Gathering Confidence

Photo on 11-24-14 at 5.28 PM #3

It has been a very rough three or four days since I came back from California. I don’t to admit that any more than I want it to be true but I think the usefulness of the blog is to be honest.

D: What about “fake it ’til you make it?”

Jeff: Does that work? I mean I guess it works. I understand the concept. What, pretend like I don’t feel like this?

D: Like what?

Jeff: Like I’d like to go through with the suicide plan— which of course I can’t do— because I’m not that healthy— and I’m still responsible for every-goddamn-body’s feelings in this whole fucking world!

B: So negative!

Jeff: So honest. My heart hurts. My skin hurts. I feel like if I just— I honest to God feel like I’m walking around trying to “hold myself up” out of this depression— like walking around constantly holding my eyebrows up as high as they can go. Go on, try it!

(D and B try it for a few seconds and then lower their eyebrows back down.)

Jeff: No, no! Don’t let them drop. Just keep them up there. Continuously. See? It becomes fucking exhausting doesn’t it? That’s what it feels like— except instead of eyebrows, it’s my whole mood. What’s that sound?

(D and B listen but hear nothing. Shake their heads.)

Jeff: It’s the sound of— no, I can’t do that.

D: What?

Jeff: I was going to talk about all the negative shit that’s going on in the world— in the interest of having someone understand what it feels like— in the— I hate that I was a part of war— and I’m sick of jingoism being the nation’s only fucking approach to dealing with the repercussions of war— to include what’s going on with so many veterans. There’s a better way. And it starts with a huge chunk of honesty. What has this nation spent, in its history on “defense?” What if we had instead spent that money doing what Jesus said, “Do good to your enemies?” How many millions of innocent people have we killed throughout our history? Do you realize that? Millions! And we’re still romping around the planet pretending we get to do what the fuck we want because less than 3000 died in 2001? Who are we fucking kidding? We are doomed! Not even because of the atrocities we’ve visited on other people’s but because of our arrogant unwillingness to accept culpability—to even admit it’s true! We’re so red, white and bullheaded we just keep doing the same bullshit decade after decade and somehow expect that it’s going to somehow turn out well for us!? That’s absolute horsesshit!

B: Yes, this is true but if you just sit around focusing on all that, you’re not going to be able to do anything about it now are you?

(Jeff doesn’t answer.)

B: Are you?

Jeff: Well what the fuck am I supposed to do about it? I’m stuck here and I can’t even— oh my God, I’m so fucking depressed! Christmas?! Really?! Oh my God, kill me now! Mother is so depressed she can barely walk. She goes from the bed to the couch and the couch to the bed. Nothing absolutely nothing I can say will make her do something to get out of this dark place—

D: Sounds familiar, huh?

Jeff: What? Oh. Yeah. It’s true. I’m just like her. And here we are stuck in this house together. I’m wanting to go back to New York and have absolutely no idea how to make that happen financially. I have shit credit. I’m a hundred thousand dollars in debt. I’m paralyzed by the PTSD and I am sleeping in the room where my father died six months ago. I have got to get out! And there’s a part of me that feels like when I do go she’ll die. (long pause) When she picked me up from the airport the other night she looked like she hadn’t been out of—

(Jeff swallows and winces horribly in pain.)

D: What was that? What’s wrong?

Jeff: My throat feels like somebody sliced it open with razor blades. I went to the VA last night. I even told the doctor that I thought I might have picked up something from all the fucking around I did in LA, a lot of it “unsafe.” It was like he didn’t even hear that— like he couldn’t hear that. He asked me if I had a cough and I said no— so he prescribed me some cough medicine. He asked if I was congested and I said no— so he prescribed me some decongestant. I swear God, for all doctors have to go through to be doctors, they’ve got to be sort of smart, right? So how come so many of them seem so goddamned stupid? I mean do they have their goddamned ears removed in med school?!  (Not our Jen of course. Jen is smart.) I mean I all but told this guy exactly what I had and he’s fucking sitting there telling me I have a cold! I’m self-medicating suicidal depression with compulsive sex and he’s going to shuffle me on out the door with cold medicine! No fucking wonder so many vets are offing themselves! I was actually inside their doors! Just think of the ones that don’t make it in! The nurse who did the preliminary stuff that the doctor is far too important to do with not one other single patient there in the middle of the night, rambled through this list of questions in a monotone that sounded pretty much like Ferris Bueller’s teacher, “Are you allergic to any medications? On a scale from one to ten, what is your current level of pain? Do you have any thoughts of harming yourself or others? Okay, that’s the end of my generic questions.” I mean he actually said that! So I said, “That’s the end of my generic answers.” And again, it just flew right by. We are doomed. We’re doomed! There has to be a better way to assess what is actually going on with vets who make it as far as the doors of the VA! What the fuck am I talking about? I thought I was talking about Mom! I don’t know what to do for her. How did I start talking about the VA? When she picked me up from the airport we went straight to Denny’s so we could both get a a huge plate of bad-for-us to shovel forkfuls of— oh God. I just looked across the table at her. She was looking at me with pleading eyes, half full with tears— “I miss your daddy” — and of course it was like someone just reached inside my chest and squeezed my heart as tight as they could. I didn’t know what to do for her. I’ve done everything thing I could. If I— I mean this is so horrible but I’m actually afraid to soothe her! I’m afraid to touch my own mother, what the fuck is wrong with me? I feel like if I let myself get sucked in any more— as if that’s possible— I’ll just get lost— that she’ll take all of me— that it will feel like—like—

B: Like what? Say it?

Jeff: No, I can’t. I—can’t. I just feels too intimate. It feels too scary to me. And I don’t know how to get out. I don’t think I ever can get out. I wish to God I could skip these holidays. I wish to God I could just be living in a place I could somehow afford in New York. I’ve made every suggestion to Mom I know how. And it’s not like I’ve got my shit together. I feel like a complete looser. No matter what brought me here, look at me now. Broke. Stuck. I can work. I can work in theatre— or in film— or helping vets— I’ve just got to get out of here— and I feel like I can’t move— forward— at all. I need help. I need someone to help me sort this out. I feel like such a pussy for— sorry, that’ s not an okay thing to say— I feel—

(silence for several minutes)

(Jeff picks up his phone and texts for several minutes)

Jeff: Whew! Okay that was close.

D: What was close?

Jeff: I’ve arranged to go to the park with Jin and Cedar. I was dangerously close to getting some work done this morning.

B: No  you weren’t.

Jeff: Good point. No I wasn’t.

D: Why don’t you just go to Jasper and get a job you deadbeat?

B: Yeah, why don’t you get a job?

Jeff: Yeah, why don’t I?

Jeff puts down the laptop and starts to dress for the park.

Two and a half hours later, B, D, and Jeff appear on the porch of Jin, Phillip and Cedar Swafford. Jeff has just returned from  the feed store with Jin and Cedar to buy chicken feed. He unloads the bag of feed onto the porch, takes a plate of pork roast from Jin and sits down to continue the blog. But first he exhales his lunch. Nova Jean, the Great Pyrenees licks the remnants of the barbecue sauce from the plate. A wasp stings Nova Jean. She propellers her head to try to make the stinging stop. The stinging does not stop. With her paw, she scratches the place where she’s been stung to try to make the stinging stop. The stinging does not stop. Jeff says out loud:

Jeff: I wish I could make the stinging stop.

B: Where are we?

Jeff: Swafford’s porch.

B: It’s nice here.

Jeff: Yeah.

The porch is cluttered but it a wonderful way with a skateboard, Radio Flyer red wagon, tiny bicycle with training wheels, old furniture, a table sitting in a chair— the shade of the lamp has been graffitied with spray paint, a motorcycle frame, a plastic Fisher Price toy tool bench, a carpeted “cat tree,” a Polynesian war shield propped in a Hepplewhite chair, and now a bag of chicken feed— and a Marine, blue jeans and shirtless, toothpick in his mouth, vented ball cap. Laptop in his lap, sitting in the porch swing.

Jeff: I like it here. It’s peaceful.

D: This from the man who’s dying to get back to New York City.

Jeff: Yeah, actually. There’s a piece of me that is this— that will always be this. I mean listen to that! Nothing but the sound of wind in the trees, a few insects and some birds.

B: And the sound of you tapping away on that keyboard.

Jeff: (laughs) Yep, just another one of the animals. Even in the middle of Time Square, I’m still a country boy. I hope I’ll always be able to get away to the country. Maybe Vermont.

D:  Why not Alabama?

Jeff: Nah. Like I said, I really do love a lot of the people here and God knows I love the land. But I just can’t take the religion and the politics, especially where they connect. It’s frightening.

B: Why don’t you stay here and make a difference.

Jeff: Uh-uh. I’ll make my difference from the safety of New York City thank you very much.

D: How you gonna do that?

Jeff: My writing. Maybe my acting too.

D: (laughs) Yeah, right!

Jeff: (confidence building) Really, you piece of shit? Well let me tell you something. I scribbled my thoughts and feelings onto a little Moleskin journal that I kept in my right cargo pocket while I was at war. It was lost not once but twice—one way out in the fucking desert when one of our posts was taking fire and once in the streets of West Hollywood after I’d come home and was wandering around half fucking crazy. Both times that journal came back to me. You wanna know why? Because The Universe wanted the play to happen. And God put that crazy Israeli motherfucker in my path— Yuval Hadadi— and made sure he was hot enough that I’d notice him and made him be a dick enough to— I’m not supposed to say that, it’s man hating— but anyway made him— abrasive enough to keep me horny and attentive and eager to please him during the painful process of making sandy journals into a script and then we made that play happen by hook or by crook so that I got on a motherfucking stage hundreds of times and said what I meant to say! You got it? And although I rarely ever had over a few bucks in my pocket, then God— or The Universe— or whatever made it possible for there to be a movie so again I started hopping on airplanes and flying all over the place reminding people that my brothers and sisters were still dying not to mention all the innocent civilians and no matter how bad they thought they needed to get to Starbucks they needed to be reminded there was a war going on and they needed to look  a fucking Marine in the eye and tell him he wasn’t fit to serve because he was gay and— well, yeah, we did that shit. And I never had much more resources than I do now! So you can take that “you can’t change shit with your writing” shit and shove it up your ass. I’ve done it before and I’m about to do it again.

B: How you don’t even have a script.

Jeff: Wrong! I have two of them.

(dramatic music)

Jeff: Two and a half actually. And they’re ready for first readings— well, almost ready. Another days work on each and they’ll be ready. The plays anyway. And another week and the screenplay will be done.  And I’m going back to New York in January if I have to live in the fucking streets with a cat kennel and two fucking dogs on a leash. I will not let Adam Nelson steal my New York dream. He and his two faggot husbands sitting up there in The Bronx can suck the shit out of my ass. I’ll walk to get my Tony over their fucking graves if I have too.

B: Woah! Drama down bitch. I’m sure they want nothing more than to never to hear from you again.

Jeff: Yeah?! Well wish fucking granted! And we’ll see who’s laughing in the end! Fuck him. Fuck them. Fuck the whole manage-a-twats!

D: Easy, Killer. Move the focus back to what you want, not what you don’t want.

Jeff: See? Now that was a nicer way to put it. Gentle. Like I don’t feel like I have to fight for my right to speak my truth.

B: No, no. Trust. You’ve spoken you’re truth alright. You might not always enjoy our company but we’re actually here to try to keep you on track. So— written on the scripts at all today?

Jeff: No.

D: You said two days work would get RUTH and Lilac and Liquor ready for first readings, yes.

Jeff: Yep, that’s right.

D: So which one you want to work on today?

Jeff: Lilac and Liquor.

B: What needs to be done?

Jeff: Just a read through, make corrections based on the proofreader’s notes. Nothing heavy.

D: How long should that take?

Jeff: Dunno. Maybe a couple of hours.

E: (offstage) Well that would be an improvement over anything you’ve done in the past few days wouldn’t it?

Jeff gets up, almost dropping the laptop which D grabs and saves. Jeff dashes towards the wings. B grabs his arm and pulls him into a hug preventing him from going offstage to kill E.

Jeff: I hate that fucking bitch!

B: Let it go, killer. You’re right. She’s a bitch. Ignore her.

Jeff pulls away from E’s grasp and straightens his clothes, shakes off the residual anger. 

Jeff: (looking towards wings, under his breath) Fucking bitch!

D: (aside, whispers to audience) See y’all tomorrow.

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