My dad was standing there in the shadows, when I tiptoed down the stairs, shoes in hand. I hadn't wanted to wake anyone. Apparently readying himself for bed, he'd heard something, and decided to wait and see who it was.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm gonna get some chips."
He just shook his head in disappointment and headed off. He's told me time and time again that eating at night is part of the reason I have an abnormal sleep cycle, and that I should be asleep in bed at such late hours. Feeling guilty, I turned to the pantry and found a mostly-empty bag of corn chips, tossed them in a bowl, and found myself wondering why I felt disappointed. If I really just wanted chips, where did this sense of longing come from?
I needed to be out there, windows rolled down, my beat-up Civic exploring the empty streets, feeling the night's heartbeat, the pulse of sodium lamps lighting my car the irregular crescendo and decrescendo of copper half-light. I needed to see a cat—or possum, maybe—glance at my car with fleeting interest as my car slipped by. I needed to feel the warm current of summer wind brushing and slapping my cheek, playing with my hair, filling my lungs.
I needed to feel something other than the placid silence of my house.
I needed not to be in pain.
An unfortunate truth of my life is that I am in pain, and will be for the rest of my life. If I had a few hundred dollars to spend every month, I could certainly improve things, but it's best not to dwell on impossibilities. I have other ways to deal with pain, after all—like driving through empty night streets, consuming as much entertainment as I can, or having interesting conversations with people.
Experiencing chronic pain is like being crushed, like walking naked through the Challenger Deep. It is not sharp or stabbing or searing or anything of the sort. It is quiet, cold, and deep. It is like experiencing sadness on a physical level, constantly. Living with chronic pain is like living in a universe where everything is bad. Its ugly, sick shadow colors everything and everyone for the worst. Bad things become worse and good things are fleeting. Chronic pain is a world that traps you slowly, enveloping you, and then insinuating itself into every single cell of your body until you want to curl up into a ball and, on the worst days, sob and sob until it goes away.
But pain is an ocean—it may recede for a season, but the tide always rises again.
This is my life.
I am in pain and fighting a losing battle and the only weapon at my disposal is distraction. So, here I am, feeling too guilty about letting my father down to go driving around in the middle of the night, and I find myself reflecting on... just... everything. I'm trying to scrounge up excitement at the prospect of a new job—the interview seemed to go well, and if I get the job, I'll be making $600 a month, which may just be enough to live on. I'm chatting with friends about Atari's auction and Wargaming's acquisition of the Total Annihilation and Masters of Orion franchises. I'm listening to Agnus Dei, and it's gorgeous.
One of the conversations that popped up tonight started when a fellow Kotaku commenter, someone I respect not only for their distinctive voice and thoughtfulness, but for their ability to call me out when I deserve to be called out, expressed surprise that I had been excited to see them. We got to talking, about a lot of things, including just why it is I do what I do.
I mentioned, somewhat embarrassed, that I worry that Stephen Totilo thinks poorly of me because I reply to everyone and everything. He'd chided me on this recently, after I did that Devil's Advocate thing I do in a comment on one of his articles, then proceeded to reply to every reply to me, which just resulted in a massive amount of replies. He was right to do so, as well. I shouldn't reply to everything; I don't need to.
I reply as frequently as I do because, for the past few years, I've been working a job that has had way more down time than it probably should, but with a structure that makes it challenging to, say, sit down and play video games or watch a movie. Posting is a wonderful way to avoid pain, if only for a few minutes.
But it didn't start that way.
It started because someone said something and I wanted to respond to it. It continues, because there are people worth talking to. If it was just about hearing myself speak, I could do it anywhere. I gravitated to Kotaku because there are so many diverse and interesting voices to hear, so many opinions to discover and learn from, and so many people to befriend.
So I do what I do in the way I do it because I am just a guy trying to keep his head above water. If I come across as overbearing or obsessive or trying too hard, well, that's probably why. Catch me on a bad day—a day where I'm in more pain than normal, or I'm desperately trying to figure out how to buy groceries and pay the rent—and yeah, I'm not going to be as pleasant and wonderful as I wish I could be. That's just... part of the package that is me, and I'm sorry for that, but it's not why I'm here.
I am here because of you.
I hope I can make that worthwhile.