Emerging from the Fog

Yesterday is gone. It slipped away almost unnoticed while I slept. The day started reasonably well, except for the pain. I was alert and aware. But after I wrote my blog post, complaining about the pain I feel when I swallow, the day disappeared into a vaporous cloud, a day I barely remember. I spent virtually all day in my recliner, either napping or making my way to or from a near-comatose state.

I should have expected my final two radiation treatments, coupled with my third chemo treatment, to have left me tired and ruined. But I didn’t. I didn’t anticipate that I would have lost such a long, long stretch of time to fatigue. After a full night of sleep, I spend another day essentially comatose. And, then, I went to bed early and stayed in that state for most of the night until around 3:00 a.m., when I woke and felt the effects of too much time reclining, with almost no movement. My muscles ached, my bones creaked and hurt with every movement. I got up, thinking I might be up for the duration, but the aching was more than I could comfortably deal with, at least upright, so I went back to bed. I finally got up around 6:00 a.m. I don’t feel as beat this morning as I did yesterday, but I can’t be sure this shred of energy will last. We’ll see.

If I can muster some energy today, I’ll take my computer in to people who might be able to repair the bastard. Something happened to it the other day that wrecked its usefulness to me. I can no longer open any Microsoft Office 365 programs; I get an error message. And I can’t open Google Chrome; I’m stuck with Microsoft Edge. And, unless I use my wife’s computer to retrieve passwords, I can’t check email. I’ve been threatening to replace my notebook computer. This may be the time. I’d like something extremely light, perhaps a Chromebook, but I want to be able to use MS Office without any complaints; I’ve heard that Chromebooks tend to be persnickety with MS Office. Persnickety computers tend to raise my hackles, elevate my dander, and otherwise annoy me to the extent that put me at risk of smashing the beasts against boulders. My mood this morning elevates that risk.

Something’s percolating in my brain this morning, a plot for a story built more on characters than the plot in which they find themselves. The plot first populated my brain while I was taking my one and only creative writing class from Michael Mewshaw while I was a student at the University of Texas at Austin. The plot revolved around the gentrification of an old, blue-collar neighborhood. The protagonist was a man who bought a house in the old neighborhood and found himself in love with the people there. His wife wanted those people to change. She wanted to trigger the gentrification that would replace the old-timers with younger, wealthier, better-educated people who would update and upgrade the houses in the neighborhood. I wrote the story. It was probably badly done. Mewshaw identified hundreds of holes in it. I don’t think he was impressed. But I haven’t forgotten the characters in that story, nor have I completely forgotten the plot. I’m relatively sure other people have since written the story, far better than I, and have built those characters into people who readers either loved or hated, depending on the readers’ perspectives. But I still think about the story and I may one day finish it. I think I may still have the original somewhere. I know I still had it a few years ago. But I may have thrown it away since. It was never very good and did not merit saving. Yet I did, for some reason. Maybe I saw in it something that Mewshaw didn’t. Or maybe I just wished it was the beginning of a brilliant writing career. If the latter, I was horribly wrong. The fact of the story’s neglect burns inside me. Not a burn like a raging fire but, instead, a burn like and almost-dead ember still hot enough to sear a memory into one’s brain. I don’t recall what title I gave to the story. And I don’t remember how, or whether, the plot developed. It wasn’t a good plot. But I was deeply attached to the motivation of the protagonist. I think, in fact, he was modeled after an older version of myself, as I envisioned who I was, and would become, at the time. I didn’t turn out that way, though. I was never to be the hero who saved a neighborhood from gentrification. I’m not quite sure how I turned out, what I did that might justify a story. For some reason, remembering the story I wrote so long ago (what, it’s been about forty-five years ago, right?) is incredibly depressing. Suddenly, I sense that I’ve spent 45 years simply getting by day-to-day without actually accomplishing a damn thing. Suddenly is the wrong word. I sense that every minute of every hour of every day; occasionally, though, that sense explodes into the daylight and is much more vivid.

Regardless of whether I have more energy today than yesterday, whatever strength I have won’t be spent writing about old memories or a lifetime of inadequacy. Instead, I’ll try to swallow the contents of a bottle of Ensure, shower and shave, and haul this computer to town. If I can emerge from yesterday’s fog, I’ll try to recover a piece of myself and do something productive. What remains to be seen. Maybe just tend to my scorched esophagus. I won’t be any good to anyone until that problem is fixed. Some lyrics from a John Gorka song, Armed with a Broken Heart, grab me at this moment, for unknown reasons. But here they are:

This sudden loneliness has made me dangerous
Please don’t watch me while I fall apart
‘Cause I’m sad and I’m angry
And armed with a broken heart

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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4 Responses to Emerging from the Fog

  1. Hopester says:

    Ah, that novel will forever remain in the dark. I wrote it during NaNoWriMo which happens every November when people around the world commit to writing a 50K word book in a month. Shitty first draft it will remain. But I did prove to myself I could do it. My daughter has done it several times and edited it in time to get it printed and on Amazon. Which is cool.

  2. John Swinburn says:

    Share your novel with me

  3. Hopester says:

    Oh dang. There are no two ways about that. Grammar queen to the rescue. After the fact. 🙂

  4. Hopester says:

    Falling apart feels wretched. There is no two ways about that. Enduring what is, sucks. Your feistiness is a good sign.

    I have a novel that I wrote quite a few years ago when I had no idea how a novel was supposed to work. I still love the main character. I’ve carried her around within me for decades.

    I hope you can get your computer issues sorted. I sometimes think about that cartoon where a person shoves their computer over the edge of their desk in frustration and rage and can relate to the urge.

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