Thursday, January 3, 2002

8 Days


Dear Bruce,

I wish I knew a better way to do this, but you know I can't handle confrontation, so I'm forced to leave you quietly with this letter. Here we are, eight and a half years into a marriage, a supposed partnership, that has really gone nowhere, except further and further downhill. I really wish I could say "I love you" and still mean it. I dearly love the man I married, but you are not that person anymore. You've changed so much, and so have I. I dearly miss the person you used to be.

I wish I could say I wasn't miserable in our marriage, but I am, and have been for a very long time. I cannot take any more of the constant worry of the power and phone getting shut off, or if Colleen and I are going to get more than one or two substantial meals in a week. I don't think you realize the real reason I lost all of that weight. It was not because I went off of my medications, I would have lost that weight months earlier. I lost thirty pounds that I could not afford to lose, because I had to go without so Colleen wouldn't starve. I am sick of having to lie to my parents about our welfare so that they wouldn't worry about us. Our daughter deserves far better than this, and so do I. We cannot and will not go without the necessities of life any longer.

I have goals in my life, which I'd love to be able to achieve. I know that as long as I stay with you, it will never happen. You seem to have no goals or aspirations in life. With your brains and your knowledge you could go so far in life, if only you were motivated. Instead you settle for a job you can't stand, that you can't even come close to supporting a family on, and your family is suffering because of it. In the mean time, you come home and make those closest to you feel competely ignored, and disrespected. I have to hound you to spend time with Colleen. She stays up later than she should so she can see you shen you get home from work, yet you would rather spend time on the computer or hiding in our room with a book than spend time with her. These are just a few of the reasons shy I am leaving you, I won't get into it all in here, I'm sure you've had enough of a shock finding all of Colleen's and my belongings gone.

With the absolute support and help of my entire family, Colleen and I have moved back up to Spokane for now. Colleen will be registered for school up here on Monday; I don't want her missing a single day if we can avoid it, that woudn't be fair to her. I want to do what's right for our daughter, and for myself. Right now the best place for us to be is up in Spokane. I may not like this city, but the people I need most right now for support are here. I will be going back to school as soon as I can get my financial aid straightened out, and I may just end up working for my parents again as well.

I have, obviously, taken most of the belongings I brought into our marriage, and the computer, which by all rights is mine. That was paid for with my financial aid for school, and since I am going back to school, I need that. Colleen would like you to keep Aristotle for her, so that he can keep you company, and that she can see him as well when we come down for visits. Plese respect your daughter's wishes and don't get rid of him.

Hopefully we'll be able to move back down to Portland this summer after Colleen is done with her school year, but I won't uproot her from another school this year, it's not fair to her. Colleen and I will come down to visit in a few weeks, once the storm has had a chance to calm. My parents have my contact information; the phone number in which you can reach them at the shop is XXX-XXX-XXXX. I don't want to part on bad terms, that would not be in anyone's best interests, I just want to part.

~Karin~

12/03/02

Trying To Keep It Together

Today my wife left me. I usually don't write things longhand beyond jotting notes to myself, but I thought perhaps it might help to straighten things out in my head to just write down what I'm thinking. No, that's wrong; I'm writing to try and force myself to stay sane.

I will never commit suicide - I have always known this. However, it has occurred to me that the suicide note is the most honest and heartfelt form of expression that can exist. When else do people try and communicate their deepest pains as clearly as they can? So let's just call this a note for a suicide that will never follow.

Maybe this is just a "man" thing, but when you've been married and had a kid for a long time, and you're all together and everything's OK, you start to build your identity on that. When you go to job interviews and they ask you your greatest accomplishment, you say proudly "my family." You think of the love that you have in your life and feel lucky, regardless of other circumstances. It makes you feel rich in a way, because you know that many, if not most, wealthy people don't have that kind of love in their lives.

Unfortunately, you can't buy love insurance. I got hit by a hurricane.

Adding to the whole identity problem is that (according to her "Dear Bruce" letter) the primary reason she left me is that I'm an insufficient provider - a classic male archetype/role. The fact is that I am poor. Although most people consider me to be extremely intelligent, it seems that intelligence has little or no market value in the job market. I'm not sure what they do value.

I fell empty - like just beneath the surface of my skin, there's nothing there at all - just a shell. Yesterday I was a father and husband. Today I am __________. Nothing there at all.

I don't exist any more. No suicide necessary.

Usually before I go to sleep I tell myself that I'll see them again soon, and I know that my love will be there for me - if not tomorrow, then maybe a little later. I can't tell myself that tonight. I don't know if I'll be able to sleep any more.

I wonder if she's still wearing her wedding ring, or what... I don't know if I should wear mine. Does it really mean anything? Did it ever?

She also said that she loved the person I used to be but not the person I've become. For the record, I'm just the opposite. I grew to love the person she became during our marriage far more than when I met her (not that I didn't love her then, just not as deeply). Maybe something got slowly sucked out of me and in to her until I was left an empty husk to be discarded when no longer of value. To think I used to accuse her of being a pack rat. Ha. I would laugh but my face doesn't move any more. Empty husk feels about right.

Let's try another joke. This is true. When we started dating, one of the main reasons we got serious was - that is, that I decided to get seriously long term was - get this - I would look at her and say to myself "this girl will never, ever dump me." Now that one's funny. But my face still won't move.

Maybe I don't exist because if I let myself feel, the things I would feel would be things I refuse to let myself feel.

It's good that Colleen's OK and has lots of support from people up there. That's the important thing. Daddies are unneccesary. I learned that myself when I was her age. You can have a perfectly OK life without a Dad. After a while, you don't even miss 'em. They're nice to have around and all, sure, but when it gets down to it they're basically disposable. I did OK without one, she'll do fine too.

Historically speaking, what has happened to me is not all that significant. Many years ago wives leaving husbands for being poor providers was not uncommon at all. Since then of course, society has fed itself a pack of romantic lies about marriage having something to do with love. A cynical bastard like myself should have known better. Should have.

Here's an interesting hypothetical conundrum: what if next week I got an incredible dream job with a six-figure salary, bennies, perks and all that? Would she come back? If she did, should I take her? If I did, would it ever be the same again? What is a marriage?

She was dissatisfied with our life - our lifestyle, circumstances, etc. - and she pointed at me as being solely responsible for that situation. What I had always wanted out of our relationshiop was an equal partner, somebody who would share that responsibility with me. Perhaps I should have complained about that. Because I never got it. So I had to take the crappy job with the crappy hours and the crappy pay because that's all that was available. And if I didn't earn enough to get by, and if I didn't get to spend enough time with them, well, I have to keep doing it because that was all I could find. I guess that makes me deficient in some vague but crucial way.

The "me" she married a long time ago was a talented young genius with a world of possibility in front of him. The "me" she doesn't love is a talented middle-aged genius who found out today that the last ten years of his life was some sort of mistake. Whoops! The only difference I can see is that the economic potential of the old "me" never panned out. I guess that must have been what she loved. Maybe that's what I get for marrying a J.A.P. Nope, still can't laugh.

Maybe if I could laugh then I could cry. Or something. Anything.

Maybe I could say to her "hey, let's not do anything final. Let's just take some time apart, I'll try to pull my shit together and we'll see if we can work things out down the road." But her letter was so cold. It's still cold in this room from that letter.

Have I mentioned I don't exist? I have been thoroughly and methodically deleted form the realities of everyone I care about. Somewhere there's a Bruce-shaped hole in the universe, and it's writing whiny shit into a notebook that nobody's ever going to read.

There's a certain rational part of me that I rely on when I need wisdom. What I do is when I know something's really true about human nature, I remember it there. Then when I'm tempted to be stupid or fall apart I apply those facts to myself and trust them in spite of my feelings. That part is telling me that someday the Bruce-shaped hole will be full of Bruce again, but it's going to take some time. And maybe some duct tape. It's joking about the duct tape thing, but I have to believe it on the hole-filling thing because when I stored that info about people reconstructing shattered self-images I knew what I was talking about.

So: someday Bruce will exist again. But right now, there's just this hole. It's shaped like a Bruce ,and is even covered with lifelike Brucey skin. But it's empty.

Talk about lack of ambition, check this out: I want to sleep. I don't want to sleep. I want a cigarette. I don't want a cigarette. I want to eat something. I don't want to eat something. I want to do something - anything - because I'm bored. But I don't want to do anything. But I don't want to do nothing either.

OK, after re-reading that last paragraph, it seems the little "sanity" experiment isn't working so hot.

Maybe I should send these pages to her. I'd lilke to respond to her letter somehow. I mean, she got to write one, why shouldn't I? But it was just so damn cold and formal. How do you respond to something like that?


Dear Madam,

We have received your notice of resignation from the position of wife, and regret your decision to leave the institution of our marriage at the present time. Photocopies have been filed with our HR department, and we will mail you the appropriate tax information. If you wish, we can submit a letter of reference regarding your performance as spouse to any future potential husbands.

Sincerely,

___________

December 3rd, 2002

That's about it. The only thing I would think worth sending would be this whole - spiel - but there's no point, I guess. I missed the meeting where this decision got made. Done deal. Besides, my handwriting sux.

There was something else I wanted to write here, but I forget things sometimes.

Maybe it would help to think of it this way: I couldn't afford her. I wasn't able to keep up the payments on the wife and kid so they got repo'd. The universe just pulled up a tow truck while I was at work and dragged away my life. Too bad, happens all the time.

I hope she cries. I would if I could. Somebody should.

Things I Won't Let Myself Feel, by a Bruce-shaped hole:

Anger

Bitterness

Betrayal

Jealousy

Petty shit

Missing them both so much it mak - Fuck that.

Fuck blame. Blame is for assholes, and I've always strived to not be one of them. There is no "fault." I needed an equal partner, and never had it. She needed financial security and never got it. The only rational decision under those circumstances would be to quit betting on a losing horse. Which she did. Now I get to find out if the nasty rumors about what happens to losing horses are true.

In retrospect, I would probably say the "open marriage" thing perhaps wasn't the best idea. Not that any of that was mentioned, but it's probably not a coincidence that I got dumped a few months after that little experiment. My rationale was that I didn't really care who she fucked as long as she still loved me. Of course, I was operating under the assumption that she still loved me. Which, according to "the letter" was apparently a misconception on my part. I guess she was deluding herself into believing she loved me when she told me that. That's understandable. People convince themselves whatever they have to believe to get by all the time. It's OK.

It might be nice, in a petty, vengeful kind of way to go back and revise my memory of events, to tell myself I didn't love her. I could keep telling myself that until I really believed it ant then maybe I could safely dispose of this sealed container of hurt. Unfortunately, I eseem to be immune to my own bullshit. I love her. Even after this. Pretty pathetic, huh? Well, right now I'm just not capable of anything less than honesty. Whoever she becomes, whoever I become, I always have and always will love her. For some reason I don't quite understand, that vow transcends everything. I don't know if I'll ever be out from under its shadow.

I wonder who I'll become? I'm honestly curious about that. Yesterday, I was the underemployed boring guy who thought he could live on love. Today I am nothing at all. Someday there will be something filling this hole that will walk and talk and laugh and cry and call itself "Bruce."

I just hope that it doesn't turn out to be an asshole.

This seems like a good place to stop. I will stop writing now.

But I still can't sleep.

 - X

12/04/02


Yesterday, my wife left me. I have to go to work. I'd call in sick, but I already did that on Tuesday when I hadn't heard from her and was frantic to know whether she was alive or dead (I was expecting her back Monday). So today I really have to go to work. If this were an old Warner Brothers cartoon I'd turn into a sucker about now. As in a lollipop, and then turn back.

At work, I sit in front of a computer. When my headset goes "ding" I get to listen to people complain because they bought wireless phones. I have learned that if you are not smart and careful, owning a wireless phone is a sure ticket to economic disaster.

My ?-wife has owned three wireless phones in the last two years.

Last week I bought a book. I was looking at books in the store and thinking I couldn't afford one, but it was "Red Dragon" which I'd wanted to read and I knew she'd want to read it too, 'cuz she loves anything with Hannibal Lecter, so I got it. Maybe I'll send it to her.

Her letter said "I am taking all of the things I brought into this marriage." By which she presumably meant furniture and various material objects. I don't care about those things. Suprisingly, I don't even care about the computer.

Other Things She Took:

Love

Trust

Support

Understanding

Caring

Compassion

Those things I cared about. I can't find them around here anywhere.

I've been carrying around a tightly sealed container of what used to be my emotions. It's completely sealed up tight, which is good, but it's very delicate, like thin crystal. It's marked "contents under pressure." My plan was to release them slowly, like cracking a shook-up soda can slightly so the air can get out before it spooges foam all over you. The only problem is, there's no opening where I can do that. If it cracks, it will explode and kill me.

The thing I said about never killing myself, that was more about expressing hopes than expressing a fact. There are a lot of very high bridges in this town. I've started making a mental list. Not that I'd ever need it. But I have.

I don't want to die. I no longer have any good reason to live, but the place where I store wisdom tells me that someday things will get better and that I'll be OK. Such pat pop psychology reeally pisses me off now that I'm in the position to hear it, but I have to do what it says because it knows what it's talking about and I'm just a hole.

I almost cried just now. That must not be allowed to happen. Thake the crystal Bruce-shaped container, wrap it in duct tape (oh, that's what it was for!) and store it in a cool, dry place. Turn off the light and try to forget it's there.

Look at me - I've become a walking metaphor. Well, more like a shambling jumble of mixed metaphors. Shaken, not stirred. That's the language of what I've become. Metaphors and dark humor. The words that would directly describe those feelings in there aren't in any dictionary ever produced by humans. I can't speak about it, but I can write about it. This is my only way of communicating what's going on in this hole.

There's nothing more pathetic thatn a divorced man. This is a cynical observation I used to make for smarmy humor purposes. Married men start to rely on their wives for little things like remembering phone numbers and stuff. Over time they become useless by themselves, but it's OK because they're married. Like they gradually hand over parts of themselves to their wives for safekeeping, so when she leaves there's nothing left where they used to be.

Am I telling myself lies just to get by? Is the hole really full of something that's just too hideous to look aat? I am not capable of answring that question at the present time. Maybe later I'll look through hindsight, like looking at an eclipse through a foil-covered box and then I'll know. But I don't know now.

People I don't know keep saying things like "how ya doing" or "what's up" to me. For the most part I've mercifully spared them of the answers to those questions. They don't want to know. Those I barely know ask me "what's wrong?" I say the four words that sum up existence: "my wife left me." They then look really sorry they asked. Serves the fuckers right. People shouldn't ask those questions when there are horrorshows like me walking around. Maybe I should put this on the internet. Then I could give the fuckers the URL instead.

If somewhere there was a cosmic referee who judged broken marriages and decided who was right and who was wrong, I could submit this as my testimony. Get it notarized. "Your honor, here is evidence of my deep emotional trauma. I can no longer function in the manner of human beings. I had been given every indication that our marriage was fine. Maybe not perfect, but definitely better than most."

There is no such being. Well, except for maybe Jerry Springer. Throw in the bondage angle and we could get on Springer easy. The audience could "boo" her and "aww" me and I'd get vindication. But there is no such thing.

For a little while I thought I wanted to know when exactly she made the decision to discard me. Last week? Last month? Last year? But that doesn't matter either. She could have been planning to dump me since the day we got married for all I care. For the record, we got married on June 25th, 1994. It's inscribed on the inside of my wedding ring, so I don't forget. Also inscribed in there are the words "together forever" but I put it back on anyway.

Maybe this would help: I could go back to the premise that my wife and daughter are the most important things. This is largely the operating principle I was functioning under before yesterday. If they are all that matter, then I don't matter. I have no emotional needs. I existed only to serve their existence. They will be better off without me (she has decided) and that's good. Do you care where your trash goes when the garbage truck takes it away? No, you don't. It just goes away.

Unfortunately, I don't get the luxury of just turning my back on myself. That's just my old Catholic martyrdom talking, anyway.

oh
She came and took the things she wanted and left the things she didn't want. I was one of the latter things. That's all there is to it.

Fact is, the world is full of people who live in levels of poverty even I can't imagine. Parents who have to bury their children. People who get brutally murdered. Children who are sexually abused. People die of starvation every day. Go back in history and it just gets worse every year you step into the past. I am a white American male. Take all the people who ever lived and line them up in order of suffering and I wouldn't even be able to see the front of the line. But here I am, whining like a teenage goth who manufactures his own drama. At least this isn't poetry.

I only ever kept one poem I ever wrote in my head. I memorized it because (from a Liberal Arts major perspective) it's pretty good. It's in iambic pentameter to boot. Here it is:

The lady sits upon her throne of eggshells,

Reigning mistress in her house of glass.

She counts the missing courtiers one by one.

They bow and smiling, kiss her hand and pass.

 

And all the never whispered ooh's and aah's

Her jewelry of the finest dreams can buy.

Standing naked in her gown of wishes,

All who see her cover eyes, or sigh.

 

And all the knights in shining silver armor

Come a-courting, to her kneeling down.

Why always do they hide behind their visors?

For that, she would almost, she would almost...

 

Give up her nonexistent royal crown.


 

Uttter crap. Who am I to judge people's capacity for self-delusion? I pretended I had a marriage for years.

I keep thinking I'm hungry but that's probably just an effect of being a hole. I look at food and can't imagine what it would be like to eat it. I could probably quit smoking now.

I managed to work for about two hours. My voice started shaking on the phone and I had to stop. It was just a little shake. The customers probably didn't even notice how close they were to getting an earful of incoherent screaming about how they ruined my life or whatever.

For a couple of years now, I've been noticing people wearing suits and strolling happily from one high-rise to another downtown. I see them and I know that they make five to ten times what I make. I also know that whatever they do, I could do it better. Because I'm very, very good at a very, very great many things. But I don't get to. I see people with nice cars and houses and I can't understand how they got to have them. It's like there's some secret career lottery going on somewhere and they all drew winning tickets. I don't even know where to buy a ticket.

But seriously - take yer average bussness guy, and pluck him out of existence, replace him with me. What's yer job description? You a tech guy? Do programming or whatever? Don't make me laugh. I'd take over your responsibilities just for fun if I had the spare time. Do you manage others? I'm a mad managing motherfucker. I'll have employees working their asses off and liking it. I can spit out reports like there's no tomorrow. Executive? I can make your company work like a well-oiled machine. Rev it and hear it purr. I know what companies need to function cooperatively, productively, and competitively. Those are the kinds of things I am good at.

I am home from work now. I have two days off, which is good. Tomorrow rent is due. $250 of it was in a dresser that went to Spokane. I don't know if she'll send that money back. If our marriage was indeed measurable by cash value, then it couldn't have been worth more than $250. Maybe she'll see it as severance pay.

I just read her letter again. When you blow on it, a thin sheet of frost forms on the surface. It's an emotional and thermodynamic anomoly of some sort. I just can't figure it out. She wrote those things. To me. Utterly devoid of love or remorse or feeling. Maybe I'll store it in the freezer.

I got some mail. I'm getting old. According to the Social Security Administration, I have now earned enough in my lifetime to qualify for benefits. If I die this year, my ?-wife and child would each recieve $763 per month. Combined, this is more than I make at my job. I am literally worth more dead than alive.

Good timing, huh?

 - X

12/05/02

I woke up on my side of the bed today. Some years ago, when she might be out of town, I would sprawl across the whole bed when she was gone. Now I don't. I don't know what to do with the other half of the bed.

Ever read the personal ads? Sometimes I find them interesting. I used to read them to see what lonely people sounded like. I wasn't lonely, I was happily married. Smug superior bastard. Anyway, something I've noticed in personal ads are certain differences between "women seeking" and "men seeking" ads. Women will often mention that they are "HWP" and will drop phrases suggesting they are looking for someone who is "professional," "financially secure," or even "generous." Men never look for these qualities in women, though they occasionally use them to describe themselves. Read enough personal ads and the undertone sticks right out: men want pretty girls, women want rich men.

This is how women manage to find older men attractive. Sean Connery is still considered a sex symbol. Name one woman his age who's considered a sex symbol. As a man gets older, he's more likely to have money. His overall attractiveness actually increases, rather than decreases. It's in the personal ads again - women look for men their age and up, men look for women their age and down.

Speaking as a man becoming aware of his age, I must admit that's a pretty optimistic thought. However, the rest of me is disgusted. I thought that we as a society were supposed to be above that. Scratch the surface and relationships are little different than in the stone age.

I spent ten years with her. I am 34. I've spent almost as much time with her in my life as I have spent sleeping. There's an analogy in there somewhere, but I can't work it out right now.

Just keep writing. Writing keeps my thoughts linear.

One way of looking at my condition is that I may be said to be "free." Much in the same way that an unwanted pet left in the woods to die is "free."

Maybe the whole notion of getting married for life is just a romantic fantasy. Unnatural to the human condition. Marriage liscences should be written with a set expiration date. When the date's up you could renegotiate, renew or part, but you both get to know it's there from the start. No suprises. You get a chance to prepare for the possibility.

My daughter used to give me jump-hugs. When putting her to bed, she would stand in the far corner. I was to cry out "Colleen! Colleen! Where are you? Come home!" Then she would knock on a pretend door and I'd open it - "there you are! Did you bring me some jump hugs from the hug store?" She would nod, grinning like a maniac, then bounce on the bed and fly into my arms and we'd spin around, calling out "one!" Then start the next. Usually not more than six. I wish I knew the address of that jump-hug store. But I guess that's one of those secrets children keep.

My wife left me.

Question: who ever decided that I was the only one responsible for paying for us to survive? She may have goals in her life, but so did I. But I had to take the first crap job that showed up, because we had to take whatever we could get as soon as possible. I didn't get t hold out until something decent came along. Why couldn't I be the one who got to stay at home with our kid and she be the one who goes out and drudges for pennies? I can think of no valid reason to put it all on me. The way it worked was this: I slaved my ass off and she did what she felt like. And she's suprised we're dirt poor? She has the balls to point her finger at me for not making enough money? How much did she make?

Another for-the-record: when she stopped going to Spokane Falls Community College about six years ago, she was one class shy of an A.A. degree (Algebra 101). When she went to Portland Community College last year, she didn't take that class.

Don't cry to me about your goals, bitch.

Ooh, bitterness. I'll have to watch that. I dunno, maybe it's a good sign.

I'll go try to associate with humans now.

 - X

12/06/02

I did pretty good for a while today, I thought. I managed to be sociable with humans for most of the day. I made some conversation, made my face move and talk the way that humans do. Just when I thought I had the hang of it, we went to the Roxy for coffee. And at some point in there I suddenly felt so indescribably exhausted I could barely keep conscious. I think I scared everybody somewhat, for which I'm sorry. It probably looked pretty freaky from the third person, but it suddenly took every bit of effort I could muster just to pull the tendons and ligaments one by one in the slack-jawed, glassy-eyed puppet that my body had become.

I'd had coffee all day and had only been awake for like ten hours, but I was just so damned exhausted. Suddenly out of nowhere I could only manage a freakish zombie-like stagger, while making a face like the "Scream" painting. And deep inside my body I was struggling to control the extremities. Every physical motion felt like pulling giant pulley ropes just to move the arms and legs of the vast monstrous scary-faced puppet around me. Changing facial expressions from one of sheer existential terror wasn't even possible. But I could still see through its staring eyes. I could still see the frightened and alarmed looks on the faces of my dearest friends. I had to sit inside that body all the way home, seeing them look at me with constant fear and concern. And I couldn't make my body move. I couldn't make my face stop looking like it did. I couldn't make words. I tried so hard to tell them I was inside there and I was OK. I couldn't. I'm so sorry. The entire time, I was inside that body, perfectly conscious and rational, unable to speak or signal any emotion other than frozen horror. I just couldn't make my body or face change, or make words. It took a herculean exhausting effort just to manipulate the giant puppet limbs so that I could stagger home.

Normally when something like that happens to somebody, you figure there's at lest some (at least a little) amount of acting or fakery involved. Cry for help and all that. Most people I know who experience major drama, well they freak out in ways to creatively communicate just how bad they feel. It's perfectly natural. Which is why when that happened to me I kept trying to figure out which subconscious level was play-acting so I could get a grip and stop scaring my friends. But from everything I could tell it was entirely externally enforced. I couldn't get a grip on myself because it was just too exhausting to do so. Since when does focusing your eyes or speaking a word or maintaining a simple human expression on your face take so much effort? I wonder how many calories it burns just to refrain from looking shell-shocked for a day.

I wonder if I'll be able to do it again on a consistent basis. Act like a normal person, that is. It's harder than people think. I never knew how hard it was before. It's like lifting the entire world onto your shoulders.

Just talked to her mom about the $250 thing, asked her to pass a message. I can't figure out whether she sounded cold or sympathetic. Another problem is that the people up there will only see one side of the story, the people down here another. Which is really unfair to everyone when you think about it. The natural inclination is to take sides based on the information you have. People shouldn't have to do that. There are no sides. Just a big gaping chasm where my life used to be. And if my ?-wife is on one side of it then I'm at the bottom and I'm pretty positive that I don't have the strength to climb all the way out. It's a long, long, long way up.

After last night's little episode I keep thinking of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and how that place would be perfect for me right now. I understood it was based on a mental hospital around here somewhere. Too bad I don't have health insurance. But then again, if I had things like health insurance maybe she wouldn't have left me.

Ever wake up from a really pleasant dream, and try to go back to it but you can't? I dreamed that I had a family. My room looks pretty much like it did the day I met her - a big disorganized pile of crap - except now the bed is too big.

I've been fantasizing that somebody else will kill me. I can't do it. If I did, my daughter might grow up wondering why, which wouldn't be cool. I honestly don't know if my ?-wife would care. The person who wrote that letter wouldn't. So in my fantasy some mugger points a gun at me, demands something, whatever. And I'd be free to stick his gun barrel in my mouth, get on my kees, spread out my arms. Do it. Deliver me from evil.

The bitch of it is that if that did happen, he'd probably chicken out.

Keep writing.

I think I may have figured out how people get into emotional states of shock like this. People generate certain background assumptions and then place faith in them being there no matter what. This is my house. These are my parents and they take care of me. Then when you get burned out or orphaned, those background assumptions simply cease to be. And you can't function any more. That's how people ned up staggering around expressionless and eyes unfocused. Because the things they need to be true simply aren't any more.

When I was half the age I am now, I would view things as grand tragedies. Hold up a skull, cry woe is me and all that. Many if not most teens do that to some extent. I am more broken now than I could ever have imagined a person could be then. I can't exaggerate it one bit.

I have to go back to work tomorrow. I'm afraid to leave the apartment. If I go shellshocked at work, there might be complications. Like how to get me home or if I'd get in trouble for not taking calls because I'm just slumped in a chair drooling on myself. If I'm at home, I'd be OK. Out in the world, I don't know.

If she called me tomorrow and said she was sorry and wants to come back I couldn't take her. I'd want to, but I couldn't. I thought I could forgive her any error, mistake or peccadillo of behavior. I was unjustly proud of my sainthood and everything I put up with, patiently forgiving her and being there for her in my infinite grace, patience and mercy. I thought I could allow her anything because there was one single underlying trust: she would never leave me. And she broke it. She broke me.

I was never a saint. That was just a form of ego tripping.

This would be easier if I could lie to myself. I could say that I'm better off without her, or pretend she's on an extended vacation or even tell myself maybe we'll get back together someday. But I simply can't. Self delusion is now just another mental capacity of which I am no longer capable.

I can't imagine ever having sex again. After so long with just one person that person becomes sex for you. A huge belch followed by a cute giggle would give me a hard-on. Because she did that. And she was the only source of sex I've known for a decade. My brain has become rewired in that decade to no longer know how to respond to anything else but her.

I will have to watch out for the temptation to get all superior about my suffering. Couples bicker about petty things and I want to say "my wife just left me for no good reason. Be glad you can still fight your little fights." That could get annoying. There is nothing superior about pain.

I never did get to complain about how I felt (when I felt bad) to her. If I had a headache and mentioned it, she had a backache twice as bad. If I got too little sleep it would turn out she got less. Like it's a contest of misery one-upsmanship. Eventually I learned better than to ever talk about how I felt at all.

Earlier in our relationship I spent most of my time sympathizing with her for whatever felt wrong with her at the time. It never stopped, never ever slowed down, and I never got that kind of sympathy back. Everybody wants to hear "poor baby" sometimes. She wanted it 24/7. Eventually I stopped doing that too. I was all poor-baby'd out. And I figured that maybe if I eased up on it then maybe her litany of complaints would ease up too. Guess I figured wrong. Poor baby.

I told myself I was lucky to have her. Maybe I was wrong...

Some things about her she never grew out of. An elitist attitude about money she inherited from her parents. Like an underlying belief that good people always end up rich and poor people must somehow deserve to be that way. And an utter refusal to take on the responsibilities that grown-ups have to, like taking care of themselves and paying thier own way. Ultimately, she will do whatever it takes to be taken care of like an expensive pet. She was never willing to pick up and carry any weight in our marriage. And I could only carry so much.

She told me to take whatever job became available, no matter how lowly. And then she accused me of "settling."

Before, when she got too stressed out from being poor, she would go visit friends. All the time. For too much of the time I was either working or home with our daughter and no transportation or communication. Even when she took off to Mexico for a week with a friend. I didn't mind. What I minded was the insinuation that it was my fault. That I was the sole source of the poverty. Just another part of a life she didn't want. I guess I should be glad that she came around with our daughter, that in the end she wanted her even if she no longer wanted me. If she had left a year ago, I'm sure she would have left the kid too. They've been getting along better since then. Things are just my fault now.

She sometimes has a tendency to turn people into symbols of everything that ever went wrong while they were around. We used to have a roommate named Frank. We moved into a very expensive apartment and then Fank lost his job and didn't get another one for six months. It sucked, and we went broke pretty fast. We had to kick Frank out and move someone else in. To hear her tell it after that, Frank utterly destroyed our life. Everything that's gone wrong ever was all Frank's fault, that deadbeat. Never mind all the credit card bankruptcy we went through before we lived with him. And our failure to make any real gains after. In her mind the only reason we didn't live a life of luxury was because we supported Frank for half a year. She developed an unreasonably bitter hatred of him after that.

I'd like to say I hope she doesn't do that to me - rewrite history so that I come to represent everything she's failed to accomplish. But I know that she's already started to do that. She'll likely shift more and more blame to me for everything she's dissatisfied with until I become this vast symbol of failure in her mind. Then it can all be my fault her life isn't perfect. And it can keep being my fault for many years to come.

Here's a plain and simple fact: most folks don't get rich. Doesn't matter if they're good people or bad. Doesn't matter if they're smart and talented or complete idiots. Doesn't matter if they're hard workers or lazy. I have observed that poor people work much harder than rich ones, on average.

If one is not rich, then the greatest tragedy would be an inability to accept that fact. I have a strong feeling that she's going to have to face that tragedy when she finds out there's no such thing as happily ever after. I won't be there to say, "poor baby." That thought gives me no comfort.

Girlfriends I'd had before our marriage always ended up dumping me and breaking my heart. Boyfriends she'd had always ended up abusing her. I never abused her.

Marriages are co-dependent by definition. Getting married means you don't have your own life anymore - you share a life. You both get out what you both put in. You rely on each other until you can't do it alone any more.

Marriage is not an extended contract between john and whore. At least, it's not supposed to be. The fact that I didn't have enough money wasn't supposed to matter. By making it matter, she has effectively turned the last ten years of my life into one long "date" with a hooker. As soon as I could no longer pay up, she wadded her panties into her purse and walked back out into the night looking for the next job.

I think now that the concept of "love" has become overblown in our minds until it's supposed to mean far too much. If anything, love is an emotion like happy or mad or sad. It's a feeling that wells up when you look closely into someone's eyes and wonder at the fact that there's another soul in there looking back at you. We should feel free to have that with anybody instead of being afraid of it or expecting it to mean anything else. People should be able to love each other, really love each other even if it's just a one-night stand. It's just an emotion. Emotions pass. Just because you share a feeling with someone shouldn't mean you should have to either run away or spend the rest of your life with that person. People shouldn't have to need each other. I don't want to need her. I want to stop needing her. I need her. Fuck.

I don't have to scream like my heart is broken. Fortunately, I have Trent Reznor to do that for me. He's quite good at it. In the ancient world, one could hire professional mourners to wail and cry at a relative's funeral. Now we have depressive alternaGoth music.

Before, when I used to get dumped by girlfriends, I couldn't listen to music because it all reminded me of "her" or at least reminded me of my situation. Maybe it has something to do with my age, or maybe this time my tragedy is of a much greater order of magnitude, but I don't mind depressing, heartbreaky music at all. Doesn't even put a ripple in this ocean of hurt. It's placid down here right now.

Trent is telling me he won't let me fall apart. That's comforting.

Generally, people trying to cheer me up is like bailing out the ocean with an eyedropper. Anything that might affect my internal situation can't affect it much. The only things that can break me are in here with me. But any other gestures or ideas are pretty much wasted on me. I don't want to seem ungrateful for others' attempts to help, though. Maybe I could lie. However lying, like speaking, maintaining a facial expression, focusing my eyes on one point, or flailing my limbs, takes an enormous amount of effort just now. I'm just a horror puppet laying here listening to NIN and scribbling in a notebook.

This little journal from hell is useful for one thing, at least (aside from keeping me alive). I can let my friends read it. They're all about being here for me, so the least I can do is let them see what's going on inside. But I can't speak feelings. Even before I broke I had a hard time talking much about things like - well, anything too personal, really. So I can write it here and then give it to my people so they can vaguely understand what's going on inside the horror-puppet creature they live with. News bulletins from the bottom of the hole. Weather report says still dark down in the existential void, stay tuned for updates!

Hey, I can still make jokes, motherfuckers. There's hope for me yet. I know what this thing looks like, but I'm still inside here. I'm still Bruce down here. Please don't give up on me.

They read it. Then they looked at me. I guess the horror mask I wear is even worse than I thought. This is like being the guest of honor at a funeral.

Maybe I should hire a bunch of gothy street kids to mourn and wail for me. We could have a funeral for my marriage. I can see the procession now: marching past Pioneer Courthouse Square carrying a box full of credit card bills. We bury the box six feet deep in front of motherfucking Sak's Fifth Avenue while a priest consecrates the site so it don't rise from its unholy tomb. That might make me crack a smile.

In the other room the television is playing a show called "Joe Millionaire." It's a contest featuring lots of shallow women who want to marry a supposedly rich man. I can't watch that shit. For some reason it really pisses me off. I wonder if any (rather, how many) of these women dumped their boyfriends to get on the show. I hope the winner gets to marry a wood chipper. Face first. You may now kiss the bride...

I still have to work tomorrow. Wish me luck. In olden days they'd send a special van with white-jacketed guys to whisk you away to a quiet place where they gave you drugs. Now it's a regular ambulance and they probably check for insurance halfway to the hospital, leave you in a ditch if you're just indigent insane. Go, Republicans. Hope I can keep it together for one whole day. Or they pick me out a nice comfy ditch.

Maybe I won't be able to quit smoking after all.

 - X

12/07/02

Woke up this morning with an erection. Not about anything in particular, just one of those waking-up blood-circulation things. At least part of me has hope. But my dick isn't very smart anyways.

Well, she has the kid but at least I got to keep custody of Portland. It's sunny today. The Portlandia statue is up on her perch, poised, waiting to spear a fat juicy human from the street below. I never walk in front of that building.

The world seems to be trying to tell me that life is good. I'll play along for now. I have to get through work.

I found this notebook amongst the unwanted things left in my room. Much of it is full of lists (she liked to make lists) and drawings of kitties with wings (my daughter the artist). It also includes the following:

I take a look at my life and wonder

Have I ever been truly happy?

I look at my grade school years and see

People picking on me, teasing me everywhere I go.

I look at my high school years and wonder

How the hell did I ever get through?

I finally made friends but most of them weren't true

I got myself into a load of trouble too.

Now I look at my life as an adult and wonder

How will I ever make it through?

My marriage is a shambles, and my daughter's behavior is frightful.

And I don't know if rent's going to be on time.

Just going to say, I desperately hope her life goal isn't becoming a poet. Perhaps it's petty of me to copy that in here. But it's relevant. And it's only fair to give a bit of the other side of the story, right? Right?

I tried to make her happy, at least for a while. Then I tried telling her that when it gets right down to it, no one can make you happy but yourself. I wonder how many self-fulfilling prophecies are in that poem? At least one. She wasn't happy (had never been happy, apparently) so she destroyed me. Who's going to make me happy? Poor baby, aww...

Food had never bean issue, until her letter. The child was well fed; I know this, because I would die first, and also pediatricians measured that stuff and said the kid was cool. I don't know why she cited her own body dysmorphia to dissolve our marriage, but there it is. She alleged that I could not feed my child, or her. I don't know how to begin to respond to that flavor of crazy.

The medical definition of "shock" is that the blood retreats from the extremities and skin surface; those capillaries constrict, reserving blood flow for the internal organs and brain. This increases chance of survival in cases of extreme trauma. I fell cold all the time now. I used to be one of those people who naturally generated a lot of body heat. I don't any more. There was something contagious in her letter.

Just noticed that there's no discernable structure to this whatsoever. Damn thing jumps around like a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Sorry.

I wish I could say I felt pain. Or angst, sorrow, bitterness, hatred, any of that. Any kind of emotion would be better than this void. If I could say that I hate my life, that would at least be a start. Something to build a new life on.

It's not that I don't care. If I didn't care, then I wouldn't be this way. I just can't feel. Is this another of those self-delusional self-fulfilling prophecies? Maybe I'm pretending to be heartless until it comes true and then I'll be enough of an asshole not to care about things like this. I sure hope not. I've always thought there is no greater hell than being an asshole. That's how the universe metes justice by default. I know that if I filled the Bruce-shaped hole with asshole I'd at least be functional. I might even end up "financially secure."

I still have two and half hours to go and I'm starting to feel that exhaustion. Keep yer fingers crossed... fuck. Get off the call, go on break keep writing. Perform a thorough emotional autopsy. Feels like a ten-ton wet blanket dropped on me. Don't go comatose. I think my legs are falling asleep. Keep telling myself I have no way to get home. I feel the individual muscles of my face going slack like rotten meat sliding off my skull and putting them back in place is like powerlifting. I can do this. I can be human. At 9pm I get to put this soul down. It's so fucking heavy. Two more h

Home now. Made it. Not sure if the word "home" really applies to me any more though. Doesn't look right on the page.

This would make a terrific stand-up routine. I shuffle out on stage, face blank, eyes far gone, and in my dead voice utter into the mic "my wife left me." Some of the audience would laugh, since this is so out-of-place for a comedian and I could bark back "FUCK you!" Then go on about what's happened to me since until the whole audience is left white as a sheet, wondering what the hell happened, what went wrong, how did they get there? Out for an evening's amusement and end up hit head on by my Mack truck of trauma. Andy Kaufman would laugh his ass off at that one.

I hope she gets everything she ever wanted. I hope she wins on "Joe Millionaire." The only way she'll ever discover that she can make herself happy would be to get wealthy and find out it's not there.

She would never listen to me about anything. This started way back. I'd try to help her grasp algebra (for instance) and she wouldn't get it no matter how many different ways I patiently explained it. Let anybody else tell her the same thing and she'd suddenly get it. Even if they used the exact same words. This may seem like a minor quibble, but sometimes the things I had to tell her were important. Like how we can get through this as long as we still have each other.

If I let myself become replaced by anger, I become an asshole, OK. What if I replace myself with mad driving ambition for "success" like I was always supposed to have? Maybe I could be a go-getter where you can hear the urgent desperation in my voice 'cuz I have to make this sale so I can prove something to the ex-wife. Uck. Better to be an asshole. They get all the chicks.

My innately aesthetic temperament wouldn't let my try to get away with either, though. Those are the personality equivalents of "dogs playing poker" on velvet.

It's not every day that one gets the opportunity to create a personality from scratch. Most people don't ever get to. I have no past. The last ten years of my existence have left me right back at square zero. There will be a future, whether I choose to shape it or not. That's what the wisdom place tells me. If I don't choose, it'll suck, guaranteed. I need a plan. Blueprints for a new Bruce, model II.

The new me needs to be: Open, saying what he feels, having the words to express himself, never biting down on his beliefs. Expressive, using as many possible methods of word, expression and gesture to connect with people. Sometimes a little bit selfish - don't hide my wants and needs. Sometimes a little bit angry - let people know what I care about. Proactive - plan my life from today on and work at that plan for me. Just for me. These are the things that model I was deficient in. But I mustn't go overboard. Keep the good qualities, add the new ones and use them as tools in my personality arsenal. Don't let opposing qualities water each other out.

Sigh... And talking to myself like a fucking cheerleader isn't going to do shit. This isn't the emotional Special Olympics. Or is it?

First task: get some sleep. Next task: make it through tomorrow. "You're a winner every day!" Gah. Give me Nine Inch Nails any day of the week.

So. I'm a pet left in the woods, still choking on the exhaust fumes of the family I loved as they drive away and don't look back. Now I'm beginning to realize that now I have to figure out how to catch field mice.

First I need to sleep. I don't have to be human when I'm asleep.

 - X

12/08/02

From this bus stop, I see kindergarteners running endlessly around a field. I want to be one of them. I have a feeling that when I was a kid, colors were brighter, smells and flavors and sensations more vivid. In my memories of childhood, everything was richer and more vibrant. Especially emotions.

I want to start over. I want to go back to being a little kid. Let the world be giant around me, a vast churning source of fragmentary little joys and tragedies, all easily forgotten. The future is always now.

She wanted to go back to being a child too, I think. So somebody else could take care of all grownup responsibilities for her. I know better than to wish for that. I just want to run and play and wonder.

Countless people live with anguish every day. I am not more special than any of them. My inability to deal with it is therefore not due to any unique magnitude of suffering, but must rather be reflective of some weakness in myself. It must have always been there, this weakness. I just never knew it because I never got hurt this way before. Oh, I've been dumped and heartbroken numberous times before. I already knew about pain. But all that was ultimately manageable, whatever I told myself for self-pity purposes. What I'm talking about this time is the emotional/mental/physical shutdown thing. I cannot locate the part inside me that makes it happen. It just happens to me.

I wonder if there's a name for it - a specific psychological syndrome that's called. Not just "catatonia" but whatever makes it happen. Good thing I don't drive. If I were behind the wheel when Captain Coma comes to visit, well, that could be bad.

Other than that part of it the rest is just a regular old mountain of anguish. Grab a shovel and get to work.

Somehow I will have to cure myself. I have always helf that psychological problems are best cured by the sufferers themselves. Unless it's a specific chemical problem involving impaired brain function, it stems from some part of your mind. Not that the insane should be blamed for their condition, but rather that they're their own best hope. Nurse Ratched understood this, I think. Accordingly, I have endeavored my whole life to plumbing my own psychological depths, seeing what's there and then integrating it into my conscious personality. Fuse all the disparate parts into a seamless whole, so that no part of myself is hidden from the revealing light of reason. The true meaning of "integrity." Maybe I would have been better off if I hadn't done that. Maybe then some part of me would have survived.

This kind of identity crisis (who to become) is common with teens. I could maybe pretend to be who I want to become and act it out until there's no discernable difference. But if I grow my new personality from the outside in, that might still leave a hole. Ultimately, I would still just be a hole pretending to be a person. I'm going to have to grow something from the inside out too. I just don't have any seeds to plant.

What about faith? Could I now bring myself to believe in some god or pantheon? Nietzche said that it is only when we've come face to face with the utter void of existence that we are truly capable of making that kind of blind leap. Well, here I am and I don't know which way to jump.

Maybe I should get laid. Not that I have any idea who would want to throw a pity fuck to a damaged headcase like myself. Maybe there's a charitable organization out there for that. I should go fill out an application.

Another thing that has changed in me over time - I have become less and less impressed with myself since I was younger. I used to be proud to be brilliant. Gradually I started to hide it. I became ashamed of it because ever since I was a kid, people constantly scolded me for "not living up to my potential." All through my life I've been overshadowed by that potential. So if I pretend to be kind of stupid in most ways then maybe they'll stop expecting me to do great things in the world. Because I don't know how to do great things in the world.

She left me for not living up to my potential.

I want to go tell everybody in the world that I love them. Random people on the street. Everyone at work. Just walk up and say "I love you" to each, one by one. Maybe that way love wouldn't be such a big deal. Spread it around, spread it thin. Maybe it wouldn't matter so much if they all don't love me back. I don't expect them to. But all that would do is freak people out unnecessarily.

Sometimes I twitch now. Random muscles in my body and face decide to quit cooperating with the rest of me, they're going off to do their own thing. I can't really blame them. I'm not much fun to be a part of. That's the worst part: I can't control how the various parts of my body move. All I can do is try to keep it a "twitch" when it wants to be a "seizure."

I cannot begin to describe the profound degree to which I don't want to be here listening to spoiled people whine about their luxury toys. I want to be in my room snuggled under the covers with someone who loves me. Might as well wish for the moon. I'd like the moon. Can I have the moon...?

I remember that when people I've known have been through breakups before I usually advised them to work on themselves before hooking up again. Learn to have your own life first. I should listen to that. Most of the people I told that to never did.

Just caught my reflection in a window and was suddenly suprised by how much I resemble my father. Drop a few pounds, put on some glasses and I'm him. Already lost the family. Might as well start doing hardcore drugs.

I should call my mom. I wonder if she knows. I forgot her number.

I would also like to talk to Gary and Holly and Karl and Dan and Shuvi and Soup and Ryan and other friends who haven't heard from me in some time. Their phone numbers were in the computer. She has them. I can't call her.

If she hadn't left me with roommates I'd be totally cut off from the world. I wish I had a way to express how thankful I am to have them around right now. I wish I could make my face do human things and make human words at them. But I'm still a shambling horror-faced zombie thing that works at a call center.

and
I'm still cold all the time. Like I caught some thermodynamic virus from her letter. Sometimes when I walk by people and they smile at me I can twitch the sides of my face, sort of. I don't know if it looks like a smile or is just scary. I don't want to know.

Perhaps in a way I have turned into my father. He never seemed to have any ambition beyond experiencing life and enjoying the moment. I can't fault him for that. And right now it seems that being able to experience and enjoy life again is the highest aspiration I could have. And the most difficult to achieve.

OK, I read that back and think "this guy really needs to get laid." Ha.

Right now I'm practically exploding with this weird nervous energy that tastes like unfocused rage. I can use that to make it through work. I want to hunt something. I want to tackle it, get my teeth around its throat, rip it to shreds, fuck it and eat it raw. Grr! Grr! OK, I'm going to take "supervisor" calls now.

Enough with being philosophical. I've done that shit my whole adult life and it's gotten me nowhere. I want to be an animal now. Hunt them field mice. I know this feeling is temporary. It would be foolish of me to think I'm healed already. There are more shoes yet to drop. But right now I do feel. It's a frustrated, pent-up evil and violent kind of feeling, but it is a feeling. That's an immense improvement over the cold wastelands of nothing.

What troubles me is that I know I really want to kill, fuck and consume her. Whatever.

This is starting to get out of hand. In a way it's almost as bad, almost as uncontrollable as the catatonia thing. Feels like sparks coming off me. Like I'm pacing in a cage. I'm ready to go all serial killer on anyone. This is probably just testosterone backing up. Grr. I wonder where you can order a rare steak with a vagina. Scratch that, I don't want to know. Yes I do. I have to get off these phones. If you've got issues with your cell phone service, I am the last person you want to talk to right now. Grr.

How much trouble would I get into if I started howling at work?

On the bus now. Still feeling the feeling. If I can get a grip on it then maybe I can leverage it to get a grip on my behavior. This is *kundalini.* Pure divine power. Like riding a tiger, I'm told. I'm not even talking about the tempered steel-bar boner that's been marching around proudly in front of me all day. No, I'm talking about the plucked string vibrating wave of pure energy that fills the rest of my entire being from head to toe. OK, also, the boner.

Nick vanished from work today. I swear that boy's more delicate than a pretty little butterfly. Getting h im to work a full shift is like pulling teeth. Also, I'd really like someone with me on the 3-transfer bus ride home so I don't accidentally wind up in an institution. [ed note: Nick was sent home early because of downtime.]

I will have to ask what rituals have been performed on my behalf. I know my friends did some, but I've pretended not to notice. I don't necessarily believe in that kind of thing, but it would help to know so I can keep track of things going on inside and around me. It's gotten bad enough that my friends are doing rituals to keep me going. That can't be good. Generally, rituals of any kind are really for the benefit (or to the detriment) of those doing them. For example, funerals are for the living. I'm so bad off that the living are performing magic fucking spells to keep me alive. But I used to be capable of determining the root causes of my emotional states. Now I can't. That alone would make me willing to believe in just about anything. I can at least apply a process of elimination. I notice that I write in short, direct sentences a lot. Didn't used to. My sentences used to be very complicated. Not now.

What's the difference between being self-aware and just being self-conscious?

Oh fuck you, you pretentious piece of shit. You see anybody else in this college-rule notebook? This is soon-to-be garbage, and you're getting thrown out with it. FUCKING DIE ALREADY. I swear to God, if I find you, I'll kill you myself. But I can't see you anywhere.

This might be a good point to remind myself not to be afraid of becoming a new person. it is possible I could develop a fear of success in this endeavor. I might be concerned that others who know what I used to be like will be alarmed if I totally change. I might get used to getting extra sympathy and concern for staying damaged, grow to depend on it. I must avoid those. I must learn to smile in a way that doesn't frighten others. Laugh and not sound panicked. Talk to people without sounding like I'm making a smartass comment.

"Home." Might as well write. I can eat, but there's nothing to kill and fuck, so maybe I'm not that hungry after all. People are watching the TV. I don't want to become a TV watcher, so I'll just hide in my room.

Grr. Bored. Caged. I'd kill and fuck this bowl of rice but my room's enough of a mess as it is. Accidentally almost started transcribing NIN lyrics into the middle of that last sentence: "nothing can stop me now, 'cause I don't care anymore." Good mantra. Must remember that. I'm starting to get tired. But I still have this energy. It's just that it's wearing me out. Burning this candle right down. I need to stick my dick into something that screams.

I hope I'm not becoming bipolar. I'm not even attracted to polar bears, of either gender. Laugh, goddamn you. Tired.

Ooh, look, words on paper. Why don't they make sense? Stop writing

12/09/02

I want to kick my feet and scream that it's not fair. But everybody knows there ain't no such thing as fair.

It would be nice to have something else to write about at this point besides myself. That's getting kind of boring. But I can't help but be boring. Work, eat, sleep, repeat until dead. That's the wheel I'm chained to.

I seem to have gained a mystical power to depress the hell out of people at will. People say the strangest things to me when they find out what happened. "Well... good luck." Luck doesn't exist for me. Nature abbhors a vacuum. I'm going to implode. Bringing people down really brings me down. Maybe if I could make people happy I'd be happy. I don't remember what happy felt like.

99% of the world toils and sleeps and does without anything more than the minimum necessary to support life. What right has anyone to expect to be part of the lucky 1%? The only joys that most of the world get to experience are the ones money can't buy. Like being loved. Or so I thought until I discovered that had a price tag too. I believe now that the expectation that you will be loved forever is itself a luxury, only affordable to the well-off. If one lives a life of ease, then there's less pressure on the marriage and then one can place trust in it. But that's just a supposition. I don't really know what their lives are like. I guess I never really knew what my life was like. I wonder what it's like to live.

I'm cold again today. I have to take calls. Have to.

I must keep writing. Lance the wound, leech the poison. I don't want to write here that I can already tell I'm going to go zombie at some point. I know about self-fulfilling prophecies. If I write it then I'm actively participating in my own breakdown. I don't want to make an enemy of myself because I know how dangerous I can be.


Once upon a time there was a princess locked way up high in the tallest tower of the castle. She cried all the time and wished every day that a knight in shining armor would come to take her away to a place where she could be happy. Finally one day, a young man out to seek his fortune stole into the castle, braved its dangers and rescued her from imprisonment. This being a feudal economy, they wound up (after much wandering) living in a hovel made of mud and straw, and toiled in the dirt all day just to live on their nightly little pot of gruel. Eventually, the princess ran back to her tall tower. Bitch never stopped crying the whole time. The moral of the story: princesses are overrated.

The rage and the cold nothingness have fused together, not that that makes any sense. Cold rage, empty negative energy. Bad.

I never used to get lonely. Raised an only child in a single-parent household, I have always been comfortable being by myself for any length of time. But now I'm not here any more to keep myself company. So I guess I've never really felt true loneliness before now. It's not good, but it's still not the worst of my problems.

I stutter in my thoughts. Not in my speech (yet) but then again I still don't speak much. Watching people try feebly to react to the nightmare that comes out of my mouth makes me guilty. But when I think words they get stuck on a syllable in my head. My surface thoughts have been digitally remixed.

Nick got sent home early again. I can make it through today. If you keep telling yourself something it comes true, doesn't it? "Our marriage is a shambles." I will get through.

Take a chainsaw and carve my way through the mountain of pain and the cold and the rage and the weariness coming down on me like an avalanche of wet noodles. Don't stop until I reach the end of the workday. On second thought, it's probably a good thing I don't have a chainsaw right now.

Ultimately it doesn't matter whether I'm on the phones or off them, at work, at home or somewhere in between. This maelstrom goes where I do.

Please don't lose it. Can you beg yourself for something? I need to not get fired. I need to not get evicted. I can't take not being homeless and starving for granted. Many times during my "marriage" I have told myself that things can't get any worse. That it's all uphill from here. Look where I am now. No matter how bad things are, they can get worse, at least until I die. I can never afford to take anything for granted ever again. Not even that I will be in love with the same person for the rest of my life. Not even that I am a husband and a father. Not anything.

To do list:

Take off my ring

Start crying

Feel something

Heal

Live

I'll get around to these eventually. I guess I'm procrastinating again.

Rituals are for those who do them. I should do a ritual of some sort. Like order some jump-hugs from the hug store. But with my luck they'd probably send over some 300 pound hairy guy to deliver them. Not that I can afford them any more anyways.

We always cry when little children have horrible things happen to them. We really shouldn't. Children are far more adaptable. They have never been given reason to expect more than whatever life hands them. I'm a grown man. Nobody cries for me when my life gets shattered. We got bad PR.

I missed my stop for the bus transfer, so I get to take the MAX. I'll probably get home eventually. Starting to implode. Captain Coma awaa

I have no idea how I made it home. Been phasing in and out of existence like a TV with crap reception.

I guess everything I've written here can be boiled down to nothing more than two words: life sucks. The ground state of the universe is "suck." All beauty, joy, love and pleasure we have to create ourselves. And if we stop re-making it fresh every moment, if we just let it slide and take it for granted, then it's liable to slide back to sucking at any and every moment. And so what if the good things are illusions, are just lies we told ourselves? That's all we get. That's all there is. It has to be good enough.

I used to think that existence - my subjective existence, all the universe I know - was an inexplicable miracle. That the simple fact that I exist in the here and now is the causal root upon which all else depends. Now I know that the continued existence of the self is an act of will. I know this because recently I've only been able to keep the most tenuous grasp on that act of will. When it slips, there is no me for a little while, and by extension, no universe.

Once I learn (or strengthen myself sufficiently) to maintain that grasp again, then building a new life will thus be a process of extending that act of will out around me to create the things I need: beauty, joy, love and pleasure. Because without them, the universe might as well not exist anyway.

 - X

12/10/02

Today I got paid. Since the rent was late already, if we didn't have it in today, we'd be evicted. Nick was short again. I didn't have any extra to cover him. He managed to borrow some money from a friend, so the net effect was that we were just very late for work. I have found that I have an extremely diminished capacity to handle stress. I just can't deal well at all with stressful situations anymore. Give me a little poke and all my scabs start bleeding. I can't be the responsible one around here any more. I can't.

I was watching an infant make instinctive sucking faces earlier today and it occurred to me that maybe that's where kissing comes from. We still have a deep instinct to pucker up our lips and press them against the source of our desire. Because if you think about it from a purely objective standpoint, kissing's pretty stupid. God, I miss it.

I think I'm feeling OK today. Don't have much to write about, which is probably a good sign. I must look almost normal too since people around work don't seem to be reacting too strangely to my face and voice.

Should I overcompensate? Should I throw my ring in the Willamette, get stinking drunk and force myself to party and smile 'til I can't take that anymore either? Maybe it would help to declare my mourning over and push myself as hard as I can in the opposite direction. Of course, I'd inevitably snap back, but maybe I could find some middle ground faster that way.

I need a new job. Right now I don't care if it's not a "real" job, I just could use a shorter commute, a change of pace and a new set of acquaintances. Maybe I could end up with a "real" job while I'm at it, if I got lucky. God knows I should have some luck coming my way one of these days. The trick is to keep your eyes open.

If I'm ever going to get "involved" again, it occurs to me that what I could really use is a woman who's as fucked up as I now am; one who wants to be abused as much as I now want to abuse somebody. Unfortunately, the only woman I know who fits that description is the one who left me.

Oh yeah - she sent the $250. Along with the following note:

Bruce~

Didn't know this was in the dresser until I got up here. If I'd known, it never would have left Portland.

Karin

I suppose it should make me happy, but it doesn't. The note reminds me of the letter. Cold. Frozen arctic wasteland of bone-chilling cold. I guess they're cold not so much because of what they say as what they don't say. Makes sense. Cold is an absence of warmth, as darkness is an absence of light. None of the things that I need to hear are there.

Tonight, I took off my ring. I won't be putting it back on. Even if I wanted to, I don't think I'll be able to. It would hurt even more to take any backward steps at this point. I don't know what to do with it. I hung it on a little crescent-moon pendant hanging on the wall in my room.

Whenever I look at my left hand all of the pretense that I'm not a hole drops right away. This false front melts away and leaves nothing but a cutout in the universe in the exact size and shape of a Bruce. Behind that cutout is an endless landscape of frozen, howling fury and void. I guess the ring held it back a little. Its absence reminds me of what I've lost as much as its presence ever reminded me of what I had.

I guess our marriage wasn't even worth $250 to her after all. "Together forever" or your money back. Like the ring, I don't know what to do with the money either. I feel like Judas looking at his 30 pieces of silver and realizing that's the price of his soul. At least Judas had the balls to return it and go hang himself. I'm not going to hang myself, so I guess it'll go towards some bills. Still feels dirty keeping it. But I guess she would've felt the same way. Then again, I can't guess about her feelings or even if she has them, anymore.

I suppose I can do whatever I want now. All I lack is means or desire. Hey, I am now condemned to be free; I wonder if Jean-Paul Sartre was a divorcée? That would explain a lot.

If she is trying to work on "her own goals" (which I suspect is unlikely) then maybe I should make some and work on them too. Like life-type goals. Other than marriage/parenthood of course. I'll need to stop being a basket case first. And eventually I'll probably have some role in Colleen's life again. I just need a game plan. Maybe if she can achieve something by herself and I can achieve something by myself, then this breakup will have a silver lining. Maybe even enough justification that I could someday admit it was a good idea though I didn't see it at the time. Maybe we were holding each other back. I'm not yet a big enough person to throw much weight behind that idea, but I'll bear it in mind down the road...

Fuck. Fucking fuckity shit fuck fuck fuck. I wish I could just drop a thought, just turn my mind away and avoid following a path of reasoning to its inevitable conclusion. Because I just realized: that is exactly what I will have to do. I am going to have to fill this Bruce-shaped hole by building a life that's better than our life together ever was. I am going to have to - somehow - become stable and happy in myself, and define what that means for me. So I can forgive her. So I can someday say to her "you did the right thing for both of us." I know now that this is the only way I could ever be whole again.

The fuck of it is, I don't want to. The world is full of total pricks who get to be vindictive and I still don't get to join their ranks! I want to scream "FUCK YOU BITCH" and spit on her and hit her and say things that make her feel like shit. And I want to feel better because of it. I deserve to be an asshole about this! For once in my misbegotten life I righteously deserve to be a complete asshole!

But I still don't get to. Because if I go that route, this hole will always be in me, will never be filled.

Shit. Maybe I am a saint after all.

Fucking cunt. I love you. I love you so much, you bitch fuck cunt. I hate you. I've always loved you. I always will. I finally hate you too.

Now I can cry

12/11/02

Well, I cried last night. I bawled and sobbed great gushing tears and snot, I did. And then I smiled and laughed at myself, justly proud of this accomplishment: I haven't cried like that since I was a child. Now I know - not just tell myself, but really know - that I'm going to be alright. I can just feel the lip of that chasm with my fingertips.

I went down to the public library to type this journal into a webpage today. I'm doing that now. There are friends out there who want to know what's become of me, and this is the only way I can explain it to them. I know some of the details are a bit sordid, and this includes personal communications from her to me and such, but dammit, I claim copyright to my own life. I can't afford to keep my feelings private anymore. That's probably a big part of what got me into this mess in the first place.

So: Here is my heart, raw and exposed. I will keep it hidden no longer. I've made that mistake for far too long already.

I love you all,

 - Bruce

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