Monday, February 02, 2004

How I Spent My Super Bowl. 

I'm full of beasts, who died at sea.
It's a Wonderful life, a wonderful life.

I had decided to venture into the Bywater on the day of the Stupor Bowl, with two goals in mind: to avoid football, and to see my racous, impassioned friend, a storyteller, an artist, whom I know to not care less about football. I also had in mind that I wanted to try to save her from herself; I dreamt recently that she was dying from alcoholism. I had decided to confront her, at least, on her obvious ill-health. I was prepared for everything, including her probable hostility, that she might even kick me out of her home, etc. I also fully admitted to myself there may be a selfish twist to my endeavor: I was having a hard time imagining a world without Laurie. A planet without the impish, wise-cracking, speak before you think (refreshing to me in this world of pre-canned speech), smart, very funny friend, was an intolerable outcome to me. Yet I also wondered, does she really want to be on the planet any longer? I didn't fully know, but I had some clues, what had driven her to a state of purposeful, self-ignorance of her own, dire condition of health. I set out, on this grey, cold day, with intention to discover in mind.

Laurie led me into the darkened room that had become her lair, and we rolled a few cigarettes; she had her perpetually opened, half-full bottle of Heineken by her perpetually, half-full glass of beer. I chose not to drink, although I have partaken of the spirits with her previously.

Since her inheritance, she could afford Heineken, as opposed to the cheap American beer she used to guzzle. She wakes up with Heineken, she goes to bed with Heineken. Her little, daily trips to the corner store are timed to coincide with her need for Heineken (or cigarettes). Every day revolves around her drinking, with that Heineken bottle serving as the center of her world, the black-hole around which her solar system revolves.

I have my work cut out for me.

In all honesty, I don't remember everything we spoke about, what with the happiness we freely indulged in. But I do remember gently and determinedly steering her to the subject of her health, over and over. Her rationalizations, as the day coursed, began taking ever more extravagant generalizations; I know her fragile ego felt, if not under attack, threatened. Finally, she asked me to lay it on the line.

"When you look at me, what do you see? What is my aura? What is my phyical body as it presents itself to you?"

"Laurie, I see someone pallid, weak, with no energy, as you've expressed it to me. I am concerned. I am worried. The truth is, I'm a bit selfish about this. I'm having a hard time with the thought of being on this planet without you on it."

This made her smile. But the rest of the day and evening revolved around my belief that she is sick. She sat up and grew more animated in her expression. "Do I look sick now?" she bellowed at me sarcastically at one point. For the rest of the evening, whenever the thought struck her, she aimed her considerable talent with sarcasm at me, "Do I look sick now?".

I was tempted to answer each time, "Yes, nothing has changed in my judgement of your health, although my perception of your mental health is sharpening", as she stubbornly stuck to her rationalizations, which grew even more elaborate as the day wore on, so that even she would sometimes lose track with her train of thought. I would tend to drift off into daydream while she was into her long-winded explanations and treatises; just what was I going to do with the rest of my life...my love life (or the lack thereof), needs attention, particularly after an emotionally draining collision with someone on the personals...and so on, I was able to do some planning while she talked, and not miss a beat in the overall tone of her speeches. She was determined to prove me wrong, yet despite herself and her worn state, seemed to welcome my candid approach to the subject. The day wore on for hours into stupor bowl time, and she still had not asked me to leave, and in fact, I felt her clinging to me somewhat.

She had several calls from a friend around the corner, inviting us over for drinks, food and the annual ritual of the viewing of men clashing gladiator style in front of the entire world. She put him off as long as she could, "I have to finish this session," she spat at him over the phone. We had broken out her astrology books and she read to me her current Saturn position, and my own. Both positions seemed to involve loss, and my Saturn moving into the eighth house even mentioned the possible death of someone close to me. This gave her pause, and she quickly looked up something in her emphemeris. Whatever she discovered, if anything, she kept to herself.

We made our way over to the home of her friend, David around the corner. There another friend, Michael, had cooked a huge meal, plenty of drinks to go around, as we all sat in a tiny kitchen with a TV on and the sound mercifully turned down. It was hard enough keeping up with the several conversations revolving around the room. Laurie occasionally seemed to converse with herself, imagining others were listening. I kept getting distracted by a conversation here, Michael pressing me to consume food, drink. The little kitchen was claustraphobically filled with 5 gay men, one lesbian, and one heterosexual female balancing precariously on her last bit of energy of the day, with a glass of wine in her hand.

When the bad spinster jokes issued from the mouth of one of the older men there, coupled with jokes on the smell of women's vaginas, I nearly lost it. This was the same man I heard talking about his most recent tricks he hired...this was fuel for my fire.

"Spinsters are spinsters because they don't want to pay for tricks", I said, the "joke" seeming to sale over the head of everyone there, including the purveyor of spinster jokes. Our host in the food and drink department, Michael, heard me, however, and reached over, touching my arm, and with near panic flashing in his eyes, said, "Everyone here is a dear friend of mine, and you are the only one I don't know well. You and I are going to have to get to know each other better, " he said.

I nodded in assent, all the while knowing this is it, Michael. This is who I am.

Laurie continued with her, "Do I look sick" mode, while the owner of the home, David, an older gay man with apparently not a clue about football (in response to my making small talk question, "Who's winning", he responded "I have no ideas who's playing. Is it one, or two teams?).

David was endearing in his stubborn refusal to bend his reality to those around him; at one point he completely won me over when he defended women. He punched the air with completely unexpected diatribes on the state of his desires; he talked of stopping someone dead in the street and asking them if they felt like "fucking a sissy". He finally announced to the purveyor of spinster jokes that he was indeed going to play with himself while watching the dirty movies he had brought for him.

Laurie and I fell out laughing; the truth is I appreciate honesty in all of its modes. It was probably the last laugh Laurie and I would share together, as she became more caustic with me as she settled into a drunken, half-stupor. I left a small bite of chocolate ice cream in a bowl and she castigated me for "wasting it", so much so, that Michael came to my defense, saying the last bite looked like a "nut with a wart on it", a funny reference to a very serious, personal problem Laurie is having with her boyfriend. This comment defused that potentially explosive subject of the chocolate ice cream , and jarred me into realizing just how much Laurie had obsessed on food that day, constantly accusing others of trying to force her to eat, even when we were just being polite.

Laurie, in her extreme thiness akin to a holacoust survivor, constantly went back to the subject of food, how much she had eaten that day, what she had eaten, and what effort it took to eat anything, so really, we should all lay-off. She made a comment that her mother had always plopped food on her plate with the declaration of "that's enough for you," and I was beginning to put together more of the pieces of at least some, root causes of her current "illness".

Those last few bites of ice cream and banana she took from my bowl seemed to ply her towards an undeniable sleep. "I need to go to bed, " she said. "Okay, let's go to bed," I said, and realized Laurie and the others thought I had just invited her to bed, when in fact, I had designated myself as her personal slave that day, determined to do the right thing for her, and in this instance, get her to bed.

"She looks like she would be cuddly," Laurie said, "but I prefer to go to bed alone right now." This wasn't enough, and she went on, "I'm tired of legs everywhere where they're not supposed to be, and arms twisted up, and feet in your face..." On and on with a litany of complaints of the pains of sleeping with someone.

Michael said sympathetically, "After you drop her off, you can come back over here and have some real fun." I knew though I would head for home, and I did just that after hugging Laurie, and urging her to call me tomorrow, which I also fully expected her to not do. Truth is, I would like her to call me every day until she gets through this, but I don't know if I am even welcome anymore, for exposing at least the butt of the elephant under the rug.