In order to get my driver’s license back I was going to need to be cleared by a neurologist. My primary physician, Doctor Wu, wasn’t able to make the referral until I cleared up my insurance. I’d selected AltaMed as my health network, just because I’d been to their clinic on Beach Boulevard in the past, and knew I could get there on a bike. When I got my card, however, it had said CalOptima Direct and so I had to get in touch with CalOptima, and after a handful of confusing exchanges was sent another card that listed AltaMed as my network.
When I called AltaMed again, I was told that Doctor Wu would make the referral and I could come pick it up at reception. When I dropped by there was a letter from the doctor and a list of neurologists in Orange County. I was told to call and book my own appointment, so I looked for one close enough to ride a bike to and made the call. The receptionist spent a long time looking for my referral number, and then told me that my referral was actually with a Doctor Sanjay in Huntington Beach, but couldn’t give me an address or phone number.
I googled Doctor Sanjay and found one on Beach Boulevard, just a few blocks from Altamed. They had gotten a referral for me, but couldn’t see me for two weeks. At least I had an appointment. My court hearing with the DMV was still six weeks away, so it seemed that would be enough time to get the paperwork filled out and submitted.
Then I got a letter from Altamed, saying that my referral had been authorized for a certain Doctor Lee in Fountain Valley. I called Doctor Lee and the receptionist confirmed the referral, but couldn’t explain why I’d been given two. I called Altamed and they told me I could keep my appointment with Doctor Sanjay and disregard the one with Doctor Lee, who wouldn’t be able to see me for over a month anyway.
I was going to the gathering every morning and chomping at the bit to get through the Twelve Awakenings, even though my guide seemed to have a pacing plan for them that stretched into the next millennium. Sometimes if the morning gathering was really good it gave me enough of a charge to cruise through the rest of the day, but mostly my afternoons were getting bogged down in depression. The only thing I found that helped, a little, was to jump in the ocean and walk for miles, to the brink of exhaustion. Either that or jump on the blue bike and ride twenty to thirty miles, down to the Wedge, and maybe all the way up to Seal Beach.
One day I was coming back from Balboa on the bike, and suddenly it seemed like I was pedaling twice as hard and barely moving. That’s because the back tire was flat. I walked it down Main Street to Jax, and though I’d been told they were scheduled two months out on bike tune-ups, was able to drop the bike off and pick it up a few hours later.
When I did, the technician told me that the wheel was out of true, which meant it was out of balance. They didn’t have time to work on it, but he told me to keep an eye on it. That wasn’t difficult to do. The wheel was so wobbly now that the bike barely rode. Maybe I’d damaged the rim after getting the flat. I wasn’t sure.
A few days later I was trying to ride the bike and the spokes started snapping. By then the tire wouldn’t even spin. I walked it back to Jax and all they could do was replace the entire wheel, which thankfully they did on the spot for me, but by now I’d spent almost as much as I would’ve on a new bike at Walmart, except they were out of stock. It felt like the Devil was poking me with a sharp stick.
I’d never been able to deal with the pain of life, and now I was fossilized in it, like an ant in amber. Previously, I would’ve walked up to Redz Juke Joint and drank at the bar until I started to sneeze. When I started to sneeze, it would mean I was buzzed. I’d sneeze so many times I’d have to step outside or retreat to the bathroom, and when I returned my head would be swimming and the world would feel a whole lot lighter. I’d start thinking about where to head to next, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, somewhere tropical where I could get a cheap room by the beach.
Now that wasn’t an option. None of those previous escapes were options anymore, and I didn’t like, or even really know, the sad, middle-aged guy I was stuck with, stripped of his pipe dream, resembling a deflated puffer-fish on the beach, all bleached-out, no big front, no dangerous spikes, no menace.
The Middle Plane was purgatory. That was for sure. The only way I was going to survive it was to work for a lasting psychic change. The one I’d tripped out on while detoxing had come and gone like a rainbow. It seemed like life would never be fun again.