Speakin’ in code

Originally published on June 6, 2007.

I’ve felt like I’ve been thinking and speaking in a completely different language than everyone else for the past two days. Before you remind me that I live in a non-English-speaking country, please understand that this is a metaphor. So I’ve been burying my face in CSS, HTML, PHP, XML, and so on all day with very little to show for it. (I’m getting ready to move my blog to my own server.) All that could be the reason for my disconnection from normal human communication.

Or it could be something else.

Last night George came to the window, looking even rougher than usual. His face was gaunt, his cheeks and eyes sunken. I touched bone when I put my hand to his chest. There’s a new abscess on his right arm — a side effect from his injection drug use. He told me he wants my pomoc, my help. This could mean any number of things from money to a shower to a place to sleep. Except George doesn’t sleep. Because of the pervitin, and because of the destruction going on in his head.

He asked for help. I asked him, what help, George? Being around him lately just breaks my heart. I’m helpless. I remember who he was and can’t comfortably look at what he’s become. I quickly acclimated to the homeless, hopeless person’s perspective of always living in the now. It’s been a while since I had the luxury of thinking about the future, for myself or anyone I knew or lived around. Having a home has changed all of that.

Slowly. I see George’s condition and realize he probably has no future. He’s lost and there’s nothing I can do about it except alleviate his suffering in the tiniest ways possible. Some cigarettes, some surfing on the Internet for a job he’ll never get, some talking and companionship, helping him sell off the boxes of coconut candies he’s stolen. I know where that money will go. I allow him to leave some of his heavy bags in my flat —tašky full of second-hand clothes, the odd antique and of course, syringes.

He spent the night last night, pacing the floor and examining and categorizing the flat’s little details: the DVD and PlayStation collection, books in English, Czech magazines, discarded lighters and cigarette packs. They were all arranged around the coffee table when I got up this morning, in a pattern only George can appreciate.

When he left, he begged me not to write about him on the Internet, not to write anything so that someone thinks he’s gay or bisexual. He is a normal man, he said, and if I don’t comply he will tell the president of his old kinder home.

I wonder if the men who tell him these things — about this character called George on this blog — I wonder if they’ve ever rinsed the diarrhea out of his underwear or taken him to the hospital to treat an abscess or made him eat when he hadn’t for days or answered the door or window at 5 in the morning and listened to him rant for hours about imaginary death squads and spy cameras filming him and his girlfriend having sex. Or slept with him in the park.

I doubt it. I know the character of people like these without ever having met them. They are the silent horror show that reads me every day: zombies, cannibals, ambulance chasers. Full of judgment and fear of disclosure. Damaged by their own self-hate, motivated by misplaced envy and paralyzed by what tiny privilege they have, afraid of losing it. If I had their resources, George would be in rehab, away from Prague, away from Denisa, with some small hope that he could become a different man.

I didn’t start this post out intending to talk about George. I wanted to write, too, about having to second guess Marius all day and feeling like telling him to hit the road at one point. The details don’t matter, really. It hurts my brain trying to figure out what people are really thinking, what they really want.

My problem has always been knowing when to shut the fuck up. I don’t understand those who never get around to saying anything, too busy worrying about what the other person — the boss, the lover, the client, the mother — wants to hear. Must be an interesting internal life. I don’t envy anyone that dialogue.

I saw Marek tonight.

The third time in two weeks where timing and Prague geography has brought our paths together, at a right angle, at exactly the right time. He looks thinner than ever. His clothes hang off him. He told me he never sleeps. I told him he looked too thin. He said he knows and smiled.

I came this close to inviting him back, for a meal at least, and maybe for sleeping; except I remembered that we had not shopped for food and that Arssi doesn’t like him. And, oh yeah, there’s a Romanian boy in my bed.

But how could I not invite him back? Would he accept? Is it the right time to attempt reconciliation? I don’t know. I’m second-guessing him and me and everyone else in my flat and my brain hurts again.

We finally took different paths. I went home; he went, fuck knows where.

I said, Ciao Mark. He said, Ciao Rick. It was the end of the longest conversation we’ve had in many weeks.

Seeing him is like a gentle kick in the nuts. It’s all jangling nerves and a queasy stomach and no language interferes at all.

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