Living in such a state taTestaTesTaTe etats a hcus ni gniviL of mind in which time sTATEsTAtEsTaTeStA emit hcihw ni dnim of does not pass, space STateSTaTeSTaTeStAtE ecaps ,ssap ton seod does not exist, and sTATeSt oFOfOfo dna ,tsixe ton seod idea is not there. STatEst ofoFOFo .ereht ton si aedi Stuck in a place staTEsT OfOFofo ecalp a ni kcutS where movements TATeSTa foFofoF stnemevom erehw are impossible fOFoFOf elbissopmi era in all forms, UfOFofO ,smrof lla ni physical and nbEifof dna lacisyhp or mental - uNBeInO - latnem ro your mind is UNbeinG si dnim rouy focusing on a unBEING a no gnisucof lone thing, or NBeINgu ro ,gniht enol a lone nothing. bEinGUn .gnihton enol a You are numb and EiNguNB dna bmun era ouY unaware to events stneve ot erawanu taking place - not iSSUE ton - ecalp gnikat knowing how or what 7/31/98 tahw ro who gniwonk to think. You are in FORTY-EiGHT ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
In less than 24 hours, hopefully I will be sitting in one of the two local arthouse theaters at a screening of the movie Pi. This makes me extremely happy. I don't think I've looked forward to a movie this much since, oh, I Shot Andy Warhol. Of course, I'm MORE looking forward to this because Valarie Solanis wasn't a damn kabbalist. If she was, that would have been really interesting. I wonder what the gematria for SCUM is?
Do I have too much time on my hands? Some might think so. Jewish mystics would say that doing stuff like gematria leads to enlightenment because you find connections from everything to everything, thereby obliterating it all. Kinda like an active western path as opposed to silencing the mind like they like to do in the east. Which one works better? Different strokes for different folks. Kabbalists have cool diagrams, but I really like those stone gardens too.
After paying way too much money for some books this past weekend, I have come to the conclusion that I should give up my quest to get paid to write fiction and write cheesy occult books. The books I bought were good enough to justify (haha) the price I paid for them, as compared to other books on the shelves that were the same price and complete crap. Yeah, I don't mind paying 15 bucks for a compilation of selected excerpts from John Dee's diaries and notes because I'm not going to be heading over to England to see the original Sloane manuscripts anytime soon, but I just wonder who pays $17 for a book about the lost teachings of Atlantis as channeled by Mystic Joe Schmoe in his Hollywood home.
But maybe I'm just a biased bastard. Maybe I'm a big skeptic who just can't keep an open mind about everything. Maybe I make sure to really examine the contents of a book I'm considering buying if I see that it's published by Llewellyn (one of the books I bought WAS from them, so nyah). I mean, I guess people buy these things, although I've never seen them being bought or on anybody's shelves. Who out there owns a copy of Practical Egyptian Magic or Invoking the Goddess in 10 Easy Steps? I mean, Clockwork (sorry to drag you into this) had a grand ole time laughing at a bunch of books that we thought were, quite frankly, preposterous.
And speaking of preposterous, yeah, it's nice that Crowley's all the big vogue now that Hollywood's getting into the kabbalah thing, but jeez... it'd be nice if someone locally would publish his fictional works and poetry so you don't have to pay 40 dollars for an import of 100 pages. Not that his poetry is all that great (although my heart heaves everytime I hear "Leah Sublime" recited), but some stuff I'd like to at least have access to.
But I'll stop there. Not like you need another rant about the woeful lack of quality publications in the occult community. You hear those all the time, and then it devolves into two factions where one side says these authors are full of shit and the other side says the authors probably are but we like em anyway.
So blah. The point is, I'm gonna write my own crappy occult book about, oh, faery angel candle crystal tree charm love magic. it's my ticket to the bigtime.
Blessed beast or whatever, let's really stop this crap. On with the issue, puh-leaze. One of our older poets has returned after an absensce, and Sophie Random, who just joined the mailing list a few weeks ago, has already become a writer. That I like to see. And her piece is really good, too. Plus there's the usual crew of misfits and miscreants at your disposal.
As you may or may not have noticed, the web site has changed to http://www.eden.com/~kilgore/sob.html ... we'd like to thank Hagbard profusely for housing the website since 1995 and for giving us advance warning that the website was going down. So, if you run across any pages which have links to the old page, kinda email them and tell em to change.
I guess that's it. See you in August. Can you believe it? An August issue? Will it actually happen? The suspense is killing me, I have to go bite my nails.
Let me say something about this story. Of everything I have ever read, "Alex..." is one of the most depraved pieces of writing that I have encounterd. Not one character has a redeeming characteristic. Not Alex, not Nicky, not Lisa. Further, you glorify the very worst elements of a culture given over to excesses in sex and violence. Your story verges on pornography. In short, I loved "Alex the Wolf-God." Please keep it up. Lew Sipher, Aspen, CO
[i think that letter speaks for itself.]
To: email@example.com From: Diocletian Subject: Crazy Assed Party on undernet? Ave! I've jsut discovered your web page a yesterday, and was quite interested in your publication. Reading it I found it interesting. I even downloaded MIRC to check out your channel. Here is the problem - I log into Undernet, go to channel #unbeing, but there's no one there. Am I coming at the wrond times, or am I leaving out something as regards the channel address? Cheers! Diocletian
[heh. well, the "crazy assed party has kinda died out in recent times with a bunch of us having to get jobs or change or schedules that don't facilitate staying up in the wee hours of the night around a computer. i try to be on whenever i'm online, so if you just keep checking in, i'm sure someone will show up. maybe we'll even have another "see who can do the most impressive textual impersonations of as many obscure gods as possible" night. that's always fun.]
From: "Hades" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: <email@example.com> Subject: Greetings I would like to subscribe to SoB. A friend of mine sent me an issue and i loved it. I currently read the zines, Devil Shat and Captial of Nasty. I am always looking for something that makes me think. Thanks Ivy
[of course, maybe you're just trying to plug those OTHER e-zines in my zine to steal a bunch of my readers. i wouldn't put it past you. i mean, with a name like ivy, c'mon. wasn't there some military thing a while back? operation ivy? sound familiar? yeah, okay. had to do with something bad, i'm sure, as reported by some big conglomerate news network. we'll be keeping an eye on you, ivy. oh, yes. and don't think i'm paranoid. cuz i'm not. oh, yes. oh, uh-huh. not paranoid. not a chance.]
>Clock, > >Many thanks for letting me know the status of the tape!!! I appreciate >very much your diligence and kindness. > >I'll be mailing from this address from now on...as I took the link to >hotmail and now have a more secure email address. > >I've been sending as many people as I can in my wanderings on the net to >the SoB page. I'm hoping that this will encourage kilgore not to kill >himself off again. > >Again, muchos gracias! > >Trish
[i can't kill myself off again. that would be so trite. i'd have to find a new way to grub up some sympathy. perhaps severing an arm or leg or possibly carving large mayan glyphs into my forehead with a sharp rock as a performance art piece entitled "grassroots movement ain't got no endtime" would do the trick. hope you liked the tape.]
Radioactive Mutant in Search of Antibiotics
The simplest answer to the question "What would a Communist society look like?" is this: A Communist society would be one without classes.
This answer does not have a lot of meaning for Americans, brought up as they have been with the loose, almost meaningless American concept of economic classes. I cannot speak for the rest of the world, so when I speak of American I mean as against Marxist, but my comments on the American understanding of classes is, to the best of my experience, relevant to the United States in general. It is hoped this article will give people at least the vocabulary to understand what is meant when a Marxist speaks of a "class" and of a "class interest."
The typical use of the word "class" tends to refer to any grouping, and economic classes to be a strictly relative grouping. The use of the term "middle class" is especially sloppy. One typically considers a person to be a member of the "middle class" if he is neither very rich nor very poor. This deprives the term "middle class" of any intrinsic meaning, and causes an amazing lack of comprehension among those who do happen to try to understand Marxist discourse.
To take one example: Marxism predicts an increasing proportion of the population will become members of the proletarian class. When Marxism is discussed, it is not uncommon to find someone who knows just enough about Marxism to believe they can disprove it cite that, observe the "health" of the American middle class, and relegate Marx to the rubbish bin of history.
This could be addressed a number of ways. The most relevant just now is the linguistic. When this person has heard "proletarian," he believes he has heard "lower class." The "middle class" is quite strong; there are still relatively more people between rich and poor than there are at either extreme. Because, to him, the expression "middle class" has only a relative meaning, he cannot imagine it diminishing.
When a Marxist speaks of the proletarianization of the population, he means something a little different. He does not mean more people will fall into a relative "lower class"; he means a larger proportion of the population will end up holding the class interests of the proletariat; but more on that later.
(A third, incidental way to address this situation would be to point out the middle class is not at all economically healthy. Indeed, we approach a third world rich-poor gap in the United States, far in excess of any in the other Western, industrial nations. Much has already been written on this, however, and I pass over it now.)
Another effect that may be highlighted comes from the fact when an American hears "bourgeoisie" he tends to hear "middle class." Historically, in Europe, this is true. The United States were born without an historically European upper class -- that is to say, without a feudal aristocracy -- and so this does not hold here.
One may perhaps see here why this concept of the class structure is the ruling one here in the States. Most people like to think they are middle class, at least among the educated persons. They may invent concepts like "lower middle class" -- which cannot translate into Marxist terms -- to express the emotionally satisfying idea that if they save a bit more or are a little fortunate at the next round of pay raises they too can slip into the middle class, which they pretend to be a synonym for "bourgeoisie."
The effect of this delusion is obvious. If I am, or may become, a member of the middle class, I will not want to bring about a system that would expropriate me. I -- if I suffer from this delusion -- become what is called "reactionary"; I seek to preserve the status quo at any cost. This is a cheap way for the ruling class to ensure the majority of the people will believe it is in their best interests to preserve the rule of the ruling class. And it all rests upon a simple linguistic delusion!
But if, to a Marxist, the middle class does not mean the same thing as the "bourgeoisie," what does it mean? What is a Marxist social class?
In Marxist analysis, a "class" refers to a group of people who are united in their socio-economic interests, and act in those interests. Because both of these are important, one cannot refer to classes in the nonchalant way that tends to be done. A group of people who do not act in the interests of their class -- or who simply do not have class interests -- is not a class in the terms of Marxist class conflict analysis. Similarly, an individual who acts in the interest of a class does not join that class thereby. If a rich person acts in such a way as to benefit the working class, he does not thereby become a worker. Indeed, he will likely come to act in the interests of his own class, despite his momentary lapse.
These two requirements -- grouping and active interest -- are the reason why Marx saw the classes tending towards polarization, and towards the creation of, effectively, two social classes.
One of these, of course, is the bourgeoisie. If the bourgeoisie is not the middle class, what are they? In the United States, the bourgeoisie tends to be the ruling class. This is not a helpful definition, though. The bourgeoisie, who were also referred to as the "capitalist" class before "capitalist" came to refer to someone who held an ideological position, are those who own the means of production.
A member of the bourgeoisie has accumulated wealth. He can live off his wealth, and no longer needs to work. The bourgeoisie is the employing class, because they are the ones who own the big businesses, as well as the wealth of the society. Because they have more than they need to survive, they are in a position to own the buisnesses, and to employ those who need to be employed to survive.
Throughout most of its history, the bourgeoisie has tended to be a or the revolutionary class, in opposition to the feudal class structure. It is to the revolutionary fervor of the bourgeoisie that we owe many of the rights we take as standard today. This is not to say a proletarian society would do away with those rights; it is merely to say the bourgeoisie was the class in a position to take power away from the feudal lords and establish the capitalist society we inhabit today.
Now, however, the bourgeoisie has degenerated into a reactionary class. It is now in the interests of the bourgeoisie, as a class, to prevent fundamental change to the society we live in, which would challenge the ruling position the bourgeoisie now enjoys.
Dynamically opposed to the bourgeoisie, the current class which has the potential for revolution is the proletariat. Like "bourgeoisie," "proletariat" is a seldom understood term. If proletarians are hard to see today, though, it is due to their familiarity. The proletarian is the person who has to sell his labor power in order to live. While some members of the proletariat could accumulate enough wealth -- which is to say capital -- to live without working for a time, this time is typically understood as between jobs or at the end of one's life. These savings will seldom be enough to live off the interest, and without being able to do that it is merely a matter of time before the accumulated wealth is gone, and the person is reduced to selling himself once more into wage slavery.
This, in the most simple terms, is the difference between the classes: The bourgeoisie can live without working, on investments and the "private property," the means of production, belonging to them. The proletariat must sell his labor -- must sell his life -- to another in order to eat.
These are, as I say, the dynamic classes in contemporary society. The bourgeoisie is the ruling class; the proletariat is the heir to the throne. Their interests -- when understood -- are in opposition. This is not an exhaustive list of the classes, potential or existent. I will briefly mention a few of these other classes.
In feudal society, based on the ownership of land rather than the ownership of businesses and factories, there were a number of classes who are no longer dynamic in the United States. There is no real aristocracy in the United States, and never has been. (I mean this, of course, in the sense of feudal ruling families, not the reflections Americans have from time to time set up for themselves.) The peasant class is of more importance. These people are members of a class from a former age who have nonetheless played a role in our world. Peasants are those who own enough land or control enough land to survive and perhaps produce enough in excess to trade. They have been squeezed out by commodity farmers -- so-called agribusiness. The members of this class become, slowly or quickly, in all societies, proletarian, persons who have to sell their labor to another. Their class interests in today's society thus lie with the proletariat.
Another remnant class that still pretends to survive is that of the petite-bourgeoisie. This class is what is left of the independent craftsman. In former times, an artisan could exist on his own, in his own employ. This continues to be in our society. Some people still exist in self-employ, without employees of their own. It is rare, however. The petite-bourgeoisie, thinking themselves to be bourgeois or embryonic bourgeois, believe their interests lay in the reactionary direction of the bourgeoisie. They are wrong. The petite-bourgeois will tend more to end up as proletarians than as bourgeoisie.
There are some groups who exist but who have no real class interests. One of these in the so-called "lumpenproletariat." This is a long way of saying, more or less, underclass. This is the class of people who have stopped playing the game, including petty criminals, persons perpetually on welfare, and so on. This class has a potential for revolution when steered by a class with revolutionary interests, but has no interests of its own. Similarly, the intelligentsia, while it can have interests of its own, seldom operates as a class. It is the obligation of the intellectual to articulate the interests of the revolutionary class of its time; its other option is to become coopted as propagandists for the ruling class.
Having examined the classes, it is clear that while American discourse tends to pin the term "class" on relative standard of living, Marxism pins it on something else. A proletarian cannot live for long without selling his life force. But there is one last reason for the tendency to reaction in America, and that is the belief classes are not "set" in America, the fantasy that someone can leave the exploited class and enter the upper class. The moral fact that a free man will no more want to exploit than to be exploited is not the issue under consideration. I will merely point out that this fantasy can only hold up when one believes class to be based on standard of living.
A proletarian cannot leave his social class by saving. In order to leave the proletarian class, an individual would have to save enough and invest enough to live off the interest alone. While possible in theory, this is not nearly as likely as people pretend to believe. No one will be able to set aside enough from his salary to enter the ruling class; bourgeois life is not open to everyone.
This does not exhaust the Marxist concept of class, obviously. It does however hopefully provide a basic vocabulary so that, in reading Marxist writing, even someone with a standard American background will be able to understand what is being discussed.
I gather my consciousness before dawn, now, and it has some finer points, as in fresh unmuddied air dancing with hints of the sun coming over a sphere, silent spoken morning people, but it still does not jive with my being -- crazy dimlit coffee spill traffic flops, drudge and cringe along to some office building along with the other patrons, some of which no longer kiss their wives goodbye or see their kids off to school, no longer pilot blue hazed steamboats upriver to find golden ambrosia pots, socialization occurs with scowls and grunts, cutting off your fellow upright with six ton jacked up cornfed trucks.
I'd much rather wake in the late morning early afternoon, allowing my eyes to wander between the stars many hours later, rather than locking them beneath the closet doors, hiding them from the secret bigfoot wonders the sleepless nights carry under whipping funhouse curtains. The people about relaxed and free under darkened moons, creative paint splat thoughts and shunty dance mechanics all set free to seek out a concrete existence.
Instead, I'm left with high talking families of radio hosts, here to make the commuters smile and hop over any 4x10 collisions on highways, byways, and tucked away suburban dirt. Slipping home with enough time to toss the 8-hour shoes around, sigh and sit, flip together some ornamental food, and think of things to fill the swiss-cheese soul as I drift into early hour somberness. The dreams of arms to hold you when you drip through the doors each evening only come natural, with the only human contact day to day is cold marketed Bugle Boy chatter in plastic vinyl walls and doors only the special people are allowed to pass through. The small salvation is the car stereo between point A and point B, with usually enough time to begin to groove and drum and unbuckle your voice when you pull up to the curb -- buy a new album and listen to tracks one through six during the next four days, because that's all you can fit into your ziploc timescape. And it's sad to hear him ask millions of people if they can tell him one thing they will remember about him.
I want the beatnik swing jam surprise again, dark polyester slim fit dance slacks and buckle e buckle to belt e belt. Slipjacked wondermaid costumes topped in fuh-door-uhs -- it just came a-flooding back when an oversized On The Bus hopped into my hands and turned its own pages. Grey and kilter grain photos of Kesey and crew in daft paint buses with Leary in his pre-health life, Ginsberg from juicy young to mint-shattering stringy man, Mr. Grateful Dead himself stepping lively with mad smiles, and Kerouac always looking the same. The bus drove by my house with ice cream jangles whining, passing up the kids on the corner, and me swimming in maltese ovaries. They passed me up the first time, and maybe the second, but I shuffled on eventually, and got dropped off several state lines down the road. And now I need to get on again.
"Depression is awful beyond words or sounds or images... It bleeds relationships through suspicion, lack of confidence and self-respect, the inability to enjoy life, to walk or talk or think normally, the exhaustion, the night terrors, the day terrors. There is nothing good to be said for it except that it gives you the experience of how it must be to be old, to be old and sick, to be dying; to be slow of mind; to be lacking in grace, polish, and coordination; to be ugly; to have no belief in the possibilities of life, the pleasures of sex, the exquisiteness of music, or the ability to make yourself and others laugh." (Jamison, 217)
Severe depression is a disease that affects about one in eight Americans during the course of their lives. Some people are affected for purely biological reasons, stemming from a chemical imbalance in their brains. Others slip into depression's dark grasp due to a close experience with trauma or tragedy. Whatever the cause, though, depression has an unmistakable and significant cost. It not only causes unmeasurable emotional pain, but claims a steep financial price as well. In a 1986 study, the annual cost of depression in America was estimated at $16 billion. This figure covered the cost of treatment (including doctor visits, therapy, and hospitalization), cost due to lost productivity, and the morbidity cost associated with those whom the disease killed (Dept. of Health, 9). Clearly, depression is a force with which to be reckoned.
Though books such as the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) offer a definition of depression, it it lengthy and vague and most psychiatrists agree that it's not even very accurate, because depression can take many different forms. An oversimplified description would mention overwhelming grief, anguish, despair, coupled with terror and panic in many cases. Often these emotions are strong enough that they lead to self-destructive thoughts which lead to roughly 11 suicides per 100,000 people each year in the United States (Stone, 304). It can include physical symptoms such as insomnia or, conversely, the need to sleep constantly. The one thing that all mental health care practitioners agree on is the point at which treatment is appropriate: as soon as the depression is so great that the afflicted person cannot function in their normal everyday lives. Of course, even this description is vague, because the term "cannot function" is very open to interpretation. A more specific and still accurate description is almost impossible, though, due to depression's great spread of causes and symptoms.
Yet, even in light of its crushing weight and the bleak view of the world that accompanies it, "one need not sound the false or inspirational note to stress the truth that depression is not the soul's annihilation; men and women who have recovered from the disease -- and they are countless -- bear witness to what is probably its only saving grace: it is conquerable." (Styron, 84) Though it can be an extremely debilitating disease, depression is quite treatable in our modern society. I am chiefly interested in the various methods available for said treatment.
Since the mid 18th century, depression has been treated fairly competently and reliably using the art of psychotherapy (Stone, 52). Psychotherapy consists of either individual or group sessions with a psychologist in which discussion is used to facilitate resolution of the emotional and psychological conflicts that both cause and accompany depression. However, the problem with this method is that much of the melancholia that plagues mankind stems not from external emotional trauma of the sort that responds best to psychotherapy, but instead from chemical imbalances within the human brain. For some people, the neurochemical balance is disrupted for biological reasons, probably related to genetics. In those patients who become severely depressed as a result of an identifiable tragedy or trauma that initial imbalance is not present, but as a result of their emotional distress, the balance is disrupted in the same way as for those with a biological imbalance. These imbalances were the reason that for many years depression could conquer souls with relative ease; once the ideal balance is disturbed, it is very hard to reverse this disruption naturally.
In the early 1950s, though, a new discovery drastically and permanently changed the way we view depression: drugs could reverse the disorder. These drugs were the basis for a new branch of psychology called psychopharmacology. This field deals with the effects of all the psychoactive drugs -- drugs that affect the mind and its processes. Today, these medications are commonplace. Almost everyone knows the name of at least one: Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Xanax. They have become an instrumental and widespread method of treatment, completely replacing therapy for many patients. The appropriate balance between the two is an extremely important issue -- one that often makes the difference in length of necessary treatment, expense, and potential for relapse in the future.
The psychotropics' current status as "miracle drugs" means that their use should be examined more carefully than when they were highly controlled substances affecting only a small number of extremely ill people. As we develop ever more effective drugs that have fewer negative side effects, their availability will continue to increase. Also, as we become more comfortable with their use, they will be prescribed increasingly often. Already, medications that were once only for depression are being prescribed for a diverse range of maladies, including obsessive compulsive disorder, kleptomania, and bulemia. This tendency towards more medication seems to point towards a dystopic society where our every mood would be controlled by medication -- where any sort of emotion outside of the accepted social norms would be quickly taken care of with a pill. Our current society is in theory far from such a state. However, it will be easy to slip into this homogenizing mode of thought unless we more carefully evaluate our motivations for and the results of medicating moods.
There are four families of antidepressants on the market today: the Tricyclics, the Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), the Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), and a group containing the unique antidepressants.
The first antidepressant discovered was Iproniazid, which is a member of the MAOI family. Its discovery in 1952 was mostly accident: Iproniazid was initially a drug given to tuberculosis patients for its abilities to kill tubercule bacilli, though doctors soon noticed that it seemed to increase patients' feelings of well-being as well as helping to cure their disease. In 1952, Nathan Kline released a report that supported the theory of its potential for use as an antidepressant (Kramer, 47-48 and Stone, 189). However, despite its early promise, Iproniazid had so many side effects that it never truly caught on. Instead, it was imipramine, a member of the tricyclic family, that took that honor. In 1957 Roland Kuhn announced the results of his experiments with the drug, and even though the initial response to it was rather skeptical, "worldwide studies quickly confirmed the value of imipramine for the treatment of depression." (Barondes, 104) Imipramine remains one of the major medications in use today.
All of the antidepressants available today function by manipulating neurotransmitter levels in the neural synapses in the brain. We think that emotions are regulated and influenced primarily by the levels of several key neurotransmitters: the catecholamines (which include dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine), serotonin, and acetylcholine. Different antidepressants function by inhibiting the normal cycle of neurotransmitter release and re-uptake at different steps in order to change the overall level. In the synapses of those with depression, the levels of these neurotransmitters are usually below normal levels, so the intended effect is to increase their numbers to a more acceptable level (Restak, 183).
Iproniazid, as a member of the MAOI family, acts upon the monoamines in the synapse. Normally, the function of the monoamines is to chemically break down the dopamine once it has been used. The MAOIs block this process, so that dopamine is no longer being broken down and removed from the cycle, thus increasing its concentration. Imipramine, a tricyclic, functions at the other end of the cycle, affecting the re-uptake of the dopamine. In the normal cycle, a neurotransmitter is released from one neuron and travels through the synaptic cleft to another neuron, where a specialized transporter captures it and returns it to the synapse, ready to be rereleased so that it can restart its cycle. The tricyclics block the transporter so that the dopamine remains in the synaptic cleft, where it is needed (Restak, 183).
While these early drugs were quite effective at the job they were intended for, they complicated matters by affecting too wide of a range of neurotransmitters, which seems to be behind the sometimes extreme side effects of their usage. With effective medications safely in use, doctors began to look for drugs that would target only one of the neurotransmitters, instead of all of them. Because serotonin seemed to be one of the most powerful and important neurotransmitters, they focused their efforts there. In 1974, the research efforts of David Wong and Bryan Molloy were rewarded by the discovery of fluoxetine hydrochloride -- brand name Prozac, the first of the SSRIs. Their discovery was extremely important, because the SSRIs strongly affect serotonin levels while leaving the rest of the neurotransmitters essentially unaffected (Kramer, 60-63). This has the effect of reducing many side effects, which is a very important factor in drugs that can so strongly affect both mind and body.
The success stories of patients on medication are striking. "I no longer experienced an ever present panic, which I had for years. I had often felt worried, panicked, all of the time. As if there was some impending doom. I realized, [approximately] 3 weeks after taking [Paxil], that this was gone," one young woman explained (*****). Another patient, taking Prozac, observed: "I just feel strong. I feel resilient. I feel confident. I can get bombarded and still feel in one piece. I no longer lack resolve when it comes to the children. This is who I am." (Kramer, 219) Most patients emphasize that it's not just the medication that helps them move on from their depression, though. There are a scattered few for whom depression is purely chemical, so that once they are on medication they truly are completely capable of functioning normally without additional help. However, for most the chemical depression is tied in with personal emotional troubles as well. "Even if one's symptoms are greatly alleviated with the appropriate drug, there are usually residual issues that should be addressed," warns one psychiatrist (Travis). It is for this second category, the majority of those who suffer from depression, that the balance between psychotherapy and medication become a crucial issue.
Since the goal of all treatment for depression is the soothing and repairing of the troubled mind, it seems that psychotherapy, which translates literally as "the science of healing the mind," has to be a part of any mental treatment (Stone, 319). Almost all psychiatrists are adamant that their patients experience some level of therapy while on medication. This therapy can range from monthly checkups that are more accurately described as medication reviews than therapy to hour long sessions several times a week. The more expanded version of therapy is regularly chosen in several types of cases. First, when the patient was in therapy prior to beginning medication, that therapy is almost always continued. The rest of the guidelines are somewhat more vague, since they must be tempered to individual needs. However, the US Government has put together a set of conditions for which combination treatment is suggested: "The prior course of illness is chronic or characterized by poor interepisode recovery. Either treatment alone has been only partially effective. The patient has a history of chronic psychosocial problems, both in and out of episodes of major depression." (Dept. of Health, 87-88)
Besides the obvious case of those who don't respond well to only one type of treatment, the federal recommendations cover two main groups of people: those dealing with psychosocial difficulties such as "pessimism, low self-esteem, or marital difficulties" (Dept. of Health, 89) and patients who suffer from recurring depression. In theory, these patients return to their depressed states once they stop taking medication because of some underlying cause that is perhaps psychological rather than chemical. In these cases the depression almost always resurfaces immediately once it is not being actively blocked by the medications. Hopefully, by blocking these patients' immediate symptoms with medication and then adding therapy, the root cause of the depression can be discovered and solved.
The final group of people that most psychiatrists like to keep in combination treatment are those who are actively suicidal. Their motivation in these cases is twofold. First, it takes a while for the medications to begin to take effect and attention at that time is critical in terms of keeping the patient alive. Second, depression extended to the point of suicide more often than not has serious non-chemical roots which need to be addressed.
Even beyond these specific categories, many psychiatrists are most comfortable with continuing therapy unless there is a compelling reason not to. Their main line of reasoning for this is that the medications, more than fixing all the problems of the patient, give them relief from the acute symptoms of depression. Once the immediate torture of the disorder is eased, many patients find that they have the relative clarity and peace of mind to work with a therapist to find and work on the issues that triggered the depression in the first place. The particularly notable part of this is that the majority of such patients have little or no success in therapy before they begin medication. "It wasn't until I was on medication that I could start dealing with the emotional issues," explains one woman. "Psychotherapy has helped me tremendously, but had the therapy preceded the medication, I'd have been on the couch for the rest of my life." (Whybrow, 195) Another young woman put it this way: "I firmly believe that my panic and my worst depression [were] alleviated by Paxil. However, I am of the equally firm belief that even if I no longer panicked or was no longer overwhelmingly depressed, without therapy, I would [have continued] 'thinking wrong' and I wouldn't have really gotten better." (*****) Hopefully, through therapy, this pattern of "thinking wrong" can be reversed, leading to complete healing.
Of course, while people like ***** are completely willing to undergo therapy even when their noticeable symptoms fade, not all depressed people feel the same way. There are an almost disturbing number of people who, once they feel that the medication has returned them to "normal," decide that their problems are over and that they therefore have nothing to talk about with a therapist. This is the more worrisome trend. One doctor warns: "If [a] woman has anxiety or depression based on hidden wounds, we might conceivably worry about medication as a form of collusion with her traumatic history: we would want to help her gain awareness of her past." (Whybrow, 261) The issue in this sort of case is that the woman may go on medication, and since the causes are "hidden," once the surface symptoms disappear, no one may be aware that her depression sprang from a deep internal wound. As soon as she stops taking medication, though, the depression will immediately reemerge, because rather than being healed it was merely covered up. There is always the possibility that she will choose to stay on medication for the rest of her life and remain happy on it, never realizing that rather than being purely chemical, her depression had legitimate roots. This is one of the great debates surrounding the use of medications: if people are happy on them, why bother to force them into therapy, where they will have to address traumatic issues, when they were content with leaving such issues alone?
The opinion of our society seems increasingly to favor not forcing anyone to really deal with their troubles, but to take the quick fix that medication offers. A good measure of our change in attitude towards these medications is found in the number of people who take them. Prozac -- "the world's most often prescribed branded antidepressant" -- is currently being taken as a daily medication by over 28 million patients (Eli Lilly & Co). When we consider that in 1975, about 20 million prescriptions were written for all antidepressants combined (Schrag, 35) and that Prozac is estimated to make up about 35% of the market, it is immediately obvious that in the past twenty years the number of pills consumed has grown tremendously.
There are several facets to this growth in the consumption of psychotropic medications. One is the issue of who is filling out the prescriptions for their use. When the drugs were first released, they were highly controlled substances used only on patients in mental hospitals. However, by 1987 only 20% or fewer depressed patients were treated in mental health facilities (Dept. of Health, 10). Only about 50% of the prescriptions are even handled by mental health care professionals such as psychiatrists. The rest of the prescriptions are handled by family physicians and general health care practitioners who do not need to have any psychiatric training in order to distribute these medications (Cervantes). Since people don't have to go to the trouble and expense of making a separate appointment with a new doctor, but can instead ask their regular doctor for medications, more people are willing to seek such treatment. This change also influences the therapy issue, since the majority of the patients who receive medications from their family doctor are not required or even encouraged to seek therapy in most cases, which means that most of them don't.
Another significant growth factor involves the changes in the medications themselves. The tricyclic antidepressants, such as Imipramine, Elavil, and Anafranil, have always had a fairly long list of side effects, including dry mouth, constipation, sedation, low blood pressure, and weight gain. The MAOIs, such as Nardil and Parnate, have a more serious roster of side effects, such as significant rise in blood pressure and nausea. There is also a long list of foods and drugs that can be fatal while on MAOIs, such as cheese, chocolate, and simple cold medicines (Whybrow, 262-265). This range of complications meant that taking antidepressants was less desirable and doctors were less inclined to prescribe it, reserving their use for more extreme cases. One psychoanalyst even refrained almost completely from such prescriptions, because "merely listing the side effect of the tricyclics interfered too much with the analysis. Patients would accuse [me] of hostility, of unconsciously wanting to poison them." (Kramer, 65) However, the SSRIs, such as Prozac and Paxil, because they operate only on one neurotransmitter instead of affecting a wide range of them, are considered "clean drugs" and have relatively minimal side effects. This is a very positive feature for many patients and doctors. "Because both patients and doctors [are] comfortable with Prozac's side effect profile, the medication [has come] to be prescribed... for less ill patients -- those heretofore treated with psychotherapy alone... Prozac turned out to be remarkably effective for certain 'penumbral' patients,... who are not densely depressed." (Kramer, 66) The lack of side effects is one of the major factors in the dramatic spread of antidepressant use. One problem with this factor is that it encourages a more lackadaisical attitude towards taking medication -- "it can't hurt me, it can only help, so why not?"
Further evidence that such a carefree attitude is, on the surface at least, warranted is that there are almost no reports of anyone whose depressive condition has suffered as a result of taking a SSRI. The only reported problems with medications involve the side effects, though even those are fairly minimal, as discussed above. Doctor John Cervantes confirms this trend with his experience: "Only very rarely [is] a patient's condition worsened by medication. Usually side effects are the limiting factors in a patient's response to meds." (Cervantes)
The first problem with casual use of these medications is that they are extremely powerful, possessing the ability not only to chase away shadows, but to completely change basic personalities. At first, stories of patients who feel "like new people" sound like wonderful optimistic and inspirational stories telling of the successful curing of a debilitating disorder. But when patients are truly and permanently transformed, it is somewhat unsettling. Prozac has been known to provoke a quick alteration in otherwise intractable problems of personality and social functioning, that allows patients to completely diverge from a lifetime of shyness or social insecurity to a completely self-confident and socially competent personality (Kramer, Chapter 4). Again, at first glance, this seems like a wholly positive transformation. Yet if that shyness was a central part of the person that defined who they are, it is not quite so positive. Is it possible that medication can "[iron] out too many character-giving wrinkles, like overly aggressive plastic surgery?" (Kramer, 239) By taking away every detail that doesn't fit with the social norm, is too much of the person, disturbed though they may be, removed as well? Some patients define their entire lives around their medication. One woman, after a few months on Prozac, casually announced to her therapist: "I've changed my name, you know... I call myself Ms. Prozac." (Kramer 11-13) Many prospective takers of medication over the years have worried about precisely this loss or change of self -- even if it's a change for the better -- because it seems very possible to lose the essence of who you are when the basic functioning of your brain is being changed.
Despite all of these worrisome factors, though, increasing dependence on antidepressants is a set fact in our society today. While once medication was a source for social stigmatization, today it is commonplace and almost unremarkable. Everyone can name someone in their immediate circle of family and friends who is taking Prozac or some other antidepressant. Their use has become part of pop culture -- bumper stickers read "Mean People Need Prozac," as if Prozac should be handed out by the bushel to anyone who doesn't fit the societal "happy, friendly person" standards.
At first glance, there is no agenda being propagated by our government to put Prozac in the water system, as some extreme conspiracy theorists have suggested. Yet the concept of a fully medicated society is not as far fetched as we might think. Even as far back as the late 60s, leaders at the National Institute for Mental Health, a government supported and run organization, discussed plans and hopes for "whole communities" that would be treated with medication, where the system "would treat the society... and not merely the individual citizens." (Schrag, 43) Though at the moment the figure for the number of Americans taking Prozac daily is only equivalent to the entire population of Orange County, that number is growing every day.
As long as we continue our current trend of moving away from interactive combination treatment to a more drive-through style of prescription, a future similar to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is not terribly unlikely. In his world, a drug that instantly makes a person happy and relaxed, known as soma, has been invented. This drug is standard issue for all citizens. While we'd like to think that the platitudes that his characters murmur while knocking back pill after pill -- "One cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments" or "A gramme is always better than a damn" -- are ridiculous to us, they are not far removed from our current mentality, where antidepressants are marketed in magazines, next to cigarette and liquor ads. At the moment, antidepressants still have a degree of separation from easy access for all, with some requirements for conjunctive therapy, but those requirements fade away more with each passing day. As one psychiatrist observes: "I feel that we are at risk of diminishing the impulse to delve inward and gain insights that help us lead the kinds of lives that we aspire to. Instead, we pop a pill and avoid the challenge." (Travis)
"I take one, one, one cuz you left me and two, two, two for my family and three, three, three for my heartache and four, four, four for my headache and five, five, five for my loneliness and six, six, six for my sorrow and seven, seven for no tomorrow and eight, eight i forget what eight was for and nine, nine, nine for a lost god and ten, ten, ten, ten for everything, everything, everything, everything....
1. Barondes, Samuel H. Molecules and Mental Illness. New York: Scientific American Library, 1993.
2. Cervantes, John D. M.D. Interview given May 4, 1998.
3. Eli Lilly & Company. Patient Information About Prozac. 1997.
4. Hausenfluke, Kevin. Interview given April 27, 1998.
5. Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper Perennial, 1932.
6. Jamison, Kay Redfield. An Unquiet Mind. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.
7. Jarvik, Murray E. "The Psychopharmacological Revolution." Readings in Psychology Today. Del Mar, CA: CRM Books, 1967.
8. Kramer, Peter D. Listening to Prozac. New York: Viking, 1993.
9. *****. Interview given May 2, 1998. [name removed by request]
10. Menninger, Karl. The Vital Balance. New York: The Viking Press, 1963.
11. Project Inform. "Psychoactive Drugs." The HIV Drug Book, 1995. Online. Available WWW: http://www.thebody.com/pinf/drugbkix.html.
12. Restak, Richard M. The Mind. London: Bantam Books, 1988.
13. Sandow, Neil. RxList - The Internet Drug Index, 1997. Online. Available WWW: http://www.rxlist.com.
14. Schrag, Peter. Mind Control. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.
15. Snyder, Soloman H. Treating Mental Illness. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.
16. Stone, Michael H. Healing the Mind. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1997.
17. Styron, William. Darkness Visible. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.
18. Travis, Alison. Interview given May 3, 1998.
19. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Depression in Primary Care: Volume 2. Treatment of Major Depression. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993.
20. Whybrow, Peter C. A Mood Apart. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 1997.
An ancient house, set atop a large hill, came into view as my mother drove slowly up the steep gravel road. Our destination was jealously guarded on all sides by some rugged maple trees, staggered about, with a few rhododendron bushes nearby. A picturesce picket fence with yellow, peeling paint enclosed all in and watched over the frail countance who inhabited the house. Inside, antiques filled the old house and kept the woman whom lived there company. This was not because the woman bought the elite items, but she'd simply owned them long enough for them to become such. I suppose that made her an antique, also.
The surroundings of her house seemed like the cemetary at times. The dark green grass grew thickly, and its moist scent was heavy in the air. An unnatural stillness clung there, like the house and everything surrounding it was trapped in a picture, unable to change. The rotting stairwell to her door sank gently, slanting into the soft, moist ground. If not for the huge brick retaining wall beyond her yard, the entire hillside that the neighborhood resided upon would slide away into the streets below.
A darkened sky spit down on us as we approached and its noise filled the car, effectively squelching any conversation. Each raindrop slammed itself against the hood of the car, louder than I had ever heard it. My mother pulled carefully into the driveway, and turned the car off. Her arms loaded with groceries, she walked dutifully up the cement path and into the house through the front door, leaving me to follow. I sat and waited in the car until I couldn't anymore. I should have went with her immediately. It wasn't like this visit was uncommon; It was actually a weekly occurance. There shouldn't have been any fuss. So I slammed the car door and walked up to the gate, opened it, and paused there, in front of that house.
I usually felt uncomfortable in the old woman's company because of her refinement. I unconsiously avoided these meetings, too ashamed of myself to see her. Her manners, her dignity, her grace contrasted sharply with my boyish composure and failed attempts at mimicking her delicate poise, her distinct carrige of herself. She effortlessly exuded an aura of warmth and sweetness. But while my uneasiness alienated me, it had no such affect on her. Every visit, she showered me with gracious smiles and politely genuine questions about my life.
I watched the rain fall, wishing to drown in the onslaught. I remember getting cold and ignoring the discomfort and I remember getting wet and forgetting how dryness felt so the wetness wouldn't matter. The rain pounded against me, in big drops, beading on my skin and running towards the earth. Frozen in place, I imagined it to be a few endless seconds, though it was truely hours. I suppose I must have been gripped by fear of her, for some reason unknown to me. Immobolized by some unrecognized force. All I was only aware of her presence inside that house, welcoming, as always.
It was me, not her, who made me uncomfortable, and I was vaguely aware of this at the time. For that I will never forgive myself. I allowed myself to weakly indulge in my fears, missing something in the process. She had a wealth of experinces and lessons, from which, years ago, I would have benefitted greatly. She loved the theatre, art, music, and because of that, her life was filled with meaning. Like a great oracle, her varied life lent her the ability to discern what was important, what knowledge she should impart on those around her. A ready teacher, but sadly without pupils. She rarely saw her own children; they had long grown up and forgotten her. No one to listen except her cats, and my mother and I on our weekly visits. So it was that my mother and I came to bring her the groceries she was too weak to shop for. But this time I didn't go inside.
I waited outside until my mother returned. I must have been an odd sight. Me, soaking wet, standing part way up the path. I didn't even realize she was there when she walked past me and to the car. She had to call out to get my attention. So then I climbed back in the car, without explanations given and was driven off, the rain again filling our ears and consuming us. I was glad for that.
In the weeks to follow, my mother never again asked me to go with her to visit the woman. Such was the style of my mother: she accepted change quietly and without justification. I gradually forgot that my mother even did this chore. In the months afterwards, it was only upon occasion that I remembered and a shameful guilt enwrapped me. It was always and easy feeling to push away though. A year or so later, the lady died before I saw her again. Her children didn't want her belongings and auctioned them off, and donated the money to the local arts. A few days before the funeral, my mother told me where it was to take place. I didn't go. I wish I had.
Again, I start too late. By this time of the morning, I'm usually getting ready for bed. The activity of the morning is going on around me, as Moonlight and Dad are getting ready for work. But a few lines, and then I will go off to bed, too.
First, I suppose some readers will wonder if I am pretending to have a social life. Well, two days after seeing Am., I suppose the book would say it was time to get into contact. So, this evening, I called, and she was out, so no one picked up the phone. As she is playing by the same rulebook, when she got home, she called me, so after we had established we had both tried to call each other, we could see that we were both on the same figurative page. So, that is dealt with.
Still no plans. I guess I should flip ahead and see if it is my obligation to proffer the next invitation. I have the excuse, since I already mentioned to her the show this weekend Hagbard is in. It is also playing the weekend after, but I intentionally did not mention that; we are now a week from when A. will be here, and I don't want to risk any overlapping plans at this point.
Despite the unusual expanse of two whole paragraphs, this is not a matter of too much interest. In other social events, I am also waiting for R.'s letter, and exchanging email with her, and waiting for A., so it is not as if there is any real emotional stake in the Am. thing. But, for record keeping purposes and the voyeuristic eyes of the thirtieth century crabs...
In more intellectual news -- if not too upbeat -- I made an effort to write an article for the special Gopher issue on religion, explaining why I am a Catholic. It makes sense to me, but whenever I begin writing, I get very depressed and generally can't go on. If I hadn't made extensive outlines over and over, I would probably have never finished the class article for the next State of unBeing. This one petered out after a page and a half.
And, as we drag ourselves further and further up the slope in our pathetic effort to make ourselves look like intellectuals, even if only to ourselves, we turn to what I have spent some time thinking about today. I'm afraid it wouldn't achieve the aforementioned purpose. For that, I should probably talk about the three or so pages in the newspaper about the crumbling infrastructure resulting in inadequate water and sewage just a county away from me, or talk about the reading I've been doing on the rich-poor gap and income tax reform in the eighties. Instead, I have been thinking about looks.
Rather, looksism. I internalized quite properly the sensitivity I was taught. You can't judge someone by their appearance, and so on. However, I am a bit less convinced. I suspect one can indeed tell things about people from their appearance. In some, relatively conscious ways, that is clear. People dress in cliquish ways, and so on. I have previously discussed this. I mean something more fundamental.
I think this was triggered by that book on Narcissism. [Narcissism, by Alexander Lowen] (Incidentally, until I read that book I hadn't known "seduce" had a negative moral tag to it. Having read the book, I gather an element of fraud is involved in seduction. I had always considered fraud to prevent an individual from being able to make an adequate judgment, therefore being incapable of consent, and therefore what he appeared to be saying is meant by "seduction" was simply "rape" in my apparently inadequate vocabulary. But this is far from what I was going to write about.) This book -- as is to be expected, having been written by a student of Reich -- spent a bit on the body. Through stance and body form, for example, he could gain some diagnostic information. This was not the immediate trigger, but looking back, reading this certainly set the stage for what I was considering today.
More relevant was my thoughts on body form. Or rather stance. It is hard for me to tell which. I had noticed that some people reminded me of others. No great breakthrough there. But then I would look closer, and try to tell why. It seemed that I could observe in people not just one thing that would remind me of another, but a cluster that would be repeated. Some of it was intentional -- hair style, for example, and dress style. Some of it I presume was subconscious, being especially the way they would sit, walk, and carry themselves. This is what I mean by "stance."
If these elements were equally distributed -- if I would see people who held themselves in one way, but didn't dress according to expectations, for example, or if they would hold themselves in one way but contradict it in their facial features, by which I of course mean the way they hold their face -- I could dismiss it. Or if it was just a hint, rather than a clear feeling that these people were appearing in the same way, it could be mere coincidence. I didn't get that feeling, though. When I would look at them, I could see very well they were not the same people, and I would even think they shared little physically in common. When I looked at the whole picture, though, and took my impressions without trying to find specific details, though, I would see it, and the features that made it up would achieve a feeling more than the sum of their analytic parts.
This seemed to contradict what I spoke of before. "You can't judge a book by its cover" and similar cliches are very much a part of my mindset. I rebel against the idea of determining things about a person based on their appearance, and would rather be disliked because of my appearance than liked because of it, because I feel that any good in my appearance is nothing I can take credit for, while I consider it less unfair to be punished for something I didn't do. I can alleve some of my moral resistance by saying I am looking at trends, at tendencies, rather than at determinants. African Americans tend to vote Democrat, for example. That is a statistical trend, and not a judgment call; it allows for the Shelby Steeles. But even so, I hesitate.
I am not saying I hesitate, though, because I think it is not true. The data seem to indicate that it is, and it does make sense within Reichian assumptions. (Some of which I believe; enough of which I believe to make this trend believable.) I keep emphasizing my resistance because I experience it. It is my experience, and therefore valid. I accept it, and I think I understand it, and I acknowledge it. Having done so, I try to move past it.
Because I think there is something here. But I don't know what. I am grasping at straws. Body stance might be because of neuromuscular tensions. That makes a lot of objective sense, and is testable. It does not require looking for some kind of aura or psychic fields, and seems to explain the available data. Why then do I have such trouble emotionally accepting it? That is a question I can't answer.
Anyway, there is another thing I think is holding me up. I seem to see some trends as being not due to individual choice, or even individual experience. It makes perfect sense that one's sexual pattern will be visible; I really doubt very many people can deny that. And so it makes sense that people who have had certain traumatic sexual experiences will also have similar body stances. (Again, not a determinant, but a trend, and it certainly makes sense to believe that emotional healing would be reflected also.) This is individual, and I have less trouble accepting that this shows on the outside.
It seems less acceptable, though, that socioeconomic background and racial make up would effect one's body stance -- because I consider body stance to be probably a result of neuromuscular tensions. Well, I suppose that isn't quite true, either. Certain socioeconomic conditions would I presume result in certain similar emotional stresses, which would then be reflected as similar neuromuscular tensions. I suppose certain racial groups would also have similar social and emotional tensions as a result of our society, and one would have to examine other societies to determine what was racially determined and what was socially determined -- and a great deal more research would have to be engaged in to determine what was a result of the interaction between the two.
This specific concern is because of a girl in my class. I don't know her to be a Jewess, but I noticed that she had a similar stance to many Jewesses I have known, and which I do not recall seeing in people I knew to be of other racial types. Despite my efforts to be able to move in and out of racial prejudice at will -- or rather to overcome the anti-racist prejudice -- I still have an emotional resistance to things that smack of racism and anti-Semitism. I suppose that has resulted in another emotional resistance to accepting this as a possible fact. Then again, I don't know that it should, since the two distinct body types I noticed before the Jewess one were both White in all the examples I know the racial make up of.
Looking back, I suppose this will say more about me than anything about neuromuscular tensions. Spending more than two pages on this probably makes me look rather neurotic. But I have been thinking about it for some time now, and suppose I felt the need to get some of the thoughts out. Which I have done. I guess I'll do some reading and then go to bed. I do, after all, have class today.
I am too old. I don't mean too old for anything, of course. I could still write the great American novel, or become an Italian fashion designer, or the heavyweight champion of the world, or maybe even Queen of Brazil, with a little surgery and some political upheaval. When I tell people I'm too old they brush it aside because that is what they think of: There are still things I can do.
I am too old for another reason, one which has more to do with being. I happen to think I am too old to be happy. The things I can think of that might make me happy tend to be things I consider behind me.
I suppose what this comes down to is I think I might be happy with a girl, but I think I'm too old to have a love relationship of the kind I mean, the kind I used to think about and write about but no longer do -- because I am too old.
It seems to me high schoolers, that age range, love, or experience what they consider love, in a very different way from the old people I'm around. I imagine there are a lot of old people in high school, too, and more every day. But I don't seem to see the young people past that age. I don't consider it possible or acceptable to try to have a relationship with someone in that emotional range, but when I think about it, I think that could have made me happy. Once. When I was younger.
I went to sleep this afternoon, and I was awoken for supper. That was about three hours of sleep. After supper I tried to sleep again. That was hell. I wasn't exhausted enough to just nod off. I tossed and turned in a feverish delirium, asleep and awake at the same time, tormented by violent and sexual dreams or fantasies, which I was in and observing and separate from all at the same time. I couldn't take it. My eyes still burning and my mind still bleary I dragged myself up and started reading again. Now I feel completely refreshed, but I imagine it must be some kind of illusion.
I was trying to read --
No, I left something out. Above. It seemed a little stupid. It still does, but only for those of you who have to experience me in words. I don't like to admit it, but I can experience me -- fleetingly, painfully -- in other ways. There is a taste, that I associate with happiness. The taste of a girl. The taste I think of as a girl in love. But, and this might not seem to make sense, I am not being obscene. It is a powder, a cosmetic, I think. This is not a dehumanizing denial of the natural woman by forcing her to paint her face, because this is a taste. A taste. It has nothing to do with make up. There is a smell, too. I know what I am doing. I am synesthetically accessing memory-experiences of times when I was happy, and these have become associated with uncommon sensory triggers, in this case the taste and presumably the smell of cosmetics in close quarters. But, you know what? This is one of those times when knowing doesn't make a damn bit of difference -- the experience remains the same.
Now, I will go on.
I was trying to read The Epic of Gilgamesh. I borrowed a copy from Moonlight. It is a half-century old translation. It translates all the "naughty bits" into Latin. This is not too much of an inconvenience, since I expect I will be able to follow the story missing the occasional line of verse, but I found it very funny. I had read about this before, that the prudishness of former ages led translators to be so embarrassed about the subject matter that they translated portions into Latin. But I don't recall ever experiencing it before. Anyway, I left it off, and I've been reading about shamanism since. That involves lengthy passages in French -- and occasional in German -- but apparently nothing vital.
And now I suppose I'll go back to it. Later.
Incidentally, not a word from A. When she told me when she would be in town, she said August. Every time. But I am informationally quick, and I chatted with her about her program, and so knew she was going to be in the state July 23. She knew I knew, because I pointed out that I knew the last time she tried to tell me August. I suppose, though, she is in Dallas, and didn't want to tell me July 23 because she knew she would not be in town and I would be thinking about her if I knew she was in the state. Well, as the scholars say, "fuck it. I'm going to go study."
Why can't I sleep? It isn't that I'm not tired. My eyes are burning. I've been up about twelve hours since my three hour nap, and I'd been up all night the night before. I feel tired. Not exhausted, but tired. But I can't sleep.
I've been laying in bed for two hours, staring at the ceiling. Haven't been plagued with visions or anything, like the nightmares the day before, the last time I tried to sleep. Just laying there. I can only do that so long; I keep remembering and thinking, and that never leads to good.
Tried reading brain candy. I'm reading another Sweet Valley High book [number 59: In Love Again], when I'm trying to relax. I like reading about happy people. I like the thought that somewhere there are happy people. I guess it makes me think that someday perhaps I, too, could be happy, or at least that there are people in the world who aren't in agony.
Sometimes the books do get irritating. They are not dark at all, and they seem a little campy in their naivete. But part of reading is the suspension of disbelief. I can accept the premise that somewhere there are people like this, or perhaps that there used to be. And they do hit resonances of people I did know, even if the people I knew were darker, dirtier, realer.
And then there is another level. I know this probably sounds crazy, but I spend a lot of time on another level of my mind, one of the ones that are not needed to follow the complexities of plot, following the sociopolitical landscape of Sweet Valley. They have a class conscious society, of sorts, but it is entirely bourgeois. In tone, of course. By profession, I suppose the parents of the twins are petite-bourgeois. But not only can they afford nice cars and to buy clothes whenever they like, in this particular volume the choice between going to the exclusive private school or the public school -- or even going to private school in Europe -- rests with the children, not the bank book. I know there are people in the town that are not wealthy, and they are generally shown in a quite unsympathetic light, when they are shown at all. In the strata of texts I'm reading now, it is between the upper middle class and the lower upper class.
This dynamic I find believable, since I know there are communities like this. A couple of years back I might not have, but today I do. The squeaky clean atmosphere, however, is a little less believable. The upper class tends to have less morality than the bourgeois -- but even this is reflected, come to think of it. Concentrating on the twins gives a rather skewed, bourgeois view of the world. (Suitable, incidentally, to children's books; it's a very reactionary worldview.)
I remember when I started this book, they were talking about the problems of large class size in public schools. Since this is a pop culture text, I could be sure it was thus not a futurist view of the world, but they were commenting on a banality. I remember thinking, "Ah, I suppose this book is from the late eighties." Sure enough, it is copyright 1989.
Man, that's a lot about brain candy. I think I intellectually engage Sweet Valley High more than I intellectually engage some of the more scholarly works I read. I suppose that's good; I get some relaxation without utter waste of time. I suppose it would be more useful if I was reading current texts instead of decade old brain candy. That's a good way to make yourself sick. But one deals; I got this book very cheap.
And anyway, I felt by about sunrise I deserved a break from trying to read French translations of Arabic books.
I think I like these books because I like kids. I read other books about them, but realistic books, of course, show them in pain. These books show them in melodramas, where one can pretend they are in pain, and pretend they get out of the situation, and everyone is amused. It allows me the emotional charge of hanging out with kids without the legal charge. I suppose.
But I am still tense. I still can't sleep. And I am still depressed -- or I would be if I was feeling anything. I suppose I'll go back to pretending to sleep. I want to get some sleep before class. Sleeping three hours over the weekend cannot be good for the grades, and if I don't pass this, I don't graduate. So, I sign off, yet again.
"The poets? They stink. They write badly. They're idiots you see, because the strong people don't write poetry.... They become hitmen for the Mafia. The good people do the serious jobs."
Life is everything you to take for granted Between orgasms. Life is everything You feel while sleeping. Life is everything You take from your mother and father and take From your friends. Life is everything Your teachers do not tell you. Life is every- Thing you fear and lust for. Life is wearing Red, the blood red of human charity. Life is waking to find everyone is still Asleep, beside you, for ever. Life is dawn noon and dusk; ephemeral And sleeping.
He shrugs the cannon down towards the sand The tides are receding as the moon a barren darkening moon rises and casts reflecting light on sands and waters no longer swelling beneath its cast Look what rifts the cannon in its wake leaves! Look what timeless chasms! (Though they close in, though they close in) The earth, this beach, would bleed beneath its weight but it can't! It never could. I don't think it ever could...... And what blind flagging strength the Titan turns Left shiftless as the dwindling ocean it can no longer see. The light is failing, failing, my friends, And so is He. And so night has fallen And what darkness visible in blindness or death Is left for the moon or for he?
"I think most men like shiny cars, shiny knives, and shiny girls," Veronica explained to me as I stared boredly at the end of my unlit cigarette. "If you've got an eye-candy body and a few toys to play with, you can have any man in the world."
Veronica was sixteen and lived with her parents two blocks away from my house. We had met earlier that summer when she was looking for lawns to mow. Being thirty-five and single, I couldn't resist having a young girl in a tanktop and shorts getting sweaty in my lawn. She was strictly hands off, of course, but I paid her double her asking price.
"Flash isn't everything a man wants," I replied, lighting my cigarette and inhaling. "Find a guy who'll have curbside chats like this and you'll have it made."
She leaned back, putting her hands in the freshly mowed grass, and stretched her tanned legs into the street. I offered to get her another glass of water, but she declined.
"You seem to know an awful lot about this type of thing," Veronica said. "How come there isn't a Mrs. Mitchum?"
"Because I'm destined to be alone," I answered.
"Come on, that's so negative. You're a swell guy, you make good money, and you're not bad looking. Aside from your smoking, you've got lots of good qualities."
"It's not as simple as that, Veronica."
"For me, the issues are different. I'm not sure I really ever wanted love."
I took a final drag off of the cigarette and flicked it into the street. Veronica stared at me quizically as I exhaled.
"How could you not want love?" she asked.
"It didn't work for me in the past. Love isn't always enough for some people, and it took me a long time to realize that."
"That soulds like a pretty dysfunctional attitude to me."
"You're probably right."
Veronica stood up and said that she had to get home. I paid her and watched her walk down the street. The sun was barely above the treetops, and after a few moments a shiny car drove past, catching my reflection on its door.
(Note to the reader: This story is the 141st in the famous but now defunct "Alex the Werewolf" series.--XL, Editor-in-chief)
Nicky the ghoul felt like howling for joy. The scent of blood hung like a thick cloud in the air about him as he, Alex, and Lisa drove hell-bent for leather through the Southern California desert towards Las Vegas. The blood-scent clung to them all like some wild animal perfume, intoxicating Nicky. Having just participated in the most spectacular thrill-kill of his life, Nicky felt as if he would never die.
It was a full-moon night, around three am late in August of '92. They were traveling in Alex's '86 blue Ford convertible on the I-5 just east of Baker, California. Lisa, Nicky's gorgeous stacked blonde girlfriend who made her money performing in nude bars in the Southwest, sat in the middle between the two men. She had placed her hand, with its beautiful blood-red fingernails, between Nicky's leg, gently massaging Nicky's manhood into ecstatic hardness. Life was good for Nicky the ghoul, and Vegas was only an hour away.
As Alex drove, Nicky gazed upward, watching the meteors lighting up the clear night sky in glorious reds, yellows, greens, and blues. For Nicky, this was a blood-sacred moment, partially spoiled only by the '40's swing music which Alex insisted on playing on his stereo. Nicky could still taste the flesh and blood from the recent carnage. He put his arm around his girlfriend Lisa, who had not yet become a world famous porn queen.
On this particular meteor-filled night, responding as well to the thrill of the kill, Lisa had removed her top so that she could feel the night air moving against her wonderful breasts. Over her right breast, she bore the tattoo of a dark rose that Alex had given her last Christmas. Both nipples bore the simple golden rings that Nicky had bought for her when the two of them had started living together in Vegas five years ago.
Nicky smacked his lips in crude, bestial satisfaction and looked over at Alex, his best friend. Unbelievably, Alex was a werewolf. In a normal situation, when he wasn't giving in to the blood-call of the full moon, Alex did not look very imposing. Right now, in fact, Alex was snapping his fingers to Benny Goodman, and Nicky was reminded of how much he disliked his friend's taste in music. Inspite of Nicky's protestations, Alex would never play Rush, Aerosmith, or Van Halen. Alex, Nicky thought to himself, has always been your basic nerd.
Nicky thought back to high school graduation. Since graduating from high school eight years before, Alex had steadily worn wire-rimmed glasses, still had a slight anemic build (the kind that invited people to kick sand in his face, in fact), loved to discuss Conrad, Pynchon, and Nabakov with anyone who would listen, and if left to his own devices would select totally mismatching clothes to wear, like bright yellow socks, blue slacks, and a pink shirt. Nicky cringed as he examined his friend: tonight, Alex wore a red California Angels T-shirt, green shorts, and blue socks. "Ya look like a fuckin' Christmas tree light," Nicky had said earlier. Alex's choice of clothes, colors and music occasionally so outraged Nicky (who incidentally tried to dress in the style of a Las Vegas mobster, long an extinct breed) that Nicky was sometimes tempted not to be seen with his friend.
On this night, Alex, Lisa and Nicky had driven from Malibu where, four hours ago, they had watched Lisa perform wildly, beautifully, exotically with her pet snake Leopold on the stage at Stinky Pete's nude bar, her last performance in a fantastic engagement that had lasted for two weeks. Though she had received a glowing write-up in the most recent issue of Boobs magazine, Lisa had made only a few insignificant appearances in some adult films.
Nicky remembered the evening with excitement. At around 9:30, when Lisa was going into the final part of her routine, Alex and Nicky were sitting at a table way in the back of Stinky Pete's. Both men smoked incessantly, a kind of preparation for an eternity to be spent in the fiery pit, and smoke swirled continually in a blue cloud around their table. Alex was working on his third or fourth Bloody Mary, and Alex had drunk about eight Tequila Sunrises. Two of Stinky Pete's strippers, Magic and Amber, were sitting with them, drinking and smoking as well. Nicky had bought them drinks throughout the evening as he and Alex waited for and then watched Lisa's routine.
As they sat drinking at table in the back of Stinky Pete's, Nicky watched Alex and still couldn't reconcile his friend's present mild demeanor with the savage, insane ferocity Alex displayed when he turned into a werewolf. (Nicky wondered if therapy would help merge his friend's disparate and obviously alternate personalities.) Alex sat, almost timidly nursing his drink, talking to the raven-haired Amber about Shakespeare, Dostoevsky and Joseph Conrad -- after all, Alex had gotten his masters in English literature from Princeton -- and Amber sat there, her face two inches from Alex's, her hand on his lap, saying things like, "That's fascinating" and "Wow" and "I didn't know that." Even when Amber did a lap dance for him, Alex talked nothing but literature. "Oh, the horror, the horror," Alex said over and over again, waxing Conradian, as Amber rode his bone. Amber just chuckled and just said, "Alex, you sure are darned smart."
Nicky could have puked at this remark, but he remembered that Lisa was very fond of Amber, who was studying color design at a local community college, so he kept his mouth shut. Instead, as Lisa went through her routine on the stage, Alex turned to Magic, a former cheerleader who had gone to high school with him and Alex and whom Nicky had known for years, and asked her to give him another lap dance. Because she still had a crush on him, Magic gave the horny ghoul a great, great performance; as Alex commented to Nicky later, it was like watching the two of them having intercourse right out there in front of everybody in the place.
But Nicky didn't care if Lisa didn't care. Sometimes, in the middle of her act (tonight, for instance), she hopped down off the stage, not a stitch on, walked over to some overweight, balding, middle aged business type wearing a suit and a tie, opened up his fly, took out his pecker, and, if the guy was hard, whacked him off for five to fifteen minutes, depending on how the guy acted.
When Lisa got to the final part of her act where she worked with the her snake Rosebud, almost every man in the place was on his feet, panting, shouting, howling, asking for more. It was something most of them had never seen, only dreamt about. "The things this girl can make her snake do," one lady at an adjacent table had commented to her boyfriend, "are delightfully obscene." But Nicky had seen the snake part hundreds of times, and even enjoyed it: he liked to imagine that he was the snake, crawling up inside this beautiful blonde dancer in front of one to two hundred horny and drunk men. Something of a purist to the end, however, Alex didn't like the snake-act.
This night, in fact, Alex had stood up, walked over to Nicky so that he was inches away from his friend's ear, and said, "Nicky, I just don't get it."
Clapping and whistling for his baby, just like everyone else, Nicky asked, "What dontcha get, Alex?" Nicky knew that he and Alex had had this conversation at least a dozen times before.
"Well," Alex began cautiously, "I have considered this matter before and, well, how do you and Lisa do it, you know, Othello's "beast with two backs," the camel with two humps, after you've seen her do all those tricks with Leopold?"
"I don't follow ya, pal," the ghoul said, wishing Alex would sit down and shut up so he could enjoy the final part of his girl's act. "Like do what?" Nicky asked, annoyed but trying not to show it. He knew exactly what Alex was getting at.
"OK," Alex began, "after she actually has had our jungle friend inside her, how can you and Lisa make love?" No one, thought Nicky to himself, ever said "make love" any more except morons. Sometimes he wondered about Alex.
"I don't think about it," Nicky said abruptly, looking at Alex, getting a bit pissed, "Why the fuck should I? If anything, I'm thinkin' about how good it feels to be inside Lisa is all. Anyway, the snake's an act, Alex. It don't mean shit. It's like when she used to do that shit with a mule in Mexico." Alex recalled the stories Lisa told about the six months she had danced down in Tijuana, her accompaniment on stage a mule. It was in that bar that Nicky had met and fallen in love with Lisa, in fact. "It was a job," Lisa had commented. "I kinda enjoyed it at times."
"Well, I'm with Alex on this one," Amber piped up in a loud voice from behind the men. She and Magic were still sitting down. "I think you're totally screwed up, Nicky. Nothin' against you an' Lisa...."
"Who asked you, anyway?" Nicky growled at Amber. He looked for approval from Magic, who was glaring at him too. Fuck both of these bitches, Nicky thought to himself. I'll never figure women out. Nicky knew what was right.
When Lisa's act finished, every male in the house must have remained standing for at least ten minutes, demanding an encore, which Nicky knew would never come. Lisa's attitude was that you never give anyone anything extra because, if you do, you're really setting yourself up to be fucked royally. Lisa got paid $500 for the show, and that was it, over and done with, let's head for home.
When Lisa left the stage and everyone sat down, Alex, Nicky, and the two dancers sat in silence, waiting for Lisa to come out and join them. Nicky worked on another drink, and as Alex and the two girls started mumbling together he looked over at the next table right next where five or six young men from a local church softball team, each with a dancer on his lap, were talking and laughing about Lisa's act. They were saying some pretty wicked things.
"I wonder what else ole pussy wonder does?" the big one, with short red hair and bushy sideburns and a huge belly asked everyone at the table. "Maybe a horse? A bull? A hippo?" Nicky figured this guy must be the catcher.
"I think that's all she can get," laughed the man right next to Red. This one was taller though not built so heavy. He had dark, slick backed hair, was dressed immaculately, and from the tone in his voice, obviously considered himself the leader. His jersey read "Captain Hank" on the back. "Who'd want to go to bed with something like the Snake Woman?" All the men laughed. Nicky registered to himself: they are calling my girl the snake woman. Brooding, Nicky slouched in his chair and slurped his drink.
"I think she needs a lot more tattoos," chimed in Red, taking a gigantic swig from his bottle of ale. "Wouldn't hurt that bitch. Only help." The other men laughed loudly but their girls, obviously some of the club's dancers, squirmed uncomfortably and hoped this would pass.
"That's her boyfriend right over there," said the dancer on Red's lap, pointing at Nicky, who was glaring at the big man. In a fight, Nicky knew, these young softball studs hadn't a chance in hell. Nicky honestly hoped it wouldn't have to come to that.
"Huh, huh, huh," said Red, trying to be the tough one, gazing at Nicky, "do you fuck her before or after the snake? Or do you even got a snake?" At this, Red grabbed his crotch and the other men laughed. Red picked up his ale from the table in front of him and guzzled. Nicky had counted about twenty empty bottles on the table.
Teeth clenched, Nicky had just risen from his chair when Lisa suddenly came running up, dressed in an orange T-shirt that read "Stinky Pete's" and baggy blue jeans. "Oooooh, Sweetcakes," she exclaimed, throwing her arms around Nicky and kissing him on the cheek, "how was it? Was I good?"
"You were great, baby, real fuckin' great," Nicky calmly assured her, keeping his eyes on the men at the next table. "You were the best, baby, the best."
A belligerent drunk, Red couldn't resist and putting his bottle of ale on his table grabbed the tall man sitting next to him and said, trying to imitate Lisa, "Oooooh Sweetcakes, can I kiss you, too?" Then, turning to Nicky, he asked, "What does it feel to be kissed by the Snake Lady, fella? Slimy and scaly??"
Nicky knew he had to ignore the insult and began escorting Lisa to the door. "Bye, girls," Nicky said over his shoulder to Amber and Magic, "it's been nice. C'mon, Alex." Nicky, Lisa, and Alex slowly made their way through the crowded room to the door, which was only twenty feet away from where they had been sitting.
"Hey!!" bellowed Red, staggering to his feet and following the three. "You ignoring me, you freaks?" Red began pushing his way through the crowd towards Nicky. Anger building, Nicky was close to losing it, to giving the spectators a bloody treat they'd remember to their dying days.
At that moment, always the gentleman and mediator, Alex stood his ground between Red and Nicky, put his hand on Red's chest, and in quick breaths that probably gave Red and his friends the impression Alex was afraid said, "Look, I am terribly, terribly sorry if there has been some sort of misunderstanding here. Terribly, terribly sorry. Now couldn't we just forget this and call it an evening. We don't want a fight. You don't want to fight. I mean, you guys represent our local church softball league, for goodness sakes. No fights, please. We were just...." The way Alex talked in these situations always embarrassed Nicky.
"Outa my way, queer," Red slurred loudly, giving Alex a push and then bringing his fist around straight towards Alex, who easily ducked the blow. Red's fist caught Lisa square in the mouth; and, her mouth now bloodied, Lisa began screaming.
"Outside, you red fuck," Nicky stopped and said coldly to the big man, who stood about six and a half feet tall. At six feet one inch tall, Nicky stared the big man in the eyes and Red wavered. Staring into the eyes of a ghoul was like staring straight into the pit of hell, and different people always saw their own worst fears as they looked into the eyes of a ghoul. Whatever Red saw, it temporarily scared him.
Red paused for an instant, long enough for Nicky to grab him by the shoulder and escort him easily to the door. As a ghoul, Nicky's strength was probably ten times that of Red or his friends. Red tried to take his arm back, but found he couldn't move in Nicky's vice like grip, which sent incredible pain coursing through the body like a million electrical pin-pricks.
"No, no, no, Nicky," Lisa blubbered, blood frothing from her mouth. She had a badly cut lip and was dabbing the blood with a napkin while trying to talk. "Remember two years ago, Nick, in Dallas?" Indeed he did. Nicky had gotten his man down and then, in front of all his friends and anyone else who cared to watch had literally torn his adversary's head from his trunk with his bare hands. Nicky had been forced to run from the law for a year and Lisa couldn't get a job dancing anywhere for one year.
So Nicky tried to relax as he looked away from Red and his friends and headed for the door. Seeing his girl bloodied, he wanted to kill Red and his buddies and then eat their flesh. Just as Nicky and his two friends were almost to the door, Red came up behind Alex, spun him around, and, administered a series of blows. Alex fell to the ground, obviously hurt.
When Alex picked himself up off the floor, bleeding profusely from the nose and sporting a huge gash over the right temple, Nicky could see the now insane fury in his friend's eyes. It was beginning. Nicky had to get them all outside, so he said, "All right, Red, outside now."
With a roar of approval, Red and his friends followed Nicky, Alex, and Lisa out the door and around to the side parking lot, which was protected from the freeway by a surrounding eight foot concrete wall that prevented anyone from seeing in.
In the "hole," as it was termed inside the club, Nicky turned and looked at Red, who had already removed his jacket and shirt. Red's fists were up, and possibly attempting to imitate Muhammed Ali he began dancing, bobbing, and weaving toward Nicky. Red's friends formed a circle behind him, almost as if they were daring anyone to leave. The only others to come outside were Amber and Magic, who had already made hundreds that night off Alex and Nicky.
"Uh, excuse me, you dumb fucking idiot," Nicky said to the pugilistic Red, holding up a hand, "it's not me you gonna fight. Nicky wanted this to be good. This big man and his friends needed to be taught a lesson they'd never forget. "It's him." And Nicky pointed next to where Alex stood, bleeding, saying nothing, panting feverishly, his eyes glowing red, his head forward, his arms and hands changing shape even as he stood. Blind to signals that were by now obvious to Lisa and Nicky, Red stepped forward and, with all of his might, hit Alex in the jaw. Alex was literally lifted off his feet and flew backwards for ten feet, crashing into some garbage cans before he hit the earth. Because some other garbage cans blocked the view, Alex was no longer visible.
"That'll teach you to fuck with me, kid!!" bellowed Red in the direction of the garbage cans. Red knew he'd won, a champion among the men at Stinky Pete's. Red's friends laughed uproariously, some patting the behemoth on the back. Then Red turned to Nicky, who had already thought out how he was going to get Red in a hammer-lock and then, quickly, pop this lumberjack's head off for his friends to see. Should be easy and fun, thought Nicky to himself.
Nicky approached the belligerent Red when he heard a trash can tip over. Nicky looked to the side, knew Alex was conscious, and heard the low guttural growl that spelled the beginning of the end for Red and his buddies.
"What the fuck is that?" whimpered Red, his voice quivering, unaware that he had about five minutes to live. "Is that you, little man?" he stupidly asked, looking toward the garbage can, expecting the bespectacled Alex to emerge.
When no answer came, Red relaxed a bit, probably imagining he had heard things.
"Well," challenged Red, laughing in the direction of the cans, trying to dispel the fear that had temporarily seized him, "I can't wait forever, you little pussy. Either come on out from behind those cans and take your licks or I put your friend here" -- he motioned towards Nicky with these words -- "in the fucking hospital." Red felt brave again.
You certainly had to admire this bozo's spunk, Nicky thought to himself.
Suddenly, a tremendous guttural scream shattered the night, seeming to come from somewhere above or below. Nicky could see the lurking shadow moving in the darkness between the walls and the garbage cans. He knew it was Alex, the Alex that most people never got a chance to know. Again, the thing screamed in rage, its deafening call rending the night.
In seconds, the beast-thing emerged slowly from the shadows, a huge wolf with silver and black fur, crouching sideways, creeping almost, watching its prey, the doomed Red. Saliva dripped from the snarling thing's jaws, and its huge razor-sharp teeth glistened in the moonlight. A low steady growl, like an engine, rumbled from its throat.
"Oh, my sweet, sweet Jesus," squeaked Red, visibly intimidated, "who brought the dog? That is a dog, isn't it."
Standing slightly behind Nicky, Lisa laughed. "That's no dog, you dodo," said Lisa in her curtsey voice. "That's Alex, the guy you just thought you knocked out. Alex, honey," Lisa said in a sing-song voice, approaching the beast-thing as you would a mangy and potentially dangerous dog, "come out, come out, come out to play." Having been witness to these terrifying spectacles before, Lisa was reasonably confident that the beast thing would not turn on her.
"What th-th-th-the hell is this?" wheezed Red, shaken, visibly trembling. Red sounded as if he were on the verge of an asthma attack. "Oh, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. He'p me, he'p me, he'p me, Lord. I wanna go home, boys," sobbed the man. At this, Red's partners began to back away, looking for the exit, which Nicky ran to and blocked. When the men looked into Nicky's flashing zombie eyes, they froze.
"What the hell this is," said Lisa, glad to have more than a few words to say, "is dinner-time for Alex. And us." Lisa pointed to the wolf. "Uh, by the way, big fella," she said, still giggling, as she looked back at Red and his friends, "you better run. Prayin' won't save your skin now."
Red turned to begin his sprint to freedom when the beast-thing sprang, grabbing one of the man's fat legs and, tearing the trousers, easily pulling the big man down and dragging him backwards. Red was screaming like a little child.
In an instant, the tall man Hank sprang forward, stupid and brave, withdrew a huge hunting knife, and positioned himself in front of the snarling thing. The beast dropped Red's now bloodied and separated leg, circled quickly to the left, to the right, crouched, and then sprang quick as dark light, grabbing the man's neck in its powerful jaws and flipping Hank's severed head backwards and over the wall of the "hole." The captain of the church softball team never had a chance, Nicky chuckled to himself, never even saw the thing spring. Nicky watched the tall man, now headless, stagger about for a second or two before falling forward in an explosion of dust, a crimson geyser shooting from the hole of his neck.
One of the other men, a small man with glasses and close cropped black hair (Guy looks like the fuckin' preacher, Nicky thought to himself), began bawling and fled toward the exit where he met Nicky. As the little man tried to get by Nicky, the ghoul grabbed the man by the throat and squeezed. Bone and gristle cracked and blood trickled from the little man's mouth as Nicky held his victim, a rat caught in a trap, dangling before him before dropping him to the ground with a dusty thud.
Another man, this one almost as tall as Red but much fatter, put his bald head down like a bull and charged Nicky. Quick as lightening, Nicky stepped aside, tripped the man, who fell squealing to his knees. In an instant, Nicky had the man's head in a hammer lock and, in one quick twist, had popped the man's head off his body cavity. Blood gushed everywhere, like a broken city fire hydrant. Quickly looking over at Lisa, who couldn't help admiring her boyfriend's prowess, the bloodied Nicky commented, "Honey, I been waitin' to do that all fuckin' night."
"Oooohhh, Nicky," Lisa cooed, "I love you, sweetcheeks."
"Christ," breathed Nicky to himself, looking away and dropping his victim's head to the ground. "I hate that name."
With a cry that pierced that Southern California night, the beast thing again went to work again, seizing Red's head in its massive jaws, easily squashing the head like a ripe tomato, blood and brains spurting everywhere. In an instant, the beast was on the three remaining men, who scampered about like hypnotized rabbits, not sure where to turn. It was almost funny, thought Nicky, like watching an old Warner Brothers cartoon. The Beast Alex sprang from one man to another, seizing the next man's neck or head in its powerful jaws, and then biting and tearing. In minutes, the ground of the pit was covered with blood and littered with bloodied decapitated corpses.
Not sure what she had just seen, Amber stepped forward from the shadows and towards the wolf and said, "Alex?" The wolf remained hunched over Red's corpse, thunderous growls coming from its throat, ready to begin the feast.
Amber looked back at Magic. "This has been pretty cool, huh?" was all Amber managed to say. "Better than Fright Night, that's for sure."
"Cool," returned Magic, nonchalant. "Now let's get back inside. I wanna make some more money."
As Amber and Magic walked out of the pit, Nicky stepped aside and let them pass.
"Call me up next time youÆre in town, big boy," Magic said with a Mae West wink to Nicky, brushing up against him with her huge tits as she passed. Patting Magic on the ass, Nicky whispered, "Sure, babe," confident Lisa hadn't heard the exchange.
Now alone in the pit with six corpses and a friend who had turned into a snarling, blood-thirsty beast, Nicky and Lisa didn't know where to begin. There was almost too much to devour in one sitting and they knew that they would have to leave one or two of the corpses untouched. Taking the corpses home in Alex's trunk, once Alex regained his humanity, was out of the question since Alex kept his car clean and immaculate.
In silent agreement, Nicky and Lisa looked at each other, looked at the beast-thing noisily devouring Red, looked back at each other and smiled hugely.
"By the way, baby," said Nicky, ready to begin, "please don't call me Sweetcheeks ever again."
"Sorry, Punkin'," Lisa responded, anxious to eat but respectful of her boyfriend's wishes. Nicky rolled his eyes and winced but was too hungry to give his new label another thought.
Then, each one kneeling over a different corpse, Nicky and Lisa had dinner.
Meteors continued to streak overhead in a tremendous celestial show as the memory of the evening swam like blood in Nicky's brain. It had been a glorious evening, splendid really, the best killing any of them had yet taken part in, but the three were tired and anxious to get home before the sunrise. Nicky knew Alex was cutting it a bit short but didn't worry. He worried more about Alex's wardrobe, in fact.
"Those guys back at Stinky Pete's thought you were a fuckin' queer. You know that," Nicky yelled into the wind, loud enough so Alex could hear.
"All right, then," Alex responded, petulantly, throwing one hand into the air, "why don't you buy my clothes from now on? It's quite painfully obvious that I haven't a clue." Alex emphasized "clue," and Nicky cringed: Alex even talked like a queer. "I'd rather spend my time shopping looking for good books to read anyway," Alex added with a flip of his hand.
"You got yourself a deal," Nicky responded, not welcoming the task of preparing a wardrobe for a friend who preferred Shakespeare to Seinfeld but responding nevertheless to a task that had to be done.
At the rate Alex was driving, Nicky knew they'd be home and inside dark rooms at least a half hour before sun-up. It would feel good to sleep on such full stomachs, the odor of blood and flesh fresh in their nostrils. He would worry about Alex's clothes next week.
The pair of blue shoes were tied together by their shoelaces and draped over the telephone cable outside my house. The were blue shoes, maybe Keds, and I had no idea who put them up there. The shoes had been there for about four months, and I eyed them suspiciously every time I left my house. It just wasn't natural, even for a pair of shoes.
She was an Arab, my wife, and I had met her in a dream on a Sunday night while she was holding our son. Her name was Ouarda, which means "a rose." The last place you want to be when you find out you're a father is in bed asleep because you can't even react. No joy, no fear, no questions about why you've never even met your wife before and how she could be the mother of your son when you've only screwed yuppie alternachicks in Portland. Sometimes marriage just hits you like a cat in heat.
"Are they still up there?" Ouarda asked, switching Gustav from her left breast to her right.
"Of course they are," I said, lighting a cigarette and sitting down in the recliner. "Those damn things are going to be up there forever."
"You shouldn't smoke around your son. It'll stunt his growth."
"Right." I took another drag.
"Why don't you take them down? Knock 'em off with a rock or something?"
"See, what you don't get is that you're a fucking construct of my imagination. You don't exist, our son -- our, hah, like I should remember his birth -- doesn't exist, and those shoes are probably not real, either."
"I wonder if the shoes have been causing our bad telephone connections."
"They're blue. Red shoes would do that, but not blue ones."
"Where's the logic in that?"
"I don't have a need for logic anymore. Probably why I'm married to you."
Gustav leaned back, wiped his mouth with a forearm, and ran into his room to play with his computer. His newest obsession was devising encryption routines.
"Jesus, when the hell are you gonna ween that kid?" I asked.
Ouarda rose off the couch and kneeled down beside the recliner. "You still miss your -- what is it -- your 'fridge, don't you, dear?" I detected worry in her eyes. We had gone through this a thousand times before, and it never ended prettily.
"Damn right I do," I replied, sniffing. "What kind of house doesn't have a fridge? It's always there for you, especially for a midnight snack. Even was one of the best prank phone call jokes. 'Is your refridgerator running? Well, you better catch it then!' Guffaw, guffaw. And the best ones were designed for the anal-retentives, with a bunch of compartments and separate temperature knobs."
"And all that is necessary to store food? It seems like so much trouble. Besides, breasts aren't removable."
"In the real world, people don't sustain themselves by sucking on tits. They kill animals and harvest crops -- shit like that. What I wouldn't give for a turkey and mayo sandwich."
"Has Dr. Simmons come up with anything new to explain these delusions of yours?"
I scoffed. "He thinks I should be committed."
"Not on your life." Ouarda put her arms around me. "I don't think you're crazy, just imaginative and a bit hostile at times. You should write sci-fi or something. And you know I love you no matter what happens."
Moscow (AP) -- A group of protesting students at the University of Moscow overturned police cars and firebombed florist shops to denounce the visit of Graham Garibaldi, noted psychic warrior and winner of the 1999 International Card Matching Tournament, when he set a new record of successfully completing 2,133 pairs before missing. He is in Moscow to consult the president about a new foreign policy strategy with China in an attempt to bolster psychic Chinese-Russians' waning morale.
I woke up and glanced over at Ouarda, who was still asleep. My dreams always come in the format of news wire reports now, mostly from Reuters and the Associated Press, but sometimes from Knight-Ridder as well. I used to have such vivid and lifelike dreams, and now I'm delegated to watching a teletype spew out words. Making sure I didn't disturb my wife, I got out of bed, slid into a bathrobe and slippers, and ventured outside.
Pat Krieg, my next door neighbor, was standing in his driveway. Pat was fat and conservative, but he kept his lawn well-manicured. His attire at three in the morning consisted of a fluffy white pirate shirt and Tazmanian Devil boxer shorts. He had once confied to me that he thought he had been a pirate in one of his past lives, which provided a great bedroom fantasy for him and his wife Mathilda. They even had a cargo net on one of the walls.
"Can't sleep, Jim?" Pat asked, walking across his freshly cut grass.
"Kind of. Had a bad dream and figured some fresh air would do me some good."
"Ayup. That'll help."
"What do you think of those shoes, Pat?" I asked, pointing up.
He squinted at the shoes. "Dunno. Wacky kids'll do anything for kicks these days."
"Don't they bother you?"
"But they're blue."
"Now I know they're totally benign. If they were red, whoo-boy, that might cause telephone trouble, but blue shoes ain't nothing to get your panties in a wad."
"I'm not so sure. They seem fishy."
"How's the shrink business coming along, Jim?"
"Huh? Oh. He spends more time flipping through his DSM-IV book than he does talking to me. He throws around terms like 'bipolar' and 'flattening of affect' and 'cognitive dissonance' without actually knowing what they mean. I figure he thinks if he repeats the technical terms enough, he'll understand them sooner or later."
"Never trusted psychologists myself," Pat said. "I mean, who exactly had the gall to define normality? Besides the Bible, of course, Sola scriptura, that's my motto. Ain't nothing you need to knwo that isn't in that book. Now, if you'll excuse me, Mattie should have that peg-leg dildo contraption put on, so I've got to go. Take care, Jim."
"You too, Pat. Have fun."
"I will, matey. Arrr."
I silently thanked God that I didn't have a pirate fetish as I lit a cigarette and went back inside.
Little Rock (Reuters) -- A band of alcoholic preachers' wives have been dressing up as depressed clowns and drive up and down the interstate screaming slogans such as "I am a crazy German motorist" and "My other car is a Fokker!" Arkansas state troopers have clocked them at speeds in excess of 120mph, and sixteen have been arrested for recless driving. The women belong to the Scientific Imbibing Baptist Church, a schism group which believes that since Jesus turned water into wine and since 95% of the human body is water, salvation can be achieved by excessive drinking.
"Daddy, wake up. You promised me you'd take me to the library today so I could check out books on Kasparov's strategies."
I opened my eyes and looked up at Gustav, who was dressed in shorts and a cypherpunk t-shirt. He was a cute kid, really, even though he bore no resemblance to me whatsoever, and he had a brain on him that would probably be able to bend space-time in twenty years. Course, all the kids are superintelligent now. Probably something in the water. Or a solar flare. One of the two.
"Yeah, okay, son," I said, rubbing my eyes. "Gimme a few minutes to get dressed. Where's your mother?"
"Out back pruning trees. You know, Dad, no offense, but inactivity is possibly one of the worst states you can be in with your mental configuration as it is."
"I do stuff."
"Like taking you to the library."
"Touche. Although I was thinking more along the lines of getting a job. You haven't worked since, well, since I was born."
"Someone has to take care of you. And your mother makes good money."
"I'm eight. I can take care of myself."
"You don't think I've ben a good father?"
"No, it's just that sometimes you seem like you're in your own little sphere, distant from everybody else. I know you're getting help, but it's hard to relate to you on that plane of existence."
"Son, did your mother ever tell you that you were adopted?"
Gustav drew in a short breath. "No. I'm... adopted?"
"No," I said, smiling. "Just curious, that's all."
"See, Dad, you're going funky-like on me again."
"Okay, then I'll stop going 'funky-like' and take you to the library. Hungry?"
I left thirty Egyptian pounds on the table as the waitresses sanitized their breasts for their next customers, and Gustav and I left the diner and began the four block walk to the library. No one had, to my knowledge, ever ascertained why males couldn't produce food. Gustav had his theory that it was because semen tastes too salty. If you think that's strange, you should read his trip diaries.
This condition would have, I thought, invariably led to some sort of breeding program of women like cattle, but this never has happened in recorded history. Or maybe the history books lie. Whatever. The situation has produced, however, a nifty mental disorder where men who feel inferior to women due to their lack of food production have a tendency to rip holes in their chest and try to get people to suckle on them while they bleed to death. I forget the clinical term, but on the street people refer to it as "fucking gross."
When we arrived at the library, Gustav ran straight for the chess books while I wandered into the religion section. For the past few months I had been devouring books on quantum phsyics in an attempt to figure out if I could have been placed here by a wormhole or some similar theory. With those exhausted (or at least as far as I could understand them), I had turned to religion. As much as I liked the idea of everything being inside my head, I hadn't yet been able to make everything go away with a thought. As Philip K. Dick once said, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, is still there."
Today I was looking for books on Bishop Berkeley's ideas about reality. He postulated that everything was imaginary and it was all in the mind of God. It was a bad model, I knew, since Locke had subsequently disproven this with the innate qualities of matter, but science already had quite a few strikes against it already in my book. My belief in God was also quite negligible, but hwat the hell, right? Gotta try everything sooner or later.
There was a tap on my shoulder and I turned, facing a young woman with straight brown hair down to her waist.
"Berkeley's in the philosophy section," she said, pointing.
"Excuse me?" I stammered.
"They keep Berkeley in the philosophy stacks," the girl explained, her hair now braided. "That way."
"How do you know that I'm looking for Berkeley?"
"I know the type." Her hair was now in some prom queen do. "You want to know why God does bad things to good people. You're hurt, you're confused, you want answers, and until you get satisfactory ones, you're gonna keep looking."
"How the hell does your hair do that?"
"It's magic. Don't you want to know why God lets bad things happed to good people?"
"Nobody knows why."
"That's it. Pretty simple, huh?"
"Malarky," I expertly retorted. "That's no answer. How do you reconcile that with your belief in a loving God?"
"I don't believe in God. Duh. Did you really think some college girl in the library would miraculously have all the answers to life? Sounds like a bad plot device to me. Maybe you oughta try clicking your ruby slippers three times and wait for Glenda to give you a blowjob."
I took a step back. "You are one fucked up chick," I said.
"Not any more than you, dearie. Why don't you just enjoy what you have? You've got a decent family, you don't work, and the only one who thinks things are miserable is you."
"Why do you know so much about me? Who are you?"
She flashed a badge. "Madalaine Justice, Justice Department. We've been watching you for a while now. Do yourself a favor and stop being a troublemaker."
"Troublemaker? That's preposterous. What have I done wrong?"
"That's for me to know and for you to find out. Since you seem unrepentent, I'm afraid I'm going to have to arrest you."
"Treason. Crimes against humanity. Being the Zodiac killer. Death camp connissuer. Escaped prison warden. A reincarnated Hitler. I could go on for days."
"This is absurd. I've done nothing."
"We've got videos, tapped phone conversations, secret love letters, assassination contracts. The whole shebang."
"Gustav!" I yelled. "Come here quick!"
"Now you've done it," Agent Justice said. "Violating noise levels is a capital offense, punishable by death."
Gustav ran around the corner. "What's going on?"
"Your daddy is scum," she said, "and I hate scum."
I stood still as Agent Justice handcuffed me and patted me down. She then led me outside, where a whole SWAT team issued a collective sigh of relief that I had been apprehended peacefully.
Calcutta (Knight-Ridder) -- Over the past seventy-two hours, people have been spotting the apparition of Mother Teresa floating in the sky holding what appears to be a headless baby. In a loud sonic-booming voice, the ghost of the saintly caretaker wails, "Where is this boy's head? Look in a hole." Windows in a three block radius of the sightings then proceed to blow out. One motorist exclaimed, "I was tooling along, minding my own business, when Mother Teresa screamed and the next thing I knew, my face was given an implant of my windshield." The search for a small boy's head is underway in an attempt to stop this haunting.
Gustav was poking me in the ribs. "Dad, you need to stay awake during the proceedings," he explained, "or it makes you look uncaring to the jury."
The trial had been going on for eight days, and the whole time was spent by the prosecution lumping charge after charge upon me for crimes that I could not have committed. But they had evidence, boy-howdy, did they ever. A young girl dressed in peasant clothes from a low-budget renaissance festival accused me of killing the Cathars in France. Alan Greenspan described my effect on the economy as "horrendous" right before four Navy Seals testified that I was personally responible for the sabotage of what would have been the largest cake ever baked by reknown Italian chef Santino Mazza. The list went on and on with mocked up photographs, reconstructed phone conversations, and oodles of witnesses.
My big question: why? I was just questioning the authenticity of reality, not banging little Timmy from two doors down behind the the neighborhood playground (although I was being charged for that, too.) Gustav was my legal counsel. No one else would defend me, and he was doing a fairly decent job under the circumstances. His only objection that wasn't overruled was one concerning a statement mde by the D.A. which implied that I was a blue-skinned alien trying to take over the world. I'm not sure if it made much difference, though, because the next day's papers had a picture of me in blue skin crushing a globe. I should also note that the jury, while sequestered, received the morning paper with only the sports section removed.
The prosecution rested on the tenth day after a full reenactment of the library episode and proof that I was a reincarnated Hitler.
"Hitler as an evil man, and this man is evil," assistant district attorney Hans Goldstein argued, "so therefore, this man is Hitler reincarnate. Kill him before he kills you."
During the recess, Gustav informed me that our chances didn't look good. Always leave it to the children, even really smart ones, to state the obvious. Ouarda had been pouring through legal books for days, looking for a precedent or technicality to get me off, but she had no luck. Besides my family, I didn't have any witnesses. Even Pat Krieg wouldn't testify on my behalf, worried that his pirate fetish would make headlines and cause him to lose business.
My wife and son did their best to paint me in the best light possible. It was especially amusing to watch Gustav questioning himself, running in and out of the witness stand. That lasted for about an hour and a half. While this was going on, I was trying to imagine what it would feel like to have an axe imbedded in my neck.
After the prosecution finished cross-examining my son, Gustav said he had a surprise witness. Ouarda and I looked at each other in puzzlement, wondering who it could be. Gustav removed his shoes and placed them on the railing around the witness stand. They were the blue Keds. The judge had to pound his gavel repeatedly to quell the laughter.
"Exactly what is the meaning of this?" the judge asked.
"If you will indlge me for a moment, your honor," Gustav replied, turning around towards me and smiling. All I could do was shrug.
"Shoes, identify yourself to the court," Gustav ordered.
"We have no name speakable in your tongue," the shoes said in unison, the front of their soles flapping up and down, mimicing mouth movements. "For simplicity's sake, you may call us 'Horus.'"
"And is there any particular reason you chose the name of an Egyptian God?"
"It is aesthetically pleasing."
"And where do you come from?"
"Our first memories are of dangling from a telephone cable outside the defendant's house. We resided there for four months util you brought us down this morning with a rock. You have much to learn about subtlety."
"And you exactly did you obtain consciousness?"
Horus sighed. "That is still a mystery, one we have been pondering from our first waking moments. We are quite confident that we have souls, although the jury -- ha ha -- is still out on whether or not God likes bad puns."
"Counselor," the judge groaned, "as strange as this is, would you please get to the point?"
"Horus, what have you been doing for these past four months?" Gustav asked.
"Aside from asking the usual existential questions that baffle every new sentient species, we have been watching the defendant's house."
"And what have you observed?"
"Absolutely nothing." The shoes made a gagging sound. "We mean, the defendant leads the most boring life imaginable. Oh, look, there he is again, smoking a cigarette on the porch. Hey, he's giving us nasty looks again before getting into his car. He's so mundane. And when he talks to that fat neighbor of his, it makes you want to die. 'How's the weather? How's the wife and kids? Repair that cargo net yet?' Frankly, it would probably end his misery if you did sentence him to death. But all of these charges are ludicrous since we've seen everything that goes on at his house, and that is absolutely zilcho. Not even a dinner party."
"Objection!" the prosecutor yelled, finally recovering from shock at seeing a pair of talking shoes. "This testimony should be stricken from the record. Shoes aren't credible witnesses. Where are their eyes?"
"Hey ho, good question," said the judge. "Counsel?"
"Of course shoes have eyes," Gustav laughed. "Where else would you string the shoelaces?"
The jury gasped at the turn of events. The judge had to call for order as people began taking off their shoes and talking to them.
"Is there anything else you'd like to say, Horus?"
"Well, after we're through here, we'd like to be placed somewhere a bit more exciting, perhaps in a sorority house during rush week or in an amusement park. Maybe somebody would even be kind enough to wear us. Just get us away from the defendant."
"No further questions, your honor."
I was, of course, acquitted. An internal investigation of the Justice Department by Agent Justice revealed a history of incompetence and gross negligence, for which she was promoted. I happily returned to my boring suburbian existence, still trying to figure out how I had gotten here, but Ouarda and Gustav kept me distracted enough that it didn't worry me too much anymore. After all, when a pair of talking shoes saves your life, you tend to just take things in stride.
She had nothing to say that was of particular interest to anyone, and if she did, they most likely disagreed with it. This troubled her. She furrowed her brows and sighed over it as she walked from A to B.
She marveled at those who had so much boiling over everyday, who managed to flood the pages every night or at least thrice a week. She, she took years even to simmer and then it pushed out. She vomited it up, reluctantly, remembering that it made her nauseous and bloated otherwise.
She never knew quite what to do with them, her thoughts. She tried to arrange them smartly, accentuating their positives, drawing attention from their negatives. But she never could accessorize well and they only wound up looking as if she tried too hard, gaining her patronizing pity rather than the sought-for admiration.
Like any well-meaning pseudo-intellectual, she tried to read her way into depth. But no one ever told her that the mind without some degree of mysticism keeps its head above water, whether it be afraid of drowning or ruining a good hair day. No one told her much of anything, not in clear-cut terms. She deciphered and analyzed and often felt as if they didn't want her to get it. This bonded her with many real-life modern-day intellectuals who were very chic with their conspiracy fixations. But they had each other, which is something that they failed to admit, or chose to ignore, and this she noted. She wasn't fooled any longer: Where there was one, there were many. They traveled in packs.
There is a secret world out there. There is, out there, a secret pact, a secret secret, an ineffable secret that surrounds a pack of wolves, a pack of lions. They travel in secret with hints wrapped in pages of nonchalant books. They travel sometimes alone, as a trick. But they're never alone, they're bound together by The Secret and they do not separate. Among them there are factions, little special interest groups with their little special causes like Computer Science and English and Anthropology and Philosophy. They will cut your flow to test your energy levels, unnerve you to test your impulses. They will break you to put you back together again, to make a new one in their style, they have their own genome project. She was scared of them, with their knowledge of her secret code, of The Secret Code. God is dead and they have deconstructed him to test his energy, his impulses, to put him back together the way they'd like him to be. She was afraid of these new gods, who had traveled farther than her in their minds. She did not want to be redirected, she did not want them to recode her, she did not want to lose focus on her path -- her path which did not lead to them. She did not want to be rerouted, she did not need a guide. She hated The Secret, she couldn't break its code, she did not know it. It is Sanskrit, it is Greek, it is a summer session of Latin. She speaks with a fiery tongue of hate, she does not speak with idle wisdom, she does not speak with an activist's heart. She speaks in the dead language of her past that is not worth learning.
She struggled much with Desire and what the philosophers call "inauthentic existence." Her problem, primarily, was that she was equipped enough to recognize it but not quite enough to do anything about it. This nagged her, naturally, and she bit her nails and anxiously fiddled with her barrette while mulling it over. So bothered was she by her lack of sufficient spirituality that she found a book on the lives of the saints, which she promptly sat and read. Or more accurately, she sat, skimmed, and skipped. Saints, she remembered, were known for their mystical experiences. She read through various visions, ecstasies (she assumed they were different than those that she had, for she would be a saint many times over and quite an important one at that), and premonitions. These did not touch her.
What did touch her was the story of some saintess, her name very saint-like: Ann, or Elizabeth, or Colette, she did not make note of it. The saintess worked as a housemaid. Everyday the poor people of the neighborhood would come to the door and she would give all the leftover food to them instead of to the pigs. So compassionate was this young saintess that she even sacrificed her own dinner.
She paused after finishing this part of the story, for she had a vision. A remarkable, enlightening vision. She saw a frail young girl in simple clothes, with tiger eyes and sunken cheeks, approaching a door with leftover stew and bread, including her own untouched meal. But then she saw behind the closed door, to the outside, where toothless, pocked, old, ugly beggars were snickering. Snickering, guffawing, mocking that dumb broad who had actually stopped eating and was giving them her dinner every night.
She had a revelation: Most saints were stupid. She slammed the book closed.
She did not simply listen to the words that came from people's mouths or fingers. She read behind them. This is not to be conflated with "reading between the lines." The techniques are quite different. The latter entails searching for intimations, hints. This is not what she did, for what she needed to know lay in the lines themselves. Most of it, however, lay behind the words. And behind these meanings (which were themselves more words, really) lay the only god she could still believe in: The Author.
Her faith evidenced itself in her role as The Reader. Of course, at first she had tried to be The Muse. She began working for one or two of The Poets, but they were just starting out and she wasn't very good at it. They were dissatisfied with her work, for the poems often rhymed and were full of cliches. Then once, under the spell of an incredible lie, The Poet tranced over to her, the one he knew best. Yet she too was changed in the spell, and had become a butterfly who whispered songs that took flight in the wind. He did not know what she said but it sounded like a kiss. Excited, he ran to The Question with An Answer in his hand, and presented it before all of Wisdom. But Wisdom only laughed at his naive youth and calmly sent him back to Before, where he was chained again in Truth. The butterfly became only her mediocre self, and her whispers -- only words of reality that hit his ear with a thud. That was the last she worked for any of The Poets. She auditioned for The Author anyway, as it was her dream to have at least one prose piece of The Author's to boast. But she was rejected for this position, being told that her demeanor was too earthly, her body too uninspiring, and her mind simply too real to ignore. So she devoted herself as The Reader, feeling the position to be at least as essential. She soon believed it to be The Most Essential Position, and thought herself to be a central figure (and a more respected one) in The Author's life.
She believed in The Author completely, wholly, unconditionally. She would not listen to reason, or what it is commonly called in these times, Postmodernism. She shook her head, she rolled her eyes, she even stuck out her tongue. She did not listen to those people who accused him of being a phony, who called for his death, who invited him to his execution. It never occurred to her that The Author himself did not believe in his existence, that he had accepted the invitation. She had gone through many gods and many inane rituals before she had found him and she thought herself an expert; however, it never came to her mind that she and her new god had ideological differences. She had experienced such differences with believers, whom she inevitably would consider an insipid bunch lacking in substance and beauty. She would grow angry with gods for not punishing such stupidity, or at least correcting it, and then she would terminate their agreement. But she had never disagreed with a god's own idea of himself. She chose her gods cautiously, taking much into account. Those with ideological differences should have been eliminated in the screening process.
There was nothing that infuriated her more than ignorance. It was such a lurking evil in her mind that she capitalized it: Ignorance. It took many forms. Its worst form was Ignorance of Power. She had little respect for those who did not make themselves aware of how their actions influenced other people. Nor did she respect those who did not use their actions to their advantage or even simply to reach others. Another form of Ignorance was Ignorance of How People Will React or Understand Your Actions. Perhaps this is a form of Power Ignorance, and upon further reflection, it may be far more repulsive.
But The Author was a bit of a dolt. He was really quite a disappointing figure, if one were using her criteria. He authored but then claimed he did not. This was both ridiculous and Ignorant. He seemed to have a propensity for adopting titles while disbelieving in what they denoted. In short, he was a living walking breathing cognitive dissonance. Moreover, he denied the existence of what he authored, commonly referred to as the text. When she saw TEXT in her mind, there were no quotes around it. But The Author was always seeing things in quotes, as he had a hard time believing in anything and was hesitant to state conclusively that anything existed. This was somewhat charming in print, but quite infuriating when one had to converse with him. It was like dealing with Descartes in his Meditations: Yes, you exist. No, you are not dreaming. No, there is no evil demon making things appear this way. The first two he usually conceded, the last, never. A modern translation of Descartes would no doubt translate 'evil demon' as The Government. The Author put no quotes around The Government and there was no convincing him that it was he not them who was fucking up his life.
The truths that realize themselves after certain events in one's life may destroy Ideals and Dreams, shattering certain pieces of one's world-view. This shattering which results is commonly referred as an "intrapsychic loss." She dreaded this none too little and often put it off at least until she had done the laundry, taken a shower, and made the obligatory weekly phone calls. She could feel an intrapsychic loss coming ahead of time, like many sufferers of arthritis felt the next day's rain in their knees. It entered her through the mouth and sat at the back of her head. She found this quite bothersome and usually went to the salon in a futile attempt to take her mind off of it, or it off from her mind.
It was a good day. She finally had gotten a haircut that enabled her barrette to stay fastened securely in its place, instead of dangling perilously on her head. Although it was a warm summer's afternoon, people weren't being obnoxious about the good weather. The happiness that invades people in response to good weather (and manifests itself most strongly during the first week of true Spring) killed her mood. She felt compelled to rebel against such ubiquitous saturnalia on principle.
However, she did have a gnawing headache.
She was walking aimlessly. Quite honestly, it was more of a people-watching meander. But this gnawing headache, this distinct uneasiness, finally got the better of her and she stopped abruptly. She wanted to know where it was. Where that thing was, whatever it was, that was the cause of this general nausea. She never liked hide-and-seek as a child as she was far too impatient. She just wanted to know where the person was and then go about chasing them, the hiding seemed superfluous. She would shout for the person to come out so that they could get on to the good part. This is how she felt now, impatient, wanting to get on with it. She wished she could shout out, demand that it show itself, so the real game could begin. She looked suspiciously around but saw nothing. She continued her stroll and began to brood, causing her to fidget with her barrette. This of course nudged it out of place and the whole day was simply ruined. The sun became too hot, the people were too loud, she needed to get out. She ran into a bookstore. There she saw Him, The Author, on the cover of some trashy literary magazine. It was an old photo, quite a bad likeness, as most photos are.
She became very conscious of her inner thighs. They seemed to press together as she stood there staring at the picture. She felt that they had grown at least an inch since last week and she chastised herself for laxing on her thigh work. She grabbed the magazine and walked over to the cashier, feeling her thighs hit each other, swearing that she could hear the rubbing of flesh. She went back to her apartment and did the laundry. She took a shower, applied an avocado-oatmeal mask to her face (for toning), and did her thigh work as it dried. She called her mother and listened to her bemoan her sad state of affairs and unsympathetically told her it was her own fault and she should deal with it. She called a friend and repeated this, her universal advice. She made herself some citrus spice tea, finally took some Advil, and got into bed. She reached over and grabbed the magazine that she had bought that afternoon and flipped to His interview.
He spoke without using bothersome metaphors or trite imagery. He stated calmly, removedly, and simply that He didn't "exist," at least not in the way everyone has accused of Him. Furthermore, He explained that the "text" was not concrete, it was a product of The Reader's biases. The whole enterprise of writing was just an exercise for Him, at the very most, an experiment. The by-product, the "text" -- it was not a manifestation of His Self, His Anything. It was the product of that everpresent "What would happen if..." in His mind as He sat and sipped, stood and smoked. He admitted that to say that He wrote for Himself wasn't an accurate description. But to say that He wrote for Her, The Reader, this He disdainfully and patronizingly denied. No, He was, if anything, writing for the sake of Writing, for the sake of these arbitrary images that sat in His head, but weren't connected to His Desires, His Consciousness, His Beliefs. In fact, this, too, was incorrect. More appropriately, He wrote from these images, these images so disassociated and unrelated to His Self; but to whom and for whom, wasn't that irrelevant? He created to create, as that is what gods do. The Reader wasn't a consideration. The Reader was an incidental warehouse of these arbitrary images manifested in prose, giving meaning where there was none.
The words hit her instantaneously and she hadn't time to defend herself. At such a vulnerable moment, her first reaction was to sob violently. She was aware of a familiar tug, it reminded her of when she was 15 and she found out that the brooding boy she had been in love with was interested in her Mind only, and the real cause of his sadness was his yearning to sleep with some slutty friend of hers.
But despair always made her feel weak and stupid, and she soon grew sick of it. She became Furious. Angry, Injured, Offended, Livid that He had used her mind, like all of the men in her life, used it because it was a fine curious mind, with plenty of storage space. He threw His Junk there, haphazardly, unappreciatively. It held only a small interest for him. He used it because it fit His experiment, because He was amused that The Reader processed and decorated it with Meaning.
Her respect for Him lessened as she saw that He took no responsibility for His damned by-product. He didn't own up to it, He didn't admit to it, He didn't acknowledge any reality of it. He was simply too Ignorant to realize its inevitable effect.
And layer by layer of emotion exploded from her until all that was left was the blush of foolishness. Embarrassment, naked embarrassment, because she had thought that she meant something to Him. But she never occupied a space in His Consciousness, sub- over- or un-. And nothing was inside of her. She was hollowed. She felt her solitude resentfully, and was confused to find that she had a hole inside.
She began to realize that throughout her life, all of the Emptiness, and the Pain which stemmed from it, had the same source. Because more than anything else, she needed to be needed. She needed someone to need her to understand, she needed someone to need her to love them, she needed Need more than anything. Beyond love, beyond respect, behind these words, there lied Need.
She had thought, erroneously, that The Author needed to communicate. That He sat up every night or at least thrice a week needing to tell the story of Himself to her. Needing her to understand. Needing her, The Reader, to soak Him up, to store Him inside, and most importantly, to process Him because otherwise He couldn't exist. She had thought that she clarified and guided Him with her presence, that He needed her in order to explain Himself.
If He didn't need her, then her head was full of lies. They weren't even lies, for lies are substantial. She had empty words. Like empty calories. Her whole head was full of Twizzlers and Starbursts.
She hadn't realized that gods are by nature selfish creatures who do not Need. They fill their voids with themselves, they don't need to find others to fill spaces. That is why they are gods.
She became vengeful and petty. She wanted to invade Him -- but how to get inside? How to penetrate, how to disarm? He knew her, was wary of her actions, He would not let her in -- no matter how many pretty words she threw at His feet. But what if she tricked him? What if she made it so that she was Him and He was her? From where He stands, He cannot see Himself. He can only see out to the words. But she saw behind His words to Him. If they were to switch, would He see her then? Would she get in His head just long enough to claim some territory for herself? Perhaps. But how, how do you trick your god into switching places?
--SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-- State of unBeing is copyrighted (c) 1998 by Kilgore Trout and Apocalypse Culture Publications. All rights are reserved to cover, format, editorials, and all incidental material. All individual items are copyrighted (c) 1998 by the individual author, unless otherwise stated. This file may be disseminated without restriction for nonprofit purposes so long as it is preserved complete and unmodified. Quotes and ideas not already in the public domain may be freely used so long as due recognition is provided. State of unBeing is available at the following places: World Wide Web http://www.eden.com/~kilgore/sob.html irc the #unbeing channel on UnderNet Submissions may also be sent to Kilgore Trout at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. The SoB distribution list may also be joined by sending email to Kilgore Trout. --SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB--