Dead Worms On The Burning Ground

by dschapman

I am a normal man. I live in a peaceful neighborhood, in a house made of plaster and wood, and I leave valuables on my porch, where I do not worry about them being stolen. Sometimes things go missing and I report it duly to the law. I am in love with the law and I live with it. I understand Rome – I am lawful. I am literate and familiar with second-order processes. I enjoy good satire. I have read the Satyricon. I am Roman – that is to say, I am normal, modern, and my pockets are full.

I walk my dog, which is normal, down my street and he eats the dried, desiccated corpses of sun-burned worms on the sidewalks and I make him spit them out, but I do not know why something like that would even bother me, why I make him spit them out. It is the consumption of organic matter, and that is perfectly normal. Everything is either organic or inorganic matter. Matter interacts with matter; nothing is wrong, everything is right. But it is my whim that I do not allow him to do so and so I continue to not allow him. I am right to have whims. I teach him right from wrong, feeding him cakes so that he won’t eat the worms off the sidewalk. I teach him how to walk in a straight line, in a circular mile, and how to keep his eyes perfectly level with the skyline.

Swing and big band, gypsy jazz guitar; at night, I stretch out on an overstuffed bed and I listen; the stars glisten from beneath their lacy curtain, barely visible, and the swaying branches from the trees in the garden brush calmly on the windows. I am trying to get a hold of myself. I am trying to be calm, poised, and happy. There is no room in my poisonous heart for happiness. My head is full of toxic junk. I am no good, and I know it. I am sick and fat, and getting old, and I have not done a single virtuous thing in my life. I am not a genius, rich, nor beneficent. I was healthy, once – I derided my health and then lost it. When did everything become so difficult? I hang my head in shame while I play with myself. I am consumed by exhaustion, and distracted by pity, and my skin is so thick that I can not even feel what I touch, I can only trust that what I’m touching is there.

It has gotten so hot inside, even when the heat is off. I sweat. I pile up on blankets, I oversleep. I leave the air conditioner on and slowly freeze. I watched a movie late at night once as a very young boy and I have been trying to recreate it ever since. Time has stopped and left me weeping. My tears are private, but they leak through my eyes. I am tired. I’ve grown old. I lament my memories as though they were all that I have. I have not got a hold on myself, after all. I will get lost in the laps of some filthy, pale whores and then off myself. Gun to my head, I will pull back the hammer. I have been here once before – on a stool, under a glowing hot light, my tie loosened, I still can’t breathe; I have been in this sink, I have felt these frail bones begin trembling. I use shampoo and it dries out my scalp. I rinse my face with acid and it dries up my chin. I wear tight clothing when I can to simulate the tightness of securely wrapped bandages, protecting my terrible wounds. Am I normal, after all? I know I am destined to failure; that is the route of normalcy. I know that it could have been many other ways, but that it was this way, and this way is all that I have…

The real mystery surrounding all this is what I will do when things really get bad. Things can be good and I can hardly breathe; things start to get worse and I completely asphyxiate. It is four in the morning and I have been laying here in silence for over six hours now, unamazed, my heart rate slowing. I picked up a chair and I threw it across the hall; it did not break. My back aches. I drew a picture of a building, and then I erased it. I imagined a flowerbox at my window full of flowers, but I did not build one. Ghosts weigh heavy on my chest. I am tired of jazz and of headaches; I am sick of listless incantation. I am not a master rhetorician. I am not a tenor, nor a fencer. I am not a handsome ballroom dancer.

In the streets, playing saxophone, the cold grey nostalgia of smoke and glass lingers, the shoes click and glide in the shadows. In a staid ray of light, the single man turns up his collars and sleeps. You can still hear the big band and swing program if you tune in late at night, four o’clock in the morning on a Thursday, and fade in to the peaceful consistency of another world, a strangely insistent new universe. Old colors, the flag ran  deep and not innocent, and I was not amused.

There were seasons, once, and barns in farmyards, and I with a girl once skipped rocks through a stream, in the sand by the sea where the white-foam tide came lapping at our calloused heels, and in a field full of clover and daffodils I ran, waiting for no one, afraid of no man nor the future, impossibly strong with the wind in my hair and the snakes in the meadow.

Just one more gust of cool, cleansing air to exhume me, one more fresh and re-assuring breath, to fill my lungs and oxygenate my blood, how goodly that would be, how thirstily I crave it…