Nonpareils

by dschapman

The dog is at the doorstep, dole-eyed, and begging to go for a walk. I look over at him from my desk, where I have laid down my head on my folded arms, eyes half-closed, scribbling lazily inside a notebook, drawing fractals and other geometric patterns. “Oh,” I say. “I can’t take you for another walk today, Darl. Oh, Darl, don’t you know I’m depressed? I’m crippled and depressed, and I’m doing drugs to deal with it, I’m a mess, don’t you mind me.” But the sun is warm and inviting against my face, and I start to feel guilty, as if I am not even crippled, but making it all up, and so I take the dog on a walk. I doubt that I should be walking in a state like this, out of sorts as I am, and as soon as I step outside I am overwhelmed by the cold, my hands are cold, my ears are stinging, my nerves are all pinched, numb, or drugged, and all of them cold. The sun disappears behind some clouds and I cut the walk short, turning on a heel and going back home. I misstep and something snaps in my ankle, and suddenly I’m in terrible pain. I limp the rest of the way home.

I get back just as it is growing late. The sun, once hidden away, did not come out again, but diffused itself through blue and purple clouds, slipping away from the curve of the earth. I eat a piece of chocolate for dinner, and as soon as the sun is gone for good I crawl into bed. I smoke a mixture of hashish and opium, and a handful of pills for my ankle, and I daydream, open-eyed, my generic, comforting fantasies; crystal ships, summer carousels, wooden houses, clouds and castles, treasure, sports cars, pretty girls, adventurous memories, heroes, famous places. I have a tall glass of water beside me and I draw from it. I drink many glasses of water to stay hydrated because I am worried about my health. I don’t want to look unhealthy, even if I am, in fact, unhealthy, which I very well may be. I keep myself clean and well-shaven. I soak up all of the oil from my face with clay, because I don’t want to look oily. I wonder if people can tell I’m depressed, or if I have fooled them. I have fallen far from grace, or at least from where I could have been, had I been more graceful, but I try to keep my fall a secret. I still have enough strength for a secret, and I still have my wings hanging limp on my back, so I pretend I am fine, and I save myself the pains of explaining my troubles, and I carry on, calm and ready, through my life, looking winged.

I pretend life is bad, I pretend that I am doing nothing, that I am miserable and alone, but really I am doing countless little things, thinking many propositions, entertaining many visitors day by day. In fact, life is not bad for me, and so my suffering is done in vain. I pretend life is bad, to justify my anguish, but it will not be so easily justified. The opium isn’t enough to really mute my pain and so I take a few more synthetics, precious little pills, perfectly manufactured in rippling quantities, bottles spread across my drawer like wine in a wine cellar, and spilling all their little pills. Four to six hours, several glasses of water, a moment cooking toast, a moment writing poetry; a familiar love washes over me, a glazed and distant sun begins to rise. I wait with a glimmer of hope for a focus. Right now I am focused on art, and on heroes. I watch two or three movies a day, or a season of television, and I enjoy the experience fanatically, intimate and dear; I well up with feelings, good feelings, recollections, re-alignments, sensations and new preservations of sense. I get inspired as a man, as an artist, and as a moviegoer. I pour myself a glass of wine, because I think men are supposed to drink. Men are not supposed to drink wine, but it is better to drink wine than not. I do not enjoy it; I am beginning to appreciate it. I would rather be drinking scotch; I cannot drink scotch. I have not been able to drink liquor since that fateful summer day when I… when all of this began.

I am suddenly feeling ambitious and inspired so I get out of bed, put on my finest set of clothes, and drive to the city for dinner. A friend of mine, an actor, gives me a call on the way, and I offer to buy him dinner. I pick him up, and we eat together. I get a lavish meal and encourage my friend to do the same. He eats his quickly and I pick slowly at mine, and although I was hungry, I am already full after hardly beginning. He finishes what I can not eat, which is most of it, so at least am not left looking like a woman. I am feeling powerful and tell some good jokes, and the laughter gets my friend riled up. As we get up to leave the restaurant he makes a scene, quoting lines from a movie that no one in the place has seen, and even I can not help laughing, carrying on for a few lines of my own, without letting on what was happening. After the manager is summoned and drives us out we go to see a man I know about a bag of marijuana, and I buy us a nice one. We drive across town to the theater, like the old days, and we smoke a few joints outside of the theater. After we are finished we go inside. I buy myself a box of chocolate nonpareils and I buy my friend some popcorn, and we share a coke between us. We watch a gangster flick, like the old days, and we sit in the back of the theater, safe in a very dark room. I am not much a moviegoer, anymore, as the movie theater is a relic of a different time, and civilized people know better than going to movies, but tonight, for old time’s sake, I am going to a movie. I am okay with my presence in this theater; it is a civilizing influence, and good for me. I am starting, again, to feel civilized. There is water in my eyes. I borne on water towards the light, the powerful colors of light, focused on the screen before my very eyes, and I am fallen in love with a new reality, a new perception of the world. I can feel a tingling inside me and a restitution. I put my arm around my fellow man, pouring some nonpareils into his popcorn. “I am glad to see you,” I tell him. He is a poet, like me, ashamed and dreaded, and depressed, and he abuses, like me, whatever he can get his hands on. Guilt is a social construct, designed as chains for men like us, and we lay, bound and tethered. But at least we have each other, as we each have James Dean, all chained up together.

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