Are You The Top or The Bottom?!?
As a chemist I assume people have some pretty interesting opinions about what I do. Visions of smoking, coloured solutions, stirring wickedly in a poorly lit laboratory. Me, standing in some creative lighting with barely my face illuminated, laughing as a strange liquid concoction boils from one container to another via a raging bunsen burner and a series of labyrinth-like tubes.
Reality: I mix things, stir them, maybe heat them, then spend a minimum of 5 to 6 times longer trying to get the one component out of, usually, a brown mixture. Worst case scenario: the mixture is black and the consistency of taffy. Actual worst case scenario: it’s so black and insoluble I just throw out the flask.
Surprisingly I spend the majority of my days making things better. I take a hodgepodge of shit and finesse out a shiny gold turd. Given that I’m now a medicinal chemist the difference is I usually end up finessing out another piece of shit, but that’s neither here nor there.
I am a maker better. This is a profound realization for me. One thing I have never been called before is a maker better. Usually people throw parties when I leave, not when I arrive. (I would believe you Thomas when you say they are going away parties if you threw them while I was still able to attend…..)
As a raging pessimist I am often the first to point out the flaws of a situation, where it went wrong, what I wish we’d done differently, and how much better it would be if we had done it the right way. Overall, I am ants at your picnic, rain at your parade, or skim milk in your corn flakes (come on people it’s just fucking white water). So you can see how a career as someone who takes a steaming pile and shinies it up to a prize might be, well, hypocritical. It requires someone with motivation, someone with optimism, to continue to wade through the swamp of failure and come out the other end a quagmire hero. I, however, am more of a ogre, living in a swamp, and reveling the shit out of it.
A dreamer. One who can see that there might be light on the horizon, isn’t exactly how my wife would describe me (though she’s a horrible person so that’s a whole different story). But maybe it’s true. I expend a lot of energy to see through the smoke (again, picture the insane chemist in the poorly lit lab, his reactions are probably on fire, and the EH&S likely failed to perform a timely inspection to make sure the fume hood is pulling the required airflow from the room), and peer at the outline of a tangible result. In turn, I have no positiveness left for the rest of the world. Chemistry, like a freshly prepared solution of 50% w/w sodium hydroxide, has corroded my resolve for brightness.
That is, except in the face of competition……
A good friend of mine, Waryl Doodward, and me were longboarding in the expansive river valley of Edmonton. Now keep in mind we had arrived literally 5 minutes prior to this event. It was early in the excursion. Very early.
We came to the hill that allows you to drop in at the bridge crossing 142 street. This is a substantial hill. Some have called it the largest in the world, though those people live a fairly shallow existence. Regardless, it was way beyond the capabilities of a couple of weekend warriors.
Standing at the top of the drop-in we saw a pretty gnarly chance to shred the gnar, show our knack, or whatever the hell you do to make yourself look awesome. But it wasn’t just the hill, that would have been enough. At the bottom was a fairly tight, fairly sharp 90º turn, aka recipe for disaster. It was at this point Waryl stepped up and set the stage for an epic battle the likes of which only take place when two lonely brain cells accidentally touch.
WD: “I’m going for it. I think I can make it.”
Me: “Yur dumb” ‘Smiling and looking condescending’
WD: “Tell my mom I was indifferent though appreciative to her”
As he dropped in he hesitated only slightly. He let his foot drag for one second too long. I saw this as weakness. He displayed the slightest bit of apprehension and I saw this as my moment to shine.
I waited patiently at the top, he attempted to make the turn, pushing as hard as he could counter to the turn but ended up in the brush.
Now I could one up him. Of course I am a better skateboarder than Waryl! (No I am not) Of course I won’t make the same mistakes he did! (Of course I will). I will show him SUCCESS!!!!! (Of course I won’t)
As soon as I pushed off, the sweat hit me. Like a baseball hitting the soft mitt of the catcher, I was blasted with terror and uneasiness. I failed to speed check, as I was going to be greater than Waryl, and hit the turn at the bottom of the hill at Mach 26 1/2 (though this is a conservative estimate). I leaned hard to the left to try and make the turn and FAILED so hard it’s laughable I tried. I hit the gravel so hard it’s as though my lungs had never even tasted air they were so empty. Every inch of my exposed body was bleeding, fleshy and exposed to the elements, constantly stinging to remind me how fucking dumb I had been.
Standing up and surveying the damage, this was the first time I noticed Waryl was hurt. He had a gaping wound where apparently a walrus had attempted to stab him with it’s face. It would require stitches. I looked as though someone thought I was a block of cheese and tried to garnish a gargantuan taco with my skin/cheese.
We needed medical attention.
We continued to longboard the rest of the day then retired to the waiting room of the Stony Plain hospital. Together. The reason this is important is that together Waryl and I were a sarcastic, condescending, giggly mess. We fed off each others insults, observations, and outright contempt for everything and anyone in proximity.
It was fun. I smiled more covered in bloody paper towel in a waiting room for 2 hours than I did the entire time I was in grade 9. It turns out Waryl would get 9 stitches, and the cute nurse just gushed over his muscles, and smile, and bowl haircut (LOLZ, imagine Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber). The best part might have been that they deemed my injuries unworthy of hospital time.
I was given a disinfecting sponge.
With the consistency of a wire BBQ brush. Or razor wire.
No nurse gushing over me.
Just me weeping into my wounds, literally pouring salt in the cuts.
But I had fun. With each sarcasti-bitch comment, we were together and sharing the hilarity of destroying our bodies together.
I painted a fairly bleak picture of myself. It is true for the most part.
How do I go on? What gets me up?
My son, Lord Nomis, has a book called ‘The Dark’. The book explains that without the Dark you would never know you need a new light bulb. Well if I’m the Dark, where is the light bulb?
Erika. People who meet us instantly know this. She is the light. She is the pot of gold at the end. She is the knife to my fork. She is the other half of that cup no one can agree on whether it’s full or empty or partially full or whatever.
The kids know it. Our friends know it. Animals know it. She has a magnetism that isn’t reserved for metal but to all looking for light.
Without her I have an emptiness. The feeling you are never whole. She is the Timbit to my Chocolate glazed donut.
In Sweden we were caught in a torrential rainstorm. Literally a dog fell from the sky and we were constantly looking for the cat to follow it. I was moping, but Erika grabbed my hand and we got soaked. My underwear had more water than butt in it. We had fun. Me in tow she showed me the beauty of Sweden, not just in pictures, but in the rain, in the shine, at the top and most importantly when I was at the bottom.
She knows more about me than I even know about myself. She makes me run (sometimes when shes mad I just run away, lolz). She makes me take time to myself, because she knows I am a robot in disguise and the only way to bring me back is a hard reset.
How I am so lucky I will probably never know but it doesn’t matter. Before the kids, after the kids, after it’s all over I see the two of us entwined in each others arms like that sickly old couple from ‘The Notebook’ and we’ll just die. If not together hopefully me first.
Running makes me light. But if my bulb is dim, too many hours on the same charge, Erika is there to balance me, to lift me, to at least tell me I am over reacting.
What is your light? And if you don’t know, how are you going to find out?