Sweet Girl

The only reason I know it’s Wednesday is I got a text message confirming that my paycheck was deposited in my checking account, meaning it’s also Pay-the-Bills Day. I did that already over this first cup of coffee–shortly after my daily morning COVID test came back positive again (we are now on Day 5 of this, if the first day doesn’t count; six if it does) and now I am trying to get things done before the daily fatigue sets in. Yesterday was maybe the worst it’s been thus far; I spent most of the day drifting in and out of sleep in my easy chair. I can honestly say I’ve never slept this much in my life in a six day period as I have since last Friday–and yet am still able to fall asleep every night without a problem and don’t want to get up in the morning, and am still fatigued all day and can drift off again in the snap of my fingers. Ironically, I just realized while paying the bills this morning that today is our anniversary; Paul and I have been a couple twenty-seven years today. We obviously don’t make much of it, really–we really aren’t big on holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries as a general rule–as evidenced by the fact that I’d completely forgot about it until writing down the date in my checkbook (and yes, I still use a check register to track my account; many co-workers mock me about this but for fuck’s sake it’s how I learned and I am so fucking paranoid about being overdrawn it’s just easier to keep a running balance and periodically balance it).

And there’s the fatigue. I was wondering how much longer I had before it made its presence known. It’s so weird how it allows me an hour or so every morning, like a tease: today you’re going to feel good even though you still tested positive! PSYCH! Here’s some fatigue for you!

I am going to try to fight through it today to get some things done. If it means ‘get something done then go nap for an hour’ so be it. My house is a disaster area. Laundry and dishes have piled up, and there is mess everywhere I look here in the kitchen. I was so tired yesterday I never even got hungry, so I never made dinner and now that I think about it, I think all I ate yesterday was some coffee cake yesterday morning so I could take my pills. Lack of fuel can certainly play a role in the fatigue, can’t it? It’s so weird, I’ve never experienced anything like this at all. I can actually feel the exhaustion running down my arms and legs until all four limbs, including hands and feet, feel fatigued. Even as I type this the fog is encroaching on my thought processes and making my head feel, for wont of a better phrase, empty and hollow. My eyes are now tired. But…as I remind myself every day as I try to get out of my chair and almost weep from the effort, it could be worse. At least I can breathe, and the slight constriction I felt in my lungs the first few days is now gone. It wasn’t even that bad–the lung thing, I mean; it didn’t hurt or anything or restrict my breathing, I just was aware of it, if that makes sense; kind of like there was a plug or something there in the center of my lungs that I felt whenever I breathed deeply or moved, but was more along the lines of here I am don’t forget you’re sick! rather than Oh my God get me to the emergency room–and I am grateful for that. I feel a little strange complaining about this when it could obviously be ever so much worse; thank goodness for the four inoculations I’ve had.

As I drifted in and out of sleep we watched Mind Over Murder, a documentary series about a bizarre murder case in Beatrice, Nebraska (pronounced b-AT-triss) in which six people confessed to a rape and murder only to be exonerated years later by DNA. (One person never confessed; he was the one who led the charge to get the DNA evidence tested–only to die in a freak accident at work a year and a half after being released.) It’s a very weird story–as true crime stories often are–and it made me start thinking–through the fog–about the Jeff Davis 8, eight women who were murdered in and around Jefferson Davis Parish back in the aughts in similar ways, yet different enough to make it questionable as to whether it was a serial killer or not. I’ve always wanted to write about that case in a fictional novel–it’s the story I keep thinking about bringing Chanse back for–because nothing is as a bizarre as true crime, really.

Anyway, my brain is starting to get cloudier and focus is getting harder. It’s very weird to describe how this feels, really; my legs even as I am sitting here in the chair ache with fatigue, my shoulders feel very tired, and my body is telling me to go lie down again. Should I listen to my body, or fight through it? That’s the worst part of this–trying to decide if pushing through the sickness to get things done is worth risking making it worse, and the last thing I want to do is make this worse. I am really not used to this kind of illness, and I don’t like it–which is a rather silly thing to say; after all, who likes being sick? I am also unused to it. The wearing of masks and constant hand-washing/sanitizing had managed to keep me from getting even a cold over the last two years, so this almost feels like a betrayal of sorts. I have no one to blame but myself, of course. I allowed my diligence to slack off after the fourth vaccination, like a fool; it’s always when you stop being vigilant and become more careless that shit happens, as I well know from a lifetime of experience.

But I am going to try to martial my energy and focus to do some things now, and I know I have some emails that need attention–even though just thinking about doing anything makes me want to weep from exhaustion and frustration. (Usually, too, when I am sick I can read and watch movies and so forth; no such luck with this, which makes it even more frustrating as I feel like I am losing and wasting time.)

And hopefully, tomorrow morning’s test will have only one line.

Stay safe and ever vigilant, Constant Reader.

Haunted

It’s gray outside this morning, and right now the trees and the crepe myrtles are swaying in a strong wind. It must have rained at some point during the night because the sidewalk looks wet, but I’m not sure. We’re supposed to experience tropical storm conditions, and it looks as though that won’t be until later this evening; we’ll see how that turns out though. Our syringe program may be short-staffed today so I am probably going to go into the office to help out–the storm may not reach us until around five thirty and I should be able to get home by then (am I crazy? The jury, as always, remains out on that one).

I’ve been sleeping really well lately–stress reduction has occurred on many different levels over the past week. My back and shoulders feel relaxed and not knotted anymore–I hadn’t noticed how much of my stress was being carried there until it wasn’t there anymore–and maybe I am going to be able to start focusing with laser intensity again. I miss that, frankly; the ability to focus all my brain and creativity and intelligence (such as it is) on one particular thing and get it finished; I think I may even go back to being able to keep all the plates spinning again–stop that crazy talk, Greg!–so we shall see. As I said, some things that have been weighing heavily on my mind–and knotting my shoulders–have wrapped up now and if i can finally manage to get myself organized, look out world.

Do keep Lake Charles and western Louisiana/eastern Texas in your thoughts, Constant Reader, as they are going to get hammered again tonight.

Yesterday as I made condom packs I queued up Terence Malick’s debut film as part of the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, Badlands,which starred a very young Martin Sheen and an even younger Sissy Spacek playing a version of Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril (in the movie they are Kit and Holly); as they embark on their killing spree–although in the movie it’s South Dakota and Montana, as opposed to the Nebraska and Wyoming in reality. It is set in the 1950’s, which is also when Starkweather went on his spree (makes you think about how everyone remembers the 1950’s as this idyllic time; what I call Leave it to Beaver Syndrome), and the performances are stellar. The movie is narrated by Spacek’s Holly, in an almost unemotional monotone that captures the spirit of the movie itself. The movie doesn’t explain why Kit decided to start killing people, or why Holly chose to go with him, other than they fell in love and her father–the first victim–disapproved. (It’s also very weird seeing President Bartlet on a shooting spree, really.) Both are terrific in their roles, and the movie is visually stunning, really hammering home the isolation of the countryside in those rural states and their vast emptiness–and literally, how on the great plains or in the badlands there is no one to hear you scream. It made me think also of In Cold Blood; and of course, gave me some story ideas.

I decided to make it a Sissy Spacek double feature and queued up Carrie next–it was also a cynical 70’s movie, after all; and while it can hardly be termed a teen movie, it was about high school, after all, and the only adults in the film are supporting characters–Miss Collins the gym teacher; the principal; and of course, the piece de resistance, Margaret White–and everyone else is theoretically a teenager/high school student. I’ve not rewatched Carrie in years, and I’d forgotten what a great film it is; it’s one of the best (if not the best) Stephen King adaptations ever made–I might even go so far as to say it may be one of those rare instances when the film is better than the book. (And as a big King fan, I am quite aware of what blasphemy I just uttered.) Both book and film might be the first time bullying was addressed so strongly, and an argument can even be made that Carrie is one of two Stephen King novels that could be classified as young adult novels (Christine is the other one). Reading Carrie was a revelation to me as a teenager; it was the first time I’d ever read anything in fiction that depicted high school as I knew it that closely; most books and films at the time that did so were completely unrealistic. I had found junior and senior high school to be jungles of cruelty and viciousness with a rigid caste system; it was the first time I’d ever read anything centering the poor kid whom nobody likes, everyone picks on or mocks, and did it with sympathy. It was the first time I saw high school girls depicted as “mean girls”–it later became a trope–and the book was also the first time I ever saw in fiction anyone try to explain the weird, visceral group reaction to a figure who is more to be pitied than hated. (The book was also the first time I realized that we all love an underdog story–is there anything more popular in American popular culture than rooting for the underdog–while in real life the majority of us all will kick the underdog in the ribs or stand by and do or say nothing when they are being abused; King got that, as well as the shame decent people feel about doing nothing later) The movie is incredibly well done; there’s more gratuitous female nudity than perhaps necessary but it doesn’t feel exploitative; the locker room scene that opens the book features female nudity but it would be unrealistic to not show some–and later, we see Spacek’s nude body when she bathes and washes the blood off herself. It’s also very well-cast: Betty Buckley is terrific as the gym teacher who goes from irritated with poor Carrie until she realizes the girl has no idea what her period is; Amy Irving as Sue Snell, the decent girl who participates in the taunting but later feels remorse–a difficult role to be believable in, but she manages it; Nancy Allen is perfectly cast as spoiled hateful bitch Chris Hargensen; and of course John Travolta, playing against type as Chris’ low-life drop-out boyfriend and co-conspirator, which was really a brave move on his part–he was a star already and a teen idol from Welcome Back Kotter, and making his screen debut as a dirtbag thug was a risk (and his next film was Saturday Night Fever); but the movie truly belongs to Sissy Spacek, who is perfect as Carrie, and Piper Laurie as her mother, Jesus-freak Margaret White. Watching them again, I can’t help but feel that each deserved to win Oscars (they lost to Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight, both in Network). The use of music in the movie is perfect, and the whole movie seems to be shot with this weird, slightly blurry, out of focus dreamlike style, like the camera was coated in vaseline or covered in gauze. And the clothes and hairstyles! The prom tuxedos with the ruffled shirts and in bizarre color choices! The feathered hair and the gym shorts pulled up so high they barely covered the girls’ asses! William Katt as Tommy Ross, the nice guy who takes Carrie to the prom! Even a young Edie McClurg as one of the teenaged girls, I think the character name was Frieda? As I rewatched the movie, I couldn’t help but think how King subverted the trope of the underdog story by making Carrie so sympathetic to the viewer, and then of course she blossoms at the prom with her make-up and her hair out of her face, in the beautiful dress she made herself, escorted by the most popular boy in the school, and elected Prom Queen–only to have it all come crashing down around her.

The movie differed from the book in several important ways, too–in the book, they do all laugh when Carrie is coated with the pig’s blood; the election for King and Queen isn’t rigged in the book; and in the book Carrie wreaks havoc and destroys the entire town on her walk home. The book also–a stylistic choice I may have questioned as an editor–made it very clear almost from the very beginning that Carrie’s story has a terrible ending, by intercutting the chapters with clips from news reports, books, etc. talking about the Black Prom–the reader just doesn’t know what happens at it, and whatever we may have been expecting, it certainly wasn’t the extreme it turned out to be–and my sympathies were entirely with Carrie, all the way to the very end.

I may need to reread Carrie.

It’s been such a fucked-up year that I forgot that I usually spend October reading horror novels, to celebrate the Halloween season. So maybe tonight, after I get home and the storm rages around us, maybe I’ll take Carrie down from the shelf and give it a reread.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines. Stay safe, everyone, and I will catch you later.