Carnival Games

I’ve been spending a lot of time around doctors and nurses the last few months as I had a giant bit of nonsense in my uterus that was causing near-constant bleeding for the last year. The endless waiting rooms have given me some time to think.

I have a Chinese gyno, who I love, who sent me to a Chinese surgeon, who I now also love. They are both easy to talk to and have a great sense of humor. My OB/GYN surgeon is little and cute, kind of roly poly with white hair. He’s heavily in demand and always being delayed by one emergency or another. 

On the day of surgery I sat in the hospital waiting room for two hours, then was put in a hospital gown to wait for another three hours in a freezing room in one bed in a line of beds full of other surgery patients. I’m generally happy to lay around all day but it was too cold and it’s difficult to relax when there’s a skeletal dude moaning and wheezing 4 feet away from you. 

The doctor finally arrived at the foot of my bed with another guy in tow, and they proceeded to have a lengthy conversation in front of me without acknowledging my presence. I became increasingly irritated by this, but because I like him and I know how rotten I can be when cold and cranky, I tried to keep the bitchiness somewhat in check, albeit unsuccessfully. When he finally turned to greet me, I said, because his surname is “Ho”, 

“Well, hello Dr. SLOW.” 

He said, “I have had a terrible day. Don’t you feel even a little sorry for me?” 

To which I replied, pointing at the other guy. “I would have more sympathy if I didn’t have to wait five hours just to lay here like a chump while you ignore me and chat it up with this asshole.” 

He said, “This guy is very smart! He has a PHD and he’s studying with me.” I told the smart sidekick I was kidding and they shuffled me into surgery in my jammies. 

I frigging love anesthetic and I totally get why Michael Jackson was hooked on it. Is there anything better than counting backwards, only hitting the first number and then boom, blissful blackness? The only thing wrong with it is that sad, disorienting moment when they shake you awake again. And, admittedly, that it’s quite possible to overdose if you use it as a nightly sleep aid. 

This year has been so emotionally wrought, with issues still yet to be fully resolved, that I found myself thinking, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to drift off and never wake up?” I thought about it for days. I am not suicidal, nor even that dark anymore, but the idea of getting out of cosmic class early, of wiping the slate clean and starting over fresh, seems appealing at times. I’m tired of having a bad brain! I’m tired of learning lessons! I’m tired of vacuuming and trimming the cat’s toenails! Serenity now! 

Alas, it was not to be, and with a small tinge of disappointment I woke up, healthy as a goddamn horse and now clean as a whistle, at least uterus-wise. 

Because it’s funny, I am willing to embarrass myself with these details:

Two weeks later, at the follow up appointment, my doctor scrolled through his computer notes and suddenly made an “Ew!” face. He turned the monitor toward me and said,

“You had a LOT of stuff in there! It was impressive!”

To which I responded, “Please do me a favor and never, ever repeat that to anyone else.”

He pointed to a photo of a large, disgusting, bloody mass set out on a clean white table proudly, like a wedding centerpiece, and said, “I took that out! But it was vewwy difficult!” His accent makes him sound like Elmer Fudd.

He went on: “I cut it away from the wall of your uterus, and then it was just floating around in there. I couldn’t catch it! I kept trying and trying but it was slippery, and it was vewwy embarrassing because I had that student with me. The student said, ‘It’s like a carnival game you can never win!'”

He blinked and smiled at me serenely with his sweet little Buddha face while I laughed until I couldn’t breathe. 

I am a Scorpio and all my emotional damage plants itself in my reproductive system. We all have different areas of vulnerability; this happens to be mine. Over the years it’s been interesting to see how dysfunctional relationships, self-hatred, sexual damage, whatever other tiny monsters are rolling around in the unconscious, have manifested in my body. Not always fun, but interesting. When I was young I didn’t understand the mind/body connection. Over time I’ve learned to read symptoms as a gauge of whether I’m taking care of myself emotionally or physically. 

As one of the petite Chinese nurses took my blood pressure that day I looked down at her hand on my arm. It was tiny and smooth with tapered, delicate fingers, the skin flawless from the hand to the top of her arm going into her sleeve. She looked so pretty and clean. It contrasted mightily to my own arms, which are covered with tattoos and cutting scars, ending in pointy fingernails covered in black polish. I felt a little ashamed, she was so pretty and fresh and there I am, an ancient vampire full of old poisons and coated in the debris of dark thoughts and social rebellion. She was sweet and oblivious and I’m sure she’s seen worse, but it gave me pause. 

I lost an ex-boyfriend a few weeks ago to an overdose. He struggled with heroin addiction from a very young age up until he died in his 40’s. As a result, he never wore short sleeves, no matter what the weather. Twenty years ago, when he took his shirt off in front of me for the first time, I was stunned to see long scar lines snaking up his arm. I had never seen anything like it. Years of moving the needle one millimeter at a time had created its own tattoo of sorts. I ran my finger along it and marveled sadly at the countless hours it must have taken to create. 

It didn’t make sense for me to be interested in him. I was still a rock star and he was an unknown musician/barback with a dope habit, who lived with an equally addicted girlfriend. I had a long line of more appropriate and famous suitors waiting for a wink and a nod. But I was naive to the ways of dope, drawn to tragic characters, and there was something about him that compelled me. He was kind, gentle, intelligent and honorable in a very non-junkie kind of way. He had a depth and a sadness that moved everyone in his vicinity. Plus it probably didn’t hurt that he was gorgeous, with long black dreads, high cheekbones and beautiful eyes. I, being the codependent that I am, fell hard and wanted to fix things for him.

So, I yanked him from his girlfriend before either one of them knew what hit them. And then of course immediately had an unmanageable mess on my hands. On top of the pesky dope habit, which ate all his cash and necessitated lengthy disappearances in order to keep me somewhat in the dark, the alcohol we drank socially turned him into a different person, an unrecognizable maniac. You could see his face morph into a scary new persona after a shot or two. He would throw himself into traffic, smashing into windshields, scream, break glasses against bar walls. 

I was losing patience quickly. It was simply not a good look for me. We played a one-off show with Motorhead at the Ritz and although the boyfriend was on good behavior, Lemmy pulled me aside and chastised me for my taste in men. He could see something wasn’t right and he felt I should be with someone who could take care of me. I understood his point and I knew that the relationship, only a month or two old, was already nearing its conclusion

One night he (boyfriend, not Lemmy) went out drinking with a friend and at the end of the night at 5 am the friend tried to dump him at my place. The friend hit the buzzer over and over again until I woke up and trudged the five flights downstairs (no one had working door buzzers in the EV back then) to find my boyfriend on his hands and knees on the sidewalk. He was a flailing, screaming mess, getting up to try to punch the friend and then falling back to crawl position. He was a mad, frothing beast and I knew if I took him upstairs he would destroy my apartment and terrify my dog. 

My survival mechanism kicked it. I felt like the worst person on the planet but I still told the friend they were on their own. I turned and went back into my apartment; the friend ditched him there on the street.

I didn’t sleep much and went downstairs a couple of hours later, expecting to find my boyfriend passed out on the sidewalk. He was gone, and he remained gone for three days. I was beside myself, calling his apartment, his ex-girlfriend, calling his friends. We were all worried that he was dead somewhere. I felt so guilty. 

Five am on the third day, coming home from a night at the Scrap Bar with my sister and mutual friends, we found him sitting on my doorstep in hospital pajamas. He was delirious and said things like, “They took me away, they attacked me…” I cried and took him upstairs, docile now, and put him to bed. The next day, more coherent, he told us that the cops had been called, it took more than a couple to subdue him, and he was tossed into Bellevue. He had very little memory of what happened. He agreed to go to rehab while I went on a two week tour playing shows down South. 

He had my schedule and would call me from rehab during soundcheck at clubs to give me progress reports. He found comfort in my voice; I cried quietly while staring out the window of the van. It was great that he was doing something to make a change but I knew it was doomed, as all my choices always were.

When I got home he showed up on my doorstep with short hair. The dreads that I loved were gone and I hated it, but he was cheerful and clear of focus. He lasted that way for about a week. We were too young to know how addiction works and just assumed everything would be fine without any follow-up work to the rehab experience. 

We went to a party at a friend’s house and a half hour into it I turned and saw my boyfriend upending a bottle of Jack into his mouth, chugging it down. Something snapped in me and I knew I was done. Before the Jack kicked in I told him it was over. He was devastated and I was sad, but it was as if all the romance chemicals in my brain had simply dissipated and left me with a burning desire to be free.

A few days later, while I was meditating, a vision danced across my eyes. I was in a desert, I was a man, a member of a nomadic tribe. The boyfriend was in my care, maybe he was my son, he was young, ten or twelve, and I left him with people while I went out to take care of something. I was gone for a few weeks and when I got back the boy had been murdered and I was crushed by the guilt and sadness.

I took this to be a past life vision and the reason that I felt so compelled to connect with this person. And now I had paid my debt and that’s why the energy was no longer there. 

We remained friends, although I kept a distance because I was afraid of getting sucked back into drama. When he died of an overdose a few weeks ago, I felt sad that I wasn’t a better friend to him in our later years. But his death allowed me to reconnect with his childhood sweetheart, the girlfriend I stole him from, and I was able to apologize and mourn with her. She was gracious and told me I’d saved her life. 

Our friend Stephen Trimboli had this to say about him:

“I’m grateful to him for staying here this long. He was always so sad and our interactions over the years were special for this reason. He lived heroically. It was just time for him to go.”

Some people simply have a harder time than others. He was one of them, not that it made him any more or less worthy of love. It just is what it is. When I see him again I will apologize for protecting myself at the expense of being more present, of letting him know that I did indeed love him. 

I had originally intended to write a blog devoted to this person, but decided against it because of the nature of his death and the details of our interaction. And the doctor silliness is fresh in my mind so I figured I’d go with that. But then once I started writing that story my ex kind of popped in there, and it seems connected. We weave a fabric with our lives: everyone is different, everyone is similar: my darkness and light, his, yours, what we do to and with our bodies, who we feel compelled to connect to, how we live and die. We all have happy and sad aspects to our existence. I suspect that we all think about how nice it would be to not to wake up sometimes. And maybe that’s okay as long as we can keep a sense of humor when we do wake up. Life goes on and we fix what we can, try to forgive ourselves for the rest.

Another ex-boyfriend, Jesse Malin, has written a few songs about me, and I’ll leave you with one of my favorites. It’s egotistic to post a song about yourself, but I like the way it captures an energy and the choices made as a result. Except that, happily, I never got knocked up and moved to Brewster. 

Onward and upward, my friends. Hope this blog finds you happy and free of unwinnable carnival games. Make sure you tell your people that you love them whenever you can. 

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