Woke up with a small ganglion cyst on the knuckle of my thumb. The housemate, a trained nurse, was not interested in peering at it and discouraged me from smashing it with a heavy edition of the Jerusalem Bible or lancing it with a needle passed through flame. It is not painful at all unless squeezed or prodded and I see from Googling ‘ganglion’ that it may clear up by itself. Such ganglions are sometimes called ‘Gideon’s cysts’ because people do crush them with Gideon Bibles, and then complain of bruising and infection.
The housemate pointed out as she hurtled through the door with her packed lunch and armfuls of adult nappies intended for incontinent patients, cell phone going, brushing dog hairs off her nurse’s uniform, that I have had a wrist ganglion before and did something to make it disappear. Perhaps I should wait until full moon and then wrap the thumb in datura leaves and whisper incantations while burning sage leaves in a cauldron for incense. Surely that’s not what she meant? I don’t remember the wrist ganglion at all, but I do have a little black notebook somewhere with useful sangoma spells for getting rid of warts or difficult lovers, and overcoming writers’ block, alongside recipes for aniseed rusks and a good spinach and leek soup with pumpkin fritters.
A new biography of David Foster Wallace has appeared with an extract online, which I hated. How infuriating when this happens. The New York Times reviewer, the formidable Michiko Kukutani, is much kinder about the biography that I would be. I don’t think people who don’t get alcoholism, depression, halfway houses, love affairs in sobriety, philosophy, literature, existential angst, desperation, suicide – stop me here — should write about DFW. The tone is all wrong, the glibness appalls me. But that might be just me.
In “Infinite Jest” David Foster Wallace described clinical depression as “the Great White Shark of pain,” “a level of psychic pain wholly incompatible with human life as we know it,” a “nausea of the cells and soul,” a sort of “double bind in which any/all of the alternatives we associate with human agency — sitting or standing, doing or resting, speaking or keeping silent, living or dying — are not just unpleasant but literally horrible,” a radical loneliness in which “everything is part of the problem, and there is no solution.”
The Great Dane has stopped digging holes and is now lying on the rug chewing his paw and watching me out of the corner of his eye to see what I will do to distract him. Does he need a dog psychologist? More walks? More biscuits? Maybe I should lie down on the rug beside him and chew my thumb ganglion.
Silliness aside, the pile of work on my desk slowly diminishing — friends coming over for supper so we shall have a green Thai curry with tiny white eggplant sold at the roadside market. Mounds of steamed basmati rice, chutneys, salsas of mango and freshly chopped coriander, small bowls of sweet chilli jam. We’re hovering on the edge of spring, we’re all getting older, we have lives filled to the brim and overflowing, lives none of us deserve, so good and complicated and simple if we look at them simply enough. It could be otherwise.
A poem from Raymond Carver:
So early it’s still almost dark out.
I’m near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren’t saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other’s arm.
It’s early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn’t enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.