What does this have to do with games? Absolutely fuckNOTHING, except the author is a dev. So there’s that.
Somewhere in the scores of Leyner-arranged words I read a decade ago is the story of a writer who is sentenced to lose–at random–one personal possession every week until there’s nothing left. He can’t replace them. He can only make do, using LPs for plates and yardsticks for hammers. The last thing removed (randomly, remember) is his typewriter. Sitting on the floor in underpants, strung out of his senses, pecking at a machine that probably had no paper and then, when that too is yanked from him…nothing. It doesn’t say—or I can’t remember—what happens next.
For me, the machine went first. It was followed by pens, paper, parchment, quills, pencils, stenographs, ink…every tool gone, my hands itchless, my mind mute. Something else rose to fill the space…gross, oily, and relentless, like the something sung about in Synchronicity II.
Other pleasures dropped away: dinners with friends. Concerts. Concerts featuring our friends. Drinks at the weekend. Movie theaters. Movies. Dinners with family. Christmas. Anniversaries. Birthdays. Lazy walks with our dogs. Necessary walks with our dogs. Grocery shopping. Laundry. Plans, dreams, hopes, ambitions…gone, all gone, save one. One I repeated wordlessly, again and again, until it was nothing so much as the living structure of my reality, challenging the something like a bruised-but-unbowed knight.
“Well, I can do without that, there’s something else I can use…”
“Well, we did that last year, so maybe everyone will understand…”
“Well, this has to come first, I don’t need to go this time…”
It’s presumptive, almost abhorrent for me to say, “This is what being a caretaker is like,” as if all our experiences are normal, standard even. In my overlapping circles of friends and families, loved ones took care of other loved ones, and I don’t know what they silently cried for, or to, in dark pre-dawns or morning brightness. Last night I looked in some of their faces and saw vastly different continents, mired in the same unwanted season.
So forgive any unintended narcissism when I say that “This is what being a caretaker was like for me.”
I was confused. I was heartsick. I was terrified. I was bargaining with everything, from doctors (please save him) to bosses (please don’t take my projects) to my own pets (please stop shitting and vomiting all over the house) to myself (please just don’t lose it, not yet, not tomorrow, not next month, keep going) until, one morning, I woke from no dreams to an awful dawn with only one thought in my head:
“It’s been years.”
People told me I was strong, almost as if the invocation of the word would, spell-like, instill additional trusses and reinforcements in my spirit. Sometimes I suspected they told me that to reassure themselves, to underscore the cliché that caretakers are noble and blessed nurses, needing only air and dew to sustain them in their ongoing tasks. But they forgot the qualifier: I was strong for him.
I wasn’t so generous with myself.
And piece by piece…like sexy dates, blue hair (my pride) and new clothes, boozy concerts in rat-trap clubs where we knew everyone in the room, family dinners both awful and funny, movies both classic and terrible, a job I loved, Christmas shopping, beach days, plane flights and boring conferences and meeting friends weird, funny and wonderful…awegazing at a San Francisco skyline and giggling over New York ramen…finding the words to describe it all…it all left. In the space of my life, one solitary desire remained.
The sun was very bright on the car as we drove north. My brother asked me if I thought that daylight, in general, was getting stronger. Maybe because of global warming, he theorized. We played road games and talked new music, or the lack of it. I said something thoughtless, and we were both quiet as I realized my mistake. As I looked at my brother—another caretaker—I cringed and apologized, as he patted me on the back and told me to forget it. And I told him how imperfect language was, to convey concepts both subtle and exceeding all scope. He was quiet for a minute, then spoke.
“It’s a blunt instrument, sis. It should be handled carefully. That’s why people who are good at it, people like you, should be writing.”
Later that afternoon, after the hugs and tears and cold winds of the not-yet spring, we would head back to the city. My brother would put the finishing touches on his friend’s memorial program. He would include the quote by Neil Stephenson that his friend loved: to condense fact from the vapor of nuance. In a synchronicity, I loved it too—the idea that truth surrounds us, and we need only perceive that which we refuse to see.
For now, we continued north. Sunlight was strong on our windshield and on the sleeping trees. I hadn’t responded.
“I know, man, I know.”
A hawk hovered high, in flight and yet static, suspended in silent observation above the earth.