The past week of my life has been riddled with stupid little fights. I’ve been working my ass off at “bibliotherapy” ever since the first counsellor I found shook my hand and flashed her “God is awesome” lanyard in my face.
In my renewed dedication to talking about everything, I’ve ended up talking about nothing all the time. I’m driving myself crazy (and it hasn’t been a picnic for my wife either). No one warned me about post-depression depression. When you get used to feeling shitty all the time, the pressure is off for you to experience any other emotions. You become very flat and the world never seems to surprise you. Actually, you start to believe that it can’t.
But when the day finally comes for that shitty feeling to fly away, you’ve forgotten how to double over in laughter. You’ve forgotten how to talk to strangers and incite positive responses. It becomes a mission to replenish your emotional levels.
I kept saying I needed a major shake up. Something big, like a plane trip or a near-death experience. Something bigger than the events of my own backyard.
I was walking back to work with a large double double from the Coffee Tip. I was startled to find, two years ago, that they actually have the best coffee on this strip, not to mention television, newspaper and a friendly place to practice Mandarin. I was crossing the parking lot, gum and keys bulging in my back pockets, when a man stopped to watch.
“How you doing?” he asked, and he looked me up and down like a merchant in a meat shop.
It happened too quickly for me react well. I was wearing old jeans and a big black T-shirt. My feet were sweating inside stinky running shoes. My hair was the orange of automotive rust, thanks to a dye job in the chlorinated pool. In some spots it was dark brown, too, where I’d gone looking for my roots with the razor.
I said nothing. More than that, I ignored him. For one, I figured he must not be talking to me, since I look nothing like the women who get picked up by random men on Bloor St. For two, I was waiting for him to realize I was “like that” (or realize I was a boy). I was waiting for one of us to get really, really embarrassed.
“What, you can’t say hello?”
He got me there. My Miss Manners upbringing kicked me in the ass. I said hi and let my breath out. I could feel his eyes on my back as I left. I felt like he could see through my clothes. What else would he be staring at? I was baffled, shaken even, by his apparent attraction. I expect to be invisible to men because, of course, men are invisible to me. Sexually, I mean. I don’t bump into them or run them over on my bike. On purpose anyway.
Further down the street, I ran into a friend I see often in the neighbourhood. He was engaged in a never-ending struggle for services and wanted to talk. As we did, he ranted on and on about the cops.
“I call them pigs behind their backs,” he said bitterly. Then he smiled slyly. “Know what else I call them? Dykes on bikes!”
He laughed his head off as I said goodbye. I could hear his laugh all the way up the street. I remembered how earlier that morning, I’d stopped to retrieve a baby’s rattle that had been flung below a parked car from a passing baby carriage.
As I rose from my knees, sadly empty-handed, I saw the rattle’s owner. Such a beautiful baby! I borrowed quickly from the collection of stupid words people say when they see babies; “Well hello! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hello there!” It was too early in the morning to care about looking cool. I asked “the baby’s” name, then I committed to “she” without checking. I was a bad example of progressive politics. But the baby smiled from ear to ear at my idiocy. She kicked her legs and flailed her arms and I felt absolutely blessed by the universe, absolutely on the road to feeling better.
It’s no secret to anyone I know that I’m still struggling. I’m living my life in a Plexiglas box, masquerading as a duller, scratched-up version of myself. I’ve been having difficulty reaching out for anything other than the hand of the woman I love. It’s still true that I don’t believe in God, or in fate, but how much longer will I go on asserting that? It isn’t my own strength that keeps showing up to save me. Strange things happen, one after the other on a supposed dreary day, that remind I am not a self-contained unit. They remind me I’m not alone on this planet even when I feel like I should be.
I am making connections, probably even in my sleep.