After Life

Book Two: Purgatory

From Journeys and Transitions

by Melanie

Chapter 90

Cleaning House

November 21, 2005

After my entry of last night, we went to bed.  We were both tired, so it was pretty much right to sleep.  But about 3-ish, we both woke up, as old folks often do (while visions of bathroom trips dance in our heads) and after returning to bed once again got frisky.

We had a marvelous tryst.  But afterwards, the old pain began to rise as I looked at her wonderfully perfect genetic looks.  Sensing the change in my mood, she asked if I was depressed again, and I had to say I was.  I tried to explain that I was so very attracted to her new looks, but even as that positive attribute rose, another part of my mind couldn’t help but compare those looks to my own fading ones, and to consider how her fine face served to highlight what I can never have, and what might have been.

I know this hurts her, but should I lie?  And if I did, would it not simply fester within me until it redoubled its evil strength?

Still, we were about to settle down, more somber, but without a major confrontation.  Nonetheless, I felt that after my previous discussion with her about how it would all now work out with her support, this new incident would leave her resolved that things would eventually fall apart, and we would eventually have to part.

In fact, as much as she says she wants to stay with me, she is so concerned that she is causing me pain that she has not infrequently asked if I might not be better off if she were not here to hurt me so.

Wrapped in these ill considerations, as I was about to turn off the light, I realized that I had become hungry enough that I could not return to sleep without something on my stomach.  I rose and strode to the kitchen for a Holland Rusk (that slightly sweet thoroughly crunchy packaged toast that is just 30 calories a slice), but realized I had painted my teeth with whitener before bed, and the toast would remove it.

So, I explained to Teresa I needed some cocoa instead, and set out again to get it.  Once I had my warm drink, I considered that I was curious to see how my video of the previous evening would transfer in compressed mode for the web.  I booted up the computer and began the conversion, which took 45 minutes.  During that time, I spot-checked the visual from time to time, and was surprised that under the lighting conditions I had intentionally arranged to show me at my worst, I didn’t look that bad.  I began to wonder if the rotten pictures I have taken are just the worst case scenarios, while in the real progression of life, Melanie in motion passes only briefly through those bad moments, and quickly moves on to more complimentary appearances so that the overall impact is far more feminine than the worst-case still pictures belie.

And then, of course, it seemed like a good idea to upload it since we are currently on dial-up internet at this location for a couple months until broadband reaches us.  By doing it at night, I am less likely to be disconnected, and don’t have to tie up my system during the day.

By now, it had gone from 3:00 to 5:30.   I returned to bed, put my arm around Teresa and fell quickly asleep.  On the way, I recall feeling so very comfortable under the sheets.  Somehow the mattress seemed softer, and the covers more caressing.

About 7:00 I awoke again, and felt strangely energetic.  In fact, I was enthusiastic to start the day, which surprised me since it was completely incongruent with the mood with which I had fallen asleep.

I lay for a while, again enjoying the simple pleasure of a our room, and feeling very much as if it were a lazy Sunday morning rather than a Monday one.  Still and all, I could not remain in repose for long, and nearly leapt out of bed.  Teresa declined to rise, feeling still very tired – a much more reasonable state than mine.

I donned my robe and checked on the upload, which still had a few more minutes to go.  During that time, I thought I might put something on television with the sound down.  While I watched a little of Good Morning Sacramento, I had a sudden urge to purge my TiVo and get rid of any old programs I really hadn’t gotten around to watching, and probably never would.

At first, I thought I’d just remove a few things, but quickly began a rather ruthless cut, deleting virtually all past episodes of my favorite series, and all but a few truly interesting movies.

Teresa awoke, and I started the fire in the pellet stove while she made coffee.  My mood was extremely positive, though not manic, and for this I had no explanation.  After perhaps half an hour of my upbeat banter, Teresa finally inquired after the reason.  Having none, I entered a discourse with her about what the underlying cause might be, considering that it seemed so divergent from where we left off, and she had awaken fearing the worst, only to find a completely unexpected atmosphere.

I began by stressing that I too was aware of this strange turn of mind, but could see no mechanism for it.  But as we spoke, we peeled back the layers until something of the mechanism made itself known.

Apparently, the ill-ease of my spirit during the past few days must have reached some critical mass during my time in mid-night working on the video files.  Perhaps, seeing the objective record of my appearance on the recording dispelled my subjective conceptions of the same.

When I went back to bed and felt so comfy, the beginnings of a release was already under way.  Perhaps my mis-conceptions were balanced like a house of cards.  Perhaps one domino fell, and the cascade took on an energy and purpose of its own, but all below the level of conscious awareness.

Then came to mind a story I had related on previous occasion to Teresa, but though apropos to the concern at hand.  So I asked to recall a tale I had told of my childhood at age 13 or 14, when I suddenly got the notion to clean out my room.

Up to that point, I had kept a typical casual yet orderly room, but it was filled with far too much stuff for a space that small.  We had in our possession, my parents and I, a great number of “moving bags” from Beacon’s Storage.  They were made of the same material as grocery bags, but twice as thick and three or four times as large.

I began in my closet, then moved through the rest of the room.  When I had finished, I had filled twenty-three bags to the top, all to be taken to the dump.  At the beginning of this endeavor, my mother had come into the room, discovered what I was doing, and asked if I didn’t want to look through the materials before shoveling them, sight unseen, into the trash.  I responded that I did not.  She almost made to say something more, as she herself did not want to lose possession of what were likely many of my childhood treasures.  But she held her tongue and simply said that was okay, if that’s what I wanted to do, and left me to my endeavors.

I realized years later that she herself had a problem with keeping everything lest some memory be lost, and made a conscious choice to encourage the divergent approach that had spontaneously emerged in my character.

Well, my room was clean for a while, but as my life became cluttered, I too began to collect mementos of more pleasant times.  And though I never allowed my space to become cluttered, I packed away far more than one should be forced to care for.

Case in point, all the programs on my TiVo.  Each one was an episode of a program that I would happily sit and watch if I remember to see it when it was actually being broadcast.  Yet somehow, if recorded, I never find myself drawn to enjoy them.  Rather, they become a burden, an obligation instead of a pleasure, and I find myself feeling that I have to view them since they are now in my possession.  And that is why I cannot abide them – I have filled my life with far too many “necessary” chores, and can hardly tolerate engaging in any I can avoid.

This point is underscored by my growing inability to attend truly important business projects, and choose instead to procrastinate until the value of these efforts reaches zero, thereby denecessitating their accomplishment at all.

And so, my hobbies I have not enjoyed in over a decade.  And pleasures I have foregone regularly.  And in my heart, I have perpetuated an excessive volume of fears and defenses against things that have not been a part of my life for decades.

Somehow, the events leading up to this day have weakened the glue of this psychological construct, and the final assault of the video objectivity either pressure the rickety network or further compromised the adhesive to such a degree that the entire framework began to collapse.

This, all, so far below the level of conscious awareness that without Teresa’s keen interest and encouragement would no doubt have remained forever invisible to me.

That discovered, we set out once again into the real world, a record, as Teresa had not been so emotionally sound as to walk among the living two days in a row in all the time I’ve known her.  But knowing how she looks (which improves noticeably every day) has given her such a confidence that more than overcoming her reticence to mingle, it has bolstered a motivation so strong she is almost compelled to do so now.

Our trip today led us to a pet store and a feed store looking for anti-cat order remedies, and a short excursion to the Home Depot seeking replacement bulbs for the light bars above the sinks in both bathrooms.

Teresa was so completely accepted as a woman, without trying at all, even in conversation with clerks, whereas, though I recognized that even with only three hours sleep, I did look completely passable today, dressed in finer clothes than yesterday, I was still under the background pressure of that worry that I would not express like a woman in spirit, through my words, my manner, or some edge of my appearance, and would again face the dreaded soft-clock.

These concerns were never realized, as I intellectually expected they would not.  And yet, the emotional burden of knowing that I must remain diligent at all times least I suffer such a fate due to neglect of some small component I might have preventatively addressed lay heavily upon my soul – especially, of course, since I accompanied Teresa who was no longer prisoner of such concerns.

Still, I did not have the severe negative reaction I had the previous day.  Having cleaned my emotional house and deleted the deadwood, my experiences, though full of envy, carried no pain.  And this, at least, is an improvement.

Envy I can handle.  For it can be overcome through actions on one’s own part to improve oneself so that parity or even superiority is eventually achieved.  The only remaining fear is that I will discover due to the previous surgery on my nose, or to the onset of age, that I am barred from bettering myself to a degree that I either fully realize the lofty potentials that border perfection, or at least approach the high-water mark Teresa has now set, which would nearly be as satisfactory.

And so, I now approach the lip surgery, a scant fifteen days away, as not the key and sole purveyor of a new life matching Teresa’s post-transformation experience, but as a first step in seeking the same degree of success.

How far I will have to go, and whether or not it is even possible in the time of remaining semi-youth which is still allotted to me, is not yet known.  But the journey has begun as an effort to build a stairway to heaven not as a single tower of Babel, but initially as a single fight of stairs hopefully sufficient to lead me out of purgatory.

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