Diversion From

Contributor: P Morgan

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Everyone was sick and this got into the food. It was the first time I had been inside someplace I wasn’t allowed out of, and it had been my idea, but even then I felt it wasn’t, really, that I had been put upon to do this, like it was a ponying-up of back dues to the mental health establishment for a few years of putting up with me. I didn’t eat anything the whole week.

Watching televised rodeo with John, he explained how he wasn’t abusing Xanax or a danger to his kids, because he was a good dad. He could tell I was one, too. When his mom came to visit she told me to avoid contact with the law, because once you’re in the system, they’ve got you. Damn black-and-whites. This was when you could still smoke inside of some places, so she did.

John called me, once, when we were both out, and I never listened to his voicemail because it frightened me.


I framed it experimentally, like I was an ethnographer, covert because myself. I left the ring in the glove box and took an advantageous seat at the bar, still laconic with only early Fridayers, older folks with real lives and money to spend on trips out with friends, none of which I had. I did, though, have a debit card that was functioning something like an unintentional credit card, debiting an emptiness into deeper, but totally abstract, emptiness, as if negative dollars meant something to someone like me and it was worth keeping track of. They should just close it, I thought, so fuck them if they don’t.

I brought my notebook, and an actual book with words (my notebook mostly held half-assed pictures only drawn to mask my constant monitoring of whichever space I was in). It gave me, I hoped, an air of sophisticated aloofness: lone drinker with the world on his mind, so full of creative sap that he needed to carry a notebook like a basin to catch the valuable excess of what he could internally manage, I hoped they would imagine. I had hypothesized that my inability to find a new lover - after Erica, silent now for a week - had to do with my wedding ring. So here I was, without it, darker concealer even on the base of my left ring finger to mask the paleness, just to be sure, testing whether or not I could theoretically score.

I was there because I hated my wife, because I hated my life.


My son spoke only in riddles that seemed intentionally arch, not-quite two years old, just a few weeks after I had almost killed him, twice, unintentionally. I found myself, that morning, trying to reproduce the thought pattern of a toddler, construct a meaningful sentence that he could seriously answer. He had no idea what a pill was. Surprising myself, I hit on one.

Did you eat any candy today?

Yes. (Said with a carefree and so devastating gappy smile, all the more because of the still angry-looking suture across his left cheek.)

What...color was it? (Not yellow, not yellow, not yellow...)


And that’s why I was, an hour later, trying to coax a small boy who had seen quite enough of urgent care lately, thank you, into drinking more of the thick black charcoal mixture I had been handed at the ER along with some very suspicious looks. (300 mg, the Poison Control operator had said, surrealy calm, well, that’s quite a large amount for someone his size, so I would recommend taking him to a doctor, like she was suggesting I get the pasta. I was disappointed, as though there had ever been a chance that she might say something else.) His clothes were already ruined.


There was no one else to pick me up. Who’s Erica, she asked when I got in. I found your notebook under the driver’s seat.

I made her up, I said, easily, because it was technically true. I put my seat belt on. Where’s the kid?

Don’t. What do you mean made her up.

They’re just stories, you know, imagined, I said. For diversion, I guess.

You imagine a girl named Erica, who does those things, as a diversion. She chewed this while she drove.

Don’t you want to know what it was like in there, I asked. And where’s the kid?

Diversion from what, she wanted to know.

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