THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BALANCE––anyone who tells you to find balance is telling you to find a dark, silent place and remain isolated there, forever in the suspension of thought and disbelief. It simply cannot be done, unless you have a gun and the stomach for suicide. As it turns out, I do not.
Balance is an elephant standing on a ball in the middle of the ocean. Step off and drown, stay on and starve.
I am not a good person.
I have terrible thoughts.
I have terrible dreams.
I don’t remember my dreams.
I’m good when I want to be.
I’m good because I don’t want to get caught.
These are mutually exclusive ideas.
If I decide not to be good, I will likely get caught, and they will hang me for what I have done.
Today I thought about taking my own life. I thought about it yesterday, too. And the day before that. I thought about taking my own life every day for as long as I can remember. Every time I have considered this, up to and including today, my response to myself has been: Not today. Ask again tomorrow.
I am a magic 8-ball with stretch marks.
When I look in the mirror, I see a monster. Sometimes, when I’m wearing the right shirt, or when I have eaten very little that day, I’ll look in the mirror and see not a monster, but a handsome, normal human. My eyes aren’t sunken then, and there’s only one of my head, and I have the normal amount of arms and legs. Sometimes this isn’t the case, but when I wear black t-shirts I think I’m okay. I think someone might see me and think of something beautiful. But most often, I think other people see me and think about how disgusting my stomach is, how displeasing my thighs are to look at, how I must be awful to see fully naked, and I think how they are right, and I want to cry.
On mornings that I wake up alone, when my wife is already gone from the house, I often lay in bed and cry, and stare at the wall. I don’t know why.
When people ask me––when my mother or my wife asks me, “Are you happy?” I instinctively say, “Yes, of course I’m happy.”
When I was thirteen years old, I watched one of the neighbor boys drown a puppy in a creek. We found the dog caked in mud and clay, struggling to climb up the embankment, and the boy dropped down onto the creek rock, gravel crunching under his shoes, and he picked up the dog by the fur of its neck and walked it out into the water and he put the dog in the water, then he reached in so his elbows disappeared and he just stood there, and a few minutes later he walked away.
Now that I’m older, I can’t remember if it was me, or the neighbor boy, who drowned the dog. I see my hands disappearing under that murky brown surface, and then I remember standing on the bank of the creek and seeing the dog floating slowly, bobbing up and down, and the inky trails of mud spinning in the water, chasing after the boy, and I hear the crickets chirping in the fields behind me, and I feel hot tears welling in the back of my eyes, and I hear the silence of the thing in the water and I cry. I run.
In the mornings, I run three miles. I’ve been doing this a couple of weeks now, and I think its helping. My jeans fit better, and my shirts don’t show as much belly when I move around, and generally speaking I’ve seen less monster and more normal human in my reflection on car doors and business windows. I’m eating salads, too. Every day I eat a salad for lunch. I stopped drinking beer for the most part, and I don’t drink liquor every day now. I haven’t done drugs in months. I still smoke marijuana. I still numb myself.
I’m numb right now.
I’m falling, right now.
Everything is dark. It’s quiet and spinning, and in the distance I see a shore, waves breaking into foam across jutting rocks, and trees tall as buildings bending in a breeze, and the water around me swirls and it is black, and heavy. I bob up into the daylight, and I see the shore, closer now, and then I bob back down, into darkness, and I despair. I’ll never make it. My legs grow weak, they cramp, and my stomach makes itself a knot to spite me. I know that of all the ways I could die, most likely it will be my stomach that kills me.
They say the soul is in the stomach. I say my stomach is eating my soul. It’s only fair, when you think about it.
I call it balance. You may call it something else.