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Published on March 23rd, 2014 | by Richard Black


A Legal Separation, My Brain Rupert, and Why I Hate Geese

So I’m thinking about getting a legal separation. Not from my wife.  Laura and I are looking forward to irritating each other into our salad days.

Sadly it’s my brain that’s been causing the trouble.

I’m not considering anything rash mind you. Once Darcy is self sufficient by the age of eight or so I think I’ll be in a good place to explore the relationship objectively and contact an attorney or two. Granted there are some logistical issues but I’m willing to keep an open mind.

Don’t get me wrong we’ve had a…decent run. Almost 40 years in fact and I love the bastard. Rupert (I like to think of my brain as a he but I could be wrong) and I have had our problems but he’s generally held up his end of the bargain and kept my consciousness at a continuum which is, really, the least that can be expected.

In all fairness I haven’t been that kind to Rupert since my adolescence. I always forget to take my ginkgo biloba and the most mental exercise I’ve had recently was translating  the assembly instructions for Darcy’s balance bike last Christmas.

Still I believe that Rupert does bear some portion of blame. I know that according to popular belief laying fault in a situation like this is generally thought  to be counter productive and I get that, I really do. The blame game does have one enormous benefit in that it provides me with a scapegoat . Instead of focusing on my own crippling inadequacies, a situation that would render me unable to leave the bed and most likely incontinent to boot, I’m able to live a marginally productive and ambulatory existence.

The fact is that I don’t recall asking for neurons that sucked up serotonin like a Hoover vacuum cleaner instead of throwing them around like a hot potato in the way God intended. It doesn’t sound all that bad I admit and most of the time it isn’t thanks to medication, liberal doses of alcohol and a rigorous schedule of self gratification.

Sometimes however things aren’t so hunky fucking dory and I get a bit…wiggy.

At the best of times Rupert compels me to perform various rituals in an attempt to maintain some delusional measure of control over my environment. It’s usually something innocuous like counting the number of cars in a parking lot until I find a a row with an even number and an available space.

Other times Rupert requires me to step on the seam between concrete slabs on a sidewalk with my left foot when my right has, previously, trodden on another or tap my right thigh with one hand if the other has insolently brushed against the left.  I might look like I’m having a controlled seizure or a bout of Turrets but I’m still able to function, more or less, on a daily basis.

I should mention that these actions don’t provide me with an immense sense of satisfaction. It’s more like I’m throwing myself back and forth on a teeter totter in an attempt to maintain an equilibrium that is doomed to be thrown out of balance.

For the most part I go through life with a general sense of unease but then again I imagine that’s the case for most people.

During the worst of times there’s no amount of thigh tapping or car counting to hold off a panic attack which is really what it’s all about. If you’ve never had one I cannot recommend the experience. Imagine bonging a gallon of coffee spiked with a few grams of crystal meth and then base jumping off the Chrysler Building with a bungee cord that was measured and cut by Andy Dick’s retarded brother.

It’s a real treat. The problem is that panic attacks are like potato chips and you can’t have just one.

I’ve managed to adjust as best as I can. Still at those moments and sometimes days when I’m primed for terror I can imagine the absolute worst in any situation, real or hypothetical.

Consider the following scenario: A beautiful day in June, a walk in the city garden with my wife, a family of ducklings on one side of a pond, a goose, a gander and a gosling on the other.

It sounds sublime doesn’t it? Peaceful? Transcendent?

It wasn’t at least not for me. Given the chance Rupert and I can screw up just about any moment.

As my wife and I rounded the pond my we gave each other a small smile and watched five or six ducklings follow their parents into the reeds. I remember thinking that life was so fragile, how it consists of little islands of joy like the one Laura and I were sharing that carried one through the doldrums before the bottom dropped out.

I immediately pictured us in a horrible accident on the way home, some multiple car pile up that left me relatively unharmed but Laura clinging to life in an ICU. I stayed by her bedside day and night as she remained unresponsive, the only sound between us the harsh gasp and suck of the ventilator.

The doctors, at first kind and understanding, would become more insistent. The phrase “vegetative state” would eventually be thrown into the ring. I would be reminded of the instructions in our trust, Laura’s wish to avoid extreme measures to prolong her life. Finally I would acquiesce and Laura would pass quietly, anticlimactically into the great unknown.

I would survive her by 70 years, living alone in the home we shared together briefly, subsisting solely on Golden Grahams cereal, and storing my urine in mason jars in a tribute to each and every worthless day I had spent since my beloved wife’s death.

Of course nothing like that every happened. We finished our walk and drove home without incident.

Before we left the park however I experienced one of those delightful little ironies reaffirms my belief, if not in a higher power, then in a universe with a profoundly screwed up sense of humor.

By the time I was on the brink of an emotional collapse from our summer walk the aforementioned ducks and ducklings had paddled off to the side of the pond staked out by the geese. Once mama and papa duck realized that they’d gotten into unfriendly territory they tore ass in reverse with all their ducklings in tow. The gander raised his wings, took chase and then proceeded to peck the last duckling in line to death until it was nothing more than a mangled piece of yellow fluff floating on the water.

I was horrified, like most of the other witnesses but also filled with a profound sense of relief. I know it sounds strange, even sick. There is really no rationale behind it, but the fact that something awful had occurred freed me up to enjoy the rest of the day.

By the time we got home I wasn’t exactly jubilant but a lot less “edgy” as Laura likes to say. I waited until she went to sleep before I threw six or seven boxes of Golden Grahams into the trash as well as a few dozen mason jars, slept for a few hours and then woke up at four in the morning to obsess over another day.

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