Notes on a Painful Lack of Subtlety


Hold out your hand, palm up. Now curl your fingers over to touch your palm. I’m not even asking you to make a fist.
     There came a morning when I could not stand upright. Seeing me bent, and the wretched look on my face, she became somehow offended: “What’s wrong?” she asked, with a tone of annoyance. I was stunned.
     “I’m in pain,” I said. “My back.”
     It is a familiar discussion. I should get a massage. With what money? I should see a chiropractor; my insurance will definitely pay for that. Really? Okay, where is my policy packet? Where did we put it? We don’t know? Because I can’t look online; there is a technical problem and Molina has already told me they cannot help. And this is already known, already said many times before. And it is a handy little circle for anyone not me: Did you know people’s eyesight stops degrading after they get glasses? One prescription is all anyone ever needs. No, really, it’s not like people suddenly forgot something. But, yes, when I say I need new glasses, I’m asked why. And then the same people who doubt my eyesight degrades, such that they are puzzled by the idea that I might, after seven or eight years, need new glasses, suddenly think my health insurance will pay one hundred percent of the cost for this something that I don’t need. What it comes down to is that I need the family Costco card, and maybe a ride, and the answer is that nobody wants to outright say no, but I really should have learned to stop asking by now.
     A chiropractor? I don’t know if my policy covers that; we already know I don’t know. Which is the point of pretending we don’t know I don’t know. Because what I’m asking for is not exotic, or deep tissue. It’s a little bit of human contact, something I have done for other people many times over the course of these same years, and the answer is simply that nobody wants to come right out and tell me so explicitly, “No, I want you to be in pain.”
     Let’s not start on relationships; long before we utterly fell apart, my last partner simply refused because it was too stressful to help. For a little while, my daughter would walk on my back for me, but then my mother decided to start telling her, “Don’t do that. You’re too big. You’re too heavy.”
     So it has been over years since an adult has tried to help me with back pain. Oh, wait, there was the gift certificate for a massage, and while a scandal would later bring down the parlor chain, what was actually discouraging was the stress of pissing off the people who ran the place by using a gift certificate already paid for when I was too poor to afford the regular service subscription they wanted to sell me. There really isn’t anything to wreck a massage quite like upsetting your masseur by being having to repeatedly explain you are poor. Nor is there anything quite like trying to explain to those close to you that this sort of thing is discouraging; I don’t know why, but people around me think it’s a thrilling thing to have to tell people you don’t have enough money to buy what they want to sell you.
     But it’s been fifteen years since even loved ones have been willing to help. It’s just a little bit of touch, a little bit of pressure, just the slightest bit of relief. But it’s been over fifteen years since an adult human being has been willing to do anything to help other than tell me how to spend money that I don’t have.
     Hold out your hand, palm up. Now curl your fingers over to touch your palm. I’m not even asking you to make a fist. I’m not asking you to drive deep into my flesh, nor even to touch the skin. What I am asking is that you please help me. And for whatever reason, the answer remains, no.
     So, unable to stand erect, confronted as if I am committing some offense for not looking bright and chipper enough for not having slept as a result of writhing agony, there was nothing left to say, except, “I’m in pain!” And I cracked, faltered, and begged: Hold out your hand, palm up. Curl your fingers. There’s this thing people do. I’ve seen them do it, before. And you put your hand on their back and move it around lightly. Really, I’ve done it for other people, before, too. My God, it’s just a little relief, please, I don’t understand why nobody will help. It’s been over ten years, and nobody will help. Please. I’m … in … pain.
     And for all the humiliation of that plaintive, desperate tone, the answer left no room for doubt: “Don’t be silly,” she said. “Of course they will help. You just need to ask.”
     And then she turned her back and walked away.
     And I honestly do not know what combination of words will work. I mean, if all I need do is ask, then what kind of idiot am I that in fifteen years I have been unable to get anyone, friend, family, intimate partner, to help me with this pain.
     Really. I just don’t understand.

Most Obvious


“I don’t know,” she recited, as if litany, “where you get all that.”
     “Don’t you ever follow the stories in the ads?” he asked, as if it was the most obvious question in the world.
     “No,” she responded, and her tone, as well, suggested she thought this the most obvious of truths.

On the Psychoanalytic Meaning of History (Rivalrous Remix)


In consideration of a psychoanalytic meaning of history, it is enough to wonder what the classicist thought of any real possibility that the psychologist’s basic descriptions of dysfunction would become so influential a cooperative venture within a dissociated composite verging into an alternative, synchronistic paranormality.

Apropos of Howard


Circumstance sometimes reminds it better to take time out for calming breath and deliberate consideration that we might slip through distracting noise and manage something better than headbanging phuqueue and some manner of joke derived from douchebags, or maybe that’s just the coffee.

This Really Shouldn’t Need Explaining


Celty learns about EBE conspiracies; detail of frame from Durarara!! episode 6, "Active Interest".

There is a household discussion that has to do with why I never watch television in the living room. The problem with this discussion, of course, is that the answer to the question is essentially verboten: It is impossible to watch television in the living room.

There is, indeed, a television in the living room, and the problem is not so much the arrangement of the kitchen such that there is a lot of noise from the one into the other. Rather, it is that nobody is allowed to watch television in that room without having conversations about something else: How much cheese there is, or going to the grocery store tomorrow afternoon, or, hey, maybe we should buy a new television; I can’t remember the other six topics, but it really is like a television show or movie in and of itself.

If I managed to watch five minutes of the show, I couldn’t tell you what happened. In all the years I have known multiple people to behave this way, talking over a television program about something irrelevant and nonessential, then waiting quite literally a matter of seconds to do it again, it has never really made sense. Sometimes you can rewind and replay the same segment in front of them multiple times, and it starts to feel as if they actually resent that you are watching television, would very much like you to stop, consider themselves too polite to actually say so, and thus have no alternative save annoying you until you turn off the program and leave.

And that is what it is, but in the end, yes, that is why I watch television downstairs. The answer, when I actually encounter the question of why I don’t watch television in the living room is to look at the only person in the house who asks me that and say―

“Because you won’t let me. Because if you are home and awake, and I am watching television in this room, you absolutely must speak to me now about whatever you can think of in the moment, even if it’s a matter weeks away having precisely nothing to do with me. Because I have just rewound the same fifteen seconds of this show, several times, in order to hear what they’re saying, and every time I restart the video you start talking again. Because when I tried turning up the volume just to see what happened, you actually talked louder in order to be heard. Because I can take a hint, a’ight?”

―and you just don’t go talking to people like that.

This Does Not Make Sense


There is a certain futility in announcing anything, especially when there is nothing to announce. Still, two poems in two days and an actual effort to retain them feels like starting something. Here’s a joke, though, that isn’t actually a joke: National Poetry Month, having just ended, managed to remind of something apparently forgotten.

At some point in my nearly forty-five years I forgot that I am a poet.

No, really, I have no idea how this happened.

Except I probably do.

I don’t know, I should probably be embarrassed; but, y’know, whatever.

[#nevermind]

Groovy Mysteries and the Price of Tea at Arcturus


Why do people so desperately need mysteries?

Still, that is not the right question; one can easily see the potential for offense, but there is also a threshold at which it does not matter because someone, somewhere, will be offended by the merest whiff that their humanity is somehow imperfect. But if the comparative question arises that the gas bill is considerably less this year than it was last, and what we really want to know is why, how is it that the most obvious factors—weather and temperature, devices used, and unit cost, just for starters—must necessarily remain mysterious?

There comes a point at which one is frustrated at the lack of actual information about a chart and carefully-devised statistics that hide one particular bit of data: How much does the gas cost per measured salable unit? If we are paying X per Y volume, apparently both X and Y must remain mysterious as we discuss why the gas bill is lower this year than the same period last.

Wait, wait, wait: Must? Who says, “must”?

Either the gas company or the consumer; it is unclear which. Because in the moment when one exclaims, “Why is the one thing we don’t get, here, the cost per unit?” of course the answer is going to be, “I don’t know, it’s probably in all the other pages.” That is, the pages not simply thrown in the recycle bin without reading, but also determinedly torn up for security purposes.

The question remains: What is the proper question? That much, to be certain, remains mysterious.