The Contender

The lights are spinnin’
I gotta get myself up off the floor

I had just been promoted when I quit my job. The accomplishment lasted all but 24 hours, if that. What I had worked so hard to achieve was gone within seconds. My boss and two Human Resource reps sat with their mouth agape as I told them why I was quitting.

My head is ringin’ 
Bet they think I can’t take too much more

“Someone at work has videotape of me being sexually assaulted.” If I stayed on, I feared, they would make it public. I asked for tissue. My boss took some for himself. The room was silent for a long time, and then I left.

The crowd is howlin’ 
Like the ocean’s pounding roar

I went home, elated. I had beaten them. Them. Those stalkers who felt they had control over my life. I, however, was free. In the face of fear, I chose to walk away, I chose the high road. It felt like a win. Ha.

In the middle of the night I left Colorado, running from them. See, they were still following me. I didn’t return home until I had driven 17,000 miles and the thought that someone was after me was long gone.

My legs are goin’ out 
Someone up there don’t like me

“You could have been a Contender,” my brother told me.

Three weeks into severe psychosis, promising job down the tubes, life up in flames, my brother shows his compassion by telling me I’ve been knocked down. Hard. It was a short conversation. At the time I didn’t know, but it would take me years to return to work, and even longer to get my writing skills up to par for a paid position.

Now my right and my left will decide 
‘Cause they’re done with this bum takin’ dives 
Now my eyes may be swollen with right hooks and tears 
But I see salvation tonight 
In a left and a right

My current job isn’t very demanding and I’ve stopped pushing myself to relearn all that psychosis took from me:  my writing skills, my hard-won grammatical abilities, my technical knowledge. Add to this the “Government lobotomy,” meaning the end-result of skills lost, languishing in a sub-par Government job.

Called me a kid, champ or lefty 
A bowery kid to the core 
Fast cars and hipster movie stars 
I ain’t got none of that anymore 
Now I’m down in the seventh 
In the eighth my ribs are sore 
In the ninth I’m staggerin’ 
Someone up there don’t like me

Current circumstances require I look for new employment now. I had my first interview on Thursday. What comes up first is the gap in my employment: two years. Where was I? How do I account for that? Insert long story about acquired brain injury here, because I don’t dare say I have adult-onset schizophrenia. People don’t know what that means. They don’t understand it impacts your mental capacity, your mental ability to function. Schizophrenia is still relegated to the realm of “mental” aka “emotional” illness. It’s not a “real” biological brain injury.

It’s a one-way ticket 
Smart money’s showin’ me the door 

“Well, I guess this is a good time for this,” as the recruiter slides two pages toward me. I envision a test of technical knowledge. No. This is worse. Grammar 101.

Backed on the ropes now 
Someone up there don’t like me anymore 

In all my years as a technical writer, I’ve never been given a grammar test. Editing, sure. Basic grammar, never.

“OMG, where is my Little Brown Handbook,” I think to myself. I want to cry.

In the following sentence, the comma goes where? Why there, they ask. What’s the plural possessive of “boy”? Take the following sentence, make it past tense, remove the pronoun, and set it in active voice. How do you spell this word correctly? “Usually or usualy.” Edit the following single-spaced paragraph written by a schizophrenic person. (I swear to God.) Do so in one minute.

The problem is not the execution, per se. The problem, for me, is in the explanation of the rules. My memory chokes. “This is…um… a dependent clause? And that is, well, the preferred American style of using quotations…” UGH! Shoot me.

When the crowd goes silent 
One thing that I know for sure 

I guess I have some more work to do, just in case they decide to call me for another interview. It seems menial — grammar, skills, memory — but when your livelihood depends on it, you stop taking the years you spent in school for granted. It’s hard work, relearning. I think of all those whom don’t get a chance like me, those whom don’t recover from this illness, those whom can’t overcome their symptoms to function optimally, let alone relearn all that’s been lost. The best I can do is try, and if my best isn’t good enough, I am screwed because I am not disabled, but my life, my livelihood, has been taken from me.

Knock me down one time 
I’ll be comin’ back for more

I don’t want to be knocked down again, but if I am, let’s hope I have it in me to keep fighting.

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