I Never Loved You, Anyway

by dschapman

I am feeling deaf. I can’t hear a thing. I went to a bar and had a bottle of wine by myself in the corner. I can drink like a fish these days. I feel like men are supposed to feel; drunk, insecure, enchanted. I feel like I outweigh my life. My bones are weak and I feel like Lawrence in his life since Deraa; I feel as though I have abandoned my bodily integrity. Abandoned it, for – what? I was born into this world with two gifts; my mind, and my body. When I was bodied, I wasted my mind; now that I have wasted my body, I struggle to recover what I can of my mind.

On a canyon’s edge I rode my bicycle, afraid of blowing over in the wind, afraid of getting drunk by the sea lest I get salty, to ride on a bike lest I get blown and fall over; I might not survive another fall. I might hit my spine, or crack my skull, and I might cry out in pain.

People come near me; I evade them. I walk around their open arms. Someone brushes against me and I brush their touch off my sleeve. I say something profane and exhale, and I can see my exhalations in the air. It has been a very mild winter, but it is finally getting cold. A woman with very wide jowls kisses my cheek when she sees me. She has been eyeing me and I’ve noticed it and I, in turn, have toyed with eyeing her. But my eyes wander; I keep to my thoughts. I wonder, could I love you? Very mildly, I might. Mild, like this strange and pleasant weather. What very lovely weather we’ve been having, I say, and someone answers: “Very.”

A strange and pleasant boy, with his tassels and luxuries hidden inside his pockets, a fistful of tulips and daffodils and bubblegum stuck to his teeth, with a very strange and pleasant way of thinking. No one sees the world like he does. During the day, he is reclusive and silent, but at night you’ll hear him laughing, and reciting out loud his curious verses. Where does he find such curious songs?

I get high and I go for a drive. I am feeling unbodily and so I drive super fast through the countryside. Someone in the other lane flashes their lights wildly as they pass me. I don’t understand and I pretend it didn’t happen. Another pair of headlights approaches, and they too start flashing. There must be a cop up ahead. I get excited. I hope that there is a cop ahead, and that my country brothers were warning me, my anonymous countrymen. I picture myself drunk, with a bag of drugs in my pocket, turning around in a culvert and going back home for the evening, or taking the highway instead. But there are no cops in sight for miles. I keep expecting them and being disappointed, and I begin to think I was hallucinating the flashing lights. I’ve certainly hallucinated lights before. And let’s not forget the shadows…

I expect a roadblock up ahead, but when I get there, or at least when I think I am there, there is nothing. I realize I’m not where I think I am and then, just where I thought it thought it would happen, the world is flashing blue and white and there are lawmen standing around in the middle of the street, waving their flashlights, their cars in the road. I am relieved to see them; I laugh. I can really believe in my countrymen. I thought they were warning me, and they were, and if I had been in trouble, I could have avoided it. My heart is full of the warmth of anonymity. I had taken propanolol earlier so I am not even nervous, wrapped up in a membrane of viscous ice, and my heart is hardly beating. The officer approaches my window with a silent intensity, flashing his light in my eyes, and he puts his face in my face, smelling me. I show him my papers and am done with it immediately, and I drive away without saying a word. And then I am off again, fast as hell, barreling alone  through the deadly retreat of this ancient expanse of America, scenic and winding, terrifying at night, close-together, encroaching, invasive and pure; and I, like a warrior, cut through the thickness with my eyes half-closed, my mind half-dreaming away; and I, like a businessman, navigate the pressures of life and manipulate, and have my way about it, too.

I go home, ecause I can think of nothing better to do. There is no one to see; there is no place to visit. Yesterday was not very good for me. Today was not great, either. Tomorrow will be even worse; it will be easy, and weak,  and I’ll wind up like I always do, like this, basking sluttishly, at ease in reams of pure relaxation, drifting through abstracts, naked and sexless, concerned with modernity; blue-blooded and pale, wet-tongued, ambitious – neither a genius or a hero, cursed; neither a princess nor king. A tornado tears the night in half and scares me into submission. I load my gun and hold it under my face. No one will reach me, here, in my castle. I am a businessman; what business has anyone here?

I spend the night with the lights on, reading the bible. I was born a Methodist; methodological I, and there is nothing I can do about it. My method is great and articulate, but the way you will see it, inchoate; you will probably see nothing at all. But you might feel a tingle, a sense of intuition; intuitive, a call to action – you will feel enchanted, skimming the surface of light-induced worlds, walking across the earth in a shroud of transparency, pink and blue, pale and gleaming; sculptures of manticores, ivory and gold; priceless rugs in the living room. You will feel it, like an intuition, and have nothing more to say of it; in fact you will say nothing at all. I have been to a rug-making factory in India, and I said nothing about it, and no one spoke a word on the tour. I have seen the crowded alleys cramped and jangling, the dead men laying in the street, the brickmakers and slaves, the dusty, unlit factories; I have seen the beautiful young children working the grand, mighty carpet looms, in still, weighty silence, and I have seen their precious fingers work. I have seen the beautiful jeweler boy dressed in white in the window, cutting gems, straight-faced, tender-eyed; I shopped for gems, and pearls, and incense, and I bought some gold and ivory, and I tipped my men a workweek’s wages. Ah, the world, it spun beneath me; and I, atop it, had my fun, acting animal, man and beast, like a neanderthal, brutish, decaying; but now, I am civilized. I have stopped the earth beneath my feet, for the sake of stability, and promised it progress of my own design, something we can all account for. I have swallowed a poison that killed off the animal inside me and now I call myself a man, because man is not an animal. Man is a concept, a still-birth; and it is indestructible.

Tone-deaf and heartsick. It is all I can do to keep clothed, and keep up appearances, and pretend to be getting healthier. I am trying as hard as I can; not very hard. My standards are slipping, as they have become so impossibly high that only non-existence favors them, and as such, must be abolished. I dress as decently as I can, which is not very well, and I eat the same sandwich every day for lunch in the same lousy restaurant, alone and in silence, and I have the same meal every night for dinner. Meanwhile I complain to my friend but I don’t even mean it. I am dreaming, instead, of all my material acquisitions, and of those I have yet to acquire. I scheme about how to get a subscriber’s edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom. I will have one, one day, and everything else I desire, too. And even then, when I have everything I want in the world, I will feel dissatisfied, and at a loss for explanation, and wordless. You will see my face then: you will see it looks the same, but kinder. But I am not getting kind; I am getting miserly. I am drying my skin out, like tanning a hide, and reshaping it.

Time maintains its grueling pace and I do my best hide from it. In the newspaper, they printed my picture and gave a report on me, and I realized how embarrassing it was to be in the newspaper, how inexcusably rude and explicit, and I swore to never be in the paper again. They were kind words about me, and I couldn’t even stand them then; if the words were unkind, it would simply demolish me. Meanwhile my internal world is awash in foul weather, floods and winds and dust storms, and I am confused by all the subtle colors. I feel on the verge of something, some soothing epiphany, some strength, some ectoplasmic awakening, unfolding like a petal; but I have no such revelations. In the public eye, I’m a crumbling lie, and internally I’m ravaging. I scream, and in my scream is the power and purpose and display of ten thousand years of humanity, wisdom compressed and intensified, the magic and the impulse and the demands of a race of arch-angels, condensed in  me – but my screams fall upon deaf ears, and no one listens to me, and I can see no recourse, save dissolution, loving and orderly…

I delved too deep, and woke the nameless fear; it kissed me, and went back to sleep. I have stood here ever since.