It is fear all right, particularly if it awakens you at four in the morning and keeps you awake, directing your mind toward the most trivial and repetitive thoughts. And even prevents you from taking an early afternoon nap, such is the persistence…. And fear of what and from what, none of this is the least bit clear, so let’s work backwards from the obvious starting point or, to be more precise, the ending point.
Death. Having witnessed the wife’s and deciding that it is not pretty…and one would think, having revisited my own close brush repeatedly, and recently…is this it, the ugliness, pain and sheer fact of it? Or to quote a great president, is it fear of fear itself? Let us say, for example, that my shooter is alive in some sense, and let us not quibble about physiological details…it would be the sense of being chased, helpless, overtaken. And yet I could imagine, not outlandishly, that faced with an assassin breaking into my premises in the middle of the night and seeing his gun point at me…well, I would not go passive into that good night. I would scream, make a move, respond somehow. No, never again, as the Israelis say. Yes, through my current process of deduction, it is the terror of being overwhelmed. Of being overpowered. Coupled with being alone. Abandoned, more precisely. Which may be well dramatized and encapsulated as pursuit by the Grim Reaper, but there is a little more to it than that. The sheer fact of pulling life’s plug, or twisting it painfully from the socket, while not the sort of thing one chooses from the HBO menu…well, it is different. Death having the added trait of being unknown, and therefore spooky…I wonder if it doesn’t offer a stand-in for other terrors.
The terror of survival, what else to call the week after my shooting? I swear I literally did not sleep for seven days, though friends assure me this is impossible. In retrospect, there were too many terrors to distinguish. Yes, the fact of having a leering human raise his pistol to your face and pull the trigger, that certainly counts. So does being paralyzed from the neck down, my initial state, neurological outcome anyone’s guess. The latter with its sense of bodily entrapment and heightened physical helplessness feeding everything else…a reality that lingers to this day, surely. For when confronted with the night terrors, getting out of bed for a spell is definitely part of the solution.
For instinct is a wonderful thing. It is what sees us through near death of the self, real death of the beloved and, most certainly, the final curtain…no matter how many curtain calls. Meanwhile, there is change. Take this, my home, one, or depending on how one counts, two of four apartments. A strange museum of the 1950s, coupled with an instructive diorama of modern neuromuscular survival. All under one roof, one admission, and now with a changing exhibit upstairs. A new tenant.
Which must be set against the backdrop of San Francisco’s mid-Peninsula. Let us note that the nation, not to mention the world, is in dire economic straits. And let us keep mentioning it to make one humble, grateful, and even awestruck to be at the epicenter of another high-tech boom. The cost of office space in Palo Alto is exploding. My town, Menlo Park, just became headquarters of Facebook. Rents on my street are soaring. All of which explains my predicament in subletting the empty upstairs apartment. Even without formally announcing the thing, word quickly got around, and lots of people wanted it. Yet the person who seemed like the best prospective tenant also wanted to drive down the price…while offering to paint, repair and generally care for the place. Which, coupled with being a computer guy who might have a fighting chance at keeping my PC going, if I asked ever so sweetly…well, what the hell. Sure. A deal, I said. And why?
Because I like him. He has a neighborly cooperative attitude. He offered to help the old tenant move ut. He and his former apartment mate have already become involved in the buying and selling of things…such as an unwanted bed upstairs, quickly disposed of through eBay…and precisely how we will divide the profits is unclear, though frankly I trust them enough not to care. I bought some loudspeakers from the flatmate, who was selling them all frescoe on his apartment lawn one Sunday…and on Wednesday he wandered over and installed them, along with an Apple wireless connection. The latter taking him more than an hour. In short, these are techie entrepreneurial young guys, much given to the barter economy…so naturally I have offered to write website copy for them, should they need a middle-aged perspective. And one never knows. Instinct. Infinitely better than supposed market wisdom. Real wisdom. And the more one has it, the less one has to fear.