Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mike's Story Part 25: Sinking

By Jenna Orkin  

   Having asked for some water, Mike inspected the glass dubiously, like a connoisseur of housekeeping; the fluted part at the base was murky.

   "Jenna, we're going to have some work to do," he laughed.

   "I scrubbed and scrubbed," I protested.

   "Don't you use the dishwasher?"  
   "I don't know how."
   This was within two or three days of his arrival; we were still at the guest/host stage, which was why he hadn't gotten his own water.  As for the dishwasher, I hadn't grown up with or ever used one and had read that they wasted water, so even though the apartment provided one, albeit with some sort of pillow stuffing erupting out of the bottom, I'd never bothered to figure out how it worked.
   Months later, when we knew each other better, Mike admitted that this incident had convinced him I was simply stupid.  My status as "queen of links," the research division of the FTW news section, was, like FTW itself, history.
   At the time, however, he responded to the alarming insight by taking action.  When I returned from grocery shopping, he said, "Come here," and led me to the kitchen whose counter was now clear, the glasses sparkling as in a detergent commercial, having had their baptism in the dishwasher.
   The next day, another milestone was passed on the road to achieving his domestic standards.  Taking my sleeve like a kid, he tugged me towards the bathroom saying, "Look what I did!"

   Half the contents of the shelves were gone; the tub fixtures gleaming.

   "Now watch this!" He leaped from a floor panel next to the right wall to one on the left - like a frog among lily pads - avoiding the ones that creaked.  He'd figured out a way to go to the bathroom during the night that wouldn't wake me.

   From there he led me to the kitchen where he opened the door of the freezer which looked unfamiliar; half its contents were gone. Indeed, it had transformed into a showcase model of a typical middle-class couple's freezer.  

   His housekeeping ideal was order; mine, thrift. The latter quality had led to clutter which - to drop a loaded statement - reminded him of his mother. How much experience of women had he had besides her?  As mentioned in an earlier post, his longest relationship seemed to have been his marriage of a year and a half.

   "That's cheating," I complained about the newly organized freezer. He'd thrown away all the stuff I'd been saving because it's a mortal sin to waste food, but that I was secretly glad to be rid of.

   However, the last remnants of a pint of Ciao Bella sorbet were also gone, and I didn't let that faux pas go unobserved.

   The next day, he left an old tea bag floating in a cup next to a forkful of hard cheese on a plate.
   "I didn't know if you were finished with them," he said, with a malicious glint in his eye. 

    I was a source of constant dismay, putting cereal in the freezer when the expiration date approached, and wearing two pairs of glasses - one for reading while the other pair, for the computer, perched on my head.  When I didn’t need either, they both ended up on my head where they did funny things to my hair. 
   His perfectionism made me nervous which made me even clumsier.  For the first time in my life, I left the detergent in the communal laundry room downstairs and spilled coffee on the computer desk.

   "There was a cop, Jim Jocquette," Mike remembered one day in his unrelenting tortured review of the past.  "When we were ten calls backed up he would say, ‘Chief, I love it when it’s like this.'

   'He died in a traffic accident.  2000 people came to his funeral.

   'When I was in LAPD, I wanted to have a hero’s death like that."

   He was afraid that his life’s work - Rubicon and FTW - were over.

   I pointed out that this is how people often feel after they retire or their children leave home.

   "What’s new on the blog?" he asked.  I had sent out a notice to the Peak Oilists in New York that he was in town.  Had any of them responded?  Did they want to get together? 

   “Everyone is forgetting me,” he said anxiously.

   “Don’t be silly.  They probably just skimmed the email.  People don’t focus unless you call them or address them personally.”

   He listed the former friends who’d fallen away for one reason or another:  Fear of guilt by association; anger; believing the rumor that he smashed his own computers.

   I called the only two NYC Peak Oilists whose numbers I had.  (One later killed himself.)  Both did indeed want to see Mike.

   Mike also emailed Emanuel Sfarios who responded, solicitous about Mike’s health; Mike was moved.

   “He’s one of those people I was always too busy for,” he said softly.  “He was always calling when I was on my way to the airport or something like that.”

   He had similar regrets about Marian Lewinsky, a BBC producer who called from England when she heard about the fate of FTW.

  Sunday, at his request, I went with him to his first Al-Anon meeting where he was called on to "share" and cried unabashedly.  Several members offered their phone numbers afterwards and over the next week, he consulted them often.

   He also called Dr. Faiza Khan, a psychiatrist who was the sister of Dr. Faiz Khan, an old friend from 9/11 days.  She prescribed Ativan after eliciting a promise that Mike would go to Bellevue for an assessment on Saturday when her friend, Dr. Heather Lewerenz, would be on duty.

   It was imperative for Mike that any shrink he saw understand that his tale of CIA harassment as well as his findings of US government involvement in 9/11 were true and that they not use those "conspiracy theories" as a weapon against him.  Dr. Lewerenz had heard Mike speak.

   Each morning he took a long bath during which he read the Al-Anon book as others read a page of the Bible.  Afterwards, the Ativan put him to sleep for another two hours which made him feel calmer.

   But after a few days of this routine, the Ativan had slowed his movements so that there was a zombie-ish cast to his demeanor.  He excoriated himself for needing yet another nap.  "What have I accomplished?  Got up, had breakfast, took a bath, lay down.

   'I keep hearing voices telling me, 'You should do this; you've got to do that.'"

   "Be careful about telling that to an intake shrink. That's one of the buzz phrases: Auditory or visual hallucinations."  Of course, Mike's "voices" were those of conscience but psychiatrists tend to be vigilant about such reports.  

   The thought of being admitted to Bellevue was enough to drive him crazy.

  "I'll end up in Bellevue, drooling, a basketcase."

  "I know people who've been in Bellevue several times and are doing wonderfully. Bellevue doesn't want to keep you any more than you want to be there. You'll be out in a few weeks at the most."  
"Rejected by Bellevue!"

No comments: