This disappearance I keep writing about: it is a misleading singularity. There are several disappearances in Crystal From The Hills. Honestly, there were one or two disappearances in my life that informed my writing. Actually, I think absence is the truer word to apply here–not so much disappearance–for it is the lingering absence that haunts those stuck in either grief, or trauma. Some readers have commented on the relationships in CFTH, wondering which pairing is most pivotal, who is most important to protagonist Chris Leavitt. Is it the awkward coupling with Jill Evans, which manifests conflicts that touch upon sex, money, and adequacy? Is it his obedient bond with Aunt Jenny, the autocratic, aspiring matriarch of the dwindling Leavitt clan? Is it the dawdling friendship with Sweet, his fellow slacker, and likely drug addict. Loser?
Despite the convictions of some, it’s none of these. The most important relationships in CFTH are between Chris Leavitt and the absent: his doppelganger, Weed, the recently disappeared; with his father, a self absorbed, elusive man, now deceased; with his mother, exiled to the east coast, ambigously disgraced and then punished for once leaving Chris’ father and following her heart. The heart was broken. The loving man who replaced Chris’ father was killed in the 9/11 attacks, leaving her catatonic in grief. Chris wanders through the narrative with all this background swirling about him. He strains to make sense; he strains to relate while others gaze into the mystery of his life.
In this way, CFTH is a mystery, though not a conventional one. Its writing coincided with a drama that quietly played out in my working life; the much-delayed publication came from a position (and feeling) of absence, one I have felt keenly. Overlapping the writing of CFTH for about a year was the more driven, didactic non-fiction entitled, Working Through Rehab: An Inside Look at Adolescent Drug Treatment. I worked in this business for fifteen years, after which I was quite ceremoniously, if cynically, marginalized from the workplace until finally dismissed. It would be unfair to call it a disappearance, as it all happened with considerable notice. In concrete terms, there was a month-long and therefore (by my then employer’s standards) unprecedented grace period. In reality–that is, in the murky underlying world of the unconscious/that-which-is-right-in-front-of-me–the signs had been there for over a year. The clues about my feelings are on the front cover of the book. The readers sees a rendering of a youth sitting in between an officious sergeant of a therapeutic milieu, and a distracted case manager, busy with documentation. In the foreground there is a thumb thrust upwards and outwards, in a gesture that will lack meaning until about a quarter into the text. The thumb is connected to a figure who is cut-off, absent. It is me. My fuller self is on the back, leering, seemingly relaxed and free, with a friendly, dedicated doctor standing over the scene, clutching a clipboard. The medicine men of this industry: ultimately, they’re much better postioned (though not necessarily best-positioned) than I am to effect change.
I hope you join me in this literary walking-through of my fifteen year career in rehab; this protracted diary and essay about kids, drugs, mental illness, and the mad attempts to do something about it all. Like my novel, it’s something of a rabbit hole, this world, but the two books dovetail, I think, and teach–if you read…if you really do read.