Maybe It’s Not That Bad: Project X

I finished the second to the last section this evening. I’m glad I talked to one of my beta readers in person about this because she said some things to my face that she didn’t write to me that ended up breaking wide open my understanding of the problem with the section. So, that was nice.

I’m feeling… not like a failure, but I don’t know, like things aren’t coalescing. Like I’m all fart, no turd, as they say.

I really want to be a turd, though.

So… that’s a weird metaphor, but I guess I’ll stick with it.

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Some Thoughts on the Red-Headed Kid

I’m fascinated by him right now. Watching him navigate a world he’s going to get to live in for the next sixty, seventy years. I mean, things could get in the way of that, but they’re unknown things. The whole “dead by thirty” thing is no longer absolutely true. It’s weird, you know, to think that Mrs. Wigglebottom will, of course, be dead by 2018. She doesn’t have five more years in her. And that weighs on me so much, wanting to be sure to do right by her in her last years.

But I don’t think I ever really accepted that the Red-Headed Kid wasn’t going to make it that long. At least, when he first told us he didn’t have that long, thirty seemed so far off for him. We’ve known him for a long time. It seemed like almost half his life away. But it’s a quick half–that sprint between 15 and 30.

Anyway, so here it is for him–a life that goes beyond that.

And it’s so intriguing to see how that’s changing his life. In some ways, not much. As long as I’ve known him, he’s either worked in a grocery store or at Hollywood Video and he works at a grocery store. He’s always been a heavy metal nerd and he’s still a heavy metal nerd.

But he hugged my mom at Christmas and came over to play Apples to Apples with our family. He’s just subtly becoming more gregarious. And he’s always been really funny, but he used to be funny in this way where you almost hated to laugh, because he might think you were laughing AT him, even though he was obviously being intentionally funny. And now, now his stories are all funny with him.

I guess it’s the same as the question this morning. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” The Red-Headed Kid seems to plan on spending it savoring it.

It’s kind of wild to me, too, how little anger he has. I mean, dude had repeated surgeries–had fucking heart surgery–and had to have a pace maker. And it’s just epilepsy. His heart is fine.

And he treats it like everything else, just something weird. A mistake. Yes, one he bore the brunt of, but a mistake.

Something that happens. And so let’s see what happens next.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Junior Seau did have CTE, as he must have suspected when he shot himself in the heart, leaving his brain behind to answer for his loved ones that inviolate “why?”

Football is, for me, like wrestling. Something I used to love that I’ve had to turn away from. It used to be that the questions were “Is it real?” “Are they cheating?” “Is he on steroids?”

And now the question is “Am I watching a man kill himself, maybe without even realizing it, for my amusement?”

More and more, I cannot deny that the answer to that question is “yes.”

It’s not just that. Honestly. If you’re an adult and you want to do something dangerous that might kill you, that’s your business. Sky-dive away. Climb that mountain. Whatever.

No, what really bugs me about it is that CTE robs people of their lives, of their families, of the people they recognize themselves to be.

I don’t mind–though perhaps I should–if you want to risk your life. But I cannot forget how much I enjoyed watching Chris Benoit risk his wife’s and son’s lives. Even though no one knew that was what was at risk when he launched himself from the top rope like a fireplug in a minor victory over gravity. I read he became very religious toward the end of his life and his whole family was so relieved, because they knew he’d been through some dark times recently, and maybe this was a sign he was finding his way out from it.

Except that apparently newfound religiosity is a symptom of CTE damage. His family just didn’t know how to recognize it for what it was–a danger sign. What they should have been able to read as a good sign was the opposite.

It even robs you of your religion.

And I should find that entertaining?

On weekends, I regularly drive by a field full of kids playing football. They’re so small and their helmets so big that they look like mushrooms out there. To which one of them would you say “I hope you kill your own child.”? “I hope you become a stranger to your own spouse.”? “I hope you shoot yourself in the heart so that science can have your head.”?