As Still as a Possum

I will write about this in Daniel Undone in the future, but it’s been on my mind.

100918-possum-pictures-32aI’d been skipping work, living with a jazz singer I’d met in a bar, drinking, and smoking heavily.  And I had pneumonia by then from a campout with my son’s Boy Scout troop.  It was three weeks since I’d walked out of my home with the notion of never returning.  My wife knew about my affairs and I was glad.  The marriage counselor asked me if this last one was an exit affair and I was glad there was a term for it.  And now, I’d decided I’d had enough of the jazz singer.  She was a kept woman of a prominent lawyer who needed a diversion.  She hoped that one day he would not have to keep her a secret and would introduce her to his friends and family as his girlfriend.  I knew that he never would.  We decided that we needed each other in an ephemeral sense;  me at the seeming end of my marriage and her in her anguish over being kept a secret of a much older man;  most likely one of many secrets. But the moment was over and I trudged back to the little, shabby room I was renting from an artist hippy.

The snow had given way to an early spring.  It was warm enough for me to stand out on my solitary back porch with my bare feet and enjoy a cigarette and a scotch.  In that moment, I felt like I was the luckiest man alive.  I was free from the bondage of an oppressive marriage.  A possum joined me perched on the porch wall, so quiet and still that I didn’t see him for 10 minutes.  He was studying me perilously. Waiting for my next move.   I raised a glass to it, finished it off, put out my Camel Blue cigarette, and walked into my room for bed.

Besides my clothes, I only took three things with me:  my tuba, a bottle of old single malt scotch, and all of my liquor glasses.  I was certain she would destroy these, my most valuable possessions.

I was alone, for the first time since I was living in my first apartment in college.  I left my clothes on and crawled under my borrowed sheet and blanket. I had no pillow case.  As I settled in I began to notice the rattle in my chest.  With every breath it crackled and gurgled.  I lay as still and as perilously as the possum.  More still than I’d been in months  I knew I had pneumonia.  I’d been given medicine, but I didn’t take it.  I wondered if it would be ok.  I’d had pneumonia before, but I rested, took meds, drank pomegranate juice and tons of water like a good boy.  But I wasn’t a good boy anymore.  I was lost in world which no longer made sense to me.  Family.  Wife.  Job.

I knew I would never be able to be faithful to another woman again.  It was no longer in me.  I’d prayed with preachers, but it was useless.  I was who I was;  a lonely, drunk who could expect nothing but visits with my kids on the weekend, one-night stands, and drinking myself to sleep every night.  I didn’t want to hurt anyone anymore and I didn’t want to hurt.

As I drifted off, to the sound of my chest slowly filling with fluid, I wondered if I might not wake up.   It was a just a matter of time before there was no curing me.  I took my chances and fell asleep.  I slept the first whole night I had slept in a week, and the first night I’d slept alone and thankfully the last.  My long bout with mania had ended.



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