Rage is not the bitter orb suspended between my eyes that I always mistook it to be. The real stuff feels much more like a well in the chest. It makes you sit up straighter and walk at a more deliberate pace. And though rage can be as destructive as it needs to be, it has no decidely negative value and feels considerably calmer than chaos.
Until yesterday, I did not know it apart from anger. With this link freshly severed, I pray an addiction grows from the taste.
It’s been nearly two months since I escaped the omen of New York’s winter lockdown. But I was looking for much more than just a reprieve from severe seasonal depression compounded by the pandemic’s own toll. I told my therapist this was not the same running-away that I had done so many times before. This was to be a running-toward. But I did not know that what I was running to was not just sunny beach days, warm weather, and ample opportunity to surf. Problems follow you, and just as my rage has condensed into a purer vintage, so too have my problems been accentuated and, with that, rendered inescapable.
Despite its small size, Sayulita is, perhaps, the horniest and hottest town in all of Mexico. There is an incongruent abundance of things to stare at and to put up your nose. Everything is, of course, ‘grammable’ from the papel picados draping the streets to the clothes lines cutting across hillside rooftops. The beaches ascend considerably in quality and isolation the further one is willing to stray from town. Though, there is enough color and life in the town square to never feel compelled to go far at all — sampling the fabled native mushrooms, one might even find religion in the vibrant array of god’s eyes lining the arch and gazebo there.
I have not acquainted myself so much with the beauty of the place, nor its people: not the saronged yogis nor the surfers with sun-bleached hair, nor even the waves themselves. I have mainly familiarized myself with the guys across the corner from the Selina — recently opened, the three-story, thatch-roofed hotel is a lavish Mecca for would-be influencers and the Grand Central of ‘the party’ — who, in their readiness to sell me ‘weed? cocaine?’ at any hour of the day, testify to their vivid memory of my face. When I refuse — my habit most days before 9pm — I can see their inner acknowledgment of my temporary hypocrisy, as if I am, and I am, the fool of the encounter.
Anyone would have excused a long weekend of partying in such a Pacific coast playground, where the almost total disregard for the rest of the world’s pandemic makes it as much a paradise as do the palm trees and the gold-flecked sand. My first weekend here has lasted considerably longer than excusable. The pesos I spent on those little red glassine bags with the cartel-brand rooster stickers likely outnumber the words I have put down. Such a thought is enough to almost make me utter the name of Christ without at all doing so in vain. The fantasy I was nursing, of becoming both a regular writer as well as some kind of international sun-tanned surfing playboy — or at least the former with the confidence of the latter — has evaporated along with my budget, made up of mostly unemployment and stimulus benefits.
Were it not for having already erected and begun my tantric worship at this new altar to rage, I would without hesitation call myself a loser.
Not only have I not done the writing I came here to do, but I have managed to construct a rather confusing and uncomfortable set of romantic entanglements that I dare not commit further words to. That, and I’ve likewise succeeded at coming down with some form of food-borne illness at least once every week since my arrival. At the very, very least, my skin has darkened somewhat and my abs are beginning to rear their glorious outlines through a belly dwindling with unintentional starvation — and, I suppose, some unfortunately all-too-intentional amphetamine use.
Of course, I am not giving myself much credit with any of this — I have managed to surf a few times between injuries sustained in those same few times — though that is exactly my point. No one can take ‘being kinder to oneself’ to the bank, as it were, and the moment must come when you finally realize, in a profoundly emotional and even spiritual sense, the importance of adequate sleep.
Addicted to ‘the party’ as I am, I have not enjoyed very much of it. My eyes show more of last night’s cigarettes than they display of its rest. And so, as much as I might like to go on about how beautiful Sayulita is and how much better this life is than yours (wherever you may be), I assure you it is all wallpaper over hell. I am truly fed up with myself.
But no pain is a mistake if it leads to constructive change. No suffering is too great if it is survived by a stronger version of the sufferer, even when a considerable share was self-inflicted. I went hard for nearly a month, reveling in the revolving social door of the Selina and the countless and talented conversationalists that seemed to sprout fully formed out of the pores of this place. What is not worth saying if said and heard well? And what is not worth putting up my nose to facilitate such a ritual — even if I am keenly aware of the inverse correlation between what I drunkenly mouth-off and what I ultimately do once sober? We are all hedonists and masochists — the only choice is between which one we become first.
Just when I felt my sugars beginning to ferment, and in addition to the lapping tide of beautiful strangers, I had guests of my own arriving — to entertain, to show around, to get drunk among the scenery, to make aware of where to get shrimp ceviche of the highest quality and the lowest price, even if its goes untasted. A couple more weeks of this, and what was starting to ferment seemed about to rot. Shots of mezcal with chili-dusted orange slices and live music bars with rope-swing benches are novelties that have both a tendency to wear off and to preclude the view afforded by the perfect sunset beaches so close by; and in their wearing off become cloying reminders of that sunset gone unseen.
Today I am likely to forgo witnessing the sun’s orb melt below the ocean horizon, though the rage in me feels adequate enough to catch the next four out of five. But if rage is the source of my desire, what then is the method to halt the fermentation and decay of that which still clings to the vine?
Despite last night’s efforts to maintain my already poor digestive health, I’ve had two firm shits today. Nothing can make stool a more welcome sight than having delayed the previous evening’s meal to accommodate the first of several farewell shots of mezcal with those chili-dusted orange slices. And now, having adequately sent off my visitors, I can finally begin the preservation process I am too exhausted and ashamed to avoid. Today, I start drying out.
The previous night’s assault on my bowels was equally vicious, or should have been, for my mental health. The red rooster glassines made their usual appearance, and I did not count my drinks. ‘Being kind to myself,’ I did have a few bottles of water to preempt the filling of my stomach with liquor, though it was not until I strolled out of the bar and past the colorful, but by then-deserted town square, that I remembered my therapy was scheduled for 9:30 that morning. Sex truncated my sleep, but what it abbreviated in terms of time it made up for with regard to quality, and a cup of coffee with butter and sugar was enough to stall the spiritual decay accompanying the flavor of ash sublimating from the soft tissue of my mouth.
My voice was a bag of river rock, giving plenty reason to suspect the kind of night that had made it so. But my therapist seemed to either not notice or not care — a quality of all good emotional donkeys.
The desperate email, begging for a session as soon as possible, had only been sent two days prior. I’ve sent similar messages in the past, always typed hastily from the depths of a crisis and always a source of embarrassment later on as that crisis subsides and my perspective hardens into sanity — which is not to say that the session was any less critical.
I confessed as much as the 45 minutes would allow: feelings for the women entering and exiting my suddenly small life, the recognition of lingering weaknesses and the discovery of a new enraged strength that, admittedly, led to no greater share of clarity. As we spoke, I realized that rage had, for me, always worn a mask of anger, which itself has always been nothing more than a deep sadness long ignored.
My addiction to late nights, made later by the drugs and alcohol required to produce them in the first place, was never more than the brighter side of my own fear of being alone and of being unsafe in that loneliness. Rage had given me a view of the bottom I had sent myself to. I talked until I could no longer keep from crying. Something lifted — and, for some time, has remained so.
Now unadorned, my rage was like a small blue licking at the center of my ribs. Holding it there, I felt as if I might erupt into some kind of super saiyan version of myself: larger, stronger, impeccably determined, sexier — and without any grey hair. Knowing I have to learn to control its aperture, I held this new rage in that place it first appeared, left for home, bought a carrot-orange juice, showered, washed my face, and moisturized — performing a ritual that will hopefully grow to maintain more than a facade of good health.