The only thing I have that could kill me is high blood pressure. It gets up to 160 in the afternoon and that is much too high. My grandfather Miles had it. Sometimes it would get up to 200, but in those days all they had was Diuril, just a glorified diuretic. I take Lisinopril, a much advanced treatment and in the mornings it gets down to 140, and that’s still too high even though i’m taking the max dose and running my ass off on the treadmill three times a week.
I tried to get my grandmother Mattie to lay off Miles because we all depended on his salary. I tried. My mother tried. Miles’ doctor tried. I think even Mattie tried but she just couldn’t do it. Something about the devil in that old bitch and I am just like her. We all thought he would stroke out in the night and be dead in the AM.
He was struck and killed by a car while crossing the street in a crosswalk. Those of you who were with me when I wrote Destiny Road, or the last chapters of Househusband know this story. This incident prepared me for a life where all was just white noise with no rhyme or reason, only a kind of arbitrary, blind capriciousness. Vengeance with no purpose except to kill.
But there’s more. And I cannot be silent, not the way this place haunts me in the night. It might as well be a 19th century castle full of vampires.
There’s an awful secret. And the truth is she killed that man as sure as if she shot him.
Mattie would sometimes have fits right before Miles left for work. She had one that Sunday afternoon in late March when the robins were back in the deep swales of north Georgia. She delayed him leaving just long enough that if she’d picked another day to have a goddamn fit he might have lived to be a hundred like his mother did. I was the only witness to that awful row and I never told a soul. They would have used it mercilessly against her, and I needed her to be as sane as possible, even as she slowly was losing her mind to aging. But they’re all long dead and nobody’s around who would have cared. There. I’ve said it.
Jean Paul Sartre believed we define ourselves by significant acts of the will. In other words, it’s what we’ve done that makes us what we are. I used to believe that, fervently, because when I looked around I saw people making bad choices and suffering for them, but that’s mainly because for most of us there aren’t any good choices if we don’t have $. So that’s all but irrelevant. I now believe what Hannibal Lecter told Will Graham: That we don’t get to decide who we are; that’s issued to us at birth along with hearts and livers and everything else.
The poster of Che Guevara adds some class to these barren walls. On the other side of the room I will put up posters of Barack Obama and FDR. And one of Bob Marley smoking a joint. They all symbolize hope, and perhaps freedom. That there’s always a reason to get up in the morning even if you don’t think there is.
And on the wall directly in front of me I will tack up a rug that has a 400 pound Bengal tiger on it, the most lethal predator in the modern world.
And cats are all so beautiful.
Don’t you think?