In my quarter of Cancerland, late at night, people walk their dogs, just as they do, of course, late at night, back in the States. Here, however, the dogs are all laughably small, malformed, reminiscent but not of any particular breed. And they are all, in some way or another, afflicted: A white thing, seemingly made of soggy cotton batting twisted inexpertly into more-or-less canine shape, is all red in the rear, and has a chafed gait therefore; something like a Yorkshire terrier limps along, favoring first one then the other hind leg; a spindly-legged what? chihuahua? red apfenpinscher? Chinese crested/Mexican hairless/schipperke cross drags its bottom for ten or twenty yards while the balloon of a woman attached to it by a light chain looks on solicitously, nervously awaiting, um, developments.
This is not how I meant to begin. I meant to begin with an apology for and an explanation of my long silence. I have reason to know that I’ve worried some of you by that silence. You’ve assumed, not without reason, some incapacitating Cancerland development, some other stage in the course of things, and I should not have let that happen. Should, if I could do no better, at least have sent minimal dispatches saying M’Okay, All’s Well, Tutto Bene, Worry Not, More Soon.
But, see, I couldn’t do even that much because, well, I believe I have been sleepwalking. Yes, sleepwalking. For weeks.
I come to this conclusion because I look around my quarters now and see that things have been done here — many things, some of them big things — and it must be the case that I did these things because there is no one else in residence here but my home-from-college son, who reads all day and does who knows what all night, but has never been known to do anything around the house, even when asked.
The thing is, though, I have no proper recollection of having done any of the things that I can see with own eyes certainly have been done. I remember, the way one remembers dreams, twisting wire, toting a basket of power tools here and there, sawing wood, drilling very many holes of very many sizes in very many walls…I remember, in other words, doing the things one needs to do in order to accomplish what’s been accomplished hereabouts, but I don’t remember the accomplishing part, or the setting out to accomplish, or the moving on from one accomplishment to another.
Which is what leads me to conclude that I have been sleepwalking…or sleep-puttering, if you will. And it is evidently the case that the idea of writing dispatches does not occur to a sleep-putterer. In my zombie-like state, I apparently have had no interest in any of my beloved fountain pens, nor in any higher-tech writing apparatus, nor even in a frigging pencil stub, except to use for marking where to cut with the sawzall. My poor sleeping brain has cared only for combination and ratchet wrenches, for rotary tools, for star-nosed screwdrivers, nail sets, hook-and-loop sandpaper, for angle irons, mending plates, shims, a certain very beautiful slim red glass cutter that is as wonderfully heavy and balanced in the hand as…well…as a fountain pen.
What else can I say? I have been in an unconscious froth, making perfect my little digs here in Cancerland because…er…I’m not at all sure why. All I know is that I was overtaken, entirely overtaken, by the need to do so, and that is what, however imperfectly I may remember any of it, I seem to have been doing.
Of course, there’s something else. I have been tired. Very, very tired. To be blunt, I have been Dragging Ass. Now that is an expression — dragging ass — in current use back in the healthy states, but I am here to tell you that it does not mean, back in the healthy states, anything like what it means here in Cancerland. Here, Dragging Ass is something very close to a literal proposition, in which one’s ass (however little it weighs) becomes as formidable a thing to pull around as a bit of yer physicist’s dark matter, miniscule maybe but incomprehensibly dense. All right, never mind the dark matter: In real world terms, Dragging Ass is like being lashed to a full-up shopping cart with three broken wheels. It is Hard Traveling, in the words of the Woody Guthrie song: uphill, on a narrow, twisting, rutted and rubble-strewn path. With bad knees. And asthma. And a dinky ticker.
I have been wobbly-tired, is what I am trying to say, and apparently the thing my under-brain devised to deal with that kind of fatigue was to keep me moving at all times, for fear that any sitting still at all — any sitting still — would result in the Sleep of the Ages, a spate of Rip Van Winkle-itis, a Crossing of the River Lethe, such that there’d be nothing left of me but a mound of matter on the seat of some chair. And writing dispatches — writing anything — requires a body to sit still. So…no writing…because no sitting still…because too alarmingly exhausted to sit still.
In Cancerland, this makes sense.
I think, however, I am finding my ass a little less burdensome to drag about, so anticipate the chance (I hope) just simply to sit upon it with something like my happy old frequency.
As a token of good faith, I herewith promise to write dispatches soon to tell you about Cancerland’s Magic Portals, through which you can peek at the life you once had…about the Great Forgetting…about Cancerlanders as Peerers at one and the same time into the Void and the Toilet…and several other topics I believe will be of interest.
Again, my apologies to any I may have worried.