What rages in your ugly places...
and how many paths does it lead to?
For some of us, it's far too late. I did not actually expect to live to finish my book. In many ways, I wish I hadn’t. It’s not worth attempting to succeed or being as ridiculous as attempting to value your own life when your country does not. I’ve learned I’m garbage, always and forever. I’ve learned that by your behavior, America. I’ve learned that by your policies. There was no better demonstration than the pandemic.
As a bit of background, I had traveled through seven different states at a time when everyone was coming back from the Lunar New Year, 2020. I was trying to conclude a two-year battle for my own lifelong U.S. citizenship and identity documents—somehow in the Trump era, magically no longer considered valid by various offices depending on the day. It was holding up my long-planned exit from the U.S., which would need proof of my U.S. identity. I never knew what DMV office or bank account or credit card company would hit me next with how I had no right to what I’d been and had for decades already. I’d spent two years not knowing when I could buy groceries next, given who was on a hate streak at what workplace keeping me running with paperwork to prove them wrong and keep who I’d always been.
That adventure landed me in an FBI office only a few weeks before all hell broke loose in New York City. It seemed there was nothing nefarious afoot with my legal and documents self, other than state and local crackdowns denying the very documents they themselves had issued. But the Federal level could verify I was me and not a criminal. So that was all at once something I knew, a positive sign that someone else did, and a typically destabilizing new American reality of the era of the orange scourge. I didn’t expect it to stop, but after that check-in, for a week or two I accomplished normal things without them being torn away. So I thought perhaps I could make progress forward.
For a brief time as the airways and airlines flew, I shopped for groceries. I cleaned a new place up. I did more paperwork. I applied for jobs. I met neighbors. I worked out a whole new health insurance plan and looked for doctors. Like always. I started feeling run down, but that could be for a lot of reasons.
Then there was discussion of what might be a pandemic. It was unclear to me, in those early days of patchy news bits, whether the stress of two years feeling like I was on the run and hunted down in a place I supposedly belonged to had broken beyond a certain threshold. Or perhaps I had the flu, maybe Lyme disease? Was I being attacked once again by Epstein-Barr and Coxsackie, both of which had ripped through my system when I lived out west? Or was it a combination of all three? Or worse yet, this new disease we could not sort out and were getting so little information about? I’d better look into that.
After all, as a congenital cardiac patient who had spent her entire adult life moving around the United States, trying to get medical insurance, medical care, and any doctor to contemplate that her chest pains and shortness of breath were not a psychiatric problem but a physical reality, I knew how badly it could all go. It had already gone badly. When decades and any hope of financial stability have been thrown into finally getting that long-missing heart wall in your 30s, you know who isn’t listening and who doesn’t care. You’re an expert in a system you never wanted to spend any time in, that takes all your money, while it denies your body the diagnostics and treatment required to, in my case, oxygenate, have a pulse, maintain blood pressure, or say, not have a stroke or an embolism. So, real subtle things like that.
And now what? Ah, it was officially a pandemic. Declared, menacing, and rapidly going all the wrong directions no matter the direction. But there would be testing, there would be treatment, there would be options for those needing care. I’d like to ask “where”?
Due to the shit policymaking of so many governors, I was denied all testing and treatment, COVID being then something only people 65 and over could possibly get, and only respiratory in nature. Yet also a pandemic? Had anyone heard of 1918? I called, I drove, I waited in lines. As best I could, masked up and swollen, with my blood pressure monitor and oximeter by my side. But no—according to so many governors dictating to so many ineptly-named “healthcare providers” I was clearly fine, clearly doing well as my heart did somersaults, my hair fell out, and the skin peeled from my body in sheets. I was not in as much pain from the bones out, crushing like the malarial wrench I remembered so well from east Africa; I was just overreacting and seeking attention in unhealthy ways, wasting the precious time of the illustrious medical providers. Once again, just as I’d complained of chest pain and shortness of breath in my 20s, I was told to drop the drama and stop the hysterics. Once again, I was simply a psychiatric drama queen as opposed to someone who had woken up in the ICU in her 30s with a titanium dinner plate in her chest because it turned out she’d had the Lincoln Tunnel running through her heart. Oh, yes, once again I was just so, so wrong about there being a real medical problem to deal with.
So, there was no testing and treatment for me. And not much of anything else, either, as the world collapsed in on itself and regular medical care was halted in its tracks. It was hard to check on any hypothesis as more tissue went to jelly and my eyesight morphed by the day.
I wasn’t just denied medical care, though. I was also denied half of my country even admitting COVID was real. Here I was, being eaten alive from the inside by an unprecedented microscopic invader, allowed no assistance to register or medically manage the situation, while apparently, I was also a liar. About science and other such liberal elite fictions. Oh, yes, this was still the place where facts were at everyone’s personal discretion and “freedom” meant making the most money at the expense of the most vulnerable while pretending to craft solutions it then denied any access to.
So I combed the internet for hours at a time, day after day, week after week, for any oxygen tanks I could buy while I smacked into tables on my way down to the floor, writhing in agony at the infectious monster slashing into what was left of my spinal tissue as my guts exploded. By myself. As it always had been when it comes to what the U.S. laughingly refers to as a “medical system”. I went into half-dream states, returning to the red earth of the outback under the stars and listening to songs in a language older than most countries. I ate what I could, though everything tasted of fish, or metal, or sawdust.
And it never ended, this state of affairs. The world slammed shut, the walls closed in. I didn’t miss people. I was past caring how America fared, given that it had always been past caring how I did. I looked forward to never waking up, since it was the best option available, and surely I wasn’t going to make it through this anyway, with the way things were going. Who wanted to live with people this insane in a place this vicious, anyhow? I wasn’t any genius, but hell—even I wasn’t that stupid.
Yes, I wasn’t dumb enough to want to live through all this--but I was full of rage, and only rage. It’s an emotion that so many fear. People do the wrong things with it—violence, hate groups, PTA meetings, and such like. I, on the other hand, welcome it. Perhaps it flows differently for me, because it doesn’t flow to violence, conspiracy, or nation-ending online keyboard warrior crap. It would be nice to be an equal-opportunity hater when it comes to beliefs and behavior, which you’ll find many misanthropic skeptics who grew up on British comedy might just be. There’s perhaps a particular built-in pathway for where betrayal, disgust, and a desire for revenge leads.
For me it led along fevered pathways of international haunts as I was ridiculed by a nation that had forgotten how it had feared polio only one generation before. I found my thoughts wending their way through grainy footage of so many past travesties of American miscalculation, with Huey blades whapping in the background. It led through musty paperbacks on coffee tables that had been banned in their time that now were classics being banned again as the turn against literacy grew louder. I heard the suspicious constipated growl-whine of early dial-up, a warning of the lighting that would fry our systems in such a brave new future.
The rage led many places, coming in quips and quotes and rants, performing skits in my head involving plague carts and placing my own living undead corpse on the comedy platter in homage to the one thing left that really mattered...which was finding a way away from you. Away from a country this crazy and callous. Knowing of course that when you are involved, America, there is no real “away” from your impact. And so the rage of that impact factored into the pages, because who doesn’t love a joke about international financial and taxation policies? From toilet paper to television spin, from Congress to ketchup rules, the rage spun through a lifetime that I wish I’d never lived through, about a place I wish I didn’t have to live with. Through the kaleidoscope lens of pandemic years, your failures refracted in millions of fractured lives, only one of which was mine. For how long—well, I no longer cared. Not about me. But I cared about the mission the rage fired as it fueled it further, farther, more fantastical. I wasn't valuable. Not to my country, and in this state, I could no longer be valuable to me. But the rage deserved its day.
That rage was a better friend, a more qualified doctor, and a more compassionate country than I’ve ever known. Because it was real. Fact-based. Unwilling to turn away, unwilling to forgive, incapable of forgetting, and more steadfast than your foundations that shake so mightily in crisis. It lacked the stratospheric level of hypocrisy that is so much a part of American mantra and policy. It was more of a home than you had ever been.
It resulted in a book. And legal status in another nation.
And now that the pandemic is so over, so done with, now that there is no emergency whatsoever to deal with—except whichever completely preventable one you’ll create next, no doubt—now that all is safe, sound, solved; know full well I never will be. Not medically, not financially. Not that you care.
But perhaps what you could use is what you’ll never learn. What you don’t believe. Rage as a productive power, instead of a destructive one. And as for me, you’ll find I’m almost over, never done.