A Green Fog

Ryder Guido
April 12, 2023

When I was nine-years old my parents signed me up for a daytime golf lesson. This was mostly in a vain attempt to hold my thinning interest in anything physical and sports related. It became clearer by the day that I was sliding further and further into “nerd” territory. My parents, both of whom were mildly popular in high school, were worried for me.  

When I complained and asked why I had to learn golf, my father, always a practical man, said to me, “One day you may be meeting with a client, and they’ll want to talk about the deal with you over a game of golf. It can be a very useful skill to have.” And although he might have been slightly ambitious in his assessment of me as a possible salesperson – as he was saying it, I was picking my nose in public – I was immediately grasped with images of myself teeing off, arguing with a client over some big-name product like cigarettes, which, incidentally, I was obsessed with.  

“I’m sorry Mr. Guido,” they would say, “but we just can’t buy all of those cigarettes from you.” Their eyes would be full of pity, and I could always tell that they really wanted a smoke. They just needed the right excuse so they could write it off on their taxes.

“I understand,” I would say as I hit the ball off the tee and make a hole-in-one, “but perhaps I could find a way to change your mind.” The clients would be stunned, and they would understand that I was offering them a worthwhile product.

“We didn’t know we were dealing with a professional,” they’d say. “We’ll buy all the cigarettes you have.” I would be a millionaire. Other than the fact that I was terrible at golf, and that we were no longer in that wonderous age where cigarettes were not known to cause cancer, the plan was flawless.  

Despite my initial eagerness to put my millionaire plan into action, it became harder to get excited as the day of the lesson approached. At the time, we were staying at the house my grandparents owned in Michigan, which we called The Green Fog Cottage. It stood on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. The bluff gave a beautiful view of the beach and water, and in the evening you could watch the sun turn the sky a soft peach as it sank into the waves. Later in my life, my grandparents would tear this cottage down and build a modern house on the property, one where they could live full-time. When I was nine, however, The Green Fog Cottage was little more than a cabin in the woods.  

It was a place where you could run down to the beach in mere seconds. Any time we arrived there the world seemed to stand still. I didn’t have a phone until middle school, so I would often be cut off completely from the world – just a boy in the Michigan woodlands. The cottage was blanketed in smell of card games, thanksgiving dinners, and sledding out on the long hilly driveway. Upon entering the small house, the air would slide through my nose to my brain, carrying its light sensation of time regressing, of childish happiness and nights sitting by the fire. In this air, there was no technology to claim me, nothing but me and my family. I was later informed by my father that this smell was the mold my grandparents never bothered to eradicate from the basement.

The name Green Fog came from a drink invented by my great-grandfather Don. The drink used a container of frozen lime concentrate, which gave it a vibrant green color. According to family history, the first time Don made the drink it was so strong that those partaking in it were unable to climb the stairs up the bluff to return from the beach. They were stuck in a proverbial fog, and so the drink was named.  

The Green Fog Cottage was a character in our family history. It had seen the lives of four generations – my great-grandfather, my grandfather, my mother, and now I had all grown within its walls – and even if the building had been rebuilt multiple times, its soul stayed the same. Because of this, leaving the premises during the time my family spent in the Michigan woods felt wrong, especially to go golfing. But I was spending my time learning the tricks of the trade to become a millionaire, which was at least an equitable trade.  

There was no breeze that day, which made leaving easier. Bugs swarmed the beach, with no west wind to push them away. I donned a set of cargo shorts and a polo shirt that I thought I looked rather dapper in and was dropped off by my grandmother at the Hawkshead golf course. Hawkshead was a beautiful establishment, with vines and other greenery on every building, and although I was about two feet and twenty wrinkles short of fitting in with any of the regular players, I felt oddly at home in its air of elegance. With a new sense of importance in my tiny stride, I prepared myself to learn the trade I would practice for the rest of my life.  

Seven other boys and I were lined up on the driving range, each toting a bucket of golf balls. The range was dotted with different targets, and we were set to hit balls at them in a specific order. It was grueling work for a child whose idea of fun physical activity was taking the thirty-step walk from the couch to the porch to read a book outdoors instead of indoors.  

Our instructor was an older gentleman, a member of the Hawkshead staff, with a square face and eyes that were set deep in from his forehead. He hid his thinning grey hair under a club-sponsored cap and had the two-day makings of a beard he hadn’t cared to shave from his face. Despite my vivid remembrance of his appearance, his name is lost to my mind. Occasionally he would call a halt and adjust one of our techniques, assign us a new target, or explain to us a great golfing expedition he had once had, but other than that, we just hit balls over and over… and over… and over. My repetitive swings gave way to repetitive thoughts, which in turn gave way to the force that had a habit of taking my mind.  

It is a difficult thing to describe, the loss of one’s own mind to an outside force. I can liken it the most to entering a dream. It cannot be willed into being, and when it wills itself to you, it cannot be denied its entry. It rolls in, a soupy fog that blocks the vision and slows the movements. It often comes in the form of a scenario. On the day of the lesson, it arrived bearing my salesman persona, successfully selling cigarettes to the owners of a large fortune 500 company. I had just teed up my ball and turned to face my client, an older gentleman of twenty-three, as I explained why my cigarettes were vastly superior to my competitors.

“You see,” I gestured to the example of my product sitting between by lips, “our cigarettes are patented to stay in your mouth even during the most trying physical activities. You could ride your bike to work, go for a swim, or even hit the perfect hole in one.” I emphasized this last point by swinging the club, making beautiful contact with the ball and creating a line drive right to the green. My customer made a pained grunt in reply. This confused me, given that my flawless sales pitch should have convinced him to buy every carton I had brought with me that day.  

I looked up from my swing to see not my client, but my instructor, standing in front of me with a pained look on his face. This image scared the fog away, and, back in my right mind, I began to piece together what had just happened. Some of the incident I was able to pick up from context clues, the rest of it I was informed of later by my fellow students.  

Our instructor, wishing to regale us with another of his harrowing tales about making three under par, had called a halt. Every boy had dutifully stopped swinging, except for me. So lost in my own world had I been that I did not so much as look up to acknowledge the man. Unwilling to be ignored, he had marched in front of us down the line, which seems in retrospect like a rookie mistake. But what do I know.

He marched down our small line until he got to me. There he stopped and put his hands on his hips in the ultimate authoritative pose. I imagine he looked quite menacing and knew it as well, so I can only imagine his surprise when an unphased nine-year-old wound up his club and hit the most beautiful shot any kid had made all day. I was lucky enough to look up immediately upon his groan of pain and was able to see exactly where I had struck him.  

In my fervor to sell my product, I had hit a wondrous line drive right into the man’s balls.  

He recovered quickly from his shock. Luckily for him, even my best swing was not very strong. Grabbing me by the arm, he led me to the golf cart he had taken out to the range and sat me down on it. A stone sank to the pit of my stomach as the realization of what I had done truly dawned on me. Violence was considered a grave act in my family, and punishment for it could be dire. As a child, no more than five, I had once slapped my father in a fit of anger and been summarily shut in my room for the rest of the day. I could only imagine the consequences for castration by blunt force trauma. This fear, and the images of what exactly I may face, had recalled the fog to my mind, and I sat in terror while the old man gave a speech, perhaps of chiding, perhaps of forgiveness, which fell on deaf ears.  

Forty minutes of sitting in the golf cart later, my grandmother returned to pick me up. I climbed, sullen, into the back of the car, pondering these last moments of freedom, wondering if I’d ever see the sun shining again.  

My grandmother, in her politeness and unconscious ability to take the action most likely to ruin my life, called out the window to the instructor as he passed by. “How’d he do?”

To this day I don’t know why the instructor did not take this opportune moment to ruin my life. Perhaps it was from embarrassment, perhaps it was not out of the ordinary for him to get beaned by a student, perhaps he just didn’t want to deal with the conversation that would ensue from informing my grandmother of my transgression. Whatever the reason, he responded only with a single word before walking off into the clubhouse. “Fine.”  

That was it, all he’d said. I could scarcely believe my ears. I was off the hook, no one would know. I grinned at the thought of my escape, fancying myself the clever trickster – one who is able to get away with naught but a scratch. This glee lasted the entire drive home, but it faded when I met my mother at the door. Seeing her face, loving and kind, believing in the goodness of her son, I was struck with a heavy feeling, one I was not accustomed to. I became close to telling her the truth, then and there. But how could I when I had gotten away with such an escapade? My moment of glory could not be undone by this fleeting feeling of weakness. I held my tongue, thinking that surely this would pass. So, I said nothing and waited for the inner pain to go away.  

The waiting lasted six months. They were a dreadful time. There were days when I forgot all about my plight and lived my life normally again, the successful trickster. Then there were days when the fog would come, this time colored black. It would bring the episode to my mind, play it on repeat. Like a dream I could not avoid it, nor fight it off in any meaningful way. I would twist and turn in bed as sleep refused to take me, my waking dreams keeping sleep at bay. After six months I awoke one morning realizing what I had to do. The only thing that would clear the fog away, tint it back to grey, was a full confession.

I leapt out of my bed and ran in my pajamas to my parent’s room. Not finding anyone there I kept running into their bathroom. My father was at work but my mother was there, and was, in fact, currently seated on the toilet. Through a crack in the door I began my confession, a stream of words pouring out one after the other.

I sometimes like to think about what this must have been like for my mother. She got up on a regular weekday morning, prepared to take her three children to school, and was probably enjoying a few moments of peace and quiet before rousing us from bed, when her nine-year-old son came rushing to the bathroom door and started speaking incoherently about committing a botched castration on a man that by all likelihood she had forgot existed. Thinking in this way I can never picture any reaction other than the one my mother gave, which was bursting into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

I, assuming I was about to be grounded for life as penance for my sins, was utterly baffled by this turn of events. My mother came out of the bathroom, sat me down, and asked me to explain what happened. So, I began to tell her. I told her about more than I had planned. I talked about the fog, how it had blinded my mind. I explained what it was like to sit in a classroom without knowing what the last twenty minutes had been like, trying to fit into a world that often disappeared from me without warning. My mom listened, and she understood. A little while later she would explain to me that my teachers had recommended they get me tested by a doctor called a psychiatrist. A little while after that I was officially diagnosed with ADHD.

It was a relief, to have a name that I could give to people. One that helped explain why I was the way I was. It worked well for a time. But the world looks at mental conditions differently now, and I find that as time goes on saying I have ADHD sounds like I’m discussing that I have brown eyes. Because of this I’ve reverted to the name that I would describe it to myself with as a child.

I’ve gotten older now and become accustomed to its coming and going, and with this I have noticed a distinct change in the tint of my cerebral vacations. When life is important, and I need to focus, I have learned to keep the fog at bay. In return, every once and a while, I sit back and allow the Green Fog to wash over me, and carry me away.

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