Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Mike's Story Part 39 Dinner With Friends

By Jenna Orkin    

   When I came home at four, Mike was edgy with hunger.

   "I forgot to eat lunch," he explained.
"I think that's because you wanted to be served," I said.

"I think it's because I didn't want to eat alone."

That rang true, as well as endearing, but by way of admission that I also had a point, he's been volunteering more to help cook and clean up.

   I loaded the dishwasher with pots and pans.
   "You're such a girl," he said.

   "I chose the location," Mike said, coming in from his morning cigarette, which suggested that the location involved the stairwell.  Did he envision climbing over the rail and just letting go, falling to his death?  That sounded too passive and feminine an m.o. for him.  Had he gone up to the roof?  (Later, following a reference in an email to a prospective webmaster, I wondered if he meant the Brooklyn Bridge.)
   "Not here," he promised.  Carlos has no idea how close he came to finding Mike hanging from the shower head.  "I'm wondering how I managed to get this far. I went for fifty-five years..."
   "It's like a racing car that goes faster and faster until it crashes. That's the only thing that'll stop it.

   'The odd thing is, they let Rubicon go by. You went as far as a person can go in that. It's not as though the Tillman series was any bolder."

"But Rubicon would have brought down the whole machine, including the Democrats. The Tillman series focused on Donald Rumsfeld. That's an important distinction." 

Did you think about that when you were writing it?"

   "I thought about it. Did it stop me? No."
   Even if it's "time to leave New York," Mike's decided not to go yet. "I don't trust myself to build a lifeboat until I've got some therapy under my belt," he says, reasonably.
   And I'm not ready to leave until I sense it's the last possible moment. For me to leave New York is tantamount to Mike's leap to Venezuela only in that case, he was looking forward to being received with open arms. I don't expect Portland, Oregon to welcome me. What do I have to offer them?  And I would be leaving behind everyone and everything I've known most of my life: My trench buddies from the 9/11 environmental movement; family, friends...  My son must come too.  Only to come up for air from a tsunami would I leave him.
   Having embarked on therapy, Mike's bought a book on bi-polar disorder. Like anyone cracking his first book in psychology, particularly one about an illness with which he's been diagnosed, he bestows on the book too much power.  If the book said, "Such-and-such % of people suffering manic depression commit suicide," he'd think he was doomed; as though suicide were a mortality rate and he had no say in the matter.
Last night we went out with BBC producer Marian Lewinsky who was in town briefly.  She gave Mike a St. Michael medal with a prayer card and me, an Our Lady of Guadalupe medal.
   With her was a friend who had information on a power struggle at the newspaper slated to publish the profile of Mike in February.  The journalist hasn't gotten a kill fee but the likelihood of the article's seeing the light of day seems remote.

   Marian said there's speculation on the net about what's happened to Mike.  "Inquiring minds" have a tendency to fill the void with malice.  ("Hmm... Maybe those rumors are true that he smashed his own computers. Maybe he's lying low because he's in hiding from the law.")  She suggested asking Sander Hicks to snuff out those fires by letting people know Mike's in New York.  Mike said, "Good idea" so long as he's not dragged into a conversation about 9/11.

   Today's been
rough; partly, Mike thinks, as a result of having had two beers last night as well as two cups of coffee; and coming down from the high of hanging out with Marian as in the good old days when he'd fly home business class and there was money in the bank.  H
is book on bi-polar disorder recommends keeping regular habits and avoiding alcohol.
   Then at 5:30, Marian called to ask if we'd be interested in getting together for dinner again with Sander before she flew back to London; she'd pay for a cab to bring us to Flatbush.  It was too much too soon for Mike.  He understood his limits but the hint of a return to his old lifestyle shook him.  His "irritability" which, according to his book on bi-polar disorder, is a harbinger of a manic episode, seems to be a kind of grasping-at-straws to control his environment.

   But also, his state of mind is a response to the state of the world. 
The news that the U.S. raided the Iranian consulate in Iraq (claiming that the facility had not yet achieved diplomatic status) is a bad sign; the decision to add 21,000 more troops, a worse one. "Bush is in disgrace," Mike says and Congress seems to agree.  "Even I'm surprised at the level of hostility."
   In addition, the military are going to ratchet up domestic spying, particularly into financial records. He hasn't explicitly said so but Mike seems to fear they're going to go after him again, asserting fraud. His honor is his most valued asset.
60 Minutes - to which Mike has been drawn back after becoming disenchanted with them for using his information as background without granting him air time or even acknowledging him - does a report about the three accused rapists at Duke University who were recently exonerated by the news, until now suppressed, that their DNA had not been found on the rape victim's underwear.

The report focuses on the parents of the accused who believe their sons' lives will forever be haunted by the event.

"In these days where everyone googles everyone else..." says one father and Mike looks at me, smiling warily. If someone googles him after the anticipated newspaper hatchet job, what will be the first hit to come up?
   "Google needs to change its algorithm," I say, "to reflect innocence. If someone's been exculpated that should come up before the accusation."

"How would they do that?" he says.  (The prospect of asking Google to erase one's history is not yet in the cards.  But of course, if the media paid equivalent attention to exoneration as to accusation, Google would automatically follow.)
   On the psychology front, he is learning fast. From an attitude of morbid fascination a few days ago, nodding along with the checklist of symptoms in his book on bi-polar disorder, ("Yup, uh huh, oh yeah,") he's graduated to adolescent rebellion. A few minutes before dinner he closed the book decisively, saying, "Enough of that."

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