A Cycle of Revolt and Reaction – Reactionary
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In the end of December the good doctor took the titanium rods out of my back and bagged them up for me, sending me home with a bottle of painkillers. I laid there at home and I ate painkillers while my bones filled the hollow spaces left by the screws with bone.
I took up the pleasure of reading again but did not make it very far. A friend gave me a book and I pretended to read it. I took the sales sticker off the cover because its yellow ink was disrupting the black-and-white cover art and I placed the book very carefully on the end of my coffee table, a sea chest that belonged to my grandfather.
On New Years Eve I was able to stand again and I walked around the city looking for someone to love with. I could not walk far without aching but I kept eating pills and making it a few feet further away from where I started, lurching from light post to light post like an ink worm.
I’m remembering conversations I have had in my head. I am talking about the juvenile obscenity of Henry Miller and Arthur Rimbaud and Jack Kerouac, and how much I hate all of them. I am talking about the spirit of Christ again and promising I am not really Christian, although that is a lie. I have seen the white light of Christ and accepted it. But that is too metaphysical for even some of my closest friends and metaphysicians.
I was talking with Michael over coffee, that’s right. Michael is not really his name. I like Michael because I can talk about decency and goodness and Christ and I think he believes me. Alexandria doesn’t believe me – in fact she gets mad. I can’t even mention civility around her.
In the close space of the coffee shop I thought about having sex with him, like a character in that modernist literature he likes so much. I used to like modernist literature, too. Now I do not read modernist literature. Instead, I like to watch television.
Many people like to watch television. In the past, they called them movies. Before that, they called them novels. And long before that, it was the spirit of Christ.
Instead of having sex with a man and finding out whether I like it or not, I find Hannah, who is very beautiful and healthy. I love healthy people and want to be close to them.
And for some reason, she seems to like me. I would not like her, I think to myself, if she had the scars that I had. If she had my scars, and she was this gaunt, and she was this helpless, this frail and insecure – no, I would not like her at all. She would repulse me.
The problem, then, is certainly not that I am too in love with myself, after all.
I like her affection and want her to know I deserve it. “I am a good man,” I tell her, and it is true, and I am the only good man there is. I told Alexandria that I was a good man, too, and she laughed at me and told me to define my terms. Hannah laughed, too, but she said, “It’s true. You are a better man.”
But I am not a better lover. I am weak and I am slow. I can not throw a woman around and mistreat her. And this is an inadequacy which bothers me. I wonder why Hannah would put up with an inferior lover. I wonder if she really enjoys the things that I do.
I enjoy laying in bed and watching these movies, because I am a drug addict and a movie-lover. “I’m a quiet man,” I said. “I like simple things.” But she, I think, likes excitement, because she is alive and well and young, and I am growing old and confused.
“Come christen my new home with me,” I asked her. On January 1 I moved into the old antebellum house in my name on the top of the hill. The windows on the side open up, overlooking the twinkling lights of the dark, wandering valley at night. I see the dried-up riverbed winding around the buildings and under the road.
She came, and I did not know why, and I tried to show her my wonderful things. I showed her my wonderful books and my powerful guns. I had her admire my television and my taste in movies. I offered her drinks – I even bought her a nice bottle opener. It was so nice we could not even get it to work and she spilled cider all over my kitchen.
I drink cider because I am a curious man, and Hannah tolerates my curiosity and drinks cider. But I can’t tell if she really likes it. Is it infantile to her? Are we drinking apple juice because I am a child? Is it feminine? Is it weak?
I wonder why I obsess over these ideas. “I have nothing to worry about,” I think. “She likes me because I am wonderful, and she is wonderful, and together we can have fun.”
But maybe I take it so personally because I know the truth about these things. I have perspective. I know what cider is and why it is or isn’t. I am tapping into an ancient and American tradition. Why shouldn’t I have developed a taste for cider in Edinburgh? I’m named after John Chapman, aren’t I?
I try to find a good movie to show her, to explain who I am and what I am doing here, but I can’t find one – they all seem so dull. “I realized that all art is to me,” I said, “is what I can identify with. I mean that’s all it really is for me. I like it if I can identify with it.”
She listened but did not seem to agree. The way I said it, I did not really agree to it either. But it made sense to me. It was part of the path of development and humility and experience I have been undergoing. It is another rung, a reactionary and simple-minded rung, a rung of self-surrender, on a ladder I have no business climbing.
I felt the urge to assure her that I knew what I was talking about, that I had perspective on the world and that I was more intelligent than the rest, a slightly more self-aware naked ape than the rest of them. The secret to that intelligence is sensitivity, and I am a sensitive man, I wanted to say. I wanted to say, “I think it’s hormonal. I think my testosterone levels are low. That is why I’m so sensitive. That is what makes me so modern.”
Whenever I find myself calling myself “modern” my face turns white and I laugh at myself.
“This is the result of a long and arduous journey of philosophical inquiry, historical awareness, and literary and aesthetic development. I am an aesthete, a classicist, an epicist, an existentialist, a mystic, a logician, and a Christian.”
It’s all lies manufactured by my own incomprehensible machinations of the sensitive self. And like anything else, I try to wash it all off with soap, water, and drugs.
Michael and I talked about indecency and he seemed on the level. I had just watched “The Wolf Of Wall Street” and was explaining how unaffected I was by the sex and drugs and excitement. “It was completely unstimulating. Not just watching it, but thinking about it. All that hedonism just doesn’t appeal to me.”
But it still appeals to Hannah, because Hannah is healthy and human. We drink cider and get high and I feed her some pills and we start to fuck. We fuck without a condom and I’m enjoying myself, and then I put on a condom, and I”m still enjoying myself. How long has it been? It has been years. I did not even know I was still capable.
She puts her fingers near my ass. Once, years ago, when fucking her, I had put my fingers in her ass in the moment and she seemed to like it. Afterwards, though, she seemed put off, and I felt guilty and embarrassed. “I bet she likes it,” I told myself. “I bet she loves it.”
Her fingers pulled away from my ass and I wondered what happened. I realized immediately what it was, and touched myself to check it. There was shit in my ass.
I gave her the best that I could and then came deep inside her, filling my condom and wondering whether it would break or not. Fortunately, it did not break, and as soon as I was finished I pulled out of her and went into the bathroom.
I pulled the piece of shit out of my ass crack and flushed it down the toilet. “Jesus Christ,” I said. “This is humiliating.”
But I washed up and went back into bed and cuddled around Hannah, and we slept together in each other’s arms until noon the next morning, and she left to go back to the city while I stayed asleep.
When I got out of bed at 6 in the evening I took a hot shower, and I scrubbed my entire body as deep as I could, including my scabbed-over surgical scars, which ripped off and in some spots welled up with blood again.
I kept imagining her running her fingers in my ass and feeling a piece of shit, and realizing what it was, and being completely repulsed. Why was there shit in my ass? Am I incontinent? Am I that unclean? What could she be thinking? Has she felt shit in asses before?
Maybe, I thought, she was too drunk to remember. But I do not really believe that. Should I have said something to her about it? Should I have laughed and apologized for the shit in my ass?
I laid in bed until midnight eating Christmas chocolate and feeling uncomfortable. I ate the last of my pills – which means that true desperation will soon set in – and could not feel them. I laid on my side while my dog barked at the cars out the window and I waited to hear back from Hannah. “I’m clean now,” I wanted to say. “That sure was embarrassing, but now I am clean. I am good, I am healthy, I am clean.”
Hannah did not come back to me, though, at least not that night. I did not even hear from her. It was a Friday night and she must have been having a ball in the city with her friends, drinking and confusedly discussing aesthetics. This is because Hannah is an actual person, and she likes to have fun with her friends in the city, where people do interesting things together.
Meanwhile, I had not realized it was Friday, but I lay on my side and I listened to Billboard Top 40 hip hop and R&B, because I like the highly-produced monotony of the sound. “It is beautiful,” I said to Hannah as we drank. “It all sounds the same. You can listen to it all night, and it is always perfect and the same.”
“I hate it because it sounds the same,” she said.
“Sure,” I said, “Of course. But I mean, that’s why I love it.”
At 2 in the morning I walked naked through the cold house and looked over the windows into the valley. The windows had frosted in the seasonal freeze. The window trim was being painted so the frames were simple nailed in place, and black nigh air blew through the cracks and filled the room.
“I’m clean now, I promise,” I said. “I promise I’m clean. I’m clean and healthy, like you. I’m strong and interesting, like other men. I’m capable and rich. I’m intelligent and kind. I’m empathetic.” If it is true I’m empathetic, I am empathetic to a fault – incapacitated by empathy. If it’s true I’m smart, if it’s true I’m healthy, I’m the self-nullifying kind, whatever that looks like – well, it looks like me. It is covered in scars and sexually ambiguous. It’s eyes have crescent shadows that turn down at the sides. I might as well be wearing make-up.
In front of a cheval mirror, wearing nothing but a pair of panties and stockings, I carefully apply a thin red coat of lipstick to my pursed, tight lips. Mascara and eyeliner emphasizes the long curve of my eyelashes. I built the mirror myself out of Peruvian walnut when I was 22 years old.
I wake up. I am not wearing a panty or stockings. My brow is sweaty and I stand up in the dry morning air. Someone has blown all the candles out and locked all the doors. My pill bottle is empty and the floor is covered in condom wrappers. A clip sits on my dresser, missing two bullets.
“Do you like guns?” I asked. Her eyes lit up. “Have you ever fired one before?” She shook her head. “No? Not even a rifle?”
I offered to take her shooting. I showed her my pocket .380, dropping the clip and pulling it back to clear the chamber. “This is nothing,” I said. “This is a purse gun. It’s what I carry in my pocket if I go walking at night. I don’t actually like to carry, though. It makes me nervous.”
Then I handed her the Sig Sauer .40 classic, dropping the clip and locking it back. “That is the first thing you do when you are handed, or are handling, a gun,” I said. “You drop the clip out, like this. Then you pull it back, like this, and lock it into place. That is to make sure there isn’t a round in the chamber.”
“And whatever you do, never point it at anyone, or nothing you don’t want shot.”
My sister is afraid of guns, or at least afraid of the fact that I possess guns. I am not really sure why I possess guns in the first place, or why I know how to handle them, or why I like to shoot them, or why I have a concealed carry permit.
But guns are not dangerous.
“Do not overreach. Keep proper footing and balance at all times.” – DREMEL MultiPro Rotary Tool
I looked Michael in his lips and I imagined kissing them. “That’s why I hate Sartre,” I said. “I don’t hate Camus, but there’s no reason not to. Except he’s Algerian, I don’t know. But I hate Sartre. The only one I like is Kierkegaard, the Christian. Reading Kierkegaard is like a great white light washing over me. And after Kierkegaard, you just go straight to Jesus Christ. Christ is the real existentialist.”
I don’t think I’d like to kiss those lips, I decided, and I closed my eyes and stopped talking. In my mind, I thought about Hannah, and thought about how good it felt to be touching to her.
“I’m sorry I’m such a stick a mud,” I told her. “Just stick in the mud. That’s me.”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to come out tonight,” she said. She explained her dilemma with a lengthy description of all her friends and what they had planned for her.
“That’s fine,” I said. “I’m a sad sap sucker, I just want to be next to you for a while. I can wait.”
I wondered if she’d ever put her fingers near my ass again. “I’ll never let that happen again in my life,” I said. “In fact, I’ll just never have sex.”
But it doesn’t matter what happened, or what I said, or what I do. That is the magic of life, and that is what keeps me curled up on my side regretting the things that happened, that I said, and that I did.
“Artists are terrible and there is nothing to romanticize about that life. It is a mythology and a repulsive one at that,” I am telling Michael. If I were to tell Hannah that, she would disagree. When I told her that I hated Bill Faulkner because he was an indecent and juvenile trouble-maker, she told me that that was the point, and that that was the genius and temperament.
“It’s just indecent,” I told Michael. “It just isn’t right. You just shouldn’t do that. A good man, a decent man, an adult – they just don’t behave like that. And I believe in being a good man. Isn’t it good to be good? Isn’t it okay to believe in goodness? You have to do something, after all – you have to take a leap of faith of somewhere. And I chose right and wrong, because that is how I was raised, and it just isn’t right to behave like that.”
If I were really decent, I would disappear. If I were an honest man, I’d be a monk, or a hermit, and I would never be heard from again. Artists are the opposite. Artists are obscene, and they revel in obscenities.
“It just isn’t decent,” I say, trying to smile, but serious. “It just isn’t right.”
Meanwhile, Alexandria wanted to rape me, or at least to be raped. She sent me seductive messages while I slept, telling me I could do whatever I wanted to her. She explained the ways I could abuse her. “I don’t like that,” I said. “I’m not like that.”
“What do you like? I’ll do anything. You can do anything to me. I’ll wear whatever you like.”
“I guess I like a soft, gentle choking…”
“I want you to choke me.”
I ignored her until she went back to the city. It confused me that I would turn off a beautiful, young, whorish woman who wanted me. But there was no other way. It just wasn’t right.
Sleepy, sleepy, never sleeps…
Blood-red petals brush the window, the dripping glass, melting down into the painted wood and bending with the frame.
A wind blows lonely over the hills and filters through the light of the distant stars, beaming softly through a black expanse bearing a message of light to our matter. Like the womb, eyes closed, cradled softly through the rampaging violence, the water streaming over the windshield as the oncoming traffic disappears with a hush through the rain.
Waterfalls made of salt over velvet – on a blanket, a model of other – the smooth grey safety, easy currents, through the starry waves – afloat.