Living in such a state taTestaTesTaTe etats a hcus ni gniviL of mind in which time sTATEsTAtEsTaTeStA emit hcihw ni dnim of does not pass, space STateSTaTeSTaTeStAtE ecaps ,ssap ton seod does not exist, and sTATeSt oFOfOfo dna ,tsixe ton seod idea is not there. STatEst ofoFOFo .ereht ton si aedi Stuck in a place staTEsT OfOFofo ecalp a ni kcutS where movements TATeSTa foFofoF stnemevom erehw are impossible fOFoFOf elbissopmi era in all forms, UfOFofO ,smrof lla ni physical and nbEifof dna lacisyhp or mental - uNBeInO - latnem ro your mind is UNbeinG si dnim rouy focusing on a unBEING a no gnisucof lone thing, or NBeINgu ro ,gniht enol a lone nothing. bEinGUn .gnihton enol a You are numb and EiNguNB dna bmun era ouY unaware to events stneve ot erawanu taking place - not iSSUE ton - ecalp gnikat knowing how or what 7/04/01 tahw ro who gniwonk to think. You are in SEVENTY ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
Independence Day. I hope you're having a good one. I plan on celebrating by seeing a Hong Kong action flick, Once Upon a Time in China II at the local theater. Since people shoot fireworks on July 4th and the Chinese invented fireworks, it all makes sense. Much better than trying to fight traffic on Mopac to see the Austin fireworks where there are only 2,500 parking spaces this year.
Not that I really care about things making pretty colors in the sky. I've done enough acid, thankyouverymuch.
So, how's it been going? State of unBeing is kinda like that psychotic ex-boyfriend who shows up unexpectedly, waving a bunch of roses and wearing a smile that's a bit too friendly. And then there's the syphilis. Oh, Lawd, the syphilis. Wear a powdered wig and everything will be just fine.
My car just got hit by a rock. Two nice starbursts are now planted on my windshield, and I have to get my car inspected this month. Not good. When that rock hit, the first thing that ran through my mind was, "Damn, there goes my CD money for this month." And then I realized that I might have a problem. I probably buy way too many CDs.
But it's not really that big of a loss. I probably have about 80-100 CDs sitting on my desk that haven't been sorted into my collection. I just found a CD the other day that I forgot I bought and haven't even given it a whirl. Besides, I had been meaning to buy a new windshield if they can't buff out the cracks, anyway.
I like glass. And isn't that what the Fourth is all about? Like Jefferson said, 'that among these [rights] are life, liberty, and the pursuit of glass.' Of course, they didn't have cars back then, but maybe he was a prophet. Was he talking about Ben Franklin's bifocals, the windows at Monticello, or perhaps he was foreseeing the future invention of the automobile. Or maybe, just MAYBE, he was talking about the minimalist composer Philip Glass.
Let's face it. What would life be like without glass? Well, okay, that would be silly. Hello, sailor! That's even sillier. Would you like these nice roses I brought for you?
We shouldn't talk about political theory today. This is a day of celebration, not a day of dissection of 18th century ideas. Here, let me fill your glass again. What, no glass? Oh, that's right. We've jumped timestreams. Here, let me put the champagne in this paper cup. What? Oh, yes, I've always thought that Dixie makes the most romantic products. Take off my wig? What about the fake mole? Can I leave the fake mole on? Move it to the left side, you say? Ah, yes, I do agree that it fits me better over there.
Man, these puffy shirts are a bit hot. Would you mind if I took mine off? How about some music? You can't drink champagne without music, you know. No, I don't think it's too much trouble to call in the string quartet. That's what they're paid to do.
Oh, no, you don't have to go. Look at all of the trouble I went through for you. You said you've give me a second chance. I even moved my mole for you. What else do you want from me? Fine, then. Leave if you want. But leave the damn Dixie cup here. I don't have any glasses.
Sorry bout that. That tangent was a pisscutter, huh? Anyway, we're back, so those of you who placed bets against us lose. I'll be collecting markers on Friday. It's a bit of an old-school issue, with pieces by DCSFBTU, Griphon, Nathan, and myself. Don't let the door hit you on the way out, you tease.
From: M. Corbett Sr. To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Hi! My name is Matthew Corbett and I am wondering about pricing/availability/relevancy of ad space in your ezine (s) Perhaps telling you a little about what I am doing and my company would help to determine if we would be a good "fit" I am a distributor for Oasis wellness network our company promotes anti aging products and education The products are clinically proven effective and have produced great results for my wife and I (as well as several friends) Our version of network marketing is that we like to get the products into the hands of the people who can use them, get good results for them and have a good story to tell when (if) they decide to become distributors/business builders (You can and should do it that way when the products really do work and are reasonably priced) So, the folks we want to be in front of are either health minded active (and want to stay that way!) or open to being in a business that does not promote "getting rich quick" but getting what your worth through the network marketing business model (hard work + duplication + great products that actually work = success) Please get back to me as soon as possible and let me know the theme of your newsletter, readership numbers and demographics as well as placement rates and "insertion" dates as we are looking to act as soon as possible Because we are trying to find a Home with certain ezine publishers (as well as a place to send our "downline" for effective advertising we would also like to inquire about multiple insertion deals or "affiliate programs" you may have P.S. if as the publisher of the ezine you are personally interested in the products, please visit the link below on the right I would be happy to use product as part trade toward the placement fee If you are open to looking at a solid opportunity visit the some of the links below and if you like what you see you might consider signing on as a distributor and running "editorials" in your ezine (your income as an associate should far exceed the add fee!) I am particularly interested in any advice you may have as an ezine professional as to using the "ezine" medium to build a solid ezine of my own if you have any ideas on list building or anything related to the ezine arena I am "all ears" :) As I am getting your email from a rather old (over a year) list of ezines it may be possible that you are no longer publishing it If your ezine is similar to the ones I am considering (general wellness, work at home, and "attitude adjustments" I would be more than interested in purchasing old subscriber lists! Below is a copy of our ad copy please review it and let us know if it meets your physical specs and visit the links to get a feel of what your readers will be seeing to insure we would be a good "fit" (I am very proud of the way the sites are written) Again if the oppty or products suit you (or someone you know) we would be happy to work out a deal on products toward the ad fee it could be a win win deal (those are soooo cool) WHAT LIMITS COULD YOU ERASE WITH A SOLID INCOME STARTING NOW? A home-based business based on intelligent, educated effort not hype and outrageous promises Automated system with great (time maximizing) tools your dedicated effort can finally pay you what you're worth! Give your self a wonderful gift right now by visiting www.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.com/1418/ TURN BACK THE BIOLOGICAL CLOCK! What would you do with the extra energy and piece of mind? That comes from working toward living a longer, Happier, more rewarding life? FREE REPORT "7 secrets of anti aging" Do something nice for yourself right now by clicking www.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.com/limiteraser Let me know what you think Matthew Corbett Turn Back the Clock! With new clinically proven anti aging products and make great money doing it! You owe it to yourself to visit www.xxxxxxxxx.com/bellt1 or www.xxxxxxxxxx.com/bellt1 now!
[i also know the secret to anti-aging. it's this little key on your keyboard, right between the comma and the slash. it's called a period. it is your friend. it also would keep me from having to punch myself in the face everytime i read your letter when i get to the end of a sentence. I mean, you've got question marks. Why not periods? Perhaps this is some subconscious death mark that you are afraid of using because it symbolizes a final end. Hell, even a "STOP" left over from the telegraph days would be a nice touch. i also know another secret. if you want to make money, you should look elsewhere. e-zines, contrary to the public's crazy notions, are not giant money-making enterprises. sure, everybody sees me cruising around town in my converted humvee limo, but i didn't make that money from this publication. pornography and prayer cloths, baby. that's where the big bucks are. but hey, maybe you've got the touch. the ceo of the giant corporation i work for writes more poorly than you do. his use of ellipses makes his bi-weekly letters look like the text transcripts of some bizarre william shatner business strategy cadence. so maybe you don't need periods. maybe you can get rich and famous from e-zines where so many others have tried and been assassinated. just a word of warning from someone who's been there: STOP.]
From: Dan McNeill To: email@example.com Subject: spam great zine only read to 15 has gorilla guy read the 48 laws of power, perhaps he knows physical rebellion, war, assassination, etc. is not necessary no man wants freedom, he is free, completely. men want security, but call it freedom. right and left, there so much alike organic is a curse word, yet even machines are dirty, greasy, and noisy surely you know all this shit, just as your zine is predictable, but good _m_e_
[predictable? i guess you must be talking about content rather than the publication schedule. of course, if you've only read to 15, then you're about five years behind. frankly, i hardly go back farther than that. did you see some of the crap i wrote back then? cringeworthy, indeed. i don't know that organic is a curse word. at one time i was very extropian and dreamed for days on end of living forever and replacing all of my body parts with robot accessories. these replacements were not dirty, greasy, and noisy. they were sleek, and they came with a free pair of mirrorshades. and then i saw the films of david cronenberg and his biotechnological nightmare fever dreams. ah, beauty like this would free even the child slavers that i used to hang out with. all you need is a small budget and a score by howard shore. not a bad price, if i do say so myself.]
From: -gyb - To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: an unfamiliar stance in regard to your mailing list. to be honest, state of unbeing... is was the first interesting thing i have read on the net in a long time. i read a few pieces from your site/zine and they aproached on myself a feeling of unfamiliar hope, joy in nothingness, elated at the desperate nature of the work. the idea that people write about such seemingly pointless and yet so highly relevant notions is quite..... well. good. i would appiciate it if i could be added. on showing some of my peers some extracts and such the general response was awe. admiration. and the like. Teen anti-conformisim sets in yet again. involment is apealing. jess
[christ. "teen anti-conformism?" that phrase makes me feel really, really old. but, we're all glad that you like it, and we like the fact that we have our own hidden corner of the net that people stumble upon. and, of course, if your peers really were full of "awe" and "admiration" AND you think they might become die hard fanatics, then i've got a little cult/jihad gig i've been wanting to start for some time now. i could use some fresh faces. there is quite a bit of paperwork, signifying that new members are over 18, asset transfer documents and the like, but i think something truly inspiring might come out of the venture. namely, i want a large group of people to follow me around for no reason at all. but, i'll know they're following me, unlike those bastards who follow me all the time but don't let me in on it.]
From: gothicmetal01 To: email@example.com Subject: subscription i'm glad that i have found an zine more suited to my tastes than those scary optimistic rantings and opinions of the editors of past zines that i'm now trying to repress....damn, i remembered......... anyway i need to go back to repressing some of the memories that are creeping back on me... i would like to have a subscription to your zine...i might even publish some of the stuff that i have buried in my desk... gothicmetal '01 "repression is a beautiful thing"
[gothic metal. is that like christian death and lacuna coil? there are so many subgenres of metal these days that it's hard to keep up. i must confess that i don't listen to much metal these days. too many wizard metal bands out there, guitars going crunchy crunchy like i love, and then the flutes and mellotrons break out and the lead singer is like a damn dryad now. ugh. and now it seems people either want to do even MORE solos than the 80s or it's just a race to see whose drummer can blast for the longest. but maybe i just haven't been able to find good metal that suits my tastes. i have a slight affinity for the dillinger escape plan and meshuggah, but that's really as far as i go. and sometimes we get optimistic and happy and all that good stuff, but we know when to balance it out. because, let's face it, nobody wants to see you happy. they just want to see you naked, painted in a light shade of blue, and doing the dance of your forefathers: the safety dance.]
From: Walrus To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: My Latest Creation! (Mu-hah-hah-hah hah!) So since I'm at home now, I've been spending more time in the kitchen. Since my mom never really taught me much about cooking, I have no preconceived notions about what should and shouldn't be in the realm of quisine. Last night, I concocted a nice but not too terribly experimental dish of Turkey Chorizo and spanish rice. (Yes, that's right! All the full flavor of CHORIZO without all the FAT! (What do they make this out of?? I didn't think that turkeys had lips or assholes. Hummm... maybe those red waddles?) ). I made this dish after Holly nixed my ideas for Veggie Burger Parmesian and Veggie Burger Salisbury Steak. But my latest creation is the one of which I'm most proud. It's inspiration lies in the many breakfasts that I've begrudgingly crammed down my throat in the morning in a bleary state, and my severe dislike of coffee. I've often thought that I'd be much better off in life if I could aquire that plessed vitamin, Caffine, from sources other than soda. If only they made caffinated ketchup! If only they made caffinated icecream! So the other morning, I noticed that the National Drink of Texas tastes great with a bowl of oatmeal. Yes, that's right! A big mouthful of oatmeal washed down with a swig of Dr. Pepper is damn tasty. So naturally I had to try it. Yes, you can see where this is going... the instructions state, "Add 2/3 cup of water or milk to the conetents of one packet..." And I'm thinking "water or milk or that blessed water of live, Dr. Pepper". Now friends, I've tasted some good things in my life. And I've tasted some bad things in my life. But this Dr. Pepper oatmeal is damn good. At this very moment I am typing with both of my cheeks puffed out, mouth full of this delightful porridge. It has all the flavor of Dr. Pepper with all the wholesome goodness of oatmeal that Wilford Brimley has promised to you and the added benefit of a caffine injection. Dr. Pepper truly does make the world taste better!!
[sadly, this isn't some crazy net.kook who sends me alternative quantum physics theories that the academic world suppresses. no, he is one of my dearest, dearest friends, and he is also one sick guy. i mean, how can anyone like oatmeal? this just had to be shared with the world.]
From: dirk russell To: email@example.com Subject: DIRK Hey.. I just have to know.. ye ran the iSiS unVeiled BBS, right??? If ye are.. I been tryin to get in touch with ye for a long time.. If so.. do ye remember Dirk Russell???? That be me, just in case yer wonderin.. heheh Later Daze -=>Dirk<=-
[damn. somebody else crawls out from under the woodwork. it's always good to hear from the old iSiS UNVEiLED crowd. we've toyed with the idea of putting an online bbs up, but i dunno a) how many people would be interested, or b) if we're just a bunch of lazy bastards these days who would find it too much trouble. anyway, the only online bbs i hang out on is ISCA (bbs.isca.uiowa.edu) and sometimes ChungKuo (chungkuo.org) when I feel like playing some old door games or some level 9 text adventures. needless to say, i hate, hate, hate message boards.]
From: Sandlin Preecs To: Kilgore Trout Subject: Repented... Save me from my sins an put me back on the list of golden children who hear the saving word every month or however often it is that you get SOB put together.. assuming you still exist. Sandlin
[look at that turnaround time. this message came while i was putting the zine together. you're lucky. some people's mail just gets stuck in a folder, and then i forget about it. i'm a bastard that way. sometimes, though, when i've got my head on straight, you get a response. so, not only are you on the list, but here's a brand spankin' new issue, too. i expect your first-born child as payment. either that, or a nice pencil drawing (with excellent shading techniques, naturally) of no less than twenty different types of tapeworms.]
From: Nathan To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: rant to the editor Dear Editor, I would like to take advantage of this public forum to vent, in a cheap attempt to get sympathy from innocent readers by making our disagreement into a matter of public discussion. For more than eight years now, I have been a loyal writer and reader for State of unBeing. You have published everything I've sent in. Even the stuff that was bulked up beyond 200k just to force you into a moral dilemma, you published intact. I am humbled by the privilege of being published in your literary magazine, and I am happy not to have had to discover it in writer's catalogs like a loser, so I cannot understand why you have rejected one of my recent submissions. Boo! Hiss! Fellow SoB readers, and those writers who still dare speak my name, please raise a ruckus about this. Mailbomb Kilgore with complaints and threats against the small cache of hope he keeps tucked between his Masada and Metallica CDs. [Editor's note: that small 'cache of hope' consists of Material; Kaffe Matthews; MC Solaar; Sarah McLauchlan; Meat Beat Manifesto; Medeski, Martin & Wood; Megadeth; Melt Banana; Merzbow; and Meshuggah. i hope i have a different 'cache of hope' if i'm ever trapped on a desert island.] Blackmail him with those things he said last Tuesday. And so on. Rise, my negro brothers, and fight this man! Kilgore, I can understand rejecting a submission once, as it may not fit in with the gestalt of a particular issue, or it may lose out to pressures for space. These are the hard decisions an editor must make. But this is a clearly a grudge: rejecting a submission for four months in a row with no explanation? Granted, this only accounts for one issue of SoB, and I didn't even write it until June, but that is no excuse. You are a tyrant. Please forgive me. Please don't edit this letter to remove the submission secretly inserted in my .signature file. -- Nathan, writer for SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB ROOMMATE STORiES by I Wish My Name Were Nathan "Ha ha ha! They make me laugh!" -- Joe Reader "It's like 'Tales of the City,' but it's confined to an apartment, and there's no sex." -- Leonard Maltin Story #1: The Cat So, I Wish My Name Were Bathing (note: "I Wish My Name Were Bathing" has no relation, association, or contract -- binding or otherwise -- with the name, persona, or acting representative of the alias "I Wish My Name Were Nathan", and any effort made to link the two in any means, physical, spiritual, emotional, or vibrational, will result in the utter annihilation of the universe) walks up to Bilgore (that's Kilgore) and says, "Did you see the cat in the freezer?" Bilgore makes a strange face. "No." Oops, fucked it up. Bathing actually says, "I mean, uh, did you find anything interesting in "Did you "Have you seen the freezer recently?" Bilgore makes a strange face. "No." "Did you see the cat?" No, it should have been, "Have you used the freezer recently?" But even that sounds wrong. Bilgore, nonetheless, continues to bear the strange expression, as if a great big pastry had fallen into his gullet, and he enjoyed it. "You put the cat in the freezer?" he asks. No, he doesn't ask anything. "I put the cat in the freezer," Bathing says. "No way," Bilgore says. Bathing erupts into a stream of raucous laughter. Too soon! "You didn't see it?" Bathing asks. I mean, "You didn't open the freezer, did you?" "Wait, I did get some ice out of the freezer," he says, thinking back. "How could you have missed it?" Bathing says, cackling. It was behind the ice! "It was behind the ice!" Bilgore looks startled, once again facing up to his superhero ability to ignore a lot of things. Bathing laughs and mocks him openly. Story #2: The Dirty Neighbors Bilgore lights up his cigarette and spies a strange stain on the ground. "Holy shit," he thinks, "they've done it again!" He almost complains! Bathing laughs, "No, that was me. It's just candle wax!" Story #3: Fish Head Bathing is accosted by the neighbors' fish head as he walks to check the post. He usually pets it, rubs it, and makes it feel good, but today he walks right by, because he doesn't want to wash his hands. Little does he know, this lack of affection will later that night force the fish head to camp on Bilgore's car! "I couldn't go anywhere that night. That fish head was on my hood! I felt powerless. You should have rubbed the fish head," Bilgore scolds, erupting into a rash. ANSWERS Story #1: !lamina deffuts a si tac ehT Story #2: !allenortiC Story #3: .wonk t'nod gnihtaB dna erogliB ,naem I ,rE .wonk t'nod I daeh hsif ti llac ew lleh eht yhW !eno deffuts a ton ,eno laer A !tac A Story #4: !noitaixyhpsa citoreotuA SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB, please visit http://www.apoculpro.org/sob/issues
[it's all true. really. but that's what happens when you're roommates with the slickster. well, not for long. mercury in the shoes is the greatest practical joke. period.]
From: NosferatuVincent Sent: Sunday, April 15, 2001 7:07 PM To: email@example.com Subject: mailing list Can I be added on the mailing list?
[well, i don't know. as my mother would say, 'it's may i, not can i.' but yes, you'll be added, even if my mother probably already hates you. i bet my dad doesn't like you, either. he used to tell me things like 'son, you sure do have a pretty mouth,' and then he'd punch me in the face. okay, so that's a lie. he never said anything before he hit me. actually, my parents are both really nice people, but since you've didn't give me much to work with, i had to make stuff up. i hope you're happy.]
Dark Crystal Sphere Floating Between Two Universes
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
[Editor's note: This piece was originally sent out on 06.01.2001 to the mailing list in lieu of a May issue.]
Have you ever stepped outside, taken a deep breath, and inhaled the wrongness of it all? The clouds are a bit too still, the traffic is moving faster than it should, and the trees are silhouetted claws against buildings waiting to be uprooted by cataclysm. Your neighbor comes down from the upstairs apartment and ignores you perfectly, the way you ignore the universe. The heat from the sun is not natural; it is an attack.
Your sweat almost burns.
Hibernation. The answer is neither correct nor appropriate, but it is doable, so you sleep. Eyes opened, senses dulled, your existence takes a retrograde tumble into a nebulous netherworld where the things you see are like the tossed off brushstrokes of a child painting abuse. The world is flat, one surface, one layer, one veneer. The hypnogogia infests your soul, and you touch everything but feel nothing.
This is what life is like after you step off the edge of the world.
"Are you religious?" May asked.
It was the summer of 1998, about two months after I had gone crazy. We were eating in the break room at work, and her question came after a long period of silence. I slowly finished chewing my food, contemplating my answer.
"No," I said.
She smiled. "I didn't think so." She was Catholic.
That is the question that haunts me. What do you believe in? Is there something bigger than you that you would give yourself over to? Even if you can't prove that it exists, is there anything that you want to believe in?
We went out once, and there were a few more failed attempts to hook up. I helped her pick out a present for a wedding she was attending one night, and she said I had excellent tastes in gifts, even though I was clueless as to what I was recommending. I remember walking around the mall with her, carrying a bunch of bags, and thinking how utterly alien this was to me. It was pleasant.
May mentioned once that I was the exception to her rule, that she didn't normally go out with people from work. That rule didn't last too long, since she soon quit and got another job for the rest of the summer, but our schedules never really coincided after that. Numerous phone calls, interfering previous commitments to family, and a giant power outage that destroyed any attempt to contact each other before the poetry slam festival made it clear that this was not meant to be. School started, and that was that.
We discussed religion quite a bit, her faith and my atheism. It was always civil, never condescending, and neither of us tried to proselytize. She always said that religion, whether it was really true, gave her hope for the future. I think I secretly wanted to be like her, to be able to believe. That, however, did not happen. I think she got a history degree the next year.
My fantasies are never comfortable, and, in my dreams, I'm always helpless. One recurring dream has me waking up in a large bed in a room washed in soft yellows from the morning sun. Someone has been in bed with me, and there is a note on the other pillow in female handwriting that states that she has gone out and will be back soon. There is never a name, just an initial.
I stumble out of bed, walking around the giant house and looking at pictures of her and me. The wedding photos are always the hardest to look at. Sometimes, published novels I've written adorn library shelves. There is always a leather couch in the living room.
My attempts at figuring out her name are always in vain. I dig through desk drawers, closets, and file cabinets, but I can never find out what it is. I know that she will be coming home soon, and if I can't figure out her name, she will know that something is wrong.
The confrontation is always the worst part. It takes place in the kitchen, always the last place I search, and she enters through the back door. She has either been to the grocery store, out shopping for consumer goods, or has simply been out jogging.
"Hey, babe," she says, kissing me on the cheek.
When I look her in the eye, I know she can see the lack of recognition. I, of course, have no idea who she is, nor what I am doing in this house. We are obviously married, because the photos are never absent, but my last memory is of going to bed alone. This is when I spot the morning paper, and the date is three or four years in the future.
At this point, I usually break down and cry. A few times I have managed to convince her that nothing is wrong, but as the day goes on, I get more and more paranoid that she will discover that I don't know who she is.
When I do tell her that I have no memories of the past few years, that she is a complete stranger and that this is a foreign house, I'm never sure if she believes me. She is always sympathetic, but I do not know her. More importantly, she does not know me.
As the old saying goes, this is not my beautiful house, and this is not my beautiful wife.
When dreams provide no escape from reality, you must turn to history. Or prehistory, rather, when the world was hot, and God still had a chance not to fuck everything up. Here, in this heat, was potential.
They said I should write a religious text.
"You've got the background for it, and, besides, you're always wavering in and out of a messiah complex."
I wrote: Don't be an asshole.
"That won't do. Where are the parables, the guidelines for living, the prophetic visions? What about ethical behavior and morality? The afterlife? The origin of life? You need to write something that can be argued over, edited, redacted, and built upon. One sentence doesn't cut it, and Jesus pretty much said the same thing already."
Jesus wasn't blunt enough.
Religious texts are problematic documents. They purport to communicate Truths, both in a literal and mystical sense, inspired and revealed by the Divine. One person's truth is another's superstition. These texts provide support and justification for a system of beliefs, but eventually, which one necessitates the other?
If you prefer, you may consider this document a religious text, although it denies that it is one (a fact which may later be edited out) and does not attempt to reveal answers to any mysteries. It is only an attempt to communicate.
An expanded guideline for living, allowing for justified deviations of the rule, left up to the discretions of the individual:
Mostly, don't be an asshole.
Can the world be as sad as it seems? One of my friends, when asked if she had ever killed anything, simply replied, "Hope." Right now, listening to Scott Walker's morose rendition of a Jacques Brel song, I think she succeeded.
I'm glad that I don't know anyone named Hope. If I did, she would probably be really popular, people would call me, and I'd have to repeat over and over, "I'm sorry, I don't know where Hope is." Except I know where Hope is.
She is buried in my backyard because I am a good friend.
I am not an asshole. Mostly.
The first time I remember being an asshole was in fifth grade. My family had just moved to town, and it was probably my second month there. The girl who sat across from me had just gotten glasses and asked if she looked better with them or without them.
"You look better without them," I said.
She was not happy. It was not meant as an insult but a statement of fact. The glasses were not particularly flattering, and I wore glasses -- thick, brown, plastic ones -- which, I thought, made me a bit of an expert on the subject of ugly glasses.
On that day, I learned what it felt like to emotionally hurt somebody else. I also discovered the value of lying.
I had, of course, been experimenting with lies for a few years, but only to myself. The revelation of being able to not tell the truth happened while reading J.R.R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings trilogy in second grade. My mother bought it for me to shut me up while shopping for a pet fish for my sister. I was fascinated by Gollum and the years of lies he had told himself to justify the killing of his brother in order to get the Ring. I was amazed that this was even a possibility. How could telling enough lies convince yourself that the lies were truth?
Nearly two decades later, I'm still not sure which memories are real and which ones I fabricated. I'm not even sure I did make any of them up, but the possibility is there, and some memories seem so shallow and hazy that it almost makes more sense that they were creations rather than imperfect imprints. When one memory has the chance of being false, what of the others?
How safe is it to trust yourself?
Tonight, at work, an analyst jokingly mentioned that she should choke me for the crappy work I had been giving her all week.
"How about if I pay you to choke me?" I asked.
"Why would you want to pay me to choke you?" she said.
"Well, you want to choke me, so I should give you some money."
"But I'm choking you. You don't pay people to choke you. That's like throwing away money."
"If you do it right," I said, "I won't need the money because I'll be dead."
I choked a girl once when I was eleven. My parents would have these church socials at their house where all the 30-something churchgoers would come over, visit and play board games, and they would all bring their children. We were relegated to the family room since my parents would not let me confine myself to my room, fearing that I would become some sort of social outcast.
Most of these kids I didn't like. They had destroyed toys before, stolen comic books, wrecked models that I had painstakingly built, and my parents never had the items replaced. "You have a bunch of other toys," they said. "You can build another Apache helicopter."
My sister and I used to pretend to choke each other for reasons I can't remember, so it only seemed natural that when someone got annoying, you would pretend to choke them. Everyone would have a good laugh. Well, we were trying to play a board game, and this girl wasn't playing by the rules.
When I did the play choke thing, she screamed, pushed away from me, and ran to her father in the next room. He came barreling in, put his hands around my neck, and said, "How would you like it if someone tried to choke you?"
I tried to explain that it was a joke, that I wasn't actually going to hurt anybody, and hadn't he ever watched wrestling where they fake violence on a nightly basis?
When it looks like you're trying to kill somebody, even if you're not, people still look at you like you're a murderer. Kids today have learned that it's better to go through with the killing because people will treat you the same way whether or not you actually do commit the act.
I learned that I wasn't very good with the ladies or killing them. Hope made for an easier target.
Even after the earth cooled, there was still a chance for Hope. She had drawn the heat of the world into herself to protect and guard it. The heat was raw energy, and with it, Hope could fashion the perfect world. Standing on the tallest peak, arms outstretched, She began to create.
I've watched Hope die a thousand times over. In the dirty hands of a homeless man. In my sister's marriage. On the nightly news when people scream for death to avenge past deaths. In my reflection on a dinner table spoon as my grandparents talk about the niggers. In a church service where Her corpse has been replaced by familiarity.
At times, when I'm playing with my two-year-old niece, I wonder when Hope will die for her. Will she be prepared? Will she be like me?
God, I hope not.
The first time Hope died, She didn't expect it, especially since God didn't do it. He just sat back, as always, and allowed it to happen. Now, after millions of years, Her languid sighs fill the empty spaces of the world with each little death. If you can find a quiet spot and sit silently long enough, you can hear the remnants of Her breath condense and drip back to the earth. The sound almost negates the lies.
It didn't seem right to release an issue this month, not while I'm in this state. It hasn't felt right for the past couple of issues, but that's a problem with me, not you. I'm still sorting out the details, and everything should return to normal soon.
When I told Clock that I wasn't releasing an issue this month and doing something a bit different, he asked if I was going to make a golem. The golem is already in place -- it's slowly being dismantled. Right now, though, I'm still half-asleep in the hollow, soaking up what I can.
Right before May and I lost touch, I sent her an email trying to explain various Kabbalistic beliefs to her. She didn't understand why anybody would try to get closer to God if he was behind three veils at the top of the tree that separated him from us. I told her it wasn't about getting to know God; rather, it was the hope of getting a glimpse of the ineffable.
I imagine you happy these days. I often think of you in a state of Zen contentment- working at a job with little stress, living in a house that should have its own highly rated situation comedy as well as low rent, going out, drinking, laughing. Point of fact, you're never without a smile in my daydreams. Whether or not this is an accurate representation doesn't concern me. These are exercises that bring a soothing loneliness, like that of an overcast autumn sky.
I promised myself never to write you again, hoping to hold out until you were no longer a perfunctory thought, automatic like breathing. But, I must confess, I think of you daily. This is not as psychotic as it sounds, or maybe it is. I've recently discovered the extent and depth of mental illness in my family. I truly believe Faulkner knew some of my kin in Mississippi in the last century. My grandfather was treated with electric shock therapy in New Orleans in the 40s. At least my potential psychosis will be handled more humanely. I would rather attribute my lingering attachment to a change in the way I think rather than a chaotic tendency in my genes. But I've already explained my new paradigm before and repetition, though a signal of mental instability, is rather boring.
So, then, why would I write after months of silence, having prefaced myself as a lunatic? I don't know. I am driven with a need to communicate with you. Ironically, the years of not communicating effectively have contributed to a newfound aesthetic empathy, and daily I see and hear things I wish you could see and hear. You cannot imagine how frustrating it is to finally find a voice and topic long after your attention has passed away.
I wonder if you think of me. Or if you miss me. The greatest act of self-pity a person can commit is fantasizing his own funeral. Imagining who would attend, who would lament your passing away, who would be engulfed in regret, crying out that they had never appreciated you, truly, until it was too late. I border on that thought at times. This letter is that act of self-pity, or at least partially. I write to you because I don't imagine you thinking of me, because I feel as if I'm already dead- passing through your thoughts in a half-realized memory, melting like a thin layer of wax and leaving only a sensation of touch and never an imprint. But if you were to think of me, if you were to respond to this letter, what then? How do you address the biggest regret of your life? Communication started as a form of survival, and then somewhere along the way it took on more, and shrugged off more, and now, imprecise and unwieldy in my mediocre hands, how is it to serve? There is no sound to be made that can recreate the sound of a shuddering existence. And despite dreams of a tearful eulogy or even a tearful reconciliation, there is little evidence to support anything other than a hardened resolve against the past of us.
Pragmatic individuals might say this as a learning experience, something to be remembered lest it be repeated. But is forgiveness written into that prescription? Or is that the ego throwing a tantrum? Six seconds of video tape remain within part of the physical evidence of our relationship. Six seconds in which you pick up the camera and walk into the kitchen, asking me if I'm going to be a big Hollywood director. I remember this, I was tired and hadn't slept well and it was hot. I turned to you and told you to shut the fucking camera off. Right before it goes black, there is a defeat in your voice that, to this day, causes me to vomit. There is no sound for regret, but I do know the sound for defeat. I wonder when it was my ear became attuned to that sound. I wonder how many times you made that sound. I wonder if I live down those six seconds.
In my daydreams you've made your own development. You have many lives. Sometimes it's with blood red hair and lipstick to match smudged on the rim of a martini glass, your voice and face a perfect pitch for politicking your social scene. In another life you're sitting on your couch, reading a worn paperback, the glasses sitting on your nose and something restless moving through your body, under your tank top and cutoffs; you are vibrating with a vital energy. Sometimes you are walking in the rain, moving hurriedly but not hastily under an awning downtown, murmuring to yourself and planning dinner. In any event, off camera, I'm beside or behind you, cracking scotch-soaked ice or writing in a journal or waiting in the coffee shop just around the corner. These thoughts are persistent and brief and another manifestation of regret.
I must sound pathetic. I'd rather tell you of sane, less introspective things. The beats that are between the spoken words in our lives, the dull moments of inactivity. Music I've heard, people I've met -- I want to tell you about these things. I want to hear about your job, your house, what you're doing over the course of the next year. What are you thinking right now? Are you overwhelmed, slightly turned off by the unexpected and intimate correspondence? I would think so. The last thing anyone wants is a cold rush of unwelcome words. What do you say to this? It seems as if we have a new relationship, based on the inability to articulate the impossible moments, a complete reverse of the inability to express the mundane. We fought well, we fucked well, and deep down something dark was lurking that has now exploded, leaving nothing comprehensible on the landscape. The funny thing is, I never sensed it. The whole thing, I've told friends, caught me by surprise. And now it is so invasive and malignant that I cannot help but to feel it. It's everywhere. It is in my mouth, has calcified and fused to my bones, radiates as a ingrained stink from my fingertips. Mostly it has left me unable to speak and fully aware of what to say. Had you placed some mojo on me after the breakup, you couldn't have picked a more just revenge.
I'm rambling. Everything is too damn incoherent these days. A far cry from the structured, happy life you must be leading. It's well past time to end this emotional bullshit between us. For you, it has. For me it is a wound that burns, infected but sealed, a reminder. The pragmatists will be happy- this is not something I would likely forget. I can start the list pulled from every cliched book on being a man for the OneThatGotAway or TheFirstRealHeartbreak, or any of that shit. I could say I still hold a tender affection for you. And the past year, having been so volatile and corrosive to everything in which I've believed and every stance I've held, has at least worn down the truth of things between us to a smooth finish in which perception is no longer distorted. I am not pining away for you, listening to the Cure and musing on Hamlet's soliloquies and the kiss of a razor. I am just... thinking. To the point of not being able to hold it in, to the point of not being able to let it out. Bluntly, you are paired with a mistake I made that measured the depth of my inequity as a person and the flaws of my idea of being a man and being in a relationship. Fortunately, not everyone is as stupid as I was, and hopefully those people don't have to suffer experiencing this. Let alone writing this.
You exist in my daydreams in a world in which I do not exist. Not really, anyway. Maybe this is what should have happened in the first place. You are the center that defines and yet is absent from the space of my life. Funny that now everything is defined by your presence and lack of presence. Postmodern breakups are a bitch...
"I gave up on new poetry myself 30 years ago when most of it began to read like coded messages passing between lonely aliens in a hostile world."
Vacillating hokum man extrude didactic flan ornate
Camelhair and organelle in prophylactic martyr spate
Cottonmouth egregious spore earn vapid fast prognosis rate
Torpid scallion voodoo dung deflate on expiration date
Metal keloid operand in cold cerulean acetate
Pistol-toting cactus-copter pterodactyl snowball pate
Patent vinyl compost farmer stoma Spam inebriate
Pathogenic symbiosis rabies tofu carbon-date
Orchid fain exhibit fast resign to bland salacious fate
Mottled ochre septum dirge in referendum dislocate
Hypodermic meristem urge kelpie portal tepid sate
Hydroponic Oxford satchel pigeon frond incarcerate
Shish kebab Missoula pestle epilogue decapitate
Sarcoid Hasid profiteering noble vicious salad prate
Cognac finger mordant zesty Lysol aphid procreate
Ingot prattle Teflon hookah egret scepter ostrich bait
A dust devil hovered over the desert, exposing ancient masonry in its wake. Ruins seemed to try to free themselves from their graves. As I carried the tools up the hill, I was amazed at the sheer immensity of the site. Generations rose and died here, only to lie buried beneath my feet. Thousands of dead names, forgotten by all except God. Before sinking my pick's tooth into the still earth, I turned to the professor.
"What did they call this city?" I asked.
"Dallas," he answered.
Jeremy and I were sitting at a small rickety table in the corner of the front yard at Mojo's. Or let me clarify: I was sitting and Jeremy was standing. He had explained to me his recent kick, boycotting the act of sitting.
"Why don't you sit down, Jer?"
He was standing against the incline of the railing running alongside the wheelchair ramp, one hand dangling near his left pocket by an index finger, the other bent behind his head, which leaned back against it as he gazed at the sky.
"Sitting is bad for you," he replied.
"It's death to the spine. Cartilage gets compressed funny, and you get bad posture and chronic lower back pain."
"Not if you sit up straight," I protested, straightening up.
"Perhaps, but that's so much strain that people tire themselves out, and then they slouch, or put one leg up under the other, and that's even worse posture."
I grunted. I wasn't used to hearing him talk about health so much, but it seemed to have become a concern since his invincibility wore off several years ago.
"I hear you," I said. "I have back and neck pain pretty regularly now since I've been on the job for three years. Same routine every day, same chair, same posture."
"See, Nathan, I've always said that consistency is worthless. Why don't you quit?", and so on. He always brought that up, and I usually half-agreed with him, grunting in agreement with a checklist of detriments to my well-being invited by working long hours at a compiler company, then countering with a variety of benefits I perceived, then leaving the subject with a soon-forgotten vow to quit the next month.
I cut him short this time with a dismissive flick of the wrist and he resumed gazing at the sky. I took a rather large sip of my drink and looked down.
How could I have missed the fact that the cast-aluminum table at which I sat had been punctured by a rather large bullet? I was astonished. The angle implied that it had been shot from above, perhaps from a slacker serial killer lackadaisically unloading his handgun from a helicopter.
I glanced up into the bright, searing sky and averted my eyes into Jeremy's to avoid the sun. He had seen my burst of surprise and grinned ever so slightly, baring half of his upper teeth. He turned his gaze steadily downward, as did I, and I was left staring at his crotch. I remembered (again) that he had taken up the habit of wearing long teeshirts with his jeans and tucking in the shirt only above his fly, leaving no question in anyone's mind what he had to offer. I rested my eyes there, as I was wont to do, and tried to steer away the thoughts --
Damn! I tore myself away and glared at the rails of the iron fence surrounding the tables in front. I counted the bicycles I saw there. One, two, three and four (double parked), five (unchained), six, seven, and was this an eighth? -- no, just a passerby, but he was cute, and I bet he would sit down and not subject me to this agony of denial. Okay, there was the eighth, on the far side (beyond a group of pudgy girls, trying to sing like Billie Holiday, and laughing at themselves). None of these were "toy" bikes, as I called the comically small-looking bicycles some kids had these days. I never knew what they were for -- racing, tricks, or comic relief.
My stomach grew sour at the inanity of this train of thought and I took another gulp of the Iced Mojo. Some people considered this a pussy drink, but I was loath to drink something warm at this time of the afternoon, and even more loath to have ice added to ordinary coffee. It reminded me, though, of that time when I found an iced mocha sitting abandoned on a table at Metro during the summer so many years ago, and drank it down with chutzpah and a sense of gratitude to whoever had left it so exquisitely unfinished.
I realized was distracting myself from my pain again and tried to focus on it instead. Jeremy, the sex god waif, was standing beside me with the most obvious erection, and there was nothing I could do about it. I wanted to take him, but we had fallen into the snare of friendship, which had placed that uncrossable wall between us. Well, no, not really. I had invented this wall. I was... fucking jealous of him, that's all. I hated his freedom at times, as slaves tend to do. I bristled at my unwarranted anger and tried to suppress it.
I took a breath. No, I wasn't angry with him. I loved him, and I was happy for him, and my own hurt feelings were too immature to waste energy expressing.
I stood up and walked into the building to use the restroom. All the people sitting inside, standing in line, and walking about morphed from mere obstacles into actual human beings with each controlled breath. I leaned forward cautiously to check the knob on the door with the sign "Hi, I'm a restroom" painted on it. Locked. "Busy!" I heard simultaneously. I strafed to the next door -- "So am I" was the sign -- and found it unlocked, and dark inside. A flip of the switch revealed brightly painted walls and scads of better-than-average graffiti. Can you dig it? Intelligent graffiti. "Texas is just OK," a magic marker trail of big letters proclaimed. In pencil underneath read "And so is Jesus." To my left, near the sink, was a hangman figure with the three letters "b e k" entered in the blanks. I recalled that in the other restroom someone had written in Russian "nikto mne lublyu" (no one loves me). While washing my hands, I noticed someone had lightly written above the mirror, "God is smiling." I smiled. Then I laughed.
I left the bathroom, and no one else was waiting to get in. That made me smile wider. Do you understand? I ran into no herd of human traffic impatiently awaiting release, nor had to endure any false moment of apologetic communication after bumping into someone careening too close to the door. Peaceful, light. I was sure this was the caffeine going to work.
At the doorway, before walking down the stairs and resuming my unhealthy practice of sitting, I looked at the back of Jeremy's head as he stood, still leaning against the railing and gazing into the sky. Or maybe he was now watching the people walk, skateboard, or bicycle by on the sidewalk. How did his expression change, if at all, when the occasional motorist whooped or screamed something unintelligible at this den of mellow caffeine addicts? I wasn't concerned with that now. Instead I admired the sheen of the sunlight on the back of his skull, where he kept his hair perennially shaved short. If he had been a blond or a redhaired stranger, I don't know if I could have resisted nuzzling his head.
I remembered that we actually were waiting for a blond to arrive, or at least a half-blond. This was a Japanese kid who had sported a shaved head last year and bleached his hair for only four months afterwards, leaving his current style an adorable two-tone job. He and I had met on the sidewalk outside a video arcade on a chilly January night, while I was watching the moon meditatively waiting for the lunar eclipse as a proxy for my friends sitting comfortably inside Metro.
He came up with a colorful hardy blanket wrapped around him, perched next to me, and introduced himself as Tegan. I asked him what high school he went to and he laughed and claimed to be around my age. I can't really tell with orientals. What I really couldn't tell is where he came from. He had a slightly northern-sounding American accent and seemed to be just as ordinary as anyone else, except that he was apparently homeless, or pretending to be. I'd heard people dismiss "drag rats" as suburban kids looking for adventure, but now they were recruiting second-generation Japanese-Americans from New England? These were the thoughts going through my head for during the few hours he hung out with me on the sidewalk -- almost as a defense to counter his exuberant nature.
I told him what I was doing, he was cool with that, and he acted as a spokesperson for me, announcing to anyone within earshot the rare celestial occurrence transpiring that night. "Look what you're missing!" he'd say. "What is more important, the sidewalk or the sky?" he'd ask. "Those people in cars are missing everything!" he'd exclaim.
I was feeling mellow and didn't say much, but persistently watched the slow change in the moon. Tegan soon unbundled a guitar hidden under his great swath of cloth, and regaled me with a variety of popular songs. His singing wasn't that great, his guitar work was a little better, but his earnestness overshadowed any flaws. I had sat down with him while he played, alternately watching his fingerboard and his smiling eyes, and after many minutes of this, I was able to look away and feign absorption in the heavens, which was a great relief.
I don't think the moon ever fully eclipsed that night. Perhaps we were at the wrong latitude. It became at most a somber orange crescent in the earth's shadow. I became frozen, staring at the moon, in an internal battle over how to react to Tegan. I had constructed the impression that he was homeless, and going through the musician phase to earn a little cash -- I had winced at the sight of the loose coins and dollar bills displayed in the open case he'd laid out in front of him while he sang. I feared he had assumed I was homeless too (I was still "dressed for work," which at my workplace, lacking a dress code, meant some old jeans and a shirt with several holes in it), and I had replied with grunts and empty sentiments to the few comments about the Austin tech culture he had made, comments wherein he had painted us as brothers in protest against the cascading technocratic blight. And I, of course, was the enemy, and couldn't admit it.
I struggled with an impulse to toss some money in his guitar case, worried he would raise a fuss and refuse it -- he had already proclaimed I was now his friend and couldn't do anything about it -- or that the glaringly late timing of such a donation would appear to be a deliberate and ill-timed gesture of pity.
Finally, I was confused and overwhelmed with his charity of affection, unable to comprehend it, and unable to avoid responding to this honest brotherly love with anything more meaningful than homoerotic fixation.
Eventually a gaggle of his friends arrived, and his attention instantly switched to them. I watched helplessly as he engaged each of them with the same degree of friendliness, unable to inject a word in edgewise, unable to admit to myself that my eclipse-watching was ruined, and unable to say goodbye, I clumsily walked toward the door of Metro with incidental murmurs and a stray pointing finger implying that I was going inside. To my horror he said, "I'll see you in there later." He came in half an hour later and I avoided eye contact as he walked by.
I sat next to Jeremy again and took another sip of the drink, in which all the ice had now melted. Everything had flashed by in a instant and I tried to brush it out of my mind. I hadn't thought much about Tegan in the past few years, except being secretly happy to see him around occasionally, but this afternoon, I discovered Jeremy was meeting him here. I was outraged and mute. Obviously, I had ignored my intuition that October and had given up my chance to this whore.
Cue Jeremy: "Tegan likes girls."
I bristled, knowing that consciously or not, Jeremy was playing off a wisp of telepathy he retained from his deity days.
"I tried to get him in bed, but he just got real nervous and started laughing and talking about the new IMAX theater in town, how he'd gone to see 'Amazing Caves' and started to shiver at the ice caves and wished he could be sitting in Magnolia with Jennifer and eating some Mud" (chips with queso over a base of bean dip). "He asked me if I'd seen her lately, or Amber, or some female like that -- he always wants a girl 'like that', which I think is the way he describes a lot of kind of similar girls who would be nice to him, as if any of them wouldn't be. He asked me his opinion of his clothes, a sky blue teeshirt draped over arctic camo pants, and wanted to make sure it didn't insult his figure. That boy is so effeminate sometimes."
"Mmm," I said, perplexed.
"Something funny I notice about people," he said, on a completely different tack, "is how they'll form entire opinions about other people based on the tiniest bits of inconsequential evidence. A bunch of us were hanging around outside the Burger King after it closed, and Jacob was there with his girlfriend Leese, who's black. I was saying something about a barbeque in Pease Park I'd been at, and noticed Leese was staring all coldly at me for about five minutes after. I gave her this look and she backed off and stood behind Jacob. It was, like, an hour later, she comes up and hugs me, laughing embarrassedly, and says she thought I'd said 'nigger' at some point. That's what the look was all about. She had wanted to leave, and had been threatening Jacob a breakup if he kept on hanging with me. Can you imagine how much shit happens based on errors like that?"
"Of course, you've never done that, Nathan. Nor me, either." He winked.
He had described a primary human shortcoming, the habit of working from incomplete data. How fitting that I, working for three years at a compiler company, developing programs where not a trace of guesswork or assumption is allowed, would be proportionally susceptible to this trap in the other areas of my life.
I had to reconsider at that moment that I didn't know who Tegan was, I didn't know who Jeremy was, and I sure didn't know who I was. I took another sip of the melted Iced Mojo, remarking to myself that the timing of such a sip was an obvious admission of guilt, followed by remembering that it was merely an assumption that Jeremy was trying to play me that way, and that he probably had as little clue to my thoughts as I had about his. I glanced at his crotch again. He was still at full alert, aiming slightly to the right. I convinced myself that he fully intended that others see this spectacle, but I was again making an assumption. I glanced at his face for some sort of sign, and he grinned at me. Yes, I decided, he was certainly doing just that.
I moved into a different chair, this one facing the street in front of Mojo's, so I could concentrate on the traffic instead. Clockwork had once described a habit of his, sitting here and letting his eyes follow the cars whizzing by, trying to be as passive as possible while instinct directed the tracking of his vision. At least that was my interpretation at the time. I adopted this habit for situations like this, when I needed to let my mind relax. My version of the game included the act of seamlessly switching my attention from the current car to any car passing it in the opposite direction. In such a way, the eyes would glide back and forth chaotically over the entire field of vision. In cases where one lane was empty, I would have to follow a car all the way to one side, stretching my eye muscles as far as they would go, then instantly switch to the furthest car on the other side, as if the car had wrapped around.
As ridiculous as it sounds spelled out in words, this technique was working for me, and perhaps too well at that. The slowing receding evening sun was casting fascinating reflections on the windshields and metal parts of the cars, leaving tracers of sunlight etched on my retinas. I realized I was probably going to be sun blind in a few minutes so I stopped.
I focused my attention on the parking lot across the way -- "Classified Parking Systems." The proprietors of that establishment, I had learned, were proud fighters for the Automotive Freedom Movement.
Let me explain. This movement aims to effect a driver's freedom from all the social and political burdens of his vehicle. By parking in this lot, and optionally making a four dollar donation, the A.F.M. will remove your vehicle so you can stop thinking about it. It is really a load off.
A surprising number of college students support this movement by parking their oppressive SUVs and jeeps in this lot and leaving for nearby parties. When they come back, they find the slate clean, no longer haunted by the spectre of their vehicles or the guilty knowledge of those vehicles' effects on the earth. They excitedly walk home to enjoy the scenery they had heretofore had no freedom to so pleasantly examine while enslaved in the bondage of driving.
I should take this opportunity as well to mention a one-boy crusade Jeremy is fronting. He calls it the CRusade to Eliminate Annoying Music, or C.R.E.A.M. (I can't possibly be making this up). With the assistance of an electronics friend he made through the flesh trade, he now owns a cell phone scrambling device which conks out the suckers within a twenty-foot radius. It is his maverick act of social reform, he says. His friend tossed around several ideas somewhat less extreme, pranks really, like remotely reprogramming the phones to emit different melodies (like the Death March, or Barney's song), or hacking the connection so that all outgoing calls were redirected to 1-888-FREE-EAR (rumored to be the only public contact to an underground group of militant cell phone haters).
I have to admit, on usual jaunts to Mojo's Daily Grind in the past, I would catalog at least one or two people receiving calls, marked by annoying renditions of the theme from the Simpsons, or the drawing and quartering of a Bach sonata, but today the audioscape has been clear and peaceful.
I have Jeremy to thank, both for his mischevious device, and his understanding of the value of silence. He doesn't feel the need to fill up every minute with yammering small talk or insincere questions. To the casual observer it may appear that we were ignoring each other, but I am confident that we are in a stable, if subconscious, telepathic union.
I smile to myself in appreciation of our friendship, recounting the fact that I had always forgiven Jeremy whatever flaws I'd perceived in him (even when they were my inventions), and enjoy his company all the more for the things I can forgive him.
As I think about it now, I guess this tendency forms the coping mechanism I have with my primary human shortcoming. Instead of being swept away in a wash of uncontrolled assumptions, I redirect this habit by turning it against itself, arduously and ludicrously seeking out charitable assumptions to foist upon strangers. For instance, say a speedy driver barely clips me on the highway while passing on the shoulder. To counterbalance my anger, I see that he has long hair, and I conclude he is a hippie, a man of the spirit, and grant that this is indeed an emergency and he usually does not speed anywhere. Or, this rude bartender is only angry because she is overworked and has been forced to stay on several hours after her usual shift has ended to take up the slack for a sick employee. Thus all problematic people become noble. These are likely the same sorts of rationalizations I apply to my own undesirable behaviors. Love thy neighbor as thyself, and -- aw fuck, a cell phone is going off!
It's a really loud sucker, blasting that stupid Y.M.C.A. theme by the Village Idiots. I wrench my chair around to glare at the culprit, commenting to Jeremy, "Guess you can't block them all."
"Oh, that must be mine, then," he says, lazily retrieving a cell phone from the pocket of his jeans, with it vanishing his phantom erection. "Yup, I'm pretty much sure that mine's the only one that will ever go off."
Jeremy talks for a really long time, and he's talking in that flaming gay voice that only comes out over the phone. I'm not sure who he's talking to, and pretend not to care. I direct my attention to his unwitting audience, feeling a need to apologize for his rudeness by acting embarrassed for him, as a proxy for his own lack of shame.
And he sits down, finally, eyes darting about as he chatters, looking at me only incidentally. Minutes pass. I watch his face bemusedly, already having forgiven him. More minutes pass. The sun is going down, casting fascinating shadows over his face. The purple neon of Mojo's sign washes over his features and blends in with that of the setting sun. The orange, the pink, and the purple paint his chattering mouth, which becomes the center of my attention. Streetlights blink on, more orange spectre. I realize the crowd is thinning out. Unbussed glasses disappear off tables. The neon sign is turned off. We sit in the dim night, in a consuming silence filled with his animated speech. The sun triumphantly rises again. The flow of vehicles swells as people head into town. A witty motorist stuck in a traffic jam yells, "Get tin cans and a string!" Traffic peters out, then swells again, as people leave downtown. People buzz around us like mosquitoes. The sun retreats again, but a strange light burns in Jeremy's eyes that persists into the darkness. The moon hovers and falls, then the sun flies through the sky in a blinding arc. Jeremy's conversation is unflagging. I peer into the sky, which now strobes with the ingress and egress of the sun, at one point beating rhythmically to the cadence of his gestures, but soon flashing so steadily it becomes an inky liquid flowing through space and time and bathing us two (three?) in holy warmth. The buildings and structures around us dissolve into rubble and emerge anew as grasses and trees. Jeremy's words are making the earth translucent and jellylike and all colors fade out as we sink towards its core. Our clothes have melted away, and we sit naked in the lotus position, I contemplating the endless present moment here and now, and Jeremy speaking it into existence, through transcendence, and into reincarnation.
Then I hear a beep and a click, and Jeremy slides the cell phone into his tight front pocket with all the gentleness and persistence of a lover.
"Don't say it --" I warn.
"-- wrong number," he says anyway.
"You're welcome," he smirks.
He says something about a change in plans. Some of his friends already gathered at Metro and don't want to sit outside in the sun, and do I want to join them? I shrug and finish my drink. I bet the bastard is going to meet Tegan there and then go fuck him. Nah, I have to be leaving anyway, I say. We part ways. Once he's out of sight I hurry to beat him there.
--SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-- State of unBeing is copyrighted (c) 2001 by Kilgore Trout and Apocalypse Culture Publications. All rights are reserved to cover, format, editorials, and all incidental material. All individual items are copyrighted (c) 2001 by the individual author, unless otherwise stated. This file may be disseminated without restriction for nonprofit purposes so long as it is preserved complete and unmodified. Quotes and ideas not already in the public domain may be freely used so long as due recognition is provided. State of unBeing is available at the following places: World Wide Web http://www.apoculpro.org irc the #unbeing channel on UnderNet Submissions may also be sent to Kilgore Trout at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. The SoB distribution list may also be joined by sending email to Kilgore Trout. --SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB--