In the meantime, the guest list continues to grow and expand. Who does not love a wedding? No one, it would seem.
There would need, of course, to be music. Our first idea had been for a simple DVD, two or three personally meaningful, suitably slurpy songs.
It so happened, however, that the bride was acquainted with yet another pastor—she was a collector of pastors—and this one sang songs with his family, his wife and two daughters, and the older one, the fattest one, played the keyboard quite well.
Why not ask him? What is a wedding without music? And what is music without a performance?
Pastor Corey was his name, a tall, thin black man with a large white wife and two very large daughters. One could have no doubt where the lion’s share of the food in his house went. A pastor and a businessman to boot. An entrepreneur, a mover and shaker, a dealer in foreclosures and fixer-uppers, a flipper (he would buy a property at low price and “flip it,” that is sell it for a profit).
A pastor, a businessman, a real estate investor, and, incidentally, a con man, a scammer, a user, a crook, a rip-off artist.
A couple years after our wedding he went to Federal prison.
But that’s another story, which we will nonetheless tell in due time, for everything in this book is another story.
And I, the author, have least of all any idea what the point here is intended to be.
I look upon what I have done so far, these few pages, and my heart sinks, the drab grey curtain of depression descends. I wake in the morning and realize in my first waking thought that I have created nothing other than a perfect mess.
This would not necessarily be surprising or disturbing had I not written and published things in the past. As it is, however, I had already a standard to live up to—not a high standard by any stretch, but a standard nonetheless, an established ability. I had written a novel for middle age juveniles which, as idiotic as it was, found a place at Atheneum, then Simon and Schuster, then foreign rights in Sweden and France. Articles and short stories I had written appeared in small magazines and literary periodicals. I had produced both poetry and technical manuals, for I was able, and the words were in me.
Somewhere along the way I had quit, finding this not the most lucrative or pursuits, yet had always intended to return, had collected notes for the next project and the next after that, had scribbled a story here and there, sold to the small mag or the online journal, usually for the “prestige” (which is to say, I was often not paid).
There was a time when I thought this was what I would do with my life. I would be a writer, and when the time was right, I would make my big splash, and then live on a beach in Tahiti and drink exotic cocktails of fruit and strong spirits at night, and work in my bungalow during the morning hours, with the sound of the waves caressing the aquamarine shore and naked brown girls bathing in waist deep foam.
Or maybe I would have just a one room apartment in a brick building with a balcony overlooking the simmering street, and friends who would climb the fire escape to visit, while I redeemed every free hour and tithed the same to the God of Paper, sowing my heart, reaping blessings of love conveyed, of meaning and spirit, or pathos and profundity.
It was a big dream, was it not? It is almost embarrassing to speak of it now. It was a young man’s dream, a dream of confidence and possibility.
The dream lives eternally, as the mind slowly dies. How does the old cliché go? The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak? No, not that one. You see, I cannot think of the one I’m trying to think of, and that’s a shame, because it would be perfect just here.
This is the brain on MS. A mouse on a wheel. A spilled canister of straws. Fifty-two pickup. A child’s tale, an idiot’s tale. It is the 5-year-old’s crayon creation—house, chimney, tree, dog. The best laid plans of mice and men do oft go awry.
I wake and I wish I would never have started, for I have fallen already by the wayside, exhausted, defeated. There is no finish line for me. I am already there. I am an observer now of better people, of able people, of people with talent and drive and promise.
What is it that MS does to the brain?
Well, first off, it sometimes does nothing at all.
MS attacks at whim and where it will. It is an accident waiting to happen, pure chance, blind malevolence. It does not plan, it just happens. It is the piano falling from the fifth floor window. Little bands of white cells issue suddenly across the blood-brain barrier, gallop through the brain, range up and down the length of the spine, whooping like wild Indians in an old Western movie, scalping and burning and ravaging as they go. Isolated towns along the way, bits of brain and spinal cord, are attacked and destroyed.
And then the marauders retreat, leaving behind smoke columns and ruins, gutted houses and broken windows, and town-folk cells lying dead or wounded.
Some things can be repaired, some cannot. A shallow wound may be sutured and heal, and leave but a pale scar. But a severed arm will never come back.
Maybe this time you lost the feeling in a hand. Maybe in a foot. Maybe you lost the feeling in your groin. Maybe you lost control of the muscles required to produce a bowel movement. Maybe you woke up with erectile dysfunction.
Maybe part of your brain gets fried. The part that conceives of organization, the part that enables you to manage the components of the same. You remember what it is, and yet you find the mechanics of the thing suddenly beyond your grasp. Your heart has continued to work just fine. Your hopes are intact, your confidence is high. The picture is whole in your mind, but the puzzle is all in pieces. And moreover, some of the pieces are missing.
You thought you would write a book. You thought you would put the whole thing together, take control, concentrate, organize, regroup, rally and move forward once more.
It is laughable. Sadly laughable.
We are all strangers to our own bodies. We are molecules riding on the backs of our own cells. We are aliens and wanderers, strangers in a strange land.
Did you know that all the smells in the world are detected and internalized by the molecules that bind to the chemicals that make up the smells? Moreover, did you know that each of these molecules has its own preferences for which chemicals it can interact with?
And I had thought it was a case of merely sniffing.
Not so, not so. It seems that the lion's share of our interaction with the world is being done on the molecular level, with no real need of us--we living, thinking, feeling people--other than as receptacles, containers, hosts. We are superstructures, a flesh which on its own may as well be stone--enlivened only by the invisible power in the air--light, electricity, the flow, the chi--a busy vacuum sealed universe of subatomic lightning bolts, the dizzy orbit of electrons and electrolytes, intricately premeditated collisions and explosions, a lifestyle of subatomic particles
When is the last time you thoughtfully directed a single molecule about its business? Never.
I return to the nose. It seems that all the smells of the world are nothing to the nose without they can jump on to the back of a specifically assigned molecule, which in turn gallops along to the brain--Ah, a rose is a rose, the scent of a woman, and so on.
On the purely pedestrian level of human sympathy, I cannot help but wonder how some of these molecules ended up being so unlucky in their assignments. Take for instance the molecule assigned to host the smell of dog shit. Or the molecule assigned to convey the odor of carrion, or of sweaty socks, or rotten milk, or bad breath. And so on. These molecules, as I surmise, must have come late on the day assignments were being handed out.
It is the same way for taste, for sight, for touch, for motion. You name it. Are we perceiving, or are we being perceived? Can we trust these molecules?
We had better hope so. They are, after all, in charge from beginning to end.