Looking out the window of my local bakery cafe everything is covered in a powdery white snow. Roads are slushed over from traffic trying to push through. The skies are a cloudless steel gray. I’ve positioned myself back towards the wall by the window. I can see the entire room with the laptop serving as my shield from anyone here. I can appreciate the weather outside and the sweet pastry on my tongue. Headphones are prominent with my hat’s brim dipped low. From here it’s safe. There’s a slight chill coming from poorly sealed window but this is where I chose to sit in a mostly empty cafe while eating my baked goods. The illusion of being out in the world while remaining disconnected from direct communication with anyone. This is my comfort zone, a refuge in the emotional wasteland that I’ve become. Some here probably think I’m pretentious recluse being self-indulgent or moody. It’s hard not to be aware of it, but it really is harder to be anything different. This is who I am.
Previously I wrote about some of my social anxieties. Beyond that I’ve also written about my own depression and some of my upbringing that probably hints at some potential surface reasons related to root problems. Also genetically wasn’t dealt the best hand as both of my parents have suffered from mental health issues. My mother has dealt with depression most of her life and still does. My father had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and what then was known as manic depression (which today we refer to as bipolar disorder) during his life on top of his own social anxiety issues. As an adult now I realize this probably fueled his alcoholism, unable to cope with the stress created internally from a general sense of hopelessness. I get that now because as an adult dealing with my own depression I’ve hit those points of despair. The points where if you had the heart to care about the void that is your life you’d be willing to do just about anything to not be you. Seeing the effect of alcohol on his life firsthand has discouraged me from ever having an interest in where he ran to instead of finding a healthier solution. I’m left to figure out some other (better) way to overcome my own depression. I know the cards have been stacked against me historically between my family life and inherited health conditions but I’ve tried to just rise above it… It’s not exactly that easy, ya know? It just isn’t doting upon yourself or catching a movie and suddenly you’re right as rain. I wish that was the case.
My father used to tell me that all the time. I’ve talked about my relationship with him a bit previously, and always things are more complicated than originally implied. Yes, he was an alcoholic all my life. The strange part about living with an alcoholic that you never really see on TV though is trying to cope with them essentially being two different people. On one hand, when Paul was sober he was an introverted and reserved man. He loved technology and that was apparent in his purchases for the family and himself. Eventually that appreciation would be passed down to me it seems. The other Paul was the aggressive, selfish, bully that was every bit as vile and abusive as you’d see in the movies. Living with that man was unpleasant (to put it kindly), which broke the family apart and drove everyone away from him. The two men that he was couldn’t be any more different from one another. They also never seemed to be aware of the other’s actions so you could never hold one accountable for the other without him staring back at you confused. It was maddening to have someone that looks like your father have you fearing for your life, then the next day offer to take you to McDonalds for a happy meal.
I remember around age five or six him coming home from work one day with a Nintendo Entertainment System. I’d never seen one before or knew what it was. Apparently we had an Atari before that, but all I remember of video games started when he came home that day. He boasted about how great the visuals and how we all had to try it out. That weekend my two siblings and I kept passing the controller back and forth playing Super Mario Brothers / Duck Hunt. My father kind of just enjoyed watching us play. I was too young to remember much else outside of a few trips to the store with him to pick out new games… Double Dragon 2 stands out in my head, pointing at it behind the glass for the clerk to show us. Looking back I realize now he was just excited to give us something fun to do. My sister even did a mock awards ceremony for “best player” and “best games” one time with the family, makeshift podium and all. I’m the youngest and stuck to games the most so I’m sure it was all done just to humor me at the time.
From time to time he’d jest with me when I’d take it too seriously, “life’s not all about video games, ya know?”
Me clad in Nintendo, life was good.