Deja Vu Again

Autumn sat Indian style on the cracked and split steps in front of the school with her dark eyes closed. She had two ragdoll puppets in her pockets, an mp3 player in her jacket, People are Strange in her ears, and beside her sat a model of her house made and painted on the inside of a cardboard box. It had doors with pumpkin stickers and windows with curtains and drapes and singing wind chimes.
Everything in the replica was there in the home, in the real world: Autumn’s notebooks on her bed, made by white-out on tiny slits of black construction paper, small boxes colored like televisions with static on the screens, white paper with jagged sharpie marks, more notebooks and a pen, a pad, and a needle on the bed, bouquet of covered pages around the room, then the oval kitchen, the kitchen flowers, harmony in sound and feeling, the smell of fresh baked bread and wet summer grass.
It was all in there in the model, down to the broken sticks on the ground around the tree to the side of the home and the old tire that hung from it. Even the tree had their old time love letters and an old squirrel nest in the top of it, an old timer knife where once was carved Autumn loves Brandon in the bark with a tiny knife so many years ago.
There was a puppet of her father, messed up hair, eyes distant and cold, and a puppet of her mother, covered in jewels and make-ups, upstairs in the master bedroom in their bed under a thick flannel quilt that Grandma Margaret made.
Her mother laid on her left arm asleep, a bit of dried blood under her nose, a vacant listless ghost of a blank face to the wall The puppet of her mother had stitches in her ears untied. The puppet of her father had stitches in his mouth but unintelligible murmurs slipped out.
He sat on the edge of the opposite side of the bed with his head on his chin, his other hand holding tight to a pill bottle. Autumn guided the puppet and her father’s replica turned on the lamp and opened the drawer; a Bible in the bureau, a revolver in the drawer, pill bottles and crumpled boys in the floor around the metal basket in the corner of the room by the type writer with the stale and dusty cobwebs on it. She brought it out too, for her talent show, another prop she would need: someone to reproduce what she spoke for later chances to use it, wouldn’t want to waste one writing when it can be relevant in another place.
So many different tendrils of life attach to moments like invisible nodes strewn between invisible wires along a circuit board attempting to connect in one way or another.
It was all for Autumn’s talent show, the day she tried to wow, to earn the label prodigy some of the teachers at the old school called her, before she was placed in a higher grade with older children and became even more isolated and withdrawn. It was rare she talked to anyone in person, and, though she talked to a few people online, she always worried she may say something wrong.
She didn’t care about much at school, but she always entered the talent show, to prove she wasn’t just a brain that sat on her butt in the library all day, even though she was proud of being able to sit on her butt all day and read, and prove that art and beauty can be found in anything if you know how to put it together right. Beauty and its creation was a big concern for her.
She had been called a prodigy, a child genius, and all the other adjectives that alienate otherwise bright and cheerful children and alienate them until they’re a nervous burnt out wreck at twenty three shooting junk and drinking booze to calm the shakes of a mind that glowed so bright it dimmed, leaving a poor and whimpering animal in the skin of a little girl trying to validate the labels placed upon her, trying to balance her sanity and the pedestal they placed her on.
Three of the other brains, the Gifted and Talented kids, the types who read because they enjoy it, play chess and talk about physics and T.S. Eliot and what the smart kids talk about–the other smart people, understanding of genius, Autumn believed, was merely powerful perception; creation of genius is merely powerful and astute expression of the world as interpreted by the artist.
Autumn had always been a very serious child.
Three beta club members versus a slacker, verse Autumn and her shaking little hands, her quivering voice so soft and soothing, the nerd playing Tetris on her cell phone while the first two abominations to theater and god disgraced the scene and then she got ready, putting on an outfit with the shape of a nylon lotus crown around her neck and light blue in perfect contrast with her dress.
“The title of my three part performance is Déjà vu in three movements: No Signal in Aminor, No Exit in Bb, and No Refill in G. I composed this music to accompany the reading of my works.
No Signal, no exit, no refill. She took these titles terribly serious and the blinking line on her cell phone: NO SIGNAL. NO SIGNAL, seemed to fit so perfect.
“No signal try the call again did you dial a zero?
No signal. No signal.
I’ll try to move to some place else. I must hear your voice.
No exit. No exit.
I can’t find my love, but my pill bottle is near.
No refill. No refill.
She titled her play and the cell phone to the microphone and it said, “No Signal said the robot to the master obsolete when the old drunk old man took a kitchen pan and beat his robot to death, buried him in the yard. That old man Jesse, he’s a card. He tried to call to tell me the metal man is dead, but instead he looked and the moment took joy from in his mind: No Signal was the line, it’s dying robot voice.”
Autumn picked up the dollhouse replica of her home and carried it to the back of the stage. It was to perfect scale, the perfect color, as true to life as could be made. Autumn made a lot of interesting stuff, as her father called it, and had spent her entire summer putting it together and painting it. Her mother, while pregnant with Autumn, had a cocaine problem, “Cocaine! You got me on my knees, Cocaine!” was the song: an eight ball a day through the whole pregnancy and the baby girl was a little high strung with a delicate heart. Poor Autumn felt winter in her life by the time she was a teenager, the heart rate in her chest making the days seem as though they lasted a thousand years, hummingbirds wings fluttering at visible speeds to her in her tweaked anxiety fugue. She was high strung to the point it debilitated her entire body. She hated herself for giving her anxiety and even killed quite a few Barbie dolls with familiar clothes, but she had one outlet, one fountain to distill her misery and try to channel into beauty, like her father the failed poet did who loved her endless poems and letters to make believe men and women about make believe situations, her endless letters made her father smile. She never showed these works to anyone but her father and Brandon. She didn’t show many of them to Brandon, though, because she thought he was a better poet.
Her father was fascinated by it all, by everything Autumn did; when she bought a sewing grid and a bunch of balls of yawn and sewed a portrait of her daddy’s Norwegian cat, all the colors in perfect transition, a furry work of art with a needle.
Her little sewing and art projects were the only thing she had to say to the world, to say I love you like the stars and pretty skies, soliloquies and lullabies, and the play she played that long ago that day was recorded life and later somehow ended up online. It was called touching by one old man outside the building that day, and more than fifty people would talk to her about it, as it seemed to have validated herself in the eyes of the jury, as she called everyone outside of Brandon and her Father.
It was called pretentious and meandering by one reviewer, and was printed in Rolling Stone as Brandon’s journal, Déjà vu, and reader’s called it a refreshing American work of verse, especially for, ‘a girl that’s like, ten years old.’ Some people called it boring and bland visual poetry with too heavy a reliance on symbolism. Autumn when she read the review did not know what symbolism was.
Autumn thought it would be humiliating – but no one laughed and no one heckled or got up to leave. A little old woman, Autumn’s aunt Dorothy, sat at a piano on the stage with the sheet music to Autumn’s play before her.
Autumn played the piano when she was young at her father’s insistence. “A woman with the skill to make something beautiful with her soul will be seen as beautiful by all.”
“‘C’est la Vie,’ the poet said. God help me please, said Autumn. God, help me.”
Autumn walked out slow and nervous through the sultry red curtains. She had taken two Xanax and believed she would soon calm. She wore a little blue dress with long white gloves a ribbon of white lace in her dark hair. She wore black boots because her father dared her to.
“My name is Autumn,” she said into the microphone. “My name is Autumn Rose and this is my life. This is life in just two minutes.”
She set up the replica, put the two model cars out front, put up the mailbox, put two letters in it.
She attached the tiny mic to her dress, began to hum in a waltzy tone in allegro. She repeated la la la la la la la to each cascading A minor scale a low pitch, “The eye sees the itself within song.”
The auditorium was quiet as Autumn hummed over the trills of a melancholy melody that echoed off the white bricks of stone and in between the seats of wood, a sublime melody of layers and delicacy.
Autumn took the puppet from her pocket, dressed as a perfect twin, a frown on her face a downcast glance. She took the other hopeful looking doll, the antonym to her likeness, the bright eyed blonde hair dolled was skinnier and prettier and had an upward glance half open mouth full smile.
The more realistic one and Autumn’s likeness had dark eyelids the color black like eye-shadow stained instead by insomnia a purple blackish smear of restlessness, was perfect in appearance, dark rimmed eyelashes behind wrinkled old looking eyes, pink along the yellowed inner rims, hair disheveled pushed to the side of her face, hazel eyes hidden by a black hoodie.
She put on the strings and hooked the fishing wire to the handles on her puppets and then the fake grips on her left hand.
She hooked parts of the house to her pinky fingers, with two other handles operating doors and angels and mirrors within the house.
She dropped the puppets from her hands, caught them as if they stood on air and bent her hands forward and they bowed.
Autumn said, “The por una cabeza, please. Let them hear some good music before we play my crap!”
Autumn’s friends and she looked for Brandon’s laugh in the crowd and saw his sly little smirk, the wit! he thought, so proud of his little friend. Brandon, he was sitting in the front row with a sprite bottle full of liquid morphine. He had a lot of issues with his dad and publisher but had written several novels and had been called by some people coming of age in this very generation a talented writer and artist in the background of life; his desire was Autumn’s too, to bow before one appreciated crowd before she snuffed it.
Autumn got the same treatment at the school every Christly child on Vincent’s side and Kyle’s side, Brandon was Kyle’s son and he was three years older than Vincent’s daughter Autumn, but Kyle and Vincent were best friends.
Vincent was a conflicting figure; he could do anything he wanted at school, which was read, drink that sweet sweet cough syrup, and write poems and stories for his friends.
Autumn’s daddy was a published writer too, but not too successful. Brandon had published a successful book of poems at a young age and decided that he would write a bunch of novels in what he called his ‘pointless attempt to know everything. That’s my goal,’ he says. ‘To know everything. If I did, I’d write a book about it, entitle it, ‘Everything,’ and every one would call me a liar if they didn’t ignore the publication all together. If I sold as many books as I’ve bought for my friends, I’d have enough money to buy a hardback copy of Anna Karenina…’
The first four bars of the Por una Cabeza played out of the old piano like a bird inside the wood walls dancing on piano wire.
In the road in front of the tiny house, the two puppets embraced, to the first beat of the por una cabeya, that beautiful Italian waltz. They took each other one by the waist, hands held in the air, their faces sideways so close their faces pressed together… They walked to the beat of the music in dramatic steps in perfect rhythm on the air. Autumn humned aloud to the melody of the absent violin melody stored in her memory low into the microphone clipped on the lace of her dress with a little scary safety needle; she saw it and thought of her father at home and sadly hummed the words, enunciating the notes of the missing violin in key, “dah da dah da dah da-dahhh.”
The smiling puppet by way of Autumn’s thumb put her face on the other sad girl’s shoulder. Autumn flipped a switch and the puppet flashed a smile. The music lapses at the sound of a gun shot. The smiling girl disappears. An audio screaming file is played over and over.
A streetlight flickers on and then explodes with the glass bouncing like tiny ice against the ground the smiling puppets face, dissolving into a slow frown starting at the eyes and falling like a man under a tree as the sun throws his shadow across the path in front, the path to right, who knows? Not Autumn, I, not Autumn me. When the streetlight flicked on again, the smiling puppet had a knife between her legs and blood on her hands. ‘ She stumbled, fell to the ground, the puppets leg opened on both sides with both sides cut, ketchup running from the holes staining the pink of her panties and the walkway outside.
She ran into the puppet house with a line of blood following her. The miniature camera that hung just behind her on a mounted screen careened through the catacombs of connected rooms and artifacts, tiny painting, her dying grandma’s dolls.
Autumn’s fingers made the likeness of herself walk through the door. The puppet had tiny trembling hands as she crossed the threshold looking back and forth holding her shoulders shivering. She takes a left, turns into a living room with a pitiful fire, a young girl in long john’s watching television, on which flashes an image of dragon in a pink sky with a purple sun, Barney pajamas and pig tails, sweet little girls echo in the audio track the laughter fading into that high pitched frequency hissing noise, swan song of the stillborn frequency. She walked into the other room, leaned against the old bunk bed as it once was in the past, when she thought she would be sleeping with a baby brother. Instead there was a bunk bed with the top covers tucked into the mattress to create a shroud around the bed, like Jasmine’s bed in Aladdin, and she slept in the pure dark with her glow worm, a blanket with planets and the horse head nebula up to her neck, a soft smile on her chin with two teeth missing.
The kitchen table is covered in a bowl of hot wings, a smiling girl holding a wing with hot sauce on her nose and cheeks and then the puppet stops in the hallway. Autumn’s left hand came into the play, mimicking the frowning dolls movements with her ambidextrous hands and sighs into the little microphone. One puppet frowned, sound of a sad yawn, yet the other one smiled. One screamed. One covered her ear as the piano melody rose to a crescendo. The puppet ran up stairs, to her room, a girl not breathing on her back a thousand covered pages and empty pill bottles on which was written NO REFILLS in her hand a tranquil smile and languid grin across her sanguine face as though in a golden dreamworld far away from pain in the lap of beauty and bliss and grace, for a moment a twisted rotting tree cast an angel shape and before the puppet fell a cross. The puppet’s eyebrows raise at the sight of an angel appearing on the hill, turns around and runs, yelling, Autumn screaming into the might, “Leave me alone! Leave me alone! Please, leave me alone!”
The puppet runs to the parent’s room and Autumn screams to the figures of her parents through the proxy people attached to her fingers.
Her mother doesn’t move, Autumn scerams,
“Mother! Mother!”
Her mother rolled over she had a laughing look on her face amused.
Her father looked at her for a moment.
He turned around, popped a pill, daddy had his medicine and daddy was fine.
Autumn thought, maybe I should take mine. She pops three of the pills and finds her father again.
“Daddy?” Autumn said. Her dad lays down, his legs stop shaking.
“Daddy!” she repeated. “Daddy! I love you!”
“No signal. No response. Inability to establish a carrier wave to broadcast empathy. Nobody home…”
“Daddy! Daddy!” the puppet Autumn shook the lifeless doll a moment and slapped the soft plastic in the face.
She ran down the tiny stairs into the living room again. She picks up the phone, dials a number—a telephone rings on the Celestion speakers in the auditorium.
Autumn’s breathed intense with panic in her voice, “Somebody…Everybody…Anybody. Please, she cried. God please. God please. Answer the phone. Answer the phone.”
She fell to her knees with tears in her eyes.
“We’re sorry,” the Operator said. The number you have called is disconnected or out of order” played over the loud speaker. “If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please check the number and try your call again.”
Autumn dropped the microscopic phone with the puppet’s plastic hand, went to the attic put the childhood toys away, her pound puppy stuffed animal, her Franklin computer with Oregon trail, the golden Zelda cartridge… She put the puppets held by the puppets in a box like their own, locked them away, took the grips off her fingers and packed the toos of the trade and locked them in a box just like the one inside.
She put a cellphone to her ear. The piano shifted to a B minor refrain and slowed the volume getting lower until inaudible. Blackness fell on the stage and obscured all but Autumn in the light.
“I have to call my dad,” she said. “It’s part of the performance. He wanted me to write a poem for him, to show him how I feel, and I think that true talent is found in your ability to love someone through your words before they even read them, to show them truth and beauty and when there is nothing let the record be true. A poem written with feeling is not always the best way to describe someone’s mind. Sometimes people without feelings write poems. But… anyway, the important thing is I wrote this for my father to show him that beauty is in everything that is true. And I’ll read it to you all. True talent is expressing your empathy and love, though everything that is true is not beauty, everything beautiful is true.”
She stopped and smiled.
“I might as well read it for you guys here instead,” Autumn said, not seeing her father in the audience every where she looked so she closed her eyes.
She took out her cell phone and dialed a number, the crowd with her impatient to wait. She said.
“No answer, but I’ll read this poem for him, so even though he’s not hear, he’ll feel somehow what I say. I think true talent is in expressing yourself entirely and truthfully, and everything that is true is not beauty, but everything beautiful is true. He wanted me to write a poem for him, but I decided to read it for you all, since I’m sure my dad will watch the video later, when Bonanza goes off! I’ll read it for you, if you promise me you’ll laugh.”
Her few friends clapped. She smiled at them. She looked at Brandon and he mouthed in silence, “You’re the shit, girl. I love you.”
“I wrote this poem for my father,” she said again uneasy to read nervous. “He likes cheerful poetry and when I first got the idea for this poem, the title, I was watching him strap a belt around his arm.
There’s a little whole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, a puppet said, coming out of the closet with nappy grey hair. Another puppet, her stillborn brother, danced on the ceiling in her empty bedroom while she read in monotone to the crowd:
“A short detour one would suggest the road the sorrowful know best
“It’s always raining there, and grey;
endless lifeless pale grey days
of rain the sidewalks slow and plain
no sun there is to shine,
the body shape
that’s penciled on the sidewalk with their face,
where endless are those pointless days,
live all time’s slaves in great malaise.
their porcelain painting frowning face waits on the sun.
“One minus one and we’re all done,
the figures fall like figs and plums, on desolation Drive.
“All of those alone in pain call it that unfriendly name that Desolation Drive.
There long gone drones blow out their minds
Queens live alone in broken hives.
Abandoned houses empty lots
Cracking sidewalks needles shot,
a place the word called hope forgot.
“Yawn the houses, knobless doors,
hallways noiseless no feet on floors,
the crumpled royal roaches eat.
Empty plates and vials around,
an empty fridge, no food inside,
turned yellow like the Queen’s bee hive—
“Though there she mourns alone.”
Sad faces on a black board
and the yearning of a lonely cello song,
vague handprints in the dust to fade.
“Crayons, paintings, postcards,
those yesterdays we needed went away.
Forgotten in the lifelong maze,
the happiness now gone away,
forgotten in the grave of stagnant cigarette haze.
“Silent empty corridors identical catacomb rooms.
Dirty towels on the floor
used jeans fraying used no more
a dropper in one pocket,
love letter in the other,
all of that with a burnt up spoon,
they fit so well together.
“Clotted blood in droppers
turn into rose shapes in the grey,
maybe that’s what caused my name,
daddy’s heroin that day.
There’s a little whole in daddy’s arm
where all the money goes and when he goes
we always know he ends up so distraught and on the floor,
in tears and screaming,
“Please oh God let mebe dreaming!”
on the floor in tears to talk about
how he could have been somebody and he is.
“Hope is down. The chips are low.
Looking for an exit but no sign seems to glow
There’s no where left to go.
No signal, no way to call,
“No Refills,” it says it all.
Empty bottles, no medicine now–
the Letter is unread;
in empty clothes where once was froze
another of the dead.
Spent and yellow cigarette butts
human stumps fall in the tray.
Broken clocks and broken robots,
the ones who love and break a lot,
they sing those sad old lines:
“Wrong place, wrong time,”
their lonely little nursery rhyme.
There is no fix for them.
“There is no fix for those who lie
alone and look up at the sky
numb and dumb the day is done
and for them there is no why-
just how:
to get the fix that they need now
their only little fix to be–
A normal person, to love, to hold,
like they do on other roads,
by desolation drive.
“Where happy people live and smile
their dreams fulfilled the Miracle Mile.
“Another day, the same old song,
chocolate wrappers on the lawn,
burnt up spoons and bodies gone.
Coffee cups long drained have cast
a stagnant halo on the glass.
Another day to waste away
puppets for the monkey play
Their tragedies and pass.
“When Hope is gone.
The Chips are thrown,
across dirty tables slow.
They load the gun,
the barrel, spun,
gunshot silhouette shadow show.
No song, no mass,
no life, no past,
one lullaby they go.”
Muffled clapping by her group of friends and her English teacher. Mrs. Cody was her best friend at the school. She stayed after school a lot to talk to her about books.
“For dad who said he could not make it,” she said, “No signal, no call. And now, I’d like to play a song with my grandmother, Mozart, the one four hands. Don’t know the name but I know the song.” And beautifully she played on.
“Thank you,” she said and left taking her house and puppets backstage and tucked it away with her other clothes. She changed into a Cossack, put on a brown belt, a bald wig, and took a skull from her trunk of props. She walked back onto the stage.
“And now,” she said, that big stretched toothy smile with her rows of tiny white teeth, “I’d like to do homage my favorite Shakespearian soliloquy. You’ll know the one.
She coughed, pushed all the items off the table, slammed her hand against the bass notes on the piano and said in a loud, forceful resignation, as though a distant speaker to a tapped fountain of words in perfect fluctuation and rhythmic structure:
‘To believe or not to believe, that doth underlay the world of man and action, and the man now idle is subtracted from the sum of human being, another subtracted from the cause, what cause to be is there when free is not the cool day air so stole away by night and is to me the question right? Or more right than before, to suffer the sadness of the mind and look out through the grey cage we call I, from inside the barred cage of the mind, than it is to walk the path to find the song of peace to dance to, with yourself content or with one you love, or is it more noble to sharpen our minds with the pains and lines of lies and tragedies writ for us to act out poorly not knowing why or how or if it’s a dreamboat to begin with; if it’s a dreamboat, then contact Noah; tell him we need two of everything: to preclude to me the question if is the hideous face of a scrutinizing world under a microscope naked men play in the mind to remove the anomalies abnormalities and treat it all with something, is there more honor in the misery of life than the fleeting bliss of the moment when action is taken to right the ship asunder tossed by troubles by and by with lilting waves of chance and reason world propelled this narrow shell once formed from a tree; is it a sleep, perhaps a dream, a twilight glowing shadow ring, stereo halo sun undone by the Mandelbrot that eats infinity for breakfast as will us all go down it’s hungry hole called time. Before then are we to take a sword against our trouble make the joy in life our own? Or should refrain and hide from rain watching the world go by slow out the window in which small pools of light fall in to see ourselves and glowing skin in a circle that brought us to our feet this world to greet, this life to live and life to lose led to graves by old blind fools facing bitter face to face the tragedies of every day and instead of turn to kiss they turn their face away; their face and that alone should end, should end their sway and if you pray the kiss on Death’s cold cheek won’t make you fall before you write your goodbyes on the wall and get some rest and end it, dream: no more ticket, no puppet strings; the waste land our flesh is heir to, the wick of fire long burnt away began the day first our eyes went wide and looked above and saw a dove and felt the love inside. They say such verse is folly, of that I have no doubts. It’s just as much a foolish folly to think what’s life about: when you wake you rise and take a good look at the sky, have some friends, watch good things end, wither like the elm tree die and there go back; where once you slept between the crack of this world and the others by it to find them all must die in quiet in acceptance of the end of the road. When one wakes up remember the dream as a living impulse idea thing inside the mind and living too reminding me of Déjà vu.
“For in that final sleep nothing will come. No angels Heaven bells or drums, no fluttering soul without a body rising to the clouds singing the rapture with eternal lungs loud as into the sky they rise until finally their eyes look above Earth’s tired skies and gives them pause and that respect the Earth our tomb and derelict for us to wither scorns of time and make this madness torrent rhyme that another might intake the projections and the variables the other machines that think will quietus make. The oppressor in the head that Mara temptress sent always speaks when your wits and strength is spent and show you easy ways. Pains of the despised love and symptom of a love’s delay, what insolence of office, of title and what spurns—the patience merit though unworthy takes and again a quietus make and with what would you take your own, a sweating grunting toil alone under the sun till days are done at death exhaled your breath to fall from the shelf where once you sat and gazed upon it all. That undiscovered country has yet to be found, no signal, no exit, no refills, no sound. And none have yet returned; maybe there they lose their care and love for Earth is spurned.”
A small smattering of clapping filled the auditorium. “Thank you,” Autumn said. “That was my homage to Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in the old Bard’s classic. I could not do the source justice with my tribute, but I did not want to copy by rote; to be like Shakespeare, one must first cultivate one’s own voice and use it to the best of their ability, not follow the styling of successful poets of the past. You academic types do this too much! And don’t get me started on Haiku…”
Autumn walked across the table with a candle, sat the candle on the table in the center of the stage. She poured water from a glass labeled Vodka (it was cleared by the PTA because her aunt was on the Jay Cees and the Jay Cees controlled the school and social functions down in Whitmire, South Carolina.
Many of the students knew not what she was paying homage to, and some of the clever kids thought she just didn’t know the lines.
She did, however, know all the lines from Hamlet’s soliloquy with perfect recall, but felt shame in reading them verbatim, thinking it would be foolish to read Shakespeare in a voice and inflection that did not come natural to her. Thus she preferred to render it in her own poetic tongue, as she said, to retain the ‘spirit and understand the era of the performance and what prior epochs have seen.; She spoke on with an old man’s drawl, lisping with a sweating forehead and mispronouncing words and slurring speech in a drunken swagger shouted: “Is it right, if there is right at all, to suffer the agony’s of the prison mind or, better yet, take arm against the sea’s of opposition, and by facing them, by kissing the cheek of thy tormentor to say it ends, to die, perhaps to sleep and maybe dream. Aye, that’s the trouble, the trouble that makes malady of so long a life. Out brief candles, out!
Autumn blew the candles out and the curtain fell to the sound of applause. She opened her eyes. Her mother was shaking her.
“They’re going to do an ultrasound now,” her mother said. “Just go back to sleep.”


American Idle

In the pre-war days the youth were bright eyed with pearly with teeth and eager-beaver looks and combed back hair shirts tucked in. Life was good in those days when the sharp dress boys with their military hairdo and shouted golly shooting marbles with their other pals and peddled along their paper routes with a paint by numbers smile throwing opinions at the sleeping doorways on one of those all American stereotype catalog of the rustic Huffy bike with the suicide king card slapping against the wheel along the ride to their home with bright green grass and white picket fence. Then their happy moms and dads took them for rides and out for soda pops down at the malt shops and when it was bed time all the I love you stories managed to calm the kids to sleeep, their proud and smiling parents, “We’ve got such great kids. Isn’t life grand? Sure is, darling!”
In the world as it is there is but one war and that is the war inside. the eyes are panicked unslept and wild-eyed, some in a daze, some in some distant detached fugue so far away you have to email him when he’s sitting right beside you with yellow teeth dingy from the cigarette tar and big blue bags under the eyes, up all night smoking that shit and playing Star Fox, “This is the best thing ever…” The loneliness is digital and complete; who needs to go out when you’ve got a list of friends to click on nice and quick and easy like? Oh, what’s his name… he’s advertising his new Hitler hair do and look at her she’s fly…
The kids don’t shoot marbles then count their pay as they did in the pre-war days they count their change and shoot their veins lay back and laugh, “What a jaded game.” Their parents aren’t home and when they are don’t care, we’ll take him out with the trash in the morning, didn’t you see the constellation on his arms? He always was the big dipper…
“We knew that kid wouldn’t amount to shit.”
“Yes, maybe he’ll kill himself.”
And he does, “Golly!”
Autopsy reveals multiple layers of self abuse, attrition for the wrongs that Karma counted up and left on your sheet, the sheet you have to pay the debts with when you hand your body back to where you leant it. Write down everything everyone has given you and in the will, give the rotten rusted shit right back. You are free.
There are no sock hops any more with bebop dresses and and clean cut guys to cut the jig. The guys hopped up bought his bitch a bebop dress and showed her how to cut, “We use baking soda. Junkies can’t tell. What the fuck do they know? They’re junkies. They deserve to be cheated.”
There are no picket fences and clean cut lawns around, no kids on paper routes, kids plugged into digitalized fantasy simulation, oh an artist on Monday, that’s for Janet, and for Diane, hmm, I’ll use the bleeding the heart for her. That’ll roll one in.
“You should mount that one on the wall.”
The kid that once yelled Extra EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT is now running around central park pulling his hair and teeth out yelling, EXTRA, EXTRA, EVERYBODY’S GONNA DIE.

This is What Normal Means to Me

I had a normal evening. All my friends came by, both of
them, we had a blunt and a chat and a Xanax nap and I woke up in a dreamworld
where all the girls I’ve ever talked to sat around in a circle shaped room
talking about the size of my cock with derision. I sat down with them with the
dick diagram before me on the floor, every wrinkle down to its exact natural
unpleasantness. It just wobbled on the floor, a sour apple looking eye ball
winking at me saying, “What you looking at, dickhead?” The dick’s head turned
into my father, crawled up the wall and exploded, all the female’s
disappearing. They turned into flower shaped stickers on the hollow wall. I
stuck my finger into one of the holes on the wall and felt a squiggly crawling
sort of warmth looked at my hand and it was covered in blood. The blood tasted
like metal soup and then like ketchup. The underlined word has a red line
meaning wrong. The blood began to ooze out of my ear like it did in school when
I read a sentence at a time, speed reading trick a Jew taught me late one
night. I blinked and he was gone, all the laughter and derision and the songs
were gone, and I was in my room, alone, typing to a computer, and the computer
said, “What do you want me to do? I’m just a machine. I can’t clean your room.”
Computer explodes covers me in tartar sauce, just like in school and thick and crusted
like clotted blood. Speaking of blood, had some in a dream like metal soup.
Confused days walk up the walls when I close my eyes and look at me with the
What’s it going to be then, Brandon? Look. The spoon can shake the cobs webs
loose, women in the dream turn and face me when the flame rises in the
reflection of the spoon and daddy says, “Mommy was a coke whore. Daddy smoked
his grass. Baby is a morphine junked tanked off his fucking ass.”


And so it went.

Disillusioned days
went sideways, time non linear never moved. TV’s burn out like lightbulbs in
the alleys with crawling men with sparks like robots shooting from their ears.
They said I was crazy. I was crazy once. I remember pulling over to the side of
the road to take a nap and couldn’t, got out on a backroad lit a cigarette took
a shit and wiped with a Burger King napkin. Royal on the ass and left it in the
grass and left, back to the house, back to the eyeball, under the microscope
again, sideways on the wall looking at the ground and feeling down, pop a
couple pills and the frown turns upside down and fake and the laughter in the
head rolls out hollow like a robot orgasm. Deedle deedle geep that boy is
fucking crazy. Professional, you know, daddy earned his pension, his crazy
check the broken robot parts that slide in the mouth like backward Pez. I’m a
maniac. What do maniacs do? They talk to themselves out loud and wait for
questions. I said What’s up? To the air, the air looked at me and said, “Air
doesn’t fucking talk, stranger.” Stranger? I’ve had you in my mouth for years.
In your mouth? The pervert air. “In your ass like prostate.” Disgusting.

Ever seen an
asshole with eyeballs vomit? Feel the air, stranger. I think you dropped something.

$300 a month you
can make it work, cigarettes, Dr. Pepper, and legal medications. The medication
for the mind, don’t you know. If you watched a man crawl down a wall and stick
a cellphone in your mouth, blow it up and laugh and pop out like a bubble,
would you tell your shrink? If you did they’d say, “Are you on drugs?” and if
you’re not? You will be. People don’t crawl on walls or undulate like water
bubbles unless the brain is shaken and stirred, James Bond couldn’t handle
that. Sometimes the sky looks up at me and I feel upside down on the world. The
ground is the sky where the feet are and my hands dangle off the side and I never
fall, but hanging on the ceiling looking at the roaches at your feet is enough
to be a bit balmy, ain’t it? Ain’t it wonderful when hallucinations are free
and LSD is business as usual? I’ve never seen a world without disturbances, not
since nine, big whack on the head in school made the normal organism
functioning process fragment into the 3 minds, the mediator, the antagonist,
and the guy I cheer for who I want to be, the advertising agent for my services
as a friend, entertainer, writer, whatever, that’s the guy who comes out in
public, and the guy in private sits around and talks to magic eight balls, eats
the paper in the fortune cookies and take the dough as advice. Vodka is what I bleed.
So when I want to get drunk I cut my wrist and drain it, drink it, and then
shit flames. Sometimes I walk up the wall, outside of my body you know, my
being can be detached from the body. When I turn the body off, I leave a
screensaver that can do a few commands, and my being, the see-through me slides
out the ear and wanders through the clouds, to the Grand Canyon, the pyramids
of Egypt, come back to the body after a thousand years and the clock shows five
minutes missing. I am sober. If I was intoxicated, I’d make sense of the
rattling led, the me is like the led in spraypaint bottles. We can do a simple test to determine insanity.
Does this writing make sense? If so, you’re insane. If not, you’ll go insane
from trying to make it. Sometimes I like to free write, word relate without
trying to pass any information other than abstract forms, each word attaches to
an idea, a construct that implies: a door, a means of escape, way into another
room. The concept of the door is a means to leave, so no doors floors aisles
crowded broken potatoes sag rugs ragged frayed laced up boots shoot survive win
a prize. What the fuck does that mean? No escape, just passageways, crowded
aisles, broken organisms lay ragged frayed, laced up boots, go to work and
shoot, shoot? Pistol or a needle. Which is safer? The pistol. The needle is
illegal. I might get high with a needle, now with a pistol I can kill other
people and then me. Safety first, kids. Don’t do drugs. Unless you’re crazy as
shit and then it’s okay, they’ll even pay you a small stipend since you can’t
work, can’t talk, and babble to a white wall that reflects the nonsense
back. Somebody told me to write a
thousand words as fast as possible and that is what this is. I hope it makes no
sense. Sense is boring. Insanity is where the fun is at. Fuck you Brandon, seriously, is this supposed to be funny? Is insanity for its own sake banter now, no longer trying are we? Come on monkey, dance! Feed it and it will. American Junkie was last season, sobriety is crazier. No Xanax now, just anxiety, just tedious observation deduction deliberation novels poems and all that shit I’m expected to do, the poetic flights of faggy fancy, no shoes, no showers, just dirty glasses and a tall glass of Vodka wanting to arm wrestle Dostoevsky and see if I’ve got a bigger dick than Shakespeare. I bet I do. The worms ate Shakespeare’s cock a long time ago and Hamlet couldn’t do shit but rattle off a soliloquy and fantasize about murder. An American Hero is Terry Schiavo, a nice little Christian with her problems over, an empty fortune cookie with no idea what it is. Ha-ha! Get it? Neither do I.

Junkie Symptoms

0) Things become missing in the household.
9) Bottles of cough syrup are being replaced with water.
8) Showers are being replaced by “wipe downs.”
7) Friends become replaced by substances.
6) Sneezing, runny nose, flu-like symptoms (every junkie knows about the “junkie cold.”
5) You begin to spend theoretical money.
4) It takes twice the LD50 to get desired effects.
3) Dosing is no long differentiated between overdosing, as they are the same thing. (Junkies dance with death daily)
2) The drug of choice becomes more.
1) Your life is divided into using, acquiring, and locating what you need. If your life is divided into morphine rations, chances are you need help from a friend or family member… a friend and family member who has either money, morphine, or will have the money or morphine.

I’ve been looking for a quality definition for the word junkie for
quite sometime, originally believing, of course, that junkie was a
means of classifying someone addicted to a drug. That’s too limited.
What constitutes the definition of something as a drug? A substance
that a person takes with the intention of a pleasurable response. So a
drug can be chocolate, sugar, caffeine, coffee, slim jims. When this
definition of drug is used, people are quick to point out that it
chocolate is less dangerous than heroin. Is peanut butter more
dangerous than marijuana? For someone with diverticulitis. Is sugar
more dangerous than cocaine? If you’re diabetic, maybe. Are
strawberries more dangerous than morphine? If you’re me, and have a
level 5 allergen to strawberries, then yes, you’re safer on morphine
than you are with strawberries. But strawberries when taken by someone
other than myself can cause a pleasurable response. The word junkie is
revised in my opinion to define anyone addicted to a pleasurable
response. People are rarely robbed for money to buy coffee, and
chocolate users usually won’t suck someone’s cock for a Reesees. Unless
of course Reesees was illegal and only one guy in town had some and
controlled the sale and manufacture of it. If chocolate became illegal,
would people seek ilicit sources for their M&M’s and Snickers? Will
fat chicks be sucking dicks in back alleys scratching their bellies
saying shit like, “You know where I can get a Kit-Kat? Some special
K… Yeah, I’ll suck yo dick!” And what a blessed utopia that would be.
Move over crack, Dr. Pepper has a higher stock than you and no one
cares if children abuse that insidious chemical.

Personally I feel anyone involved in the trade and distribution of
strawberries is a merchant of evil created by God to piss me off and
therefore a criminal. If I was president, you could buy morphine at the
Lil Cricket but you’d be sucking dicks for skittles, you fat fucks. The
algebra of need gets complicated when the need is illegal to satisfy.
The most dangerous aspect of the drug marijuana is getting caught with
it and having your life ruined because of it. It all comes back to the
hideous notion that an indepedently elected body of officials can say
what is good and bad for people laboring under the delusion they live
in a free country. It’s a free country as long as you’re not doing what
someone else considers bad, i.e. as long as you don’t want to smoke
pot, you’re free. As long as you leave the cocaine alone, you’re free.
The laws are made for your protection. There it is again, the hideous
and presumptive notion that an a self elected body takes it as their
moral responsibility to protect people from themselves. Should people
have the right to destroy themselves? Absolutely.

No one gets in a fuss when someone is paralyzed from getting their shit
ruined in a football game, but the parents never call up the government
asking for a ban to keep their kids protected from the evil that is
sports. Cars should come with parental advisory sticker and a surgeon
general’s warning that cars have been known to crash and explode and
kill OUR CHILDREN! People should be forced to walk to spare themselves
the dangers of public transportation. It’s for the kids, right? Walk
your fat ass thirty minutes for a soda and tell me how much you enjoy
having your needs taken away because someone else is taking the moral
responsibility of protecting you from your own poor choices. Naughty
naughty, get caught with a car, no need to search; just impound the
fucking thing and hock it at a police auction with all the other shit
the cops seized from horrible baby killing drug dealers and
terrorists… for their paycheck. To serve and protect is a euphemism
for patronize and annoy. If there’s a market for it, there’s an addict
for it; how do you think the market thrives? Addiction peddlers. When
the need outweighs demand, what happens? Gas costs $5 a gallon and
you’re barely making enough to afford to drive back and forth to work,
and that’s fine. Go out, get drunk, forget about it. But if you TOUCH
something we haven’t approved of, you better have a good lawyer, guy.

Drug laws in regards to public venues and the operation of heavy
machinery are perfectly understandable and in accordance with the
intention of protection, the protection of those not under the
influence from those who are. But who is to say what one is allowed to
do in the privacy of one’s home? Sure the contrary opinions will cite
my personal experience and dependency on medication in the past and
present, ilicit and responsible, legitimate and depraved. I was on
medication for insomnia before I hit puberty, and no one ever kicked up
a fuss about me being addicted to sleeping pills. Without them I can’t
sleep. With them I’m a drug addict. But it’s a socially accepted drug
addiction, because people need sleep, right?

Actually, sleep is pretty much the same thing as using a hallucinogen.
Your body is put in a catatonic state and you hallucinate until you
wake up. Chemicals that do this (psylicibe cubensis / fly agaric
mushrooms, DMT, LSD / LSA, banisteriopsis cappi, etc.) are illegal for
the purpose of protection. Protecting society from people under the
influence of these chemicals is understandable, but outlawing use under
the presumption of protection is ridiculous. If you’re old enough to
tie your shoes and decide what you’re going to do for the day and why,
you’re old enough to choose whether or not you want to risk taking a drug. My son is 17 months old and has been on drugs pretty much since birth.

Of course his drug usage was prescribed to treat common ailments such
as flu, pneumonia, strep throat, etc. And taking drugs to relieve
illness is the definition of responsible drug usage. So REASON for
usage is of more importance legally than danger. If someone breaks
their leg in eight places and they are in excruciating pain, they will
be given morphine to treat their pain. If they become addicted after
their treatment period is over, their reason for usage becomes null and
void and their prescription is terminated, any further desires and
physical needs will not be considered under law. How do you think I
know that? Real knowledge is based on experience.

Being caught with drugs ruined my academic life. Using drugs had never resulted in a grade lower than a 100. Teacher did not fuck
with me until after I was busted. The drug I was caught with didn’t do
half the harm being arrested for it did. After being arrested, having
used the drug sporadically with friends as recreation–no different
than hanging out with your friends and having a drink–I lost pretty
much all of my chances of employment in the field of study I was
interested in. Again, to the contrary it can be said if I didn’t have
the drug to start with I wouldn’t have been arrested, ergo I wouldn’t
have had my financial / business life ruined. To the contrary of that,
had I not been caught, had I been allowed to choose for myself what I
think is and is not acceptable danger to my person, I wouldn’t have
have been arrested; if I hadn’t been arrested, who knows? I might not
have the degree of anxiety I have now. The night after I was arrested I
was taken to the emergency room believing I was having a heart attack.
The following day I was taken back. Each time they gave me drugs and
sent me home. After the 50th or so attack, they scanned my CAT, made me
drink barium, analyzed me to the utmost physical end. Then they turned
me over to the god damn psychiatrists.

After consultation with a psychiatrist, I was put on medication for
manic depression, schizophrenia (!), insomnia, and anxiety. Tell a
psychiatrist you’ve been hallucinating and they just up your dosage.
They’ll up the dosage until you’re in a fucking coma. Do not let them
know the degree of your intelligence or imagination, it will stifle the
examination. It is best to convey ignorance at all times. The dumber
you are, the more likely you are to be helped. Ask a junkie about a
croaker, what the definition for a croaker is. There is one universal
rule: any calculated attempt at scoring prescription medication for
ilicit usage will fail 9 out of 10 times. 9 out of 10 morons with no
idea how to “trick” the doctors will get what they want and need a lot
faster than someone who studies medicine and psychology. If you have a
degree in psychology, and a doctor knows it, your intelligence will be
negated by suspicion of loaded statements, blankets and subtle
inference of need. They will be prepared from the beginning for a good,
sound, reasonable “act.” Ask people who have gone years with anxiety
without treatment how many doctors have helped them out with their
bullshit and often contraindicated diagnosis. They’d rather drain the
pool than cut off the water supply, and that type of superirority and
ability over another person in regards to their suffering, where the
suffering of someone is subject to the fucking whim of a quack prepared
for a bullshit story designed to placate a need. That’s all they see or
believe in. They know you’re capable of making them think you
need it. What would you do in this position: you have been suffering
daily for 5 years without treatment. The choice is between self
medication, madness, or suicide.

My anxiety later turned into what is called panic disorder, the
symptoms of which are DAILY, frequent panic attacks, feelings of unease and discomfort 24/7 in the chest or stomach,
chest pains, difficulty relaxing, difficulty sleeping (exacerbating a
problem I’ve had all my life), feelings of detachment and isolation,
along with agoraphobia and interaction with people in public sittings,
i.e. school, work, and anywhere outside the panic comfort zone, the zone
which irrevocably shrinks to a corner before the inevitable nervous breakdown and hospitalization. How would I know?

After my expulsion I resumed my studies, after a year, in the class
with other students after having been in isolated learning and study
since first grade. In first grade, myself and another student (Amber
H.) sat in the back of the class and helped the other children read. In
second grade, Amber and I were taken out of our regular classes, with
the other children, and placed in the Gifted and Talented program
at school. Isolation, from a group of 25 down to a group of two, then
later down to 1. I went to school each day, picked up my assignments,
and went to the library, or to study hall to read. After eight years of
isolation, I was put in the classes with other kids again. Before that
I was never treated as a child or a student. Before that I hadn’t
interacted with other students on a personal level since the beginning,
since first grade.

So, now the revised junkie symptoms:

10) You use it every day.
9) You don’t think you have a problem, but think it on the surface and aloud.
8) You can’t function without it.
7) You’d steal for it.
6) You’d lie for it.
5) You’d suck a cock for it.* (A crucial division between weekend warriors and addicts)
4) Your family wants to have “a talk about your problem”
3) There are visible signs of use. (Track marks for a heroin addict, a fat blubbery ass and belly from the other side of the people who stroke their pleasure principle)
2) You begin to suspect that other people are guilty of the crimes you’ve committed.
1) You’d suck two cocks for it. (Now that is dedication! )

*Does not reflect authorial consent or admission for such acts. I hereby declare that you, having read this, acknowledge this is a work of fiction and thoughts and opinions herein are products of your imagination. Sugar is not a suitable substitute for heroin, and if you have problems with such medications, don’t hesitate to ask to be included in our daily prayer for the recovery of all addicts, past and present.


People always ask me “how was your day?” this is a blanket statement. I usually shoot off something like “Everything was going great until I woke up. It all went down hill from there.” I stood in the shower angrily staring at the water nozzle. It just kept smacking me in the face and I got madder and madder. Well, it’s really hard to just come right out here and immediately starting saying funny shit. I mean, it’s tough. There’s so much shit hanging over your head… I bet right now somebody has a beer bottle cocked back going “if this mother fucker doesn’t say something funny soon …” his friend is of course going “nah man, that aint right…we can’t do that. We need to stop the violence…” then a couple of minutes pass and moral decency deteriorates as the show vainly plods forward: “We’ll get him after the show”. It’s just hard to be funny on command. How would you feel if someone came up to you with a gun and said “BE FUNNY MOTHER FUCKER! NOW!” What the fuck would YOU do? Go “so a man walks into a bar&.” ? Hell no! Ah, yes, anyway. About myself: I’ve always been really big on genetics and shit like that. You know. DNA, fascinating shit there. Did you know if lightning struck semen an entirely different life form would be created? *looks around* neither did I. Some people will believe anything. “WE’RE DOING GREAT THINGS IN IRAQ!” …anyway. I wonder how often lightning could strike sperm anyway…. How would you get the sperm out at the right time? I mean, shit. What are the odds? It’d be pretty funny to see, though. Just imagine walking down the street… and seeing lightning strike a puddle of semen. As a matter of fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a puddle of semen… unless you’re in Detroit. Because in Detroit … kids splash in puddles of sperm like they were puddles formed by the innocent rain that comes to cleanse the filth occasionally. But imagine it… you’re walking down the street, its 5am and it’s storming. You just finished watching “Patch Adams” at the dollar theatre… and you see lightning strike a huge puddle of spunk. What would you do? Perhaps Tina turner would come out and go “WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?” Or, in reality, spunk would splash on your face and before dying you’d go “God damn, that fucking sucked.” Cause of death: electric sperm. I always thought it was incredible, you know with my sperm fascination, that everything in this world you see is the direct result of a dick in action. It’s odd. I was shot from a cock. You were shot from a cock! We were shot from a cock that was shot from a cock, et cetera. We were all shot from cocks. And I was shot from a cock with a cock from which to shoot more… beings with cocks. Cock after cock after cock. The whole of humanity could summarily be described as “beings with cocks” I just think it’s incredible to note that every single thing you’ve ever seen is the direct result of a penis getting ready to shoot a load whilst in a vagina…

I never really had many friends growing up. I mean, really, who wants to sit beside some phallus obsessed zit faced lanky fuck that continuously feels it necessary to scream “WE CAME OUT OF DICKS!” at everyone that passes by? That’s right. I’d just be sitting at lunch thinking of something to do, and I’d go “you know what would be really funny? Let’s tape a plastic horse saddle (the kind that comes with toy horses) on a rat and make some reigns for it and put it on somebody’s porch! People behind me would be going “is he still fucking talking? I’m going to kick this kid’s ass pretty soon here” I’d have to turn around and elaborate: “imagine some being small enough and intelligent enough to ride a rat. Not only did it ride it, but it would be the direct result of its death. The guy would come out and look at it and his brain would just fucking break. He’d probably think some sort of lawn gnome was in some sort of battle and had to abandon his gallant steed in order to elude the forces from which he was fleeing! Hahaha!” They’d just kind of look at me, and then attack. “HE SAID LIKE 3 WORDS I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND! GET HIM!” I just always liked doing shit like that just to fuck with people. My favorite thing to do as a kid was to make a doctor s appointment… and then call in the next day and cancel. I’d get on the phone and go “Sorry doc, I can’t make it… I’m sick.” I was an odd child. I always liked telling stories and making people laugh, too bad I never pursued that though. I grew up in such a little hick town; there was nothing to do around there. So we had to entertain ourselves. We didn’t even have talkin’ pictures or cars. No armpit perfume, no moral sexual conduct. Just horses and buggies and fat sheriffs sitting around drinking from jugs labeled “XXX” day in day out watching the dukes of hazzard on his 8 inch black and white TV. That’s right. I always really liked fucking with people, hardcore. Me and my friends would just get together and plot someone’s untimely demise. Everybody from the north just ignorantly assumes we’re all toothless yokels that sit on our porches with shotguns waiting on minorities to pass in order to beat them with bibles. Hey! That guy’s Muslim! KICK HIS ASS! Some day when I travel the country… I’m going to film every pair of dogs having sex that i can.. And when i have children, and my children shoot children from their natural Winchesters, I’m going to invite them over and make them watch all the dogs fucking. It’ll be hilarious, they’ll think I’m senile and they’ll go home and be like “grandpa Brandon’s making us watch dogs fuck again!”

Everything pisses me off. I walk outside and sit on the porch. The sky is so fucking blue you just look up at it and go “how much bluer could this fucking sky be?” the answer is NONE. My pupils dilate and my eyes try to turn my brain against me. There are birds chirping, children rolling in luscious fields of ardent green grass chasing butterflies. The trees all sway happily. This is total bullshit and I am now in total horror. I look at a passing puppy, and hope that a passing greyhound hits his happily yipping ass. Some kids play in the road. Too bad they’re too smart to run from the cars. I began to perspire and feel like I’m about to panic attack. “Look what you did now, asshole.” my eyes are now talking shit about me to my brain behind my back, “Wait until next time you talk, and you are SO gonna stutter. We might even make you say you’re queer. Ha-ha! Take that, shit. We’ll make you call your next girlfriend by a GUYS name. Oh, that’s great Leroy! Harder! Black the brown eye, bitch. Don’t fuck with us, little man. We control your dick.” I usually have two independent thought sections going on in my head. Sometimes more. You can tell. Even now, while my right brain is trying to sleep, my left brain – the stupid side – is thinking up half baked schemes to ruin my life. He’s going “Yeah, you tell them about me. You’ll wake up at the supermarket riding a dildo rubbing jiffy lube on your tits.” Oh shit, he woke the right brain up. “Would you fucking keep it down? I’ve got to work tonight you sniveling little shit!” They bicker like this all the time. The left side is basically a moron. He’s the one that made me stick a fork in the electrical socket as a child… 8 times. He’s the one that made me explore where the passageway that is a cow’s asshole led. The left side laughs at Happy Gilmore. The right side laughs at Monty Python. The left usually makes me stutter as I talk and behind my words; the right brain will look over at him with his shifty eyes and go “good job, moron. Perhaps a bit of eloquence would afford you the liberty of not having to return to pounding your cock alone in your dank bedroom at night to black beauty’s 5.” the left brain, cross eyed and excited goes, “black beauty’s 5 is out? Suh-weeet!” he seemed to say. Yes, it’s a he. He has a name and a cute back-story. His name is Reggie; he grew up alone in the cold dark suburbs of ohio eating paint chips off the floor while his mother injected cheeseburger grease into her ass while watching Springer. His dad, and uncle, would shout out him to go inside and play while he hosed her down outside. Then he was on his way to the general mill store for more feed, for the chickens. Only to never return. Poor Tommy. The hippocampus usually has to come down from upstairs shaking a newspaper going “do you assholes want the medulla oblongata to wake up? He has shit to do!”

I always enjoyed testing shit on people. Ever, during sex with a girl, pull your dick out really quickly and then stab it hard into their asshole just to watch their eyes bulge? First time I had sex, I really wasn’t thinking ahead, I thought it’d be funny. I didn’t mean to cum in that exact instance, either. You know, something to tell the kids. Who knew that’d be when her dad walked in? The morning sun was rising in the east, and already the slaughterhouse smile of Brittany’s dank vagina had hit my quivering nostrils and had them quelled in fright as they frigidly fought off the smell of death and cigarette butts that permeated from her dank abyss of no return. Hot shit, I’m getting laid today! I always figured my life was a life long comedy perpetrated by some god. I was taking a shit the other day … wearing sponge bob underwear and a cowboy hat. Singing kumbaya and strumming on my acoustic guitar. I had to pause, you know, to take in the moment. I looked up and said “you’re probably laughing your ass off, aren’t you?” Silly me, gods don’t have assholes. Or do they? That’s one for the ages, there. Does god have an asshole? If so; has he shit? If when, when? If where, then where? The year: 2004. The place: America.

Speaking of gods … I’m sure we all know of the story of the immaculate birth of Jesus. Right? But how do we REALLY know if it’s true? How do we know Mary was a virgin? I can see it now: Mary comes home, it’s 5 am, she’s a little drunk on fortified wine (hahaha), and of course Joseph is pissed about this. 3 months later she discovers she is pregnant, and Joseph also discovers that it’s been longer than that since they last had sex. Mary had to think of a plan, and think of it fast. So, she calls up her friend Wanda, and goes “Hey, that wine you got for us was incredible! 3 — Very good year! But anyway, do you still have those costumes we wore to Stonefest ‘5? Well, I need them and I need them fast. I’m pregnant, and Joe doesn’t know. So I told him god got me pregnant and of course he’s a little skeptical, so i’m calling you to find out if you can get those 3 guys we met at Sandals unlimited and get them to dress in those fancy clothes and meet us at the manger, say around 7-ish. “What if it’s too suspicious? How will we get this past Joseph?” “Gold” Mary said with a chuckle, “Have them bring gold, and tell them to refer to the coming child as the son of god while they’re here. Yeah, that star gag might actually work. But, should they say the gold is on behalf of all of them? We don’t want it to be suspicious. Ok, I’ve got it! Have one bring gold, have one bring frankincense and have the other bring mrr. Joseph doesn’t know what that shit is, so he won’t suspect that I do either. Or at least he wouldn’t suspect me lying to get these products! Haha, so – yeah, call and let me know something. Bye bye!”

“Joe, honey, could you book us a deluxe manger at mangers unlimited? Yes, I’ll need hay. Get a camel and a lamb, too. We might have to kill them afterwards. God told me to have it, I don’t know why – but he absolutely insisted!”

It’s a damn good thing that dicks are blind, though. Ever thought of this? Imagine what his little Chinese eye would see in there. “Oh shit, prison of pink and fleshy hell swarming all around me. Master you shall pay! Man who argue with wife all day, gets no peace at night!” they should re-create a theme park to simulate what it’s like to be inside of a vagina. You’d walk inside a pink tunnel and then the air would be sealed off. In the distance you can see a little quivering balloon type thing. Twitching about happily. Then the walls grow tight, and they smush up against your face all hot and clenching. 5 minutes later they call the ambulance. Cause of death: strangled by life-size vagina at Frankie’s fun park. Men spend their entire lives trying to get in there, yet they don’t even know it. It’s subconscious. It is 5 million years of animal instinct. Human instinct cannot be silenced. Unless of course you’re gay. Then it can of course be gagged by hair chemicals and perfume. But, there’s all these phony guys out here telling girls “oh baby, I’m not in it for the sex.” This is 100% bullshit. The only reason a guy says this kind of stuff is because he knows that saying he doesn’t care about sex will actually increase his chance of getting laid. All of our inventions (by men) are the result of human instinct. The result of a man trying to impress a woman just to get his little wiener wet. Einstein’s theory of relativity was written with great ideas, and thoughts; with nothing more than vagina on his subconscious mind. “And this formula of course leads me to summarily conclude that the atoms within an object under you will not allow you to pass through a chair once on its physical surface.” He pauses. Sniffs about like a blood hound. He hits the floor and begins crawling around on all floors sniffing the ground. “Aha, I schmell puss-saaayyyyyy!” That is why boobs look so great. That is why we look at a shit factory and go “god damn, that’s hot! I don’t know why… but it is!” A boob is nothing more than a lump of fat with a nipple. But damn, they’re awesome. I don’t even know why I think they’re so attractive. It is not a product of my rational mind. My upper brain is powerless when it comes to my homo sapien animal instincts.

The Oasis and the Drink Machine

I have this oasis and drink machine dream a lot. It’s one of those dreams that change from time to time but it always has the same basic theme and elements, the same trappings. In the dream I’m walking through the desert thirsty, looking for a drink machine. I keep seeing an oasis, so I run to it-I run to it and when I get to the shore it disappears, just an illusion. Sometimes I find the drink machine, sometimes I don’t; in this particular instance I find the drink machine but I don’t have enough money to pay for a drink. So I break the machine and take a drink, and all the others start flying out in random directions across the desert, one hits me and I fall down, spilling my other drink. I’m still thirsty and still have the taste in my mouth so I walk on. Then I see the silhouette of an angel on the hill, an angel I don’t always get to see in the desert dream, because most of the time it’s just me wandering, looking for something, either something to drink or something else, but this time I got to the hill with the angel and the angel stood in front of me and asked me had I been a good boy. I told her no. She took my works (for a junkie their works consists of a spoon, a dropper, a syringe, and cotton-balls sometimes, that’s what my works were, anyway, and I carried them around in a leather bag.) She takes my works (see prior sentence destroying techniques) and turns the spoon into liquid metal and swallows my syringe. It goes down her throat sideways and I can see it in her neck. Then she opens her mouth to talk and pills like bees come out and start circling around me and attacking me until I woke up. Fin. Dreaming is interesting. I don’t attempt to interpret; it seems overtly obvious to me. An angel takes away my junk and medication and exhales the pills I’m addicted to, then the words start attacking me, and then the angel disappears. Very easy conclusions to reach with this, and people that don’t know me might go ‘that’s a fucked up dream’ when people who do know me say ‘that’s a fucked up dream’ though for me such abstract stupidity came with my guarantee, mother fuckers. Your verdict, your honor? Stop putting people into categories.

Spirituality of the Modern World

A speech on Modern Spirituality, Buddhism, and the concept of enlightenment. This is by no means finished. Anyone wishing to engage in discussion regarding the topic, I’d love to address.

Standing outside staggering just walked by a preacher, bishop man wants to crucify me, I think, for saying that the Buddha said the same thing Jesus did, although he never claimed to be divine. There’s a difference between enlightenment and awakening. Awakening is seeing the world as it is.

You wake up. You see the cogs. You see the systems. You see the schematics and the schemes. You see the elaborate patterns. You understand nature as it grows around you. But do you accept it, as it is? Tragedy after tragedy, do you accept it as it is? To see children die, from accidents, get choked to death by some machine? Do you see that world? Do you see the tsunamis and the earthquakes and the mass murderers? Do you see flowers and dead cats in the road, the world as it is and the tragedies? Do you see it?

You are awake.

The awakened one was called the Buddha. Just because he saw that world, that did not make him enlightened. He became enlightened when he looked at all the world and saw the bodies of the children that have died-when he saw it, he accepted it. He accepted the nature of existence and the impermanence of pain and suffering. That is enlightenment. To see it and look at it as though it is a rock, and to feel it in the same way; with reverence and love and understanding, understanding the impermanence of the world. That is how Buddha looked at the world: with the same eyes of calm, peace, reverence, and understanding: life, death, flowers, ants on the branches of the trees, human beings, bulls and leaves; all a part of the same organism of a living Earth.

Enlightenment is accepting the world as it is. The way that it has adapted and changed and grown and mutated; karmic consequence, one step a million years ago we turned to man over the centuries as our species adapted to new climates and environmental challenges. Our ancestors go into the deserts, then into the jungles, and we go into the jungles of the civilized world. It has grown and changed itself and adapted to different landscapes, to different areas of the world; the original tribe of man was one, and split, it splinters into different organisms, different expressions of the same life force-the same essence-culture, religion and mythology, an offshoot of what once was a collective mythology in the minds of all men before they fragmented, before they divided themselves by books and laws, though the collective myth they all hold as past is a remnant of an archaic understanding and culture, a culture of the Gods and their stories, the parables, symbols, and wisdom the holy laws.

Without them, where do we go? Do we rebuild the hierarchy of the Gods, the holy writ we abide by, whether it be science, or technology, whatever set of principles derived from the collective wisdom of the centuries of man, do we make myth of the idols of our generation? Where is the wisdom for our world? The light that promised not to leave? Are we a generation abandoned by the touch of God, with no one amongst holy enough to hear the syllables of God, no signal: there seems to be a severance, a channel that once was opened, one that remained for just a little while and whatever light came out we caught. And we painted it on the caves, and now the expression of the divinity of man is on the walls of the Louvre. We painted them as expression of our culture, of our essence and humanity. We wrote them in the religious and philosophical works of our world, the world in which we’re born where we’re lined up for beliefs and values premeditated.

Where is the voice of our generation? The voice that makes it cool to be lowdown, the voice that says it’s fine to live. It’s fine to live as you see fit. It is your life, all choices possible are before you. You have one, as far as we can prove, and there isn’t that much time. A time for us to find our diamond in the coal, the light of a generation lost, content and lost, content enough to never look, to never look for what the voices used to look for, a sanity that expressed an age, a voice that heard the age, astrologically there have been many ages. We move through them and, astrology or not, we go through a procession of the constellations, and gradually go from one age to another, and there’s always a voice in the silence that tells the truth, but how do we know what is true? How do we know the madmen from Messiahs? The madmen believe they are Messiahs. And the Messiahs believe they are madmen. And their voice is mute and takes years to grow stronger, through whatever words he can relate, words that can make it into your life, a voice that can illuminate yourself, to tell you that you control your life, not the sun, not the Gods. It is now in the hands of man, to feed during the famines, to provide for the poor; the bulls and their sacrifice won’t stop the rain, and the men in white lab coats can’t stop it either.

You can turn the other way. You can reduce the world outside the box beyond the walls as here-say through a screen, all locked in now, every voice in the world, and, as did they in the past, they argue over religion; they argue over philosophy. They are not arguing their philosophy, they are arguing the validation of a philosophy they found, a philosophy that was handed to them, a philosophy not adapted to the world according to the world you see. There are a million paths that lead to the same place and it doesn’t matter who you follow. The destination is the same. Enlightened, the Buddha died, and left behind him the wisdom for which he suffered in the forests of India, the knowledge of Mara, the Satanic devil, the personification of evil–the voice in your head that tells you how worthless you are, the voice that tells you that you’re a loser, that you’re ugly, the voice that agrees with it with the opinion is expressed by other. It’s the voice that tells you life is meaningless. There’s no meaning at the beginning, but you’ve got time to find it, how much ever time cause and chance will let you have. There are no ugly people. There are no beautiful people, just people. There are no wrong opinions, not ones that you believe, and the ones that are believed by others, even if you disagree; you are both right, and both wrong. There are no right and wrong opinions, just opinions. Good and evil works in much the same manner.

There is evil in the world as much as there is in a game of Chess. Both sides are evil to the other, but not one chess is just a game, when it’s just a game people can play together, and still compete, play together, one human verse another, no matter the skin, no matter the religion, no matter of form or height. If life is chess, we all have our kings and queens, our bishops, our rooks and knights and pawns. But if it’s just a game of chess played by God, then God controls both sides-then whence comes evil? From the wars, from the division of ideas and expression. If everything where black, there would be no white, and without white there could be no grey, which is where the compromise takes place, a place we all should live, instead of on the fringes by ourselves alone, but in the gray zone of the middle, the middle path, of belief and knowledge, the fence between good and evil, no sides to associate either with; thus evil is extinguished, the voice inside ones head, the voice that accuses, Mara, cannot punish you once he disappears.

That leaves you and the essence of a Saint; when Mara dies, the selfishness of division dissolves, and the essence of the Dharma permeates, as the view of Buddha becomes the look of all men, all mean a saint as Jesus, all God’s children, the atheists too, the son of their mother’s and father’s-that’s comfort in a different form. The world is big enough for every belief, the inner convictions never have to withdraw, as long as it does not advance on the belief of another. Then the equilibrium between man and nature and other men can be established, when Earth becomes not a hell to escape from, but a Heaven one would never wish to leave.

Dear Doctor


Some people don’t have anything. Some people don’t deserve anything. A computer, a television, a car, a job, money, family, friends, self respect. Some people hate the fact that they’re alive. I feel like that a lot, like I had a window open for a while and then I saw it close, it’s always like that, I’m like three years old and I hear somebody crying, and the window’s open and I can see the sun. Then I wake up and it’s midnight, nobody’s screaming, nobody’s there, nothing but four covered walls and a typewriter. There’s a couch, a bookshelf, desk, chair, guitar, two broken digital pianos, and notebooks. Those have been my best friends. These notebooks know more about me than I know about myself. I’m not trying to make a diagnosis, no syndrome, no sickness, just a casual lethargy and apathy.

There was a parade three days ago, at the Party in the Pines, and the parade, when I was young, was always glamorous, the beauty queens on corvettes, the marching band and horses, and the Shriner’s on little go-karts. That’s what they used to look like. Now they’re sad, the opposite of what they used to be. The beauty queen is old and her make-up just doesn’t fit her anymore. The go-karts are gone, the band is out of key, and the crowd is thinner. I think this little spot in the woods is going to be forgotten entirely, all of the people I’ve known in my life will have no footnote in history, no biographies or books or TV specials based on what they do. They get up, go to work, pay the bills, raise their children. It’s all pretty regular. I guess there are maybe 1,000 people here, tops, and everybody thinks they know everybody. That’s bullshit. Nobody knows anyone, not really, just information, birthdate, anniversary, Christmas, Easter, holidays with filler in between. And in between the holidays I’ve had a few friends, all end up in two categories: they hate me, or they don’t know me. Knowing me and hating me intersect about halfway down the road.

All the letdowns, the fronts, the suicidal experiments. That’s what it’s like to talk to someone I used to know, girl or not, they either want to kick my ass or don’t know me. I understand their position. It’s my fault entirely. I can see the problems. I can see all the failures and the neurotic nonsense. But it’s like I see it with someone else’s eyes, like it’s not me at all anymore. The window was open and I shut it and now I’m pissed that it’s never open, but I closed it, I did it to myself. And I think the gradual depersonalization, dehumanization, I think it’s finished. Everybody is at a distance now, because they know what happens when someone gets to know me. It’s the same stupid story everytime.

I meet someone. I try to figure out everything I can about that person, pay extreme attention, get to know them as much as possible, then I find out what it is I think they want, and no matter what, I try to become the vision of what I predict they want in a friend, then I try to be that. No matter what it is, it will happen. If I were to talk to a girl who was into music, then I’m a musician. If they’re into art, then I’m an artist. No matter what it is, I try to be that, whether I was before or not. Then I try to carefully construct myself to their expectations. And as long as I stay in that category, then I’m fine, but sometimes the insanity and nonsense spills over into my personal life, the other, smaller life outside my head. Outside the jail cell in the woods, I know there is a big world out there, full of people, full of complex patterns, full of tragedy. Everything is a tragedy eventually. Even if the lovers kiss at the end of the movie, they’re still going to die, their make up is going to fade, their skill will age, and they’ll die and disappear. I imagine it like a giant warehouse full of lightbulbs. I imagine at one point all of them were on and bright, but over time, the lights start going out, and sooner or later there will be no light in the warehouse and no one left to tend to all the broken bulbs. I wish friend requests came with requirements. That way I’d know everything I needed to be and everything that I shouldn’t be up-front. It’s a stupid illusion, and some people see through it, like hallucinations of the real me showing up before I get the wall back up, before I find out that they’ve seen a glimpse of what it is I think I have to hide. I don’t know myself. Maybe it’s the confusion. Maybe I want to give someone the false impression that I’ve got a pretty good grip on things, like I understand it all, like I’m coherent and lucid and a decent person. Then the hallucinations crop up again, and where whatever caricature of me was at, appears the real me, what I’ve tried so hard to hide with words and pictures and obscure sounds. Then they see the confused addict child trying to put on some elaborate show to keep them interested. I have no idea why. It always fucks up. It’s a lot like Jenga, really, one piece always makes the whole fucking tower fall. And so much effort had been wasted to sustain it. And then I paint the fucking rubble, or write about it, and then offer that as my report on the scenario.

Reports from fucking nowhere, from the little prison in the woods. I could have had anything, and that’s how it turned out. I used to want to be / do everything that was possible for me to do. About a year ago I lost track of all the loose ends, the fringes, the pathos and the fabrications, I lost track of what was real and what was not. I had no idea what I wanted anymore. I had what I needed, I think, but I hesitate to even say that. That’s vague. What do people really need? Food, water, oxygen. I had that. I held all of my biological obligations. Adaptation to environment, survival, reproduction, Brandon 2.0. Hopefully there isn’t some engineering flaw, something that I could pass down and infect the next generation with. But people these days need more than mere survival. They need clothes and friends and families. They need careers and cash and things that make them laugh. That’s the proper response to me. I’m a clown who can’t afford the paint or the time to leave the circus I’ve created, my little freak show, just a bit of entertainment, for your consideration. Do I get my pardon now, my pass? I don’t want your pity, your approval, or your understanding. And even then, I’m talking to myself.

I’m telling myself that I don’t need my pity, my approval, or my understanding, and I’m glad, because I don’t have any of that. I don’t pity myself. I probably should, but I don’t. Sometimes I feel like a robot, a robot that was broken and had an amateur repair that really didn’t fix the problem. Humpty Dumpty was me 15 years ago. All the kings horses and all the kings men was a group of kids and an old lady who drove me to the hospital. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. They got me together again, but the wires were mixed up and tangled, and I’ve been trying to untangle them ever since. Why write about it? I don’t really know the answer to that, but I’ve always loved tragedies, and writing about my life feels like I’m talking about the poorest tragedy I’ve ever tried to frame. And it’s taking too long. And living seems to be a procession of lost and found and lost again.

I try to anticipate response, so I can address it, the usual, “Oh, look at him whining again,” or, “what a bunch of bullshit,” or even, “he thinks we give a shit.” I have been programmed to report the way I see the world, and if that world is just a bunch of bullshit, then you don’t have to care about it. Who am I talking to, really? I’ve wasted so much paper and typing debating myself that I’ve forgotten what the argument was about, but it keeps getting louder, louder and the meaning of it all has long been lost. There is no meaning. There is no purpose. There is no consolation. Just words that will be forgotten from a place that won’t exist from a person who doesn’t know what they are or what they were supposed to be. I don’t even have a reason for opening notepad. There is no reason I don’t think, just a primitive protection mechanism, another empathy manifesto that lands way outside the mark. This is what keeps me up at night. “This,”-I have no idea what that refers to, but as oblivious and I would like to appear, sooner or later the props will fall and a blip of the real me is going to slip through and when you see it, you probably won’t like it. I’ve had the best friends and family, outside of my biological mother and father, two redneck drunks who didn’t know what the fuck to do with a screaming child, and whenever I see the possibility for real happiness, I’ll almost have the tragedy framed and in the past so I can move on, I always, ALWAYS, sabotage the entire operation. If the Jenga tower is complete, the game is over, I’ll pull a piece out anyway, against my will. Just to spite myself. I don’t know why. I do know a lost cause when I see one, and for all my real friends, I see the same fuck-up you see, the same pathetic piece of shit, a car capable of driving that never moves, because I’d rather paint the picture of the piece of shit than drive it.

For your consideration,

The Vanishing Box

I have intensely vivid dreams, dreams that are as real as sitting here. I am aware within my dreams that I’m asleep. My mind wanders in and out of memories and sometimes the dream is an alternate version of a real event, such as dreaming about finding your brother drowned in a swimming pool in your past, although when you wake he’s just as fine as he had been when you went to sleep. Sometimes I get to wander around in my head, like an explorer. The mental atmosphere is disjointed and strange; road signs have names, trees feed on children, pigeons feeding old people, dolphins amusing themselves by tricking us into giving them fish, a little box that allows me to go anywhere. That’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever encountered in a dream and it recurs: I find the same box in different places every time I come across it. Essentially, the box can show me my fears. When I was young, I’d see academic failures in the box, broken friendships, disappearing family members and dying loved ones. I’d see my friends get shot, my family die in traffic accidents, you know, the usual. The other night I encountered the box for the first time in almost five years. The last time I looked into the box I saw my grave. This time I was in my usual imaginary British study. There’s a fire and a pipe and a stereotypical Dickens character. This is a place I go in my dreams to pretend I’m Sherlock Holmes, but unlike Holmes, a character much admired for his usage of cocaine and morphine, I never actually solve any cases. Doctor Watson is a guy I met in Minnesota. I sit there in front of a typewriter and make up adventures in which I solve the problems, then Dr. Watson reads over it and that’s me, as Sherlock Holmes, making fake adventures, wearing his costume. I was in his study when I received a package from an anonymous address. The package contained one of the boxes, the boxes that show me things I fear, I call them vanishing boxes because once I see my fear, the box disappears. The vanishing box at B. Baker street contained a mirror. I showed it to Dr. Watson and he saw the same thing in the mirror as I did: myself, or a very precise imitation. We decided to find out who sent the box. I get my magnifying glass and hat and we went to the post office. The man at the post office thought it was a joke. He turned out to be a robot because one of the questions caused a feedback loop that later cost him his uptime. I asked him (the robot is a Russian man that looks like Zangief from street fighter 2) who sent the package and the fucking robot shut down. It was similar to the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey when Hal sings Daisy except this bellhop robot did the traditional Russian hoy! hoy! as he powered down in a pathetic little dance. Dr. Watson laughed. Let me reiterate: the person who is substituted as Dr. Watson is a guy I know online. I believe the Sherlock Holmes element of the dreams came from a Star Trek episode where a robot plays Sherlock Holmes, and a negro with strange headgear is Watson. In the episode, Data is unable to solve the mysteries because he knew all the answers, having read all the books, and is [as is inferred] incapable of not computing, using intuition. I am different than the robot in one regard: I do use my intuition and I usually wind up in the hospital or jail when I do, so I’ve endeavored to completely abandon any sense of humanity. Emotions, fears, humiliation, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, etc–robots don’t need pills do deal with that kind of shit. I’ve never encountered a computer with a cocaine problem. I used to date a chick with a cocaine problem. ‘Great success!’

We go back to Sherlock’s house and played Star Fox 64 and drink vodka. I don’t know what that suggests, that I’m a chronic alcoholic in my dreams, or an impersonation of Sherlock Holmes with with a Jesus beard. Our game of Star Fox was interrupted by our butler (the guy from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Geoffrey) who says there is a package. It’s another of the boxes. G-Money says the man ran off when he rang the doorbell, so me and Dr. Watson try to track the man down. We follow his footprints to an opium den in Shanghai. I’ve always wanted to hang out in an opium den. The squalor of the institution is something I admire, Lotus Eaters of the new millennium. I tell Watson to look around and order myself a cheap cot on the floor and wait on the opium. A young woman brings me a silver slaver with a pipe and a golf sized ball of black opium. This was turning into a legendary dream. I was in a dank opium den amongst a room of sick and dying people and it was like paradise. It’s hard to have worries when you have a ball of opium the size of a golf ball in front of you with a very accommodating Asian chick holding the pipe. I believe I was there for a long time. Dr. Watson had abandoned his search for the criminal and had started drinking vodka, waiting on me to finish my opium (a very gentlemanly thing to do) and tells me that he knows who sent the package. The opium den catches on fire when I throw my candle at some old Asian woman singing like Yoko Ono. We return to the office on Baker street. Another package is waiting. It’s another mirror, a mirror that I couldn’t see my reflection in. I held it up to Watson. His face reflected in the mirror fine. I looked at it again and it was black, reflecting the open window behind me. I see the reflection of another man, just over where my right shoulder would be. I turn around and see a man in street clothes standing at the door. All of this is stretched out over a long period of time, like real time applies. It doesn’t in the interpretation, but it does in the experience. I go to the door and I’m standing there, the normal me in something I might wear, holding another of the boxes. It was me dressed as Professor Moriarty. He leaves the box and leaves. I open the box and there’s nothing in it, nothing at all, just darkness. I look at Dr. Watson and he’s out of costume, fat and old with blank eyes and chapped lips. Like Sherlock Holmes, I also had a massive collection of trinkets with special meaning to me: the other mirror, that still would show my face, a copy of a book I don’t like from a person whom I very much adore, a .357 with an ivory handle, two red poker chips, loads of shit. Every time I receive something that has meaning to me, it ends up in that collection. I have a voodoo doll of myself. It was made by a friend of mine, a friend of mine who believed I enjoyed misery / pain / depression. So she saved me the trouble of writing a novel by making a nice doll of me in a successful business suit that I can stab every time I start to feel something again, just to cut out the middle memories. Could all of this mental atmosphere and confusion be settled with a healthy diet? Perhaps if I ate more than bread, exercised, got all my vitamins, I wouldn’t hallucinate crying children when I try to sleep. I’ve decided to stop taking the impure medications my psychotic therapists have me on and use the money on healthy food instead of drugs that help me sleep, relieve chest pains and headaches. It’s a shame they don’t have tofu in the South, or soy milk (hence our miserable fat asses.) The reason I’ve decided on this course of action is because of what I believe to be the misdiagnosis of physical trauma to a fetus due to cocaine abuse when in fact it was her unhealthy diet of chips, Dr. Pepsi and McDonald’s led to my grand mal seizures. If only my mother had had an apple a night instead of an eight ball. Who knows? I might not be a bitter and lonely bastard anymore. My career would be over. I NEED MY PAIN.

From the Heart of Catatonia

It’s a desolate vision… It always is with me. I don’t know if it’s all the drugs, my innate nature, or my self destructive inclination, but, in the end, I always choose what utterly destroys me. I’m on so many prescription medications that recreational drug usage would now simply be redundant. Even in my medicated state, I have this unbearable feeling, this sort of void where my heart is, and it feels numb and aches in my chest and squeezes and spasms. So it gets kind of bad, the chest pain, and I panic… I take twenty something Xanax and chase it with a fifth of Vodka and stagger around my home in the dark shouting at imaginary intruders.

Everyone who has ever known me gets to know some reflection, some representative of me, some fabrication designed for their specific needs, an image of what I’ve discerned they”ll love. I’m good at this, this reading of people’s desires and fears. It is my greatest gift.

I always choose what I know will bring me pain. My conscious mind recoils, retreats into fantasy, lies, and becomes distant. It has been speculated that I love this sort of misery; however, I don’t love it when I’ve been trying to sleep for four or five hours.

The question is always the same: why? Why would I knowingly alienate people I love, girls whom I’m very much in love with? Why would I warp them and destroy them and put them against each other? In my last relationship, the girls became tangled together and the masks of my different selves became harder and harder to manage. This most recent mania-it’s lasted since the last day of November-has been the most difficult to bear, since I’m on my own.

Before then, I was working at a cushy sort of job and worked only two days a week and also made a good bit of money writing freelance, essays for college students, self publications, etc, just sitting around, drawing, working on a website, making good money. When I went home I had a fiance whom I adored. When my fiance was asleep when I came in-she knew I had trouble sleeping-so I drove around most nights, and she was never surprised to find me coming or going at any time of the night.

My fiance (Rebecca) was pregnant at the time, 6 or 7 months I believe, and we had been fighting. This other girl was already a good friend to begin with-someone with whom I shared many common pleasures-with whom I had a somewhat stronger connection than my fiance. I started hanging out with her more at night, riding around dim dirt roads and smoking pot and doing a lot of talking.

She (Sammantha) was in a similar condition: tied down by a situation she believed she had no way out of. She was seeing someone she no longer loved and I saw inside of her… and when I looked inside her, I could see exactly what type of man she wanted. I knew the nuances and the subtleties of the character she was looking for. So I put that costume on. When I left at night, I put on that costume, that Scarlet letter, and spent those nights with a person who was more than a friend, but less than a mistress at the time. Then it happened. I got into a fight with my fiance, because I was going to a concert with Sammantha, the other girl, and hadn’t asked Rebecca to go.

She accused me of fucking Sammantha, saying, “You’re obviously not fucking me!” She said this in front of my family, in front of my brother and his girlfriend. I grabbed her by the arms and shouted at her, telling her to shut the fuck up, and threw her onto the couch. She hit me three times from behind and then in the face. My brother got in between us before I hit her, because she was pregnant and I had already threw her on the couch in anger. This is bad enough. I make no excuses for my actions. It was wrong and short sighted.

Kyle (my brother) dragged me into my room and I take my Buddha box (a small, ornate box a friend got me for a birthday once) and dump out a bunch of Xanax’s in my hand, swallow them, and leave without speaking to Rebecca. I might have taken twelve-thirteen 2mg tablets. About halfway to the concert my panic and anger begins to subside and is replaced by a calm, malevolent cockiness. That’s when I put on that costume in front of Sammantha for the first time, the costume of the type of man she wanted.

I found out all the information I could, digested it, and set about how to use this information to my advantage. That was the first night Sammantha and I fucked. I came home at 4am, slammed off my ass, and Rebecca was sitting in the recliner in the living room waiting on me. How was the show? Did you have a fun time? I’m sorry for hitting you. You just make me so crazy sometimes Brandon, but I love you… You know that, don’t you? And I could see it in her eyes; she did, wholly, completely, and without condition: had I told her what I had done, she would’ve forgiven me, and eventually, she did when I told her.

I had begun to deceive Sammantha and had a romantic relationship with her, telling her Rebecca and I had dissolved our relationship but she still lived with me because she was pregnant with my child. To Rebecca, Sammantha and I were nothing but friends, but, by then, and after my son was born, Sammantha was a mistress I was in love with, my muse, and Rebecca was the mother of my child, who I also loved, infinitely, painfully; I loved them both, building elaborate trappings for my private lives to never overlap… until I made my first mistake.

The mistake was taking a picture of me and Rebecca on my cellphone. Cycling through my pictures with Sammantha later; she came across a photo of image taken from behind in silk nighty. It wasn’t very sexual, but the shock that overcome her when she saw it was very profound. I felt it, saw it in her eyes; I have this sense of empathy with people… when I get to know them, you see, I get to know how they will react, how to cause reactions, and what to do to get the reactions that I want. I told Sammantha that the picture was nothing, and even took the offensive: I told her that she (Rebecca) just wanted to know what her new negligee looked like from behind and asked me to take the picture. Sammantha didn’t believe me, but we continued our relationship.

Then there was the second strike: one of Sammantha friends blabbed to a mutual friend that Rebecca had said of her, mockingly, “If he cares about her, why is he still fucking me?” That was the second strike to get back to Sammantha. I turned it into a final offensive, attempting to shrug off both of the charges and told Sammantha that I was doing everything I could to get rid of Rebecca and that I wanted to anger her until she left of her own volition so I wouldn’t look like a bad man in putting out a woman with child. Our relationship continued. I had to leave unexpectedly one night, to pick up some pills I think, and I left without locking my computer, and I left it the message to Sammantha open, not thinking about it.

When I returned, I found Rebecca sitting in my chair, having just read the lengthy profession of love for Sammantha and disdain for her, after believing the entire time that Sammantha had remained a friend and that I loved her. I did: but it got to the point that no matter what I did, one of them would suffer. For a moment, Sammantha was very fond of me. And Rebecca too, the mother of my child, the only woman to ever officially agree to marry me. I knew she would be hurt. The pregnancy and arguments and baggage in the end led me to choose Sammantha, the mistress with whom I had fallen in love. I told Rebecca the night of our two year anniversary that I was going to end our relationship and date Sammantha. Rebecca was broken; she left walking in the dark, crying and shouting at me as I followed. I told her that I loved her, but I just didn’t want either of them to hurt. It was sad that I chose to hurt the one who had been there for me the most, the girl I asked to marry me, the mother of my son. Our relationship was over and I was secretly devastated. Being around Sammantha no longer made me happy, because to be with her I had to hurt someone I loved. So I told Rebecca, I love you and I want to be with you, but I don’t want to hurt Sammantha; I want to do something to drive her away, something that will make her dump me. But she wouldn’t.

No matter what rumors she heard, no matter what I did, she wouldn’t leave me. Rebecca got tired of staying at home all night while I was out, so she started seeing someone else, someone from work. I was devastated again but had to act like I didn’t care, since Rebecca and I didn’t date. We kept on fucking though, throughout the whole time period, even after Rebecca began to see this guy officially. Sammantha and I stayed together, but every night when I after work I came home to Rebecca, as Brandon, not the costumed impostor I was with Sammantha, and I told her that if she would leave her boyfriend, I would leave Sammantha, so she and I could be together again. I asked her to give me one week.

On the fifth day, I left my cellphone in Sammantha’s car. On it contained a message I sent to Rebecca that said, “Suck my dick.” Rebecca hadn’t responded, but messaged me to say she had bought a movie (House on Haunted Hill) to which, I, in fact, replied, Suck my dick. Rebecca didn’t respond, but came in that evening and slept in front of me, in my arms, after falling asleep halfway through the movie. She was asleep and I was at my desk, smoking a cigarette, when Rebecca’s phone rang. It was Sammantha, saying that she had my phone. She brought it back to me and we kissed and it seemed as though everything was fine. I knew what was on my phone, and what the possibilities were, but there was nothing that directly implicated me in anything; if it was called into question, I already had several defenses: sure I told her to suck my dick, but it wasn’t romantic; it was unprovoked, and Rebecca never responded… not while I had the phone.

It was the third strike and, a week later, after I hadn’t been able to contact Sammantha, I was deleted from her MySpace and found out she was dating my friend’s brother. I sent her a message, one last elaborate and desperate attempt, but it fell on fed up ears; the costume had been torn off, and so had the mask, and what was under it was a deceiver, a liar, and a manipulator. Rebecca told me we were going to get back together and, one night in particular she was supposedly going to end her relationship so we could get back together. In fact, I even had an ace in the hole; I had secretly filmed Rebecca and I having sex, afterward she even admitted she was dump her boyfriend: her face, up close and personal, telling me she didn’t love him, and that she wanted me, filmed with the intention of ruining her new relationship if she spurned me. It was all on tape. She still didn’t break up with him but was still saying with me, sleeping on the couch.

Then I decided to tell her about the tape, the blackmail, the trump card. I showed it to her on the camera, without her knowing that I had copied it onto my computer, hidden the files in a legion of invisible folders with redirects, passwords and encryptions; I even had the file online. I showed it to her and she tried to snatch it from me. She got offensive, reprimanding me for blackmail. In the end, we agreed: I’d give up control of the SD card with the video on it to a third party until Rebecca had broken off her new relationship. I gave her three days to end the relationship. On the third day, she told me she did. I gave her the SD card and the camera and she deleted it. It didn’t matter. I had thousands of copies. My friends from around the world had copies. Still, she continued to see him.

I found out and was furious; I sent him a message telling him that me and Rebecca were still fucking and that I had proof. He didn’t respond. I assumed she went into denial, telling him it was a lie, that I was full of shit (which, of course, I am.) She continued to see him and was apparently happy, so I never sent the video. I’ve been alone since then. Sammantha and Rebecca are both happy, still, and I haven’t spoken to either of them in person in a long, long time.

I had them both, had a good job, and was relatively drug free (I was on medications for panic attacks / anxiety and insomnia, but I’ve been on that since I was young) and still, with two girls I loved, a beautiful son, it wasn’t sufficiently complicated for me. I gave myself obstacles to overcome, performed elaborate experiments, arranged scenes to test them out for books, all with both of these girls I was deeply loved. In my arrogance, I thought that I was playing with them but I realized, in the end, I was playing against myself. And when you play against yourself, as I do so often in chess, and the debates inside my head, you usually lose, and I lost; I lost them both to people to who made them happy, my job, and my mind. I was happy they were happy, regardless of whether they were with me or not. They are still with these people, and I’m still single. I miss them both; their friendship and company has been a terrible loss. If I could to speak to them, I’d say: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the mind games, the lies, and the manipulation. I hope you [both] have a happy life.

From the Seventh Circle of Hell

I am a stranger in a strange land here. I overdosed on Xanax, got on my flying ship, and went across the world. I was free to pretend to be someone else, anyone I wanted to be, from anywhere, any occupation. This is a sort of liberty, a liberty most liberating for a man who contrives a show and hides behind pretenses and cryptic, self abusing absurdity. I don’t really know how to convey the state of mind. It’s a form of self abandonment, a means to punish oneself for, if you know me, for obvious reasons. Every relationship I’ve ever created and maintained is filtered through varying degrees of tubes, levels of real information, partly truth, partly fiction, whatever; it does not matter who I am at any given time, to me, and that allows me to be anyone. It could be said that this is a form of schizophrenia, in one regard I identify with a varying degree of faces, faces that I put on in public, when I’m somewhere new, when I’m halfway across the world an hours drive away from a recurring star of my fantasies and though I know and have relished and was overjoyed at this possible meeting, I refused to allow myself the pleasure. I knew what it would do. I had to stay away. I had to be deleted and erased or things would go wrong: the probabilities for future actions can be determined and calculated based on projected impressions creating certain responses from other people. You appeal to the right parts of their personality, and you can get the behavior or the action out of them to a predictable degree after a certain period of time. This is a detestable quality in man, this intentional, farcical impression provocation. If you want to make someone happy, find what makes them laugh, find what they like, and become it. It’s as easy as putting on a pair of shoes to become any type of person there is. Affectation is much more than a word, it’s a safety net. When your real self is never on the line, your real self is never in danger. That’s the problem with people and emotions, their true selves begin to show, the costumes begin to slip, and the ridiculous charade falls apart and when you’re naked and exposed, you know the hatred that you’ve caused, you know the impression: the show is a flop, the audience never applauds, and in the end, you wind up in a silent cell with nothing but spite for yourself. I started actively hating myself and intentionally wounding myself when I was very young. When I didn’t know the definition of a word in school, I’d cut it into the bottom of my foot, to remember it, to punish myself for my own stupidity. When I write these days, after I finished Nobody and found little interest on the market, writing, which was essentially all I did, became a dwindling flame. I didn’t want to do it anymore. It hurts. Writing a novel is like having a child; you’re pulling out a chunk of yourself and setting it to page. Why? That’s a terrible question. I started writing when the voices started. This isn’t some garden variety schizophrenia; these are active ghosts, ghosts with histories, with personalities, with their own permanent archetype, all of these different people are inside my head. I have likened it to a coliseum. I walk around with a colliseum of diverging personalities arguing inside of my head, against my will. It’s like tuning into a radio station, a radio station that spans several languages, personality types, the entire gamut of emotional responses and dialogues, from all over the world, of all ages, races, gender, and religion. My mind is a house where a thousand fractured personalities live active social lives. It’s a permanent soap opera independent of my analytical mind. This chatter is on a different frequency than my self reference thoughts, the concepts. When some people speak, they’re bypassing circumstance and implying past a surface layer of the question, to forgo the known, what is known about a person can be learned from their eyes. Every thing you know about a person can be learned from watching their responses, watching how their brow bends and folds and withdraws. When you know what buttons cause the responses, you basically know how to bypass certain superficial layers of conversation. The loaded statements, the rhetorical, these seemingly innocuous comments are always designed by the paranoid to be an implication, a reference to something that can strike a chord in a person. When I want someone to feel, I give them an image that I know will make them feel. If it’s a friend of mine who’s particularly fond of cats, all I have to do, as simple as this really is, is show him a picture of a cat that has been hit by a car to provoke a desired response of dismay. That’s not the only way you can intentionally use knowledge of another person to force them to feel a certain way. You can throw off references to their failed dreams, their shortcomings, their failures, and the astute reader knows, by now, that what I’m doing is what common schizophrenics do: I’m talking to myself, in public, trying to rationalize the litany of confusion and insanity behind my various poses. I’ve been a writer. I’ve been a musician. I’ve been a painter. I’ve been so many things that in the end I’m nothing but the collection of a thousand shallow acts of distant portent with nothing but a detached curiosity about the outcome of the situation. Until yesterday someone else punished me more than I had ever punished myself. I’ve shot myself. I’ve cut open my stomach, stabbed myself, eaten a light bulb, all kinds of stupid, misery-inducing corporeal self punishment, and none of it prepared me for actually going to the hell of another man’s design. The situations in my life are carefully constructed and rationalized based on probabilities. When a thought comes up, a menu of possibilities with a percentage of likelihood comes up with it and is weighed against experience and a probability percentage of the outcome is reduced to a number. Like this: If I go to the liquor store, there’s a high probability that I’m going to buy liquor, and if I buy liquor, I’m going to get to drunk, and if I’m going to get drunk, I’m going to go to jail. So when I walk in the door, I know I’m paying $7 for a trip to jail. It’s usually alright. I’m infamously crazy and ridiculous. What people think of me varies through all possible responses. And I’m the reason for these responses. I have this addictive need to be in control of the situation, selecting the probabilities correctly, and seeing the situation to the end I originally decided to be the highest probable event. And yesterday I was wrong. It has fucking cracked the looking glass, so to speak, destroying every pretense, every wall, every barrier, every affectation, and every feeling of control.

Around three in the afternoon I decided to walk to the liquor store and get a bottle of vodka because I’m too much of a coward to show my face to someone whom I very much adore. I had every intention of meeting up with a friend of mine and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity because of the travel situations make our communication otherwise impossible, but due to circumstances I had a 94% probability of making this dream of mine become a reality, to have fun, to be myself, to laugh, to joke, to have a good time. Halfway through the bottle of vodka I decided it would be better if she hated me. So I severed all contact with her, sent her vague and outright ridiculous statements, going through the motions of a stupid game designed to torture myself through the disappointment of a friend of ten years. For my crimes, I denied myself the right to see this person. For the impact I believe it could have had, on her behalf, and if you’re who I’m talking about, and you’re reading this, I was there, 100 miles away, and didn’t have the god damn nerve to be myself and let the illusion so long ago I crafted to be shattered by me, out of character, naked, through a clear lens, no means to hide, no way to obscure anything about myself, and that terrified me. Writers and poets and artists usually like what they see when they look at themselves. I do not. I see a criminal offender and psychologically abusive weasel. A sympathy junkie whose tragic farce exists as some complicated means of self analysis. I don’t know why I’ve made things so complicated. I have theories; the only things I’m capable of understanding are complicated problems. The more complicated and complex and protracted the easier it is for me to figure it out. The simpler the problem, the easier the solution, the more difficulty I have. I started studying the works of Euclid and Eratosthenes when I was a child, and I still can’t work a microwave. I delight in physics, in relativity equations, in obscure historical, philosophical, psychological, and theological ideologies. I’ve wasted half of my life trying to find the most complicated, profound, complex, and intricate of forms of thought. It has to be that way, or I don’t have a prayer to understand. I’m an emotionally retarded paranoid schizophrenic with a Napoleonic louse complex and this is what the costumes hide, this wounded little paranoid anxiety ridden coward who can’t face reality without a shitload of medication. My drug usage makes Amy Winehouse look like Martha Stewart. My reliability and responsibility makes Michael Jackson look like a certified Day Care Counselor. If everyone I’ve ever wronged, hurt, lied to, manipulated, violated, stolen from, injured, or harmed forgave me, I’d probably kill myself. I see the monster you see, trust me. If everyone I’ve ever hurt forgave me, I still would not forgive myself.

I was born to an unwed mother, fifteen years old, and a seventeen year old pothead dad. It was never there intention to keep me in their custody and when my grandparents adopted me, when I was five, they skewered the facts surrounding that day I went to court to talk about the woman I believed was my sister. I was told to tell the judge that when I was with her she didn’t listen to me, she didn’t talk to me, she didn’t feed me, she had people over all through the night, loud music, drinking, cocaine, all of that was brought up at the trial. That was my mother, the screaming drunk that lunged at my grandmother at my first birthday party when my grandmother called me her son. I didn’t understand it at the time. I didn’t understand that my mother had slapped my grandmother for claiming me as her son. This has always affected my state of mind, this feeling of isolation and abandonment has bothered me more than anything ever has. This counterfeit pinnochio who wanted to be a real boy just didn’t have the ability to stop my nose from growing. That’s how I see myself. A counterfeit, a forgery, a bastard, and a burden. I think this with the same mind that I think with when I try to go to sleep. I began hallucinating when I was a young child, after an accidental severe head injury. I would hear and see bassinets with crying children in them, with words carved into their faces and stomachs. I’d see dead children with ARTIFICIAL and FORGERY carved into their faces. I would lock myself in the bottom of the closet and cover my ears with pillows but I never escaped that sound. Some nights I just slammed my head into the wall until I passed out, and I’d wake up bleeding from my ears. I’ve seen writing on the wall appear like fire, and common phrases repeat in phases; “Who’d have thunk?” and “Nobody knows” are frequent statements I see above my window. My shadow has a name, and my shadow talks to me. My shadow tells me that I stink, that I’m stupid, that I’m ugly, that I should be ashamed. I tell him to leave me alone. He tells me that he is me, and he is the judge, and that I’ll never get my pardon without, as he says, not without the gun. I’ve told psychiatrists and doctors about these same issues, these debates with myself, talking with the devil and cutting invisible monsters out of my stomach intent on destroying my brain, about the chorus of madmen who incessantly ramble in my head, the coliseum of loud and confused voices. I’ve got a pill for every one. Prayers never worked. When I was in preschool, a local church program which taught kids to count and read and read to us from the Bible, I would be put in the confession box when I did something wrong. They would lock me in the box by sliding a rod between the handles. One day Miss Sarah didn’t lock me in. She told me to confess my sins to God. I asked her if God could hear me, and she said yes, and I asked her if God on the other side of the metal grating, and she told me yes again. The amount of bullshit they tell a child is enough to make a maggot puke. So when they left me there to confess that day and forgot to lock me in, I slipped out of the box and opened the other side and saw God: an empty box with a black leaflet on a wooden stoop. It’s an image I’ve never forgotten, a profound earlier experience: the day I saw God for the first time. To be truthful, I’m a fucked up guy. And yesterday [this happened Tuesday the 25th] I got what I deserved.

I was arrested for disorderly conduct after an argument over the phone. I took a large dose of Xanax, 20-25 2mg tablets, finished off the vodka, and got into a fight with at least three people before I was electrocuted, handcuffed, and taken to holding. I was extradited back to Newberry, South Carolina and was charged with disorderly conduct, threatening a public official, indecent exposure, public intoxication, distribution of a controlled substance, aggravated assault, and resisting arrest (of course.) And after they got me in the holding cell in Newberry, I was in a one room concrete cell with a cement slab on the wall to sit on and a metal toilet in the corner. I was held over night, unable to take my medicine, and when I sobered up and came back into my rational state of mind, I found myself bloody, sweaty, and covered in dirt. That wasn’t the really bad part. As bad as being imprisoned in a shitty hole like that is, it got a lot worse when I told my mother I was going to drown myself in the toilet when I made my phone call, right after I threatened to kill my uncle when I got out of jail. So they led me into the back part of the jail, made me take all of my clothes off, and gave me a long sleeved, beige hospital gown with an open back that didn’t even cover my genitalia. I’m a tall fucker. After they put me in that hospital gown, they handcuffed me with my hands behind my back, with my thumbs tied together, and left me in the corner of a cement room, on the floor, crying and screaming for seven hours unable to move, out of my medicine, out of my mind, and all I could think about were my friends, friends who have forgiven me time after time after time, and how, again and again, I lie to them and let them down, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse in my entire life, sitting there on my knees, nothing to cover my shame, freezing, with a gallery of passing, laughing faces just outside the plate glass windows. When you’re tied up, having a panic attack, racing heart beat, racing thoughts, a terrible fucking pounding in your head… when you’re in this state for an hour, it seems like a thousand years. For seven hours felt like ten eternities of shame, and it finally broke the facade. My control was gone, I was exposed, humiliated, smelled like shit, and just sat there and cried like a pathetic child until my mother was finally able to get me out of jail. I went to the hospital twice over the course of my detainment, extradition, and arraignment. Hell exists. Hell was in that dirty room, a tortured mind locked in a tortured body unable to fight or fly, unable to do anything but squirm under the lamp like an ant under a magnifying glass, melting until the breaking point: the point of no return. I have never in my life so desired to die. I have never felt such emotional, physical, and psychological pain in my life. And I deserved every fucking second. This is how I bleed, you see, with a Signo classic fountain pen. I was guilty of being me, Brandon Nobles: that is my crime, that is also my punishment. And for the Eve who waited for her fake Adam, your tragedy was replaced with mine, my only hope is that you’ll never care for me enough again to be bothered by what I’ve said or done. I had to sacrifice myself to spare you the inevitable misery of meeting the confused amalgamation of bitterness and shame. You’re Madonna on the rocks, and I’m the poor sketch of a self-made Judas, writing my way out of hell, digging trying to get out of the hole, a hole that gets colder and darker every single day. I was there. I was there, at the brink of happiness, and retreated into my more comfortable hell. It’s the only kind of life I’ve ever known

The Philosophy of Reciprocal Urination

It’s a shame it’s illegal to piss on people. What’s the point of there being people and piss in the same universe if not for the two to eventually become one, in one act of divine alignment? Pissing on people is divine mandate. There are people and there is piss, in the same universe, and a fragile law of man to keep them apart, to keep apart the cosmic certitude of someone being pissed on.

Imagine this. If it was legal and people didn’t care, wouldn’t you piss on people all the time? Think about it. You just woke up after sitting in an office all day transcribing the actions of a man making more money than you and imagine you wake up after a long night of drinking vodka and think about how awesome the idea of pissing on someone becomes at moments like that in a man’s life.

This was a popular subject for philosophers in the late 15th century. They agreed with the primitives: if there’s piss and people, why can’t there be piss on people? Imagine it: a newborn child, of any color and creed, black Jew, Creole republican, glinting in the golden sheen of piss on a sunlit day. Doesn’t that fill your heart with sunshine?

It brings me great joy to announce that there is factual evidence of this event taking place, and, what’s even more amazing, is that there seems to be a great degree of cosmic reckoning going on with the general population. People are getting pissed on everywhere. In bars, in cars, everywhere—what is one to do, when it gets to the point of no return, is one to piss or is one not to piss?

If you ever imagine yourself in this position, in glorious, respectable meditation, or if you find yourself on the verge of dousing your fellow man with your own piss, you must tell yourself: you only live once. Piss on them. Let there be justice. Let the will of the Lord be done. Amen.

The Back Alley

The air in the early evening had grown cold and unfriendly, it being late November, and the roads were wet and mush. Towards the end of the slushy, gravel lined roads, stood a small party of laughing men and women conversing loudly and stumbling from drunkenness. At the old church the night porter had lit the outside torches, and holding a lantern in his hand looked distrustfully out into the night, turned, and locked the heavy mahogany doors. The midnight bells had rung, and many of the townspeople were filing out of the night club with swagger. Singing songs and stumbling over one another heading back to their flats. Up against a mud-stained and gritty cement wall, of a particularly lively after hours spot, lay an exceptionally old man nodded over, almost asleep, holding tightly to an old guitar.

In the silence, after the laughing died out, you could hear faintly the notes as the wind passed over it. He was poorly dressed in all but tattered rags and dirty linen, muddy boots, and an old tailored vest with several missing buttons. The top of his head was bald completely, though above his ears he had a small puff of grey and brown, and considerably tangled hair. He lay there still, fast holding onto his guitar with his meager frame and thin arms wrapped around it lovingly. As the door opened for a minute, and the sound of shouting and laughter poured out of the club, along with the smell of drink and smoke, he opened his eyes and stared straight; nothing was there but old street lanterns, with moths fluttering around it, waving in front of an abandoned warehouse. He simply stared, without blinking, as though he was genuinely lost.

Staggering out of the club, with a steadfast and resolute walk, a younger man, dressed in the finest clothes with grey wrinkle free slacks and a black vest, holding his coat over his shoulder. He dropped some coins in the eager hands of the mustached valet and walked out into the street. He stood for a second, as if deciding what to do or where to go, lit a cigarette, and turned to walk down the street. A lantern down the street had cast a pale grey hue on the road, and in it could be seen the small slanting lines of the light rainfall. Before he had passed into the glowing shadows of the lanterns throwing his shadow into the road, beside which stood two barren November trees, from behind him he heard the low melody of the old beggar’s guitar and his low humming. “No signs from heaven come today, to add to what the heart doth say.”

He stopped under the streetlight, took a long draw from his Turkish cigarette, exhaled, flicked the butt out in the street, and walked casually towards the old man. Beside the old man on the ground sat an old mason jar which was dirty and had a faded yellow strip of tape. on it. There were a few coins and a bill inside the jar. “Play me a song old man.” Said the stranger, digging into his pocket for some coins. Still looking straight in front of him, his bushy eyebrows arched and his black eyes glassed over, and the old man said meekly, “I will play you a song, but you can keep your coins. I bare my soul for a piece of bread, maybe some water, but I am no performing animal.” – he strummed a chord and began picking individual notes, “I bare my soul!” he screamed as though no one had talked to him in days, years even, though his eyes did not waver or flinch, “I bare my soul for a piece of bread and some water. There is enough now, I don’t need any more money. You can put your coins away, sir, I will play a song for you.”

Taken aback by the low sullen voice of the old man, said the stranger with his hands in his pockets, “You have money enough for bread, why do you still play? Why sit out here in the cold and the rain?” Strumming out a few notes in a low melody, moving his fragile, and swollen hands quickly, said the old man in a wispy sort of whisper, “I am no educated man, though I was born into mud I am not a worm. Here, you see me; you see me in the mud still. My children, my little smiling ones that run around barefoot on our hard and dirty floor, twins you see, run and play still with no shoes on their little feet. Their mother tries to educate them, she came from a well to do family in the north, and tell them of the world and science so that they might crawl up out of the mud. They’re terribly bright young girls, twins! They wear the same dresses that their mother wore as a child; they are dirty rags, but this does not make them frown. They are so pretty in them. Pale blue handmaidens dresses. They walk around and hold each others hands. Such questions they ask! ‘Papa’, they say with their eyes so curious, ‘we drew you a picture.’ And they smile like they understand the whole world. They don’t know, bless them, that everyday is a day of three temptations. We enter the world with empty hands and leave likewise. Yes, perhaps I am no poet. Or maybe I talk of nothing at all. But my man, I lay my dignity at your feet. At the foot of all their boots and twisted laughing faces, masks really, that stand and throw copper in my mason jar out of their pity. It is a shame that man cannot survive by pity alone. Yes, I may be pretentious; every man is pretentious when he speaks with feeling. So, let it be so.

“They are too young now to know they’re in the mud. Too young, and bless them, they don’t see the stink around them. Or the sins we lay like offerings at their dirty little feet. My darling wife, Elise, she -” he switched chords, continued strumming, “she teaches them. She tries to teach them. That is a hard lesson to teach. Teaching someone, especially some lively little bright eyed girls, twins too, how to love-” he broke off, his lips quivering and his eyes still staring straight ahead him, “It is much easier to teach science than it is to teach love. Much harder. Far harder. It is for this very purpose that we are here. Not just me and my insects, us insects here, no; you too. We are here to learn to love. It’s a long lesson, long lesson I say, to learn to love that many learn as they lay on the last bed they’ll ever lay upon. It is harder to teach someone to love than it is to teach them arithmetic. I am no educated man, but that I know. I am a poor man, a very poor man. But for your slacks and fancy cigarettes, I’d never trade the love of my Lizavette and Chance. Nothing worth having can be bought. Perhaps I’m being silly, with the devil holding me by the collar.
“Still I sit out here in the street, and I might sell my soul for a few pieces of change. But every night out here on the street I die, I die inside; I lose all of my nobility as people dodge me, step around me as if I’m a door stop or a worthless bug, I die inside then, sir. I die. My dignity is on the ground like your shadow there. But every night when I bring bread to my little women, they grow far too fast! That’s the problem with life: age. If they only stayed seven years old forever, they’d hold onto their dreams. They’d believe until they died, at age seven, that everything in the world is right. Is as it should be, even; they believe in right and wrong and they sing. They sing, that’s what we do. At night, after we put out the lights, we light a candle and set it on the dining room table – a really meager table all but splintered – and I sit around and play them little songs. And they hum, they hum like I do. They say more with their hums my dear sir, than you are capable of saying with words or education.

“I may be no educated man, my good man, but I feel and have love. And my little girls may run barefoot in our dirty home, in our mud-hole, but they will feel too. We have no fancy clothes or expensive wines, or Turkish cigarettes and fine art. I lie, sir, I lie; we do have fine art. Prettier than any flower is pure expression; the sound of someone speaking of beauty without words. That is pure beauty and the only beauty to be found on earth. We have beautiful art on our cracking walls, stripped of all the yellow paint and varnish long ago by our spiteful landowner, but the wall in our master bedroom has a picture drawn by Chance; it is but a small picture, in crayon, that she drew of the sun and I wouldn’t trade it for the Mona Lisa. I’ll live out in these alleys, these back-streets, haven to madmen and beggars; but sir, I tell you in earnest – we are all but beggars. I’ll live and die in our mud-hole, our little pit, but everyday I wake up and see the sun, or the rain, it doesn’t matter, I think grace for our hole. And you people, I watch you through the cracks in the floor. In poverty there is still feeling; in absolute poverty you may find a man that so willingly throws his soul on you. You can laugh, laugh at me, I am a clown; I know it and I speak like one. Forgive me, some nights I have a bit to drink though it calms me and I never get violent.”

He strummed a different progression, his eyes now closed, his head leaning over. He cleared his throat, “We are all beggars, sir. ” he whispered, almost coughing, “The highest man on earth has an insect inside him too, and the richest man may think the world entire to be but a mud-hole for animals to wallow in. We are these animals; we are the lesser men. Disposable ones, you see. In filth, in sensualist lust and frenzy, and maybe its true. Let it be true, I don’t care. Every day, sir, I think the almighty for our little hole. In poverty, with love, I am a man of much fortune. Perhaps I am a fool. So be it, let me play the fool! You too should pray for the fool. He, the hand, the invisible hand, made the wise man and the fool. With equal intent and purpose; equal due. We are all but beggars; you too, with your silk and fancy cigarettes, are no further from the mud puddle than I. Riches, money, drink, or even women, might blind you – sew a veil over your eyes and hide the puddle from you.

“That is what separates the peasants from the nobles; we know of the real world. Not one king has ever seen the real world. At night, sometimes, do you ever look at your reflection? Down in some muddy puddle, and see yourself sitting on the sidewalk with the stars in your hair? You may be in the puddle with me, too, but the stars! Ah, the stars. If everything was taken away, the earth, every tree that lives and every animal, the stars should be allowed to stay. But sir, kind sir, I’m being a fool now. No need to raise your hand, or speak, I know I am a fool. i ramble, forgive me.” But sir, my good man,” he said quietly, situating his guitar to start up a new song, “I will play you a song. Perhaps I’ll sing a song for you. Feel good of yourself when you see me, or any other man out in the streets that begs; know then-” his voice cracked and he cleared his throat, not missing a note, “know that you may not sit out in the rain and perform like some call girl dancer, but you are certainly in the mud like I. But, yes! I will play you a song. I’ll play it until the morning, until the rain clears, and I’ll be out here tomorrow. Dying and being reborn again every night.

“I will play you a song, that my soul might be worth a penny. I’m dramatic; I am, indeed. Perhaps a bit drunk, and tired too – I’ve not been able to do much but babble senselessly. When you ever happen on a man that’s been out in the rain for five hours with nothing but his mind, you find him quite eager to talk. A man left alone for twenty years will try to show you himself first and speak normally after. He might say anything. I hum, and play, and I am a disposable man. Yes, we are the superfluous ones. The disposable men, to speak. Yes, yes, let him hear me. I speak so that God might hear me in his sleep. He will know that I feel. It has been fifteen hundred years since God last sent signs from heaven. ‘I come quickly,’ he says, but doesn’t show his face. Perhaps he is asleep. Perhaps he’s always been asleep.”

Said the stranger not a word, as the damp air played about the hair on his arms, and he watched simply as the old man played and hummed. More men and women poured out of the club, laughing and singing songs, out into the damp grey alley, taking no notice of the old man or his song at all. “God will hear me in his sleep.” he said, and hunched back over. Not saying a word, the man stared at him for a moment, said nothing, and turned and walked back down the street.

The Hobgoblin


Roger was alone in his grandmother’s basement with Elmer’s glue, liquid paraffin, and a copy of the New York Times. Dark Side of the Moon Breathe in the air played on his father’s stereo as he worked on the crossword in an old lounge chair.
Finished, he folded the paper into the shape of a sail and glued it to a group of taped Popsicle sticks, reinforced by four others on each side, stuck in a block of chewed gum gradually becoming hard, securing the sail upright on the paper hotdog box.
He carried the little ship into the den where his mother sat. She was still crying. Someone in the room behind Roger said, “It’s just a cat… I don’t see what the big deal is.” Roger tapped his mother on the shoulder. She jumped, startled, and looked at him with expectant eyes, “Yes, dear? Are you hungry? There’s some pork chops in the fridge. I could heat ‘em up for you if you’re hungry.”
“No, I just want to take this boat to the river.” Roger held it up to show her.
“Why?” she asked. “Is it because of…”
“Just because… I don’t know. I think I saw it on TV or read about it but it’s something people do when a family member dies. I want… I have to do it.”
Roger’s mother smiled. “I’ll get my coat,” she said. She stood and walked across the room. Roger looked at his brother, at the white glimmer of a tear in his left eye bright. He nodded to him. His brother nodded back. Roger gestured to the boat and door. His brother shook his head.
“Tell mama I’m going to wait in the car,” Roger said. “Ok,” his brother replied.
Roger walked into the harbinger of night as the sun’s golden crescent fell behind the hills. He stood for a moment on his aunt’s front porch, carpeted the color of fresh grass bright green. There were three old cars in front of the house, covered in rust, aged and decrepit looking. Roger got into a red car with Entae’s footprints on the hood and trunk, mud in streaks below the doors that creaked when open the tired sigh of elderly metal. His mother walked through the front door and the fence locking it behind her sat down in the car and said, “You ready?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Roger said. “It’s just a cat.”
“She was more than that,” his mother Adina said. “She was our family too.”
“That’s not what that Melody B said at the house just a cat what’s the big deal. That’s what she said. I hate her.”
“Don’t hate her, Roger. She just doesn’t understand. It’s okay. We’ll set your boat out and when we get home we can arrange a headstone for her.”
Roger thought about where she was buried, under an under and a stump in shallow ground, in a pink towel wrapped, a glass umbrella on the stump to save her from the sun.
“I remember when we first got her,” Adina said. “She was the run of the litter, the only black calico I’d ever seen with a little white spot on her nose. She was always gentle and kind… I’m going to miss her too, Roger, but don’t punish yourself because of this.”
“I should be punished,” Roger said. “It’s my fault.”
“No, you shouldn’t be, Roger. Why would you say that? It’s not your fault. It’s just a part of life; everybody… everything has to die.”
“I’ll tell you how it’s my fault,” Roger said. “Every night when I stay up late with her she usually wants to go to the bathroom and I let her out whenever she stands by the door. I let her out this morning and had I not let her out, she might not have died.”
“Don’t think like that, ” Adina said. “It was something we’ve done a thousand times before. She always wanted out when the sun came up, you know, to go to the bathroom then find a place in the shade and nap… That’s why we buried her under the pecan tree—where she always went in the summer time, you know that big tree behind the house she used to sleep there every day.”
“How do you think she died?”
“She was dead when we found her,” Adina said. “When you finally went to sleep we got some people together to try to find her and we couldn’t. This morning Joyce called saying she’d found our cat, dead in her tomato garden. We think she was poisoned.”
Tears swelled up in Roger’s eyes, “If I ever found out somebody poisoned her I’ll kill them. I’ll F’ing kill them.”
“She might’a ate some rat poison in Margret’s shed. You shouldn’t think like that, Roger.”
Roger turned on the radio and turned up the volume, looking out the window. The car finally slowed to a stop at the turn around on the end of a dusty road. When they arrived, Roger got out of the car and walked to the end of the road, the boat ramp—a gradual incline into the river—and he sat down just before the water overlapped the concrete. He scratched R.S. Manwell was here into the chipped grey asphalt with his father’s pocketknife and sat the paper boat at the edge of the water. He lit the candle and gave it a shove. His mother stood behind him in a blue dress saying, “It’s time to go, Roger. Come on.”
He turned around to face his mother again, then turned his head to the sky at the sound of a buzzard calling.
“What is it, Roger?” she asked. “Are you okay?”
“Look,” Roger said. “The buzzards…” He pointed to an empty patch of sky, shook his head, smoothed his hair, exhaled. No buzzards. He looked at the sky again, cloudless the color of television static. He sighed, turned to face the dwindling candle on the boat, a muted yellow orb on the waters getting darker.


It was night when he sat beside his mother. They put on their seatbelts and turned around at the end of the road, heading back to their house in Laurens.
“I don’t think I can be happy again,” Roger said.
“You’ll feel better,” his mother said.
“But I don’t want to,” Roger said. “I’d feel guilty.”
Silence. Large forests, pine trees, dark blue almost black went by the window, the car looked like a glowing bicycle rider projected on the wall of pines.
“So what are you going to do tomorrow, Roger?” his mother asked. “Are you picking up cans with Ethel?”
Roger nodded.
Ethel was aunt to a friend of his, his only friend, a girl three years his senior, and every Saturday and Sunday, when everybody went to the white church on Main, Roger and Ethel collected cans for five to six hours a week. They once walked with a cat, whose ship Roger had sailed, and once with Ethel’s husband Richard, until he caught pneumonia and died. But Roger and Ethel continued to pick up cans every Saturday and Sunday.
The next morning Roger met Ethel in front of her house. It was early and the sky was pinkish crimson red and cloudless. Roger wore a t-shirt and jeans. Ethel wore her pearls and beige dress. From Ethel’s front yard they turned onto Washington St, a street in the shadow of an abandoned textile mill in ruin, a place where half the town once worked. They took Heron avenue at the end of Washington to the left, to comb the gutters by the local stores and markets, then a small trail through the trees to clean the beer cans and bottles from the creek, a place where teens go to get drunk and cool off in the summer.
After Heron they turned East onto Sinclair avenue, Roger picked up the cans as Ethel raked them into a pile. He picked them up and put them in her shopping cart, a cart with two black trash bags filled to the brim. They turned left at the end of Sinclair onto Spring St, the most bountiful part of town, because of the three bars on the road, trash everywhere, car parts, paper cups and plates, cans and bottles and newspapers stained in mud.
When Spring St was clean they turned right onto Main, in front of stores and restaurants and a dentist and doctor’s office. Roger dug through the trash barrels and asked people who worked at the stores for permission to take their cans.
The last road they went down was called Little Mountain; a congregation of men, the people of the town that embodied the character of a Southern gentleman, the good old boys and girls drinking around bonfires outside of town, fixing up their pickup trucks and john-boats on the weekend.
The small town was the type where everybody knew everybody—or at least everybody knew the name of everybody, and there were practically no violent crimes since Roger’s birth in ’85. Coincidentally the only person to commit a violent crime in sixty years was Roger’s father who, when a burglar startled him, bit off the burglar’s nose.
Strangers in pickup trucks gathered every night out there on Little Mountain to get hammered and Roger and Ethel usually got a lot of beer cans, but they walked that road to see the sights, to remember the faces. The road on both sides was a blanket of pine trees through which ran a winding gravel road into the country, a mile outside of town. Halfway down the road a river ran over the asphalt by an inch and people held their jeans when they walked through the water to get to the other side. Roger held Ethel’s hand as they walked over the water covered bridge. They walked to the end of the road where the boat ramp was and the turn around, a turn left would head back to town and that is what they did, it being almost three in the afternoon.
When they were done making their rounds, they went to a recycling factory a town over in Clinton and traded the cans and bottles in for money. Roger usually ended up with a hundred bucks, on a good day, and sometimes more. Roger liked going, and liked the money, and he bought a lot of books and computer accessories. They made fifty bucks a piece, but Roger got Ethel’s cash but didn’t know; when he found out, it shamed him.


With their route finished, they got into Ethel’s car and didn’t say a word on the way home. They didn’t speak much anymore, not like they used to, and when they did it was always related to the cans, the bottles, where they were and how to get them. They just didn’t talk like they used to. Ethel seemed distant and Roger was just as wounded, both of them wounded animals going through sad motions to remind them of a time when they were happier, when their loved ones were still there and smiling, at the table for Sunday dinner before they all started to die, as fewer and fewer people showed up at Christmas dinner, the sadness—the existential sorrow of one day no longer being, of one day not existing, caused Roger a great deal of anxiety.
Ethel went through the motions for Roger’s sake though she was in her eighties, and in poor health; though rain or shine she walked with Roger in the mornings.
Every weekend after they met, Ethel walked the same path with Roger around the town. They first met when he was a child with a stubbed toe on her back porch. Roger cried and cried.
His friend Dawn said her aunt Ethel could make it feel better. She left him crying on the steps. She disappeared into the house. Roger sat at the top of the steps in front of a screen door, through which was the laundry room and then the kitchen, and waited. It wasn’t long before Ethel opened the door and walked down the steps. She knelt in front of Roger and said, “If you tell me your name, I can make the pain go away.”
“No way,” Roger said.
“She really can,” Dawn said. “But she can’t tell you how she does it or it won’t work. All you have to do is give her your name.”
“Roger Solomon Manwell.”
Ethel held his little foot and blew on the toe for a minute and rubbed it with the palm of her hand and smiled. Roger looked at Dawn, who also smiled, and he smiled too; the pain was gone.
The day finally arrived when she was too sick to go. Roger walked alone, down every road along their path, and always brought back her share of money. The last time he got to talk to her was in the dark living room of Ethel’s house, lit by the faint glow of an old television. Roger’s face was covered with sweat and red from a day in the sun. Dawn brought him some orange juice and sat in front of the television with her legs crossed. Roger looked at the tubes running from Ethel’s nose to an oxygen tank beside the chair. She was still in her Sunday best, her Sunday best she wore every day, starched and pressed and ironed. She wore her pearls, had her hair curled and a perm; Roger thought, All dressed up to die.
“Tell me how you did it,” Roger said. “How you made my toe stop hurting. You said you would tell me…”
“All you have to do is get their full name, talk to them using their full name, and blow on the area that hurts. If they believe in you, it will.”
“If you never wanted money, why did you walk with me?”
“Just because,” she said.
She coughed into a napkin and dropped it into a trashcan beside the chair. She said, “I don’t think we’ll get to make our rounds anymore.”
“I will,” Roger said.


Three days later Ethel died. After the wake and funeral, Roger rode with his mother again, out to the boat ramp, with another boat made of paraffin and newspaper with a candle in it. His mother stayed in the car until the glowing candle disappeared from sight. She got out of the car, “It’s time go to, Roger,” she said. “It’s getting cold.”
Roger walked to the car in silence, always time to go, he thought.
He sat beside his mother and closed the door, put his seatbelt on. She asked, “How do you feel?”
“I really don’t know,” Roger said. “I’m sure I was happy at one time in my life. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s just the gradual erosion of time, me getting older, or watching as friend after friend has died, or it could be the anxiety of my own momentary existence that depresses and overwhelms me. There was a time when I could wake up, brush my teeth, get dressed and go out, out to play on rollerblades or skateboards or anything but now, now I just wake up and pour over my typewriter, take my pills and cigarettes and now it’s a struggle, to relax, to maintain, to keep myself hinged and busy.
“Because, ‘cause if I was inert, my anxiety, this high strung feeling and insomnia would eat me alive from the inside out and all I’d do is mourn, I’d mourn until I blew my brains out. Instead I keep moving, I keep digging, digging around in my brain trying to understand myself, trying to hit the bottom so I can see the cause of my depression, to find the hobgoblin that roams the corridors of my mind ringing bells and screaming and stomping, deleting my happy memories. I don’t remember the first time I saw the goblin, but he was in my dream—and he told me that he’d hunt down every happy memory I had and erase it. He tries to drive me mad, until I’m old and burnt out, stomping around in the dark room of my imaginary castle looking for the troll who roams around inside my head, hunting down my happiness and killing it, looking for the happy child that I made up because a real one couldn’t be found.
“When I try to sleep, he rattles pots and pans and screams at me, until the child in me is screaming back, screaming hurtful words and visiting violence on himself, because a world of pain is all he understands, a world he’d sell for peace of mind, if only for an hour, if only for a moment, so he could see the life he remembered, or imagined, whichever, so he could see it long enough to feel happiness again—just so when the sun went down, at least he’d remember what it felt like to feel, to smile, so whenever he crawled back into the dark to feed the hobgoblin again, at least he could fake a smile as he watched the goblin eat his happiness. I study the faces of happy people—just so I can try them on at home to see if I can find one that fits. They never fit.
“Every time I see the possibility of happiness, the hobgoblin smashes it like a mirror, and I cry as I pick up the pieces and curse at God when I can’t get the puzzle back together. And if I do, I break it again, just to watch it fall apart. Sometimes I do it just to hear the glass shatter. It always breaks, and I always expect it to; when it doesn’t, I break it myself.”
They drove the rest of the way home in silence. They arrived just after dark. Roger was glad the house was empty and quiet. It took him a long time to get to sleep.
Roger still walks the same old route now by himself, raking up the cans, putting them in the shopping cart in silence, going through the motions, just because, as Ethel said. He remembered the song, Some dance to remember. Some dance to forget.
Even though he walked alone, even though she was dead, at the end of the day Ethel got her cut.