I don’t check my pulse; I don’t check my blood pressure. I sit with a tight chest, constricted lungs, rigid, like they might crack if I breathe too deeply. I woke today with a headache. I went to bed last night with the same headache. I made no progress over night. I worried when I couldn’t reach my father. I fell out of my work-groove after lunch, dreamed about the end of the day.
I walked home after work. I skipped my usual Spotify rock concert to listen to a podcast: Christ and the Buddha walk into a Bar. It wasn’t as funny as it sounds. Too intellectual, I couldn’t retain the premise, I judged myself stupid.
I feel better spewing this venom. Like I drank an Ipecac cocktail, I’m purging the poison.
Hrurh, hrurh, hrurh. It started with my tics. The grunting sounds I make in my throat. They come from Tourette Syndrome, or maybe autism—if I have autism. Maybe neither, possibly just a bad habit. Possibly, I’m weird.
I blame Angie. She stuck Zombie by the Cranberries in my head just before I ran my park loop. Ironically, the chorus goes like this: What’s in your head? What’s in your head? What’s in my head is that fucking song. And in my throat. Hrurh, hrurh, hrurh, hrurh? Hrurh, hrurh, hrurh, hrurh? Zombie, zombie, zombie. I grunted out the tune for the entire run.
This happened yesterday. I’m still ticcy. That’s the term Susan and I use when my Tourette tics are heightened, relentless. The effect from the run never went away. Hrurh, hrurh, hrurh, all day today in my office. I don’t know if people hear this. I never ask. They never say. I catch myself after the fact. Whoa, that was loud.
The run, the headache, the tics, the judgement, the anxiety. No wonder I can’t breathe.
Death lurks in the corners of my world. My stepmother died. My friend Leslie’s father died the next day. Leslie and I dated the summer after I graduated college. Not quite an adult, no longer a kid. Mostly, I tried to cling to my disintegrating carefree life, aware that playtime was over. I drank to forget my stifling eight-to-five weekly grind. I drank to forget my mother limping through her final throes of terminal cancer. Leslie’s father, a huge man—he filled the doorframe with his height and bulk—disapproved of my lack of seriousness. He greeted me with “Hey, here comes the party kid.” That guy scared the hell out of me.
Last night, I finished The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake. In the afterword, his friend and mentor John Casey recounts Pancake’s brilliance as a writer, his sullen stories, his moodiness and suicide—all complete by age twenty-six. In his few years as a writer, Breece established himself as the one to watch, and then snuffed out his own flame. The writing is beautiful. Succinct and sparse, conveying more by omission than inclusion. He reminded me that style matters, that I can do better.
Hours around my wife and son, phone calls with my father and daughter centered me tonight. The urge to tic passed. My breathing evened, and my lungs bend again. I spent most of today brooding on negative thoughts. A few hours writing this helped leech that bile from my belly. My headache disappeared. I’ll wake up fresh and try again tomorrow.