Sunday, August 24, 2003

A Partially Grown Man Still Suffering from Max Attacks

For imagination's sake let's just say that you were to find yourself one innocent night somehow at a benefit concert for Alejandro Escovedo (and you didn't even know he was ill!) and the Stephaniesque singer of the first band sings something about closing down your heart just when you realize that years of self-inflicted internal bleeding close to that organ could very well be fatal unless you apply some kind of soul-sapping tourniquet which is just exactly what you have somehow managed to do and you know that despite a friend's spur of the year diagnosis in which you suffer from a bout of lack of self esteem the exact opposite is the case: you don't see yourself as God you just expect others to.

Max the breakfast boy and first time homeowner received some bad news the other day. The lab reports he had been waiting for clarified that the dinosaur bone he found in his backyard was nothing more than a stick. This was just a few months after he received the latest rejection notice for his novel that stated the usual reason for rejection, "Excessive use of the word 'throb.'" And he had a history of such things: that air transport system he invented? Turned out to be merely a hose.

Mocking people stop Max in the steel and glass skyways above the streets of downtown Minneapolis and ask, "So Mitch how can you survive in this heat without an air conditioner?" Max would shrug and acknowledge when the temperatures reached the 90's and the humidity caused an uncomfortable clamminess that he wasn't particularly anxious to leave his cool workplace for his stifling house. Truth be told (as it seldom is) Max didn't want to confess for him life was about being in a perpetual state of discomfort so what the frick and heck was new? He'd grown accustomed to the uneasy feeling and not having air conditioning was the least of his worries.

BEEP! It was a noise coming from the attic that was becoming a familiar if less than accepted sound. The smoke detector's battery needed changing but Max was loathe to head up into the attic knowing the air up there would be even more difficult to breathe. Ironically it was only a few years before that he had taken out a loan to turn the attic into a room in anticipation of gaining a roommate in a few weeks. The news of the week? That was-gonna-be-but-never was roommate, a walker of the marathon kind was pregnant again and for better or worse that could have been the two of them but it wasn't. He was a disappointment only to those who knew him well.

Peripatetic Max had a long walk to work every morning. This year his first ankle aching fluid filling steps were on the crunchy parched grass between his brick house and his decaying garage. Max noticed that the majority of the lawn, and certainly anything that remained green, was crabgrass. The uneven mixture seemed appropriate as Max had often considered himself not so much a human but more a crab-human. Thus he was reluctant to mow his lawn even though it had been more than a month since he had done so, not so much because of the heat but because he felt foolish mowing the learned scorned crabgrass. It wasn't exactly what he envisioned when he made his first symbolic nervous steps toward applying for a mortgage loan and making a commitment that proved he had somehow reached a place of stability where he could afford such things.

His final steps to work were onto one of the elevators in a bank of elevators where early in the morning a motley crew of people waited for the next car to arrive. Inevitably Max would get on a car where the rest of the people seemed oblivious to his existence. His was the seventh floor of a building of 24 floors and he was usually one of the first on and first off the elevator (most others were above him). So he'd have to work his way through the huddle and get to the door before things closed and continued on upward. Max tried his best to be polite but usually ended up muttering and bumping his way out of the car.

This (not so) noteworthy morning he received an official looking document from the United States Social Security Office showing his earnings from every year he had worked since he had begun earning a wage 19 years before. The fluctuations only served to remind him how far he had come and how far he had left to go. And the feeling inside was that he could never stop moving, because once he did he knew it would end all too quickly. He was the only one he knew whose numbing dose of Prozac was an animal not a chemical.

There were days where gravity seemed to be cheating on him, pushing down harder like the searing memory of a pet/helper gasping for his last breath as Max choked back his own tears. He woke up one morning months later to the scary sound of a replacement(?) black cat panting in the heat. There were certain things in this world that he didn't need to hear or know (and if he did it would shut him down like an overloaded electricity grid). She had the ongoing ability to shatter his heart with little apparent effort. There were other things in this world that Max would never know despite the need and his was just another hard luck story in a world full of such similar stories.

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