Sunday, November 16, 2008

Alma, for Anitaxanaxnow

It's almost poetry. For you Anita.

Part 1: The Back Story on " Squirrels In The Attic"

The squirrels have it coming. They started their invasion ten years ago. At least. At first I was preoccupied with other things, but I knew they were there. I could hear them at night. I would awaken at three to hear what sounded like bowling above my head. The chittering of squirrelly pick up lines. The scolding of young. I could hear them in the walls. Finally I worked up the courage to look in the attic and found that they had started tearing the insulation off the attic ceiling and had filled all my best boots with walnuts. And not just content with my boots and shoes, they had started to shred my old paintings. Motherfuckers!

After a month or so of cleaning up the mess they'd made, stripping off the rest of the insulation, sweeping up squirrel nesting sites, bagging over a hundred pounds of walnuts, I set traps. Humane traps. Expensive humane traps-- guilted into it by a friend. And as it turned out she also had a trap. I caught three. Tom had stopped by for a month or so, and while he was here he took the trapped squirrels away to release them elsewhere. Then he was gone, back to Costa Rica. And he'd barely pulled out of the driveway when the next family of squirrels on line for life in the big house moved in.

Then came my mother's final madness and with it my own. So dealing with the squirrels was more than I could handle what with the hallucinations. A year or two of changing the diapers of a eighty something year old infant who weighted more than I, had pushed me over the edge. A woman who fought with all her might to keep her poopie diaper firmly on her dirty butt, and who ran howling through the house and then hid her turds carefully in the dryer, Shhhh, it's a secret--well it captured my imagination and the rest of my senses and all my time. Old black men took up residence inside my head, and they sang (if you could call it that) gangsta rap of the vilest sort--not the sort of thing I had ever liked. I love the blues and these well dressed and dignified old black men looked like Blues Men. Gangsta Rap day and night. But it did drown out the sounds of the squirrels for awhile.

My mother was taken away by a friend of mine to a nursing home that would be, sadly, temporary, the day I went into the luny bin that last time. And when I got out, though I'm sure it didn't actually happen, I felt as if I had been lobotomized. And I suppose in a way I had. I do not remember shock therapy, but I couldn't swear it wasn't part of the treatment. But then wouldn't somebody have to have signed off on it? I did after all call 911 on myself. So wouldn't that be thought of as self-commitment? I remember signing nothing, but once they decided that I was psychotic, maybe they didn't need my permission to do anything. And would I remember shock treatments? Probably not. But when I did come out of the hospital, I was lost in a city as familiar as the map of grief etched on my own sad face. I mean lost close to home. Every trip involved taking a directory and street maps. This is a simple place in which to orient yourself directionally. The mountains are to the east. The Great Salt Lake and the Salt Flats to the west. And once you know that, the rest should just fall into place. I started having to re-memorize my place in this world. And I sunk into a depression I thought was going to kill me.

I was taking Depakote, and Geodone, and Zoloft, and Neurontin. But I was not exactly stable, unless a steady decline is called stable. My progress did all go in one direction. It wasn't so precipitous as to feel like I was tipping over, but each day I lost a little more energy and slept a little more.

The cottony sleep of the profoundly depressed is like the sleep of the enchanted. Like an evil spell cast to make you sleep for a hundred years. And when you emerge to pee and weep and drink some water, it's back to bed you go. I could sometimes hear the squirrels in the attic, but I hadn't the energy to deal in any effective way with them.

This was not intended as the definitive work on the invasion of the squirrels, but ten long years of cleaning up after them, and repairing damage they've done, and not being able to insulate the attic again, because why bother, they'll just tear the insulation down again. All the expensive shoes ruined, all the good winter clothes tossed in the trash after they tore it to shreds, and shit in everything. Do you notice the shit theme that is an undercurrent here? Oh god how I hate those squirrels.