Normal

“What’s normal for you?” That’s what ambulance crews ask when taking a patient history. That question is meant for a sunnier place, where despairing moments only happen when medicines are off balance or something has changed.

Here, futility is a normal response. It compelled the homeless kid to call 911 when he was being evicted and had nowhere else to go. The depressive man to stay curled in bed, muttering suicide when provoked by family. The schizophrenic to start using and go off his meds.

There’s a slow apocalypse here. People succeed against suffering, but it pools up in these mountain hamlets and cuts a vicious undertow past the cliffs of the mountainside retreats.

Maybe hills like these produce great writers. The ambulance picks up Bukowski in the middle of his ten-year drunk. And Carson McCullers after she took all those sleeping pills. Jack London, displaced by a mother’s suicide and no father willing to claim him, and Melville in his depression and meaningless jobs before he headed out to sea. Maybe the next call is James Baldwin or Reinaldo Arenas, just before they turned confusion from personal to political and profound.

Tired, confused , delirious, depressed. Frustrated, hurt, angry, aimless, lost. We dare you — tell us what’s normal to you.

Charles Bukowski — Beer, 1971 (animation by Nerdo 2016)