…life on the synaptic firing range

Location: Los Angeles, United States

Bent but unbroken Southern California native seeks understanding, companionship, and resonance along and off the beaten path. Teresa plays well with others and makes every effort to perform to her potential. Usually. *processed in a facility that processes nuts and nut products

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I'm afraid to check the mail. I suppose because it involves confronting the unknown, opening a portal to the outside world through which all manner of chaos and judgment can intrude my home. I feel similarly about answering the phone. I trace the origins of my mail fear to when I first moved to L.A. in 1992 and rented a room from a bondage daddy whose control issues often seeped out of his bedroom and into my life. When he wasn't busy tying up his sex partners and making them beg to lick his boots, the professional CPA was typing me business letters on personal letterhead detailing all the ways in which he found my existence disagreeable. When I finally found a place I could afford to rent on my own, thus escaping the leather-clad hegemon, I unwisely gave him my new address so that he could forward my mail and, if he were so inclined, return my security deposit. The security deposit never arrived, but for months I received all manner of correspondence berating me for having been an unacceptable boarder. I think he just missed having a reliable person to dominate, but I became increasingly fearful of what my mailbox might contain.

The stakes are higher now. I fear not only random missives from angry lunatics but official correspondence from government, lending, and business institutions. I'm haunted always by a queasy feeling of impending doom, the confirmation of which is bound to be pushed through my mail slot at any moment. My fear is legitimate, I think. Why would the dog bark so ferociously at our mail unless she, too, sensed its latent danger? Like me, she recognizes the potential menace in each day's postal delivery. On any given afternoon I could receive a letter detailing why the bank must foreclose on our mortgage and take possession of our home, how I failed to do something very important and must now suffer the consequences, that there's no longer any recourse—I had my chance, three chances in fact, and, no, it doesn't matter that I didn't receive any of the prior notices: Ignorance is no excuse. Have you not read "House of Sand and Fog"?

I had a minor mental snap last night over a piece of mail I received. The catalyst for my tailspin? A third notice from the phone company, the one that says, "Hey, you're officially superlate with this payment and you're going to lose service and owe us big-time reconnection fees and deposits if we don't have payment by February 1." I think most people would think, Oops, then pay the damn bill and be done with it. Not me. My pulse raced and my hands shook as I frantically scanned the document for instructions. I went to SBC's website to pay the bill online, but when I tried to create a user ID a text box informed me that I already had a log-in and password. But how could that be? I'd never visited the SBC site before. Desperate to remedy the issue immediately I searched the letter for alternate instructions and found their 800 number, but when I called it I learned I could only submit phone payments during business hours. I dropped the phone and began sobbing. Seriously. Sobbing, and hating myself for neglecting the bills.

I've assumed responsibility for paying our mutual bills since my partner and I bought a house together. From time to time she offers to take over and give me a break, but I feel more comfortable doing it myself, what with the fears about bank foreclosures and all. I have always considered myself the more fiscally responsible of the two of us—she might, somewhat less charitably, call me anal.

A couple of years ago I entered one of the longest depressive episodes of my life. Along with the sadness and fatigue that are the obvious hallmarks of depression, the brain has a tendency to go "pfft," just shutting off, and shutting out responsibilities and cares and anything that one may have once taken pride in. I stopped worrying about housework. The yard reverted to its wild state. And I no longer neatly organized my bills in order of due date—I got to them when I got to them, often paying them late, usually just in time to forestall third notices. Having previously paid our bills in full like clockwork, always by initial due dates, I imagine our creditors must have thought that our financial situation had changed drastically, that we were having trouble keeping up with our payments; here's where my partner would sigh and tell me that our creditors don't "think" anything, that the computer programs that manage our accounts and occasionally spit out "late payment" notices aren't privy to higher thought processes. Still, I read between the lines and feel the judgment therein.

I've felt like a new person since the turn of the New Year—thanks to a meds tweak, a sense of renewal, some dogged determination on the part of my therapist, and, undoubtedly, a few earthly machinations that are less apparent to me but inestimably important—and I hope all that sadness and paralyzing ennui is behind me. But it takes time to reboot the systems after so many months of erratic activity, so while I'm beginning to get things like dust and weeds and bills under control, well, let's just say we're getting back on track in fits and starts. And it's surprising to discover just how tenuous that feeling of wellness can be when a ripple disturbs the carefully managed calm. Maybe that's another reason I fear the mail slot: A single computer-generated late notice from the phone company can send me on a crying jag, and once arrested by anxiety I feel so disempowered by its awesome grip, so vulnerable to the spiral.

In the midst of this emotional miasma, my partner, who had been pleading with me to come down from the ledge and let her take care of the SBC issue, at last vaguely remembered having set up a user name and password at SBC. After a few failed attempts she gained access to the website, where she not only paid the bill but set us up for automatic monthly billing. Furthermore, she clicked the "paperless" option, ensuring one less monthly bill cascading through our slot to worry me and rile the dog. In its stead will be a single e-mail, arriving all friendly-like to our in box just to let us know what's been charged to our account. I'm not afraid of e-mail at all.



Blogger sporksforall said...

SBC called me today to tell me they hate me. Aren't you glad the phone that you almost got cut off is in my name?

10:20 PM  
Blogger bryduck said...

Oh, sure, make fun of her in her moment of tender need. See, now I could pile on and say--gee, you've had this blog for a month now with nary a word and I thought you loved me but clearly I overestimated my place in your heart--but I'm not going to do that, am I?
A second thought, and one for which Sporks will undoubtedly jump on me for, is: um, given your dog's, shall we say, spirited nature, why would you trust her to help you define your relationship to the mailman?
Thirdly, you clearly lived with an a-hole before, and I think it's high time we paid him back for his tormenting ways. Nothing I likes better than dishing out some punishment to a bondage top.

2:35 PM  
Blogger treecup said...

Whenever I get depressed I am afraid of the phone: answering it, returning calls, making calls, even of listening to messages on the answering machine (because to hear the message is to incur the responsibility of someday returning the message). Sometimes I will spend a whole day working up the will to finally return a call. The mail is never an issue. Our dog not only barks at it but kills it on the spot, leaping up to the mail slot to grasp it in his teeth and wrestle it down to the ground. Now if I could only get him to answer the phone.

8:37 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home