I say “Fuck you” a lot these days. Fuck you, kindly old man raking leaves in your front yard. Fuck you, baby boomer ladies with your sensible haircuts power walking together, your arms bent into stiff right angles and your thin lips flapping. Fuck you, young couple kissing at the crosswalk light, you have no idea what tragedy lay in store for you. Fuck you, guy at the gas station with your weasely face who asks how my day is goin’. Fuck you, little kids at the park, your impossibly bright, plump faces flushed from play – your parents are flawed and mortal and so are you in ways that you will discover slowly and painfully.
There is a volcano in me, primitive, pre-verbal. It’s anger, pressured anger at every atom of matter arrogantly blinking in and out of existence. Anger is a normal part of the grieving process, that’s what all the books say. It’s normal, common, it’s okay to hate everything for awhile. Another step toward acceptance, toward letting go, and also a rational response to the irrational fear that more will be taken away. The anger functions as a moat filled with crocodiles, guarding against potential future losses. It’s a very childlike state to be in, and being like a child is comforting sometimes, even if it feels like you’ve been left in your crib for three days with an evil clown stuffy grinning at you from the dresser. I wonder when it will end though, because it’s tiring being mad all the time. Will I wake up one day and find it has evaporated in my sleep, that I suddenly love everyone again, that I forgive everything and feel overwhelmed by compassion and gratitude and goodwill toward my fellow creatures? If so, what can I do to get to that place quicker? Can I sweat it out at bootcamp? Can I scream it out driving alone in my car through Mount Doug Park? Can I take a bottle of laxatives and shit it out? There must be some way to expedite this part of the process.
It isn’t for good for anyone, this kind of vitriol. It is limiting and gray, a slimy film that covers your eyes like contact lenses made of pond scum, making everything you see offensive and ugly and dangerous. There is danger everywhere, and nobody is to be trusted. I envision accidents, horrific events happening to me that will leave my children orphaned. At the grocery store, the old hippie filling his basket with grapefruit and thyme is an obvious potential danger. He smiles and says hey, big guy! to my son, but I can tell that he’s really thinking about following me to my car in the dark and hiding behind a cedar hedge. He will watch me fasten the car seat buckles. He will watch me place my groceries in the trunk. And then? Then he will deploy the old rag-over-the-mouth routine and drag me behind dumpsters full of rotting cabbage and expired bread. He will pull a jagged grapefruit spoon from the pocket of his Guatemalan vest, scoop out my eyes and eat them, cut out my tongue and throw it in a tree, cut off my breasts – devour them too. I spend the entire drive home watching this film play out. The worst is the part where my son is left crying in the car, terrified, abandoned.
Good thing you escaped that one – phew, I tell myself as I pull in the driveway. As if it had been a real thing, a genuine threat, as if the sweet old hippie with the deep magic crows feet and the straw locks braided down his back was unquestionably a homicidal monster that I’d only narrowly escaped. As if he had truly intended to commit a gruesome murder on a busy Saturday night in a bustling suburban strip mall, and not go home to watch PBS and eat grapefruit in his underwear.
These are the intrusive thoughts of an animal mind on high alert, the chubby little fist of nerves at the top of the spine throwing chemical and electrical punches at ghosts in the dark, hijacking the nervous system, flooding the whole fucking organism with adrenaline and cortisol in an endless, endless loop of imaginary threats and fight/flight responses. I know this. We have lizard brains, all of us. But I wonder – is it all that remains when you strip everything else away? Fuck you, amygdala.
Putting the groceries away, I try to neutralize the murder hippie, imagining instead that he is nothing more than a post-apocalyptic village idiot, running up and down streets lined with burning garbage. His arms waiving wildly, he is crying and screaming, “Lizards, we’re all just lizards! We’re lizards, people! We’re lizard people!”
Picture a stop sign. Or picture all your thoughts as fallen leaves floating by on a lazy river. You are detached from these thoughts. You are not your thoughts – you are not even the you you think you are. You are not the leaves, nor the tree they fell from. You are just the observer of all these silly things, and they are all so silly, so silly that they should make you giggle and coo like a happy infant. You, the real you, you are outside of time and space, floating through the nothingness inside a safe, loving soap bubble. And the soap bubble was blown by the mouth of your mother, a soft and beautiful mouth, and inside the bubble you are laying in the sun under a tree, listening to the distant fingerpicking of acoustic guitar, eating sweet berries and drinking milk from the big pillowy breasts that hang from the trunk of the tree. Which is a magnolia tree, by the way.
You mean boobs like that tree in The Last Unicorn who just wants a hug?
Maybe the real me really is an old and wise and calm and stoic observer outside of time and space! Maybe it really wants for nothing and is completely unattached to the perceptions of the dumb ape to which it is bound! It doesn’t grieve because it can’t feel pain! It doesn’t care about material things like nice-smelling shampoo and sheets with decent thread counts and whether that coffee is fair trade!
Which reminds me that I haven’t tried the new Chocolate, Ghost Pepper and Mushroom latte from Starbucks yet and I think I can’t wait to go get one. But first I’m going to shave my labia, and then air it out a little just in case I end up in a serious accident on my way and some handsome ER doc has to examine every inch of me.