If you’re me, everything is arranged for you. In advance.
Have you ever watched the show “Numbers”? A math prodigy named Charlie has a big brother who’s an FBI dude who needs him to chase down crooks. I’m Charlie. Everybody, especially big brother, feels an urge to protect the vulnerable prodigy. Because he had it so rough as a kid.
My youth was difficult. Dad thought I was just a kid for a while. My sister knew I wasn’t, just a kid I mean, which created some problems.
Afterwards, things changed. An informal protective network followed me for the rest of my life. It was loose and nearly undetectable early on. It has become tight and nearly foolproof in recent years. Nobody has ever called me on my inability to play chess, for example.
Think about it. If you’re this great brilliant genius, shouldn’t you be forced at some point to play chess?
Sorry. I’m just playing with you now. I have an iPad that weighs about four ounces and my wife figured out how to fix it for me. It’s like a feather in my hands. Checkmate. A term I learned from my grandfather, the smartest person on earth I ever knew, who knew no more about chess than the rules on the box. That may have been our greatest wink-wink with each other. Chess is not a smartness contest. It’s a dumb game played by mostly dumb people. Smart people have more interesting things to do.
I’m still just talking. What it’s like to be me. You wake up every day like Stephen Hawking, only not quadriplegic in a wheel chair. Are you grateful? Absolutely. Can’t stress this part enough. Everybody has protected me through the years, but no one more than my beloved Boudica.
You wake up every day. You look at the state of the world. You remember there’s a trench knife in the drawer. Then you start on the daily calculus. If I die, she’ll be alone. It would be far worse if she dies first. I’d be alone, which has always been the great unthinkable. And since her, I can’t even imagine life as life without her beside me. Why I can’t think about leaving without her.
But I hurt. In every possible way. Talk all you want about the wages of sin. Think of them in the context of needing to stay around for the best person you know. Years of smoking and drinking have taken their toll. I know I should apologize. Won’t. John Updike said he looked into the ashtray and realized there was a cigarette butt for every paragraph. So he stopped. It didn’t help his writing. He also went on record calling out John Cheever for being too drunk to recognize him. “I know John Cheever’s in there somewhere,” he said. Truth. A much better writer than Updike was in there somewhere.
So I am feeble these days. My mind is not going. It’s changed. It was always waiting for the Internet. I now follow so many of everything you wouldn’t believe it. Athletes, movie stars, composers, philosophers, musicians, and, unfortunately, pundits. I know what Charles Krauthammer had for breakfast and it isn’t pretty.
I wake up every day and try to think what to write. My beautiful wife props up my fragile ego and tells me I will think of something. Usually she’s right, because I am me after all, but sometimes she’s wrong. Which is when she forgives me without a word and brings home whatever we decide on for dinner.
Lake is presently mad at me because he doesn’t understand his role in the protective network that surrounds spoiled geniuses. Spoiled geniuses like me.
I can be contrite all day long. The graphic has it right, though. A unicorn is a once in a lifetime thing. You think unicorns don’t know they’re unique?