Hacking at the Root

An admission to myself

Often devoid of credit, but the desire for credit

Must be the greatest admission of all—how small

 

See the bases get covered,

The circular logic spinning itself

As if I didn’t pay the pattern maker

 

A seemingly impenetrable barrier

Of laundered and distressed awareness:

Too clean to recognize, but too dirty for display

 

The willingness to understand

Suppressed

By the thirst to be understood

 

How often can I arrive late to my own sluggish conclusions?

Before the invitations, themselves

Return to an oblivious sender?

 

You hear my alarm as if I remembered to remember

As if the memories were available

As if availability was there when I needed it 

 

I was doing a lot less coke.  And the cleaner I got, the clearer I began to think.  I was still restless at night, scribbling in my notebook, but the verse actually seemed to be darkening.  Something was happening to me in increments, something that I wouldn’t have noticed had I been using; because I’d always assumed that the drug taking had darkened me.  But now that I was cleaning up, I was remembering that I wasn’t too cheery to begin with, so maybe the drugs weren’t the core issue.  Perhaps they were a distraction—or more pointedly, a symptom.  And I could buy nasal spray or whatever to manage the management, but clearly there was something inside me that required more effective handling.  Psychological shrubbery grown wild, the leaves of which I’d been hacking away at when I should’ve been hacking at the root.

There’s a scene in a film called The Salton Sea that opens with a tracking shot of a drug den.  It’s a group binge, the participants clearly enthralled, oblivious of anything beyond those walls.  Then the drugs run out.  Two are elected to go score, and as they head for the door one of them asks the time.  “Twelve,” says the other.  That means midnight, we assume, but then the door opens, daylight floods the room, and everyone recoils in horror.  That it’s noon doesn’t jar anyone.  It’s only the light—a literal assault on unadjusted eyes, but we get a metaphoric sense as well.  Light is the unwelcome reminder of the world out there.

I used to go to these parties all the time.  The only difference was that I was being paid, which provided a tidy excuse.  If you’re using regularly, you’re probably spending a lot more on drugs than you’d care to calculate.  You’re going out more and staying out later.  Eating, sleeping and exercise habits are being compromised.  You’re drinking more and smoking more cigs.  You’re talking more, listening less.  The only voices you really hear are the ones inside your head, and those voices are lying to you.

I remember one night at the restaurant, shortly after I’d moved back east.  It was a particularly busy shift and I was struggling to keep up.  Certain servers—I couldn’t tell which ones—were making it harder on me.  When I was watching, they’d do their jobs: placing the forks and spoons in the appropriate cradles to soak, the plates in the bus tub, rubbish in the trash bin, discards in the compost.  But when my back was turned, some would leave messes for me to disassemble: silverware, napkins, doilies, chicken bones—all jumbled together on shakily-stacked plates.  The few seconds this saved them clearly outweighed any guilt.  Sure, they weren’t dealing drugs.  They weren’t dropping bombs or selling bogus derivatives on Wall Street, but that’s my point.  We’re all for snuffing out insidiousness wherever it lurks, but we often overlook mindlessness and its cumulative effects.  That’s how it was for me: a slow accumulation of rationalizations and transgressions, and I see it everywhere now.  How often, and easily, convenience wins out over conscience, image over integrity.  This notion that you’re getting away with something—it’s like being holed up in a room.  It’s like hiding from the light.

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