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...am going to be sick.

Last April I began dating someone, we'll refer to him as Asshole, who I stupidly believed to be 24. At fifteen, this probably wasn't a good idea to begin with... but I was really stupid and immature. I still am. Anyway... the relationship lasted about eight months and was full of abuse, emotional and sexual. Since the end of that nightmare that I barely escaped from with my sanity, I've found that I am very much affected. I cannot bear to be in a relationship with someone who actually treats me right. I feel too worthless to be actually cared for. I'm starting therapy now, on the recommendation of someone I broke up with because of my problems. Bryan didn't tell me to see someone in anger though, he realized that I did need help, and I do.

Jumping to a few days ago, an old friend left a comment on my myspace asking me if I'd heard the good news. I wasn't sure what the 'good news' was, and didn't think it was related to the next coming of Jesus so I finally got in touch with him this evening. As it turns out, Asshole was not 24. He is 38. I don't know why I believed him to be 24, maybe because I know a few young people with thinning hair so I believed him when he said it was genetic. He had recently had "sexual relations with a girl not of proper age" and is in jail for 15-20 years. The girl was also 15.

I don't know how I feel about this. I'm seeing a therapist because of this monster and can't maintain healthy relationships. Then again, fifteen years is a very long time. He'll be in his 50s by the time he is out. Does he deserve this? I've never been a big fan of prisons. I don't really think it is moral for someone else to take away a person's freedom. I know it isn't a rational thing to keep murderers and rapists loose, but this is something I really don't know about. I wish it were easier. I wish I knew what to feel. I'm so confused right now.

P.S. While writing this I was informed that my elderly great-grandmother is in the emergency room again. This is not going to be a good evening.

I looked around today and wondered why we kill each other.

I Robert

Our story really begins on a Fourthday, with a slight office mishap that wasn’t really a mishap at all but rather a calculated act of administrative anarchy. It would be only polite however, to introduce you to our protagonist, Robert.

Robert was quite simply Mr. Average. This was largely because he worked in an average job, in the rather average offices of Devlin Insurance, a subsidiary of Devlin Enterprises (along with Devlin Construction, Devlin Demolition and Devlin Reconstruction) owned by the far from average Devlin Brand. The other reason Robert was Mr. Average, was even more simply, that Average was his surname.

Robert’s home, as you may have guessed was also a rather dull affair, looked after by his not so ugly, charming or smart wife, who by some strange twist of fate was called Roberta. Along with their home, Roberta also cared for their two children, Michael and Michelle who, for all intents and purposes, in both personality and intelligence, were, well, how can I say, average.

It wasn’t always this way however. Back then Mr. Average was a myth - a name given to a measuring standard, a uniform ‘him’ that didn’t really exist. Following the big push of liberal economics and priority placed on individualism, there was a period where people were exploring self-expression, pulling in their fiscal selfishness and refraining from the pitfalls of a previous era’s promiscuity and pot smoking passiveness.

The event of Now however, and the unnatural disasters that came with it changed all that. When Planet was struck by the meteor of mediocrity there was enough fear, loathing and ‘security’ around to ensure that even the most derailed of youthful rebels would fall into the middle lane, which in itself had been thrown to the right a little by the collision.

Robert, who had been a bright young emissary of liberal punk values and Crasstafarian attitudes was no exception. The Bug, as it became known, spread like the most infectious of epidemics and soon in The During, Robert was the perfect case study for exhibiting all the symptoms.

He had become a file clerk.

When he wasn’t organizing the paper files of submitted insurance claims, he was allocating word processed letters to their correct computerised folders – a simple process of opening a new one for the when, where necessary, naming the letter with client and registration number, and saving it in the appropriate folder. This process would be repeated, repeatedly throughout the four hundred and eighty of Robert’s nine-to-five, bye-hun, hi-hun, administrative day.

Tens and some passed, Firstday to Fifthday indistinguishable, except for the spelling, and leaving nothing by way of inspiration for this once creative soul. The evenights thus proved to be as much a routine as their daylight counterparts: the news at six; dinner at seven; the eight movie and finally bed by ten and a half. Conversation at the table was as bland as the food upon it and the obedient, docile children did little to break the monotony, spending most of their waking between school and sleep, maneuvering pixels around to improve on beforeday’s score

Even the 2 days of the twixt no longer contained relief as all motivation and innovation seemed to have been filed with the claims, sealed in folders of days passed, never to be seen again.

On this Fourthday however, something changed…

That commencement, before Robert even woke up, something was very different. His eyes still shut, he noticed the blood vessels glowing in his lids as the sun shone upon them through the bedroom window. Roberta had, for some reason he could not fathom, forgotten to close the curtains. His usual six and three-quarter alarm had not woken him. Until it sounded, he simply lay there, awake, with his eyes closed, listening to the beat of his heart and the low hush of his own slow breath brushing against the back of his throat.

When the buzz of the bed-side radio did finally sound, he turned to face his wife and watch her as she came to life and reached blindly for the snooze button. Quietly he stepped out from the covers, kissed her on the forehead, gathered his clothes and slipped into the hallway to dress, so as not to stir her again.

As he passed down the landing he looked in on his children, still at peace, wrapped warmly in slumber, before he descended the stairs and stealthily left the house.

When he stepped from the front of the porch, he took in a deep breath, as if it was his first, and smelling the lavender across the street, opened his eyes wide to low lying clouds of purple as he felt the freshness of a beginning, rest with a chill upon his cheeks. He had lived in Milton Street for two and seven without so much as blinking an eye at what he now viewed in sheer awe as perhaps the most delicate and beautiful smattering of subtle colour he had seen.

Even when he walked into the office on the eighteenth floor of the Brand building he was somewhat elevated by the music he heard in the tapping of keyboards and crisp paper-thumbing. No sooner had Robert sat at his station when there was a loud thud upon his desk which should have ended his mental symphonies with an almighty full-stop. Period.

Brian, a colleague, who had worked there for the past four alongside Robert and whom Robert knew absolutely nothing about, slammed down an archive box before him with, “These all need categorizing and filing into the evidence section and the usual rejection letters sending to the claimants. There’s a lot to get through thisday, with it being Fourthday and all, so you’d better get cracking.”

Within this box were submitted documents from a wide array of experts on the Brand payroll that would refute the claims made by a bunch of other experts on the much smaller payroll of various other independent organizations. This was the point where money talked and qualifications, knowledge and general ethics walked. It didn’t seemed to matter whether you just lost your house in a bushfire, or your husband through the windscreen of a car whose model and type should have been retracted by the manufacturer for faulty steering – acts of god, if they were covered in your policy, were down to you not praying enough and the only fault to be found with the steering would be that found in the arthritic wrists which you didn’t but should have known you had.

The reason for the company’s success of course was not due to its generosity and willingness to pay out but rather an amazing ability to instill fear into even the most resistant of civilians in order to receive an enormous amount of extortionate premiums.

For some reason the box now positioned before Roberts eyes looked very different to the usual corrugated carton he had become accustomed to. Its shape and size were the same it is true. Indeed its colour was no different, nor was the smell of the mixture of paper prints and fibres that usually wafted in the dust as it was placed on the table. Thisday however it did not look like a container of several hours of menial work. Thisday it looked like all the proof that was needed to deny several hundred citizens, potentially millions of dollars in cash to replace their belongings, pay for their medical bills and rebuild their homes or perhaps even their lives.

Everything, Robert suddenly thought, that stood between the people, whose names were on those files, and the money that was rightfully owed to them was contained within this archive box. It was like a little room of cardboard walls that he gazed upon like a pathetic god, bound by laws laid down by Lucifer himself. Bindings it would seem that would be broken by the very enormity of the thought itself.

So blown was his mind, he knew he had to act upon it for fear of his head imploding in response to the vacuum left behind in simply letting it go! He picked up the box and walked directly to the elevator. Once inside he descended to the basement, casually walked to the incinerating furnaces, and threw the reams of fibrous fuel upon the flickering fire.

His eyes lit up proportionately to the files, dimming again, as they were reduced to ash. “More!” he thought to himself as a fiendish grin spread across his face. He headed back upstairs.

“I don’t know what’s gotten into me today Brian but I just seemed to burn though that one. Where’s the next one Buddy?”

Brian, a little stunned at Roberts speed, and friendliness, handed him another box from the trolley, “Now, err, slow down there big fella, you’ll put us all to shame.”

“And I’ll put you to the flames,” Robert thought to himself as he tapped upon the cardboard lid.

For the rest of the day Robert filed everything under F, taking care to space things out a little so as not to attract immediate suspicion. Thisday was his day. Not only had he generated a thought but he had converted it into something tangible, something that would make a difference – and this was merely the beginning.

That night Robert slept a different sleep. This sleep had pictures. What Robert experienced was something he had forgotten even existed. Robert began to dream:

With the deadlines of all those claims needing to be met by Firstday of next-dayset and notifications outlining the reasons of rejection having to have reached the hands of the claimants, it would become rapidly clear that any ‘refuting’ evidence had in fact gone missing. Consequently the company’s reputation, which was always under media scrutiny as it was, would be on the line and Devlin would have no other choice but to pay out every single claim to limit the damage.

As if this wasn’t enough, having paid the claims out would of course set a new precedent for all such claims in the future. After all, how could he pay out for all these people and then deny others in the future with similar circumstances. He would have no excuse. He would have no out. This would be the beginning of Devlin’s downfall. This would be the fall of Nero.

As for Robert, well, he would be hailed by all as a champion of the people, a far from average ambassador for every Mr. Average out there.

On Fifthday of course, this did not happen. No such injury was struck upon the Devlin reputation and no such payouts or precedents were made. Despite the files that burned and the ash that lay in their wake, Nero did not fall. Instead, Robert was called to the office of Michael Cathcart who was the assistant manager within the administration office and was questioned as to why exactly he had filed several boxes of evidence into the basement furnaces.

It was then explained that Robert’s actions had lead to Brian having to contact the entire array of experts and gather as many of the original hard copy documents as possible, as often the company just receives official copies. In addition he had to retrieve any missing documentation from the back-up tapes on the system, which hold the electronically scanned copies input from the records room, a process completed the day prior to the hard copies being sent to administration for filing by the likes of Robert. Not only that, but there was all the rejected claims letters that had to be compiled, written, saved and posted, requiring Brian to attend the offices on Second-twixtday and consequently having to be paid double according to the penalty award rate system, something which was completely unprecedented in Devlin Enterprises.

If ever he needed a huge thought to bale himself out, it was now but it appeared that Robert had used up all his huge thoughts in the beforeday. Deflated and somewhat stunned, he uttered no response and consequently was confronted with immediate dismissal. This in itself probably wouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise considering, but when you add that the twixt rate that needed to be paid to Brian was to be deducted from Roberts final pay and the fact that gross misconduct negated any entitlement to severance, despite two and two of service, it was a pretty bleak end to a rather bleak career history.

In the following, unable to secure another job now because of the circumstances surrounding the termination of his previous post in such a ‘reputable company’ and consequently being unable to support his family, Robert would lose his wife, his home and only have access to his children via twixtday visitation rights.

With nothing left Robert finally reached the inevitable conclusion that one day we all must face, only in his case, a little prematurely as HE took the only thing left that he had to lose.

It was several daysets later that he was found after Roberta finally realised that he hadn’t been to visit his children for three twixt breaks. When the police broke into his apartment to discover the corpse, they couldn’t understand why, after hearing about the course of events that led to his demise, why Robert would be hanging there with such a smile of contentment on his face. If you looked hard enough into his eyes however, what you could see was the last lavender laced images that flashed through Roberts mind as the washing line choked him of his final breath, transforming him from dull and worthless file clerk into a beautiful dream.
It's appallingly easy to smoke a carton of cigarettes in a week.

Living here with my parents, who both smoke, has made it increasingly difficult to keep my smoking to a reasonable minimum. I think I'll probably always smoke. I enjoy a cigarette after meals, but it's hard to limit myself to five or so smokes a day.

The experts say that you have to change your habits to smoke less and recommend figuring out when you're most likely to light up. Trouble is, I'm living in an area where almost *everyone* smokes, there's no social taboo against it, and no matter how I try to remind myself of blackened lungs and Caroline Knapp, I can't seem to slow down.

Caroline Knapp was a gifted writer who wrote several deeply affecting books: Drinking: a Love Story; Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs; and Appetites: Why Women Want. She was a frequent contributor to Salon.com and several New York publications. She died of lung cancer in 2002.

She was 42 years old.

Aside from the success of her books, which was considerable, it's kind of eerie how much I identify with Caroline. She loved dogs. She could be infuriatingly introspective. She struggled with her appetites.

My ex-husband knew how much Caroline's book Drinking: A Love Story had touched me, so he picked up a hardback copy of Appetites for me as a gift.

Drinking: A Love Story was a book that spoke to me in ways I didn't anticipate. I don't have a drinking problem, mostly for the same reason I don't have any credit card debt; my father put the fear of God into me about both alcohol and the dangers of plastic. I have full-blown alcoholism - the raging, drooling kind - on both sides of my family, and my dad was practically a teetotaler when I was growing up.

But something about Caroline's voice appealed to me. Her alcoholism was more of a creeping blight on her life than an atom bomb; it informed and deformed some of her closest relationships like a disease. Like my disease, in fact. It's amazing how closely alcoholism, with its wild mood swings and self-destructive core, parallels bipolar disorder. Caroline also had a fairly severe eating disorder - bulimia.

Drinking is a book about the darkest corners of addiction. There are thousands upon thousands of books out there about alcoholism and eating disorders, but few of them wrestle with the unbearable tension that arises from actually loving something that's destroying you.

The truth is simple, ugly as it may be: addicts love their behaviors. They get off on the rituals: the cigarettes smoked while writing; the silvery clink of ice cubes in a well-made gin and tonic; the cocaine drip in the back of the throat; the heady control of bingeing and purging. They like the feelings addiction gives them. Scratch that; they love the feelings. Those feelings are worth everything to addicts, and they are willing to sacrifice anything - up to and including their own lives - to keep doing whatever it is they do.

Caroline wrote frankly and elegantly about the way addiction manages to seep through the cracks of even the most well-heeled, well-established lives. I was able to relate to Caroline's tendencies to isolate herself and to the underlying causes that led to her drinking. It occured to me as I read Drinking: A Love Story that I may even have a drinking problem. I fit the profile in some troubling ways: I drink when I'm alone; I drink to get drunk, never just for "the taste"; I drink when I'm stressed or lonely. Her book made me sit up and face that part of myself, and for that I'm grateful.

Memoir is a tough racket. It's notoriously difficult to tell your own story without getting bogged down in details that are essentially irrelevant to anyone other than yourself. It requires a tight and critical intellect, because when you're writing about yourself, every detail seems relevant. It's hard enough to kill your darlings when writing fiction, but when writing memoir it's exponentially more difficult and at least twice as necessary.

Caroline managed to tell her story in not one, not two, but three memoirs. Drinking is arguably her only "true" memoir, but her other books are infused with her own experiences to such a degree that the line between non-fiction and memoir is considerably blurred.

Appetites: Why Women Want was even more compelling. I devoured it in a couple of days, furiously scrawling notations in the margins. Almost half the text in my copy is underlined, annotated with things like YES!!!! and just like 1996. Her personal struggles with cigarettes, bulimia, exercise addiction, and alcohol were seamlessly woven into a meticulously researched meditation on the various aspects of hunger.

Reading Appetites was like watching Jacob wrestle the angel. Though they were too strong for her, she refused to release her addictions until they had blessed her, until they had given her something of unsurpassed value. Jacob's wrestling match ended in a stalemate - he received the blessing he so coveted, but his penalty was a dislocated hip; he walked with a limp for the rest of his life. Caroline wasn't so lucky. Though her addictions did indeed bless her with insight and a certain sort of wisdom, they managed to kill her.

She died just before the book was published.

I am neither as gifted nor as wise as Caroline was, but I'm hoping I can learn something from her. I'm wrestling the same angel - rather, the same demon - that she did.

No one will ever know whether it was the smoking, bum genetics, or a lifetime of abusing her body with binging and purging that killed Caroline Knapp. It was probably a combination of all these things. I'm certain she fought every last one of those addictions until the very end.

Every addict has a death wish, however sublimated. My constant temptation is to relax into the dark undertow of addiction, allow it to silently drag me under. Every cigarette I smoke nudges me a tiny bit further toward my demise. I know this, but I light up anyway.

So does my father, who was diagnosed with emphysema three years ago. I hate that he still smokes. I want him to enjoy his retirement years in good health, to see his grandchildren grow up. It breaks my heart, but I understand it. I wish I didn't, but I understand it.

It's easy to rationalize smoking. Everyone has to die of something, right?

I hate the part of me that is willing to roll over and die. I hate it, but I feed it. That death wish - and I know that's what it is - is insistent and insatiable. Every time I reach for a pack of cigarettes, every time I draw that toxic smoke into my lungs, I'm flirting with death, and I know it. I'm disgusted by my actions, but I feel helpless because I love the act of smoking. I love it, and it will kill me. I just can't seem to quit.

Maybe one day I'll stop. If I don't, it'll surely stop me.

Caroline Knapp's obituary is here.

Okay, I love E2. I mean, I really love E2. Here's my latest reason.

The first response I got regarding this node was a hardcore scolding about smoking. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was rationalizing suicide, and that I have absolutely no excuse as an intelligent individual to continue smoking.

This E2 person jerked a knot in my chain, and I needed that. It doesn't make sense to ruminate on the reasons for addiciton, now does it? The only thing that's logical to do with an addiction, particularly one that WILL KILL YOU, is to quit.

So, okay. Here goes.

I solemnly covenant to allow myself only *three cigarettes a day until my thirty-sixth birthday, which is on September 5. After that date, I will stop smoking completely.

And I will not whine about it.

I also solemnly covenant to include daily updates here in daylogs until I am no longer sucking on weeds.

* Amended, with some reasonable thought, to five cigarettes a day, to be tapered to nada by September 5.

She slowly glided down the stairs, her entire being bathed in the dying light of a glorious summer sun, now past its prime. The gently swaying scarf, the rustle of the overcoat, the light footsteps on the parched pavement have left me but mesmerised.

As sudden as the vision had arrived, it departed leaving me with a warm glow inside. I dont know who you are, where you are or what you are but thank you for that moment, no matter how fleeting, when nothing seemed to exist but you and me.....

What is it like to be loved again ?

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