I remember a few winters ago I was on the East Coast for Christmas, and as it happens I also had a court date in Baltimore to get my cats back. I had flown in from Boston that morning . . . I had stayed with a Zen monk in Somerville and went to rock shows every night. I was living in Texas back then and worked in an office. I wasn’t very happy at all.
The trial was at 11 a.m. in a courthouse in downtown Baltimore. This was a preliminary trial—a pre-trial. I didn’t know what the point of it was since I would still have to come back for the “real” trial in March. I reckon it was to assess what was even going on in the first place. I couldn’t get anyone to come with me so I showed up alone. I was very nervous and scared to be by myself. I sat alone at that table in front of the judge. I had a folder with a few papers in it that I thought would help me get my cats back. I had a hard time keeping it together. On the other side of the room was my ex-girlfriend and her sister. The heater was on and it was very loud.
The judge hated me. She barely let me talk. She told me to shut up a few times even when she had asked me to speak in the first place. She would hold up her hand and say, like a kindergarten teacher, “Ah-ah-ah! That’s enough!” She decided within 10 minutes that there was nothing to be done that day and the trial would commence in the spring. I sat there in disbelief. I had waited a whole year for that day. A court bailiff told me in the most official sort of way to get the fuck out of the courtroom.
I was very sad after that. I had come all that way to be totally crushed for no good reason. I remember going outside and feeling so cold. There were flurries falling from the sky.
I walked to the Inner Harbor and sat by the water. I watched garbage float by. I stood up and walked down Pratt Street to get to my old apartment building. My apartment was a sandwich shop now. I went inside and bought a sandwich in the place where my bedroom used to be.
My friend in the city had told me I could stay with her and her boyfriend after the trial. She said it was no problem. I called her a few times and she never picked up. I had no place else to go.
I walked through the cold to get to the light rail. If you’ve never taken it before, the light rail is the absolute most depressing form of public transportation I can think of (specifically the ramshackle shitboxes in Baltimore). On the train I called a few people but no one picked up.
With no better idea in mind I headed back to the airport. My phone was dying. I felt like someone had hollowed me out with an ice cream scoop. I remember getting off at the wrong station. It was in the middle of nowhere. There was no one else on the platform. I don’t know why I got off. I was too sad to even look at anything going on around me. I had to wait 45 minutes for the next train. I sat on my suitcase. It snowed all over me.
I got back to the airport and found a marble platform near a big glass window in the lobby. I used my suitcase as a pillow and lay down. I tried calling a few more people. Everyone I knew on the East Coast did that thing where they denied my phone call within two or three rings. I fell asleep for two hours. Eventually a security guard came over and asked me to keep moving.
My flight wasn’t for three days but I knew I couldn’t stay at the airport. I was so sad and tired and I didn’t know how I could keep walking around for another 72 hours. I took a shuttle to a nearby hotel and got a room. It was very expensive. I had almost no money left because I had spent it all on court costs and plane tickets to get my cats back.
In the hotel lobby I bought a bottle of crappy red wine and went upstairs. I did that thing people do in movies where they sit down in the shower with their clothes on and let water fall on them. I can see why this has become a trope. It is very relaxing in a weird sort of way. Your body is in sync with your mind, basically.
I remember staring at the horizontal rod in the closet and briefly I considered hanging myself with my belt. Not out of sadness, but more like, “Well, let’s just go ahead and get it over with, because near as I can tell the rest of my life is going to be me getting fucked by the big machine and being totally powerless to stop it.” I had the worst luck of anyone I knew. A lot of people had told me I had the worst luck of anyone they knew too.
I don’t think I was serious about hanging myself. It was just comforting to know that was an option. I remember reading something Hunter S. Thompson had said about needing to know he could always rely on the big exit. It is one of the few things on this planet that is reliable, I reckon.
My cousin did call me back. He was the only one. He was two hours away from me. He said he would come stay with me at the hotel. And he did. He showed up and we watched terrible movies on TV and drank that bottle of red wine. I think that is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I think I was too shredded to tell him that at the time.
In the morning we raced through Maryland and West Virginia near Harpers Ferry and retreated to his parents’ basement in Virginia. It was cold and snowy. I remember on the bridge outside Harpers Ferry I looked out over the water and thought that the whole world was blue and miserable. And like sitting in the shower, and like the closet suicide, there was something comforting about looking at that. I know that’s dumb. I don’t know why I felt that way. Maybe it’s because it seemed Earth was fed up with it all too.
In the basement we got a fire going in the wood stove. We drank a lot of booze and watched about 30 episodes of the Twilight Zone. My aunt and uncle were very kind to me and they fed me and let me know they loved me, even though they didn’t know the full extent of what was going on.
I went back to Austin after that. It was cold there. I had to buy a space heater. I wrote a lot and didn’t see anyone. My body stopped letting me fall asleep.