I’ve been feeling my darkness lately. It’s a pluming miasma of bubbling evil which spreads out around me like a fog and fucks up all that it touches. Some poor fool kid drove his truck too close to mine a few days ago and his tire exploded as he passed. He made it safely into the ditch, but our eyes met as I continued on. His said “what the hell?’ Mine said “sorry dude.” I knew it wasn’t a coincidence. The same thing happened to an elderly Navajo woman a few months ago. She drove by, my bad juju latched on to her car, and then boom, no more right rear tire. She too made it to the ditch. She had help with her in the car, and if I had stopped and gotten too close to assist, her three remaining tires would’ve suffered my proximity. So on I went. My dark cloud of evil influence and I continued down that arrow straight stretch of desert road as her memory faded in my wake of dust.
Have you ever heard one of those pseudo gangster types say “real recognize real?” Sure, they misuse it because most of them aren’t even remotely “real,” but they have a point. One of my best friends back home is one of those badass semi-pro cage fighters, and every time we’d walk into a bar, there’d always be at least one other simian alpha male who’d seek him out. They’d play looky-loo from a distance, their hooded gazes interrupted now and then by passersby, but eventually, they’d get too close. The night would always end with the other guy on the ground as a gaggle of bouncers asked us to leave. I guess similar people recognize something in each other which draws them together. Fighters recognize fighters. And as it turns out, dark, brooding, assholes encapsulated by evil clouds recognize each other too. I picked up my daughter from one of her extracurricular trappings a while back, and as soon as she got in the car, she told me that “some old famous comedian guy” had killed himself. I looked at her in my rearview mirror and asked if it was Robin Williams. She said that it was, and asked if I had already heard. I hadn’t. But I had seen him on the Daily Show a few months prior, and I’d seen it in his eyes. Real recognize real. Dark recognize dark.
My daughter asked how somebody who was so funny could be so unhappy. She thought it was ironic. I thought it was axiomatic. I looked back at her and tried to explain, but it would’ve been easier to explain why water is wet; you know, it just is. And that’s when I started thinking about Robin Williams. He had never made me laugh. I’d enjoyed his movies, and I’ll admit that he deserved the Oscar which came from his performance in Goodwill Hunting, but his standup always felt like artifice when I watched it. It was like he’d found some mathematical formula he could use to formulate jokes, and everybody in the crowd always fell for it. They looked at his expression, they followed his gesticulations, and they listened to his words. I looked at his eyes. Eyes truly are the windows to the soul, but with Robin, everybody always seemed to look at the windowsill. When he was on The Daily Show, he likened Canada to an apartment above the meth lab which is the United States. The crowd laughed. John Stewart thought it was hilarious. But I remember thinking “good one Robin, that’ll keep ‘em off your trail for a while.”
He gave his all for his audience, but that laughter never sank in because deep down, he knew that he had earned their joy via his equation. It probably felt hollow to him as he stood there with his sad eyes and broad smile. He kept giving it out, but nothing nourishing came back in. So in came the drugs and the consumption. Holy shit I know exactly how that feels. I don’t want to speak for Robin because I didn’t know him, but I think he spoke loudly enough for himself with that belt. I understood Robin Williams as he joked, just as I understood Jackson Pollock as he dribbled paint onto the canvas at his feet, just as I understood Hemmingway and his never-ending pursuit of Kilimanjaro’s summit, and I recoil from their bodies of work because their clouds get too close to mine for comfort.
My mind is a jar full of buzzing insects which I can’t control. They’re rabid, frenzied little assholes who fly around on incessant wings in a huge storm of thought I can’t steer. It’s fine if I feed them. If I give them something to work on, like a short story or a drum solo, they all fly in concert for a while, and they make something truly incredible. But when I sit idle, they still need to feed. They start to sting and fly into dark places, and I’m taken with them because I’ll be damned if they aren’t the little pieces which make up the whole of me. They help me when I ask it and they hurt me when I try to find calm; they’re the second edge of my double edged sword. This is my truth, my life, my shitty dichotomy. The people far away from me never see my other side. They see my creativity and my humor. Those who are close to me feel the cut when I’m sitting in a lull. Those who are close to me came close because of the good, but they hurt when they get close enough to feel the bad. And at times, I’m not sure anything else should’ve been expected. I feel like a bloodied gladiator, alone in the arena of my mind, standing over something dead at my feet and I want to scream “are you not entertained? Is this not what you came to see?”
Maybe that’s how Robin Williams felt. All of you, who were so far away from him, loved him for the good. I’d be willing to bet that his two ex-wives and his widow see things a bit differently. They got close enough to feel the cut from his double edged sword of humor. And lately, as I’ve been watching that man’s story on TV, our similarities have become ever more discouraging. When I heard that he’d described his childhood at his dad’s house as “growing up with one thousand toy soldiers for friends,” I held my breath and looked around to see if anyone else had noticed my reaction. That’s exactly how I grew up. It’s all just so damn obvious to me. The dark makes people like us interesting, but it takes its toll. Everyone else was appalled when Robin Williams took his own life. I wanted to stand up and applaud him for making it to sixty-three, especially given his recent diagnosis. He deserves credit for making it as far as he did, for accomplishing what he had given his handicap, and I truly felt something at his passing. I have no idea what came next after his heart stopped, but if he’s now battling his demon on some distant plane of infinity, I wish him all the best. Through my writing now, I’m saluting him with my own double edged sword; may his blade be ever sharp and true.
I write most of my blogs in one sitting. This one has taken me four. And the narrative of who I am has fluctuated greatly over these past seven days. The story of who I am is a liquid thing. In the words above, I simply plucked the sad things out of my life and stitched them together to abstract the story of who I was at the moment, as I’ve heard it described before in a RadioLab episode by someone much smarter than I, but it’s not a complete tale. There’s also a bright side to who I am. When I’m on top, I can shoot out of my eyes lasers of positivity which can evaporate that evil miasma around me. I have a damn good wife and two crazy cool children, and they help me through. I’ll be alright in a little bit. Someday soon, I picture myself standing akimbo atop a cliff, backlit by the sun with wind in my hair, looking down on the vanquished body of my demon. My voice will boom out around me like a claxon as I laugh in triumph at my victory. I’m taking steps to get there. In a while, the story of who I am will be just as saccharine and happy as a gumdrop rainbow. On my way home yesterday, I stared at the back of a large water truck in front of me as I drove and ruminated over where I was in life. And I shit you not, one of his huge back tires exploded in a cloud of black smoke and roadway detritus. I laughed, because I guess tire explosions come in threes, but those happy lasers were burgeoning in my eyes and I knew that this most recent one had nothing to do with me.
I’m not suicidal like those aforementioned greats; hell, I’m not even great like those aforementioned greats. But I will be. I’m going back to school. My first week is nearly over. I need to study so I can finish the derivations for my own formula which I’ll use to keep you reading. But this will be my last blog for a while. I’m bleeding out from too many cuts, and I need to apply a tourniquet. No more recreational reading or writing for a while, not as much physical fitness, no television whatsoever; these are the wounds to which I’ll apply pressure so I can focus on family and school. I’ll try to post things occasionally as my schedule allows, but in the meantime, I’d like to thank you all for reading, and for your kind words of encouragement. You’ll hear from me soon.