Confessions Of A Facebook Addict

My name is Randall and I am a Facebook addict. This is why today I will be deleting my Facebook page (and my Twitter account). After long consultations with my therapist it has been decided that I should cut back on as many unnecessary distractions in my life as possible so that I can make more time for the things I really need to do get done. If I did not have a tendency towards compulsive behavior maybe I could continue on with social networking sites but because I am easy prey to the temptations of social networking it is best that I stay away. For me having a Facebook account is what I imagine having a toothache or a subtle yet lingering back pain would be like for an ordinary person. There is this chronic throbbing feeling someplace in my body that is always pulling me towards my computer to check my Facebook page and it is this throbbing that I want to go away.

Six years ago I was a luddite. I wanted to have as little to do with technology as possible. I think I knew then the potential threat that technology posed towards my love of reading, writing, painting and my peace of mind. Someplace deep down in my psyche I was able to know that if I got caught up in the storm I would get drenched.  The end cost would be my free time and my passions for reading, writing and painting would have to take a back seat to my need to be on-line. So I was smart to stay away but like most temptations in which everyone else around you is partaking in- it was only a matter of time before I gave in.

I consider myself fortunate to have avoided the storm of My Space. I stayed out of its way and watched the My Space storm drench everyone one else with its downpour while I was proud to avoid getting wet. But then came the gift of a Mac PowerBook G4 for Hanukkah a few years back when Facebook was becoming a popular on-line destination. I promised myself that I would stay away from social networking sites and use my new laptop with an Aikido like discipline. My wife was having a blast re-connecting with lost friends and connecting with current friends on Facebook while I read my books alone in my darkened room. I scoffed at her willingness to turn all of her personal relationships into digital ones but she would often tell me to “not knock it until I tried it,” so I took that as a challenge and one day decided to sign up.

I was getting bored just using my new laptop for googling, email and blogging. I knew that my PowerBook G4 had enough power in it to take me into multiple virtual worlds at once and change my experience of communicating and living on earth into something less complicated- but I instead was choosing to not tap into my laptops full potential. I admit that I had some semblance of guilt about this and felt bad that the laptop was growing weak because of my inability to really use it for all it was worth. Facebook felt like a good place to begin.

Like any addiction in its initial stage my introduction to Facebook was innocent and fun. I was excited to re-connect with a few old friends and engage with current ones on-line. Facebook was a good way for me to connect with certain friends without having to talk with them on the phone or see them in person. I am already a slightly solitary person who would rather read a book than socialize so there was something initially liberating about Facebook. I could stay in touch without really connecting. I enjoyed reading the various articles and watching videos that my various friends posted and felt like I was creating a positive community of people that I was motivated to be apart of. But like any addiction- my Facebook addiction became an out of control obsession before I even knew what was going on.

Within a month I went from 10 friends to 175 friends. I had never had this many friends in my entire life and there was something about the number 175 that made me feel slightly popular. “I have 175 friends,” would often run through my mind like a mantra or a declaration against loneliness and isolation. For the first time in my life I felt like I had a fan base, an audience and status updates became an important way for me to communicate to others the way in which I experienced the world. My friends were listening to me, reading my status updates and leaving comments- and this feeling of being known or heard or seen filled me with the illusory sense that I was unique, maybe even slightly famous. After less than two months on Facebook I was beginning to feel special.

As a child my parents worked all the time and I spent a lot of time alone. When my parents were home I felt like they were too preoccupied to pay any real attention to me. Deep down I knew I was someone special but to my parents I felt like I was just an ordinary kid. I tried to do everything I could to stand out. I got in trouble at school, ran away several times, started a new wave magazine, was determined to play professional tennis and one day be famous. But for some reason all of my attempts to stand out never really attracted the attention I needed from them. I got punished, or told that I was a dreamer and then they went back into their worlds. I felt abandoned, unseen, unheard and determined to one-day make something of myself in this life- so they would have to see who I really was.

This feeling of isolation that followed me into my adulthood was muted or watered down by my compulsive desire to leave status updates. With every status update that I felt like I was constructing a persona that was not really “I” but was more like the “I” that I wanted to be perceived as being. I kept a notebook on my person at all times where I would write down status update ideas when they came into my mind. Before I went to sleep at night and when I woke up in the morning I would work hard to think up various status updates in my mind. I was leaving three or four status updates a day and checking my Facebook page seven or eight times a day to see if anyone had left a comment. Before I knew it, months had passed without me reading a single book or putting a splotch of paint on a canvas. It was then that I began to have the lingering feeling that I could be addicted to Facebook.

The worst part of my addiction was not the false sense of self that I created from leaving Facebook status updates. Nor was it the loss of privacy or the amount of repetitive times that I spent checking my Facebook homepage everyday. No, the worst part of my Facebook addiction is the most difficult confession. I hope you will forgive me this transgression. You see, I would work hard at constructing various status updates. The updates had become my main preoccupation and my main form of creative expression. The status update blank digital box had become my empty canvas or a blank page upon which I created my art. I felt like I was making myself vulnerable to all of my Facebook friends and the least that I expected in return was a comment or two. Some kind of acknowledgement from my peers. But when I would post a status update and none of my friends would leave a single comment- I felt a sense of rejection so deep that I could feel fire burning behind my eyes. The fire filled my mind with a blistering indignation towards all my facebook friends who had failed to acknowledge my one form of creative expression. I felt unseen and unappreciated and this in turn ruined my whole day. But like every addiction- a quick fix was just around the corner.

My consumption of alcohol increased during this period. I would put out the flames of my indignation with the cold carbonation of beer. After two or three drinks I would return to my Facebook page and not feel so bad anymore. I would leave another ridiculous status update about being drunk and usually receive a comment or thumbs up which caused my indignation to disappear. I would return to business as usual. My wife never noticed that I was checking my Facebook page sometimes twenty times a day to see if anyone had commented on my page and/or to catch up with my friend’s status updates and various posts. Sometimes, I would even take pride in comparing my status updates to my friend’s status updates and take great delight in the superiority of my status updates. Ridiculous, I know- but Facebook was making me into the kind of man who I did not want to be.

A lot of my fifty minutes in therapy has been taken up with discussions about my Facebook addiction. My therapist became concerned about my lack of self-control and was worried that all the time I spent using or thinking about Facebook was distracting me from what I really needed to be thinking about in my life. She found for me a few Facebook anonymous groups in Sacramento, which I promised her I would look into. I was convinced that my Facebook addiction was not as bad as she was making it out to be and I knew that I could stop going to Facebook when I was on-line if I wanted to. But I was wrong- Facebook had me exactly where it wanted me and was not going to let go any time soon.

Like any great form of self expression- my status update creative phase fell victim to a writer’s block. I was only able to leave one or two status updates a day and I knew that these status updates did not have the brilliance and charm of my earlier status updates. So I slowed down on my updates and spent more time consumed by my friend’s status updates and the various superficial cutouts of information and entertainment that they posted on-line. I would pass hours watching videos and reading articles. The first thing I would do in the morning was to check my Facebook page. It was also the last thing I would do before going to bed. My creative impulses were becoming weakend by the amount of digital information I was taking in and when it came time to sit with a book my eyes were so strained that I could not clearly ingest a single word.

Prior to using Facebook I spoke to my friends on the phone or saw them in person. It has been months since I have talked to a friend on the phone. The loneliness that I thought was being nullified by my time spent on Facebook has only increased. Like a cancer it has not gone away but simply changed its form and moved to a different place. Loneliness is one of the greatest symptoms of our new social networking world. Communities like Facebook create a false sense of friendship and belonging but what I think really happens is that the more digitalized our friends become the further away we grow from ourselves and our corporeal world. Communicating becomes reduced to status updates or brief cutouts of personal information. But human beings are complex organisms with multiple layers of self. To really be a friend one needs to spend a lot of time peeling back these layers and getting inside. The more I have used Facebook the more layers I have been able to keep concealed and this has turned the majority of my friendships into nothing more than a superficial status update.

So I am going to stay away. As of today I will delete my Facebook account and get back on track with living in the world of flesh and bones. I will get back to my books, my writing and paint on a few canvases that have collected cobwebs and dust in the corner of my room. I will start keeping a journal again with pen and ink (where I am the only one who can read my personal thoughts) and re-establish a sense of privacy that I feel I surrendered the moment that I joined Facebook. Maybe deleting my Facebook page is a radical step in the wrong direction but for a compulsive person like myself Facebook is a virus that I must wipe out if I want to feel my normal, vibrant self again. I know that it will take a few weeks to re-adapt to life without Facebook but I am prepared, optimistic and excited for this challenge to live a life that is not spent on-line. Who knows, maybe I will pick up the phone and call a few friends.

The End Of Absurdistry

Absurdistry will be self destructing in twenty-four hours. It has been a pleasure writing on this wacky blog and even more pleasurable having you as my readers. I am deleting this blog because I want to minimize my on-line time and have less distractions in my life so that I can focus on writing the novel I feel like I need to write. Please feel free to copy anything you would like from this blog (if you want) and I wish you all the best in your existences on planet earth and beyond.

Cordially,

Randall

I Am Not Franz Kafka?

All through out my twenties I thought I was Franz Kafka (July 3, 1883- June 3, 1924). He was skinny, tall, introverted, alienated, intellectual, dark-skinned, well dressed, nervous, dramatic and Jewish. So was I. Kafka had a deep longing to be a writer and so did I. He loved literature, his sister, women, exercise and hated his job- just like I did. Kafka had a father, Hermann Kafka (1852-1931), who was a huge, dominating, worldly, loud, overbearing, oppressive and successful business man- just like mine. Kafka wrote “Letter To His Father” in which he spoke of being profoundly affected, both physically and psychologically, by his father’s authoritative and demanding character. I could have written the exact same letter to my father and I often did (I would copy Kafka’s letter and put some sentences in my own words and then mail a shorter version of “Brief an den Vader” to my father). So many things seemed to indicate to me that Kafka was just like I or I was just like him. I deeply related to his short stories and read and re-read his novels America, The Trial and The Castle. His novella, “The Metamorphosis” felt like the perfect metaphor for my life.

One of the difficulties of aging is that as years pass one begins to realize the misguided thinking of ones youth. One sees how much of their behavior was a fervid rebellion or unorganized folly against parents, orthodoxy and attempts to control- no matter how much one thought their behavior was authentic, ideological and revolutionary at the time. The joys of youth are hidden in its naivety, in youth’s ignorance of the root cause of behavior (I miss those days). As I have traveled through my thirties and am nearing my forties (shedding some of the anger and idealisms of my youth) I am beginning to realize that I am not like Kafka at all. At least I don’t think so. On the 18th of June 1906, Franz Kafka received his Doctorate of Law. He went to work for a large Italian insurance company where he worked for a year before quitting. Then he found a job with Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia where he worked for the next fourteen years of his life. I have never worked this long at any job with such uncompromising dedication as Kafka- nor would I want to. Kafka was a diligent and reliable employee although he often complained that he “despised the job.” His father often referred to his son’s career choice as “Brotberuf,” literally meaning “bread job,” a job done only to pay the bills. I would never want to imagine living like this.

I am not a Zionist. I have difficulty relating to those who are. It is not clear if Franz Kafka was a Zionist (I think he was) even though he sympathized with the Jews whom he thought deserved a homeland in Palestine. I have very little sympathy for Israel whose government and military is committing and has been committing for years daily human rights violations against the Palestinian people. Kafka would certainly not condone Israels current militaristic behavior but we would certainly have differing opinions about the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the Jewish diaspora- were Kafka alive today. Even though there is not a lot of “Jewishness” in Kafka’s literary work- Kafka was very interested in Yiddish Theatre and Yiddish Literature, whereas I find these two art forms incredibly dull. Judaism does not appeal to me as it did to Kafka. Kafka read the Talmud daily and the few times that I have tried to read the Talmud I have fallen asleep.

Kafka was a very spiritual man and so am I. However, Kafka’s spirituality was very philosophical whereas mine is metaphysical, almost verging upon the new age. Gustav Janouch, who would often visit Kafka at work and then record the things that they talked about (which was later published as the book “Conversations With Kafka”) said that Kafka was a saint dressed in businessman clothes. Kafka often spoke about the virtues of patience. I have a tendency to be impatient. I have always wanted what I want now but Kafka once said, “Patience is the master-key to every situation. One must have sympathy for everything, surrender to everything, but at the same time remain patient and forbearing.” Kafka was simply talking about the Buddhist idea of “letting go and being in the moment.” Unlike Kafka, who is said to have been a master of being in the moment, I am almost incapable of spending more than a minute or two in the “now.”

Kafka once said to Gustav while they where on a crystalline autumn day walk, “there is no such thing as bending or breaking. It is a question only of overcoming, which begins with overcoming oneself. That cannot be avoided. To abandon the path is always to break into pieces. One must patiently accept everything and let it grow within oneself. The barriers of the fear-ridden can only be broken by love. One must, in the dead leaves that rustle around one, already see the young, fresh green of spring, and wait. Patience is the true foundation on which to make one’s dreams come true.” I happen to completely agree with this sentiment. I often practice this way of being myself and talk about it with others. The major difference between Kafka and I is that when I say something like this to people they look confused or take me for a new age freak. But when Kafka said the exact same thing- it gets recorded and written down in a book! I am not complaining, nor am I jealous of Kafka- I just recognize that Kafka and I obviously have very different ways of enunciating and expressing our ideas.

I have always enjoyed working nights or staying up late into the night. It is strange to me that Kafka would say something like, “working at night is very bad for one’s health. And besides you tear yourself out of the human community. The night side of life becomes the day-side for you, and what is day for other men changes into a dream for you.” I find this strange because I know that Kafka would often return home from work at three or four in the afternoon, take a nap, eat dinner and then write until late in the evening. He had to be at work before the sun came up, six days a week, and he would very often only sleep two or three hours a night because he would stay up slaving away at his stories or novels. I myself often work as a waiter when I cannot find any other way to make economic ends meet (also one benefit to working as a waiter is that I can have my days free to write, paint, read or do whatever I want). I enjoy the nighttime hours that allow me to feel separate from the normalized nine to five “human community.” A writer is often an outsider anyways- and my work as a waiter often confirms my outsider status. Kafka may disagree with my chosen line of work and tell me that I am selling myself short or that it is bad for my health to work late into the night- but I could easily turn the situation around and call him a hypocrite.

No, I am not Kafka. Sure, if someone compared our biographies they would find superficial similarities. Kafka was a health nut and so am I. Kafka was continually dependent on and exhausted by his fathers support, so am I. Kafka had issues with sex, intimacy and choosing between the writing life and the domestic life- so do I. Kafka liked to draw, so do I. Kafka prayed, I meditate. Kafka loved the streets, palaces, gardens and churches of the city where he was born and I love the rolling hills, smells, trees and avenues of the city where I grew up. Kafka was too shy and reserved for friendship and sometimes I think I am as well. Kafka talked about the coming age where the world would be populated with robots, catastrophe, bureaucracy and “chains that can not be broken because there are no chains that can be seen.” I am living in this age. Several years before the holocaust occurred Kafka said “we live in a morass of corroding lies and illusions, in which terrible and monstrous things happen, which journalists report with amused objectivity and thus- without anyone noticing- trample on the lives of millions of people as if they were worthless insects (Fox News comes immediately to mind).” I feel like the same thing could be said about the world in which I currently reside. But even with all these similarities between Kafka and I- I am no Franz Kafka.

“Man does not grow from below upwards but from within outwards. This is a fundamental condition of all freedom in life,” Kafka said to Gustave one day as he was buried in paperwork that was stacked up in piles on his desk. The room in which Kafka worked was filled with rows of desks and Gustav sat in a chair besides Kafka’s desk listening to him talk. “It is not an artificially constructed social environment but an attitude to oneself and to the world, which it is a perpetual struggle to maintain. It is the condition of man’s freedom.” Gustave could not help but think that Kafka could be an enlightened being hidden away in the machinations of the bureaucratic work-a-day world. I myself need to find an “ordinary” job so that I can afford some financial security in my life. Like Kafka’s dreams, my dreams of being a writer have not quite worked out and lately, I have been realizing how much my consciousness or my thoughts determines the reality that I experience. I am starting to get glimpses of how it is my attitude or way of perceiving that creates my reality. As much as my intellectual mind wants to disregard this spiritual truth- I am starting to understand how this is really works. But still- this does not make me Franz Kafka.

Through out my twenties I never saw Kafka as a guru or a beholder of deep spiritual wisdom. Now I do. Instead I saw him as an existentialist- a victim of a society that constantly tried to tear him away from his art. I related to Kafka’s struggle against his father and his constant attempts to be taken seriously as a writer by his family, friends and the surrounding world in which he lived. Kafka only had a few short stories published in his lifetime and was virtually unknown as a writer and human being. Kafka would often go to soirees or intellectual gatherings and read his stories out loud to those few people who were willing to listen. I, on the other hand, keep a blog in which I write stories and essays for the few people who are willing to read my work. Kafka struggled to balance his literary aspirations with his career, his parents and his relationships with women- I do the same. Without question- Kafka suffered and struggled through out his life to create the body of literature, which is now known as some of the greatest writings of the twentieth century. Even though he demanded that all his work be burned upon the time of his death- his friend Max Brod ignored this final wish upon realizing how great his writings really were. I myself would never want my work destroyed after my death and I have every intention of being a well-respected writer long before I am gone.

I am not Kafka? No I am not. The more I write the more I become more aware of the naivety or mistaken thinking in my twenties. Maybe one might disagree with this because the superficial similarities between Kafka and I outweigh the differences. Kafka slept with his window open, and so do I. Kafka believed in the power of prayer and so do I. Kafka tried hard to please his father often sacrificing his true self- so do I. Maybe I am Kafka and maybe I am not- but it is pretty clear to me that I am not. Above my desk hangs a picture of Kafka and a quote from Kafka that I read every day. It brings me comfort and validation to know that someone from the distant past understood the truths that I believe in today. The quote says, “Just be quiet and patient. Let evil and unpleasantness pass quietly over you. Do not try to avoid them. On the contrary, observe them carefully. Let active understanding take the place of reflex irritation, and you will grow out of your trouble. Men can achieve greatness only by surmounting their own littleness.” After reading this I always take a deep breath, hold it and think, no I am definitely not Franz Kafka. Then I exhale.

The Man Who Peed A Miracle

1.

Three weeks ago I peed upon a large plot of dirt that was located behind my parents home. I was locked out and had to go. The large plot of dirt was the only piece of land on my parent’s property that was not touched by landscaping. My father had wanted to build a Japanese tea garden on the dirt plot but because of the recent economic recession he had decided to wait it out. I was in my parent’s neighborhood that day (I went to a job interview) and I decided to stop in. Not only was I hoping to borrow some money but I desperately needed to use the toilet. When I found no one at home- I had no choice but to pee on their small piece of land. I peed without any thought about the personal or familial violation I may have been committing. Instead I just relished in the feeling of release. When I was finished watering the soil with my urine, I zipped up my pants and drove back to my home.

2.

Today I returned to my parent’s home and was stunned by what I saw. In the very plot of dirt where I peed three weeks before- grew a gorgeous lemon tree. My father and I stood in silence under the sun staring at this aberration of a lemon tree that had grown over four feet tall- in no time. Full grown lemons sat perched upon the end of its branches and a yellow hue highlighted the trees fluorescent leaves. For a few minutes all thoughts about my peeing in this spot three weeks before escaped me. I asked my father if he was sure that the gardeners did not plant this tree. He told me that he was cutting expenses for the time being and one of those expenses was the gardener. No one had worked on this land for months. My mother came out with a cup of iced tea in her hand and said “isn’t it amazing!!” I looked at my mom and said, “how could this be?” My father picked a lemon from the tree and handed it to me. It was the most beautiful lemon I had ever seen. I could smell it before it was in the palm of my hand. “Amazing,” was all I could say.

3.

And then I remembered that three weeks before I had taken a piss in the same spot where the lemon tree now stood. I questioned myself for a few minutes trying to convince myself that the tree must have been here before I peed. It was not. There was no way to explain what was before my eyes other than that my urine had given birth to this lemon tree. How this could be escapes my rational mind but I remember when I gave a urine sample to my doctor a few months ago he told me it was the most nutrient dense urine he had ever seen. “It almost reminds me of lemon juice,” he said. I thought nothing of this remark until today.

As I stood besides the lemon tree with my mother and father- I was shocked by the possible power of my pee. I wanted to tell them that I know the reason why the tree suddenly appeared. They may be upset that I peed on their property but once their anger simmered and eventually blew away maybe then they would realize the power of their son’s pee. All hurt feelings and personal offense would possibly turn into an emotion of awe and reverence towards the holly man who was their son. Finally they would think that after 38 years of failure on earth- I had hidden potential yet to be taped into. As my mother stood there repeating, “incredible” over and over- I remained silent, too afraid that if I took the risk and told the truth I would be exiled- never allowed to return to their home again. My father went inside and got his camera and for the rest of the afternoon I pretended to be as surprised as they were about this strange lemon tree that grew from my pee.

You Are Who You Pretend To Be?

“Life,” said Emerson, “consists in what a man is thinking all day.”

A year ago someone said something to me that changed the way I directed my life. At the time I was depressed, forlorn and feeling like all of my dreams had been sucked away through the vacuüm of job, rent and making a living. Maybe I was hopeless or maybe I was feeling what everyman feels when they reach a point in their life when they must realize their dreams are not coming true. I felt like I was carrying a dead baby around with me in my arms and the weight of the planets above was pushing down upon my shoulders. Then one of the most vital realizations of my life took place during the time it took my friend to speak a single sentence. “You are who you pretend to be,” she said to me without realizing the effect of her words. By the time she had reached the end of the sentence- I was already filled with a new perspective.

“Of course,” I thought. “How could I be so dumb? Day in and day out walking around like a man who has lost everything that he values most. Bemoaning my job, my economic situation as if I was worse off than anyone on earth. I was feeling like a failure because that is who I was pretending to be. Duh. All this morbid dressing that I walked around in was my own doing. I was dressing myself into looking like the man I was so unhappy being!” Maybe it would be an exaggeration to say that this personal realization of mine was just as significant as Sir Isaac Newton’s falling apple insight or the Buddha’s epiphany under the bodhi tree- but for myself personally, this realization was as important.

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a great writer. Maybe great is an overstatement but I have wanted to be well-known enough so that I could write and receive economic recognition for it. Respect from my peers would be a nice side dish, recognition from strangers when I go out to eat would be a good dessert- but the ability to no longer have to go to some subordinating, energy dissolving job would be the main course paid for by my success as a writer.  The tragic irony of my situation is that the more I long to be a great writer the less I write. Often sitting at a desk, writing for five or six hours a day sounds just as painful as being hung upside down by chains wrapped around my ankles. I love the idea of writing but I disdain the act of writing. It hurts and I most always would rather ride my bike in the rain, go for a walk, clean my house or read a book than write. So I avoid writing better than I avoid looking for a job or making love to my wife.  I run from writing like a cat runs from a screaming child. I pray everyday that God, or Buddha, or Muhammad or some supernatural being will inculcate into my veins the energy, passion and dedication that I will need to someday seriously write.

I have written hundreds of short stories in my lifetime but a great writer is not made of short works. The great writer is a collection of longer works so engaging that often times his or her books refuse to stay upon the shelf. Putting my short stories together into a completed collection, feels as difficult to me as I imagine rolling a bolder up a steep hill would be. I would rather drink, eat, sleep or listen to the radio. So these short stories rest in random folders, separated like distant lovers who constantly remind me that I need to get serious, toughen up and some day soon bring them back together. However, I am at a point in my long literary struggle where I no longer care so much about being great. I have resigned myself to the fact that I may never make a living as a writer and for the first time in my life that is starting to feel okay. Not having the burden of numerous novels that I must write following me around like gnats- I am starting to feel like I can breathe again. I am no longer in competition with Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett or Jack Kerouac as I once was. Now I can enjoy their books with delight and not the typical gnawing desire to write. But I would be lying if I told you this was really true.

Much to my wife, in-laws and parents chagrin or consternation I have taken on the wise words of my friend in the same way that a General would wear his metals of honor on his chest or a Doctor would wear her stethoscope around her neck. It has not been difficult for me to convince myself that “I am a great writer walking among ordinary mortals.” Even though I rarely write- I see myself as a great writer. It may be true that I am yet to be discovered by anyone else other than myself- but I am as certain about being a great writer as I am about being unemployed and broke. Even though others are unaware of the paragraphs that will be written following my name in future dictionaries and encyclopedias and the collections of my blog entries that will sit on Barnes and Nobles book shelves or be pirated in Egypt- I am content enough pretending that all this will one day occur. Someday, sometime.

It is my daily, hourly struggle to continue on in the eyes of those who see me from day to day. My wife, mother, landlord, potential employer and the police officer who gave me a ticket the other day. I know what they are saying when they look at me: “Sure you like to write, it is your hobby and you are even a good writer, but you are almost a forty-year-old married man and you need to get a stable job, a career so that you can be independent, be a provider and start a family of your own.” I see these thoughts floating around in their minds when they listen to me talk about the books that I will one day write. It always triggers one of the biggest quagmires in my life. Do I continue to be who I am pretending to be or do I just embrace what others tell me I should do with my life? Do I trust that what my friend told me is a fundamental law of the universe or do I wake up from the dream? So far- I prefer the dream.

The Man In A Black Dress

I was sitting in a café minding my own business, when in walked a rather handsome middle-aged man wearing a black dress. He was unusually tall and in obviously good physical condition. A well cared for mustache sat on his top lip and a full head of brown hair made him look as if he had been lucky enough to escape from the ravages that come with aging. From the waist up he looked like a well dressed middle class man who had experienced many successes in his life but from the waist down everything was all wrong. The black dress he was wearing was knee-high and revealed more leg than I was willing to see. His legs were toned, tanned, shaved and slid comfortably into a pair of black high heeled platform shoes. I was perplexed by this person who reminded me of a Centaur- except rather than being half horse I could not tell if this man was half woman. My brain had difficulty making sense of the situation and the sensation that I experienced in my brain can only be compared to throwing cold water on a hot grill.

He or she or whatever it was, walked to the empty table next to mine and took a seat. I must admit that even though I pretended that I was absorbed in the book I was reading- I tried to silently scoot my chair as far away from the table next to me as possible. I needed space to think, to register what was going on. However, my attempt to slither away was unsuccessful because my sense of smell was colonized by the perfume that percolated from his or her or its flesh. Out from the small black suitcase on wheels that he wheeled around behind him like a flight attendant, he or she or it pulled out a white laptop computer and put it on the round table top. As I continued to pretend to read my book, I watched this enigma from the corner of my eyes with the attention of a fierce guard dog. The man or woman, or half man and half woman crossed its legs twice and let out a strange perky sound that I pretended to ignore. I felt slightly uncomfortable sitting so close but I used all my understanding of meditation to stay still and calm in the moment.

A group of young black kids no older than twelve walked past the café. As they walked past they looked in the large front window and noticed the man or woman or it in a black dress who was sitting at the table with his bare legs crossed. As the boys noticed the man- I noticed there eyes go from a normal size to almost the size of their small faces. For a moment I felt at risk of being swallowed alive by one of the kid’s eyes who looked at me then at his friend and said “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!” I put my head back into my book so as not to attract any attention to myself or get involved with what was going on around me. I was just an innocent man who came to the café to quietly read his book without getting caught up in any conflagrations.

I moved my chair over some more so I could create some obvious distance between me and the man or woman or it in a black dress. I felt myself becoming slightly perturbed by this unwanted distraction. I agreed with myself that if need be it was okay to say goodbye to Mr Nice Guy and stand up for myself. At that moment you could compare me to a territorial cat whose hairs began to stick up- but I remained calm yet ready to defend if need be. While all this was going on- the man or woman or half man and half woman in the black dress could give two shits about me. I don’t even think he or she or it realized that I was there up until when I started becoming slightly agitated. I was not agitated because of his or hers shaved legs or the black high heels that invaded my space. I was agitated because I was confused. I prefer to live in a universe where everything is in order and in its right place. I like to be able to make sense of things around me so I can tell where I am or what I am in comparison to everything else. But this man or woman or half man and half woman next to me had me terribly confused.

My confusion only expanded when the cellular phone that sat on his or hers table began to ring. The ring tone was a Barbra Streisand song that I could not figure out the name of. He, she or it answered the phone and said without a care if any one around him or her or it could hear, “Hi honey! How are you?” And then with a suspect tone- “yes tell the kids goodnight, give them a kiss from dad and I will be home later after I get this huge pile of work done that is sitting on my desk. Okay I love you too. Goodbye honey.” I listened to every syllable that he pronounced with the clarity and spaciousness of a linguist. When he hung up the phone he turned on his computer and took a drizzling sip of his espresso. I could not help it anymore- I needed to know what was going on, to look this person in the eyes and then maybe the puzzle could be solved. I gathered together the courage and looked at him or her and he or she or it smiled back at me. “It has to be a man..a man just like me,” I said to myself and then like a shy child a gave him a slight smile in return and then quickly returned to the safe confines of my book.

I was done trying to make sense of anything more. With the earthquake in Haiti, the great recession that was soon to turn into a depression, the war in Iraq, global warming, AIDS in Africa, my life challenges and everything else that was going on in the world- I felt like I had no more room for this strange man or woman or half man and half woman in a short black dress. The world was hard enough to make sense of as it was and I could handle no more. I took a deep releasing breath and then quickly finished my lukewarm tea, put my book back into the bag and left the café without a trace that I had ever been present there.