Rock Bottom

They came in; they continue to come in.

Ha! I hope you enjoy rock bottom.

Call it what is, rock bottom.

This is your rock bottom.

How do like rock bottom?

Jesus will be there with you at rock bottom.

Your rock bottom is disgusting.

There were a few more, all subtle variations on the “rock bottom” phrase. The senders all assumed I had hit rock bottom; they all knew exactly where my final resting floor was. There was nothing said about me getting up. They most likely didn’t want me to.

Some communications came from people I know or used to know. Several came from people I have never met. Most came late at night.

Let me now indulge the senders’ assumption that I did indeed hit rock bottom somewhere during my ordeal, which is now closing in on one year. Let me mull over my alleged rock bottomness and explore its depths.

Here we go:

I hit rock bottom when:

  • I served time in jail; no, because the inmates showed me incredible compassion and I helped save a man’s life by asking him to write on the prompt: “From the heart.” He wrote 2000 words and read it to me in his cell while crying. Then he told me to use the piece in anything I wanted to write. I will.
  • The judge sentenced me in front of my family; no, because that felt more like a novel instead of reality and some of literature’s classics were unwittingly quoted there.
  • I sat at a table in a small room in the probation office surrounded by other registered sex offenders and read on the whiteboard a statement by J.K. Rowling: Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” No, because rock bottom can’t really occur in a carpeted room with inspirational quotes and potted plants.
  • I sat at a table in the Troller Lounge in Garibaldi on a stormy Tuesday morning in September on the exact same day and time that I should have been opening the 2016-17 school year at Astoria High School teaching creative writing, journalism, and Oregon Studies. I drank coffee while other men drank Crown and cokes. Oprah came on the television and introduced her new favorite author, Glennon Doyle Melton, author of the recently released and Oprah Book Club choice, The Love Warrior. Melton said, “Rock bottom is the beginning of the best place on earth…everything beautiful begins on the bathroom floor…” Her rock bottom was discovering her husband’s affair. No, ordering a Crown and coke at that moment wouldn’t cut it for me and the restroom floor in The Troller was no place to inaugurate beauty.
  • I caught wind that I was being publicly flamed and shamed on social media and comment boards; no, because I knew this was coming from people who spend time doing this.
  • I considered that I would never have a girlfriend or marry again; no; there are many women out there with boundless capacity for curiosity, forgiveness, understanding and reading between the lines of life, which of course makes for reading on your own.
  • I held the official end of my official teaching career in my hands; no, I knew I still wanted to teach and it was only a matter of finding new ways and forums to do so. And I wouldn’t have to grade or attend faculty meetings ever again!
  • I registered as a sex offender on my 53rd birthday; no, because the state police officer who registered me said he was a big fan of my writing.
  • I discovered that I had been a terrible friend to some very good people; no, because I now knew I could learn how to become a real friend.
  • I started collecting beaverwood, decorating my empty house with it and thinking I had quite possibly lost my mind; no, my collection provided a useful metaphor and helped resurrect the room where I watched my husky die.
  • I spent 30 minutes online investigating the employment and living prospects for members of The Registry and knew that I was ruined for life; no, like General Grant, I would not retreat. I would devise ways to attack on multiple fronts even if there were heavy losses and it took ten times as long as the Siege of Vicksburg, which it probably would.
  • I realized that no one was going to save me; no, because Aimee Mann had already covered that existential ground in her song, “Save Me” and taught me well.
  • I contemplated dragging some of my detractors into the gutter, where I was not; no, take the high road always. That’s what I always taught my students and I was never a hypocrite in my teaching or personal life.
  • Not a single Oregon writer of note came to my aid, even though I knew countless of them; no, writers are hardly special when it comes to demonstrating empathy, except perhaps in their writing.
  • I briefly considered making an early exit out of life at Hart’s Cove; no, I could never do that to my parents and I didn’t want to go out with a cliche. But there was consideration.
  • I imagined my future ending like Richard Brautigan’s maggot-infested ending, a suicide by shotgun with no one discovering the body on his kitchen floor for two weeks; no, I had read his biography and knew of his errors of alienation and estrangement from friends and family.
  • I admitted I just can’t beat this; no, those bromides from my junior high sports coaches actually turned out useful.
  • I realized I had placed certain close friends under extreme duress and they had come apart as a result; no, because we could have all helped one other had we simply communicated without agenda.
  • I wrote 10,000 words of an erotic novel set on the Oregon Coast and thought it might hit a home run on Amazon, but then stopped; no, but I really liked writing erotica and thought I was pretty good at it. Maybe later.
  • I wrote 40,000 words in jail (The Chill Tank Journal) and felt I was documenting my own permanent demise; no, writing that 40,000 gestated a mission in my life. Time will give it birth.
  • I cleaned the public restrooms at Astoria’s most famous tourist attraction during my one night stand as a custodian; no, hardly. That night was the beginning of my rebirth.
  • My great collaborator told me to never contact her again; no, I hold out hope of reconciliation one distant year or decade from now.
  • I thought I might lose my ex-wife as a trusted friend; no, she remains as faithful as ever.
  • I doubted that writing was going to help me transcend my marginalization; close, very close, but no, because I was living through an unprecedented story of American Kafka and had a unique background to tell it and become a voice for others who had their larynxes removed by the state.
  • I was (am) going broke; no, I wanted (want) to believe there was someone or some business who would give me the opportunity to work and serve.
  • I suffered a mass extinction of myself; no, I was l already thinking about a new life originating from new primordial sources.
  • I scoffed at the great notion that building driftwood forts on the beach would save my life; no, then it did.
  • I forgot how to laugh; no, then came Renee Zelwegger and Pamela Anderson into my life in jail.
  • My country elected a serial sexual assaulter as President and I had never assaulted anyone in any capacity my entire life; no, because I knew my country had once elected Richard Nixon twice.
  • I discovered that a few people bizarrely inserted themselves into my narrative with the direct intention to destroy me; no, why bother understanding the motives of obviously unfulfilled human beings.
  • I was eating cold chili from a can and camping out in a RV park populated by men who had removed themselves from society with pills, booze, pot and television; no, I hate television!
  • I lost faith in the annihilating power of the ocean; no, it returned the next morning. I’m just glad I gave the ocean a second chance.

No, I haven’t hit rock bottom and never will. There is no rock bottom in The Registry. There is only a labyrinth with trapdoors and tunnels that leads into an eternal meandering abyss, otherwise known as a bottomless pit.