Archive for August, 2019

Thoughts on David Berman

August 8, 2019

When I was a child I had a fear the struck me cold at times, choked me silent and made my skin rise on my arms. The fear was so great that I was frightened to speak of it out loud because perhaps, if I allowed the fear to take flight from my throat and into the air then it would breath the untold into life. So, I kept silent until the nightmares would grab me in my slumber and throttle me, I would awake in tears, my body trembling and run into my mother’s bed. “Mom, I dreamed the devil was after me, he is trying to possess me.” This fear stayed with me for years, from the age of ten until I was thirteen I was scared to sleep alone, and there were many times I would take my blanket and mushed up pillow and crawl down the hallway and fall asleep next to my mother’s door.

My father fed into this fear with his chilling brand of Catholicism that consisted of more dollops of hate than love; it took me some time to shake his words from my mind. To realize that sometimes, the lives of the father-the words of the father are not be given credence, that, perhaps they are just plain fucking wrong. It was an embarrassing fear, for who would believe in the devil and why would speaking of something bring it into being? It was hidden, when I told people who I trusted they would laugh at it all the while it felt true for me.

Later in life when alcohol started to steer my life in subtle ways, tiny rivers of control the bent me toward the bottle and formed watery cracks in my relationships the admittance of feeling betrayed by something that had only offered me acceptance was something that seemed impossible to do. Alcohol was as solid in my life as anything I had ever known. Meanwhile my life collapsed by degrees inside of me, the walls were breaking off by bits inside, while the people who loved me the most grew disgusted, sorrowful and most importantly disappointed in the trajectory of my life. To admit that alcohol had become a problem was to admit that I was a failure at living, the perception was that I couldn’t do life.

Couldn’t do life.

It was early spring and in Columbus that means the vestiges of winter spits out of the sky in the form of cold rain, groaning winds and a gray the clutches it’s knuckles into the sky until, finally the May sunshine pulls the gray and hurtles it deep into the ground for the next five months. The sun blinks out in a coy dance only to be replaced by the gray; it is always the gray. The news came over the phone, in a patient yet hesitant voice and the feelings of isolation that had always resided within me, came bursting out like that Ohio gray sky, the moments of relief were as brief as the sun during this time. There was an eruption of sadness that bellowed out from a past that has always existed, it seemed that while I may be moving into the future the past feelings of heartache were tethered to that future so the present was tinted with the past. Always. The drive was long, although others were in the car with me, the rolling thoughts of loss, abandonment and the filling in blanks kept me from opening my mouth, I kept silent. The wheels rolling under the car could not roll fast enough, I was ruptured. Something I was all too familiar with.

The lake was picturesque, the clouds rolling over the trees, the wind making the water dance into the shore and infrequent bursts of rain pelted the windshield. She called me, but it hurt too much, the phone was a torch in my ear. Another woman called until finally I could only speak in written words. The love they offered fell aside, because inside the feelings were torching me. I listened to music, the same song over and over, “Noble Experiment” until the tears rolled down, untouched, they danced against the shore. Sliding out of the car, leaping over the large puddle that had formed in the grass next to the parking lot, the bank of the lake was muddy. I sat on a picnic table, looking at the discarded liquor bottles in the fire pit near my feet. “Somebody had fun last night.” Candy wrappers hung in the brown arms of bushes, there was nobody around. After some careful thought, the shore was slippery, but the small embankment was easy to get down. Staring into the water, small droplets of rain dotted the surface. I slid out of my clothes and into the water, it was cold but not jarringly so, the slick mud at the bottom squeezing itself between my toes. Shaking but not from the April weather, plunging under the water. A test. Just to see. It was a subtle shock but not so very frightening. A test. Just to see. I carried the clothes to the car, darkness was floating into the everything and I found a towel in the trunk. I dried, put my clothes on and listened to the rain ping-ping itself into the world outside. I drove home.

When somebody commits suicide, it is not because they feel unloved, it is because they feel too much. They feel the world as something electric and every pleasure is more colorful and every disappointment is darker, and there is always the dark within. It may be a middling creek, a roaring river or sadly an epic ocean flowing inside of them. It is scary carrying this around and to speak of it, to speak of the fight to keep it at bay, in essence, to construct a dam against these rolling feelings grows tiresome and painful. And the pain is always acute. Some treat this with humor, at times gallows humor, its fought with laughter because laughter always works. Music usually does. Words help. Running. Alcohol, sometimes until it doesn’t. Drugs, sometimes until they don’t. Sex, but the pain of attraction can also be the wind that washes these feelings upon the inner shore of ourselves. As I’ve grown older I’ve made a commitment to speak about my own battles with my own rivers inside of me, to realize that speaking it’s name does not mean it will come true. But to drag it out into the sunshine, however fleeting I may feel that sunshine is, it is more powerful than the dark.