It wasn't the world itself, or the people in it, that I was afraid of. I didn't have social anxiety or panic attacks. As an atheist, or maybe a seriously fucking jaded agnostic, it was ironically the divine hammer of chaos that put the fear in me. It was the random savagery of an unexpected tragedy lurking in the shadows of any given moment that kept me hidden. The coding of the program was perfect, and I ran it daily for the six years that I had lived in Lousiville, KY.
Somewhere around Christmas of 1996, while pulling a pair of socks out of the dryer, I had a stroke. I lost half of my field of vision. My depth perception was completed knocked out. My short term memory and sense of time was broken. I was completely unable to gauge where I was in relationship to the material world. I would walk into walls, getting lost in my own home. It was a solid year before I figured out how to function well enough to navigate on my own. I was never granted access to the how or why of it. When your brain inexplicably explodes, the last thing you want a conference of thirty neurosurgeons at UVA Stroke Clinic to offer you is a collective shrug. The precedent was set. The Doomhammer was real.
I was furious with Alix that night. We had fought right before she left our apartment. I had turned off my phone and left it at home. I drank heavily at Cafe Bourbon Street, closing the place down with the hardcore regulars and staff. When I finally returned and stumbled up the steps of the apartment I realized she still wasn't home. I reached for my phone to text something that would have probably been incomprehensible with the intent of being pointedly cruel. I had over twenty voicemails. I only listened to the first one before I was speeding blindly towards a hospital that I never bothered to figure out the location of, wildly drunk with tears streaming down my face. I don't remember how I got there. I only remember seeing her laying in a bed, with blood-soaked bandages wrapped around a respiration tube jammed in her throat. She had been shot in the neck by a stray bullet from gang-related crossfire while driving back to our home. Those first couple of weeks the question was only whether or not she would be able to survive a trauma of that magnitude. She fought. She was always ferocious in battle. Watching someone you love try to navigate waters that fucking treacherous will absolutely gut you in a way that you can only comprehend if you have had the misfortune of witnessing it firsthand. She remains paralyzed from the neck down. Total fucking chaos, The Doomhammer had stepped back up to the forge. Rather selfishly, in retrospect, I imagined it was now after the people I cared about.
At some point during those long months after, my father had come to Columbus to get a handle on the situation with Alix and check on the stability of his son's fractured psyche. I was completely lost, emotionally exhausted, panicked...maybe even a little suicidal. My father was my best friend. He knew how to deal with me when I was letting my shadow buddy run things. I wouldn't have been able cope with sheer brutality of Alix's situation without him there. About a month in to his visit he started complaining of pains in his leg. A few months after he would have a stroke of his own. A few months later I would be living with him, taking care of him on the graveyard shift while everyone else slept. I started stealing his Lortabs and drinking heavily. On more than one occasion I had to assure him that global temperatures were not his responsibility. He had become increasingly convinced that The Weather Channel was taunting him and blaming him for whichever weather report he was on at the time. I watched his brilliant mind rot from terminal brain cancer. He died a few months later. The Doomhammer was in the fucking Nuclear Arms Race now. I surrendered to it. I was done. Completely shattered. Fried. Fucked up beyond anything I had ever imagined. The only thing I remember about the funeral was putting one foot on his casket to play air-guitar. I followed my sister back to West Virginia the day after his funeral where I spent a month in solitude at her house while Appalachian Terror Unit toured in Europe. I drank and played World of Warcraft until they returned. I moved to Louisville, KY the following day.
I spent the first two years of my time in Louisville drinking a mix of coffee and bourbon from noon until whenever I passed out. Wake up, repeat, repeat, repeat. I was not a happy person and people could feel it. I had become prone to wild outbursts of tears or rage or both...the whiskey werewolf was lose. I was no longer suicidal, but I wanted something or someone to do the deed for me. I made few friends in Kentucky but fortunately the ones I did make were quality relationships capable of tolerating and understanding my wildly fluctuating mood swings. I eventually fell in love again, hard and fast...too fast for where she was at the time. I bought a house with the money I had inherited from my father and renovated it singlehandedly. Her and I would live there I imagined. I joined a moped gang and managed to squeeze 50 MPH out of a 2-stroke engine that was designed go 35. I had a "club". I flirted with making the art gig real. I tried to make it work. I tried to extract some kind of joy out of life again despite the fact that I was still constantly looking over my shoulder for the next swing of fate that would inevitably crush everything all over again. The Doomhammer never came back. What grew in it's place was deep stoicism and cynicism. The new void. The relationship had ended, rather badly, under the strain of my focused desire to settle down and play house. I became increasingly reclusive after the split. I started working three jobs to try to sustain a house I could no longer afford in a neighborhood that was being gentrified on an exponential incline. The house became a living metaphor for my life...it was starting to crumble...I had to get the fuck out of there before it all collapsed. Settling down was a failed experiment...and I'm fucking grateful for that...but only now.
I woke one morning last October in a panic thinking that I may have had another stroke. I had completely disassociated from the reality of the past six years in Kentucky. I didn't know what was wrong with me, my chemistry was altered, the house felt alien, I didn't belong there, my routine nauseated me. I called my sister. I wanted to know how she felt about the idea of selling the house, about living and working out of a van and driving around the country with no real course or plan. She said something to the effect of "Don't be a fucking wimp, if you are going to do it, do it. Don't wait or overthink it.".
The next morning I had my house listed. The house sold in two days. I sold or gave away 98% of my possessions. I bought a 2016 Mercedes Sprinter. I filled it with scrap wood left over from the house build. I said goodbye to Louisville. I spent about a month with my sister, then three weeks with my aunt, while I worked on the van build. I named the van Thee Witchfinder General. I've functionally been living in it since.