A Grip

Left Gauntlet of Henry (1594–1612), Prince of Wales, Made under the direction of Jacob Halder (British, master armorer at the royal workshops at Greenwich, documented in England 1558–1608), Steel, gold, leather, textile, British, Greenwich

The floor is always there. Usually we use it for walking, but I’ve found myself on it from time to time.

I have, once, come home and sat on the floor, and then crawled to bed.

I have, once, fallen asleep on my bathroom floor.

I was sick, there, and sometimes I had made myself sick, and sometimes I hadn’t, though that doesn’t mean anything, nothing at all, does it?

My neighbor said, “I’m gonna fall down. I’m gonna fall down.” And then he was on the floor. “Well, at least it’s clean,” I said to his mom, who had cleaned the floor.

I thought about not writing about this, a humble moment for someone who wasn’t well, and I thought about how I needed to write about it, and I thought about how opening a humble moment is important.

So I’ll fake some of this. No one said, “Why, God, why?” People said other things.

I was halfway through yoga, opened my porch door for fresh air, and gradually, as my loving teacher directed me through wholesome exercise via remote video, I realized that the other voices I was hearing were not my landlord and neighbors, but several people were there, and I peeked up and saw a police car.

Periodically over the Trump/pandemic years, I’ve thought, I can’t deal with this, and that’s a funny thing to think because life does not present you with optional future events and ask your opinion.

I went outside and peered over my porch down to the front door. Cops, young and white like most KCMO cops, and a woman I didn’t know.

“Have you seen your neighbor lately?” a cop asked.

“I don’t think so,” I said. My neighbor was a musician, and I knew he was around because I heard synthesizer tones calling to each other, echoey like the tones in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” which is incidentally the only movie that could move me after Trump was elected. I watched it on my Brooklyn couch and cried. Nothing else had made me cry, nothing else would.

Shit, I was going to have to go downstairs, even though yoga was half over and YOGA WAS WHAT HELPED ME.

I knocked on the inside of my own door, and the woman who sat in front of it stood up. She had faced away from me, now we face each other and waved.

We sat together on the stoop while the cops and the fire fighters discussed contact information and how to break in.

My nervous system’s been turned to 11 so many times in the last few years. I’ve been injected with helium and put in lead shoes. I’ve had my head softened so my body can run.

The big fire truck arrived. I offered landlord phone numbers, and me sitting with someone I thought shouldn’t be alone.

A bald man with a ringmaster mustache walked up to us, carrying a sledgehammer over his shoulder, as if he had been plucked out of a firefighter play set, The Sledgehammer Guy. As he approached, two other firemen realized they could take the window out of its frame and enter without damage. So they took it off.

Then someone had to go in, and I was sitting with this stranger while men went in to see if there was a living person, or anyone else, inside.

He was in there, breathing and heart beating and responding, though from the People with Problems playset, he looked like, The Guy Who Is Not Okay, Not Even Close.

I took a big inhale.

I went back upstairs to see that my yoga class, via remote video, was finishing their relaxation pose.

[laughter]

I told my yoga classmates and teacher what had happened, and my teacher said, “Sometimes yoga asks us to do something different than what we thought we would do,” dropping the wisdom that extinguished my initial line of thought, which was something like, I NEED MY TIME TO HEAL I ALREADY DIDN’T FEEL OKAY NOW I AM NOT OKAY TIMES ONE THOUSAND

Later I went back down to check on everyone, exchange phone numbers with the friend and the mom who had arrived, and was somehow behaving rationally. There was a pile of trash bags they were filling. Having a breakdown is a messy business.

I was teetering, how much could I offer to this (latest) emergency, this latest fear, this latest panic? My apartment was clean. And organized. Every closet. I had nothing in my own home to clean or scrub to use the adrenaline full through my body. I picked up a bag.

We filled garbage bags on the porch. They moved inside.

My neighbor was still vaccilating about going to the hospital. “Might as well rip off the band-aid,” I said. “I’ve already had all this excitement.” I knew to accept and keep dignity and make soft jokes.

He was persuaded.

Let me tell you: “Leaving Las Vegas” is cinematic drinking yourself to death. In my experience, everyday drinking yourself to death is much, much, much less sexy. Elizabeth Shue isn’t there, and if there are sex workers there, I feel certain they aren’t looking as fresh and pretty as Elizabeth Shue looks, even when she’s playing a sex worker.

Like you can’t see the sex planet from drinking yourself to death. Like it’s light years away and you don’t believe it exists anymore.

But it felt good to have a clear task, helping clean up, and as I said, lest you find me impressive, I would have cleaned my own place but I’d already taken out all my anxiety on it. If I went upstairs, I’d only pace and stew and crunch my shoulders up and up.

“I tried to be a good parent,” the mom said, and I said, “I’m sure you did. These things just happen.”

“My brother… my brother-in-law… my sister… my friend,” I listed my mental health disaster credentials as collateral for what she had to show me. “It’s awful. It’s terrible.”

“I’m so sorry.”

The next day on my way to my car, mom was at the back door with a cigarette. Though they are evil, cigarettes, I was glad she had some comfort activity.

I went in. Not Okay was standing in the hall. He’d been in one local ER for three hours, and another for seven hours, both times giving up and leaving.

“I’m gonna fall down,” he said. But he didn’t. He eased himself to the floor and then was lying there.

Then people said things like, I don’t want you to make balloon animals, not yet. I’ve been saving money in case you make balloon animals, but it’s not right, it’s not your time, and I said, everyone has to make balloon animals, but you don’t have to make balloon animals today.

Except instead of balloon animals, we talked about dying.

I told the mom how nice and clean the apartment looked, because it did.

The mom had questions, and I called MY mom because she has worked in mental health.

I set out to walk around the blocks while we talked because my muscles were screaming to move and move and move.

I took a tablet and wrote in sharpie, my mom’s suggestion for his mom. Took it downstairs.

“Hey, everybody gets sick,” I said.

“He has to want to,” the mom said.

“I know,” I said. “I know.”

Our culture values “personal freedom” so much that even someone who would clearly not be deemed competent to drive a car, work heavy machinery, or even hold a conversation, this person’s ideas of whether or not his life should be saved are held as sacred and inviolable.

I gotta say I believe in saving people who don’t want to be saved.

I know they’ll go back home and do the same thing, 999 times out of a thousand, but–

I was walking down Westport Road toward Broadway when I got a text that said my neighbor was in a hospital, being treated. My lungs expanded and for the first time in a while got as much air as they asked for, and I replied, “That’s wonderful,” and I walked on.

I’ve finally bought a microfiber mop to sweep all my wooden floors and grab all the mini bunches of white fur that my white cat deposits around the house like Easter eggs. I’ve been daily sweeping the whole place. Which is unnecessary. Which feels good.

Image: Left Gauntlet of Henry (1594–1612), Prince of Walesca. 1608, Metropolitan Museum of Art


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