One September night in 2000, I found myself in a very expensive car (which at the time, I presumed might be stolen) driving on a crumbling, dark secluded road along the river. I was having one of my ‘manic’ nights, manic being the word I used to define my extremely energetic moods, my noisy-headed moods with endless words, scenarios and numbers flying through my mind too quickly to catch or begin to understand; Manic was also used to define my creative moods that sometimes lasted for days on end, when I could finally write and sometimes create entire CDs full of spoken pieces. Manic was also the word I used to describe my insomnia, or my video game binges which sometimes found me dozing off after a few days with the controller still in my hand. Manic also defined my agitation and my restlessness within my own skin. And more than anything, Manic was the word I used to define the overwhelming fear I had-of rushing headlong toward the edge of the world, and though there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop the inevitable fall, I desperately tried to find distractions, so when the end and the edge was near, I wouldn’t be looking at its miserable face when it finally claimed me.
This night’s manic mood was noisy head and agitation, and absolute exhaustion. Sitting at my desk alone, listening to the sound of traffic and the footsteps on the street below, I could feel that strange headlong rush toward the edge beginning and as always,I needed to do something besides waiting for it to find me. I needed to get out of my apartment and ride along the river, something which always saved me from this overpowering fear. I had been battling a week-long insomnia,with very little creativity, which made me feel like my days-long energy was being wasted, and over the past few days, I’d had several ugly cat-fights with my room-mate, and at the time, she was one of the few people who understood what I meant when I was referring to my manic moods, but because she had gone to bed after one of our nasty little battles, I didn’t feel comfortable waking her for help.
During that time, (much like now), few people understood what I was beginning to go through on an almost daily basis…No one, my room-mate included, ever mentioned that the way I was now living day to day wasn’t normal, and though I have never aspired for ‘normalcy’ in my life (that alien idea seriously sickens me), in hindsight, I don’t understand why someone didn’t suggest that I slow down…that my week-long bursts may be hurting me just a little, that perhaps I should take a nap or maybe not spend so much money in my typical 24- hour shopping sprees, shopping at stores until closing time, then moving on to 24-hour stores before finally making my way to all-night drug stores, taking hours to comb through every single cosmetic and spending $200, maybe even $300 there, because it seemed like a very reasonable idea to buy a trunk full of folding wooden chairs (that I had no room for or would ever use) at Walgreen’s at 6:00 in the morning.One of the few people who did seem to understand my fear-driven moods was a polite, somewhat older friend, who I had come to rely on for nights like this. One of the few people I could call any time-day or night- and simply say ‘My head is nuts again, I need to get out’, and he would help me. Unfortunately, I now see how selfish this was,just as many of my actions were at the time, because calling him usually happened in the middle of the night, and considering he was part of the suit and tie society, that usually meant pulling himself out of bed at 3 or 4 in the morning and picking me up in what I had begun to refer to as the new car of the week (because he seemed to have a brand new car every few weeks that he never kept long, which led me to suspect that maybe he was involved in some shady side business of stolen cars or something) Perhaps this was simply my paranoia, because my gigantic paranoia did (and still) deserves its own zip code, and this is no doubt what leads to my over-active conspiracy-theory mentality, but that’s for another post.
My suit & tie, 40-something friend was the non-threatening type, almost kind to a fault…very easy to talk to and someone I suspected would still kiss his mother after Sunday dinner- not that I knew too much about his past. Though I am crazy curious by nature, I usually try my best to wait for personal information to be offered, rather than prying, (OK, I suppose I should admit, I have been known to occasionally pry time to time). However, at this time in my life, I was far too preoccupied with my own mad world that was beginning to form to bother prying into others’ lives.He worked part-time for a large publishing company and donated the rest of his time to a crisis center in one of the most dangerous parts of the city. He had mentioned a background in psychology, so I figured between the crisis center and his background, my manic moods were surely easy enough for him to handle.
This particular night, I was feeling very quiet, which was a change from the usual state I was in during one of these moods…Most of my manic nights found me chattering wildly as I did my very best to stay on topic, but rarely managed more than a few sentences before jumping to something completely different. These busy conversations were a result of my thoughts moving too quickly to vocalize. My sentences became long run-on sentences, which eventually would become a train wreck of words all crammed together and nothing more than gibberish, which then gave me time to pause and laugh at the stupidity of it all, before doing it all over again.Usually, on the talkative nights, he would sit quietly, staring at the road-listening, perhaps silently analysing me, I don’t know…Thinking about it all now, I assume he already knew what took me years to figure out about myself and then finally be diagnosed with. Regardless, he seemed to actually listen to whatever thoughts I needed to empty from my head…and he would calmly drive, while I talked, laughed and sometimes cried until dawn. Then he would buy me a coke, drive me home, walk me up to my apartment before quietly saying “Rest”, and continue onto work. In retrospect, I see how kind this all was of him…something that at the time foolishly didn’t really reach me. These moods and the changes they created in my life were still in their infantile days…I didn’t have a clue what was actually happening to me, or if anything at all was actually happening to me.
When I climbed into the car this particular night, I mumbled something to the effect that I wasn’t feeling very talkative, then cracked my window to feel the cool air on my face. I closed my eyes while we drove across the bridge toward the road by the river…The lights of the city were my safety blanket and I could smell the beloved, though somewhat fearful womb-like river ..This was exactly what I needed.
By the time we had reached the dark, crooked road along the water, a sprinkling of rain had started, which made the drive even better because the rain meant the wind-shield wipers were started and I crave that sound, the rhythm of the blades cutting through the rain on the windows. Every car has their individual wiper sounds, and that rhythm has often served as the drums that calm the chaotic, crashing words in my mind, steadying them into what I call word songs… helping me make sense of my thoughts…calming the noise.
I was enjoying the gentle rain on the roof, the rhythm of the blades and the wavy lights reflecting on the river when we passed a small group of boats on the edge of the river bank and that’s when he cleared his throat, which usually meant he was going to begin a serious conversation-often advising me about investing my money and that things like investments and trades weren’t really as difficult to understand as some people believed.This was usually my cue to zone out…I couldn’t grasp this kind of talk, not in the frame of mind I was in, but rather than preach about investing, he simply said “I used to have a boat.”
I’m not one that’s impressed by people’s material things. Even now, I’m not an envious person. I know the things I desire to have, but I’m not envious nor as I said, impressed by other people’s possessions, so I suppose I replied with a lame, uninterested “Oh, really? That’s nice”.
I’m assuming he understood that I was somewhat preoccupied with the rain and trying to quiet my mind, so he ended the topic with “Actually, I still have jetskiis not too far from here, in a warehouse.We should drive there sometime.”
By this point, I was beginning to feel a little perturbed by the fact that I only wanted quiet and for some reason, after four years or so of knowing him, this guy was attempting to pull what I refer to as the male B.S. game of trying to impress a woman with mention of his material things…of course down deep, I knew better, because he wasn’t the type, but nevertheless, I was in no shape to be engaged in conversation….the rain was working its magic and for the first time in days,I began to feel somewhat at ease in my skin… in my skull, so my reply was something like “That sounds fun, though I’ve never been on a boat, nor jetskiis because I don’t know how to swim. My only knowledge of jetskiis comes from my time of sitting on the river bank when I was younger, copying Henry Miller lines into my pitiful notebooks. I guess I’ve always thought they were noisy and annoying.”
Then he was silent, which would have pleased me, if I hadn’t felt somewhat guilty for being rude and ending the conversation he seemed so eager to have.For an instant, I actually had a moment of clarity, thinking that perhaps he was lonely and wanted to do the talking for a change…My moments of clarity in those days were much further and far apart than they are now.
There was lightning up ahead and the rain became heavier, which suited me because the wipers changed their rhythm again, and the sound of the rain on the roof felt like fingertips on my skull, the warm seat cradled me, and I closed my eyes beginning to drift, when again he cleared his throat, then said “You know, Miss Luci, there are some things about me that you don’t know.”
At that point, I couldn’t help but giggle…This seemed like such a silly thing for a 42-year-old to say…Michael Jackson’s Thriller video immediately came to mind, and then I thought ‘OK, he ‘s a werewolf, a vampire or a murderer-let’s hope for vampire’, and in my increasingly sleep-deprived slurred voice, I turned in my seat toward him and snidely asked “so, is this where you tell me you’re a killer?” In the bright green light of the dashboard, I could see that he didn’t take his eyes from the road. As a matter of fact, he hardly even blinked, before replying with “No… Not really”
NOT REALLY? What kind of answer was that to the question I had asked?! Not REALLY? Normally, my curiosity (and perhaps wisely so, my fear) would have prevailed, but my wrecked mind and body were rapidly giving in to the past week of the strange ups and downs I had gone through and my Manic God-mode sleepy delirium prevented me from feeling anything other than so very heavy-eyed and because the rain was harder and the lightning almost constant, instead of saying anything more, I turned back ’round in my seat and fell into the lure of the rhythm of the wipers again, and closed my eyes, feeling my body begin to sink into sleep.
Again, another throat-clearing before matter-of-factly stating “I’ve lived with Cannibals”.
That was enough to pull me out of my sleepiness a bit, and I turned again in toward him and said the only thing I could say “Wow, so what was that like?”
I suppose that was a funny reply, because he actually coughed out a tiny laugh before saying “No, I’m serious, I coexisted with 2 cannibals, not by choice, of course, back in ’95 for nearly a year. I breathed, ate and once even slept in the same room with these two cannibals…There was a chain gang in Alabama.”
Being borderline mad-between my strange mood and the lack of sleep- I remember smiling, mainly because I thought he was kidding, perhaps trying to scare me or wake me up just a little. I had met men like that before, men who go for any reaction they can possibly get-be it good or bad, they will stoop to any point to grab a woman’s attention, but as soon as that thought ran through my mind, I knew this wasn’t the case with this particular man, who for the most part was a serious, mature guy…the kind of guy I enjoyed making uncomfortable with my dirty jokes and playful, sometimes wild behavior.
And then, all I could think of was Batman. So, I said it.
“You mean like Batman?”
Pardon…I got that a lot…I still do, because most people haven’t a clue what I’m talking about much of the time, so I wasn’t surprised by this reply, and still smiling like a mischievous child waiting to be let in on the cannibal/murderer/chain gang joke, I said “You know, the ‘animated Batman series’, when Bruce Wayne is in prison and forced to work on the chain gang?”
Again, he cleared his throat and then smiled, and for a brief moment, a cold glimpse of sanity shivered through my brain and I considered the situation: No one else in the world knew that I was there. In that car, which I had never even seen before that night.In the middle of the night with this man that I actually didn’t really know very much at all about. He’s just mentioned a warehouse nearby and I’ve stupidly let him know that I can’t swim and here we are by the river. Good job , you stupid, stupid crazy girl, you’ve really done it this time!
I forced myself to look at him in the green light and flashes of lightning and it seemed that he was still smiling, which unnerved me a little, because I couldn’t tell whether it was a devious or maybe just an amused smile because of my Batman question, and scenarios of how I would have to perhaps prevent myself from being tossed into the river, being as exhausted as I was, by this 6’4 sweater-wearing murderer in his always shiny shoes began to play out in my mind-just before my brain began once again racing about how he had mentioned a chain gang in the south, and foolishly, all I could then think was ‘Aha, I knew there was a hint of a southern drawl there!’ I had noticed it coming out in words or the way he had phrased things in the past. I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to conceal my own southern drawl, be it because of the stigma I had encountered, or the fact that I was someone who desperately tried to escape my past.Then words….memories….ghosts… and notions began to spin frantically through my mind once again, beginning to quell the conversation we were still having, and this time I cleared my throat and sit up taller, feeling bold and all too powerful again from the God-Mode state that manic episodes trick you into, and simply said “So, why don’t you show me where this warehouse is?”
In an instant, my bold, fearless mood had passed, and my head went quiet just as the rain had become a heavy downpour and the wind had began to move the car along the narrow road, and the site of the river running so close to the crumbling road made me worried and afraid of the fear I’ve always had-the fear of slipping into the river, trapped inside of a car.
And just like that, I fell asleep, waking up outside of his house on the high hill above the city and the river below, where I stumbled up his stairs with eyes half-closed and then sipped a cherry coke, while thumbing through his CDs and laughing at his cheesy taste in music and teasing him about a very uptight German schoolteacher he had dated a few times, whom I had accidentally met when paying him a visit to show him my new fringe-y boots. I began doing impressions of her reaction to me in my new boots and what a conversation between the two of them together must have been like until he had to laugh ( I can sometimes do damned fabulous impressions!) Somehow, the conversation that had taken place an hour before had slipped my misfit mind completely, the way it’s sometimes hard to decipher real life experiences from past dreams, and on the way to work, in the early wet slate-colored morning, he dropped me at my apartment, with the usual “Rest and call me” where I slept for the next 14 hours-a very heavy, dreamless sleep.
“So, you went for a drive last night, did I miss anything ‘exciting’?” my room-mate asked, as I pulled myself up on the couch, clueless about whether it was A.M. or P.M. “Yeah”, I mumbled, trying to pull my tangled hair out of my eyes, “The rain was excellent.”
And I stumbled off to have a shower, trying to collect the pieces of the night’s conversation, and wondering if I had just escaped my own murder by asking a not really kind of murderer insane questions about Batman and doing fabulously risqué impressions, or if someone that actually understood that I was slipping into uncharted mental territory and was more afraid that I would dare admit , had helped me quiet my mind and find sleep. It was hard to tell at the time.
This scenario is a fine example of the places my struggle with bipolar, my manic episodes and my noisy head have led me.
A brilliant example the kind of rhythm that quiets a manic,unquiet mind:
It‘s like there’s a straight way you know, you know
I’ve told you before it’s as thin as ice
As thin as the razor snow
Don’t freeze in the snow
Don’t bake in the heat
I’ll be your breath
There’s a place where we can meet
Don’t sleep in the subway
Don’t sleep in the pouring rain
By my voice in my midnight mediation
When I wake, be my heart’s floatation
Come and fill, come and fill from the overflow
Come and play, come and play me like a bird
Don’t sleep in the subway
I’m needing you well – i
I feel you, you’re closing down yeah
Get close, talk right through me
Get close, keep tight with me
If you fall now it could be forever
I’m telling you the line is thin now
I’ve told you before this hate is a sin
Empty out for the overflow
Let love begin
There’s a place where we can meet
I am not what you think I am
But what you know
I’m the maker of wings
That you teach me
Teach me to sew
My wonder is yours
As you trip to the sea
I’ll be your breath
In this place where we will meet
In this place where we will meet
In this place where we will meet