The water was shut down today. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but the air is getting warmer and dryer. In the winter, when the heat first went, it was workable. My parents had always stocked wood in the barn for those special fireplace occasions that rarely happened. I think my Dad just enjoyed the outdoors and the refreshing exercise that came of chopping wood, even while they piled on more than they would ever need.
Of course we were grateful to find that stockpile during those impossibly cold nights. But now, with the oppressive summer heat on its way, and those dry desert dusts circulating, it’s hard to cope without a running faucet or cold shower to cool you down. Todd and Tristan have set up buckets around the house and in the windows for those few and far between rainy days.
For us, those overcast skies, with their intermittent rays of sunshine peeking through their thick airy coats, are hopeful. And sun showers are the best blessing we can ask for.
I’m writing this entry at a moment of sheer exhaustion. Rain has kept us ALL up the past three nights with horrible, multiple-hour-long fits of rage: moaning, screaming, tossing herself around in a dangerous, self-destructive way. Todd and I have done everything short of wrapping her in a straightjacket. I’m so tired, it’s even beyond tired. I am almost numb to my need for sleep, and my body is just this achey, lethargic weight that I am dragging around into whatever place I can sit for a few moments peace.
If this doesn’t change, I don’t know what we’re going to do.
The 11th Plague
I was looking through some boxes today and came upon a copy of The Good Earth, a 1931 novel about a family living in a Chinese village prior to World War II, who had to endure every kind of natural obstacle the world could throw at them: drought, famine, locust, you name it. Like Steinback’s The Grapes of Wrath, however, it’s not just the unpredictable natural world, but the contentious people within it, that pose the greatest threat. For the Lung family, the disasters that struck their land probably felt like something Biblical—but in the end, it wasn’t those crises that led to their rise and fall. It was the people that took advantage; it was Wang Lung’s own personal mistakes; it was, in a word, everything HUMAN about their experience.
When thinking about the problem we’re facing with this cancer epidemic, it’s important to remember—though I am seeking a cure everyday—that the condition itself is something currently outside of our control. What is in our power, though, is how we respond to it. How we treat each other. And how we conduct ourselves. If there was an additional plague after the 10 that Moses rained upon the Egyptians through the Biblical God, it’s not anything as dramatic or divine. It’s simply us. It’s the kind of humanity that we can choose to bear for ourselves and our loved ones.
I’m really starting to realize how much arguments stem from semantics. It’s the associations with words, the connotations that they sometimes inadvertently carry when someone—without meaning—expresses a point that is taken the wrong way. In my dealings with Rain, I’ve tried to really monitor my language, removing those words or phrases that could set her off. It makes me wonder, though… In the absence of a more diverse lexicon of communication, can bitter and hurtful feelings no longer thrive? If there is no word to assign the angst we feel or the hurt that we might inflict on others when we speak, can we avoid it altogether? But at what cost?
Orwell’s Big Brother seemed to believe that reducing the English language could lead to a more ordered society. The theory behind “Newspeak” was that in limiting the pool of words that a culture is allowed to use, one would simplify thought and, in effect, minimize the potential for original or creative ideas.
With Rain, I have a chance to do the same thing in our talks—completely peel away any subtext that could be construed the wrong way. Hell, I might even be able to bring her back upstairs again and into our normal routine. But I wonder if that’s any way to live. Is she better caged downstairs or in her communications with the rest of us?
Yogurt and Barbecue Sauce
It’s amazing to think how much we used to complain when everything was wonderful. Take Rain. She always used to insist on this one brand of diet yogurt—probiotics and all that crap. She wasn’t lactose intolerant or anything. She just thought milk was a strain on her system. Some “new age” doctor told her this back in Venice, California, and she just took it to heart. Needless to say, that jerkoff sent my bullshit meter through the roof.
But now, when the options are fewer, she’ll take it. Even 2% milk. It’s… amazing.
I had a brand of barbecue sauce I used to buy for my chicken and beef. It was just the perfect cooking accompaniment. Lord, I don’t know where that stuff went, or if there’s a store somewhere in the world that still sells it, but I’d hate to think what I might do for one more goddamn bottle!
I’ve been messing with my video camera settings lately, trying to see if I can increase the quality of the image in that dark as hell basement. We only get so much light through those narrow slits of windows down there, and I’ve all but used up the bulbs in the house… Not that we have very many lamps left to burn out anyway.
I didn’t realize that there was an F-stop setting that was turned up way too high, and which was accounting for the dark grainy appearance I got when I turned the ISO way up to compensate. The first few weeks of footage of Rain are really poor quality as a result. I wish I had more experience with this. But at least we have something—a video record of what we’re doing. I don’t know if there’s something I’m missing, but it might be there. And the clearer the picture we can get, the better.
She’s getting stronger. I can see it everyday.
Living together under such tight circumstances can be draining. But it’s still important that I keep us all safe and under one roof. Family is everything.
I read a few pages from The Diary of Anne Frank today and one of the most important lessons that Anne learned from her life in the secret annex was that many of the conflicts that resulted between herself and her family resulted from misunderstandings (especially with respect to her mother).
When I lash out at Tristan and Todd, and vice-versa, it’s important that I remember this message. Taking time to talk it out can make all the difference, so that all the cards are laid out and everyone understands each other. It’s a cornerstone of my therapy with Rain, in fact.
A roasted chicken after two weeks of canned meat and vegetables—the last one they had left. They’re in the store for only a few hours before people grab them all up. Sometimes it gets violent, and not even in a “Frantic” way. Just regular people going nuts over the only fresh meat available for miles.
I’m lucky we have Sam.
It seems there’s a lot to be learned about the brain, and now is the hardest time to find out anything new. I’ve been reading some of my old anatomy and physiology books from college to see if I can find an answer. I know there’s probably thousands of smarter and more educated people out there doing the same thing right now, but I have to try.
Anger is usually attributed to the prefrontal cortex and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex. However, emotional learning comes from the amygdala. If this thing is coming from anywhere, it’s within those areas.
And then there’s this specific condition I read about today: hypersecretion of catecholamine. It arises from a chromaffin cell tumor called Pheochromocytoma. Supposedly causes symptoms of uncontrollable sympathetic nervous system activity—hyperglycemia, intense nervousness, sweating and other symptoms. Afflicted patients complain of almost experiencing panic attacks, which can cause them to act out erratically and without concern for consequence.
It’s getting harder. The experiments I know are weighing on Rain. I’m trying to save face, but even I don’t know anymore if the magic elixir exists. I don’t know if we can cure her.
Todd is by nature an optimistic guy, but I can see that he’s beginning to lose faith in what we are doing. One thing is certain: we NEED to keep going. We have to try and control it. There’s no alternative. There’s no way of living together otherwise.
The worst part about it is, neither one of us knows when it’s going to happen to us. Todd is my right hand man right now, for better or worse. If I ever lost him, if I had to treat both Rain and him simultaneously, my life would become unfathomably difficult. And if I were to go, well, I don’t believe Todd could handle it. I need to test myself most of all. I need to make sure I’m still… me.
And if Tristan were to change… Well, I don’t want to think about that.