montage

My boyfriend Jose´s nuthouse fears mess with both our lives.  We reside in a pleasure-sucking colonial knock-off of a pueblito because that´s where Jose´s money-grubbing family lives; he´s comfortable here; yadda yadda.  And  I am too weak or too nice or possibly just too stupidly hopeful to bail.  Meanwhile, Jose worries about religious loonies who believe we´ve purchased nonrefundable, one-way tickets for some butt-fucking faggoty hell-realm (helpfully illustrated in the pamphlets they hand out downtown), religious loonies only too willing to kill if that will get Satan´s train out of the station early.  Jesus Christ.

It would be easier to bolt if Jose was merely an abusive asshole.  I´ve left abusive assholes before — with great reluctance and great difficulty, sure — but still, I´ve left. As paranoid schizophrenics go, Jose´s a keeper.  Smart, loving, kind-hearted.  And did I mention cute?  A great guy really if only you can get past how he peeps nervously through the curtains before leaving the apartment. If only you can get past his conviction that the murderously unsmiling dude sitting on a park bench over there, the one chatting suspiciously on his mobile phone, has plans, later on this very evening, for his dismemberment.  If only…

But I can´t get past any of those things.  Believe me, I´ve tried.

What causes schizophrenia?  Modern researchers favor strictly biological explanations.  All that retro psychodynamic crap about twisted family dynamics is no more popular on today´s college campus than bell bottoms or tie dye shirts.  Too bad.  I´ll take R.D. Laing over  biochemistry any day.  Still, even hopelessly positivistic lab nerds acknowledge the unfavorable influence homicidal family members might have on gene expression.  When Jose was nine his stepdad ran after his mom with a machete. Makes you wonder.

My own father´s wife-battering style featured greater subtlety and nuance.  More Jewish intellectual mindfuck, less Rambo.  Except for that one day when he wanted to hit mom but punched a hole in the pantry door instead.  We taped a Christmas card over the splintered opening and moved on: happy holidays!  I´m telling you this so you´ll think I´m special, a uniquely fragile and vulnerable flower, but, quite honestly, it´s not such a hard story to beat. Got trauma?  Chances are you do.  So many strangers on the street casually walking through life with flying sleighs and jingling bells covering their wounded hearts.

And so I am here at Starbucks typing Artists Way style “morning pages” into my laptop with my eyes closed, grabbing onto words the way a capsized kayaker might reach for an overhanging branch. My feelings swirl around me, chaotic and inchoate, threatening to sweep me away into some murky emotional hell zone… and so I reach for words. Language is blissfully, gloriously sequential: first one thing happens, then another.  Verbs follow nowns.  What is it the Buddhists say: Chop wood, carry water.  Sometimes a person needs that.  Writing in a journal, you can put your little toe into the stream of the unconscious without getting pulled under. Well, most of the time.  No gaurantees.

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