I just finished watching the newest episode of Mad Men.
I've learned two things.
I love my wife. That's not the first thing. In the order of things learned while watching TV on my laptop, I didn't first learn I love my wife. And I knew that already. Anyway, that's not exactly a lesson, is it? I think I learned to recognize the guilt I feel about not loving her enough and that this guilt is tied to fidelity. Not fidelity as in "Have you cheated or not, Gary, tell me the truth." It's not that kind of fidelity, or guilt--a being honest with myself, or her, sort of thing. Though, in the show, that's a big part of masculinity on display. But Guilt, nevertheless and capital 'G', in remembering how incapable I feel of doing what she needs done or I think she wants from me to properly love her. Guilt as an address. Guilt as an attempt. The Attempt: to try in spite of knowing I may continuously fail. And quickly after succumbing to guilt, coming to understand that this is my conscience and its means to find something similar to cold feet before the wedding because I don't get cold feet suffering instead, like many of us do, from hot feet. I'm too spontaneous. Too hyperactive. Too compulsive. Obsessed without end to obsession.
What do I have to feel guilty about? I guess, I feel guilty I'm doing this thing I never thought I would do and with this person who should know better than to hang out with a person like me. Certainly, I think that's warranted guilt. But on the show, two men drink New Year's Day away first with one another at work over their loneliness and Separations, then with one another at an early New York City grindhouse over Godzilla, then over steak, then comedy in The Village, then with prostitutes. And the shy one was only too willing. I sympathized with him. And that sympathy made me feel guilty and that feeling got me writing and thinking. The feeling, not the illicit behavior, led to writing about my wife. And that, of course, nourishes further guilt.
I could make the funny pun about being Catholic, but there's the first thing I learned while watching Mad Men. The first thing is that I'm more than a little embarrassed to have discovered I'm still suffering from post-traumatic stress. I mangled my finger beyond repair in the fall of 2005. Well, I was mugged and menaced with a gun on Memorial Day Weekend 2005, as well. And that comes with its own gifts. But this second unintended violent event is what I'm now coping with.
In the fall of 2005, I inadvertently stuck my finger into the moving flywheel of my Vespa while working on its carburetor. We say, I cut if off in the flywheel, but I didn't cut it off at all. I turned it around so that it was pointing at me, tearing everything up inside the finger, including the skin all around the middle joint. I was calm, then. When it happened, I made no sound and asked for an ambulance. I sat on the front porch and waited as firemen showed up as they do for traumatic injuries. I didn't speak when they freed my pointing finger from the hardened pudding of blood and skin within supportive arm. I didn't speak to the man who permitted me to lean against him while we waited.
Eventually, I walked on my own into the back of the ambulance. I smiled at the paramedics. I patiently occupied an Emergency Room bed with a synthetic morphine drip for several hours waiting for the hand specialist to arrive. And while he amputated my torn finger from the middle joint up, I talked with him and his assistant about wine. Though they hid the amputation from me and refused to let me watch the insertion of three pins, they permitted me to observe my finger being sewn shut. It was a nice reward.
You'd think I was over the incident. I behaved like a regular tough, an expert in violence on my own body. And in many ways, I am. Outwardly, I am. Inside me somewhere, though, a whole mess of mangled nerves still reverberates with the violence of a flywheel snapping bone and tearing tendon. Tonight, Joan cut her finger while preparing her husband's dinner. It led to a touching scene for her character and a rare kind moment from her husband's. I just about vomited and had to stand in my kitchen until the scene was over. I can't really describe the intensity of this attack, but it reminds me of what I went through during the months after my amputation. The panic was strong, real, as if it had never not been present.
And so there's the lessons. The practical aspect of tonight's watching me and my wife's favorite show alone: I was reminded of how strong my love for her is and how fragile my grip on reality can be. A twisted moment combining is and being but sewn together only after a violent event. Call it recognition. Call it recollection. I may call it forgotten. But there will remain the persistence of this note.
I'm thinking of Daedalus now, as I often do, blindly walking along a strand. It can be any strand. And in the first novel, his terrible, terrible love poetry. I think I understand what it means now: ineluctable, without light. I exist in the moments I don't think about it all and then, well, it all stops while I find another excuse to continue walking on away from yet another violent event.