I let myself off the hook with my writing routine and look where it’s gotten me. I’ve started playing video games, the first person shooter kind, and go to bed replaying scenes of me dying or killing other players. I’ve started buying new skins and exotic weapons. Today, a harvesting tool that makes dry slicing sounds, blades affixed to wrists. One game I had to pick ax a woman to death because I hadn’t gotten any guns yet but got an award. I’ve started watching videos on YouTube with adolescent boys sharing tips and tricks. And now I keep my inventory better organized with my weapons and med kits in the same positions so it’s like muscle memory when I need to swap out guns. Shotguns are best at close range, just like real life.
My therapist says there’s different kinds of addictive behavior and one is called process addiction. That’s the kind for gamblers and sex deviants. I know I’m not the latter (honest!) and never was much of a gambler, but I do love using my pick ax on coins and gathering smaller bits as they splinter off and make twinkly sounds. They all rack up to points and points advance you to higher status. I play every day around the same time I’d have my first drink.
And as a family, like millions of others around the world, our TV streaming and binge watching has reached new heights (or depths) during the pandemic. Charlotte’s run through myriad anime shows, memorizing and reciting intricate Japanese names and storylines. Buying action figures and posters and displaying them in her room, making edits on TikTok, donning similar looks. Meanwhile no one does any laundry. We let the home projects go and stopped paying for haircuts and cleaning services and just sink deeper into our screens. I know I should take time to develop myself and learn something new. I’ll wander into our library thinking I should take up Russian literature but all the character names are so long and nothing ever happens anyway.
Thinking about writing became easier and in a way, more enjoyable to me than writing. It advanced some virtual, imagined sense of who I was without the hard work of actually doing it. Or the risk of being outed as an impostor. I could listen to the writer voice writing in my head but when I tried to let it out on screen it didn’t sound the same so I put it back in my head. Go to your room! The writer voice slouched in the corner while whoever-Bill-was floated around the house rearranging objects, spouting orders, playing video games.
I went back in time to random places, a writer’s course in college sitting in a circle facing each other. One of the students asks our professor if anyone has ever lost their mind from writing. That’s what he’s worried about. She says actually I’ve known some writers who lost their minds from not writing. And I was playing that game myself. Trying to see who I was if not a writer, and not turning anything up. I grew my beard out, shaved it off, grew it back again. Lost weight, bought new stereo gear. Tried to make plans but couldn’t. Didn’t write anyone. We were all sitting inside grinding our axes like that this pandemic. Getting pissed off at each other and our douche bag senators, gearing up for war. Swapping out guns, racking up coins.
I sometimes thought back to that day as a little boy in the apartment complex I thought I saw a figure looking down at me from one of the windows on the top floor watching me. It’s like a seam opened in my brain that moment. The shape was there but not there, it knew what I was doing, had known for a while. It saw through me and my sins. There was an answer in that moment but I couldn’t pair it with the right question. No one would ever know.
Writing autobiography you have to decide how far you’re willing to go, how much you’re willing to share and at what cost. Maybe it’s true, the act of expression is its own journey to self with no clear way out. A touching display! First person shooter style.