The silence of everything was pretty terrible when I first got back in town. I remember making some phone calls from the road on my way back, asking who was around with nothing to do. Apparently nobody. Everyone seemed to be out of town or swamped with work, and my first weekend home was spent entirely by myself. With the neighbors having moved out, there wasn't even the perpetual running of washing machines or a 4-year old to keep me preoccupied and annoyed.
The streets were empty. Even the trees seemed lethargic. I would sit on a bench at the busiest street in my neighborhood and wait 20 minutes before I saw a car drive by. It was creepy, and it was uncomfortable. After I started work again that Monday things normalized a little bit, but I never fully got the fear out of my mind about how listless that first weekend felt. I made a commitment to keep myself social over the coming weeks, afraid of giving my recent struggles with paranoia the opportunity to resurface.
By the time night fell it was usually cooler outside than it was inside my apartment. So I've been wandering around my neighborhood at nights pretty often now, or else just sitting on the curb, when I can bear it. Some nights the mosquitoes are so relentless I can't afford to sit or stand still. They're a part of the climate in this town - big enough to stomp flat-footed and rape turkeys. Being outside so much has been a bad excuse for me to smoke more than I should. It's an ugly habit, but at least it helps keep me from drinking.
There's a bar and grill in my neighborhood that has a special on Tuesdays. $6 burgers and $2 domestic beers all day long. It's been a tradition of my friend group to round up on Tuesday evenings and take advantage. One Tuesday a particularly annoying person on the outskirts of our circle of friends showed up to dine with us. Now I'm not one to let too much distaste for one person spoil the good time I've decided to have, but this is one of the loudest most over-the-top obnoxious and annoying people I know. So I decided to drink my way through the evening.
By the time we'd left the restaurant I was five drinks in. The plan was to rendezvous at Kyle's house later to wind down the evening with further debaucheries, but I was in bad need of a shower. So I walked home to clean up first. I felt the urge to drain my bladder shortly after I'd set off for the 8 blocks or so to reach my apartment. After taking a few wrong turns in a moderately drunken haze, I decided that I would be able to think more clearly to orient myself in the right direction if I relieved myself first.
Now, public urination is a particularly dangerous thing in my town. The local federales don't have a reputation for competence, but one thing they are infamous for is busting guys who decide to take a piss on the side of an abandoned building at 4:00 in the morning. I try to avoid the practice whenever I can, but I will carefully make exceptions to the rule. When I found a suitable spot - a white picket fence coated with foliage on both sides - I unzipped myself and began the process.
I was positioning myself to angle away from the potential oncoming traffic of the one-way street I was on, so as to save a slight bit of face for any car that might come upon me. And, of course, shortly after I began my release, a car turned down our street. At this point I was in an inappropriately bemused and giggly state of paranoia-based panic. I decided I would look much more discreet if I tried to make it look as though I was casually walking along the sidewalk. Which is, of course, a very awkward and difficult thing to do for a man in the middle of urinating.
But my mind told me it was worth a shot anyway. Because anything's better than spending a night in jail for something so embarrassing. So I started trotting with this ridiculous bowlegged stride that looks like a side actor in a bad western movie stepping up to challenge Henry Fonda. While in the meantime still trying to face the fence so that I could avoid peeing on the sidewalk or, potentially, myself. This forced me to do a kind of a sashay, the awkwardness of which is amplified by about a thousand by the spread-legged stance.
So at this point I had committed myself to sidestepping my way along like a penguin with a hernia and down syndrome while urinating on a stranger's fence in the midst of the headlights of an oncoming car. And why? Because it was casual and inconspicuous. Obviously. As fortune would have it, the car turned off the very block before the one that I was on. Maybe they did it out of embarrassment. Or maybe that's just where he was going. Maybe he never saw or noticed me or wondered what I was doing. But in any case, I laughed heartily about it and made my way home.
I had my sixth drink in preparation for my shower, my seventh drink while taking the shower, and my eighth drink after my shower on the way to Kyle's place. For the duration of that walk I was completely shirtless and barely able to see anything. When I reached Kyle's house nobody answered the door. One of the guys living there was out of town, and as it turned out one of the other roommates was giving the annoying friend a ride home when I'd knocked. Kyle himself lived in the far back room, and probably just didn't hear me knock.
I could hear the television from the neighboring upstairs apartment while I waited at the door. I could hear they were listening to the NBA finals - a game which had been playing in the background at the restaurant. The series was between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. Nobody at the restaurant was particularly enthused or invested, but everybody was hoping Miami would lose. Because nobody likes the heat. I'd wondered how the game was progressing and, with the alcohol induced forwardness that I wouldn't have under most situations, I put my shirt on, ascended the steps, and knocked on the door for the very first time.
Hey, I told confused faces. I've got some friends downstairs, but nobody's really answering the door...do you guys mind if I come in and watch the game with you? The response was a very cool and friendly sure. The game had gone into overtime, and there was only about 2 minutes left of it. So I knew I wouldn't be there for a particularly long time, which made things easier to rationalize in my mind.
There were about 5 guys and 2 quiet girls in the room watching the game. And as it turned out, everybody in this apartment hated the Heat as well. We took turns talking shit about Ray Allen for a couple minutes of ball as we watched the Heat win. I only stuck around talking about the series for a few more minutes before shaking hands with the guys, forgetting their names, and calling Kyle from the stairwell asking him to answer the door.
At this point I'd already had a tiring, unique, adventurous and confusing night, and was mostly ready to call it quits. Most everyone else had gone to bed anyway, so Kyle and I smoked out of a hookah and listened to Herbie Hancock while I got to tell the various stories of my night (including other smaller details like my conversation with a cat and my false logic that led me to take the wrong turns, which I fail to fully remember). I left after about half an hour.
I started heel-to-toeing another shirtless walk back home, still notably drunk. I remember stealing a traffic cone from somewhere along the way, though I'm not sure exactly where I took it from. It's still in my closet today.
My friends who can't stand the heat as well have an annoying tendency to complain about the sun more than they do the heat. The ones with Norwegian and/or European skin pigmentation will generally blame their intolerance to the heat on this. That doesn't fully make sense to me. It's okay to feel sensitive to the intensity of the sun, but where does that directly and necessarily correlate to a sensitivity to heat? Isn't it still really damn hot in a dark oven? Do you avoid sitting close to the midnight campfire because you're intimidated by UV rays?
I've also noticed that geography, ethnicity, where one was raised, all these things have no consistency with how people respond to temperature extremes. Of course, a southerner who loves the hot seasons will want to make a correlation, but there are bountiful amounts of people who've lived in the south their whole lives and despise the heat. As well as that I've known many New Englanders and Midwesterners that love the near perpetual warmth, and would never move back to the colder parts of the country for more than a month.
I've decided in my mind that all of us are biologically predisposed, very much in one direction or the other. Don't get me wrong - everybody likes to be comfortable, and the ideal temperature for most people is probably very moderate. But everyone has a serious and harsh response to either the intense cold or the intense heat. It's not right or wrong or determinable by any obvious traits or backgrounds. It's just something that you feel like you were born with. Something you can't help.
I started posting pieces of a suicide fantasy series on E2 in April of this year with a fictional narrative called Impossible Germany. I was proud of the piece, still am, and started slowly scavenging other pieces of my (disconnected) series over the coming weeks, whenever I got a chance to write.
I called the series Nine Lives, a dual-reference between Salinger's Nine Stories and the folklore/myth that all cats have nine lives. My idea and motivation behind writing the series is that writing fantasy on the subject would "replace" my urges and fascination with suicide. That each piece of the series would substitute for a suicide attempt, effectively taking one of nine "lives." Theoretically, the tenth piece of the series would be my suicide note.
Much of my life since Spring of 2012 has been tumultuous at best. I was dominated by feelings of abandonment and paranoia, while abusing alcohol to try to deal with the demons. You can imagine where this would not work. I reached the point where in every dream, every RPG, every journal entry or free-writing activity I would make some suicide attempt for the person I was representing or controlling.
I felt like my fascination with suicide had been inside me all along, and I was just now indulging myself with an outlet for it. The way a repressed necrophiliac or child predator or cannibal finally starts to admit to and act on their urges. Like it was a freedom for me, even though I wasn't free to talk about it at all. It wasn't safe. It wasn't normal.
I read Avalyn's Mental Hospital a few years back, shortly after it was posted. I was brand spankin' new on this site, and had already read some amazing material by that time, but I was still fairly impressionable. The part of the story about his coinflip fascinated me. It stuck to me like a parasite, and wouldn't give me the option of ignoring it, or reaching some peaceful and uninvolved resolution with it.
I flipped my own coin towards the end of this past April. It landed tails. I told myself I was ready to accept the consequences no matter where I landed, but I knew I wasn't. All I had with me to puncture myself was the hooked end of the nailfile on the pair of nailclippers on my keyring. It would be slow, and hard, extremely painful, and with a very high probability of failure. Failure is never an option for me in this instance - I will never in any alternate universe live on as an attempted suicide.
I went home. I felt like a coward, and a fraud. Someone who isn't brave or strong enough to admit to unchecked psychological problems. Someone who doesn't feel like they deserve to be healthy, or even to stop the suffering. Someone who hates themselves so much they want to punish themselves with a long life.
I do feel like I've stabilized a lot since I came back home from the road. Or even since I left. Maybe that's what I needed. I haven't been drinking, I've cut off most the dangerous relationships in my life or else simply let them die, and I've had no urge to continue writing suicide fantasy or obsessing over the idea.
But I was scared that day. Shit, I'm still scared. But at least I understand that I need to toughen up about my decision. My rejection. I understand that if I was ever going to do this to myself, I would have done it by now. It's a cold, cold feeling to realize that I'm never going to be able to give myself my own ending. Even if I need it.
But accepting the responsibility of life is nothing anyone will let me complain about. Why would anybody choose to put their sympathy in a place like that? Now that I've stabilized. Now that life sucks again, and now that I'm ready for it. Who cares about how much I have to deal with? As long as I don't quit it doesn't really matter, does it. I just have to man up. Be glad it isn't hot.
This summer's been goddamn blinding. It's been hard keeping my feet on the ground, keeping my perspective in check. Hard to not blow things out of proportion or get too ahead of myself.
I guess I've spent as much time looking back as I have looking at the ground in front of me. Maybe I'll visit Kyle's neighbors again sometime soon, talk about that crazy night. Maybe I'll try to retrace steps and see where I took the cone from.
Maybe I'll call my friend from Brooklyn some day. Maybe not. Sometimes I dream about taking her in, like a brother or a guardian or something. Give her a place where she can hurt without worrying. Tell her I understand, I know you need this. I love you.
Maybe I'll even skim through through all those Nine Lives drafts I started. Maybe I'll give them to somebody else. Maybe I'll try to use it to explain to people that loneliness is a place. A place that takes a long, long time and a lot of neglect to get into. And that takes at least as long to get out of.
But the summer's getting very close to the end. It always happens that way - you can never remember it starting and never know you're even a part of such a big, long, rounded season 'till it's almost dead. And it's just like gravity, it always feels like you're falling faster the closer you are to the ground.
There will be more days, a handful. I know it. More opportunities to spread summer out in the sand and fall in. Ted, one of Kyle's roommates, just got a dog I'm looking forward to meeting. I want to love and spoil the hell out of that thing and I think he does too.
There will be birthday parties soon. Feasting. And singing. Maybe I'll drink. Maybe I won't. Maybe I'll be afraid, maybe I'll talk like a big talking man, making a big fool of myself. But I know I'll be okay. Might take a while, but I'll bounce back. Always.
The summer drags you. It tests your mind. It leaves me flailing sometimes. Trying to understand my demons. Trying to love a world with people full of demons. Where people can only grow and survive by taking advantage of somebody else's demons while ignoring their own, fending them off as long as they can. Even though all of our demons will outpace us, outlive us, and leave a more satisfying corpse when they finally die.
Trying to learn what the difference is between love and sympathy. And which one is the bigger waste. Trying to understand how to live responsibly now that I'm finally not so desperate. Now that I have space. And time. I don't really know how to use it yet.
I can stand the heat by now. I've learned how to suffer it, or maybe I knew the whole time and I'm slowly convincing myself it's worth the suffering. No, the dog days won't break me. But they sure do slow me down.