Contractual Obligations, Or, Swearing on Infinite Jest
Spoiler Line: No spoilers
This is the story of how last night, c. 9 PM, I pretty much Gave In to my inner tramadol demon. It went down like this:
Starting around Sunday evening, when I got back from a long, tiresome (and sober) weekend, I experienced a familiar tramadol-jonesing that went along the lines of “Boy, it sure would be nice to unwind with some Vitamin T right now.” No biggie, right? Typical craving stuff.
This time, however, it went from a basic craving to an elaborate and exhaustive process of rationalization. I started wandering down a dark twisted spider-hole of equivocation, the details of which I’ll spare you. But it ended at this: I was convinced that there would be nothing wrong with re-entering into a relationship with tramadol, provided that the relationship was strictly governed by an iron-clad written contract meant to enforce moderation and restraint. The contract, as I envisioned it, would stipulate that I would indulge in tramadol no more than once a week, and no more than 100 mgs. at a time. I couched my thoughts in a lot of over-intellectualized bullshit about things like ebb and flow and tension and release, and how it’s only natural and human to partake in a little edge-bevelling from time to time, under tightly-controlled circumstances.
My spider and I talked this over for several days in excruciating detail.
In my kitchen, there’s a small, odd-looking drawer under the counter. It looks like something you’d see in an apothecary shop or a hobbit-house or something. It contains various multi-vitamins and supplements and also happens to be the drawer I used to keep the tramadol in. I don’t think I need to tell you that because of this fact, this drawer has always had and always will have a certain numinous aura attached to it, for me. The only thing remotely pharmacological in there now is a bottle of fioricet, which is a low-octane barbituate that my partner has a legit prescription from an actual doctor for, and which my partner has occasional recourse to when experiencing one of those tornado-in-the-eyeball headaches that Hal talks about in Infinite Jest.
This fioricet stuff has never rung any addictive bells for me — it pretty much feels like a burlier version of benadryl. But here’s the thing. I’m in the midst of a multi-day arachnoid dialogue in which I’m ironing out the terms and clauses of this hypothetical tramadol contract, which contract I feel is necessary because I feel I’ve got some psychic edges that could really use an occasional beveling. And while there’s no tramadol in the magic hobbit-drawer, there does happen to be another edge-beveling substance that comes in a white-capped orange bottle.
Furtively, secretly, without telling my partner, I help myself to a fioricet on Tuesday night.
Another one on Wednesday night. Also in secret.
But look, the fioricet doesn’t do shit for me. It’s not what I’m after. It’s working as kind of a stop-gap measure while my spider and I hammer out contractual terms (which we’ve been busy at, believe you me). During this period I experience some quibbles, some qualms. I’m a little conflicted by it but I’ve convinced myself that I’m thinking and acting rationally, that I have, in fact, lit upon a laudably pragmatic middle-ground between total enslavement and Puritanical abstinence. In all honesty, I didn’t put up much of a fight at all.
At this point it’s Wednesday night. Yesterday. The original contract, as envisioned on Sunday night, would have taken effect after I return from overseas at the end of September. But by Wednesday, the contract has been amended to become active this Friday. I decided Friday would be a good day for it because I have edges that need beveling, and Wednesday night is the latest I can order the drugs and be sure that the nice Fedex lady brings them to my door in a conspicuously-rattling package before the weekend. Funny how these things have a way of escalating.
My own personal goose is roasting nicely and I’m cookin’ up some fixins to serve on the side. In my head, I’m drafting the blog post that will explain to you all my new contractual arrangement and I’m trying to arrive at a happy medium between contrition and resoluteness. The draft begins like this:
“This is going to be difficult for all of us.”
Before I can order the drugs, thereby basically signing the contract with my spider, in blood, I need to run this by my partner. Note that I don’t want to run this by my partner. No sir. But we share bank accounts and credit cards and all that shit, and fioricet-incidents aside I’m generally not a fan of secrecy in our partnership. Also, I’m looking for even the slightest glimmer of like, benediction from my partner. I want my partner to agree, just a little bit, a little teeny-tiny bit, that yes there are edges in life that need to be beveled and that I’m making a rational decision to resume a course of pragmatic, rational and controlled edge-beveling whose moderation is guaranteed by contract.
After a lot of hemming and hawing and passive-aggressively forcing my partner to draw this all out of me (because it’s not like I want to come right out and say all this), instead of benediction what I get (although in not quite so many words), is this:
“Are you out of your fucking mind?”
Obviously not the response I’d been hoping for. This is at around 9:30 last night. A long process of inter-partner hashing-shit-out begins. Again, I’ll spare the details.
What happened last night, kind of magically, is that through careful talking and consideration and reasoning my partner was able to dispel the madness that had descended upon me Sunday night. I became able, finally, to take that crucial step outside of my equivocations and intellectualized horseshit, so that I was no longer trapped within those thoughts but observing them as they truly were from a position outside of them. I would not have been able to do this by myself. As I mentioned in the first line of this post, I had given in. I was at the precipice, ready to leap, and it took somebody else — a power completely external to me — to pull me back.
I fessed up to the purloined fioricet (it’s now gone, out of the house and in a secure location unknown to me). And as it turns out a contract was drawn up last night, on the back of a spare piece of paper. This contract is between me and my partner, and not me and my spider. I’m going to reproduce the text of it here because quite frankly, the more witnesses the better. Note that in the course of conversation last night certain metaphysical edicts were made w/r/t tramadol. Some of these edicts made their way into the contract and may not seem to make sense. The important thing is they’re crystal-clear to me.
Important Contract !!!
There will be no contracts re: controlled re-entry into a relationship with tramadol. In fact, there will be no re-entry into any relationship with tramadol no matter how much you try to rationalize it to yourself, you asshole. You are done. For all intents and purposes, tramadol does not exist. It is like sex with unicorns. For all eternity!
Signed the 19th of August, 2009
Once we drew this up, my partner made me go get my copy of Infinite Jest. My partner then made me put one hand on Infinite Jest and the other up in the air, and recite the contract and swear to uphold it. The contract was then folded up neatly and placed between pages 834 and 835 of Volume III of the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd. ed.), which is where you will find the entry for CONTRACT.
The sense of release I felt, when all of this was done, is basically indescribable. Wallace, in I think the Kenyon address, talks about a lost infinite thing that many of us spend our entire lives searching for. For a good long while after the events of last night, I felt the way I imagine I’d feel if I ever found it.
As of this morning I am 40 days tramadol-free and counting.
To my partner: thank you.