Part 1: Isolation, Anhedonia, and Heath Ledger
For Episode one click here.
Disclaimer: This is a blog post, not a memoir. As such I am rushing through events and condensing timelines, leaving out details and explanations that I would include in a memoir or a screenplay. I don’t want to bore the reader and have decided to split the middle part of this trilogy into two parts which kinda kills the trilogy idea. But whatever.
Anyway, here’s Part 1 of Episode 2 .
everybody’s telling me you look like me
but please don’t turn out like me.
You look like me
but you’re not like me I know.
-Pulp “A Little Soul”
The jig was supposed to be up the day Sebastian was born. ‘This is it.’ I thought as I was chain-smoking outside Cedars. ‘No more coke. No more partying by myself on the couch at three AM on a Wednesday. I’m a father now.’ Quit the blow and just drink and smoke weed and pop pills the way normal parents do.
Wait, I’m a father now? What does that even mean? What it meant to me at the time was fear, confusion, rejection, terror, boredom, resentment, faking excitement, an occasional good photo op for Facebook, and anger. What did I get myself into? This baby was going to ruin my life. I called the familiar number of the dealer less than a week after Sebastian’s birthday. Alcohol, pot, pills, they weren’t enough. I needed more. I needed escape the fast and painful way. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be a father, I wanted to be present, participating, interested, loving. I just couldn’t. I never learned how to and then there was the damn powder.
This is the sound of someone losing the plot
Making out that they’re okay when they’re not.
You’re gonna like it,
But not a lot…
-Pulp “This is Hardcore”
I’m a vampire ready to feast while the normal people, my peers, professionals, fathers, mothers, in their thirties are winding down and going to sleep. God bless them.
What I do is I count to one hundred. I’m listening for my wife’s breathing to slow down. I’m listening for signs of sleep. It’s Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Any day really. Except Sunday, he turns off his phone on Sundays. Christian, I guess.
I’m listening for the moment when it’s safe to rise, even if I wake her she’ll be too far gone to think.
“Pee”. I say.
“E-mail.” I say.
“Shhh.” I say.
I tip toe past Sebastian’s room. He’s one, he’s almost two. I can’t risk waking him up. I have carved out a path along the length of the hallway leading to the stairs. The floorboards will creak if I miss my spots. It would wake him up, make him cry, and ruin it all for me. I must also remember to skip over stair number four. Whatever I do, I can’t afford to step on stair number four.
I keep my blow in the front pouch of my work bag. She’ll never look for anything in there. And if she does I’ll be free at last. I grab a beer from the fridge. And I take four or five key bumps in the kitchen, right above the sink. The mail key is the perfect width for a key bump. It is narrow, yet wide enough to allow me to pile a Matterhorn style bump on it, almost a half an inch high. I guide it into my nose in the dark without wasting any precious powder, if, and this is important, if I keep my nose hair at bay. Those fuckers will cause a mess now and much later, when it’s time to rinse the nose before returning to bed in order not to wake up with dried crud around its edge. Hard to explain that one to the wife.
Being a husband/father/coke head requires strict discipline, determination, and commitment. Virtues I only develop as a rogue coke head dad.
I maintain the high with quick and powerful snorts from the bag. I pound beer after beer, a bottle of wine, I smoke pot and cigarettes outside on the porch, and keep the snorting of backlash to a minimum. Put the empty bottles in the recycling bag. Don’t leave a mess, in case of emergency, i.e. Sebastian waking up. Maintain a low volume on my laptop while watching clips on PornHub. I don’t want to get carried away and next thing I know the whole apartment complex is awake because a blonde squeals from pain or pleasure or both.
I never know when the high will turn on me until it does. It always does. Before the bag is empty and the couch drenched in sweat that’s gushing out of every pore of my body. Tears are streaming down my face. The shame is pulling me further into darkness. This is no way to live: two AM, three AM, weekday, workday.
Family time. Hungover, dying inside and out, incapable of finding peace and of keeping the madness at bay. Week ends at the playground. I can’t find joy in watching my son dig through the sand at the playground, laughing on the swings, going down slides. Reading books at night, I stare into space and hold to my beer bottle for dear life.
A cow says ‘moo’, a sheep says ‘baah”, three singing pigs say ‘LA LA LA’
It doesn’t do a thing for me. I want to run out of there and ingest more powder, smoke pot, or crack open another bottle. I want to avoid the Baby Faces book that he loves so much. Happy Baby. Worried Baby. Crying Baby. I hate that book so much.
I can’t stand myself watching him grow, take his first steps, learn words, sentences, develop features, grow teeth, be cute. I feel unnecessary. I’m ashamed of what I do and who I am. I have no tits and milk, and no comfort to offer to him. I feel left out. But I can make him laugh. I’m good for that. Comfort, love, nurture, nutrition, and care, that’s mom. I’m the comic relief. I tickle him, I make stupid faces, I toss him onto the mattress and watch him bounce up and down, laughing, ecstatic, wanting more. “Again!” he squeals. I’m not laughing, not beyond the face. I do it again and again and he keeps asking for more. He looks like a happy version of me. It shames me to look at that innocent face, at my own face. It highlights the darkness that I carry with me, into our family, into his life. I cry about it at three AM, at four AM on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, whatever days, sweating, dying to finish the blow so I can stop, take my Xanax and go upstairs and sweat through the pillow and not sleep. I wonder if I’d die the way Heath Ledger died. I wonder if I have a chance. It’s not like he was on less stuff than I am. I take antidepressants too, goddammit. Where’s my accidental overdose?
I am deranged and convinced that these precious moments wasted on parenting, work, and husbandeering could be better spent somewhere far away in isolation with myself, getting fucked up and dying from the inside out and sparing them from my presence and destruction. I stick around pretending. I can’t help it. That’s all I know.
I drive Sebastian to daycare in the mornings before I drive to work. I drive like a crazy person, I’m angry, I’m honking at anybody in my way. Hungover, head screaming, body and mind unprepared for anything, spirit dead. People call me names at red lights. They shake their heads in disgust.
“Go fuck yourself!” I scream at anyone who’ll dare to glance at me.
I see Sebastian in the rearview mirror. He’s observing me with his beautiful green eyes. He sees everything. How long until he’ll know? How long until he’ll really understand what’s going on? Does he know already? Is he only waiting for his vocabulary to develop so he can express his disappointment in me, his disgust? How long until he’ll tell on me, until they know I’m a danger to them as much as I am to myself and kick me to the curb?
Something needs to happen.
-Bad Papa West