“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”
— Ernest Hemingway
I sat at the hospital a few days ago with my friend, Anthony. Anthony’s a writer too, and a damn good one. Nine stories above us the nurses were using a strobe light to cause my wife to hyperventilate and suffer a seizure. I was happy to have Anthony visit to distract me from my dismay. I’m currently sitting in an old farmhouse with a window down, listening to crickets and cicadas sing their evening songs as I think about the past few weeks in the hospital. It was strange to be on the outside of the hospital bed. It’s far worse to be estranged from the illness causing my loved one to suffer, rather than being the afflicted, as I normally am.
The hospital room smelled like a wet mop, and it made writing and concentrating difficult. So, rather than write, I used my free time to read and think. When Anthony and I were speaking we lamented our inability to write well without a few rounds in us. We admitted that it was a silly cliche’, but we confessed our vice nonetheless. We know we can write just as well sober, at least we think we can. I’m writing this sober, if that’s any indication. If it reads like garbage, I’ll have proved my psychosomatic hypothesis correct. I know I should find another way to confront the past, but a solid beer seems the best remedy at times. I really should try finding another way.
At times I try to focus on the silly juvenile things, hiding whatever memory I can’t shake behind jokes of pizza and punk rock, horror movies and comic books. In Portland, I’d wonder through the streets at night, smoking on cigarettes, trying my best to hold on to the past. I’d ride the train through the night and try to convince myself that I belonged safely stowed away in some religious group with all the answers. I tried to see Jesus in the smoke and bitter aftertaste of bourbon and beer – never saw anything but juvenile indoctrination behind those lines.
Back in the hospital I made my way through a book of short stories by Ernest Hemingway. That guy was a complete fuck up. He feels a lot like a long lost brother. I knocked out another Vonnegut novel. If ever I were to have the atypical wise old mentor – it would be him. He was able to say “shit, I don’t know,” more eloquently than anyone I’ve ever read. I imagine I’ll have a lot to write about, a lot of things to say in my work. Don’t let me fool you, I’m really saying, “shit, I don’t know.”