Yes, Doctor, I guess I was just a bit afraid of all this, like, where would it lead me as far as my feelings, perhaps ones I've not accepted, and what you said the last time when we talked about a person saying she'd 'go to the dean' kind of opened things up a bit. And that's kind of a turning point, or maybe an opening of the proverbial floodgates on a lot of negative emotions and depressing stuff, uncomfortable thoughts, maybe ones I didn't want to accept, maybe out of being an inherently nice person and giving people benefit of the doubt. And now what I'm seeing is this great cruelty, this great insensitivity, this incredibly adversarial kind of an attitude. And people, you know, take up a cop mentality and watching you, watching you rather than like interacting with you and talking to you like you're a fellow human being, and when people are watching you almost by definition, out of being human, you're going to fuck up, you're going to act in ways that allow them to pounce on your behavior and construe like the worst of intentions or bad character.
And when you're charged in such a way, tacitly, by implication, nothing really so overt, you know, it's naturally bound to be hurtful and incredibly depressing. I don't know, do you internalize it? Of if you're too nice a guy you kind of don't fight it or something, or you ask yourself what you did wrong, or see that you did wrong, that you were at fault, but missing how things are sort of rigged against you. When they shouldn't be.
I just find it so depressing now, so hurtful, so cruel, and I never wanted to think that, see the cruelty, the mean spiritedness in, you know, 'a bunch of sweet defenseless college-aged girls.' Ones whom you seem to have pissed off by just being you. But Jesus Christ no wonder I sort of gave up, or half gave up, I don't know, like, ever even trying to set up a date or think a phone call might go okay or that things stood even a slim chance of working out.
Yeah, all that treatment was kinda rough, you know.
I looked out the window. Some of Chekhov's best most sensitive stories are about that sort of a thing. Ward No. 7. The things people think about other people... when the other person is you.
I didn't realize it at the time. Or not consciously.
Or maybe that's just how society is, has to be, adversarial, organized into a kind of police state unwittingly. And maybe that's kinda scary, on top of being depressing when you're out to give your best and you care. Maybe that's what a grading system is; we have to grade everyone. Fuck it, just let them be. Learn what you can, interact, two way street.
DeMott, last thing he said to me before I graduated, was that he let me down. But I... you know, didn't see it, not so clearly, maybe because the whole thing was such a huge let down. I mean, not all of it, but yeah, shit, at least I learned something, I did.
I smiled at her and then looked down at the carpet, and she gave me a nice 'oh, I'm sorry, poor guy' kind of a looks with her lip. And I felt like my nervous system was sort of shaking in some kind of unfelt pain, my hands quivering slightly, not wanting to look up at such a generally depressing situation. "How bad is it, doc?"
And I can see a bit better like, to understand why I would have pulled back some or been a bit hesitant, without wanting to, by conditioning. Like, don't touch a hot stove. I've blamed myself for a long time for those times when I wanted to talk to her but... I'm actually wondering now if my reactions weren't pretty natural after all.
I wonder, given the case of my father, the teacher, do such things happen more to noble people somehow, as if they were a contrast from the norm. I don't know.
As I wrote her a check at the end of our forty-five minutes I told her about something the chef said to us, about all the pressures on a chef during a restaurant opening, and that he drank to deal with all the stress and negative emotions. I feel for him. You might not realize that's what you're doing when you're doing it. Something to think about, I said. Next time.
As I left and walked back up Connecticut Avenue passing by Zorba's patio I thought of a sort of Buddhist concept of a Shakespeare. The odds against a Shakespeare happening are enormous, until you back the lens away to take in vast kalpas of time and the impossibly huge number of different worlds in which in each one and in each age there is a Shakespeare, like the common tiny humming nucleus of all the atoms outer whizzing. Look up at the stars and ponder the infinite depths of space and the smallness of the things that go on in our minds, and then maybe it's easier to think that there is a common Shakespeare mind within that understandeth all the Othellos and Iagos and Desdemonas and Cordelias and Lears, all possibilities, such a thing is man, so godlike in nature, that no wonder we suffer things too, on our own individual scales, in our own little tragedies and comedies of life. Which then, indeed, leads us to pluck a certain wisdom, like 'nothing is but thinking makes it so.' Go through your own emotional life, the experience of your own days good and bad, the fluctuations of moods, and you too are aware of the great Shakespearean complexity of life. And it's where the rubber hits the road, in the words of it, in the 'sweet sorrows,' in all that attuned sensitivity to the vast myriad of persons we have within us, kings, gravediggers, queens, the shipwrecked, that feeling of all things, as we know, that makes a Shakespeare great and keeps us rapt as we stand in the pit jostled and splashed with ale and wanting to fuck. We all have within that which passeth show, and we all have the words within to express at least something of all that, we just don't always get the chance, and thus we dream.
Or maybe if you felt all those people inside you enough to write about them and their emotions, maybe you truly would be a head case of some sort. As a consequence, a Hamlet, unable to do anything but wrapped up in thought.
I got home and took a nap. Facing the holidays working in a restaurant that would be open on both Christmas Eve and Christmas was putting me in quite a bad depressed mood. Such that even lying awake I did not want to get up out of bed. I thought of attempting to smile at the boss's wife and son when my own old Irish mom was coming on a train, spending ten or twelve hours on it to get here for Christmas, and I cannot have Christmas dinner with her. And that's just a small indication of the incredible complexities we bring with us, to such a job, having to put on a monkey smile.
My weekend finally came, after a pretty long run of five straight nights Saturday to Wednesday, and the first day I was too depressed to do more than lie about, though I was awake for part of it, first bed, then the couch. Finally out to get groceries around nine at night, and the prospect of how to celebrate my 50th birthday, of how to carry through with my values, having to make a choice out of a yoga retreat in Mexico or a little family get-together, as I would be missing Christmas dinner, was too much to handle. "Sleep on it," my brother said, then the next day came, the guy came to fix the tiles and the caulking around the tub. I shaved off my two week growth of beard scrubble, put on my tea coat and went down to take my chances at Haircuttery, needing a trim, then dragging myself over to Georgetown, the walk hopefully helping me think, to get presents, blocks for the kiddies, and when I got home again I slumped into one of those depressed naps. Jesus, I wondered, waking finally when it was dark out, feeling the need for the shower I'd not yet taken, I have to do something to express my values as far as family and religion and holidays, something, I don't know what. I felt a small pit in my stomach. I'd walked right past an old acquaintance, someone I'd flown next to on a plane years ago, but not immediately recognized her face ringed by a furry hood. I'd even looked away after a few moments of eye contact, as if ashamed of something. And then finding the toy store on Wisconsin Avenue, and a nice young well-formed young lady who very calmly helped me pick out a few presents, and she too was someone I'd want to spend more time with, but burdened by my burdens, by the difficulties of choices I'd just walked home in the cold.
The initial text response to my request for the weekend of my 50th I didn't get 'til the end of my last night of work, Jazz Night, having entertained a close friend of the boss back in Bali, a former World Bank person, from Africa, now making art of the jewelry sort, much of it copper wire. I'd already ordered the prize dish of the restaurant, the famous Veal Cheeks Osso Bucco, before the kitchen closed. I'd not had them in a long time. I wondered if they were still the same. "Oh Teddy, sorry," the text read, "M. already asked C. (the local boss) for it off." A month in advance. There I was, getting rid of the last customers, and finally ready to blow my stack. Cursed, I am. I poured myself a glass of wine. Almost shaking I stuck the dish into the oven for a while to reheat it, and again the energy was draining out of me, necessary to close the place now that everyone had gone. Jesus Christ, how much I've given to this place. Starving I pulled the dish out and sat down at the bar, all alone of course, some kind of music on the Pandora, Herbie Mann jazz, and the taste was good and the braised meat, three pieces or so, was gone in about three minutes time, leaving me staring at the small dice of carrots in the cream tossed pasta, pasta which I am allergic to in the sense that it will gum up my digestive tract as if I ate glue. And they say it's easier to get bullied when you have a food allergy, forced to eat main stream engineered food that doesn't set will with you. But starving, knowing it bad for me, I ate the pasta, and by the end I would have rather had the simple meat of a hamburger. Know what you can handle. Red wine okay, but other forays into the spirits don't pan out so good, exhilarating as they might seem initially.