The Lost Decade

Okay, technically, it was more like eight years, but that’s most of a decade, and it’s way more poetic in my backstory than, “The Lost Octade”, don’t you think?

I’d lost my apartment, my partner, half of my cats, my hope for a future, and gone back to living with / working for Martina. The work was tolerable most of the time, but it was still crushing to me to think of it as the only work I was suited to. There is a phrase that has stuck with me, over the years. Most of the time I don’t think it’s something that applies to me, because I don’t believe in strict purposes of lives, as assigned by some higher being making us dance to a set tune. Still, there are times that I wonder…

“Have you considered that the purpose of your life may be to serve as a warning to others?”

It’s a painful thought! During the lost decade, I spent a lot of effort trying to convince myself, that it didn’t matter that I wasn’t going to matter. And I did matter, a little. I will leave aside false modesty and say that I was the best PCA Martina had, who I met. I was regularly called on to resolve issues that her other assistants couldn’t, or to teach, or to figure out some sort of hack to fix something, improve something, or make something possible. I was directly responsible for saving her life a few times, and she left me with a number of her secrets, over the course of our association.

For most of that time we lived in Belchertown, she and I, and Richard and Velcro, our cats. She had her room, and I mine across the hall, well within shouting range. I spent most of my time in there, playing games and reading the internet. That was life, for roughly seven years. Gaming, working, semi-regular trips to the grocery store, and irregular work trips (during which I largely stayed in our hotel room, reading the internet and playing games.)

Adding to my discontent during this time was that, at the end of my time with UMass, i had lost my insurance. My insurance had been fueling my transition, and without it, I stopped having hormones, stopped having a therapist, and ended up squarely in a place that I had been desperate to avoid when I started transitioning: stuck in an indeterminately gendered place, and worse, slowly tilting more towards masculine.

Life sucked, and I started waiting for death.

Not just waiting, in fact, but encouraging it. I had had dental problems before, as I have a phobia of dentistry. I had to get a tooth pulled after it grew a hole large enough to fit a BB into. I gave up brushing my teeth nearly entirely, and also started downing massive quantities of soda. I ate terribly, I smoked cigarettes, and I waited. And waited. And waited.

Clearly, I didn’t die.

Eventually other changes took place. Martina got hired for a job at an independent living center, helping people get out of nursing homes and into situations where they would have homes, and assistants. The job was in Salem, so we had to move, as a four hour commute is not one that can realistically be made. It’s difficult to get housing, if you’re dependent on a wheelchair, so for some time we instead stayed at an Extended Stay America hotel, packed into one room with the two of us, the cats, three wheelchairs, a Hoyer lift, and our belongings in boxes. The room was too small a space for all of this, but it was what we had. I tolerated it as I had most other things in my situation – it was temporary, because surely I had to die soon, right?

We spent all of winter in that hotel, through a blizzard (the second I’ve seen in my life) and well into the spring. During one of the truly cold periods, the hotel had a pipe burst. While this didn’t appear to directly affect my life, there was mold growing and releasing spores, a problem not for me, but Martina, who had a compromised immune system (suppressed to keep her allergy to plastics from killing her) and an inability to cough because of poor muscle tone and control.

At least I had a new MMO to play over the hotel wifi – I was hugely into Wildstar, an action combat based game with, I will admit, some issues. It was designed around the old-school hardcore model, perhaps slightly too much so (although I enjoyed it) and the difficulty level made many people give up and quit the game, which put strain on guilds trying to get into raiding, because as much player churn as there was made it extremely hard to get 40 people through the attunement to run the first raid.

This process broke three guilds that I was in, and three was too many for me. I have tended to go hard into my MMOs, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere. I usually end up an officer in guilds that I join, because I am comparatively sane, get to know the game well, and was on almost all the time. I was therefore involved in the discussions around how to deal with the roster boss, and loss of good players and officers, and finally, the closing out of three groups of people I’d invested massive amounts of time and effort into.

Die Trying was my last, and when it went, sick at heart, I quit as well. I couldn’t deal with building up another group of people, making friends and having shared experiences, to watch it all fade away again, so I quit. This marked something of an inflection point for me, when I started spending more time consuming text and less gaming. Tech sites, futurism, Reddit, I was fairly equal-opportunity. Anything to disconnect my mind from the flesh it was imprisoned in.

Somewhere around this time Martina finally found an apartment, and we moved into it. I had a room again, space of my own, and I settled in to wait in relative comfort. I spent a decent amount of money on a desk and chair, and continued to live at my computer.

Martina, meanwhile, was having problems of her own. As I mentioned, she’d picked up some garbage in her lungs from the conditions at the hotel, which impaired her oxygenation, which impaired her cognition. Combined with her fixed mindset regarding use of computers, through the summer and into the fall her work position became increasingly precarious. While I found a way to help her cough and get it out, the damage had been done, and in the end she was put on leave from her job. She took it quite hard, falling into a deep depression, and while we scraped along for another few months in that apartment, it wasn’t long before we were evicted for nonpayment of the rent she could no longer afford. She and I and the cats went to another hotel, with a tiny bit of our stuff. Most of my belongings, at least, ended up in the hall of the apartment, from which the management put it into storage, and I was left with my computer and the clothes on my back, largely.

This was the start of the Hell Year, next week’s post.

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