Chapter 4 The Zombie Awakes
The first morning that I woke up in the grave, the sun was sneaking through the blinds warmly revealing the millions of tiny dust particles that normally hung suspended and unseen. It was Saturday, my favorite day of the week; this morning I only felt despair.
I crawled out of bed and stumbled into the shadowed hallway, feeling my way along the walls where all of our memories had hung only the day before. I took a long piss, mainly on the floor; I didn’t care. I was dead inside, a barefoot corpse in day old boxers, standing before a mirror desperately searching for a tiny spark of life.
I showered out of habit and went through my normal rituals. Back in the bedroom, I opened the blinds and the first thing I noticed was a large black crow sitting on the telephone lines behind the back fence, a messenger perhaps?
It made me think of the lines from Poe “ On this home by horror haunted—tell me truly I implore: Is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me I implore!” I know that Poe was haunted by his own nasty set of demons, and I also knew that the poem was act of creation in response to that inner struggle. In the depths of my despair, I knew that the answer to my own problems would somehow lie in the act of creating something new.
I knew deep down in my heart I still loved Jennie. Sure, she drove me bat shit crazy, but there was something there, something in our connection that I would never be able to forget or leave behind. Hell, we had created two beautiful kind and intelligent daughters. I was hoping that she still felt it too. I had to put some distance between us in the meantime. Then I had to come up with a way to get her attention and make her realize that I was the only one for her. The main problem was, at the moment, I didn’t believe that bullshit myself.
The night before I had drank myself to sleep, and I had gotten drunk on cheap beer, the cheapest I could find, the kind where you drink the whole case before you start stumbling and mumbling. I lay on my bed with my shoulders elevated by two mismatched pillows and my headphones on listening to two songs over and over. One was Elvis singing Are you Lonesome Tonight. I had heard someone say that he had never played it live without screwing up the soliloquy part. They suggested that it was because he wasn’t really asking his lover was she lonesome, but was really feigning concern for her to mask his own loneliness.
When he sang, “Now the stage is bare and I'm standing there with emptiness all around and if you won't come back to me then make them bring the curtain down,” I would choke up every time. It never really felt that my life was really over, I knew I would move forward eventually, but that little pain in my heart that came with surrendering to the those words were somehow cathartic. In a weird way the pain reminded me that I was still alive.
And that was precisely why I was singing along with the King. Jenny had many other issues; loneliness was not one of them. Me, however, I was feeling lonely and rejected and conflicted at the same time. I was asking the universe unknowingly, what the hell was going to happen to me?
The other song was Dylan’s If You See Her Say Hello. It was off of his Blood on The Tracks album, one of my all-time favorites. In a lot of ways it was like the Elvis song. The singer appears to be expressing concern for his lost love, but by asking her friends about her, he is really playing the martyr’s role, but in the midst of all the hurt and pain, he sings, “If you get close to her kiss her once for me. I always have respected her for doing what she did and getting free.” The singer recognizes both his continued love and at the same times faces the cold fact that he bears so much of the blame for the pain he suffers.
And that was what I needed. I still cry every time I hear that line because it makes me face the truth about our relationship. When it got too hard to deal with, I ran way. I tell people that Jenny quit loving me, and that much is true. Deep inside I know I ran away many, many times before.
Way I figure it, I got to face up to that; I have to recognize the scars for what they are, not as slashes left behind in Jenny’s highly successful effort to cut out my heart, remember she used a scalpel to accomplish that deed with surgical precision, but as painful reminders of what I should have done when I had the chance. You can’t change your downward momentum unless you understand why you fell/failed in the first place.
Twenty-seven years of the structure of married life had been reduced to a chaotic pile of rubble, broken bone, ashes, and twisted steel. What I needed to do immediately was sift through the rubble to search for whatever there was that had survived the collapse. I still had two beautiful daughters, a roof over my head, a car, a bike, a shitload of books, a job, and the embittered survivor’s mentality of a angry cockroach.
If a freaking nuclear bomb had detonated over Concord, I would eventually crawl out of the debris somewhere, maybe a bit contaminated, but at some point, I would bare my little cockroach ass to whoever had pushed the button and scream, “ Still here, Bitch! Ha ha!”
I had effortlessly stumbled into this dystopian landscape of death metal marriage failure with all the decisiveness of a drunken, depressed zombie, but that didn’t mean I was anywhere near ready to stay dead for the rest of my life. I knew instinctively somewhere deep inside this emptiness that blades of new grass would eventually grow out of the biggest pile of dog shit if the sun shined on it long enough.
I had to get up, get some sun, a cup of coffee and some hammer and nails. I had not a single idea what I was going to build, but it wasn’t going to be a coffin.
I hardly ever sit down without a book in my hand, so after I poured my coffee and stirred in some hazelnut creamer, I went and pulled a copy of Tropic of Cancer from my bookcase. My wife had picked up this same book one time, stumbled onto one of the more salacious passages, and immediately branded the book pornography, “ Why would you read trash like this?” she asked, looking at me like she was Cotton Mather, and I was Tituba.
I tried to explain the holy genius that was contained inside the pages of that cheap little paperback, but a few words in, decided I would have better luck trying to explain quantum physics to a Baptist preacher and quit. Inside my head, I was thinking, “ No, the girly books were hidden under my bed when I a teenager, the stuff I threw away a long time ago. Henry Miller is life.”
I needed to create a few sparks and then fan them into flame. Reading Miller in the morning is always like a good kick in the ass. It reminds you that there is still time enough to walk into your boss’s office, drop your pants and moon him; time enough to withdraw all of your money from the bank, run away to Vegas and blow it all on lap dances and bleached blonde strippers. Time enough to return home, beg your wife’s forgiveness only so that you could get her to sign over the title to the car, so that you can sell it and do it all over again.
Reading Miller at night is still a good stiff kick in the butt, but it is more of a punitive thing like imagining yourself among the riffraff of 19th century Arkansas standing in front of a Judge Parker hanging and suddenly realizing that you were going to die toothless and all alone in a feather bed covered with dusty webs, and your only regret being that you never mustered the courage to roar wild across the territories like Attila the Hun with a six gun and then spitting a big old loogie in George Maledon’s eyes right before he stretched your neck.
I had read eight pages before there were enough sparks to create a fire. I then used the book as a fan, and nurtured the fire until it was big enough to melt the ice around my heart. The frozen blood thawed and began to slowly circulate again. A few minutes later the blood reached my brain, and I developed my first post-mortem plan on how to return to the land of the living.
I decided to go to the ATM and withdraw a couple of hundred dollars and head to the Indian casino, drink some scotch, and play some slots.
I didn’t say it was a good plan. I said it was a plan.