Wednesday, December 17, 2003

In Which I Realize That I Have Become A Not So Ornamental Hermit

I looked in the mirror this morning and thought: Saddam.

I've spent the past two and a half months in a spider hole, and it shows. The glazed, disoriented look. The long, witchy gray hair. Dirty fingernails. If my legs are any indication, there could be a little beard happening under the DeSalvo collar. What next ? Corkscrew toenails. Vermin. Scrofula. Formication.

I've spent two and a half months communing with dead vegetation.

My colleague, pressing me to come to the clinic Xmas party tomorrow, emailed me: i'm worried that your monastic living may be too sobering. even for you. She has my number. Hint: it's an integer between zero and two.

The whole trajectory of my life has led to this spot. Of the universe. That's a weighty acculmulation of events. Even my brain feels old.

I realize that this is yet another permutation of the fiendish collar I've had to wear: from cheerfully named Aspen, to Albert "The Boston Strangler" DeSalvo, to Gregor "behold my carapace" Samsa, to Poe with his various burials and immurations , and now, finally, to Saddam's Spider Hole.

I actually pored over the pictures of his little kitchen and bedroom and the schematic of the hideaway with great interest, scanning his shelves, inspecting his furniture. Nice digs, I thought.

My second skin. My turtle shell. My rat hole. And here's a new note: my hide-out. Am I incarcerated or on the lam or both ? Odd that it could be both. Prisoner or fugitive. Prisoner of flight.

Funny how it happens. Becoming a cartoon of myself.

This morning, staggering about the kitchen before coffee, I found myself talking to DK. What are these words I thought, even as I jabbered, pouring from my mouth ? Things I've said hundreds of times. Phrases boiling up, Pavlovian, from Broca's area. Phrases imprinted there, branded there by, in this case, the dailyness of a marriage. Nothing special. Some little, half-conscious, call and response. Some comforting, automatic sheltering super-structure. It was a moment of, well, spleen.

I need more coffee. And to take a walk before it rains.

In five days, my three months sentence will be up, and some sort of parole will begin. Parole is French for "word." As in "word of honor." From Latin Parabola. Parable. The sentence -- the judgment, the rule, the law, the complete thought, the imposition -- simplifies to a word. "I promise." Parable -- "a fictitious narrative for telling a spiritual truth." A spiritual truth ? The phrase hurts my ears.

I need to reel it all back in. To real it all back in.


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