The thing is this: I can hit such a nadir, just lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, blinds drawn, not eating, drifting in and out of sleep, unaware of the time, or even what day of the week it is: bobbing in the middle of the iron-gray Atlantic, rudderless.
Then I found the antidote. Now I'm good for days, sometimes weeks: thrumming, smiling like a fool, a spring in my step, air-punches. Colors sparkle. I’d never seen a purple that was so... purple!
Oh, that shining brace of high-pitched adrenaline blasting away the cobwebs and corrosion! How I wish I'd figured out the trick years ago. But one fine day it came to me, without explanation.
The secret? I go for a mountain drive, then at a blind curve, slip into the wrong lane—an exhilarating cocktail of Russian roulette and a game of chicken. Usually there isn’t another car.
Other times? Just a few days ago, suddenly face-to-face with a family in their SUV: Mom’s palms thrown forward, fingers splayed wide, surely stomping away at her imaginary brake. In the back, brats probably never took their beady eyes off digital time-wasters. Pop was facing three dismal choices:
1) Head-on crash.
2) A fast and severe right—into a stone cliff.
3) Yank the wheel to the left, lurching and squealing into the wrong lane.
He did the best he could, Door 3. Sadly, another car was a-comin' 'round the bend. So he veered even harder to the left, crashing the guardrail, the entire brood bouncing all the way down Blue Mountain.
I was born into the mild hustle and bustle of Copenhagen. We left Denmark under a cloud, emigrating to the USA in 1958 after my sister's mysterious crib death. (She really did cry too much for her own good.)
Her tiny coffin was white with brass trim, stunning in the sunny cemetery.
We merry three wound up in a dreary farm house outside a New Hampshire former mill-town, the land of eternal ho-hum.
School bored the daylights out of me. So one day in sixth grade, during recess, I strode into the neighboring lake, over my head and didn't come up. Subsumed by chilly green depths, barely able to contain my glee, I could make out the sun, faint, radiating from someone else's galaxy.
The kids did what I knew they'd do: run to Mrs. Kelly for HELP! In a flash, she kicked off her shoes, tore off her tweed jacket, dove in, and dragged me to shore. I stood, caught my breath, then smirked, “Ha ha! I was only joking!"
Tight-lipped, she slapped me across my face, hard. I stared back, beaming, arms akimbo. My ash-blonde pigtails, dripping and gleaming, were tossed behind squared shoulders; my tartan skirt clung to my legs like a desperate lover. A pause, then I said, "Ha! Ha! HA!”
She slapped me again, harder. I threw my head back, cackling.
I detested teachers, boy. So chuffed with authority.
Other kids were, well, kids. They went for comic books; I devoured the classics. They tuned in the Top 40 on tinny transistors; I basked in high-fidelity symphonies.
During high school I roamed the width and breadth of history and philosophy books, tooth and nail, scaling the upper belfries, slogging the fever swamps. My journals filled with copious notes, spewed hateful notions punctuated by scribblings scrawled in baboon’s blood.
At the first rest stop I pulled over, left hand clutching the wheel at nine o'clock, right hand at three, arms straight and rigid, teeth chattering, ears ringing, snorting for breath. So alive! After a bit, I got out, stretched, tried to pull heaven to me.
Sitting on the stone wall, feet dangling, I inhaled the mountains. People came and went, I paid them little mind. My bearings collected, back on the road.
I wouldn’t take an anti-depressant, anything concocted in some sterile luh-bore-uh-torry to neuter us into happy cogs in the multi-national corporate scheme.
Seeing an inn with a small sprawl of cabins, I parked, booked one, went to the dimly-lit bar, found a seat at the shadowy far end, ordered a pale ale. The too-cholly barkeep tried to chat me up. I politely urged him to peddle his papers elsewhere. I just wanted to breathe… savor...
You're appalled. So what? I deserve a compensation for the lifetime of struggling against Lilliputians tugging at my sleeves. In order to feel good, to feel great, I think no more of toying with pointless lives than a cat would a mouse. Fact: I'd argue, all things considered, that a mouse has more to offer this sorry world than most of you.
The bar's radio aired the local news: "A New Jersey family of five in an SUV plummeted off Blue Mountain... No survivors... Police investigating... Lone eyewitness can't remember any details..."
No deets? Can you say, "Scot-free"? I remained stock-still, invisible in the gloom, but in my head I was laughing like a Bedlam escapee, dancing like a Watusi.
Twenty minutes later, I went to the dining room, slightly dizzy, positively famished. My waitress, Pat, was sugar and spice: copper curls, girlish freckles, bright hazel eyes, small breasts, a tender smile, seasoned. I liked her! And I like that name, Pat. A little pat of butter: sunny to the eye, sweet on the tongue!
"I'll have a green salad, oil and vinegar, pasta primavera, and a glass of pinot noir, please."
"Are you staying at the Inn?"
Catching the vibe, I said, "Well, one of the cabins—number seven. It's my first time here, although I come to this area for a drive every so often. I adore the Adirondacks, don't you?"
"You bet, girlfriend! Born an’ raised! There's no finer scent than the Adirondacks on a spring morning. It makes the long death of winter worth it!"
"And the cloud formations are the best this side of the Canadian Rockies! I do believe it, I do believe it's true!"
"I'm very fond of rum!"
"Yep," I laughed. "Zebras are reactionaries!"
I watched Pat come and go, table to table. Occasionally our eyes locked. The place was getting busy: moony couples, cheery families. Disgusting. A fireplace blazed knotty pine walls, took the edge off eventide's chill.
Dessert was coffee and a chocolate torte, eaten slowly, while half-listening to the lulling drone of conversations, a music of sorts. The torte was so good I ordered another. Finally sated, I gave my belly a rub.
When the mustachioed manager wandered by I looked the other way, stuck a foot out. Timber!
"Oh! I'm so sorry! Are you okay? My bad!"
Walking the grounds, boots crunching pine needles, I hugged myself tightly, shivering a bit in the moonless April ink. The air was moist, pregnant with anticipation. I tingled from scalp to soles, from toes to fingertips.
No surprise to hear Pat's tentative knock, around 11. In bed we were spurred on by an abrupt hard rain beating its violent and sustained tattoo against the metal roof until daybreak. Then the lovely silence. In a window corner a spider spun her web, silver lace glistening...
Walking in enveloping morning mist Pat and I kissed under glorious evergreens, shared a cigarette.
Queer isn't it, how dependent we are on trust? How we assume everyone will simply stay in their lane, what with all the maniacs about?
Whoa! I've never seen a red that was so... red!
—Follow J.D. King on Twitter: @jdking_mod