The silence speaks, part 3

Mister Cellophane is in my neighborhood again.

I call him that because, to me, he is almost invisible. I can see his body through the eyes of others, and it is unremarkable. Suspiciously so. Everything about him seems designed to blend in and go unnoticed. Just your average citizen, another face in the crowd, another person passing you on the sidewalk.

But I can tell the difference. To me, people are souls and his is missing. Or invisible.

To me, looking at him is like looking through a slightly dirty window. He has no aura, no emotion, no empathy. Just a faint but terrifying sense of utter nihilistic hate. Like he’s man so full of loathing and contempt for himself and the world that he willed himself into nonexistence.

But something is still there. Something animates that average body with its average looks and average build. Something makes the decisions as to where to go next and what to do there. There is something hiding in all that nothing.

And I can’t shake the feeling that this something is…. hungry.

So when he is around, I monitor him. To do this I must see what those around him see, and keep track of him through their eyes. This is difficult because his camouflage is so effective that people rarely give him more than a moment’s glance. I have to look through as many eyes as I can at the same time in order to keep track of his movements.

Right now, he is unobtrusively browsing the offerings at the thrift shop at Oak and Coal. He does this a lot, this aimless perusal of goods. I have never seen him so much as pick an item up, let alone buy it, yet he goes through the motions of examining everything exactly as the shoppers around him are doing.

Whatever it is that he is looking for, it’s not bargains.

I must admit, to my shame, that I hate him. I hate that I can barely see him. I hate that he walks in and out of my territory at will, disrupting my peaceful and vibrant environs with his offensive invisibility. I hate that he shatters my gentle and benevolent life of compassion and aid.

But most of all, I hate him because he makes me feel like this.

I stop my monitoring briefly in order to comfort a child who has grown very frustrated with the cast on her arm. She is tired of it being there, all heavy and itchy and hot, and it will continue to be there for almost three more months.

To her, that is forever.

When I return to my vigil, I discover that my worst nightmare has come true.

Mister Cellophane has disappeared from view entirely.

How this is possible, I do not understand. I was with the child for no more than two minutes, and when I left him, he was on the third floor of the thrift shop and would have had to go down to the first floor to leave.

Even if he took the elevator (something I have never seen him do…. hmmm… ) it would take him more than two minutes to leave. And even if he had left, I would be able to find him in the eyes of the people on the street. But no matter how many pairs of eyes I look through, I can’t find him. He is no longer in the neighborhood, as far as I can tell.

This throws me into a panic. I cannot convince myself that Cellophane is actually gone. It can only be that he has detected me and found a way to finish the job and become utterly undetectable to me. He could be anywhere doing anything to any of my people and I have no way to find them. I have failed them!

I am like this for a few minutes before I manage to get a grip on myself and think things through. What do I know about him?

I know that he has done nothing remotely harmful while I have been watching him. I know that he has no soul, only a faint but disgusting smell of pure hate. I know that he blends in with the background so that nobody notices him.

He blends in! That will be how I track him!

I extend my mind to its limits, looking for the sense memory of having seen someone without any of the usual emotional responses to the presence of another human being. Even passing strangers on a busy sidewalk register as human to our deep senses, and this fellow registers as nothing at all. Not even an inanimate object.

And it is by this I shall find him!

There are a number of false positives, mostly from the local mental ward, but then I find him. He is seated next to a heavyset woman in her early forties on a bus bench at Coal and Elm.

He seems to be paying her no attention… but I sense danger.

After a while, he leans towards the woman very slowly. It is a tribute to the effectiveness of his camouflage that he can be get within inches of her face without her sensing him in the least. As he does so, he stares at her with the fixity of a snake about to strike. What is about to happen?

I get my answer when he suddenly opens his eyes and mouth all the way and…. something emerges from them. To me it is a ghostly pale mist which hovers around his victim’s head for a moment, then all at once dives into her mouth and eyes, and proceeds to feed.

It does so by ruthlessly and coldbloodedly devouring the contents of the woman’s mind. Every memory, every thought, every emotion devoured by an incoming tide of nothingness, all happening in the space of five seconds.

I tried desperately to intervene. I flung my entire being into trying to prise that nightmarish creature from that poor woman’s mind and fling it into darkness, but it was like trying to stop a raging river with your hand. The violent energy of the process pushed me aside with the ease of a horse swishing its tail at flies. I was nothing compared to it.

And then it was over. The woman’s mind was drained and she was now as utterly blank as her destroyer. With growing horror, I realized what this meant.

It meant now there was two of them.

Soon, they both wandered off in different directions, both blending in with the crowd, both seemingly looking for nothing in particular. But now, I know better.

They are looking for fresh victims upon which to feed. And it’s more than mere feeding… it is reproduction as well.

There is no more Mister (And Misses) Cellophane.

There is only the Void Which Devours, and I swear to the Radiance Within that I will destroy them.

The silence speaks, part 2

The flesh is fed, and I have located a more suitable resting place for it, inside and out of rain. Currently, it sits on the toilet in a small, out of the way park bathroom frequented only by the local homosexual men, and they do not come out during the day, for the most part. It will be undisturbed there until nightfall.

And of course, in this location, dealing with the aftereffects of a fine meal and much coffee will be simplicity itself.

Of course, it would be much simpler if I could simply rent a room and leave it there, but even signing up for welfare is surprisingly difficult for one such as me.

For one thing, I can’t read.

So this forces my flesh and I into a homeless existence. This suits my work, but I do often lament my inability to provide a more comfortable and secure existence for my fleshly encasement.

It makes me feel like a very poor parent. And I have dealt with enough of those to know just how bad that is.

Once my flesh was a lowest-level criminal named Frances “Franky” DeLaine. He was a man without direction or identity of his own. He clung to existence by being whatever someone wanted him to be, and thus got by as a flunky to various criminal organizations who passed him around like an unwanted orphan.

We met when my previous body, a rich man’s social secretary named Rose Berber, passed away. She was 68, and died of lung cancer. This left me homeless, as it were, and I don’t have very long to find a new body in that situation, and so it was pure coincidence that, after a heart attack due to poor diet and excessive drinking, Frankie was vacating his body two rooms away at the exact moment I needed a new host.

By the time I got into this new body, the lack of oxygen had destroyed much of what was left of Frankie. It took a great deal of my energies to keep him breathing long enough for the medical team to come stabilize him, and there was a time when I thought I would surely need another new host at any moment.

But we pulled through, Frankie and I, and I was able to speed his recovery by encouraging his cells to release their toxins, then scrubbing those toxins from his blood.

That kept me so busy that it took a month of hard labour before I suddenly realized that, for the first time, I had a body more or less to myself. All my previous hosts had been in firm control of the body, and I could only flit about them doing whatever good I could for whoever was around them. Now, I was in control, and I frankly had no idea what to do with myself.

So I concentrated on healing poor Frankie’s body and, occasionally, flitting about the hospital giving comfort and aid whenever I could. In doing so, I inadvertently gave that hospital a reputation as the place where medical miracles happen, and as a result, it attracted the kind of funding and talent that could turn that into a reality.

Thus, that little hospital, previously on the lowest rung of the hospital system, the places where they send the lowliest of people to be indifferently cared for by a constantly changing roster of inexperienced doctors and nurses, became the sprawl mega-hospital for one and all that it is today.

I love it when things work themselves out that way.

Eventually, of course, Frankie was discharged, and have a few hearty congratulatory slaps on the back for an extraordinary recovery, he was out on the street and I had decisions to make.

Thus I wandered into my current life. Luckily, none of Frankie’s former associates recognize the sober and healthy version of him, and I am able to look after what is left of him in total anonymity.

He is not entirely gone. I have some of his memories, some positive associations with various places and food and such, and a ghostly remnant of his personality who is quite content to sit on my shoulder and watch what I do without interference.

He likes me. And I like him. He was a gentle and decent soul in life, despite all that had befallen him, and what remains of him is as happy with my work as I am.

And for that, I feel truly blessed.

Today, I have opted for active patrol instead of my usual spider’s web scanning for trouble. The flesh needs the exercise and there is much to find that is wonderful and new when I have a mobile base of operations.

So to the human world, I am just another homeless man in a tattered trenchcoat and shapeless hat, ambling down the street and looking in garbage cans for something that can be converted into money.

Frankie understands this task, so I can leave it to him for the most part while I patrol.

In front of a red brick tenement apartment building, I tell Frankie to linger so I can explore a potential danger situation : a woman is on her way home from work in a very foul mood, and in moments, she will discover that the child she left unsupervised has spilled an entire bowl of soup onto the living room carpet and done a very poor (but well intentioned) job of cleaning it up.

Frantically, I rifle through her mind to find a solution. Nothing in her current consciousness is of any use, so I dive into her memories, starting with childhood. At first I think this too will prove fruitless and tragedy will unfold. Her parents were mild mannered well educated people. Teachers were all reasonable. It looked like she has never faced the kind of anger she was about to unleash upon her child.

But then I found a summer spent with an unpleasant aunt who lived a life of constant, vicious complaint, and as the key was being turned in the door, I stimulated her mind into remembering said aunt, and how she vowed to never, ever be like that when she had a kid of her own.

Bingo. All her rage disappears, melting away into a profound sense of love for her one and only child, and when she sees the stain on the rug, she reassures her child (who has been terrified of this moment all day) that it’s no big deal, Mommy will fix the stain, and everything will be okay.

I could bask in the love and peace of that moment forever. But Frankie has started to attract the attention of the local beat cops, and it is time to move on.

Farewell, O mother and child. Remember what you have learned today.

You learned that love can move mountains, and forgiveness is more powerful than punishment and rage.

Peace be with you.

The silence speaks

The body traffic was thrumming along nicely when I finally decided to precipitate myself out of the shadow in which I had let myself dissolve the previous evening.

I landed, with elegant gracelessness, on my back, and spent a few moments getting my breath back. The nature of my role and existence makes me prone to forgetting the simple and basic needs of the flesh I wear like clothing. I must learn to thing these things through if I am to continue to monitor my chosen locale.

For as the body goes, so goes the soul. Without a body, I would simply evanesce into the ether like a fog dispersed by the sun, and I have much to do before I allow myself that luxury.

The people need me.

I gently and carefully guide my fleshy form to a convenient bench, and with a soothing touch, gently let it sleep. Its need for sleep is not met by my version of sleep, and so this arrangement is necessary.

Besides, it gives me freedom to roam.

I silently slip sideways through sunbaked shadows as I carefully open myself to the souls around me, letting their light meet my light so that I might understand them. Many are the souls I sniff as I open my consciousness wider and wider, settling into my usual patrol mode where my awareness is spread thin but I can sense trouble like a spider feelings its prey in its web.

And for a while, all is calm. The souls walk through my domain, carrying about their everyday business, living their lives, oblivious to the benign force watching over them. This is how it should be… I would not disrupt their lives with my presence. They shine so bright and clean to me as is. So vital, so pure, so engaged in the act of living. I treasure them.

Of course, this is humanity we are talking about, vibrant and impatient, so there is no such thing as total calm. Here, a woman is upset that her dry cleaner can’t seem to find her dress, one she needs for an important date with a “real prospect”. So businesslike in her idealism!

In another place, a couple argue, as they always do, about money. She wants to sign their children up to a whole raft of extra-curricular activities. He insists that kids have to be left alone to be kids.

Around and around they go, both trying their hardest to be the best parents they can for the children they love so much that sometimes, they can’t even think. They can only act on instinct.

Instinct is a specialist, though. It covers things like feeding and caring and clothing. Parenting philosophies, not so much.

In another place, an old man who inherited his barbershop from his father, who inherited it from his father, is once more contemplating burning the place to the ground for the insurance money. It is a thought he often contemplates because his sense of obligation to the place is so strong that he can’t imagine ever walking away from it. It would have to stop existing first.

And it’s not like any of his five children want the place. Five, count them, FIVE children he had, and not one of them would take up the mantle of neighborhood barber. It would serve them right to see the place burn to the ground. Once it’s gone forever, maybe they will appreciate what they had and threw away like garbage.

But what would his father think?

His conflict touches me deeply. I pause my scan and focus on him, and send him soothing pleasant emotions. This is my job, my role, my duty. To comfort the conflicted, to soothe jangled nerves and untie tangled emotions, to lend my light to those lost in the darkness, and to lead troubled souls away from evil.

Speaking of which, a man well known to me has woken up and feeling his morning erection tugging him towards thoughts he knows he should not have about his daughter, aged eight.

It was a miracle he had custody of her at all. If her mother hadn’t turned into an emotional and physical wreck after finding father and daughter in bed together without clothing, he would be the one left alone.

But the divorce was uncontested and he was a successful businessman who was well known for his dedication to charity, so obviously, he made a better choice than her lunatic mother in the insane asylum.

I know of his pain. His mother molested him. Now he sees his daughter and thinks, I did okay. So will she.

Luckily, by the time he gets out of bed, I am fully there with him. I cast pure light into his soiled soul and highlight all the wonderful, innocent memories he has of his daughter, and how he only got away with it the first time because she was too young to understand what was going on, and now she seemed not to even remember. Now, it would devastate her.

With my help, he remembers, and I encourage his return to the right path by giving him a growing sense of pleasure as he does so. I have calmed his demon for now. My job done, I retreat, taking but a moment to glance in at his daughter and the soft shiny of her youthful innocence.

Truly, she is a marvel, as all children are.

Oops! It seems my fleshy form is awakening. While my powers shield it from nosy policemen and other park-goers, they do not shield it from the cold rain now falling upon it.

I project a sense of warmth into it to counter the rain’s chill, and animate it to look for food. Its simple pleasures bring me great joy, and so it is no chore to see to its food, shelter, and toilet needs.

As I direct it towards our favorite dining spot, a cheap but excellent diner owned by an adorable old couple for whom this is their version of retirement, I am struck by one of the many little ironies of my existence.

Everybody says this is such a nice neighborhood.

But I’m the only one who knows why.

On the mend

I feel better today, though still not entirely well.

For one thing, I have a tickle in the back of my throat that is making me nervous. Might be the start of a cold or whatnot. Plus I still have that vaguely hot feeling.

On the plus side, I took that bath I was talking about yesterday. It wasn’t as boring as I thought. Turns out that, as long as I have the Cracked podcast to listen to, I don’t get bored, and I can relax and enjoy.

Couldn’t find my scrubby gloves those, so all I could do was soap up and rinse like I was in the shower. Disappointing. But I stayed in the stub for a good long while, so hopefully, the soak did me some good.

Who knows, I might try again tomorrow after a very thorough search for those darn scrubby gloves. I really want to stimulate my pores to unclog themselves. I feel stopped up on like, a cellular level.

And I am, more or less.

I might even consider getting some kind of bubble bath type stuff. I normally avoid those because I don’t like how they leave an oily or (gah) sticky residue on my skin when I get out of the water. Kind of makes it so I come out feeling dirtier than when I went in. I hate hate hate that kind of thing. Any kind of persistent, monotonous sensory input is going to provoke a reaction in me, whether it’s the way spicy food lingers on the palate after you eat it or an annoyingly repetitive song.

But I might just break that rule in pursuit of something I prize very highly : deep skin cleansing.

I am not surprised that my pores are clogged. I have my mother’s big pores, and she warned me about having to be careful to keep them clean when I was still in elementary school.

I also inherited a tiny bit of her excema (sp?) as well, and thank God for that. Not for my getting it, but for the very mild dose of it I got.

I have seen hers cause the skin on her hands to crack and bleed. That’s something no child should ever see. And that was just the worst of it. There was times where she had to put lotion all over her hands then put on gloves so that the lotion would sink in deep without drying out, all to keep the skin from freaking out and wrecking itself.

Me, I just get itchy, tight skin on my hands. The worst it has ever been was when it made my hands turn red. And the reaction is quite rare. It is only triggered by some cleaners, whatever they use to clean clothes before putting them on a rack, and pet hair in high density, like at a vet’s or the home of someone with a LOT of dogs.

So, dodged most of a bullet there!

And I also inherited her gentle, animal loving ways, and I treasure those. Like I have said before, I feel like almost everything that is good in me came from my Mom.

So the bath thing was a semi-success. At least I know now that baths can be quite pleasant as long as I have something with which to occupy my mind. My tablet handles the conditions in my bathroom just fine, as long as I keep it as far away from the shower/tub as I can and drape a towel over it. Then it stays nice and dry.

Oh, speaking of baths, I really think that someone needs to invent the indoor river.

See, the shower is basically an indoor waterfall. Or, if you like, on-demand rain. And what I want is the same thing, but horizontal instead of vertical.

Now admittedly, this would be amazingly expensive and would use a LOT of water. But I would love something that is like a bathtub where the water flowers over you like a rivers, washing you clean while staying constantly fresh.

The “in” part would be simple enough. Enough water spouts of sufficient power would do the trick. But the “out” part would be pretty darn tricky if you want the water filtered.

Then again, you won’t be stewing in it like you do in a whirlpool or a Jacuzzi, so I suppose there is no reason why it couldn’t couldn’t just go out like a waterfall into the waste water system that handles the water from your bathtub or shower anyway.

There would be a grating to make sure you don’t end up going down as well, of course.

I think it would combine the best aspects of showers and baths, and feel utterly amazing to boot. You could adjust the flow rate from “pond” to “white water rapids” as you pleased, and the temperature of course.

I could see this catching on as a rich person lifestyle accessory. The sort of thing that makes them feel good because they know that nobody poorer than them can afford it. That alone makes it appealing to the rich. Add in the luxury factor, and some needlessly opulent styling, and it could be a big hit with the rich and awful.

What else… oh, right. My therapist called up to ask me to switch my appointment from the usual Friday at 1:15 pm to noon Saturday. And I agreed, of course, for I am an agreeable person.

But after I hung up the phone, I imagined this conversation :

Me : And what would happen if I said no to the change? Would you show up at 1:15 tomorrow?

Doc : Well, no….

Me : Then you weren’t really asking me, were you? You were telling me.

Not something I would actually say. There would be no point. All it would do is make him stammer and be uncomfortable, and why would I want that?

But still. These are the thoughts I think that help me stay calm. I am very assertive… in my mind.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

On The Road : I Made It edition

Yup. I made it.

I am sitting here at my favorite White Spot, waiting for my Chicken Caesar Wrap, and feeling good about being out and about.

Food is here. Yum.

I am a little worried about my health. I realized this morning that I have a vague burning sensation throughout my body. It isn’t very strong, but it is distinct and definitely new.

Sounds a lot like inflammation to me.

So maybe I have a long lasting inflammatory response to an excessively potent histamine reaction.

I definitely feel less healthy lately.

And antihistamines don’t seem to be helping. Perhaps the damage bis already done. The inflammatory response is fueling itself now.

I am probably overdue for a long hot bath with lots of scrubbing. Showers are great for day to day cleaning of scent zones, but if you need deeper cleansing, nothing beats a bath.

The problem is that baths are BORING. Showers are stimulating. Baths are not. So it is very hard to convince my stimulus junkie mind to fill the tub and relax.

I know that is probably a sign of something deeply wrong with my psyche, that I have trouble just relaxing passively. My own for of decadence, I suppose, this desperate need for high levels of mental stimulation. Arguably, I would be better off learning to slow down, relax, achieve inner stillness, and release all my tension and worry.

Christ that sounds boring.

My mind is like a shark, always moving, always hungry. Never fully satisfied. I suppose it comes from all that time spent being bored in class as a kid. It left me permanently hungry for something to do with this enormous brain of mine.

One of my thirsty dogs, I guess.

This hunger must be why I hated downtime when I worked for my uncle Sonny. I was happiest when the place was buzzing, because that meant I was assured that I would stay busy serving customers.

And o genuinely enjoyed serving customers. It was an inherently cheerful thing to me. It took a long period of sustained effort before I grew tired of it.

Well, the bill is paid. Time to go. See you when I get home!

(—)

Aaaand here I am, safe and sound. Well, as sound as usual, anyhow.

i really did enjoy customer service. I know that’s a weird thing to say in this era where “customer service” is considered synonymous with “indentured torture”, but it’s true. I liked doing it.

And I never had the sort of “customer from hell” that people talk about. I had people who were a little cranky or curt with me, and I had the occasional chronic complainer, but no abusive assholes determined to take their inner pain out on you.

Why is that? I, of course, have a few theories.

For starters, there is the nature of the town I grew up in, Summerside, Prince Edward Island. If Smallville is a sleepy little town, Summerside is a walking coma. Compared to the big cities, everything there happens at 25 percent speed.

It’s one of the things that people from Away (otherwise known as ‘the rest of the world that isn’t PEI’ remark upon, and even state as their reason for wanting to move there when they retire. Our “slower pace of life”.

You can imagine how poorly it suited me given my drive for mental stimulation. It is probably one of the causes, come to think of it. Everything was just TOO DAMNED SLOW!

But what it lacked in speed, it partially made up for in calmness. In a small town, the social fabric is tighter, and that means that one’s inherent sense of what is done and what is not done is stronger, and in Summerside, temper tantrums at service people is simply not done. It would be considered rude past the point of comprehension. My home town is not the kind of place where you raise your voice in public.

Plus, word of your bad behaviour would get around pretty fast. It would be a high magnitude social embarrassment. Even cranky people don’t want that kind of humiliation.

Then there’s the nature of my uncle’s business. It was originally my grandfather’s (my uncle’s dad’d) business. It had been around for thirsty years when I was born, and had been the only place in town where you could buy a TV, a stereo, or a radio for all that time. This made it a local institution, and therefore it has a degree of respectability to it.

I rented video games to kids whose grandparents had bought their first radio from my grandfather.

And there was another factor : me. This is the tricky one, because it is hard to describe the function of my own personality in the equation without making it sound like the people who HAVE had those “customer from hell” interactions were doing something wrong. And that pisses them off, obviously.

All I can say is that I am friendly and personable person, especially when I have a role to play (like cashier in my uncle’s business). And I really enjoy customer service. So whatever part of the equation personality plays in our interactions works out well for me. I am a pleasant and likable dude, and that brings out the best (or at least, the better) in people.

So maybe other people really are doing something wrong, but not in the usual sense of the word. They just didn’t get customer service skills as part of their basic emotional makeup.

Or for all I know, it was entirely about my town and the business I worked for. Anyone would have done as well as I did given those circumstances. I don’t know.

But it’s not so outrageous an idea that there are some areas of life that some people are better suited to than others.

Maybe you never did anything wrong, I just happened to do a lot of things right.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Bad Day 2 : The Baddening

It’s like maddening, only badder.

Well, today sucked too. Slept most of the day, felt like absolute crap while awake, feeling both ill and depressed. I still feel tired. And I have a very strong urge to hide from reality.

I have gone back to seeing time as the enemy. I want to escape it. I want to fast-forward my life so I don’t have to put up with myself any more. No more time to fill. Just the stuff I like and that makes me feel at least a little alive, all the time.

That is probably behind the sleepiness, at least in part. It is hard to fight your body’s physical depression and stay awake when, not very deep down, you don’t want to.

So I am struggling to find my inner core of vitality that can reignite my pilot light and get me moving again.

Tomorrow is Wednesday, the day I hope to turn into my White Spot day. I am hoping to have the energy for it gathered by then. Or at least the will, which is better than energy. Energy comes and goes like weather. Will supersedes the need for energy and keeps you going even when energy deserts you.

So we will see. I technically have no other errands, and so this would be my first time going to White Spot just to go to White Spot instead of doing it on the way home (ish) from something else.

I want to go. But a little voice in my head keeps saying “Why waste the money when it is so much easier to stay in and be comfortable and relaxed?”

I hate that fucking voice. That’s the voice of everything that is wrong with me, the voice that undermines my attempts to get my rear in gear and do something with my life because doing nothing is so much easier.

After all, nothing bad can come from doing nothing, right? I’ll be warm, clothed, sheltered, calm, and I will have the whole Internet for entertainment. So why change anything?

It’s an evil voice. But sometimes, it’s hard not to listen. I guess that’s what keeps that voice alive.

I have a few theories (of course I have theories) as to why life sucks extra hard for me right now.

1. It’s the usual

This is just the usual ebb and flow of my health and moods. Sooner or later, I will catch up on sleep and I will no longer have the urge (or even the capacity) to sleep my life away. I just have to hang in there and wait for the bad weather to pass.

This theory is plausible, and may even be the most likely. Certainly, you fine upstanding readers of mine know I have been in this position many times before. I sleep a lot, I feel lousy, I wonder what the hell is wrong with me, I come up with theories, share them with you wonderful folk, and nothing really comes of it. I get better, I forget about it for the most part, and sooner or later, I am back in the same spot.

But this time feels different. Maybe it is just that I am more aware of it because I have lessened the paralytic fog of depression in me via therapy and whatnot (that reminds me, I’m out of whatnot). It could be that I am making a big thing out of nothing more than the ordinary in myself.

But maybe not.

2. It’s the season

Specifically, the pollen count. Last night I had an allergy attack that led to other symptoms exactly as my theory that my “hay fever” launches a body wide inflammatory response.

Stage 1 : Sneezing. I sneeze. Perfectly normal every day sneezes. Annoying but not painful. I sneeze around a dozen times.

Stage 2 : Headache. I get a sinus headache that starts minor but rapidly because very serious. My whole head feels like it is going to explode from the pressure and my sinuses throb with hot intense pain. And I know that is not the worst to come…

Stage 3 : Nausea. Suddenly it feels like everything in my digestive system has turned to concrete. This makes the contents back up into my stomach like a clogged storm drain and hence the nausea. Also, by now my head hurts enough that I am suffering pseudo-heat stroke and that makes me nauseous as well.

But my mother and I both have strong nausea resistance (dunno why) so I don’t throw up, but I do feel pretty damned miserable for an hour and change. And that is just the primary effect.

Who knows what else was going on in my body due to that strong histamine reaction? Maybe that is what has got me feeling all messed up today.

But then there’s…

3. Change in medication

Last Wednesday, when I went to the pharmacy, instead of my usual Januvia (which the gubmint don’t pay for no more), I was given a different drug called Trajenta.

I didn’t think much of it at the time (my default setting is “agreeable”), but when I got home, I looked it up. Turns out, the Wikipedia article is pretty damned sparse. It doesn’t even list contraindications!

So I unfolded the surprisingly huge instruction sheet that came with the boxes of Trajenta (blister packed, how annoying) to get the full story.

And one little factoid jumped out at me : Trajenta is not indicated for and has not been tested upon people using insulin.

Which is especially interesting because this is the med the pharmacist handed to me in the same bag as MY INSULIN. So he sure as hell can’t claim he didn’t know.

So I might have an errand tomorrow after all : dropping by the pharmacy and asking WTF?

Any or all (or none) of these theories may prove to be accurate. Or it might be something else entirely, something I don’t have a clue about because I lack the knowledge.

But I do know one thing.

Making theories makes me feel better.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Garfield was right!

Monday really do suck.

Or at least they do for me. Today was one jolly rotten day for me and in the midst of all the sleep, depression, and feeling like last week’s crap, I realized that this has become a pattern for me.

My worst days are Mondays. And I don’t even have a job!

It must have something to do with what I get up to on Sundays. Sunday is totally my favorite day of the week because that’s the day when I got out to dinner with friends and then we all come back to apartment to watch videos.

And for me, that’s a very active day, especially since we often end up watching videos until 3 or even 4 in the morning. So I am up, active, and alert for seven to eight hours straight, and compared to the rest of my sessile life, that’s a lot. [1]

So I end up all super tired on Monday, and I sleep all day, and the oxygen deprivation of sleep apnea builds up in my system, and I sweat a lot so I end up dehydrated, and my blood sugar drops, and so I end up feeling really lousy for most of the day.

Totally worth it.

My dreams were dense and bizarrely non-dramatic. I don’t remember much. I know at one point, I was looking for a guy named Danny in a weird place that seemed to be a combination apartment complex and office building, where people’s offices were their apartments and vice versa.

I suppose that could work. If people were allowed to do whatever they wanted with their offices, and given a fairly generous budget for furniture and renovations, I could see this happening a little on its own. People would still go home at the end of the day most of the time, but I bet their offices would be pretty apartment-like.

I wonder if it would be a good idea, though. If they went full apartment. In a sense, people would always be working from home. But in another sense, they would never truly leave work. It’s the same sort of thing that people who jumped at the chance to work from home have to deal with. Work and home need to be separate for most people. They require such radically different social and intellectual modes that physical separation is required to make the proper mode very clear.

I bet if you were to ask people if they would like to work from home, they would say yes, of course. After all, home is where you are relaxed and comfortable and feel safe.

But if you asked them if they would like to live at work, they would say “Oh God, no!”.

And yet, they are the same thing.

Hmmm. Maybe it would work if the apartments and offices were in the same building, but not the same room. Just think, your entire commute could be done in the elevator! And imagine what a huge perk it would be for most people to not only skip the commute but the rent as well.

The business they work for could either just let their workers stay for free or let the stay for cost. The for-cost option would be revenue neutral and thus easier to get past the pointy headed numbers people, but letting your employees stay rent free would have the power of being able to say “No rent. No commute. ”

Who knows, it might catch on.

Anyhow, I was looking for some guy named Danny in the Office/Apartment Building. I checked a bunch of places before it dawned on me that Danny might not actually be around.

And for some reason, this made me very happy and excited. For reasons the dream never bothered to explain, Danny not being around gave me a feeling of giddy freedom, like it meant the cat was away and now I could play.

It’s not a feeling I am terrible familiar with in the real world. I have never known the heavy hand of oppressive authority, and so I don’t know how good it feels to suddenly no longer be under it. Nobody has tried to control me at all since I was in third grade or so.

And that makes me wonder. I have been pondering what exactly the effect of my being so stubborn and willful has had on my life. I have mentioned before how it took someone with a strong personality to make me a happy kid. First it was my babysitter Betty, and then later, in grade 5, it was Mrs Rogers.

In a sense, I had to be dominated. And that ain’t easy.

And the thing is, I think I project this indomitablity without knowing it. People have told me in the past that I project a certainty about what I way that makes it sound like it is impossible to doubt me, and I mostly just brushed it off.

After all, of course I am certain that what I say is true. If I didn’t think it was true, it wouldn’t by my opinion, would it?

But I am old enough know to see that it is not that simple. I can easily see how dealing with someone like me might make some people nervous or upset. There is a certain amount of social restraint required in order to deal with one another as equals, and so no matter how certain I am, I have to restrain it a little to give other people room to think.

But I have known that for decades. My concern is that it goes deeper than that.

I worry that I come across as unreasonable. Not in the literal sense… I considerable reasonableness to be one of my mutant powers, in fact.

But in the sense that I give off the impression that there is no point trying to deal with me because it will just end up being a huge effort and you probably won’t get what you want from me anyhow.

Willful, smart, and stubborn, and really freaking smart too.

No wonder people didn’t want to deal with me when I was a kid,

I was a lot to deal with.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Linked to the Wiki page because it’s apparently too obscure for the Windows dictionary and I figure that means it’s too obscure for most people. I learned it from Larry Niven.

Morning in Paris

{SCENE : A small but luxurious hotel room on the banks of the Seine in Paris. Three quarters of the space is taken up by a very richly appointed waterbed, with expensive sheets and gold fixtures. In this bed lie PAT and MORGAN. PAT is asleep, and MORGAN is awake, watching PAT sleep, and smiling. As the scene opens, PAT wakes up, and sees MORGAN. PAT smiles back. }

Pat (amused) : What?

Morgan : Hey, it worked!

Pat : What worked?

Morgan : I stared at you and willed you to wake up, and you did!

Pat : Oh really? And how long did THAT take?

Morgan (pretending to be offended) : Hmph. Always the cynic. The time it took is irrelevant. The point is, it worked.

Pat (grinning) : So even if took, say, eight hours….. it would still count?

Morgan (grinning back) : Of course!

Pat : So pretty much the only way it could have failed is if I had stroked out in my sleep and was in a coma.

Morgan : You got it. It’s an amazing system, when you get right down to it.

Pat : Can’t argue with that logic. Shoot first, draw the targets later, right?

Morgan : Right! I knew I’d be a good influence on you! There you were, sitting like a lump on a park bench in the middle of the most exciting city in the world, and looking so sad and alone. I just had to get a smile out of you!

Pat : And for that, I will be eternally grateful.

{Pat kisses Morgan softly. }

Pat : Crap… what time is…

Morgan : 1:45 in the afternoon, or as they say here, 13:45. Your flight doesn’t leave for three hours. Relax.

Pat : That late, huh? How long were you going to let me sleep?

Morgan : For as long as you kept looking so beautiful doing it. Or 2 o’clock, whichever came first.

Pat : Fair enough. I’m just a little surprised I slept so long. I never sleep this late.

Morgan : Well you ARE on vacation. And we did have a very exciting evening last night. Well, at least I was excited…

Pat : I could tell.

Morgan : … and I am pretty sure YOU were excited too….

Pat : Nonsense. That orgasm was extremely tedious.

Morgan (laughing) : Oh, you’re terrible!

(Pat sits up in bed, and Morgan follows suit. }

Morgan : Okay, so… I figured it all out. As long as we are out of here by 2:15 at the latest, we have time to have a pleasant brunch on the way to the airport and still have plenty of time to say goodbye at the airport before your flight.

Pat (looking pensive and distracted) : Hmmm. Yes.

Morgan : Uh oh. I know that look. You’re trying to figure out what this all means, aren’t you?

Pat : Huh. I suppose I am.

Morgan : Well stop it! Why does it have to mean anything? We are two people who found comfort and joy with one another for a Parisian weekend. That’s it. It doesn’t have to mean anything. Ir doesn’t have to change anything. Haven’t you learned anything from me this weekend?

Pat (stiffly) : I didn’t know I was in school. In fact, I could have sworn someone told me it was just two souls finding comfort and joy with one another for a Parisian weekend. Quite recently, too.

Morgan : That’s not what I meant….

Pat : So what, last night was just a pity fuck?

Morgan : No! Well…. not really…

Pat (fuming) : I should have known. People like you are never interested in people like me.

Morgan : What do you mean, people like me?

(Pat gets out of bed and starts packing up, back to Morgan. )

Pat : You know…. fun people. Attractive people. Exciting people. The kind of people who get invited to parties. The kind of person who looks at a solid, decent citizen like me and thinks we are way too boring to even talk to.

Morgan : Okay, first, what makes you think I’m not a “decent citizen”?

Pat : Well I mean…. you’re just so….

Morgan : What? Interesting? Exciting? Fun to be around?

Pat : Well, yeah, but…

Morgan : Listen, I am just as respectable as the next citizen. I am president of the public relations firm I founded, and almost 200 people have jobs and salaries because of ME. I live in a perfectly respectable middle class neighborhood, I give generously to worthy charities, and I have a spotless driving record. I’m as “decent” as you are.

Pat : Look, I didn’t mean…..

Morgan : And you can stop wallowing in self-pity. I obviously didn’t overlook you because I thought you were boring. When I saw you on that park bench, all I saw was a beautiful and very impressive looking person who seemed very sad, and I thought maybe I could help. Not just for the weekend, but for life. And for a little while, I fooled myself into thinking I had. But you’re going to go right back to the life that made you miserable, aren’t you?

Pat : You knew that I was leaving today before you even sat down beside me.

Morgan : That’s now what I meant, and you know it. Look, I don’t know what your life was like before we met. But I know cold despair when I see it. Whatever it was, it made you too depressed to even move off a park bench while on your Paris vacation. And that made me so sad that I just had to try to do something.

Pat : Nobody asked for your help.

Morgan : Maybe not in words, but your face…. look, cards on the table time, I was really depressed too. I wasn’t lying about my PR business, but what I failed to mention is that I just sold it. I thought that would make me feel free and young again, but instead, it’s made me feel old and useless. I miss it, I miss it like hell. Selling was the biggest mistake I have ever made. And now I don’t know what to do with myself any more. Fancy that, here I am with millions in the bank and nothing holding me back, the whole world at my feet, and I have no idea what to do with myself.

Pat : I had no idea….

Morgan : Look, not everyone who seems happy IS happy, okay? When I saw you in the park, I saw someone who was as miserable as I was, and I thought… I thought maybe we both needed some help. Okay?

Pat : Okay. I think I understand.

Morgan : Good! At least one of us learned something this weekend.

Pat : Oh, I think you learned something as well.

Morgan : Oh? What’s that?

(PAT leans over to kiss MORGAN)

Pat : You learned that you’re not the only one who doesn’t know what to do with his life even though he has millions of dollars in the bank. I’ve been very successful in the corporate world. Got the high paying job, the spouse, the kids, the big fancy house. And six hours before I flew to Paris, I realized that I didn’t give a shit about any of it any more. All the striving and competing and acquiring were, in the end, just… things to do. Things to keep me busy so I wouldn’t notice how much I hated my life and everything in it. And six hours before my flight, I ran out of gas. I just… can’t care about it any more. I’m all used up. I used to tell myself that I did it all for the kids, so they wouldn’t have to go through what I went through. But you know what I realized? Kids can be just as happy in a cheap apartment above a grocery store as they are in a fancy mansion. It was never really about them. It was about me and my own ambitions. As a result, I barely know my wife any more and my children treat me like a stranger. I bet on all the wrong horses and I am supposed to be happy about it because they all won. But I am not happy. Not at all. Nothing means a damn to me any more, and I thought nothing ever would. Until I met you.

Morgan : You really mean it?

Pat : Of course I do. You helped me more than you will ever know this weekend. I’m sorry I was too much of a stiff necked prick to acknowledge it earlier. No matter what happens when I go home, I will not be the same person who left without telling anyone where he was going on Friday. You gave me hope, you wonderful person, and I will always treasure this time we had together.

Morgan : Does that mean brunch is still on?

Pat : Of course it is. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

(LIGHTS down, end scene. }

A letter to myself, age 12

From : Michael J. Bertrand, Apartment 601, 6611 Cooney Road, Richmond, BC
To : M. John Bertrand, 135 Belmont Street, Summerside, PEI

I honestly don’t know where to begin with you. There is so much ground to cover in a mere one thousand words.

I will try to break it down for you.

1. Stop being a pussy

I mean that. Right now, you are a wimpy whiny wuss, and it does not serve you well. You need to learn that in life, some things hurt, and that doesn’t mean they are not worth doing. You need to decide to stop being the person too cautious to do much of anything and become the person who may fail, but always tries. All people really want from you is that you give it your all. They are far kinder to those who try their hardest and fail than they are to people who are too chickenshit to even try. Go try lots of things and see which ones seem worth the effort.

2. Go outside more

I know, I know. You hate having to walk to school and back while all the other kids get there in a nice warm bus or their parents’ cars, and that you life consists of school, TV, video games, and reading, but you still need to nudge yourself out the door more often, even if it’s just to the corner store on Russell Street near where Lise lives. If you move more and become more accustomed to being outside, you will not end up fat and agoraphobic later in life.

3. Go ahead and develop that big ego

You’re amazingly smart. I know you know this, but I also know you don’t take it seriously at all. That’s because it has never seemed like an asset to you. School has always been absurdly (even insultingly) easy for you (and that’s not going to change any time soon, by the way) and it is hard to value anything that comes that easily. So you don’t even think about it most of the time, and when you do, all you can see is the ways it had made life difficult for you. The social ostracization, the extreme boredom in class, the inability to relate to what kids your age usually do… all you see is the problems.

But even though by now people have stopped treating you like you are anything special and in fact tend to treat you like you are especially annoying and inconvenient (just like at home, but with attention!), you have to realize that you are extraordinary and exceptional and that nobody is going to motivate you but yourself.

So go ahead, think the world of yourself. You are one special little dude. Let this truth fill you up and keep your self-esteem afloat. Pretty soon, you will feel the urge to rise, which leads to my next point….

4. Develop some ambition

I know that you are not, by nature, ambitious. You are a laid back, dreamy sort of person who thinks ambitious people waste a lot of energy on things that don’t really matter, but you are wrong. So very, very wrong.

Ambition gets you places. Wherever you want to go, ambition is the engine that gets you there. I know you hate hearing about how much potential you have, but the truth is, that big brain of yours can open a lot of doors for you, but you will have to do two things you hate : focusing, and applying yourself.

Ignore what society tells you about what a person like you who applies themselves is like. There is a lot of middle ground between lazy slacker who coasts through life and neurotic overachiever who sweats bullets at the thought of a B. You can aim for the sky and still be a laid back dreamy kind of guy.

The only difference will be you are now working hard to make those dreams come true. And yes, that means you need to…

5. Learn to work hard

I know your life is crazy fucking easy on many levels (and crazy fucking horrible in others), but that does not mean there is no value in hard work for you.

Just think : if a regular person can go far with hard work and perseverance, how far could someone with your gifts go?

If school isn’t challenging you (and it isn’t), go find something that will. You might find it in the library, reading everything they have on subjects that interest you. You might find it out on the streets, trying to find the right social group for you.

Hell, you might even find it on a sports team. Stranger things have happened.

Or you might even find it via a job. Sure, you’re only twelve now and your paper route seems like a job to you, but in the future, you will want (then need) actual employment, and so you might as well start gearing up for it now.

When you are old enough, get a McJob. Yeah, I know, your middle class upbringing makes that seem like death. Better to be unemployed than work at a menial service job!

But Anne and Catherine both worked at Tim Horton’s when they were going through college in order to help pay their tuitions, and you don’t think any less of them. Take that attitude yourself. Get the job, make extra money, and help your parents pay for your future education like they did.

In fact, you should try to see if you can pay for it all yourself. Trust me on this one. It will work out a lot better in the end, and by paying for it yourself, you will speak volumes about how your parents neglect you without saying a word.

Which brings me to my last point :

6, Stick up for yourself in the family

You have just as much right to be there and want things and needs things as the other three Bertrand kids. It’s not your fault that you were unplanned. Stick up for yourself and your right to be heard and reckoned with. And don’t be afraid to act out, either. If that is what it takes to get their attention, fine.

You are, and have been, treated very, very badly by your parents and your siblings. You have been made to feel unwelcome in your own life. That is unfair and extremely wrong.

Stand up for yourself, and make a place for yourself in the world.

Even if you have to kick some ass to get it done.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

All the memories

I’ve been thinking about memory lately. Specifically, its role in the nature of what it means to be a nerd or intellectual.

Let’s start with fandom. Many a clueless celebrity has lamented the fact that fans of a media product know more about the product than they do, and they wonder what kind of person stays awake all night memorizing obscure bits of trivia about things.

And they don’t ask kindly, either.

The problem is that nobody actually does that unless they are about to compete in a trivia contest. There is no need for a nerd or geek to stay awake all night memorizing anything.

We don’t have to. We just naturally retain information better than the average Joe.

Memory has been recognized as a function of intelligence ever since Piaget handed out his first questionnaire. People of high intelligence are capable of retaining so much information because they have the mental CPU power to do it. It takes a powerful mind to, without even thinking about it, condense, organize, and retain so much information.

Add in that this information is about something they love and that intellectuals naturally enjoy learning about subjects they like, and it is no wonder that we of the nerdish set end up knowing so much about the things we love.

We learn new things about it purely for the enjoyment it brings.

I am no exception. I retain information so well that I never had to study in school. I simply remembered what the teacher had said. That was it.

Granted, my body of knowledge is more eclectic and varied than some, and hence lacks the impressive thoroughness of some people’s knowledge of Star Trek or Game of Thrones or whatever, but I still know a lot more about various things than a person of average intelligence, and I can truthfully say that I have never tried to memorize anything.

I never had to.

So that’s the deal with nerds and celebrities. I know that it can be very stressful for an actor to face a bunch of people asking bizarrely specific questions that sort of imply said people think you are your character, and I am all for celebrities hiring guard nerds to answer those questions for them.

But it’s not that we make a specific effort to learn all this stuff.

It just comes naturally.

That said, I am beginning to wonder just how much this high density memory of ours plays a role in a larger sense of what it means to be a nerd and/or an intellectual.

I consider nerd to be a subspecies of intellectual. Others might disagree, especially people who think they are better than nerds even though they too know an awful lot about an obscure topic.

I mean really, what is the difference between knowing all there is to know about Star Trek and knowing all there is to know about 18th century Welsh poetry?

Besides the latter potentially leading to an actual paying career?

But I digress. The particular aspect of memory I am going to examine next is the retention of biographical memory.

As we have recently learned from studies of people with eidetic (aka “photographic”) memories, having a powerful memory is a double edged sword at best, and a downright curse at worst.

The problem is emotional distance. Forgetting things over time is part of how we heal from them. The emotions fade and grow dull, and we are able to think about our experiences with something approaching clarity and wisdom because of it.

But the sharper your memory, the less it fades. And we automatically prioritize negative memories over positive ones because in the days of the caveman, it was more important to remember where the bear lives than to remember where the berries live.

And so this memory of ours can keep every trauma fresh and intact as if it just happened. In fact, if the phenomena is strong enough, the very boundary between memory and reality becomes blurry and weak. The difference between the past and the present diminishes and this phenomenon, along with its attendant fear of the line disappearing completely, inform a lot of what goes on in the life of someone with an “excellent” memory.

The avoidance of negative experiences becomes acutely important if you know that you will remember it all in high fidelity later. This leads to being risk-avoidant and timid, and gives one the impression that you feel things more strongly than others.

That’s as may be. Clearly that’s not a thing anyone could ever prove, or even measure. But we can establish that you might well remember things more strongly than others, and that might very well make life a lot more difficult for you.

If only we could choose to delete things in our minds!

Then we come to the issue of pointers. In order for you to remember anything, there must be something which stays in your consciousness that points to the information. We all have something like a card catalog in our minds that tells us where to find the information we are trying to remember, otherwise the chain of memory could never even get started.

And each of these little pointers takes up a certain amount of space in the conscious mind. Individually, they don;t seem like much, but not only does a high-capacity memory full of information require more of these pointers, but the pointer itself has to contain more information in order to point the way to the right cluster of memories.

So these high capacity memories of ours impose a particular kind of extra burden on our consciousness, and the older we get, the more we learn and retain, and the greater that burden becomes.

I am not saying that these observations on memory explain all that there is about being an intellectual. That would be the foolhardy over-application of an exciting new idea.

But I do think memory plays a role in what makes us intellectuals who we are and is a key for understanding how so many people with completely different lives end up falling into the exact same patterns.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.