Today in the middle of class a student of mine told me that I was crazy. “Mr. R, your crazy,” he said. Just like that, in the middle of a lecture on Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.” I felt a bit embarrassed about being accused of this in front of my class. I replied with surprise, “what do you mean I am crazy?” “You know what I mean, your crazy,” he said once again looking me straight in the eye. “Why do you say that?” “I don’t know, I just know that you are crazy,” he concluded. He was not one to talk. This particular student has a reputation for being one of the crazier men on campus. He is missing his two front teeth from trying to bite through rocks (while high) and he has a huge scar across his neck, which is a testament to a failed suicide attempt. I could not just stand there in front of a classroom filled with 52 students and take this assault on my reputation. “What do you mean I am crazy, you’re the crazy one,” I said with a strong defensive tone. He stood his ground and simply replied, “I know I am crazy but YOU are the craziest.” The class laughed and all I could do before continuing with my lesson was say “great, so we are both crazy.”
For the rest of the afternoon the idea that I may be crazy has not left my mind. I have been reviewing my past and present behavior to see if there is any validation in my students judgemental claim. I have even gone so far as to ask a few of my co-workers the uncomfortable question, “do you think I am crazy.” Of course all of them told me what I wanted to hear: “no you are not at all crazy,” “I would not use the adjective crazy to describe you,” “definitely not crazy, maybe a little eccentric, but not crazy,” and of course “what! you are one of the saner people that I know.” Ever since I became an adult I have grown less and less trusting of an adults ability to tell the truth, so of course- I hardly believe any of the above claims. I could see in all of my co-workers eyes the truth wanting to come out but their inability to tell me how they really felt, that yes they agree with my student, that “yes, you are crazy,” only restores my belief that if you want the real truth about yourself, ask a teenager.
I don’t understand why it is such a big surprise to me that I am crazy. If I examine my past- it makes perfect sense that I would end up a little mentally unstable. I am the offspring of two Jewish parents who were filled with guilt and high expectations for their less than ambitious son. I let them down on almost a daily basis. They raised me on a golf course (in a suburban country club) where my worst fear was a golf ball hitting me in the head while sitting out by the pool. I had a maid who made my bed and cleaned my room every afternoon and a cook who prepared my meals. My father, who was an angry and violent man, terrorized me with his unstable emotions and always walked around our house naked. I was forced to go to a college that was $60,000 dollars a year and I had know idea what I was doing there. I joined a fraternity that made me eat live goldfish, dog feces and half dead frogs and stick my penis into prostitutes and other things that to this day I am still uncertain about what they were. After college, I developed a panic disorder that kept me confined to my apartment for years and by the age of thirty I was penniless and living in a transient motel. Now close to forty I am just starting to get my footing back. I live in an area where bullets rain down from the sky and sirens have replaced my childhood sounds of blue jays, swaying oak trees and golf swings. Why would I not be a little crazy?
Now that I think about it more, I am crazy. Okay, my student called my bluff today. I have never questioned the brutal honesty of teenagers before today because I have never been subjected to their sharp accusations. My defensiveness was an admission of guilt. Yes, I am guilty of craziness. Some may even agree that I have lost my mind. Maybe it is the transition from the first part of my life being filled with so much wealth and the second half being filled with so much struggle (it ain’t easy to be twenty five years old, living alone in a run down apartment and dropped into a kitchen without a clue on how to cook for yourself). The transition between the two may have jolted my nervous system into imbalance. Add upon that a sensitive disposition that not only feels but wants to end all the sufferings of the world- then yes…..you could call me crazy. And if that was not enough now add the threat of swine flu (I teach at an inner city high school made up of over fifty percent Mexicans- most of whom just arrived back from Mexico after their spring break) and yes, I may be loosing my mind. However, into today’s world, who isn’t guilty of insanity? The lifestyles that we live, the news stories that we bare witness to on a daily basis, the life and death struggles that frame our own existences…..is this not enough to jolt any nervous system into imbalance? As I was leaving my classroom today my student approached me and said “Mr. R, I hope I did not offend you by calling you crazy… I was just messing around.” I stood there in silence for a moment and then I looked at him and said, “I think everyone is a little crazy, don’t you?….and beside who the hell would not want to be crazy. It’s just another way of saying….. your are alive.”
P.s……..I apologize for any grammatical errors or poor sentence structures. Today…I am writing with tooth picks in my eyes (to keep them open) and a strong need to rest my crazy head.
For those of you who know who David Sedaris is, I thought you might want to know that I have been reading his short stories to my ninth and tenth grade English classes. The response that I have recieved from the students is one that I could have never for seen. Not in my most wide-eyed imagination could I have imagined the effects that David Sedaris’s various short stories could have upon a very simple and conservative high school in Richmond, California. I am inclined to think that the worst is yet to come.
After I read my students the first short story from David Sedaris’s collection of short stories that is entitled “Naked,” the response was one of disbelief. The students thought that David was a “weirdo,” but for some reason they wanted to hear more. We discussed the nature of repression and the daily prohibitions that are set up to restrict their youthful minds from traveling into certain “inappropriate” terrains. After I read them a second short story the feelings shared by all the students were mutual- David Sedaris was writing about things that they thought about but were not allowed to talk about- or else they would get grounded or kicked out of school. After I read my students the short story entitled “Cyclops”- the students were hooked. The forces of liberation were spun into action and there was money being placed into my hands by students who begged me to buy them a copy of this book.
I was apprehensive. I did not mind reading these stories out loud in class, but I felt that buying them copies which they would own, might be taking to great of a risk. Not only could this action set in motion the early corruption of young conditioned minds but also if the administration found out that I was buying students David Sedaris books I may loose my job. So I photo copied various stories for students and soon these photo copies were selling for ten dollars a piece on the underground high school black market. Students tried every which way to steal the copy of the original book from my bag and a couple of times they were successful and I had to chase them down. A fever had become full blown and the cause of it was David Sedaris.
I have had to stop reading these stories to students. I feel my job may be in jeopardy. Since I started reading the stories more students have been expelled from school than in the entire history of the school. Students have started smoking and drinking booze while at school. They have also been running around the school with various articles of clothing taken off while screaming ridiculous things at the top of their young lungs. Students have started swearing at Teachers more and one Teacher quit because students would not stop asking her what her vagina smelled and looked like. I am afraid that every thing that these young minds have had to repress in order to stay in school and not get into trouble at home has come out with such passionate force because of David Sedaris’s short stories. These stories have unlocked something primordial in these students that has even caused one of my best students to rip off her shirt in the middle of class and scream, “Teacher, lets get naked!”
Like my students, I am also subjected to a good dose of unhealthy repression. In order to maintain a legitimate position in society one has little choice unless they are wealthy and or famous. So I keep my sins mostly to myself and hope that my lusts and desires will simply drown under the mass of cerebral tissue that keep them hidden beneath. But when my student ripped off her shirt and yelled out “lets get naked,” something primordial within me exploded and I to experienced a coming out that had a force and volition that not even I could apprehend. “What the hell, why not!!” I screamed out with a feeling of freedom that I had not felt since I was young. I then proceeded to rip off my clothes as my entire tenth grade English class joined me and got naked.
The desire to write has been burned out of me like a cigarette turning to ash. I have lost all whimsical motivation to explore my unconscious motivations, in the blink of an eye. When I think about writing my head becomes heavy and my thoughts stagnant. Blogging has become as interesting to me as horse back riding, and this is not saying much. How did it happen so fast? Not more than a week ago my fingers were on fire exploring the very themes that travel through my psyche day upon day. There has been little room in my head for thought the past few days, considering the sun has been out and the last place I have wanted to be is with my id (The term id (inner desire) is a Latinised derivation from Groddeck‘s das Es, and translates into English as strictly “it”. It stands in direct opposition to the super-ego. It is dominated by the pleasure principle). To turn the heat up even higher I have decried the use of technology by spending the past few days working on a farm and refusing to use my cellular technology(Neolithic Revolution). How is one to blog if they have decided to wage a revolution by denouncing all technology?
Like all revolutions, mine was short lived- I am back on line. I find myself with little to say, burned out by the sound of my repetitive thoughts. Not wanting to face my self and all my demons- I have turned off the computer and refused to write. It is only when I write that truth slips out, causing me to face the things I can normally hide so well in my normal life. I am almost a victim of my own hands which type out truths I am unwilling to confront. I almost give thanks for these days where I feel as if I have nothing to say, no truth to face, no will to write. Instead I work with the soil, plant flowers and reconnect with the earth, entertaining the novel idea that I shall abstain from ever writing again. But then the stories, the novels, the plays and the blog entries that want to be written start knocking against my brain so that they can be let in and eventually brought to life. So my burnout may be temporary, but real and painful none the less. I will eventually open the door and return with more investigations of my id sooner than I would probably care to admit, but for the time present my wife is laughing in the next room and I should seize this opportunity to experience some joy in our rugid relationship.
I thought about dumping this site, but once again it was saved by a reader. At times I feel as if the words that come out my fingertips go against my deepest principles. I feel ashamed of the things I write and wonder if I should really share this with the world. Then there is this tempestual voice in my head that says, “to hell with principle- this is literature you are creating and in literature there are no limitations you self righteous son of……..” So I will carry onwards, offending myself at every turn. I will continue to learn things about the demented mind that sits on top of my neck and seek out new ways to turn Absurdistry into a immorality play that may serve human kind in some incomprehensible way. The world is not rid of me yet!
Last night I found my self alone on a dark city street. The rain was pouring down in bucket loads and the cold ravaged my bones. I walked through the Tenderloin like a man victimized by a heavy guilt with both hands tucked deeps inside my jacket pockets. What brought me out upon these dark city streets was a longing for relief, a momentary sensation of pleasure. My life has been pressured by all the many ways a man can fail. Without a job and the motivation to find one, a man is left for dead in this wild wild west. So I came out of my home past the hour of midnight and searched for a way out from the dark thoughts that projected my bleak future upon the lense of my mind. I would just walk, I told myself. Despite the demons and goblins dressed in black, searching for blood- I would walk like a man who appears to be free from the ravages of fear. I would stand tall and make my way through the desolate city streets.
I walked up and down rain covered streets. I followed my feet over cracks and used condoms. Between the sounds of alarms and sirens was a space filled with screams and shouts that emanated from deep within the cities belly. I heard the wind wrap it self around brick buildings and run head on into various street signs. The rapid pulsations in my chest spoke of a deep suffering and my feet walked at a fast pace with hope of leaving some of my suffering far behind. Mucos fell from my enlarged nose that felt infected by the damp wind. Rain fell upon my long body and heavy mind like a Baptism from the dark sky above. How had I come so far into my isolation? How had I ended up here?
After miles and miles of endless walking my legs grew weak. I stopped in at one of the only bars that I could find which was still decorated with a neon open sign. Inside sat desolate souls seeking shelter from the cold rain through the medicinal promises of booze. I sat next to a lonely soul who smelled like sadness and worried away his thoughts into a cup filled with brown wine. An older Asian lady who spoke little English served me a warm whiskey and I listened to the sounds of suffering souls like a wayward cultural anthropologist. Everything that was spoken in this bar made little sense to me. The language was incoherent and somehow seemed to be eluding to ruined dreams and better days. All the voices were raspy and filled with a guilt that was disguised by laughter so contrived that not even I was fooled. The man next to me asked me a question that I could not hear and I just sat back in my chair and looked up at God.
Had I become so helpless that my search for pleasure has lead me to this forsaken bar? Had I lost my own sense of virtue and integrity because of an irrational need to feel relief through various forms of sexual debauchery? Was the suffering that I was feeling worth the moments of pleasure that I so secretly searched for? The answer was obvious to me as I thought about my sweet wife who was sound asleep in our warm bed at home. The rose bush that grew outside our bedroom window came into my mind and all I could think was why was this not enough? What was it that my soul seemed to be so restless for? So restless that it was willing to sacrifice the only things that mattered to me my rose bush and wife)? So this is where addiction ends up. In an incoherent bar with lonely souls who are trying to laugh away their forsaken dreams. I finished my whiskey and walked back out into the cold.
As I walked through the wind and the rain I remembered something that William Shakespeare had once said. “Strong reasons make strong actions.” As I looked into the eyes of beggars who asked me for change I wondered about my own reasoning process. Did I have one, or was I merely lead by the animal instincts of my cock. Was I set on fire by an idea without any reasoning agency that could come in between the idea and the following action? This seemed to be the case. I am a man out of control and this may be the cause of every pang and curdle of anxiety and feeling of impending doom that I carry around with me through out the day. A man who lives without a feeling of control is a man who lives in fear.
I found may way back to my one legged and age-ing car which was hesitant about starting up. It was as if it was saying to me for the last time, “are you sure you want to leave behind this nightmare?” I was only to certain of the degree to which I wanted to solve my affliction and return home to the rosey comforts of domesticity. As I struggled to get my car to start I heard the cold angry rain pounding down upon my windshield as if it was trying to wash away all my sins. The rain offered itself to me at that moment, and just as I considered getting out of my car and surrendering, the car started- allowing me away away out from this dark night of my soul.
I once wanted to be a Writer. I thought about writing every minute of every day. I exhausted my thoughts with words and dreamed of epic stories that I would one day tell. In my sleep I could smell stories and while awake I carried a pen with me every place I went. I purchased empty notebooks which stacked up on my bookshelves. I read all the classics, fell in love with the beats and drove myself crazy trying to live like a bohemian. I dressed as I thought a writer should dress and shaped my words with the pretension of a man with something to say. I had epic vision of numerous novels that I would one day write. I drank in bars and argued about Joyce’s prose style and the validity of Borges. After the sun set I rummaged my way through book stores and strip clubs searching for inspiration. I smoked cigarettes and talked with a drawl while watching ordinary mortals waste their lives away at day jobs. I never wrote a single word.
Now in my middle years I could give two shits about being a writer. I drink less than I did years ago and am never awake to see the sun rise. Meditation is my daily practice and I seldom set foot in a bookstore or strip club. The prose style of Joyce is as uninteresting to me as the sex life of a squirell and I have a tendency to wear the same jeans and t-shirt for a few days in a row with no concern for how I look. Smoking is a habit I no longer abide by and hanging out in bars is as exciting to me as playing golf. I read some fiction but most of my time is spent thinking about anything but books. I am completely unconcerned with the act of writing or becoming a writer- yet I am unable to stop writing. I write almost every day and there is no sign of a word or story shortage in sight. Strange how things resolve themselves with time?
Human beings are remarkably resilient to stress. One way or another we manage to persevere, to survive, and to have our moments of pleasure, peace and fulfillment. We are expert copers of internal and external problems. We cope through prayer and religious beliefs, through involvements, denial and diversions that feed our need for joy and belonging. We cope and are buoyed up by sharing love and receiving encouragement from others. Writing has been one way that I have been able to cope with my compulsions and diversions and receive support and encouragement from those who understand the predicament in which I find myself. Maybe my way of coping with the stressors in my life could be referred to as maladaptive, but at this point in my life I will do almost anything for those rare moments of peace, fulfillment and pleasure.
My wife and I have not spoken for over a week. We have not had any sexual encounters with one another for over a year. Our lips have not met for months and my hand occasionally sympathizes with her by rubbing her back. My love for her in ingrained all the way into the root of my soul but a wall has been slowly erected between us that is forcing each of us to cope with a good amount of stress in relation to the other. We both have our means of coping. She works, makes video art on her computer, dances, does grief rituals and smokes and drinks red wine. I on the other hand spend hours looking at Craig’s List Erotic Adds and seek out the company of prostitutes and psychologists. I have been going to therapy at least once a week and I joined a meditation group that is based in teaching the methods of mindfulness. I spend casual time in the company of prostitutes for at least fifteen minutes a week and hours upon hours driving around in my automobile seeking them out. Lately I have taken to purchasing a bottle of red wine and driving around while drinking and listening to jazz. I search for prostitutes in the darkest corners of the Oakland ghetto but nine out of ten time I return home hours later drunk and without having seen a single attractive hooker. My therapist thinks that my way of coping with my stress is not only destructive but maladaptive.
What psychologists mean when they use the term maladaptive to label a person such as myself is that the individual has found ways of coping with stress in ways that are actually self destructive. These attempts at control are labeled “maladaptive coping” because although they do help us tolerate stress and give us some sense of control, in the long run they wind up compounding the stress that we experience. “You can think of maladaptive as meaning unhealthy, causing more stress,” my therapist told me.
One favorite maladaptive coping strategy is to deny that there is any problem at all. When I am high on red wine driving around in my automobile searching out the handy company of prostitutes, spending my days on Craig’s List looking at erotic adds such as Cumm 2 Me Daddy or Two HOLES For The $ Of One, with my hand down my pants, or hanging out in derelict strip clubs or massage parlors- I am not worried about any of the problems facing me in my life. My unemployment, pysiological maladies, marital torments and financial crisis are as far away from me as the moon. My unpaid bills, lack of motivation or aspiration, and anxiety problems are all but gone. It is as if pornography, prostitution and red wine are a kind of medicine for all the stressors that haunt me during the majority of my waking hours.
The other day I went to visit the hooker in the tree and we had a conversation about human beings and our amazing capacity to deal with stress. I paid her forty dollars to undress and provide me with a hand job as we spoke. I told her about how I felt as if I was existing in a state of chronic hyperarousal. She giggled when I told her this but I quickly reminded her that it was not the kind of arousal that she was thinking. “It is my sympathetic nervous system,” I began to explain. “I feel like I am suffering from all the symptoms of long term physiological disregulation.” The hooker in the tree continued to gently rub my penis with some kind of soothing lotion and asked me what I meant. I looked around at the branches, and squirrels that ate what looked like pine nuts while curiously trying to figure out what these two strange humans were doing. It was mid afternoon and in the distance I had a beautiful view of San Fransisco and The Golden Gate Bridge. “I feel like I am suffering from problems like increased blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, digestive problems, chronic headaches and chronic anxiety,” I told her as I watched her hand which seemed to be hypnotizing me with its slow and graceful movements. I don’t think that she understood what I was talking about but I know she sympathized with me because after I had an orgasm she gave me back the forty dollars I gave her and told me that “this visit is a gift.”
At my meditation class last week the teacher talked about how a healthy alternative to being caught up in self destructive patterns is to stop reacting to stress and to start responding to it. “This is the path of mindfulness in daily life,” the teacher said. I am not ready to give up my rare moments of sex induced pleasure and peace but I am beginning to see ways that I can cope with my stressors that may be more productive than a hand job or drinking a bottle of red wine (on a daily basis). I am learning to simply acknowledge how I am feeling (without judgement), feel what the sensations are in my body and sit with them without reacting. I inhale and exhale many times in a row and before I know it I have found my moments of peace, fulfillment and pleasure without needing the comforts of Craig’s List Erotic Adds, pornography or hand jobs from prostitutes. We will see how long this lasts.
It was a strange thing to realize my solitude. I was confronted with it as if hit by a wave. Decades of hours and minutes ticked around in my head and days gone by re-lived themselves through a window I was looking into. There I was, a man in a black coat saved by his ability to write, yet fully aware of the nascent attitudes of the multitudes who refuse to read. I looked at my face reflecting in the window pane and noticed lines on my ears and hairs on my forehead that I had never recalled knowing. It was ironic to be looking at me when I was someone I had never known. Trepidation creeped up my spine like a lingering waiter and I suppressed two tears that could not wait to come pouring out. I left a time past alone in the window and went to the bathroom which is my favorite place to think. I watched grease form around my tub as if it was trying to tell me something and noticed a horrible ring around the toilet that could only be the result of months of neglect. A beetle made its way and I swore it was Franz Kafka reincarnated in my bathroom sink. I refused to let him live out his rotten life again so I turned the water on and watched the beetle fall away into the void of a bathroom drain.
All is well that ends well is what I often hear expressed behind closed doors and in graveyards where spirits refuse to say anything else. In my bathroom the sounds are rather extinct but as my solitude becomes more material I am willing to listen to the voices which are not there. Now you may think that this is the brink of madness, but I refuse to let a wrongful judgment come between the reader and myself. It is only the realizations of a man well aware of the nature of his malformed appendages that is willing to think of things in this way. Alone, in a bathroom a man is capable of such great feats that even the greatest of Greek gods grow nervous. I have a tendency to come up with my most profound notions while sitting on the pot, but my own solitary reality was never one of them. I was all too forlorn to come up with anything unique so I brushed my teeth, sorted out my hair in the muddied mirror and pretended that I was a holly man who was sound asleep.
In the kitchen I made tea and dealt with the cards that had been given to me. It was not a bad hand but I was disinterested in playing the game. My birds cried for air and so I set aside the card game and released my birds into the darkness of mid-day. Old faithfuls flying free with yellow stripes and furlong sweaters reminded me of my youth- a time when I could run far without fear. Now I sweat at the slightest notion of a jog and wonder away hours exhausted by the thought of my own solitude. There is air to breath but I am to busy worrying about a time when I will no longer have to worry about breathing. My birds elucidate on various themes as they wonder around my house afraid of a flight which has denied them in the form of a cage. One bird imparticular refuses to fly to far and the other does not mind the low ceiling that averts its flight. I suppose all is well that ends well so I put them back into their cage and remove myself to my writing desk.
On my writing desk are a few pens that refuse to speak and a pile of ideas that have not been written. My heart speaks of times that may never come if these ideas are not given ink, but for some reason my laziness refuse a potential that knows not what to do. It is an errant idea but one that I fool with now and then, if anything to keep my mind entertained behind the sheets which are dirty and cold. A mind is like a container in which dreams float. There are boats made out of tissue that carry these dreams around in the bloodstream. Sometimes these dreams touch the heart but most of the time they remain lodged in the head. All of my dreams have collected in my heart and after too many years of solitude, I am finally starting to realize that it is time for me to take this stack of ideas and mold them into form. It may take years, hundreds of years, but it may be that when we no longer know what to do, that we have come to our real work.
My wife was called in to work so I found myself at a bar drinking my fourth glass of red wine. The night had been filled with rain and coming in from the cold, damp weather felt rejuvenating. My bones rattled and the only place in town than I could think of, which would harbor some warmth, was the local bar. The bartender and I talked of the futility of politics and the ominous events that had taken place in town the past month. He told me of his home which was without heat and causing his wife to slowly loose her mind because of the fragility of her flesh. “For my wife, the cold is like an ill omen,” he told me. We talked of hospitals and Spanish red wine. When I had finished my fourth glass of red wine I felt all the tensions and distresses which hung around in my body like a nest, slip away into some unknown region where they had gone numb. I knew that this feeling of relief was temporary, but some feelings are worth the repercussions.
I wanted to walk. To fully enjoy this wine induced state where I was liberated from anxiety. The rain had transmutated into a slight drizzle and I was willing to become damp in exchange for a brief walk. I smoked a cigarette and harbored no resentments towards the world. I watched my feet follow one another and noticed that my body was traveling in time without the slightest effort from my mind. When I reached a particular point, I decided to have a seat upon a bench and watch the night sky darkened by luminous rain clouds. I felt like muttering a prayer but instead smoked my cigarette until it turned red. I was not alone, nor was I lonely. Rather I was a man fully occupying the space of his body and mind with a contentment so warm that I could hardly feel the cold.
“May I sit by you,” an older gaunt looking man said to me with a cigarette hanging from his lips. “It is not often you meet a fellow smoker in the rain,” he said sitting down besides me before I could echo a response. “My name is Andre,” he said sticking out his languorous looking fingers and waiting for my eyes to meet his. “Randall,” I said with a disposition that was friendly enough. I noticed that Andre was impeccably dressed in a black suit and fine patented leather black shoes. His hair was parted to the side and he smelled like a time when kings were doused with cloves, cardamom and cumin. “My intuition tells me that it will be raining for some time,” he said with what sounded like a Romanian accent-”I believe it will rain until we realize all the ways that we have forgotten to live.” I thought this was a rather ornate statement considering the ordinariness of our situation- two men sitting upon a bench on a rainy night watching the world pass by.
“You are being rather laconic, are you not?” I was uncertain as to what laconic meant, but I turned to him and flashed a smile. Even though I was feeling as if my space had been invaded, I was feeling well enough to leave my negativity alone. “So tell me Randall, what is it that you do with your life?”
If you wanted to ask me one question that would start me talking, it is this. I love talking about myself once I am given the permission to open up. At times I almost feel as if I am the most fascinating subject that there is and my only concern is that the listener is not as entertained by my life as I am. Being that I had four glasses of red wine in my blood I was more than willing to talk, but before I could respond to the question, Andre began to talk about him self.
“I am a Zipper Maker. I construct Zippers for purse, jackets and pants. People all around the world wear my zippers which keep their private things safe. I have been making Zippers for as long as I can remember. Since I was probably your age. I was working as a Waiter in a restaurant and I was desperate to find some way to make a living which I enjoyed. My mind kept coming up empty with ideas and I drank more wine to keep myself from falling into the depths of despair. Then one evening I was introduced to a man who wanted to give me a job at his zipper factory. At first I was hesitant, resistant to change- but then when I heard that a Zipper Maker could change the world, I was inspired to learn the craft. I was taken under this mans wing for thirty days and shown all the different ways to construct a zipper. The ubline contort which is the zipper used for purses, the erexile divide which is the zipper for jeans, and the koobla mobile which is the zipper for jackets. I fell in love with the art form and have been doing it ever since.”
I had never heard of a Zipper Maker before. “I am not boring you with my autobiography, am I?” he asked me with a solemn look in his eye. “Not at all I replied.” “Making zippers is a meditation, an art form that has not only given me life but also improved the world,” he said with a look of pride upon his face. I was struck by the confidence with which he spoke about a craft that I had always considered insignificant. “Would you like to join me for a glass of wine?” he said putting leather gloves upon his hands. My wife would not be home from work for a few hours and the last thing that I felt like doing was being alone with myself in our cold home. “Sounds wonderful. I know just the right place,” I said. “Good,” the Zipper Maker replied rising to his feet lighting another cigarette. We began walking towards the bar like two bodies pulled together by the forces of gravity. There was a warmth that I felt walking besides him. The kind of warmth that one gets from a feeling of familiarity. “So tell me Randall,” the Zipper Maker said, “what is that you do with your life?”
The hooker in a tree called me this morning. I asked her how she got my phone number and she told me that it was copied to her cell phone from the last time I called her. “Would you like to cum up in the tree today,” Dawn asked. Strangely I was a far distance from feeling horny since my back still ached from my previous days fall. Last night my deep sleep was interrupted by hot flashes of pain triggered by every movement of my restless body. I had planed on simply staying in bed today but when she asked me if I would just come by and keep her company, I had difficulty resisting. “I enjoyed your company the last time,”she said “and today I am needing it.” I was still trying to resist when she told me that she would be naked and promised to swing from a few branches.
The first thing that I noticed after I slowly managed to climb up to the wooden platform (the hooker’s home in the tree), was not that my back and arms were throbbing with a metallic pain that made it difficult for me to breath, but that she had shaved her pubic hair (this has always been a particular turn on of mine). The hooker was pleased to see me and sat on the side of her bed smoking a cigar. “I know it is a bad habit, but my father turned me onto the pleasures of smoking a cigar when I was young,” Dawn said holding the cigar in my direction. “Oh no, thank you,” I replied as I sat down besides her. “You know not what you are missing. There is nothing like a cigar in a redwood.” I told her about my accident yesterday (see Sitting On The Buddha’s Head) and the difficulty I was having breathing. She was flattered that despite my pain I had decided to come visit the hooker in the tree. “Would it make you happier to touch my breast,” she asked me in a maternal tone. I declined not feeling much in the mood for anything but sitting still(even though I had an erection).
We drank mint tea and watched the squirrels and birds leap from branch to branch (Dawn threw a penny at a bird!). I felt a rumbling in my stomach that spoke to me about the discomfort I was feeling. Being with a hooker without desire was like sitting in a library without a desire to read. I was confused by what I was doing there as we both silently drank our tea. “Want to see a new movement I learned the other day?” she asked with an adolescent excitement. “Sure,” I said with a hint of apathy in my tired voice. On her oval butt I noticed a tattoo of Salvador Dali (his face). I had not noticed this before and asked her if it was new. It had been there for years she told me. She hooked both her legs to a branch and hung upside down so that her long brown hair swayed in the afternoon breeze. Beneath her was at least a hundred and fifty feet of empty space. She slowly began to do a movement that caused her naked body to move backwards, slowly. So slowly in fact that it almost seemed as if she was practicing Tai Chi. Before I could register what was taking place her body was rotating quickly in circles around the branch. She looked like a windmill with tits, moving so fast that her face took on the features of a Francis Bacon painting.
I clapped at the end of her performance, for which she took a bow. “See, these are the things I learn in my loneliness,” Dawn said making her way over towards me. She asked me to kiss both of her breasts for good luck, which I did with little hesitation (her breasts smelled like cloves). She dried the sweat from her body with a green towel and lay down on her bed placing the heels of her feet on my aching legs. “That was very good,” I told her. “Are you sure that you do not want to masturbate,” Dawn asked me. When I told her that I was sure she said, “how about a slow and gentle hand job to calm your pain, or I could lick your flute with my tender lips?” she said smiling at me with a look of seduction. A small pigeon landed above the bed and sat looking down at the two of us. The hooker immediately chased it away “because they shit all over the place.” “So why do you have a tattoo of Salvador Dali on your butt?” I asked her trying to change the subject. She stood up, walked to the other side of the platform and laughed. It was at the point that I believe she resigned herself to the fact that she was going to get no money from me that day. I had no money to give.
Dawn put on tight shorts and a t-shirt with a picture of Doctor Freud’s face on it. It was obvious to me then that Dawn was well-read and cultured in a self taught kind of way. She sat back down beside me on the bed. “Because he lived a shameful life,”Dawn replied to my question. I was surprised by her response and asked her to explain why this warranted tattooing Dali’s face on her butt. “He was a deviant, he lived like one not concerned with convention, he ate black grapes from the ass holes of young girls and claimed to masturbate and orgasm into a fig twice a day.” I was still confused as to why these biographical details would inspire Dawn to put a tattoo of Dali’s face on her butt. “Are not we shameful as well?” she then asked me. “What do you mean?” I replied. “Well I spend most of my time fucking or sucking off men in my tree fort and you, you like to watch naked girls get off while you get hand jobs or play with your pecker…..and your married!!” “I do not see this as shameful,” I replied trying hard to deny my true feelings. “Well, in America, this is not normal behavior and I would say that we are both leading the shameful life of Salvador Dali.”
Surprisingly I was not bothered by this assertion. In some strange way it felt good to be compared to Salvador Dali. I felt a respite from my pain and a comfortable sense of satisfaction that I was living a lifestyle that was shared by men such as Dali. This thought seemed to make me proud of the lifestyle I was living. I was walking in the footsteps of giants, icons and some how this thought eased my pain. For years I had known that greatness required certain sacrifices. The creative genius has to go beyond the conventional, the moral- in order to gain a unique experience that they can then create from. I had always known this- but somehow the comparison to Dali set it in stone. I suddenly felt myself fill up with a lust that must be the same lust that drives all creative expression. I looked at Dawn who was staring at the sky and smoking her cigar. I asked her if she would not mind undressing, letting me play with her breasts and giving me a gracious hand job. I told her that I was feeling shameful about my request but the shame made me want it even more. Sitting up like an excited nymph she told me that it would cost me $40.00 (which she claimed to so badly need) and I asked her if I could give her an IOU.
“MIND-Bl(o)wing}*playmate SuPper Cute,” sent me an instant message this morning. I had no idea how this could of ended up in my private space. I have always been careful not to leave a trace in my tireless acts of exploitation. What carelessness, on my part had caused this to happen? My wife had just left for work and I could not help but yell out what is this!! as I read the message.
“Hooker in a tree says your really nice man who may be into super kinky time without the sex. I know your married, but we can work around it. Instant message me back and we can meet today. I am currently doing in-calls in my car.” Beneath her message was a picture of a naked brunette beauty sitting on top of a lump of hay. Her breasts and thigh all gave me an erection- the degree to which made me consider masturbation. But this would be pathetic- it is not even noon yet and I am already consumed with lustful thoughts.
A persons sexual appetite grows the more attention they pay to it. This is the hook at the end of the string. We believe that we will just indulge our erotic fantasies one last time and then we shall abstain for an eternity. This is how it all began a few months back for me. I would just peruse the Craig’s List Erotic adds for an hour each day and think that it would satisfy my sexual need for a transgressive sexual experience. I presumed that I was under control and that the one harmless pleasure that brought me satisfaction could never dominate my life. But soon the hour turned into two hours and the fidelity that I had sworn to my wife had turned into weekly hand jobs by strange prostitutes dressed in nothing but their bare skin. Now I can not stop. Each experience I want to replicate itself over and over- and after yesterdays experience with the teasing hooker who would not take off her pantyhose, I am ready for an erotic release. Only the further into this polluted pond I dive, I know the closer I am to having to reveal my obsession to my wife. It is the only way a married man can live- with hopes of morality and purity at some point in the future, just not now.
I instantly emailed the naked brunette sitting on a lump of hay back. “Would you be interested in seeing me at noon for a hand job while you are in the nude? Oh, would you mind If I cumm upon your stomach?” I wrote without any moral conscience. I received a reply that said, “you can cumm where ever you like as long as it is not in my ass or mouth. I would be happy to jack you off in the privacy of my car so meet me at….,” and she left me the directions to her car and a good time to meet with her. I took a warm shower and thought over my impending experience with yet another whore, while the warm water melted the guilt away from my dirty hair. What is a man to do when his sexual fantasies rule the day? Maybe soon I will journey to Tibet but in that moment the only journey that I wanted to undertake was towards her car.
I had a Therapy appointment which I decided to miss. I am more concerned about my sexual health than I am about my mental health (as you dear reader can probably tell). I called the Therapist and left a message saying that I was sorry but had a sudden foot ache flare up which I needed to seek out a Podiatrist to help me with. I wanted to tell her that I was being controlled and dominated by my lustful fantasies and was unable to control myself. I wanted to shout out for help and beg her to come over and stop me from doing what I was about to do, but I did not. I allowed my lust to direct the actions of my mind.
I drove to Washington Mutual in which I have a Checking Account. I went up to the ATM to take out cash but was shocked to find out that I had no more money. I was overdrawn and without a way to fill my account up. I stood there in the light of late morning in a kind of stupefaction that happens to one when they are 36, without a job and find out that they are broke. I had twenty minutes until I was to meet the prostitute at her car and no money to pay her for services rendered. I was stuck in a quagmire.
Desperate situations create desperate actions. I decided to go to her car anyhow. I would see if I could not somehow pay her back another time. I would use my skills to bargain with her. I figured that I was a good enough looking man to possibly make her want to forgo her fee. How could she refuse me? She did refuse. She swore at me for having the nerve to think that she would render her sexual services for an IOU. She asked me to step away from her old Cadillac as she climbed out of her car in a skirt that was so tight I could see the contours of her cunt. “If my friend had not highly recommended you to me I would currently be shouting at you so loud that your eardrums would pop,” she said. I tried to rationalize with her and tell her that I was coming into a good lump sum of money within the week. “I do not believe you she said. I stood there by the side of the road which was vacant and lined with used condoms and liquor bottles. “You need to go, before I spray your pretty face with mace,” she said.
Again, my efforts to find sexual release were futile. I left the prostitute before she turned violent. She had been looking forward to our arrangement and was seriously disappointed that I was without cash. I returned to my cold home with a lingering smell of her on my jacket. She was beautiful, a little worn down by the lifestyle, but she would have been a dream to respectfully cumm upon. I sat in a chair in my back yard and thought about all the different ways that I could acquire cash so that I could get enough money together to continue my immorality play on the following day.
The string that holds my soul to my body aches. The joints in my feet are constantly perturbing my mood. My spirit is inside out and there is an ominous worry that makes its way into my mind. My Doctor, who is also my mother and financial guardian- tells me that these are only growing pains. She is a Jungian Psychoanalyst, and she tells me that she sees many cases such as this from men and women in their mid-thirties. They are people who have a tendency to long for more than they have and feel much more accomplished than their reality might demonstrate, my mother tells me. They are individuals who are dreamers, and so far their dreams have not come to fruition so they must start to think of other ways to support themselves, she also told me. So far this sounded like me.
My growing pains began when I realized I may have to go back to school. I have always considered myself an artist but this imagination has not turned a profit. I have earned less than a $1,000 from my art and am now faced with a mid-life crisis. What am I going to do now? I am signed up and ready to attend a graduate program which will miraculously turn me into a psychotherapist. But it hurts. My eyes are heavy and my arms feel longer than normal. I have been stricken with constant headaches and a chronic cough will not leave me alone. I have never imagined myself a professional, let alone a Therapist- but there needs to be money in the bank and I am weary of my art being able to provide for my future family.
Madness is a disease that will keep your families stomach full and a warm roof over your head, the admissions counselor to the Psychology program told me. There is no shortage of psychological ailments to treat, you will be a rich man in no time. I can see it in your eyes, he said as we shook hands and I left his office. I returned home with palpitations and a pain in my side. What could he see in my eyes, I kept thinking. I was angry and decided to sit down and write this entry with the hopes that it might make some sense to a stranger out there who can relate to my pain. I am overcome by the world and the way I had imagined myself in it (writer, artist) seems to be changing into something else. It hurts.
I took a shower this morning and felt a painful knot in my stomach. I have been burping a lot lately which makes me think that I may be suffering from an ulcer. My worst fear other than death, is being ordinary. I have done every thing that I can to avoid the trappings of the ordinary. Now that I may be becoming a Therapist and a family man the trappings of ordinarinesses are seeming closer. I feel anxious and have to remind myself to stay present. I am currently enrolled in a stress reduction mindfulness course that is helping me to just this. Stay with the breath, when the mind starts chattering away, just bring your attention back to the inhalation and exhalation.
This morning I went for psychoanalysis with my mom. She has a nice leather couch that I lay down upon and the smell of redwood trees fills her small office in the Berkeley hills. I talked about my deepest fears- one being my inability to make money doing something that I love. I talked about how unhappy the prospect that I may never be successful at my chosen craft makes me. I shivered and felt my heart beating from my stomach. My mother told me that Apocalypse means to reveal what is hidden. It is a kind of renewal. She made me aware of the personal Apocalypse that I was going through and how the growing pains that I was feeling were symptoms of this Apocalypse. Be patient, allow the renewal to take place and stop judging, she said. Humans are supposed to be joyful.
I returned home this afternoon with a perpetual burp. The string that holds my soul to my body still aches. Today I will sit in meditation for a few hours and try not to worry about rent, what I am going to do for money, or my health. I will just sit still and inhale and exhale. This is it. All of my attention will go into being present in the moment. This usually relieves the headaches, palpitations, chest pain, back ache, ulcer, and feet aches. I have no idea how long these growing pains are going to last but I am getting close to forty and it is my hope that they are resolved by then.
Once naked, I imagine myself to be some place else in time. Far away from the cold confines of my home and the dysfunctional harangues of my marriage. The warm steam fills the cold air with a sweaty mist and I am ready to leave my problems on the floor. When the temperature reaches a degree that would probably be to hot for most, I step into the claw foot tub without any thought for what I am leaving behind. In the nude, I am a threat to no one, innocent again. I am vulnerable to the whims of the world but alone in the privacy of a hot shower.
The first thing I do is warm my body and head (because I do believe the two are separate) with the hot water that is pouring against my fragile body. I think for a moment about death, but then comfort myself with humid deep breaths that open my lungs. I turn from back to front and front to back allowing the hot water to open all of my clogged up pores. I then lather my lanky body with a cinnamon soap that is carved in the shape of the Buddha. I suck in deeply the aromatic sweet and sour smell of the soap as I cover myself with its salve. The soap sizzles on my sensitive skin creating red spots that I sometimes confuse for boils. There are no sounds other than that of running water and the voices in my head. I clean my feet, thighs, buttocks, penis, chest, underarms and face- with a consistency that leaves me feeling untarnished by dirt or dust. Once this ritual cleansing has ended I then proceed to wash my hair with shampoo.
I use a natural shampoo that is made in Oregon and leaves my hair without dandruff or soot. It prevents my head from aching and it also limits the amount of negative thoughts that I think up. A lot has been going on in my mind as of late, and this shampoo lathers my thoughts with a preventative measure. My brain ceases to think about my impending separation from my wife or my fear of small, closed in spaces (like the shower). I am no longer feeling accents of anxiety or over heating pulsations of my heart. I am tranquil for as long as the herbal shampoo sits on my head and I can breath with a calm that evades me the rest of the day.
While the shampoo is still in my hair I take that time to clean out my ears and brush my degenerating gums and teeth. The toothbrush I use is long and cotton bristled and it has a particular knack for getting food out from small spaces. The toothpaste I use is a salt solution that claims to kill the bacteria which swim around in our mouths without any regard for human life. They spend their days eating away our gums so that in the end we are left with painful abrasions and aching molars. I brush my teeth, without the sensitivity that I have been told to use- but rather I brush with the determination of a man who has declared war upon an invading army. Once I am done with my frontal attack, I wash out my mouth with shower water and then proceed to empty the shampoo from my mind, head and hair.
The heat at this point begins to agitate my heart. I can feel its irregular gyrations that are usually the result of too much heat. I reduce the temperature of the water slightly and continue with my daily ablutions. I clean my face with a seaweed solution that my wife brought back from Spain. She yells at me whenever I use it, but I have learned to only abduct trace amounts of the solution so that she can not detect anything missing. I let this coral solution sit upon my face for five minutes and during this time I will normally apply a conditioner to my hair. At this point in my shower I normally used to masturbate. My reasoning is that it not only relaxes me, but after I orgasm in the shower I am able to wash down all of the remaining sperm with the conditioner in my hair and the coral solution on my face. This will guarantee that not a trace of my sperm will be left for my wife to detect on the tub floor. I like to leave the shower as I found it.
I have been abstaining from masturbation as much as possible lately. My hopes is to break free from any kind of sexual addiction I may have developed over the past 36 years of my life. I do believe that it is unhealthy to repress our sexual inclinations (this leads toward the individual becoming aggressive and irrational) but I have masturbated so much in my life that I can afford to abstain for a few months. Without masturbation, my showering ritual does feel incomplete, but I am learning to adjust to where I am at. I wash the remaining seaweed solution from my face and conditioner from my hair with a sadness that seems to come forth towards any ending. I turn off the hot water that has turned my entire body a velvety red color and I step onto the bah mat cleansed and a little less corrupted than I was when I first stepped into the shower. I dry my fragile body off with a 100% cotton towel and take a few deep breaths of the remaining warm steam. Because of my masturbatory habits the past few weeks when I get out from the shower I am left with an erection. I assume this is a result of my physiology which has been conditioned to associate showers with orgasm. Now that I am “attempting” to abstain from masturbation I have to wait a full five minutes for my erection to dissipate. I use q-tips to clean out my ears, apply deodorant to my underarms and between my butt and then open the bathroom door where I walk into the world that for ten minutes or so, I was glad to leave behind.
“She lives in a dark closet. All the world knows of her is her voice,” Gregory said to me over the phone. I didn’t have much to say in response to this. I was curious. “All you need to do is bring her the box of food and leave it by her closet door.” Gregory was sick and he offered me twenty dollars to do his job for him. He worked delivering meals to people who are not capable of leaving their homes. It is a government run program that is dedicated to seeing that individuals with chronic psychological disorders do not starve to death. “So what do you think, will you do it?” Gregory asked me with the sound of sickness in his voice.
I needed what ever money I could get. None of my paintings sold at the last gallery show and I recently quit a job working at a mortuary. I was not in a position to turn down tax free cash. I drove over to Gregory’s apartment, picked up the key and made sure that he gave me the directions correctly. “Here is twenty bucks,” Gregory said. “now make sure when you go to her home that you understand that she is a disembodied voice. She will try to talk to you for hours if you are not careful. Just leave the food in front of her closet door and say have a nice evening. That is all. She is very enigmatic and will suck you in if you are not very careful,” Gregory said to me from the confines of his sick bed.
I drove to the facility where the food is made and packaged. I picked up a box of food and then drove my car to the outskirts of the city where the lady lived. Her house was in a rural part of town where chickens roamed around on the streets beside wild and ravenous dogs. I found the address and walked up to the front door which was painted yellow and hanging off its hinges. Once in the house I shouted “is any one home….I am delivering your food,” and was instantly met with a female voice that said “Back here, in the bedroom.” I searched around a few corners and then found the closet door which had a photograph on it of a womans face. It was in a bedroom that lacked any furniture other than an old mattress and a green carpet. I noticed that all the windows were broken, and the house smelled like cedar and mud.
“I am just going to put the food in front of the door for you,” I said as kindly as I could. “You are not Gregory, who are you?” the female voice asked. “Gregory is sick so I am delivering your food.” “That is not what I asked you, I asked who are you?” the voice said with a tone of rigidity. “My name is Randall,” I responded not knowing what else to say. “I did not ask you your name, I asked who are you?” What did she mean who am I? How was I to answer this question. “Let me help you, because I can tell that you are confused” the voice said. “I am a middle aged woman who lives in the dark. I do not come out of this closet because I am afraid of everything in this world. My purpose in life is to keep my voice as long as I can. I am a Painter who paints portraits in my head. They are pictures that no one will ever see, which is fine because I do my art for myself. This is who I am. Now who are you?”
I felt a subtle wave of anxiety overcome me. I remembered what Gregory had told me about not engaging with the voice. I wanted to be quick and precise with my reply so that I could get out from there. “I am an Artist,” I said with as much confidence as I could muster. “An Artist, how nice. We both have something in common,” the voice said in a high pitched tone of pleasure. “Do you enjoy being an Artist?” the voice asked me. I looked around at the vacant room. I saw a rat run across the green carpet. “It is a struggle, but yes I do enjoy it,” I replied. Then the voice quickly responded to me by saying, “the world is so filled with hypocrisy and compromise. As an artist you pave your own way in the world. You create your own reality in all that you do. It is a blessing and a curse…but it is more of a blessing than a curse.” The she laughed.
“Do you realize that we live in a world that is always seeking to steal our voice?” the voice asked me. Before I could respond she continued speaking. “If your voice is not contributing to the creation of profit for a corporation or the government than it is a voice which must be silenced. The irony is that your inner voice must be silenced so that you can create profit. The soul and the pursuit of money never go together. It is one or the other. You see. This is why I remain in a dark closet. This is why I choose to be a disembodied voice. Even though I get lonely and cry a lot, I still have my voice. I get to keep my own voice. I do not have to give it away so that I can make money or hold down a job. You see Freud said…..” she continued on and on. I was interested in what she was saying so I decided to listen.
And listen. And listen. She asked me many questions like:
“What do I believe?”
“What is my purpose in life?”
“What do I live for?”
“Do I feel successful?”
The questions continued on and on and by the time she told me that she was getting tired and needed to eat, I was lying on the vacant mattress and it was close to three in the morning. I stood up and realized that I had become completely unaware of the passing of time. The voice had sucked me in. As I drove my car back to my home, I felt like a minor revolution was going on in my mind. The disembodied voice had caused me to think about things I had never thought about before. I felt like I was awoken from a long sleep. I lied awake all that night unable to think about anything other than the questions that she had asked me. They sat like a brick upon my chest. Some thing in me had changed.
Today when I returned to Gregory’s house to drop off the keys, I asked him if I could have the job of bringing the disembodied voice her food. He smirked at me with a fierce look and said, “Don’t even think about it.”
I drew a window upon the wall and tried to look through it. All I saw was a reflection of my face stuck some place in time. I drew another window on another wall and all I could see was a sea which was a lexicon of blueness. On the floor I drew another window through which all I saw was a multiplication of lips all reaching out to me for a kiss. I sat on the side of my bed and watched my feet turn into roots which stretched themselves all the way beneath the earths crust. I have been confused, not knowing who or what I am. My confusion seems to be ink and the world is paper upon which I write poems which remain unread. The world is at war in a culture not my own and I am stuck in my room drawing windows on walls and floors through which I see dreams about places that I will never be. My motivation is empty of any steam and the only goal I uphold is to live another day. What will become of me when the lips, the sea, the ink and the reflections of my face all start to become a city in which no one inhabits and no sounds are heard? I must sleep now because my head is becoming heavy and there is still much work to do.