Announcement: there is no horror, only the genre
I haven’t had news in over seventy-two hours, and I’ve hardly “checked the internet,” so I don’t even really know what the hell is going on. Please forgive me if this post is not in time with the Space AIDS Asteroid that hit Arkansas today. For whatever human tragedy happened today, I am sorry. Just trust me. But guess which middle-school-teacher-with-metastatic-breast-cancer-in-America-during-a-pandemic-and-national-unrest will be 180 days off the sauce as of yesterday? This one. If that made you throw up in your mouth a little (did, me), then you’ll be happy to know I am celebrating 180 days sober with a PET scan bright and early on Thursday morning.
Nothing more invigorating than a good PET scan on a muggy summer morn in the desert during a pandemic.
Just like a hot bath full of radioactive shit that will probably give you another, more pernicious cancer than the one for which you are presently being treated . . .
PET scans scare the shit out of me because they feel like scientific crystal balls into which one can gaze and tell me — more or less — how long I’ve got.
You want to know that shit? I don’t.
And also, it’s super important that my smart doctors know what’s going on inside so they can help me stay well for as long as it is possible to stay well with metastatic breast cancer.
So by getting the PET scan that terrifies me on an existential human level, I am also being a responsible steward of my fucking body that just cannot seem to get it right in this life. Reader, I am trying to afford my body the same forgiveness I have been trying, in recovery, to afford my soul.
When I think about what I want to do (write, read, teach, eat) and
what I have to do (write, read, teach, eat, get PET scans, drink more water, eat less trash, take your pills and pills and pills, attend doctor after doctor after doctor appointment, wait on hold for pharmacies, wait on hold for doctors, pay bills and bills and bills, attend staff meetings, teach . . . ) the staggering gulf between the two takes my breath away.
American life is hard.
And some days I am so fucking scared that I don’t understand why any sane/rational person would even want to prolong their brutal little American life.
Today, I listened to my students and marveled at their connection with the Horror genre.
I took copious notes for class and just from sheer astonishment.
“Horror” is an aesthetic to them more than it is a feeling.
What does that say about us, America? I am not sure.
I’m not so sure how I feel about reading/teaching Horror in this time when I feel I have had more horror than I ever thought my heart could bear, but education is about students, and my students want Horror, and Horror they shall receive.
What’s a ghost story at this juncture? What’s a little stylized gore? Or a fake monster? I see Real Monsters everywhere in America.
“The silence,” I told Sarah tonight. “It is like a massage to my brain.”
I had not heard any silence today until I stepped into our kitchen and heard it. I mean, as much silence as you can get with all the sound of our homes and cities. You wanna hear quiet? Go into an Amish grocery store.
Trust me; you’ll understand.
(How are the Amish, by the way? Has anyone checked in on them during COVID? I forgot all about them until now.)
I’ve been away from the midwest for so long that I’ve started, less and less ironically, referring to it as my “homeland.”
I wonder some days if I’ll ever see Lake Michigan again, if I’ll ever step foot on midwestern soil again, much less the inside of an Amish grocery store.
I call Chicagoland my “homeland” because I have been separated from it by a virus, yes, but more aptly by human cruelty and indifference. I feel as though I’ve been, in the past two years, through a great many wars. I am battle fatigued, shell shocked, and I’ve maybe seen too much of the American underbelly. Maybe you feel this way, also, reader.
Maybe we’re old war buddies.
Maybe we’re comrades.
Maybe we’re prisoners of war,
or missing in action.
Sunday I spent the day in bed sick with exhaustion (and maybe cancer drugs), and at one point, unshowered, in disheveled pajamas, on my way back from the kitchen, where I complained like a child about how there was “no food I want to eat,” I shuffled past Sarah, and said, “I think I’m depressed.”
She laughed. “You think?”
I smiled a little. I didn’t want to laugh. “How could I not be depressed?”
“Exactly,” Sarah said.
For some odd reason, I think I wanted someone to tell me I was wrong for having a feeling. My feelings tend to be quite solid. Big, sloppy, ridiculous, spastic, but quite solid. Quite — as in they’re often right.
I felt like an alcoholic for approximately thirty years because I was an alcoholic for approximately thirty years, but I didn’t LIKE THAT FEELING, so when I felt it, I chose to ignore it completely.
That’s what I used to do with all of my feelings:
good feeling — keep that one, but interrogate it mercilessly,
scary feeling — kill and hide all evidence,
sad feeling — tranq dart,
confusing feeling — tranq dart,
weird feeling — tranq dart
Now I am doing this thing where I try another way:
good feeling — accept and release
scary feeling — accept and release
sad feeling — accept and release
. . . You get the drift. And of course a person’s unique psychology is far more complex than any doctrine or dogma could ever really capture.
If only my feelings were switches I could flip . . .
I fumble embarrassingly to arrive at accept
and struggle mightily with that damn release valve.
If you’re so inclined, send up a good thought or vibration to the cancer gods that I may have a most auspicious PET scan.