My wife and I had been separated for several months but hadn't told our parents. Once a week I'd come over to her place and we'd call the folks. It was a strange charade. I was drinking very hard at the time and she had quit. We were in counseling but had agreed not to talk about alcohol in front of the counselor. Another charade. I came to the sessions sober but went out drinking at the bars afterward. Then I'd try to face the job in the morning and pretend to be a workaday desk jockey. I had so many masks I needed three heads to hold them all.
Everything was going to hell. The Clarence Thomas hearings were on the radio at the time. Anita Hill told the "pubic hair on the soda can" story. Thomas was confirmed anyway, and I thought, well, that's it, we're screwed. I sat in my one-room apartment, reading Hamsun and cummings and Bukowski. I remember my dad saying, "If you think the apocalypse is coming, stock up on tomato soup, it keeps forever." Problem was, I hated tomato soup. And I wasn't sure I wanted to survive the week, let alone the apocalypse.
After a year's separation, I moved back in with my wife. I was bloated and sick from drinking and kept trying to lose weight. We had this Exercycle, and each evening I'd pedal away at the thing while watching the evening news. I puffed and sweated. Weeks passed. I couldn't lose an ounce. I had a doctor who put me on Lasix, the horse diuretic. Still no results.
Part of the reconciliation agreement included the stipulation I have my own room, a cave, to which I could retreat. I spent most of my free time in there, drinking or writing or listening to cassette tapes of famous poets.
Around this time my wife went on a business trip to St. Louis. I had resolved that while she was away I would kill myself. We had an apartment on the 18th floor. It was a long way down to the street. I began practicing in my mind. I figured the best way was to go out backwards. That way my last sight would be the stars and retreating building tops. It was the first honest thought I'd had in a year.