The Bathtub

I have been spending a lot of time sitting in my bathtub. I do not fill the bathtub with water nor do I take off my clothes. Instead I climb into the bathtub fully clothed and sit down. Sometimes I will light a candle or a stick of incense to create ambience, however it is not often that I do this. Instead I just climb into the bathtub like a man retreating from the noise of the world. I shut the tub doors and burrow myself between the white walls of the tub. I stare at the silver waterspout covered with grime and at the ceiling that seems to be slightly water-logged. My tub is not a fancy one. It is a humble tub; a bathroom not fit for kings or even princes- instead it is a tub for a man who is not quite sure how he fits into this world.

Often times I will stay in the bathtub for hours. When my wife is not frustrated with me, she will bring me a snack, tea or a glass of water. She will sit down on the leaking toilet besides the tub and try and make conversation with me. She will ask me questions such as “What is wrong?” or “Why are you laying in the tub again?” When I am in the tub I am not in the mood for conversation. I do not feel like explaining myself to anyone and I will often try and evade my wife’s questions by denying that there is a problem. I tell her that I am just trying to relax. “I need to take it easy because my heart and stomach hurts,” I tell her. How can she argue with a man in distress? She cannot, so she just pouts out a quiet “okay” and tells me to let her know if I need anything before she leaves me alone in the bathroom.

The bathtub is a safe place for me. In the tub there is nothing that I have to get done, no one that I have to become and no place that I am needing to go. It is as if the tub freezes all time and space. I do not find myself worrying in the bathtub like I do in the outside world. Instead I think about my life, my past, present and future. I review my life with a microscopic attention to detail. I listen to the wind chimes outside the bathroom window and imagine what the clouds must look like as they float across the sky. I am never really able to fall asleep in tub- but sometimes I slip into a state of nirvana so wide and deep that I am no longer a resident of my physical body.

I got the idea to spend time sitting in my bathtub after I read the short novel “The Bathroom,” by Jean-Philippe Toussaint. In the novel, the main protagonist who is around my age spends the great majority of his time meditating in his bathtub. His girlfriend and friends, who all come and visit him in the bathroom, support his eccentric quest for immobility.  When reading the novel I was in a rather distressing place in my own life. I was unemployed, imbued with chronic anxiety, haunted by feelings of failure and depressed. The idea of a quest for immobility while sitting in a bathtub appealed to me so much so that I decided to give it a try. I would see if spending my time in a bathtub would be as helpful for me as it was for the protagonist in the novel. In many ways it has been. I have become calmer, more present, less ambitious and grounded. I have been drinking less and I feel much more excited about my life. Unfortunately my family has not been as supportive of my quest for immobility as I would like. My wife is worried about me and my mother calls almost every day. She leaves messages on my answering machine, telling me that I need to get off of my ass and find a job.

Sometimes I write while in the tub (like I am doing now) but it is not easy. My intellectual faculties are not as keen in the tub, my writing is not as sharp and my spelling is poor. Today I asked my wife if she would bring a radio for me into the bathroom. She did so against her will and I appreciate that she was willing to martyr herself for me. I have been listening to the classical music station on my radio all afternoon. There is something about the sounds of a violin or piano while lying in a bathtub, which makes it easier for me to write. The words seem to get along and all I have to do is conduct them into the right place on the page.

I do not know how much more time I am going to spend in the tub. As of now, I spend my afternoons and evenings in the bathtub. I may even start to sleep in the bathtub if my wife will not mind. It seems to me like the current world is a pretty mixed up place. With the recessions, wars, greed and environmental catastrophes that are raging out there– it seems to me like the bathtub is the safest and most sensible place to be. If the apocalypse is soon to come at least I am spending my time wisely, happily. I am a satisfied man in my bathtub and I think this is a grand accomplishment in our world that is so riddled with deadlines, desire, dis-satisfaction and dis-ease. It is windy today and outside the bathroom window the wind chime are playing my favorite song. My wife has just left the house and now I get to sit here all evening, quiet and alone in my bathtub.

The Joy Of Being Out Of Work

“I need so much time for doing nothing that I have no time for work.” -Pierre Reverdy

“It pisses me off every time I think about anybody thinking that work will liberate.” -Bell Hooks

“I am presently too prosperous for work.” -me

Please do not tell my wife what I am about to say. She would not be very happy about the sentiments that I am going to express here. You see, I don’t mind being out of work. Most Americans live in fear of this prospect, but I embrace it. Granted, the financial stress and my wife’s condemnations are hard to carry around from day to day, but the otherwise chronic feeling of liberation and freedom makes never having enough money easier to deal with. You see, America is a country based upon the principle of work and the illusion of freedom. Without a full-time job in this country you are screwed or relegated to the periphery. Without job and ensuing money one is unable to enjoy the bountiful materialism and gluttony that America has to offer. To not get to partake in this feast can be taxing on the nerves and self esteem, however since I have been out of work for more than eight months I have been asking myself, could there be another way live?

Now don’t get me wrong. I like nice things as much as the next person. I love going to spas, eating nice meals, taking yoga classes, drinking high end wine and having a luxurious bed to sleep in- but I don’t partake in these things at the moment. Instead what I have gained is time. A plethora of time. By not having a job I have lost money but gained time. Time to sleep in, time to sun bathe in mid afternoon, time to go for long walks everyday, time to read the books that I love to read, time to work on a novel, time to be with my wife, time to watch the sun set, time to contemplate the nature of existence, time to meditate, time to better my relationship with my cat and time to work on my own spiritual and psychological development (in other words I have time to be fully alive). When I think back to the time when I was working a job I remember not having much time for any of these simple pleasures. I was stressed out, tired, discontent and overworked. Sure I had a lot more money in my bank account. I knew the rent was going to be paid. I could afford to go out to dinner every night and see a shrink. I could buy my cat expensive cat food and take him to the vet when he had a chronic itch. But I got to ask- was all this really worth it?

In physics work is defined as the amount of energy transferred by a force. In thermodynamics work is defined as the quantity of energy transferred from one system to another. Work refers to human labor and labor is a measure of work done by human beings. Even though work is a loss of energy for the human being, work is not necessarily a bad thing. I know many people who truly love working (even though I think this is because they have forgotten the simple pleasures of living). If one is transferring their energy into something that is a unique expression of who they are and what they love- then I would say that even though work will be exhausting, it could be worthwhile. Even though it is a generalization, I believe it to be an accurate generalization to say that most people who work in America are transferring energy from themselves into another system, a process, which they do not enjoy or love but do because they need to pay the bills and attempt to live the illusive American dream.

I always saw work as an unfair punishment. Just because Adam fucked up in the Garden of Eden does not mean that my life should be subjected to a life spent working by the sweat of my brow. This does not seem fair to me. Living in America, I cannot help to see the numerous amounts of people who are willingly paying the price for Adam’s sin. The whole edifice of America is based upon people laboring day after day by the sweat of their brow just because Adam had to eat a piece of fruit.

I don’t mind putting effort to accomplish a task. I do this when I write, paint, walk, cook, read and clean out the birdcage. What I do mind is when I feel obligated to transfer energy from one system to another system when I cannot stand the whole process. And this is where the problem of employment comes in. You see, employment is a contract between two parties, one being the employer the other being the employee. An employee may be defined as a person in the service of another under any contract of hire, express or implied, oral or written, where the employer has the power to control and direct the employee in the details of how the work is done. Employees provide labor. I think it is fair to say that most American are employees and I feel like it is also fair to say that this condition has created a country built upon the backs of slaves.

I have always made a terrible employee. I do not appreciate being told what to do- especially by employers who just want to use up all of my energy without any thought about my own personal well-being. In my twenty years of working I have only experienced brief moments of pleasure as an employee and I think it is fair to assume that this true for most of us. No one likes being told what to do, no one likes being used, no one enjoys having energy sucked from them- but this is what it means to be an employee. This is why Americans are so fascinated by celebrities, who are people who have escaped from the human bondage of being an employee. Employee’s look upon these celebrities with envy, in the same way the Greeks once looked upon their Gods. You see, in American the employee is no longer shackled by visible chains- instead they are shackled by car payments, credit cards, cable bills, electric bills, taxes, mortgages and the marketed desire for the American dream. What we Americans end up giving away in exchange for the American dream is free time and freedom.

Since I have been out of work I have had to give up my cable bill, move into a less expensive home, not eat out so often and spend more time reading rather than going out for entertainment. I have had to sleep in rather than get up early and spend a lot more time with myself, nature, fresh air then with bosses and people wanting things from me. I have been redefining success as a way of thinking where I realize that leisure is essential to my mental health rather than a cause for guilt. I have realized that I do not have to spend my life struggling, striving to make ends meet through working a job. I am learning to appreciate what I have instead of endlessly questing for more growth and discovering my passions without worrying about trying to fit them into the form of a job.

It is now eleven am and everyone that I know is at work. My mother just called me and asked if I have found a job yet. My Grandfather told me in my dream how important it is that a man works hard ever day. Outside it is raining and there is traffic in the streets. I am still dressed in what I slept in, my hair is uncombed and I have just finished breakfast. Even though outside the world of maximizing profits is full swing, inside the walls of my home I feel like I am living on an island, outside the system; an unemployed exile in my own country. I wonder if the only way to really save the planet is to have more people out of work, at home and spending more time with themselves. I know this will never happen because I live in a culture addicted to getting stuff done and accumulating wealth in exchange for freedom. Everyone wants to be somebody, to accomplish something and have the social status and economic prosperity that comes along with it. But I think this is faulty logic. The world of work and accumulation has no beginning and no end. It is like the cat chasing its own tail, and for what? I would rather rest, write, breathe, read and be. I would rather keep my energy for myself, my health, my peace of mind rather than laboring it away day after day. But maybe this is an impossible dream, a joy that refuses to hang around because eventually I have to go back to work (if I want to keep my wife).

I Swallowed My Wedding Ring

1.

One evening, last week (this has been the longest week of my life so last week feels like months ago) while I was sitting on the couch reading a novel, I accidentally swallowed my wedding ring. You may be wondering why, how or if you are going to be gullible enough to believe such a ridiculous thing. Well, allow me to explain. You see I suffer from a nervous glitch, an impatient hand that causes me to stick unwanted objects in my mouth. As a teenager I chewed on everything in sight and was worse than a puppy at times. As an adult, I have my oral fixation more under control but when I am writing or reading I need something in my mouth at all times (now that I have abolished the simple pleasure of smoking). That something in my mouth is usually my wedding ring. I gently pull the ring off my finger with my lips and suck on it in my mouth as if it was a piece of peppermint candy. I roll my tongue through its hole, which seems to help me process words in my mind. Normally I remain aware that there is a gold wedding ring floating around in my mouth- but on one particular night last week, the book I was reading was so engrossing that for a minute or two I forgot.

My wedding ring is made out of one ounce of white gold. It is a thick ring that is meant to be a small weight on my finger, reminding my wondering eye that I am a married man. How I managed to forget that this whale was floating around in my mouth still boggles my mind. I first became aware of what was happening when I felt the uncomfortable choking sensation of a large object passing down my throat. I stopped breathing for a moment as the ring descended through my esophagus like an inner tube going down a water slide. Sudden panic jolted me into action as I ran into the bathroom with a finger down my throat. I was worried that I would die as a result of swallowing my wedding ring and knew I was too good of a husband to go out this way. I thought about all the life I still needed to live as English subtitles from my obituary ran across the bottom of my mind. My whole body began to shake, waging a reactive rebellion against the terrified thoughts raging in my mind. After multiple tries at regurgitating my wedding ring I realized I was not going to die just yet- but I was in need of some serious help. I yelled for my wife to come into the bathroom and after she managed to cool me down- I told her what happened.

As my wife hovered over me like some kind of disapproving authority figure dressed in black (you see, I was on my knees hunched over the toilet bowl) I felt the sensation of an iron goldfish lapping around inside my intestines. I was not sick, just terribly uncomfortable. My wife growled at me and I could only hear parts of what she said. “You…….so absent-minded………..forget to turn off heater……..feed the cat……. and……..swallow your wedding ring! When……going to get it together………. wake up!” I knew she was letting off steam and had no energy to fight her vent. She had spent her last two thousand dollars to buy me the ring I had just ingested and I could feel her pain. As far as my wife (who has a tendency to be overly fatalistic) was concerned the ring was gone, a shipwreck buried deep beneath my intestinal juices. “Baby don’t worry, I’ll either shit it out or have it surgically removed,” I promised her as she dropped to her knees. The bathroom floor is a place where all people admit their defeat and with tears in our eyes my wife and I admitted ours. “When are you going to get it together?” she kept repeating as I sat on the tiled floor with my hands flat on my stomach and no idea of what was to come.

(My grandmother always told me that if I was going to be a reader of fiction that I should prepare myself for not being in the world. What she meant was that a symptom of reading fiction is being absent-minded in day-to-day life. My grandmother felt that fiction readers (and poetry readers) lived in a world of thought and fantasy rather than action. I disagreed with her until I had become a man who could not put a book down. I started doing clumsy, absent minded things like rear ending cars, skipping breakfast and lunch and forgetting to pull up my pant zipper because I was too busy thinking about the plot of a book I was reading. Things like that. But now I have swallowed my wedding ring. This act of mine makes me feel like my grandmothers words were less of a theory and more like a prophetic warning.)

After a few more repetitions of “when are you going to get it together?” my wife was able to compose herself enough so she could call a poison control center. I was relieved because I did not know how much longer I could handle all the guilt and despair that was flooding the bathroom. I needed help not a marital drowning. The center told my wife that if I did not defecate the ring out by tomorrow morning that I should go to the emergency room. They recommended that I eat prunes, dried mangos, salt and lots of fiber to move the ring through my bowels. When my wife asked the poison control center if her husband was in any great risk from ingesting his wedding ring the person on the other line tried to humor her by saying “no more of a risk than being married is.” She thanked the controller for his unwanted humor and came back into the bathroom with a tablespoon of salt, a can of prunes and a loaf of multi grain bread. I could see that her anger had morphed into a kind of pity for me, her husband, stuck on the bathroom floor with a wedding ring lost someplace in my gut.

After helping me swallow down as much fiber and salt as I possibly could we waited patiently on the bathroom floor for my bowels to kick out the ring that lingered inside. But the ring must have clogged the main drain because no matter how much carbonation and gas I felt percolating in my stomach not even a slight gaseous wind blew through my anal spout. My wife gently rubbed my head and feet in a successful attempt at loving communion and said, “you are such a silly guy for swallowing your wedding ring.” I chuckled off her remark since this was one time I was not trying to be funny. We did not really have much to say to each other except a few reassuring “I love you’s” and the occasional inane plea for forgiveness and restitution. Instead we waited and waited. We loitered on that cold bathroom floor like two lovers waiting for the fiber to induce the impossible birth of their firstborn.

2.

Two days later I returned home from the inhospitable hospital. Since my own fiber fueled digestive system was incapable of expelling the wedding ring from my gut I had to helplessly rely on modern medical techniques to do so. I resisted at first, saying that I wanted to wait one more day- anything to avoid an invasive procedure. But several medical Doctors and a self-declared underpaid nurse told me that I could not afford to wait another day. I was subjected to the whims of a perverted metallic probe (with a camera) that was inserted in my anus and then snaked around my intestines until the wedding ring was spotted, stuck in a creased pocket of my colon. I was awake through the entire procedure and could feel it when the probe latched on to the ring and then very very slowly dragged its prey through the intestinal tracks that I felt no longer belonged to me. I was terrified that at any moment my stomach would burst open and out would spray this infected looking alien creature- but I was assured by very calm medical professionals that nothing like this had ever happened before. My wife held on tightly to my limp hand and the Doctor told me that everything would be fine once the ring passed through my anal spout. The pain was slight since I was heavily sedated, which meant that I really did not get to enjoy the excitement that everyone else shared once the ring finally popped out onto the floor.

I was kept in the inhospitable hospital for a night following the procedure so that medical professionals who rarely visited my room could keep my colon under observation. The concern was that my colon could go into frenetic spasms, which would cause me a great deal of pain and need immediate treatment. The chances that this would happen were slight but they still insisted upon playing it safe no matter how much I protested. My Doctor, who had a long beard, which often caused me to confuse him with God, came into my room and placed the wedding ring back onto its appropriate finger. When my wife asked if the ring had been cleaned the Doctor looked at her with an incredulous smile and said “just like new.”

The Doctor told my wife and I that I needed to spend the next week in bed. Even though I pretended to be bothered by the Doctors command- deep down I was as happy as a dog rolling in green grass. “A few days in bed with nothing but a book and lots of sleep! My wife will care for me and I will be like a king lounging in his over-sized pillowy chair!” some voice deep down in my head joyfully shouted but I did everything I could to mask my excitement with a frown and a continual sigh. “He wants you to drink plenty of fluids and remain lying on your back for at least twenty hours a day,” my wife repeated to me after the Doctor spoke and all I could think was fuck yeah.

The wedding ring had been stuck in a very sensitive and narrow pocket of my colon and the Doctor was concerned that there could of been some bruising done. As a result of the trauma I was at risk of developing a hematoma or some internal bleeding so I needed to take it easy and only eat fruit and drink water for the following seven days. When I was leaving the hospital my Doctor asked me if I had learned anything from this experience. “I have learned to keep my wedding ring out of my mouth,” I plaintively said. He looked at me as if he was waiting for a more insightful reply. “Did you learn anything else?” he asked after taking a deep breath that seemed to drag me closer to him. My eyes drifted up into my head for a moment (this is what happens when I am thinking) and I then replied, “I now know what marriage can put a man through.” This answer came from some place deep in my gut, rather than from my mind. Even though the Doctor did not seem satisfied with my answer he said, “If you love your wife you will love your life.” He smiled and then said, “and keep that sacred ring out of your mouth.” The Doctor then disappeared and to be honest- I do not expect to ever see him again. As my wife pushed me in the loner wheelchair out from the inhospitable hospital, I kept telling her how much I loved her.

Now that almost a week has passed I am ready to get out of this selfish bed. I am still tired and slightly sore but the idea of spending my days lying on my back as my wife feeds me green grapes is no longer as appetizing as it once seemed. I am ready to be erect again, a man of the world who refuses to put his wedding ring in his mouth. My wife made me a personal bookmarker and a sign to put above my writing desk that says in large capitalized black print “NO RING OR ANYTHING IN BIG MOUTH EXCEPT FOOD, WATER AND MY TONGUE!” At first I was slightly offended by her assumption that I could not remember something so serious on my own volition- but already in the past week there has been several close calls that made my wife take my ring away. She tells me that I read too much, have a tendency to be absent minded and does not yet trust me enough to give me back my ring. I protest and want to shout out that “I am a grown man and it is my wedding ring!” but right when I feel the yell swelling up in the beck of my throat I remember what the Doctor said, “love your wife, love your life.” So I stop myself from catching fire and put out my flames by pulling my wife close to me, opening my mouth and telling her to give me her tongue instead.

Re-Thinking The End Of Absurdistry

I have been re-thinking the continual existence of this strange little blog called Absurdistry. Absurdistry has been a backstage for me upon which I can recite the lines that travel through my mind as I walk around on the stage of life. It has been a therapeutic release for me- a lifeboat of sorts. What has blossomed out from the two years that I have been writing on this blog is a story of my life that even I am baffled by. When I go back and read past entries I am reminded of a life once lived and surprised by my inability to censor even the least personal detail. “I said that?” I often say out loud. I once read a line by Henry Miller in which he spoke about good writing as the writer’s willingness to be fully honest on the page. “Without honesty all writing is something less,” he said and I believed him. So for two years I have told it like it is on this blog (with some creative embellishment), much to the chagrin of my mother, and I am not sure that I am ready stop.

For most of my adult life I have known that I wanted to be a writer- I just have not been able to sort out how. The need to write has been like an annoying itch that will not go away. The reason why I wanted to deleted this blog is not because of all the potential employers that have somehow found my blog and then decided not to give me the job after reading it. Nor is it because I feel like I sometimes publicly humiliate myself with some of the things I admit on this blog. There are two simple reasons why I initially decided to delete this blog. One is because I thought that if I stopped writing on Absurdistry I would free up more time to work on a novel that could potentially pay my bills someday. I refuse to advertise on Absurdistry and have never looked upon this blog as a way to generate income. So I need to find other ways to “profitize” my writing and I figured if I got Absurdistry out of the way- I would have more time to do so.

The second reason why I wanted to wipe my blog offline is because of a Orwellian like documentary that I watched the other evening. This documentary made me hyperbolically aware of all the ways I have become dependent on technology. I am uncomfortable with this. I realize that I live in a technocratic world, one that is only going to become more and more controlled by the whims of the technological gadget. But I, unlike younger generations, feel like I am still in a position to live a life that is free from the technological dependency that I see all around me. I want to make this leap….. I just do not think I need to crush, swat, smack and delete this blog in order to do so. I have come back to my senses.

What I need to do is minimize my use of these digital gadgets that have behind my back come define a larger portion of my life. But do I need to toss out my best friend, my saving grace, my therapy chair to be free from the ravages of technology? I do not think so. I just want to avoid making that Faustian bargain- which is that one gets to enjoy the freedoms that these technological gadgets provide in exchange for a loss of privacy and a continual dependence upon the companies that make and control these gadgets. I realize that there are beneficial aspects to indulging in the well of technology. There is much to be celebrated about our technological advances as a species. I would not have to ability to express and humiliate myself to all of you without some of these inventions. I have a cell phone, a laptop and an ipod- all of which I enjoy immensely. I have no intention of orphaning my technological gadgets but I do intend to spend more time with fresh air, trees, on a walk, in the lotus position or with other people.

So my time on-line has been minimized. I will continue to report back to this blog with various entries as I go through the day-to-day wonders and foibles of my life. With the same investigative and absurd spirit I will continue to exploit myself in the stories that I post for the rest of the worlds delight. This is my act of service to humanity, the least I can do to atone for the fact that I spend so much time withdrawn inside the pages of my mind. I hope that you will continue to follow me through this absurd dream that we are all sleeping through together. Please forgive me my short comings and my previous false alarm in which I got very close to deleting this blog. I am a man glued together with contradictions. I may say one thing today and do the opposite thing tomorrow- but this idiosyncrasy is what keeps my life spontaneous, unpredictable, comical and absurdly profound. I hope that it will continue to do the same for you.