I'd like to share with all of you an experience that I consider the worst ordeal I have ever lived through. That is a distinction I do not make lightly, and believe me when I say that it is not easy for me to discuss. I've undergone years of therapy, paid tens of thousands in psychologist's fees. I've tried Yoga. Meditation. Prayer. I'm not proud of it, but there were even moments when I considered going to church. I was that desperate.
Now, normally my family spends Thanksgiving at home. My mom puts together a formidable feast every year, and every year it's a triumph. It's hard to pin down the year, but it was probably around 1993 or '94 that we decided to buck tradition and spend the holiday in Newton, Massachusetts with Aunt Gail and Uncle Don.
In principle, in principle this seemed a reasonably sound idea. My aunt Gail is a tremendous cook. The dinner itself would no doubt be of surpassing excellence. All were looking forward to a long weekend in New England.
Common sense tells me we ate the usual that Thanksgiving: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, etc. Everyone tells me that is the case, and by all accounts it was a smash hit. I honestly don't remember. In fact much of that weekend is a black void in my memory, all but one unforeseen event that will forever haunt my life and, I fear, afterlife.
The next morning Uncle Don announced that he had Boston Celtics tickets. While I have no love for the Celtics, I do love basketball and I thought it would be an excellent chance to see one of the great teams playing in a legendary arena--the since-demolished Boston Garden. But his tickets numbered only two, one for him and one for my Uncle Jeff.
The rest of us, aunt Gail announced merrily, had tickets to something quite different. That evening we would be attending, to my dismay, to my infinite horror, a local theater troupe's production of...The Sound of Music.
I know what you're thinking, because my reaction was pretty much the same: This must be some kind of joke, and not a very funny one, either. Well, I am here to tell you that it was decidedly not a joke, though I did not, I could not accept the reality of this situation until we were settled into our seats, some ten rows back. Even then I had my doubts. It's all a bad dream, I assured myself. Soon I'll wake up. Then the curtain rose.
This was no dream. It was a nightmare.
The hills are alive...
Thus intoned the lead actress,
...with the sound of muuu-sic.
I endured almost seven minutes of this torture before blacking out, but this desperate defense was quickly thwarted as my cousin, Abby, revived me with a splash of water and a brisk slap to the cheek. For the next 15 hours, for it could not have been less, I was helpless. All proceeded as though in molasses, every horrifying, gleeful note of those cursed nuns, those satanic Von Trapp children. How they taunted me!
How do you solve a problem...
How they delighted in my torment!
Curses! Curses! Even now I can see them, prancing about. I can hear them and their caterwauling renditions of those awful songs. Had I a knife, a blunt object, I would have swiftly inflicted a mortal wound to myself. I would have done anything to end this fate worse than hell, but at last came a ray of hope. House lights on. Intermission. Intermission??? There's another half of this crap?
Ah, intermission. I can taste the delicacies proffered by local ovens: Raisin squares, rice krispy treats and those circular disks of sawdust passing as oatmeal cookies. No, I would not like a cup of kool-aid.
All too quickly my reprieve was ended. I made a break for it, a dash to the exit, but was quickly tackled by the crone who had been taking tickets. Her granddaughter, it seems, was a Von Trapp, that infernal Liesl, and no one walks out on her Liesl. Try, struggle as I might, she easily subdued me.
Defeated, broken, utterly deflated, I was tossed like a soggy rag back into my seat. Whimpering and senseless, I watched the second half. My stomach meanwhile was coping with the low-fat brownie I had taken as a last-ditch attempt at my own life. Alas, my suicide pill failed.
Two seats down, my aunt cackled unreservedly. I know not at what.
More than a decade later, I've managed to pick up the pieces and lead a relatively normal life, at least as normal as I could ever hope for. I am married. I work. Can you blame me if I take an occasional nip from the bottle? I suppose I will always have the tic in the left side of my face. I'm not sure I ever passed the brownie, but I manage to sleep a solid 3-4 hours most nights, and in my waking hours the songs have mostly faded.
Still, in quiet times, when I'm all alone, I find that night steals back into my mind,
Do, a deer...
and I curl into a ball,
...a female deer
and softly weep.