Friday, August 22, 2008

Blithering Friday

I am sitting on my wobbly green steno chair which is currently inside a wobbly box-like structure made up of a desk stacked with file folders, book carts and books. The walls of my box are in one or another stage of processing for course reserves…coming down from summer term, going up for fall term. Someday. When the system is online again.

“The system” is our name for the software from hell which, on a more-or-less regular basis, screws us all by failing to operate or requiring extensive downgrades (referred to as “upgrades”) that make simple tasks impossibly complex. For example: I need to hammer a nail. For this, the system provides me with an approximation of the space shuttle. It can defy gravity and vacuums. It will orbit distant planets and record scientific data. What it will not do is hammer a bloody nail.

Outside my box, where I am not working as my workload piles, my student assistant is slumped at the circulation desk. Her eyes are not quite open and her mouth is not quite closed. You could be forgiven for thinking she has smoked a nice fat joint before arriving at work, but she’s stoned on Neo Citron. Stand there a minute and she’ll snuffle for you. I have a sneaking suspicion that the same virus partying in her respiratory system is about to host a fiesta in mine. I’m pretending to myself that it’s only…

that just as I drifted off to sleep, the muscles in the arch of my left foot went into spasm. I tried, oh-god-i-tried, to relax the cramp without getting up, without fully waking up. And I was rewarded for my efforts by an additional cramp starting on the top of my foot. Nothing to do but get up, walk it out, drink water, wait, walk etc.

Fine. Okay. Back to bed. Only to wake twice for trips to the bathroom…stumbling out of bed still half-in, half-out of a series of hideous dreams. Nothing I clearly remember…except one detail I repeated aloud to myself. I said, “artist holocaust.” Miles of dead artist bodies. Thank you, subconscious, for the memories.

At 5:10 a.m., Cat was possessed by the devil. Instead of his habitual early morning activity (dozing beside me, taking up more than his half of the bed) he launched a running leap from a few feet off and galloped violently across my back and shoulders, howling.

I sit in my box. Eyes not quite open, mouth not quite closed. Praying for 4:00 p.m. to come.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A mind undarkening

I always called Ben, “D.” In my last letter, I told him it stood for “darlin’.” “Darlin’” is my name for people towards whom I feel a rare maternal impulse.

Now and then, while he was online with the blog, before his arrest, we exchanged emails, me pleading with to him to believe he was more than the hallucinations, loneliness, anger and dark fantasies, him assuring me in turn, in his matter-of-fact way, (and in exasperation at my thickness I think) that really he was crazy, totally around the proverbial bend, hopeless. I would write back agreeing with the crazy part. But I was never afraid of Ben. And even when Darkmind was at his darkest, I couldn’t forget his self-honesty, his intelligence, his insight and the compassion he claimed not to feel. The curse and the blessing of Venus in Pisces is that, although you see who people are, you hone in on their possibilities. I’m not sorry to have done that.

And now it’s time to update for those of you who might have read him. I guess it was worse than bad after his arrest. He didn’t really plan on making it through the arrest, matter of fact.

But now, he says, he’s glad he did. After months of near catatonia, not eating, getting crazier and crazier, someone in the justice system realized he was truly ill. As Ben says, in his accustomed cryptic tone, he didn’t know what gave him away – the paranoid tics or the 70 pound weight loss.

He hasn’t been sentenced yet. But he’s been diagnosed and the description, when I check it, fits everything he talked about and couldn't get help for... The visual and auditory hallucinations, the paranoia, the horrifying emotional, uncontrollable mood swings, the lack of sleep – the almost autistic disconnection. If his blog was full of hellish visions, it’s because his chemistry moved him into the heart of the neighborhood. He’s getting anti-depressants and anti-psychotics and therapy now. And he’s glad. He’s glad for the help. Me? I’m over the moon about it.

And he’s still Ben. Or maybe he’s finally Ben. He’s funny and cryptic still – unflinchingly honest. But there’s a little soft showing, somehow. And god, that’s so good to see.

The prosecution isn’t going to cut him any slack. Even with three psychiatrists concurring on his condition they won’t accept “diminished capacity.” But he has no violent criminal record, so I’m hoping, hoping. And I’m asking the universe to give him a chance.