All of April ’23 I tripped out over the number four. It haunted me like Illuminati.
I often become unhinged, and when I do my mind spins narratives from nothing.
So, on 4/4, when I turned 44, and took my fourth pill of the morning—doctor prescribed, for my mental health—a flood of fours engulfed me.
I thought about Apaches and Zombie Spiders and Diogenes and wolves.
I read in a book once that the Apache people’s favorite number is four. It’s significant to their mythology and a good omen—like the number three and seven is for Christians.
I was reading to learn about Apaches because I thought I was part Native American, and I thought being born on 4/4 was a good omen.
But I am not, and it is not.
The reason I thought I was part Native American is because my grandmother thought she was part Native American.
But Ancestry.com says I am zero percent Native American.
I am, however, fractionally black (<4%) on that side of the family, and a recovering alcoholic with drunks all the way back to the invention of alcohol, so I have two theories:
Either, I had a black ancestor who presented as Native American, or I had an alcoholic ancestor who blamed his drinking on being part Native American (an old alcoholic’s trick—go to AA and you’ll meet at least three part Indians—victims of the firewater), and, most likely, it was both—a generational lie wrought from systemic issues, stretching back as far as disparity and trauma can stretch back.
Grandma died before there was Ancestry.com.
In her head, I guess she died part Native American.
But I bet lots of people think they are things they are not.
For instance, if I don’t take my four pills every morning, I think I am either the son of God or the diarrhea of the universe, depending on my mood swing, and when I’m off my pills a few days in a row–prescription lapse, fall off the wagon—I’ll swap self-esteem positions multiple times in one day. It might even happen mid sentence. I might go, “I am the greatest piece of shit the world has ever been lucky enough to know and I understand why everyone hates me.”
It’s super awesome, and I guess it’s all in my head, but the way I see it, either the struggle is real, or I’ve wasted a ton of time and money trying to fight a make believe affliction that makes me fixate on shit like the number four on 4/4 because I turned 44 and took four pills.
Currently, I take 40 mgs of vilazodone, 150 mgs of bupropion, 100 mgs of Lamotrigine, and 1 mg of Guanfacine. Daily.
It took me decades to get to these meds and doses. I had to see a variety of therapists, healers, charlatans, and physicians.
In my twenties, I prescribed Zoloft to myself after reading the internet. I lived on the TX/MX border, so I just crossed the bridge. They post something like carnival barkers outside border-town pharmacies who auction off prescriptions to passersby with gusto.
“Viagra. Xanax. Valium. We’ve got what you want.”
I don’t think Zoloft helped, but it wasn’t expensive and it gave me something to do.
Once, I went to a psychiatrist on the state side, and he prescribed me Klonopin for my anxiety. The pills dissolved on my tongue, and they were sweet, but I was still a raging alcoholic (I’m in recovery—21 months this time), and I would wander around getting hammered in the South Texas heat, contemplating my own shadow and letting pills dissolve away my worries.
I felt better, but I blacked out more.
I gave up those pills and saw a hypnotherapist who put me under and had me stick out my tongue while he talked about rats and alcohol and licking sewage.
I still gag whenever I stick out my tongue, but I don’t know how that’s a deterrent.
Anyhow, the four pills all together seem to work a bit, but my brain is my own worst enemy, and when I start to fixate or struggle or derail, I begin to wonder if the pills are working at all.
Like, maybe I have an entirely different affliction. Like, maybe I’m not crazy the same way I’m not Apache. Maybe all my bullshit is caused by something else.
/ / / /
A Zombie Spider is half dead, but it’s not half dead down the middle. Not four living legs and four dead legs. It’s a prisoner to a parasite that has taken over its body, and the zombie-spider curse is prevalent amongst cellar spiders, which are prevalent in crawl spaces, and I currently work as a crawl space inspector (not official title), so I see zombie spiders almost every day. I crawl beneath them on my hands and knees, snap their webs with my face as I crawl.
Essentially, a fungus infects a spider, and the fungus begins slowly eating the spider, and, as it eats the spider, the spider becomes cocooned in a white fluffy material until it’s dead. Honestly, they should be called mummy spiders, but sometimes you name a thing too fast and it sticks, a sort of verbal misdiagnosis for forever.
Zombie ants are similarly infected by a parasite, but they actually act like zombies. The parasite controls the ant and forces the insect to live with the parasite’s best interests in mind.
If you’ve seen HBO’s The Last of Us, you understand the premise. A parasite uses a creature as a vehicle to profligate its species.
I think that’s what they were thinking about when they named the spiders.
For a long time, in my mind, I thought about addiction and mental illness this way. That there was some kind of overriding program buried inside me that made me direct myself toward behaviors I would regret—things that would eat me from the inside.
But I thought about it metaphorically. I didn’t think I had a parasite. But maybe every asshole ever born is a zombie form of something else.
/ / / /
In 444 BCE, Synope was founded and Synope is where Diogenes is from, and Diogenes was called “The Dog” because he lived like a dog and was wild like a dog. Roamed around on all fours. Barked like DMX. Slept in a barrel.
If you’re not familiar with him, Diogenes was a kind of foil to Aristotle.
Aristotle was the good looking teacher who helped nurture Alexander the Great.
Diogenes was the dirt urchin who got away with talking shit to Alexander the Great.
One is conventionally intelligent and works the system to achieve patronage. The other is a kind of outsider artist who tries to own nothing and be beholden to no one.
Diogenes was a cynic. Cynic sort of means dog-like, and, y’all, according to Wikipeida.org cynics are called cynics for four reasons.
- They are indifferent, like dogs
- They are shameless, like dogs
- They guard things, like dogs
- They can tell friend from foe, like dogs
Dogs might be domesticated, might be “man’s best friend,” but these aren’t necessarily admirable qualities.
Diogenes, for instance, would jerk off in public. He’d just step out of his wine-barrel abode and fap in the streets.
That’s basically just homelessness.
If you met someone like that—a barrel dweller fapping on Main—you might think: Man, that dude should take, like, four medications.
But I don’t think you’d think: Man, that motherfucker has a parasite controlling his body in order to profligate the parasite’s species.
But then, on 4/3, I read about wolves.
That’s why my pills were weirding me out on my birthday morning. 4/4.
Rivka Galchen had a piece in The New Yorker, which came to me via email (does The New Yorker e-mail you shit it barely ever lets you read, too?), and I love Rivka Galchen, so I pounced.
The essay, “The Myth of the Alpha Wolf,” takes on pack order in wolves, making the argument that traditional thoughts on wolf packs have been based on misinformation.
There are no such things as “alpha” and “beta” wolves.
There are no tough motherfucking wolves that boss around the bitch-ass wolves.
Instead, Galchen argues, most wolf packs are basically families—a mother wolf, a father wolf, and a bunch of offspring.
Inside the pack, there really aren’t distinctions. Previously held beliefs were based on studies of non packs, “wolves in captivity…brought in from different zoos…unrelated to one another…the equivalent of studying the human family by observing the culture of prisoners in a holding cell.”
In the wild, packs usually only come into contact with one another during fights for territory, where the older wolves, not dominant, okay, not Alpha, usually kick the shit out of the younger wolves.
But, if all wolf packs are, like, families, then how do we even get other packs of wolves?
This is the part that fucked with my brain.
Because the article argued that maybe the wolves that are best at starting new packs are not fully in control of themselves.
They might have a parasite called toxoplasma gondii.
/ / / /
People like when their opponents are sick and twisted. It’s easy to win an argument if your enemies are medically immoral people.
Elon Musk calls out the “woke-mind virus.”
Ibram X. Kendi bemoans detractors of his anti-racism philosophy, saying, “When the medicine is rebranded as the disease, the disease will inevitably persist.”
I had never heard of toxoplasma gondii before April 2023.
I fell down a rabbit hole.
Apparently toxoplasma is having a moment.
In a DailyKO article, Mark Sumner argues: “toxoplasmosis is common in the United States and is ‘considered to be a leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness’’ but “[a]ccording to the CDC, that’s because even though large numbers are infected with the parasite, ‘very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness.’”
But that’s if you have a very narrow definition of illness.
Toxoplasmosis occurs in both men and women and is really common in cats, which spread the parasite quite frequently to humans who clean litter boxes, but both Sumner and Galchen present variations of this argument:
Toxoplasma gondii “infected men [show] lower superego strength and higher vigilance” and are “more likely to disregard rules … more expedient, suspicious, jealous, and dogmatic.”
It’s why wolves infected with the parasite are most likely to start new, rival packs of wolves—to break away from, and to come back and attack their own communities. Like a school shooter or something.
Galchen stops there, but Sumner goes on to present many conclusions about probable outcomes of toxoplasma infections in human men, arguing that infected men are
- Less willing to listen to others
- Infected men scored significantly lower than uninfected men when it came to establishing relationships with women
- They are more likely to have traffic accidents
- That toxic masculinity is probably toxo masculinity, and that people who watch Fox news are probably infected with toxoplasma
Thankfully, when women are infected with toxoplasma they “[show] higher warmth and higher superego strength, [become] more warm hearted, outgoing, conscientious, persistent, and moralistic.”
Cool. Cool. Cool. Cool.
/ / / /
Now, I’ve had a few traffic accidents, and I don’t like authority, and I will only listen to you if I think you have something interesting to say, but I hate the fuck out of Fox News, and I have lots of strong relationships with females. (I’ve been married for longer than I’ve been friends with the editor of this magazine, and EE and I have been friends for at least 15 years).
So, maybe I’m not fully infected. But what if I’m like a zombie spider, inching my way toward a slow death and taking the wrong medication to fight symptoms from a totally different underlying disease.
Maybe every action of mine is an action for something else. Maybe I even take antidepressants to make my parasites happy.
Maybe I like Diogenes and Lenny Bruce and Ice Cube and Gloria Anzaldua just because we all have the same disease.
So, all during April, I thought about rare steak and working in crawl spaces, because undercooked meat and playing in shit is the main way to catch toxoplasma gondii.
Two and a half thousand years ago, a man in a barrel was infected by a parasite that made him talk shit to Alexander the Great, and he spread his parasitic disease through his interactions with his students—teaching them to live a toxo exposed life—and those students became teachers who had interactions with other students, and further spread the parasite, and since then, every person who has ever talked shit to power has had that parasite in their brain telling them to talk shit to power.
You can contact-trace every cynic back to a parasitic man jerking off in the street.
And I guess if you don’t believe me, either I am not power or you aren’t infected.
(There must be two other reasons, but I can’t seem to think of them.)
/ / / /
Vilazodone fights my depression.
Bupropion fights my compulsion.
Guanfacine fights my ADHD.
Lamotrogine is a medication for epilepsy that my doctor assures me helps with something.
But, of course, none of that fights parasites.
For that, I’d have to take sulphadiazine or Ivermectin.