Shortly after I’d returned from San Francisco, I was sub-letting an apartment downtown. It was 2000. I’d been on my own and reading a lot. Watching reality TV and discovering the subduing power of crossword puzzles, which I pulled from the paper each day and fell asleep solving. I’d wake up with inky smudges on my cheek, where I’d fallen against the newsprint.
This was the time I started reading self-help books avidly. Tony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, anything I could get my hands on. I don’t remember what book or what phrase even, that caused my epiphany. Perhaps it was the force of all that advice all at once. My lesson was: I was depressed. And I needed to get out into the world and face it. I suppose a shrink could have told me that. But I didn’t have one. I made an effort to go for a walk every day. And though it would be years still before I involved myself in the community fully, and regained a sense of self, it was a small step.
During this time, a Census taker had come to the door looking for information from the household. What could I say? The family was in Africa. I wasn’t really living there. The interaction with another human was too much. I mumbled something like no thank you and shut the door in his face. I’m sorry, man.
There’s a place on the Census form for the head of household. That person is called Person 1. Here’s a poem I wrote about that time.
2000 is 4 years beyond the clear-front cage
of my daughter’s bed
48 months past nights swiveling on the stool
kissing her feet with my hands, patty-cake
2000, the Year of Lists: books read, letters sent
replies, junk, movies, recipes, the Year I Discovered Grits
208 weeks following 24-hour nurses
the needle of despair barbed to her forehead
2000 folded half-inked crosswords littered
my sublet, my massive stain
1460 days after I chose my father’s name
she was person of the earth, Phaylynn
2000: Year I Forgot Myself
2000 times a thousand plus a thousand times
1 Leap Year later, those 9 days of milk
labeled, frozen just in case