Saturday, March 26, 2011

(part 245) The Van Gogh Syndrome

"Vincent" by William Jameson

I felt dead alright, dead, like a walking zombie, set in motion as some cosmic joke. Given a gift, and never allowed to experience anything but misery as a result of it.

I even had a name for it. The van Gogh syndrome, because Vincent had painted with his heart, his emotions. He'd thrown himself completely and utterly into his work, but had been rejected in spite of his commitment, shooting himself at thirty-seven. His last words were, "There shall never be an end to human misery."

I too felt rejected by the world, and felt my work had been rejected as well. So now I was rejecting myself, the creator of the work.

I had tried killing myself numerous times in the past, only to have failed, so I was not willing to test that path again. But inside I was as good as dead.

The excited kid with the big smile was nowhere to be found. The tough "live through it all to fight another day" individual had all but disappeared. What was left was a shell. A desperate remnant of what might have been.

The sadness, and sense of complete and total loss, was extravagantly heaped upon my psyche in those moments. All that I had ever known, or wanted, was abandoned on the hardwood floors of Carol's apartment as I headed out the door.

I was too exhausted to be angry, too broken to mount a counter attack against the tides of change. They swept over me a if I were not there.

That dismal day in 1985 seared its way into my soul, branding itself, and its destructiveness, on me forever. Like a life-threatening wound, turned to a scar, it remains with me to this day.

I don't remember whether I talked to Carol on the day I left, or not, but I know I didn't speak to anyone else, except my brother Bill.

Maybe it was because I was afraid that more misery would be inflicted on me if I asked for help and got none. That fear of further rejection caused me to close off the world and retreat into a self-protective cocoon.

The only other human beings I would deal with, at that point, would be my brother Bill and mother, and even that was something I found incalculable, as the next possible threat.

I drove through the streets of Hollywood, and onto the Sunset Strip, on my way out of town. I passed by each place where I had attempted suicide, each place where my body and mind had been maimed in the past.

It was around ten o-clock in the morning as I drove past each memory-soaked location. The bright sunlight beat into my sleepless eyes, causing added distress to my exhausted mind and body.

With each landmark I passed, came the flood of emotion-filled highlights of the event. The day, the reason, the weather, the street, the building, the drug, the tower, the year, all of it. It just kept playing in my head.

The history of Bobby Jameson was written on the streets and buildings of the town I was leaving. I had given myself to it in a way that is indescribable in words. I had been a part of it and it a part of me, for what seemed like forever.

I had gone to grade school in Laurel Canyon, and then left as a child, but vowed to return, which I did. Wherever I was, I was in L.A. in my head. I could always see it, feel it, want it. If I left I was coming back, if I was there I was home.

Bobby Jameson and Hollywood were not two things. Not a person and a place, not a mere town with a resident, they were one thing, a single unit.

They existed as a reflection of each other, like a mirror reflecting the image of the observer...the observer seeing himself not only in, but as the thing reflecting.


My brother Bill

I was torn in a way I had never known before. I felt like a fool who had finally awakened to the realization of my own twenty-year folly.

Where once I had been convinced I would succeed, I now felt awkward in the presence of my own past, uncomfortable in the gaze of my own eyes.

How could I have been this wrong for so long? How did I manage to deceive myself so many times? These questions battered me as I collected the last of my belongings.

I didn't want my tapes. I left them where they were, relics of the past that I would leave behind. They were no longer my work, no longer my hopes, they were no more than evidence of my failure.

I had nine years of sobriety, and my life was as fucked up as it had ever been. In the beginning, I had had great and wonderful expectations of a new life, but now, nine years later, I stood in the midst of the cold hard facts.

I was sober alright, but as miserable as I had ever been. Strangely, there was no desire to drink or use. For whatever reason, I was committed to sobriety, even now.

I marveled momentarily at this realization, marveled at my capacity to eat so much pain and disappointment and not get loaded.

What I was learning now was the hardest thing. It had taken nine years of sobriety to finally convince me to alter my path, but I had no path, other than that which I'd pursued my whole life, so the future appeared black before me.

I didn't know where I was going to go. There was no one anywhere I could ask. I had no money, just over a $100, and a used car.

As a last resort, and because I did not know what else to do, I decided the only person I could call was my mother. The bitterness of that in itself was enough to cause me to think of blowing my brains out.

For me, it implied complete and utter failure, the last chance saloon as it were. I hated that call more than any I had made or received in a very long time, but there was no one else.

I hadn't slept at all when I made the call. I remember well the sound of my brother Bill's voice answering.


"Hi, Bill, it's me, Bob."

"Hey, bro," he answered, "how are you?"

"Not so hot," I said, "having a tough time out here."

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Same old shit," I said, "Hey do you think it would be OK if I came up there for a few days?"

"Hey, mom," I heard him yell, "it's Bob on the phone. Is it OK if he comes up here?" He quickly returned to the phone, "Yeah, man, it's OK, you can come."

"OK," I said, "that's good. It'll just be for two or three days. Thanks, Bill."

"Yeah, sure," he replied, "When are you coming?"

"Today," I said, "Later today, if that's OK."

"Yeah," he said, "It's OK. I'll tell mom."

"OK," I said again, "I'll see you guys later today."

"Alright, man, I'll see you later," he said.

"OK! And thanks again, Bill. Goodbye."

"Goodbye, Bob."

I hung up the phone. I felt like I was dead.