Smoke And Mirrors

by dschapman

The old man across the street blew his head out and was found face-down in a puddle of his very own blood.

My mother whispered that she thought it was a murder, and I laughed at her. But now I think it might have been one, too. There’s no way I’ll ever know.

I bet even the old broad he left behind doesn’t know. Maybe she knows. She isn’t around much anymore. I see her sometimes – her hair is white, I wonder did she dye it, or did she go white with stress – and I don’t even pretend to talk to her anymore. I wouldn’t know what to say. I was never much a friend of hers. It was that old man that I liked. Well, he’s dead now. He’s been dead for a while now.

I receive a call from a woman I once liked in my past. It was just the other day that I ran into her and made the mistake of being friendly. Now I wonder what she wants. I answer the phone, “Yeah,” a way that I have never answered in the past. I am curt.

There is a cold energy in the air, I am strengthened by it. My dog is feeling murderous, me too. I feel like a train, I am prepared to be powerful and steady, I am prepared to be razor-sharp if I need to be. Step up to me, I seem to say, to the strangers, to the monsters in the street – step up to me, I dare you.

“Yeah?” I repeat after a moment of silence. “Hi!” she chirps. She tells me she wants to come see me, to have dinner tonight. I tell her I have already eaten, which is not the case, but she can come if she wants to. She says she will come. Do you live in town, she asks. “Yeah,” and by now I’m really struggling. A familiar pressure is building inside me. I am about to grow hyperbolic.

We live in strife and die of contentment. Deliberately, or not at all! I choose often not at all. I fall sick to consumption and palpitate. I swing from the trees like Tarzan and pull off my clothes. I am become man, the purveyor of words. I tar and feather all the tax collectors and I sit on a roof with a M1A making sure that no one comes anywhere close to me. It is the apocalypse now, we all must be careful. There is a long journey West. I pick up my pace. I ventilate.

This bitch is really onto me now. She is going to come see me, she says. “I’m going to come out there soon, I can’t wait,” she says. I am done for.

Maybe once I would have wanted her, maybe once I might have rejoiced. Women only visit me now when they want to have sex with me, after all.

But now I can’t bear the thought of it. I imagine the men that she’s been with, the big and grotesque blue-collar boys, union boys, that tear her up and leave her breathless.

I will never leave you breathless, I will never share you with my friends. I will not pass you around like a ragdoll and slap your soft, pale ass and force you on your knees. You would like that, wouldn’t you – you are worse than your men are. You are downright nasty sometimes, the things that get you off at night, late at night with the blinds drawn, animal-grotesqueries – how bizarre.

Yes, I can really imagine it all now – I have heard stories, you see, and even without stories – well, I do not need stories – I make the stories – these people, they’re – really unbelievable! You wouldn’t believe me if I wrote it all down for you. But you don’t need to believe it. It’s even worse than you could think. It’s beyond words now, beyond description. You can see it or you are blind to it, either way you wind up blind.

The 20th century is completely destroyed – it is a myth, now, and none of it matters. Raised out of the darkness, a throne made of skulls and a fire of circle – unbroken, irreconcilable – as we shoot the raptors from the skies, clouds of birds falling down from the skies – mice in the mousetraps, all of them dead – I am done for!

She calls me back and says she can’t decide what to eat. I struggle to contain myself as I list some of her options. I feed them to her slowly, taking care to enunciate. What does she want from me? After I list everything, all the restaurants I can think of, she is still indecisive, so I list some other options, some made up, some unappealing. I even tell her I have some food of my own; “Bread,” I say, “I have some – bread, if you want it. The world is your oyster.”

I am already sick to death of her. I don’t care one way or another what she eats. I wish she would eat her own food, wherever she is. I don’t eat food, anymore, I prefer altogether to avoid it, and she is bringing me right into the thick of it, into dinner plans and everything.

I used to really want to tear her up. I don’t give a shit about her anymore, though! I’ve got better things on my mind! I’m thinking about real women, real men, real worlds – the simulation, the whole shebang – shebang is a real world, I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I didn’t know better – but I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore! I can’t even listen to people speak without going downright mad on them! I’m shaking, shivering, if you gave me hard drugs then you’d see, you’d watch the destruction – there are demons in me, I am bald –  going blind – you will watch the claws grow from my smile, the fractures gleaming in my eyes – I alone am form – I am multitudes! I get along with no one now because I have seen too much. I am the only one who can even begin to conceive of (P & ~P), and I am not even a logical genius, let alone a logician!

God damn me, I am damnable. I have let the world down.

I have forsaken my natural goodness for fraud. What fraud is this? The indecent kind, subversive and limitless! I cannot sing to this wonky old melody. The tools in the shed are all rusted and rats have gotten into the grain reserves. Burn the silo, bomb the towelheads – I am outright out of control, I am horny and I lust for blood. Is this sin or virtue, this strange discontent?

I have sold no angel’s wings for fire, let no devil step across my doormat – but here I am, I am not even being honest with myself anymore.

Words are the absolute worst thing I’ve ever laid eyes on. Johnny Cash had a few honest words in his life and he was loved for them. I can’t even begin to conceive of an honest word. Not one honest word, out of all of them. (P & ~P) is a dishonesty. The ultimate dishonesty, so painfully close to the truth its appalling.

The biggest disconnect of them all is that no one ever sees me by myself. If they could only see me – they would be done with me for good, and that would be that, and I would be free to be me again. They’d kill me in my sleep! Auto-erotic asphyxiation – as long as the grammar is perfect and the wording economical, I don’t see why not! My name in lights, I kick out the lights in an adrenaline-fueled rage and then knock myself out, I wake up in the hospital – my leg is gone, I am blind in one eye – “Yeah,” I say, as she calls me again.

She wants to know if the pizza parlor delivers. Like hell I’m going to a pizza parlor. I have true love at the pizza parlor, it must remain free of abomination. “I don’t know, could be, call them,” I say. “I’d call them but,” and I leave it at that. She sighs and I tell her I am in the middle of something. I hang up. The middle of what? What is going on with me? If I had drugs I could show them, I would make a scene and everyone would understand it. People understand scenes. Even stupid people can be spoken to through bits. Is this a bit? It could be, and at least then you could see what’s really going on here.

Jerry Lee Lewis was a madman, an honest to goodness madman. Good for him, if only I were half the man. I am all smoke and mirrors, totally fraudulent. This might as well be a bit. But then that would mean that this was a performance – and I am incapable of performance.

I wait on the porch for the girl to arrive. Smoke and mirrors, grown men getting high, I’m tired. Babies raised on welfare, glass turning back into sand. Is this the way the world will end? With glass turning back into sand?