David Carter hates the cheap, paper-thin, blue-green swath of inadequacy better known as his carpet; he is disappointed in what it says about him as a man. A disgruntled architect, frustrated husband, and debt-ridden homeowner, David is a man of many unfulfilled ambitions—until he discovers a brilliant portrait hidden within the superstructure of his suburban home.
While the portrait awakens David to a world of artistic potential, it also contains a cryptic message that encourages him to fanatically search his house for more art. But as he topples one wall of his house after the other, his life begins to fall apart around him. After his wife files for divorce and he is fired from his job, David realizes his mistakes have compounded into a self-destructive and colossal supernova. But he doesn’t care; he is more determined than ever to unearth the final portrait and find the artist who prompted his life-changing transformation.
Love and Other Chemical Imbalances is the compelling story of one man’s unpredictable journey as he obsessively attempts to create something extraordinary out of his ordinary life.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)|
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Love and Other Chemical Imbalances
By Adam Clark
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Adam Clark
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSunday, January 1
I'm awake. Nine a.m. Hungover.
I roll over. The soft spot between my third and fourth rib (right side) sends waves of stabbing, explosive pain through my body and into my already vice-gripped head. I'm reminded that—pressed to the periphery of Nathan Phillips Square by younger and more enthusiastic partygoers—I had stretched myself out over a guardrail to snag my wife's expensive but disloyal scarf as it made a break for freedom on a gust of wind.
Crumpet cashmere blend. I bought if for her birthday last year.
There was an audible pop in my side, compressed against the steel rail, but I managed to corral it.
"Thanks, baby," she said.
"Your scarf hates you," I replied. She probably didn't hear me, and thank god for that. If Aimee heard everything I said, we'd never stop fighting. If she could read even a fraction of my thoughts—for example, my morbid fantasy that a building I've designed will collapse (with me in it)—she probably would have had me committed by now.
As I lie in bed, the torn muscle serves as a constant reminder that—were it not for me—Crumpet Cashmere might just have escaped. Might just have started a new life free from the tyranny of Aimee Parker-Carter. I nickname the scarf Anne Frank and pray that she one day forgives me, as she too will spend her summer trapped in an attic.
The only real difference between Anne and me (the scarf, not the person) is that I somehow ended up here voluntarily.
The bedside alarm clock blasts auto-tuned shit-hop streaming from my wife's fifth-generation iPod Nano. There's a buzzing sound coming from a corner of the room I can't place, punctuated by random thuds. As T-Pain provides the soundtrack to my hangover, I roll my eyes up toward the ceiling and—
"Baby!" my wife screams from the kitchen. "Can you come down and do the thing to the dishwasher?"
"The dishwasher hates you!" I yell back, into my pillow. Why isn't she suffering as I am? What kind of witchcraft is this? Thud. Buzz. I can't open my eyes without wincing. I promise myself that if I survive, I'll take to my Ultra-Pure White Semi-Gloss bedroom walls and paint them a cool gray. No more suburban snow-blindness.
There it is again. Buzz.
I don't get this song. Mansion doesn't rhyme with Wisconsin. I hit the off button.
I roll off the side of the bed and onto the floor. I hate this carpet. I'm disappointed in what it says about me as a man. A cheap, paper-thin, off-gassing, blue-green swath of inadequacy, finished with hopelessly inadequate three-inch molding. There's no proper trim along the ceiling line or around the windows. The door frames are likewise bare. At times like these—when all I want is a little reassurance that my life meets some minimum specification for success—I find all of this problematic.
Out of the corner of my eye, movement. The buzz becomes threateningly acute. A thud, against my temple. A thud, against my temple. A thud ...
I reach my winter-pale right arm over my head—sending another pulse of agonizing pain through my ribcage—and flick the off button on my wife's Roomba. It had been earning its keep by sucking up dirt over a small section of my bedroom carpet, slamming into the wall (thud) before turning around and making the four-foot journey (buzz) back to my bed frame (thud). I don't think Aimee purposely set the Roomba loose to torment me—she loves her robots—but I can't rule it out.
"Jeeves, old boy," I whisper into its sparse nacelle. "One day I'll take you away from all of this. You, me, and the scarf. We're going places, just as soon as I can figure out how to fake my own death."
With one hand on the edge of my bed frame and the other on the drawer handle of my night table, I pull myself up into a sitting position, cross-legged, and rock back and forth involuntarily. I haven't exactly hit the ground running in the New Year. I reach into the drawer—with my left hand this time—and grab a bottle of extra-strength Advil. I pour out four into my hand, pause, and proceed to shake an additional eight capsules loose. I eat all twelve like Skittles, leaving the most god-awful taste in my mouth.
I stand up, wobbling around a liquid ballast of three Dos Equis, two Coronas, one Bud Light, and a half-dozen Red Stripes. I'm unable to remember which ones I was supposed to enjoy. I attempt to walk to the bathroom, collapse like a fawn on ice skates, and crawl there instead.
My first piss of the New Year is glorious. For a moment, I think maybe everything will be okay.
I lock the bathroom door, lie down, wrap myself around the base of the toilet, and close my eyes. I pull my boxer-briefs off and slowly, gingerly, start to masturbate for purely therapeutic reasons. Several minutes later, I come, and for a few precious seconds feel no pain.
"Baby, what are you doing up there?" my wife calls out.
I sigh. I've never been one for New Year's resolutions, and while the one I make is almost pointlessly vague, I've never made a promise to myself with more conviction. I break out into a cold sweat—whether from nerves or as a side effect of my hangover, I can't be sure. All I know is things are going to change.
Monday, January 2
I'm an architect. I have nothing to do today because every contractor, client, and consultant I work with is stumbling, bleary-eyed, back from the holidays and mercifully saving the flood of change orders, shop drawings, and RFIs for another day. So I sit at my desk—which is nothing more than a hollow-core door propped up on a pair of plastic sawhorses—and pretend to be looking for something as I flip through a set of drawings.
My desk, along with everybody else's, is part of a concerted effort to cultivate some sort of design studio chic. The firm I work for, Van Arden and Downey Architects, Inc., is large and very profitable. We occupy the second and third floors of an old textile factory, a building we have annexed from the Black Creek Pioneer Village. Leave it to a bunch of hipster architects to find the one building with good bones and some actual character within the sprawling suburbia that is Vaughan, Ontario.
Here, we are free to worship our exposed brick walls, our scratched and gouged hardwood floors, and our iron staircases.
At any given moment, the office floor is likely to appear as though struck by a hurricane. Desks, bookshelves, light tables, and chairs are scattered about, full-size sets of 36" x 48" documents are rolled up and leaned against any available surface, and even the occasional microwave or tea kettle will show up where it clearly doesn't belong.
The idea, I think, is to be messy enough to foster creativity but organized enough to make money. Apparently, it works.
In my four years here, I've earned a reputation for being overly ambitious, intermittently caustic, and full of bold, grand visions—but without the skill required to deftly execute them. As such, I've been passed by several of my more reliable peers and relegated to work on the unwanted children of the architectural field—retail projects, mostly. I began my career with dreams of Koolhaas but quickly became a low-level, poor man's Victor Gruen, a lot in life I have yet to make peace with.
As such, I continue to fight the leash in a wasted effort to break loose of my superiors. I have a tendency to offend my coworkers with unpopular opinions and a sometimes relentless undercurrent of negativity. And I generally make myself a nuisance within the relatively buttoned-down, corporate ecosystem that is Van Arden and Downey Architects, Inc.
Unfortunately, I cannot convince myself that I'm being held back from greatness solely by some myopic and bureaucratic overlord; I've been given opportunities, and I've made mistakes. My failures are my own.
My saving grace—I think—is that I work long hours, never slack off, and rarely take a vacation or sick day. My personal life (what little there is) never interferes with my productivity, and I've never missed a deadline. Combined with my relatively low salary, this makes me a bargain.
I feel an unwanted presence over my shoulder. It's Jenny, my slightly grotesque project manager.
"The world is gonna end, David," she says.
"What?" I ask, wondering if I'm supposed to know what she's talking about. Jenny is often cryptic, a gypsy masquerading as my immediate superior.
"Hell has frozen over."
Jenny slaps a piece of paper down on my desk. It appears to be torn from the pages of a well-worn Italo Calvino novel. Drawn hastily in blue ink is a sketch of seemingly random swoops accented with sharp edges, a wind-blown ribbon sitting atop a monolithic plinth. The jittery line-work is undoubtedly that of Howard Van Arden, principle of the firm.
"Ask and ye shall receive."
Jenny walks me through what she knows of the project. We have a new client, Hartman's department store. They want us to refresh their flagship location, set to anchor the soon-to-be revitalized Shopper's World mall in Etobicoke. Because the administrative side of Van Arden and Downey is undiscerning and powerless to dictate otherwise, this project has landed on my desk, just like every other retail development we handle. The difference, however, is that in an arena dominated by soulless, big box chains, Hartman's actually wants something unique. Something ambitious. Something high-concept.
I have only Howard's inscrutable sketch to go by for now, but my hand shakes slightly with anticipation as I grab a pen, roll out a generous swath of yellow trace paper, and go to work.
Tuesday, January 3
My house, built in 2009, is a 2,150 square foot, two-level, three-bed, three-bath semidetached in the sought after, suburban community of Vaughan, Ontario. This immaculate home boasts an eat-in kitchen, upgraded with maple cabinets, ceramic floors, and granite countertops. The large master bedroom contains both a three-piece ensuite and walk-in closet. This stunning design also features an attached two-car garage, ample storage space, and a lovely southern exposure.
Minutes from the 400 Highway and Vaughan Mills Shopping Center, but located in a quiet, family-friendly neighborhood, it is truly a must see!
At least, that's what the real estate listing said.
Look closer and you'll find that the single layer of half-inch drywall reduces each and every interior partition to a cheap and flimsy four and five-eighths inches. Marvel at the floor joists—undersized at 2" x 8", spaced 24" on center, and improperly strapped—as they precariously deflect underfoot. And that large master bedroom? Well, that means that the other two bedrooms are 9' x 9' and 8.5' x 11', respectively.
All this can be yours for $345,000 plus interest! Which is just a cup of coffee a day (for 630 years ... plus interest).
Wednesday, January 4
I break down crying this afternoon. It's unexpected. Luckily, I'm not at work but driving back from a meeting with our civil engineer in St. Catharine's. My iPod—which became self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time on August 29, 2010, and has been able to predict my mood ever since—plays the Matthew Good Band's Loser Anthems, an EP I haven't listened to in ages.
At first, I'm delighted. I start to sing passionately along to "Flashdance II," until I'm struck by the poetry and simplicity with which Mr. Good cuts to the core of what a stupid asshole I am.
Barely livin', but I'm livin' large.
I choke up. My eyes fill with tears. I turn the volume up. I'm reminded that I've never made someone feel the way this song makes me feel, and that, removed from all my higher education and professional development, this is all I've ever really wanted to accomplish.
Thursday, January 5
I work late. I come home to find my wife's sister and her horrible children propped up against my obscenely expensive living room furniture. They balance their drinks precariously on their laps while flipping through reams of old family photos.
Angie Parker, formerly Angie Parker-Parker, is recently divorced. She is possibly the only woman in history to marry a man with the same last name as hers and still opt for the hyphen.
"When are the two of you going to give us a baby?" she shrieks at me as I enter the kitchen.
"Give you a baby?" I ask. Angie looks at me like I'm being a smart-ass.
Angie stays for dinner. She has three boys—seven-year-old twins, Jacob and Jackson Parker-Parker, and a five-year-old, Jaden Parker-Parker. They refuse to eat anything but hot dogs. They're all wearing expensive-looking skinny jeans and Lacoste polo shirts; their outfits probably all cost more than mine, and I'm wearing a suit. Their haircuts, too.
Angie and her offspring are clearly living high off the alimony and child-support payments of Doug Parker, a corporate accountant who now lives in a shitty bachelor apartment by the highway. I feel a strange mix of envy and pity for the man.
The kids sit slouched at the table and text each other. They all have BlackBerries, which are newer, better models than the BlackBerry provided me by my employer. I'm a design and business professional and holder of two postsecondary degrees; the Parker-Parker twins are in third grade and learning incorrect facts about dinosaurs between doses of Ritalin. Still, they find a reason to complain.
"We need iPhones, Mom. You don't understand," Jacob says.
"Everybody has an iPhone. Serious," Jackson adds.
Angie stifles a smile, excited to have an excuse to go shopping, and says, "We'll see."
I grind my teeth. I wonder if Aimee would mother her children as Angie does. Our children, I suppose. I wonder if this is what I have to look forward to.
Friday, January 6
Aimee calls and tells me I have to bring home dinner. After I hang up the phone, I kick a filing cabinet. Everyone in the office stares at me. It's a crime of passion.
Saturday, January 7
Making her quarterly pilgrimage to Ikea, Aimee inevitably buys newer models of things we already have and at least one time-wasting project to keep me occupied. This time, she returns home with shelves for the garage.
Today's high is minus-twenty-two degrees Celsius. I'm in the uninsulated garage, dressed in blue jeans, a T-shirt, a toque, and a pair of leather gloves. The garage doors are shut, but a fine particulate of snow is still forcing its way inside thanks to gale-force winds. Other than the two cars, there's very little clutter; I can't afford much more than the small hand mower and plastic snow shovel I already have.
Aimee will soon be upstairs fucking herself with a Jack Rabbit vibrator under several layers of blankets on our four-thousand-dollar queen-sized bed. I know this because I know my wife; unnecessarily, complicated Ikea busywork for me equals a lengthy session of self-love for Aimee.
She loves her robots.
My garage is only partially finished. On three sides, there is nothing but exposed studs and a bit of electrical wiring. Only the north elevation has drywall (no lath or paint though), and this is because it's stuffed to the gills with conduit and plumbing. This is where Aimee wants me to put the shelves.
Aimee stands in the doorway between the garage and the house, shivering and barking orders while I gesture at the wall, trying to explain that what she wants is a pain in the ass. As logic quickly fails, I realize that for Aimee, this isn't about aesthetics or convenience; it's about buying herself more alone time, winning the argument, and asserting her domestic dominance over me. I don't put up much of a fight. I rarely do. This is a strategic gambit on my part; someday we're going to do battle with something important on the line, and I don't want her to know all of my tricks.
After Aimee retires to the bedroom, I make the bold and unprecedented decision to simply ignore her. I have no interest in putting up shelves. I do, however, have a growing desire to dig into the guts of my inadequate house and actually do something about it. I decide that, for starters, I'll do some electrical work—adding extra receptacles to the barren side walls of the garage, improving the overhead lighting, that sort of thing.
Excerpted from Love and Other Chemical Imbalances by Adam Clark Copyright © 2012 by Adam Clark. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A genuinely moving novel about what it is to recognize and retaliate against your own dissatisfaction, the novel is centered around a man who literally and figuratively tears apart his home looking for portraits of a beautiful young woman. The cryptic messages left with the portraits lead him on an obsessive quest to find both her and, ultimately, himself. An exciting and touching read.