It Is A Very Sober Living

by dschapman

I’ve embarrassed myself again. Tired of the long, empty summer, friendless and loveless and caught in a void, I drew all the blinds and locked all the doors and committed myself to a total dismissal of everything. The walnut floor became my clothing hamper and the trash piled up in its bags by the doorway. I felt positively mischievous letting my garbage build up like that. It was something I would never have done in the past. It was something that a good man could not do. Meanwhile the dog found himself pieces of particularly tasteful garbage to strew about the house in his loving manner, leaving debris like a wave from his bed in a sprawl. So I really let myself go, as they say, and actually sat and did nothing. I did not even read, I did not even think. I learned how to drink again and I let myself sit with the stuff splashing noisily over the edges and staining my clothes and my furniture. After some time I fell into a small packet of heroin and I decided to give it a try for myself. Well it felt allright, much weaker than pills, too much of a hassle, but I was not inclined to throw it out. I felt rather villainous having it there, so I left it on my kitchen counter, under the bright glowing lights on the broad kitchen mirror. It look particularly dirty in the bald fluorescent glow so I left it there, glowing. So it went for some time, getting no worse or no better, staying absolutely flat and depressive, as the summer wore on. I had never been so listless in my life.

Eventually, though, it came time to put on my shoes and tighten my belt and go open the door and re-enter the world and I did so, as though I had never laid down in the first place, without joy or reluctance. And the sun streamed in and the strength of fresh air nearly bowled me over. The dog ran past me and went moronic in the grass, laughing like a stupid boy. I am not heartless, and the laughing of the dog-boy made me smile, and I took him to town for my meeting. Business again, the working world. Wasting all that precious time.

When I came home a few hours later, the front door was locked. I nearly broke the antique glass panes by trying to shove the door in with my hip. I have never locked my door before in my life. I went around the side to all the doors (for there are many) but none of them budged. Finally I crept in, as they do, through a window, like some kind of man who has lost his key to his house. Not I! I don’t even have keys. Inside the house everything was absolutely spotless, and I gasped, almost cried out in shock at the sight of it. Every room had been tidied, vacuumed, dusted, washed, my wardrobe was folded and hung all away, my garbage had disappeared and it smelled like fresh lilacs. The kitchen counters – which I had left grimy, crumby, strewn with trash and mouse droppings, dripping with heroin tar from a spoon – were shining in their emptiness. I felt as though I had been robbed. I wanted to call the police. I felt violated. It was so good, so clean, so pleasant to be in those rooms, it felt alien, it felt old world, it felt like the monster that haunts me at night, the spectre, the shade, that old trepidation…

The change in my living space necessitated an immediate change in my own perspective, and I woke right up like a bolt to the horror, the order, of the modern world, and I became well aware of how awful a transgression I was guilty of. I realized I had slaughtered another summer, and with it, any pretense of civility. I realized what had happened, and, while normally the simplicity of it would have made me burst out laughing, this time, I was petrified. The maid had come – the goddamn maid had come, and that was all there was. There was no more. The maid had come and cleaned my house. But it wasn’t just a maid – I wish that it were. Just a small foreign woman, or maybe a black girl, who I could almost confide in, almost act uncivilized around. No, it was nothing like that – she is hardly even a maid. She is a woman of the upper class, an even higher class than I, and I do not know why she insists on cleaning my house for me, except that she was a maid in her youth and perhaps was so bored in the success of modernity that she relished the chance to be useful again. So this woman had wandered straight into my squalor and filth, my bottles and drugs and my stains and the rotting fruit in the fruit bowls, and she had fixed everything. No doubt she did not understand any of it, not one bit at all, except that I must be so sick, so terribly sick to be living like that, and now I would have to make amends with her, to clear things up. Now I was back in society again, naked and afraid and unable to act with any certainty. Society found me, society gained the upper hand, and society kicked me out my ass into the street with the birds and the sunshine. It was as though I had never given up, never absconded into the dark with the bottles and drugs. I wondered who she would tell about the heroin? It wasn’t even the heroin that worried me – it was the sheer incivility I had devoted myself to, my commitment to squalor which had now been uncovered, and stolen from me, and which I could now never return to. Well, let her tell the world about my sickness. I’m not ashamed of anything, after all. I know that heroin is nothing, that it is not even pills, that pills are ubiquitous, pills are more nothing – and that nothing doesn’t matter, that nothing is all that exists, she herself is nothing, I am nothing, the pain in my heart, it is nothing.

I can speak this way with authority because, in fact, I am rather enlightened. And enlightenment has done nothing for me. Enlightenment is an absolute farce. And nothing is farcical.