United Holy Days of Amerika.

Here in the United States of America, the holy trinity of holidays seems to be comprised of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. All occurring consecutively in the autumn and winter months of the year, suspiciously the half of year governed by cold, darkness, decay and death. The holiday mascots, comprised of the Turkey, the Fat Man and the Baby all sound unfittingly cheery, and kind of like an exceptionally bad Disney film.

These three holidays are also celebrations of Capitalism and the consumerist lifestyle, however. Our red, white and blue. You know: so goddamn American. In November, we eat until we burst. In December, we buy and give and get what others bought. And then we waste no time, for come that bridge between the end of December and dawn of January we’re eagerly topping it all off with riotous celebrations involving copious amounts of alcohol.

(As a side note: we do this excessive drinking while watching “the ball drop,” which is not nearly as disgusting but even more anti-climatic, no doubt due to the fact that it is also even more boring, than it sounds. And we have announcers. Do we really need this process narrated, or are the announcers and the ball just trying to out-bore us? Just as ridiculous are announcers for parades on television: can’t you just let us watch the Macy’s Day Parade to the tune of 80s porn music or something?)

To summarize, in the fall and winter we gorge ourselves into a sort of hibernation. Our uiber-mascot chair for the collective season — represented in local regions of time governed by the Turkey, the Fat Man and the Baby — might find its best fit to be a beer-drinking Eric Cartman with a bag of Cheesy Poofs and bling.

Just a suggestion.

Pace, My Dear Sisyphus.

She feels isolated. Growth, in her eyes, is just the fine art of donning the right masque at the right time in this spatial-temporal social masquerade.

Her will to survive and grow is strong, but she protects herself from threats to her survival on a physical, intellectual and emotional level not by dealing with an issue but by means of burying it. Not even sublimating, only repressing. She would cut off limbs to save the body, core out the heart to save the head — nothing matters until nothing remains of her that could not somehow manage to keep plowing forward on this existential highway through hell.

No doubt she would qualify as a nymphomaniac, but this was not the only rhythmic movement she had an insatiable thirst for. Orgasm served for her as a way to rise above and see a total blank. Cease to exist. La Petit Mort, as the French call it, or “the little death,” mimics death in the silence of its culmination, the rigidity of the muscles once in its blissful grips. So is it the Big Death she is racing towards in her epic climb upward? Some suicidal impulse to finish the game successfully, meet all of its requirements and get the hell out of dodge, be it worm food for all she cares? Just to get that erasure at the culmination, that blank anti-space were she would reside — though while simultaneously in a state of egolessness, so in a way, not really.

If it’s a road that ends, why not take your time?

And if reincarnation exists, you’re only piling onto the pain provided by the punishment, my dear Sisyphus.

Perpetual Regression in the Garden of Eden.

“Jesus died for our sins.”

— an all-too-frequent Christian allegation.

It took me reading Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra to even begin to understand exactly what is meant by this statement, despite my many earlier efforts at obtaining a translation. As I understand it, the following helps put this comment in its proper context.

Once upon a time, god created the universe and then the first two humans. While dust or clay from the ground was sufficient for the creation of Adam, the creation of Eve required putting Adam into a state of sleep and removing a rib, out of which Eve was made.

It is never explained why.

Nor is it explained whether Adam had nipples, which would only make sense if they were undeveloped breasts, which wouldn’t make sense as woman had yet to be created, or if his base chromosome was the female chromosome, which again wouldn’t make sense, and for the same damned reason, and it yet would, so far as I can tell, be nonetheless necessary. Regardless, this god created Adam as a slave, who’s duty it was to tend the Garden of Eden, and then Eve, the first woman, as Adam’s “helper.”

The slave needed a slave, and so hierarchy was born.

The only rule god gave the kids before leaving them home alone in the lush garden was that there was only one tree they were not permitted to eat fruit from, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (a suspicious title, one might say), as eating the fruit will kill you. Then he just up and left. After his departure, along came the serpent.  Well, Eve talked with the serpent, which at this time had the capability of standing upright, as we learn later in the story, when he is “cast down on his belly.” The walking, talking reptile proceeded to tell Eve that god was lying to them, that the fruit will not kill them, and that if they eat it their eyes will be opened (foreshadowing Timothy Leary’s “Tune in, turn on, and drop out” suggestion referencing LSD, all of which occurs much later in the story).

Eve chanced it, taking a bite, and then got Adam to do so as well. While this paints Eve as the one who really fucked up everything for humanity in the eyes of many, it is often overlooked that this circumstance also paints Adam as a mindless lemming, following the lead of the one he was supposed to lead and dictate over a cliff and all. Then again, it was god who created this “helper” for Adam, who we might imagine would have gotten things even better the second time around, and yet it is she who led Adam astray. You will also note that both Adam and god are evidently male. So feminists can shut up now.

Anyway, the serpent — a symbol of wisdom, healing and transformation in many cultures, by the way — talked Eve into taking a bite from the tree’s fruit, and she got Adam to do it as well. And they didn’t die. This is a crucial point: they didn’t die and, not to throw out another spoiler, but they wouldn’t die at all that day. What this means is that the serpent — seen as evil in the Christian eye and called The King of Lies — was the one who told the truth, and that god told the lie. The serpent will also be forever seen as “tempting” the two kids into eating the fruit, despite the fact that the original temptation was clearly putting the tree there and saying “no touch.“ Would you put a cookie in front of a child, warn him not to touch it, and then lock him in the room alone and leave the state? This suggests a considerable lack of understanding regarding human behavior from someone who, aside from being omniscient and all, clearly must have known human behavior intimately given he created it like everything else in the fucking universe in the first place. Regardless, aside from not dying, something else happened to our two naked ancestors when they bit into that fruit (which was more likely a fig than the often-depicted apple), they suddenly became embarrassed by their nakedness and made some makeshift cloths for themselves.

Now, some people say that this Original Sin was the act of sex, merely symbolized here by that forbidden fruit. Others overlook the nature of the act itself and elect to focus on the disobedience towards god’s command. Personally, though it might be considered a stretch, I think what their act of eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil might have been meant to indicate they suddenly became infused with the knowledge of good and evil. Just a thought. Maybe we could use that as a starting point before getting also Freudian on the fucking story here, huh?

One of the reasons this might be overlooked by the religious is due to its implications. Namely, the fact that if eating the fruit gave them that knowledge, they must not have had that knowledge prior to their act of eating the fruit. This implies they could not have had the capacity to distinguish a good action from an evil one and so could not have possibly known that eating the fruit was wrong until after they had already done so.

Further, this implies one of two things. One is the ignorance of god for having laid out an important rule for two of his own children, who had not the capacity to understand him and follow out his actions by no fault but his own. I find that rather inconsistent with the whole omniscience thing, which leaves the only remaining possibility so far as I can see, which is that his act of denying them that knowledge was as evil as it was deliberately tempting.

It was a cosmic set-up. An evil lab geek trapping two rats in a maze and telling them that a particular path will kill them when it really leads out of the maze, and then gets pissed off when the rats defy him and manage to escape.

Of course, none of this goes any length in explaining why the only visible effect of their fruit-eating was a sense of shame in their birthday suits and the consequential  dressing themselves up with leaves. Cuneiform Sumerian tablets predating the Genesis story seem to provide a more elaborate version of the story, implying that the Genesis story we know today was likely a summary. This is not the only act of plagiarism in the Bible, either. All that concerns us now is the depiction of the gods as clothed and the human slave labor as naked. As nakedness acted as a symbol of their status as a slave, their shame might be more understandable, as would be their makeshift clothing. The shame of their nakedness may also serve as a metaphor for their dawning sense of conscious self-awareness. Their act of fashioning clothing that allows them to reveal and conceal what and how they wish of their bodies might be an external manifestation of a similar internal process, giving them the capacities to form not only an ego, but a persona.

So they went through their transformation or transmutation and god got back from work and discovered what they had done. He then cursed Adam, Eve, and the serpent. The serpent lost his spine, Adam was condemned to hard labor from womb to tomb and Eve’s child-labor was made difficult. The kicker here, according to Christians, is that not only were Adam and Eve damned, but all of their descendants. I think he did this with the Kennedy’s, too, but that comes much later.

If your great, great, great, great grandfather killed somebody in cold blood, it doesn’t matter how good of a person you are, it doesn’t matter than you’ve never physically hurt, let alone killed anyone yourself, you are seen as having inherited that punishment along with the rest of your family. This same logic is imposed in the form of White Guilt, in which even diversity-valuing and inner-character judging persons are expected to bear guilt for the actions of old or dead men as well as the remaining racist imbeciles simply because they have the same skin color as those old or dead men and lingering, medieval-minded nitwits. The expectation of White Guilt and the act of bearing White Guilt are based on a racist belief. This is the same logic apparently infesting a disturbingly large number of feminists. Since men once oppressed women and some of that oppression still remains, even if not in this particular man, this particular man is judged not as an individual but as the sexist definition of men adopted by feminists and is meant to bear the guilt and suffer the punishments of such men simply because we are men ourselves, as well as being treated by these women as their ancestors were treated by men, or as they were personally treated by other men. This is all the logic of Original Sin.

Then god begins to talk to himself as if he were not a singular entity but a plurality, a group of entities, and he began voicing his concern that if Adam and Eve had taken the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they might go on to take from the Tree of Life. This second tree is often overlooked in the story, but I think its could be very important to understanding the story’s overall meaning or message. The gods, so it would seem, deem it an unnerving possibility in the very least, evidently due to the fact that if humans did eat from the Tree of Life they would “go on living forever.”

This is not a tree of knowledge as was the first, and so it does not offer conceptual transformation. Our first, natural presumption might be a physical transformation, but it may just be a capacity, perhaps one that allows us full recall of previous lives and allows us to have a continual state of consciousness between and throughout all of our lifetimes. After all, we would not have to keep starting over with amnesia, relearning faster than we originally learned at best, so great minds such as Einstein’s could go on with his work throughout incarnations. Perhaps slowing down our development by making every brain make a clean sweep of memories of previous existences is what made the human species such a great slave species to begin with. You retard their development both as individuals and a culture. The individual has to keep starting over and over from square one, relearning what he has already learned, mastering what he has already mastered, though priming might suggest this would occur at a faster and faster pace. The culture is slowed because those who know must explain to others so that others can carry on. Culture cannot raise up in a straight line, but only in groupings, loosely connected with a high signal-to-noise ratio with limited desire for communication and consolidation anyway, in the form of jagged lighting bolts that don’t always go straight up, often branch out, bounce off invisible walls and so on.

For the love of fuck am I high.

So one can see how gaining this whole “immortality” of consciousness was a threatening notion to these slave-owners. When humans became annoying despite the fact, the gods went further, right after that whole tower thing, and employed a form of divide and conquer as they “confused” their languages. What good is knowledge when it cannot be communicated? Why bother with communication when secrecy gives you power? Soon the groups are so involved with defense and gathering intelligence and being engaged in outright war with one another that any danger any less immediate than our dynamic with other groups doesn’t get a seat at the table. The room is full. Or maybe the original “language” was telepathy. There they were, building their stairway to heaven, chatting away directions inside telepathic chat-rooms in their minds, when all of a sudden there’s no brain-cell-phone service. Having relied on telepathy for communication, perhaps they never developed any motion or sound in association with their telepathic communications as a means to compliment it, and involuntary body language was subliminal. Writing may not have even developed among them, and now they were incapable of undertaking another project of that magnitude, at least until they all settled on an agreed-upon language that could convey all that their telepathic communications once could.

But I perpetually regress.

The important thing now is to understand that this seems to be a complete story. Not one with a happy ending, for certain, but it seemed pretty much wrapped up as a stand-alone. This Jewish tale becomes important in later Christianity, who relegated those Jewish tales into a book bearing the name, The Old Testament. It is, in fact, the very roots of Christianity, but they kind of take the garden story as the first act in a three-act series. It begins with a little spin, which is this: that whole punishment laid down in Eden that infects every member of humanity to this day was always a punishment we would only have to endure as long as we failed to pay off the debt humankind inherited from that whole horrible bloody super-serous massacre-like fruit-eating behavior committed by our stupid, naked ancestors in that garden with the sly little snake-guy. There was only the small issue, so insignificant the Jewish guys never thought to mention it in the original tale, that the debt was of a scale so unfathomably grand that humanity could never pay it off, no matter what we did. That would seem to seal the matter, but then comes Jesus, who sacrificed himself to god to pay off the human debt as only he, god’s son, could.

So, to recap: Adam and Eve eat a no-no fruit, they owe a debt to god, Jesus dies to pay off our debt, now we owe Jesus instead of god. How could Jesus pay off a debt no one else could? He was the son of god. That naturally made him a sacrifice worthy enough to provoke the great sorcerer in the sky to lift this blasted intergenerational curse, right? In addition, Jesus pays off the debt for all of our personal sins and all the sins we will ever commit. One might say this whacky motherfucker covered all his bases. (Though one might wonder: precisely how big and how tall would one have to be to literally and personally cover all the bases on a baseball diamond? I need to know more math geeks.) In practice, this would have to mean exactly what an ingenious video I saw online (and would credit here if I knew the author) provided in exemplary and cartoon form. It is essentially of you, the plaintiff, coming before god, the judge, in order to settle the debt the defendant, who did something inconceivably horrible, such as killing a loved one. The judge hears your case and then brings out his son, who has him tortured and killed, as a sacrifice — a stand in for the payment to you. Would that seem to be a process fitting with your ethical standards? How do perfectly intelligent people buy into this crap? How can anyone forgive you for what you did to me but me?

“Hey, pal, I don’t have any of the money to pay you to fix your car and all, and to be entirely honest with you, bro, I never will, as I’ve developed a severe allergic reaction to currency. Fear not, my man, as your son pushed his offer to ram his drug-addled noggin into an industrial-strength tree shredder as a reasonable alternative form of compensation. Ever violently fling a bowl of extra-chunky chili at the back end of an industrial-strength electrical fan? Horrible, man. So, like, we cool?”

Jesus was just the all-purpose willing scapegoat no one ever asked for. The communal voodoo doll, countless pins stuck in for everyone’s sins. He’s the guy living off faith like Mel Gibson receives royalties from the sadomasochistic Christian advertisement he produced under the guise of a Hollywood motion picture.

“They don’t have Milk Duds and popcorn in church. So why not spice up the faithful monotony, get off our aching knees and take the youth group on a field trip?”

This whole story gets infinitely more loopy if one adopts that whole notion of the trinity, where god constitutes not only god but also his son and a spook. This would make you less of a monotheist in my eyes and more like a closet polytheist, but whatever. The Trinity edition of the story goes like this: Imagine for some reason you owe me twenty bucks. I know you can never pay off this debt, so I’m set on letting you suffer forever under a rare condition in which you spontaneously develop painfully rock-hard erections and ejaculate enraged armies of fire ants. Only I have the cure, of course. Suddenly, I decide one day that I’m going to pay myself the twenty bucks you owe me. That way, instead of owing me, you still owe me.

Yes. I know. Makes perfect sense to me as well.

Now, on a positive note, the debt we now have to pay sounds like a reduced settlement, and its for limited time only, though the exact date of the second coming is anyone’s guess. So, anyway: become a member, drop to your knees and donate your soul to this quirky madness while tickets are still available!

It is such a lame concept it stands as an insult to basic human intelligence to expect anyone to believe it, let alone brainwash them from day one with it. It is still not nearly as insulting to humanity, however, as the religions central message, and the central message of perhaps all religions: “We’ve all got a disease far more fatal than death, and only our religion has the cure. All this and more at the discount price of your reason.”

You Fought For Yourself.

It’s the way you might angrily talk to a dog, the way he throws it in my face. That five-lettered ninja-star of red, white and blue with doom written all over it:

“I fought for your freedom.”

Its like when the all-too-typical depiction of the male chauvinist pig turns to the house-wife and barks, “I pay the bills.” It’s the wildcard answer of the house, just like the freedom announcement serves as the nationwide pardon. There’s a difference in scale, of course — the house, the country — but the intended meaning is essentially the same: “I make all this possible” followed by “and this is what you do with it,” or, “and this is how you thank me.” In either case, do not imagine this stated as a question. See it for the wicked incantation that it is, stated in order to frame your ever-malleable perceptions in such a way that you suddenly see him as the angelic, selfless victim of your selfish, mortal ignorance and irresponsibility.

No, brother, you did not fight for our freedom. There is no Army of one. Its more like a group effort, and is freedom really the target fruits of your efforts? While you fought under the direction of a body of individuals tasked with preserving the governmental recognition of our natural, “self evident” rights, that does not translate to you laying your life on the line to keep lady liberty in our lives. No society, organization or individual gives me or fights to preserve my freedoms themselves. They only give recognition to our natural freedoms or fail to and, if one chooses or the objective of the organization dictates it,  takes on the task of maintaining the recognition of those freedoms.

So perhaps you fought to maintain that societal recognition when it, and the government that was intended to protect it, came under threat. Was that the case? It does not seem so.

Ultimately you fought not for us but for our government, which seeks to conquer other lands to both expand its own power and utilize its precious resources. You fight for our military and whatever its agenda might be. In no way do I intend to imply that you for certain knew the true intent behind your owners, however, only that you do indeed serve that agenda. Be it blind or with open eyes, you function as their tool. What suggests to me that you don’t care what you ultimately are, or wouldn’t care if you knew, is how you try to gain my confidence through the induction of guilt through the utterance of those words: “I fought for your freedom.” Those words do not strike me as ones stated with noble intent, but rather as words spoken to announce your own status which, once accepted by those in the immediate vicinity as being true, will act as a pedestal upon which you proceed to masturbate like a caged and caffeinated monkey that gets off on a crowd worshipping his performance.

You fought for yourself. You fought for your own, personal status. You fought for the chicks, you adrenaline-junky dolt. You fought so she would free the hostages, but that’s not at all the same kind of freedom.

Love-Hate.

Couldn’t conjure him,
all attempts failed to invoke him,
till you strolled on in like a goddess aglow,
beaming with silent enchantments.

My sole stimulation, my one key
to open this part of me,  or so it seems,
for as picturesque and dreamlike
as it was for me to embody him
as I was in your arms,

I covet your capability,
my dear sorceress,
while condemning the dependency
of this part of me,
feeding my jealous anger at not being able
to be what I am around you
by my will alone.

Say Uncle.

Predominantly in television shows today, there is an ongoing narrative. Every episode in a season is like a chapter to a book, and every season is another book in the ongoing series. Things culminate. Events in one episode matter in the ongoing series. We nit-pick that on LOST Charlie couldn’t swim to save someone drowning in the first season but in the final season there were flashbacks that revealed he was adept at swimming, and so swam out to the underwater DARMA station where he eventually met with death. We should nit-pick, too, for if story-telling is going to evolve, we should hold it up to higher standards. I think we have proven this to be the case and should take more time to sit back and reflect upon how far we’ve come. After all, the story-telling on television was once considerably worse.

Though its dominance had waned around the turn of the century and now seems to be dwindling more than ever, as I grew up in the eighties and nineties the situation comedy or sitcom ruled television, and with it a considerably shitty form of story-telling that bothered me from as far back as I can remember. To avoid profound confusion, you were forced to consider every episode a stand-alone that was supported by and may even directly reference the some general official back-story, but would never reference earlier episodes, nor would it be referenced by later ones. No episode had any real significance to the overall story. There was no real ongoing narrative weaving all the episodes together. The typical lessons learned or agreements made or realizations endured in a single episode only had relevance to that particular episode; its reality evaporate and amnesia set in so the characters never really caught on to the fact that they were all really Bill Murray and every sitcom was really early versions of the movie Groundhog Day.

Perhaps growing up and watching sitcoms with such enormous lack of concern for the internal consistency of the story line made me so conscious of narrative flow that it suitably explains my irritations with relatively insignificant continuity errors in the few current television shows I watch.

Or maybe its true source was the act of growing up as my mother’s eldest and only son. Indeed, sitcoms seem to have come straight off the same assembly line off of which every pointless sitcom I’d ever seen in my childhood had derived. As much as it pains me to consider it so, it may have been circumstances such as the one her and I seemed hopelessly bound to in the beginning that inspired such wretched television shows to begin with.

As far back as I can remember, mom and I were always getting in an argument about something, and it happened ad nauseam, and as seems to be the case with many all-too-familiar things, conjuring up a specific example is for some reason up there with the Labors of Hercules.

Everything was so formulaic. After our hasty exchange she would inevitably send me to my room, and then, following a seeming eternity during which I usually laid back, stared at a wall and stewed over how much I hated her, she would come knocking at my door. We would sit down and a long, drawn-out talk would ensue. By and large, the end result would be her admitting the most minimal degree of wrong and me pseudo-confessing to having had at least fifty percent fault with respect to the incident in question. We would both cry, we would both hug, we would agree on some “moral of the story” or lesson to be learned from the experience, and then we would work out some solution that involved effort on the behalf of the both of us and the need to cooperate in order to make things better.

Enter the theme music. Fade to black. Roll the credits. Cut to commercial.

And the next day, it would be more or less a re-run, a stand-alone, like some existential continuity error.

After awhile, however, my mother apparently became as tired as I did over this sitcom script, albeit for what clearly seemed to be different reasons. I saw them as a pointless exercise, as they ultimately revealed themselves to be words and motions without substance and nothing ever changed as a result of them. She merely grew tired of admitting any degree of fault in any conflict between us and suddenly concluded that she was the mother, she was always right, and she had no reason to feel guilty regarding that.

From that point forward, my mother would refuse to hear me out, and when I did manage to squeeze a word in edgewise she would refuse to even consider my point of view. If she would have disagreed with me after actually listening to what I had to say and taking into account how I felt, such intense degrees of hate would not have grown in me towards her, but she utterly refused to recognize that I had a mind and will of my own.

As I remember it, and I confess perhaps conveniently enough, the arguments almost always stemmed from my mother herself or my sisters. Since they had moved into a room with one another and I had gotten my own room at around age five or six, my sisters had clearly become spineless sheep with bleeding knees and noses caked in belly-aching coats of ever-moist brown. As we got older, they would speak more to me behind mom’s back, how much they disagreed with her and how she did indeed single me out, but it took years later even after those confessions for them to actually stand up to her in the most trivial of ways. From the beginning I was the only one in the house willing to openly question her authority and demand that my voice be heard.

That I always fought her when I was a child, unlike my sisters, not only angered her but confused her, as she expressed to me when I was older and had my own apartment. It is a parents job to shape them, to teach them right from wrong, she said. She seemed to believe that kids should perceive their parents as gods, follow their commands with unwavering obedience, and place blind and absolute faith in all that they say. We didn’t rate as people so much as pets, and she expected out of us exactly what she expected out of her infinite number of animals. And when she tells me that she is happy with how we turned out, that she thinks they did a good job as parents, it only stimulates my rage further, as she seems to do it in such a way that the implication is that we are successful projects of hers. Clay moulded and successfully baked to perfection. I could be justified on the grounds that I was the prototype, circuits shorting and programs not always running properly, but given the conditions, she did a Grade-A job with respect to construction and maintenance of her first spawn and one and only son.

No, that’s not how it is. She always treated me as an inconvenience, and I always expressed this feeling she gave me in the same way while I was growing up. It was often if not only to my father, and I always said it to him in the middle of the arguments between mom and I, where mom never wasted any time or subtle yet ever-powerful manipulative skill in placing him.

“If she didn’t want me,” I would ask him, “then why did she have me?”

Right from the beginning and before I even knew what it was, it would seem, I was passionately pro-choice. In addition, I was for equal rights and privileges. That’s not to indicate that my mother was any different, of course, only that in any case it was entirely irrelevant to my childhood, for my mother did not see me as ranking as high as the human being. I was evidently a different species, the Child.

Later, when I was much older, my mother revealed her perspective that until they reach the age of eighteen, children do not constitute individuals. What they were, she suggested but never directly stated, were rather empty bottles off the assembly line whose job it was her own to fill. This was a job she had always taken seriously, evidenced by how frequently she pulled rank, as if my side of the argument was defeated through the simple, violent words, “I am the mother.” That, or she would respond to my questions with what did not, by any measure, constitute an answer, most famously with the oft-repeated words: “Because I said so.” Just as often she would use my inevitable circumstance — that being the fact that I was a typical, vulnerable child born into this world and by necessity forced to depend upon her — against me in order to justify whatever it was that I argued about. “You live under my roof, and as long as you do, you’ll abide by my rules, and what I say goes.”

It went, as it ultimately had to, but I made it my life’s purpose to ensure it didn’t go smoothly. I won, the series ended, when I moved out of my parent’s house for the last time in my early twenties, having finally, after a few failed attempts, successfully spawned a spin-off. I always like to think so, anyway. Especially after hoping and trying for so long to escape that agonizing story, the sitcom that should have been canceled years ago, without even knowing that vital back-story that made the sitcom, the piece-of-shitcom of my childhood finally make some sense.

It helps that the older people get, the more they reminisce on the past, and that the less often I see my mother the more I seem to take on the semblance of a human in her eyes. Sometimes I guide or even provoke such conversations to gain an insight or eight.

When she explained to me what pissed her off most about her own father, for instance, she began explaining with visible anger at the thought how the man would be livid one minute and then be fine the next, acting as if nothing had happened at all. Asking what she would have had him do, my mother said that she was of the philosophy that if you’re pissed off about something, at least talk about it. And she did seem to actually live up to this philosophy for awhile in my youth, but then it went out the window, and why? It was because she didn’t get the results she desired.

So in the end my mother went to the extreme opposite of her father. She decided to at hold onto her anger, to drag it out and make it a potent reality. After her and I fought she would ignore me for days, engaging in a war of silence, failing sometimes to even acknowledge my existence. When we eventually “talked about it,” however, it was more of her talking and me being forced to listen. All she wanted out of our “talking” was for me to know what it was I did wrong. I never got to have my day in court, to have my argument be heard. Unless is was to utter an apology, I would be damned lucky to even get a word in edgewise. She would say what she wanted to say and then turn and walk away. I always got the impression that in her eyes, what I thought or felt didn’t matter, because she was the ever-so-wise parent and I, the all-too-ignorant child.

Yet I was not an ignorant child, and my mother, less of a parent on such occasions than an embittered child playing the role of parent and taking it too seriously and growing quickly to a rage when you questioned her role, could see through her silly mask, gaffed at her goofy costume, and tried to break free from her rigged fucking game and expose it for what it was. When it came to parenthood, my mother had not really left the embittered child she had once been behind her; to the contrary, she was that embittered child now among three other children, and they were playing house, and she was playing the mother who, being a child, imagined imbued with all the powers typically attributed to the creator of the cosmos. Which is precisely the kind of parental role you would expect to be played by a child that had the childhood experience my mother had.

When she was young, my mother lived with her mother and father in the house of her grandmother, which is to say her father’s mother. The way my mother explained it to me, her grandmother was essentially the queen bee of their own (not at all particularly hive-like) house. Her father agreed with the Queen unquestionably. As for her own mother, she was quiet and off in the background — “the mouse,“ as my mother called her — and naturally did whatever it was that her husband wished. Despite how close my mother came with my grandmother later in life, my mother seemed to detest how subservient grandma was towards grandpa when she was growing up, and this aversion that’s run pretty deep in her, if you ask me. So naturally my mother modeled her own role as parent after her own grandmother, the queen bee who she described to me as her true mother figure. In her role as wife to my father, she was emulating both the role her grandmother had towards her father, and that her own father in turn played towards her mother.

As my two sisters and I had grown up, my mother was undoubtedly the queen bee of our not-at-all hive-like suburban residence, and my mother had spoken of this fact, particularly in my youth, as if she had been unfairly thrust into the role. She claimed to want partnership, not central authority. My mother has explained to me how it was hard when we were young, as dad was working all the time and it was basically her raising us kids until he came home from work. Aside from his absence, she has also commented on how she wishes he would have been “more of a father” and then proceeded to softly criticize my father for not having been involved with my two younger sisters and I, particularly me. Boys tend to be like the father figure, she says, but when the father is absent, he’s lost.

I’ve heard that for the male, the father figure is the role model. Boys seek to emulate the father figure and seek out their mother in a significant others. Girls seek to emulate their mother figure and seek out the father in significant others. And when a father figure or mother figure is absent for either, they find the closest thing to it. The closest to a father or mother they can find. Studies have shown that men who had a positive father figure have less anxiety, handle stress better, and are more apt to develop better strategies in the cooperative and competitive arenas. Also, through the father we learn how to form relationships with both members of the opposite sex (as with his wife, our mothers) and those of the same sex.

As for the mother figure, for us guys she serves as the model for the significant other and how we relate to them. Scientists have found that for some creatures, such as birds, the first nurturing thing that they see they assign `mother’. One bird, the first thing it saw was a ping-pong ball, and it imprinted the ping-pong ball as `mommy’. When young, they it would follow around the ping-pong ball and try to nurse from it. When it reached sexual maturity, it had no interest in females of its own species; it only got a rise out of ping-pong balls. Yeah, what a fetish. It only attempted to mate with what reminded it of its mother, and the security it felt around mother. I’ve noticed the qualities in the women I’ve become close to in my life echo many of yours, those that I admire and those that I detest with every ounce of hate juice in my dark little soul. All because it was too much pressure for mom to deal with a role she had elected for herself in the act of having me.

Let me be clear, however, that I find it quite conceivable that she was sincerely unhappy being queen bee, but I would bet anything it would not be for the reasons she would offer up as honest truth. Rather than an unrequited desire for partnership in parenting that thrust her into a position of direct authority, this was, as macabre as it may sound, really about the fact that my mother now had to work in the spotlight, whereas her true nature was rooted in her ability to work from the shadows, pressing the right buttons on her remote control and pulling the right strings, puppeteer-style.

Always a back seat driver when it came to authority, my mother was also a willing one, a stubbornly determined one, forever denying the wheel constantly offered to her. Evidently it is her self-appointed job to determine what’s right and it it your official duty to carry out what’s right, and clearly her right must be your right so why you’re so wrong is beyond her. She doesn’t want the responsibility, she doesn’t want to take the risk or deal with the potential fall-out or collateral damage, she just wants those above her to do it right and do it right now. This is why she has denied management at so many jobs, despite the many times she was asked in so many places. She was always a good worker, always well-respected, to the point where she had super-normal abilities, like telling off a boss only to have him apologize a day later.

My mother is no fool, far from it; it is only that she has a power-hungry, control-thirsty ego to constantly attend to and rarely invested the effort in contending with. It was only her self-centered nature and its supporting limited capacity for empathy. For instance, while complaining about the absence and non-authoritarian nature of my father in his role as parent, she overlooked a few things. Apparently she was blind to the fact that he had to work in order to support a five-member household. This ignorance was further exemplified every countless time she threw a guilt trip on him when he worked overtime, which he took whenever he could in our youth because we needed money.

While she did seem to understand his childhood was particularly harsh and his father was not much of a father to him, it is always brought up in reference to his service in the Army. Specifically, she says that since his father was never much of a father to him, he had to join the Army in order to learn how to be a man. What she still saw lacking, evidently, was what it meant to be in a father role. The lack she perceived was a side-effect of her apparent incapacity to register any other style of fathering than the one perfectly fitting the mould of what she considers fatherhood to be in her by necessity limited experience in not only fathering but being fathered. She has never been a father, clearly, but nor has she been fathered by any other father but the father she had, and this father of hers did whatever her grandmother said. It wasn’t his central authority she wanted, for then she would be in the role of her own mother toward her father and her father towards her own grandmother — a role which she had despised. She wants the role of her grandmother, because that was the only role her young self knew of actual power and control.

In a way she began treating my father like her grandmother treated her own father. Unsurprisingly, mom became an artist about getting dad involved, and putting him smack dab in the middle of it all, always putting him between the biggest rock, biggest hard place. When mom and I were at war, mom would seem to put him in the role of mediator, but what she really wanted out of him was a medium. To lay down the law she wrote out so he could be the bad guy even though it was all her idea. She was only upset because dad didn’t let her or didn’t even really get that she wanted him to be a medium for her demands, but actually tried to work in the capacity of a mediator.

He did his damnedest to restore balance and satisfy both parties. Sometimes he drifted towards my side of the argument, to the anger of my mother; other times, to my absolute rage, he drifted towards her side. He was still aiming on bringing us together. My father was always willing to hear you out. He would listen to all sides of the story and try to find some place where people could meet in the middle. Dad is an empathic, caring individual to such an extreme extent that it falls into fault, as he becomes the pushover, the fall guy, the carrier of burdens. His interest is and has always been to keep the peace, to make everyone happy, which is why he so often finds himself in the role of the mediator, and that was always the case when it came to my mother and I for as long as I lived with them.

My mother, of course, was never happy with this empathic approach. Without reservation, my mother would ceaselessly and openly declare to my father, often with what I considered to be unrelenting viciousness, that he was too easy-going, that he never put his foot down and that he always made her out to be the bad guy. I would complain that he was letting her control him like a puppet. I hated how she treated him. He wasn’t the bad guy, but she always made him the bad guy in her eyes and undoubtedly often enough in his own. My mother never forced my father to make a decision, she forced him into executing her decision. He loved her as much as she loved him, but he never used that love against her, and this was a routine practice against dad in her case.

She always knew the right buttons to push, with him and without doubt with me. Often she was direct, but her real art was subtlety. She knew my weak spots, she knew my buttons, and she loved to poke and push them. She reveled at kicking me when I was down. when I was climbing, she got some gratification out of kicking the ladder from beneath my feet. She was always great at pissing me off, depressing me and making me feel worthless, and the years of experience just allowed her to more fully develop and fine-tune her wicked strategies. I often envied my father’s status and wondered why it was he would not put his foot down.

If we’re counting faults, of course my father wasn’t perfect. There are things that I really wish he would have done, as perhaps they would have eased my fears of the world out there beyond the safety of the parental wing, the nest they provided me. All throughout my youth, to my teenage years, to three decades after my birth, the terror of going it alone remains. Ignorant I have always been, and always acute aware of that ignorance. I remember wondering to myself many times in my youth how it was I was going to make it out there when I’m older, when I have to make it on my own, when I know I’m running low on what I should know and I’m already afraid. Dad thought he was protecting me and being fatherly by doing things for me. I asked him to help me fix my car, change the oil, whatever, he’d tell me he’d show me and then he’d just do it for me. Never worked on it with me. Same with my taxes. Same with so many things. I left that house knowing nothing but if you don’t know how to do it, find someone that does or you’re screwed.

Dad did not help prepare me for the world outside his and mom’s care. Mom actually did more for me than dad in that respect, though I say that in a strictly cynical sense. After all, with her pulling rank, demanding unquestioning servitude, being an oppressive bitch, insisting on my social interaction, constraining me by nonsensical rules and assigning me monotonous chores that must be completed before I was to spend any free time alone, she prepared me for the work force. Gave me what I needed to be a grade-A low-wage fucking slave at bottom-of-the-barrel jobs. As for dad: yes, I wish he would’ve tried harder to work with me, not for me. But at least he wasn’t working against me.

Ultimately, my father never taught me how to learn, only how to be dependent. My mother never let me assert myself, only made me feel guilty for not being subservient enough. Though I see dad in a positive light and my mother in a negative one, and for what I consider good reason, and it deals with the nature of what dwelt behind these behaviors and attitudes. These emotions.

My father’s motivations in this case were out of ignorance and fueled by empathy, and my mother has told me herself that my father sees where he went wrong. How he should have worked with me one-on-one more when I was younger. He has self-awareness. Mom here, she just doesn’t get it. Or she won’t admit it. She expresses confusion over why I’m so angry. And it’s hard to fucking forgive when the person you’re trying to forgive won’t admit she was in the wrong in the first place. As for my mother’s motivations, I think they can be accurately described as out of malice and fueled by vengeance, and it took me a long time to figure out the nature of these emotions in her. In the end, it would seem that I had inherited these sins, to use a silly religious concept in a figurative sense, through what in the psychologies of Freud and Jung is known as transference.

Her brother, my Uncle Fred, was the eldest child and the only son, and in her family — as was the case with many families back then, so said my mother — the popular and traditional perception was that the first child, especially if it was a boy, was a “golden child” that could do no wrong. Her entire life, she grew up never being able to measure up to her brother. Early on in my childhood, my mother explained to me how she decided that my sisters were not going to be treated any less than me, and that I, the first child and only son, would not be singled out as a “golden child” as her own brother had. While one might suspect this to mean that my sisters and I would be treated equally, which I find quite clearly to be the most rational and ethical approach, this did not turn out to be my mother’s angle, as much as she might express it as being the case. Instead, I was singled out. I was singled out because I was the first and only son, just as her brother had been the first and only son. As a consequence, I was a prime candidate for serving as an indirect form of vengeance upon her brother.

What did not seem to help matters is that my father’s father and stepmother were about as bad as my mother’s parents in this respect. I recall her disdain for this fact, as she had told me about it when I was young. I learned that the birthday cards my grandparents on my father’s side sent every year, in which there was always money, was a practice of theirs which was exclusive to me. They would show no signs of even remembering the birthdays of my two younger sisters, let alone send them anything, which understandably angered my mother. As a consequence, she would buy cards for them on their birthdays and forge my grandparents’ signatures so they wouldn’t know.

Her mother did not go that far, though I do recall that until her death grandma would basically wait on Fred hand and foot. When they were all over for the holidays she would always ask him if he wanted coffee and would bring it to him when he did; she would always fetch him a plate of cake when dessert was served and so on. For mom, she never seemed to do this. To his credit, he showed some irritation with it, but whether this stemmed from the fact that she made him feel incapable and insulted herself through doing it or whether he only did this to ease the anger he knew my mother felt towards him and which would only grow if he openly took advantage of it, I cannot be certain. Just after my grandmother died, however, I remember Fred coming down from where he was living in Cincinnati to visit and my mother announced to the house that the coffee was done. As he sat down on the sofa-chair to read his book, he said, perhaps absent-mindlessly, that he would have a cup. My mother couldn’t let the opportunity slide.

“Get it yourself,” she said to him. “Your mother’s dead.”

And yet still she asks me how I can be so angry at her after so long.

The Burial.

The hypnotic voice from the recording interrupts and says I can go anywhere, that I can travel back and fourth in time. “Spend as much time as you need,” says the voice, “and find the answers…”

And then, BAM.

I’m in the confessional, sitting on a small bench built into it. My head is down, and between my hands, with my fingers held together and straight and my thumbs extended, is a black, leather-bound Bible. I hold this between my legs, with my knees drawn together. My head hangs beneath my shoulders. Not far in front of me is the entrance, which I initially take for a door but then realize is nothing more than a thick curtain. I watch the light shine from the bottom of it, with the light broken by two or three slender shadows. The light terminates well before my feet, which are partially drawn under the bench. To the right of me is the other booth. Maybe a little screen window. Behind me, maybe colored glass, I can’t be sure. All I know is that I feel dark, sad, scared and very drawn into myself. I am young, perhaps in my early or mid-twenties, but this is perhaps just a shot in the dark, too. My clothing doesn’t catch my attention. It doesn’t strike me whether I am the one confessing or the one being confessed to.

I move further ahead in time. I am to the side of a building, painted white, which I assume to be the back entrance of a small church. I am holding something. A book. Two men come out of the doorway in the back, holding either end of what looks to me like a stretcher, or maybe just a long sheet, in which seems to lay a motionless body. They swiftly come down the steps of the building, stepping onto the grass. I don’t look at them for more than a moment. I cannot see them but I sense that they are walking to my right. I feel dreadful, with the dread coming from the part of me embedded in this event. Looking downward, my eyes watch the grass before my feet as I make my way forward along with the men carrying the stretcher.

My confusion mounts as my vision arrives at a hole. A freshly-dug hole in the earth. I then watch as the body is not so much as lowered as it is dropped into the hole. I then look down, leaning over just a bit. The face of a good-looking young man stares back up at me blankly from the bottom. Just a boy, really. Perhaps in his twenties. Slender with jet-black hair. The boy’s eyes, his dead eyes, are wide open. His skin, even his eyes, look blue-tinted. I watch him for a mere second before a shovel full of fresh soil blasts him in the face, which I am frightened to find un-phased, as if, despite my knowledge that he is dead, I had somehow expected him to react.

I look out of the hole now and to my right, where I see two men, in white shirts that seem slightly puffy at the sleeves. They are pitching their shovels into the nearby mound of rich soil and tossing heaps of it into the hole. It all seems unreal to me, to observer-me at least, as this seems far too rushed and routine.

Things are suddenly confused. I don’t know if what I’m seeing is me or someone I’m looking at. I get a flash of doing it, but of seeing it from an outside perspective as well. My sense, from the inside perspective, is that I open my book as they continue to shovel. I begin to read aloud. I think I’m older. Older than the boy in the pit, older than I was in that scene in the confessional. And yet still feeling dreadful. Still feeling sad, grim, powerless.

Then the voice counts from ten to one and I open my eyes.

Deathday.

Some three months after I moved out of that house in the neighborhood everyone had come to affectionately refer to as “white trash central,” I returned to celebrate my twenty-third birthday party — or “deathday” party, as we were calling it.

This morbid preference had a history, too; it wasn’t morbid for morbidity’s sake alone.

Back in high school I had made the bitter comment that I expected to be dead by twenty-three years of age. Shortly thereafter, I began to be haunted by synchronicity — those oh-so unnerving coincidences — involving the number twenty three. It would be on the clock every time I went to check the time. I would pull food out of the microwave early and look up to see the remaining twenty-three seconds. It would be my seat number. It was magic-markered on the top of a bottle of vegetable oil I picked up at work. That kind of thing. I began to joke around how I saw it as a surefire sign that I was doomed to bite the dust on that fateful date. So when I made it to the cusp of my twenty-third birthday, we decided to honor it accordingly.

Death, birth: its all the same, anyway.

Sandra was organizing the party. This was mostly because back in those days she was eager to celebrate for any reason due to the fact that celebration offered her an excuse to drink copious amounts of alcohol. Also, she was celebrating her act of moving away, of breaking apart from the house in tandem with my birthday — mostly due to the fact that her hungry ego felt driven to hijack other people’s parties and plans whenever conceivably possible. Alas, she was like some mindless, ravaging creature of the night who crept up and pounced on your plans, ramming hers leprous loin-link in the crevice at the base of each of their planny spines, inseminating them with her wicked demon seed and then casting them aside like garbage into a muddy, trash-tattered ditch, the torn and ruptured anus of each drooling out the excess venom like the face of a hungry bloodhound after an enduring hunt.

And that was just one of the many things that irritated me about her.

It doesn’t help that I know her history and have analyzed her up and down, either. I believe in choice. We are not mere products of our pasts. I know that Sandra and Nick’s parents were rather absent in their youth. Their father was pushed away by their grandmother, and their mother, however sweet I would later find the woman to be, could simply not get her shit together and be a mother. Inevitably, the grandparents on their mother’s side got custody. The grandfather was a short, ovular, shy man of few words that always seemed more happy than his face appeared capable of displaying. He was a warm guy, always seemingly friendly to everyone. And his compelling capacity to accept people as they were, no matter how harsh the character, was undeniable. Particularly given the fact that for more than twice the length of my present life he has been married to Irma.

That may sound cruel, and I suppose it is. Having accepted that, I would only mention the fact that about anyone who knew Irma could attest to the bitter and often belligerent qualities of the woman. She was passionate and intense. Unfortunately, she often invested that booming vitality in spilling fourth lies. Some of her fictions were so wretched that it is damned conceivable that she had to make herself believe in them herself after she told them. After all, to accept them as anything less than reality until the end of time would leave her writhing in the deepest, most treacherous sea of guilt for the often dire consequences those lies had on the lives on others. The lies she told about Sandra and Nick’s father in court in order to get custody of the two stand as the perfect example.

As for other lies of hers, she seemed to be her own target. By the time I had met her, she was growing old for sure, but she sure as hell wasn’t burning out. She was, however, burning her lungs black with her chain-smoking. Though I suppose I’m in a clam-baked glass house of my own here and should know better than to launch such boulders, I can say that I have yet to be diagnosed with cancer, as was the case with her. Word had it she had given up quitting, having decided that it had been giving up smoking that was killing her to begin with. Perhaps she was just easing her conscience over what she truly felt what her failure to quit despite her condition.

The lie regarding their father, however, was epic in its despicable nature, but it evidently worked. She had gotten custody of the kids. Sandra would often explain to me how sheltered their childhood was. Sometimes she communicated it to me in a different way, as when in the midst of talking to her one day I discovered that she had not known that stars were actually distant suns, and that falling stars were not literally stars that fell from their placement in the sky like dead leaves from a tree.  I wasn’t the least bit surprised to learn that this ignorance had been spoon-fed into her thick cranium through her grandma’s so-called education. While no one in their right mind could claim that Irma had anything short of absolute love for the two of them, her rampant paranoia left the two of them a pair of arm’s-length leashes, and it had effects on them more detrimental than a medieval interpretation of the heavens above. And it led to things getting worse. For then they turned eighteen.

When I first met Sandra, she was a virgin to everything. Her hair was cut in the form of a bowl around her head. Her face was sort of round and if she squinted a bit, she looked Chinese. She dressed in conservative clothing. Half the time her head was down, eyes fixed and consciousness absorbed in the pages of a book — at least when she wasn’t working at her job at the library stacking shelves. Quiet as a mouse. The poster child of innocence.

Then came prom. Then graduation. Then the college sun was just beginning to peek across the horizon, and as its rays pierced the sky and it rose, she rose with it, getting ever-so high on herself.  I suppose in a way her own ego sort of served as her gateway drug. The reason for her sudden transformation was clear enough to me: now that her grandmother was no longer in control of her, she wanted control of everyone but herself.

I wanted to say to Irma that she should have seen it coming. Maybe she did. As long as I’ve known her, even as she slowly began becoming the mirror reflection of the woman, Sandra would tell me that she never wanted to be like her mother. Yet Irma had carved a block this way once before. She had hand-crafted Sandra’s mother and she had done much of the same thing with Sandra. How more clear could it fucking be? This is what is bound to happen when you lock a kid up for eighteen years and they suddenly realize they have the legal power to walk out from beneath the wing and roof of their guardians and give birth to themselves in the wide, open, unexplored world beyond the parental womb. She had to have known where this road would lead.

Sandra grew out her hair, opened up her legs and adamantly refused to shut her fucking mouth long enough to hear someone else speak the smallest fragment of a sentence. She became a mad scientist in a way, a narcotics-based alchemist, experimenting with whatever illicit pharmaceutical was offered her. And so now she pogo-sticks from dick to dick, mistaking sex for something more, living the same story over and over with countless guys, the ghastly narrative not gaining much variance even in a cumulative fashion. I could and increasingly did tell her what was going to happen next when she complained to me about a guy she was with. Despite this, she maintained strict adherence to her patterns, amnesia setting in like clockwork with every reboot relationship. Dancing to the same old skipping record. Same act, same roles, different actors. This was Groundhog’s Day without a fucking end in sight.

It took me years to realize she didn’t want to listen. She wanted to talk. She was incapable of putting herself in another’s skin or taking things from a new perspective. She was incapable of seeing beyond her own head, blind and blissfully ignorant to the fact. Blind to her own blinders. All those years, every word I spoke to her about anything fell on deaf ears. Trying to help her was like holding up a mirror to a blind man, trying to force him to see his own reflection.

When I showed up at the house on Deathday she was packing, all her possessions littered across the floor in boxes or securely mummified in crumpled sheets of newspaper. The more we talked, the less I wanted to, and so after awhile I drifted from her, ultimately finding myself walking onto the front porch.

With a Mike’s Hard Lemonade in hand (because I was a pussy back then), I lit a smoke, waiting for the others to arrive. It took me more than a moment to realize I was not alone out here in the ink-black night. On the porch was Alfie, also smoking a cigarette. As we spoke, I learned he was moving out, too; leaving today, as a matter of fact. Not only that, he told me, but he had just broken up with Penny for the final time.

Right. Every break-up is the final time between these two. No matter how often or how intensely these two run away from each other, they always snap back like some elastic binds them together. They always dance to the skipping record, hoping to break it one day, at least half the time. People quit each other like people quite smoking, quit drugs. Before they ultimately break away, escape, they perpetually try and fail, snap back and relapse. I was never around for the ultimate break, and I hadn’t been around either of them during their process of running away from each other, either, until that very moment. As much as I liked Alfie, I must confess that I was a bit sad that it had been him.

I had met Alfie one night when Sandra and I were still living in the apartment.  I had left my car lights on one night and needed a jump. I was late for work, but I called to explain that I couldn’t get to work until Sandra got home and could give me a ride. Sandra called and showed up shortly thereafter with a tall, skinny, blond-haired kid. He introduced himself as Alfie and jumped my car. Some time later, I did the same damned thing again, only this time Nick and Sandra and I’s future roommate Allan was around. Nick had cables and Allan and I discovered that neither of us knew how to jump a car. We asked three strange girl in the parking lot, who weren’t sure, so they got their roommate, who ended up being piss drunk. He hooked it up. I turned the key.

My car started. My car smoked. And then my car died.

“Sorry, dude,” he shrugged sheepishly, then quickly scooted off into the darkness. I never saw him again.

My shitty car sat in that parking space for two weeks. Then one day I was up at the restaurant and Alfie offered to take a look at my car. Penny drove us there. She filled me with need. I tried not to look too long at her, and it was an agonizing struggle. Her and I shared a moment of smoking cigarettes and saying absolutely nothing to each other as he was under the hood of my Celebrity.

I had seen her occasionally up at the restaurant. She was always wearing this pullover hooded sweatshirt. It was blue and had flames on it. It seemed to match her character remarkably well. I could only tell this by watching her from afar, however, as she never took a moment’s glance at me in the beginning, let alone throw a word or two my way. I was always too nervous to talk to her, to make the situation all the more grueling. After admiring her at a distance for some time I learned her name to be Penny, and that she was one of Alfie’s ex-girlfriends. Shortly thereafter, they got back together. I wasn’t surprised at all. Hell, when I had learned she was Alfie’s girl, I could only laugh and shake my head in response. I mean, what was I thinking when I so blindly believed that a beautiful girl I found interest in wasn’t only taken, but deeply enmeshed in this web of intertwined relationships I was so inextricably attached to?

Suddenly, Alfie’s head popped out from where it had been beneath the hood of my piece-of-shit car and announced that the problem was the alternator.

When they were about to leave, I shook hands with Alfie, and then I shook hands with her and thanked her for driving him and me. I looked her dead in the eyes when I said it, as it was acceptable and I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to gaze into her. She seemed to soften there in the darkness of the parking lot of my shitty apartment complex, her soft hand in mine, her beautiful eyes digging into mine as my own drilled into hers. I had hoped that it had not been too obvious to Alfie that I had a thing for her, yet regardless of that fact, she did not seem to mind at all that I was studying her with such intent, and that alone fed a curiosity that only served to fuel my efforts at understanding her. And my yearning for her. So I talked to her now and again, and the times in which I talked to her got closer and closer together, and the conversations got deeper and more enduring. Eye contact was intensified and held longer.

For the sweet love of fuck I wanted her.

Then, after Sandra, Allan and I had moved into the house, Sandra had thrown a party. As I said, she did this a lot. Everyone was drunk, and Penny and I got to talking — about her issues with Alfie, about reincarnation, about anything and everything. I like Alfie, and I respect their relationship, but if they had broken it off and he wasn’t there at that very same party, I would have done my damnedest with that liquid confidence coursing through my veins to get with her. Or that was what I told myself, anyway. I’d ended up sitting with her on the roof that night, damning my inhibitions, feeding off the inner frenzy she fed in me. She talked to me like she trusted me, looked at me as if she wanted me, but I couldn’t know for sure, and I wasn’t willing to risk losing her trust, her friendship, by making a move I was dying inside to make.

And now? Now they had broken up. So-to-speak and temporarily, no doubt, but if he claimed it was the last and final time, what reason did I have to doubt him?

A car pulled up, Alfie and I shook hands, and he was driven away by somebody to somewhere. More people showed.

Among them, Penny.

I was such a pussy.

Eventually we were all sitting in the living room, listening to music, drinking. Gibbles’s girlfriend, who was a sexy Spiritualist, asked all of us to draw pictures combining a house, a sun, a hill and a snake, or something akin to that. In the end, she revealed that how big we had drawn the snake she had told us to draw represented how important sex was to us in life. My snake was small, and she confidently told me that sex was not very important to me. I let out an involuntary laugh. She shrugs defensively, exclaiming, “That’s just what the test says.”

Towards the end of my time living in this house, I had moved into the basement with Allan. The entire basement was like a dungeon void of kinky contraptions, but as I would lay in my bed in my dark, stone room and look t the light bleeding out from beneath the tall curtain — actually a bed sheet slung over a pole — that served as my ghetto door, I would find quick, hypnagogic movies flying by my inner eye’s line of sight, one after another. They were all dark, aggressive, sexual scenes involving Penny and I. Full of dungeon-appropriate kink.

There was black leather and vinyl. Countless positions. It was like high-speed hardcore motion picture pornographic slide-show; my wants seemed to meet in a deep need of mine to get inside of her. And it seemed hopeless now.

I go to get another Mike’s Hard Lemonade out of the fridge. On my way back, I see Penny by the stairs. I feel as if I have lusted after her forever, and I’m so intoxicated by the sight of her that I’m not even conscious as to how it all unfolds. All I know is that soon we’re on the stairs, making out. Her soft lips pressed against my chapped and bitten ones. My heart leaps for joy, a lower part leaps to to attention in this wet dream come true, this dark romance finally on the way to satiation. The crowd from the other room cheers, and eventually we’re left alone. By the early morning, we were under a blanket, her shirt was off, my pants were unbuttoned, unzipped. I was so fucking nervous, but I didn’t just want this, I absolutely needed this, and I needed it now.

And the fucking phone rang.

I ignored it.

The answering machine picked it up, and while the machine was far away, from a distance I could hear what had the characteristics of a frantic female voice urgently blaring from the speakers. I got up to get closer. I heard the word hospital, was pretty sure it was the voice of Sandra and Nick’s mother, but she hung up before I got there.

Irma, the grandmother Sandra called mom, was in the hospital. This I knew. I should have listened to the message. Should have just woke up Sandra right then and there, but I didn’t. My moral compass was spinning as if it was in the Bermuda Triangle, and cock and cockles were pointing the quickest way back to pretty Penny, so I turned around and went back to the couch. There, I continued to overcome my anxiety over literally burying myself deep within that wonderful girl.

Feet, frantic feet, came pounding down the carpeted stairs at full speed. I heard my name being called in a flailing voice breaking through tsunami sobs. It was Sandra. She was too drunk, she managed to get out. She was too drunk and she needed me to drive her to the hospital. After all, I was less drunk. Why? For her grandmother was about to die. And while drunk me had to drive drunk her, Bill, our alcoholic farm boy friend with elephantiasis fingers — a man drunk infinitely more than both of us put together, by the way — had to ride in the backseat and point the way because he was the only one that knew how to get to the damned hospital.

I got up, took the blanket off, zipped up my pants. Penny turned over on her side, a warm smile crossing her face, looking absolutely peaceful and content. I wanted to brutally fuck the both of us to sleep and awaken warm, calm and free with her in my arms, her skin against my skin, her ocular vortices colliding with my own, but I had to leave her and this epic fucking moment behind.

I took one last look at her and ran with them out the door.

I was moderately drunk, severely tired. Leaving her broke my heart and made my penis cry. It left me with this tense state of mind, the kind that only being cut off before the climax can produce. That said, I was still the most coherent person in the car. I think the build-up towards sex that never happened gave me such a hyper-focus that it allowed me to cut through the haze of the pussy malt beverages I had cast down my gullet and turn in the direction of Bill’s insanely thick digit. An unholy, aromatic cocktail of beer, cheap wine and Southern Comfort bellowed from his mouth and seemed to form a bubble of stink around us as he placed his all-too-alien-like head near my shoulder.

I could still taste her on my lips. Next time I saw her, she was back with Alfie.

“Turn right up here,” Bill says, barely able to speak straight. I pull into the hospital and park. After I turned off the car, Sandra was already shutting the door behind her, and I was rushing to follow. Bill came in third, or rather his head did, for that was the only thing to exit the back door of the car — with a trail of vomit following, fire-hosing out his mouth. Most of it ended up in my car. I only hoped that he didn’t get alcohol poisoning again. I asked him if he was good. A beefy thumb splashed with chunky pink lifted as confirmation. There was a man down, but I had to leave him behind. I ran to catch up to Sandra.

Walking down the hallway, approaching the door to that room, it was like every hospital scene I’ve ever seen in a dramatic film. Sandra comes running, her family embraces her, and conversation ensues regarding the current status of Irma. Inside, through the open door, my eyes fell upon her. She looked like a bedridden rag-doll hooked up to machines through a tangled web-work of tubes and wires. Crutches for consciousness. Using technology to extend our mighty human hands out towards mother nature, to push her back and bark at her: “Bitch, NO.

Irma is too weak to lift her head or a hand, too weak to speak or utter a sound, yet still she is being held hostage in the skin by these machines. The life process seems to ensure dignity is one of the first things you loose in the mighty slope towards death that is anything short of immediate. For this fiery woman to spend her life’s end burning out slowly seemed unduly harsh. Skin as dilapidated as the bedsheets that cover her bony, frail form; a disease literally eating away at her. This women, this fire, should be violently clinging, or at least burning bright with its mad flames clawing away with relentless fury as it reaches the frayed fucking ends of the wick of life, but no. Nature could slice life at the neck, give us a break, but how often does it seem to drag out the misery? How often does it seem to kill you one piece at a time, leaving you with nothing in the end save for the awareness but there’s nothing left to lose of you, really, so you might as well let go and move on, for nothing  can be worse than this? It’s the reaper’s foolproof technique to get you to surrender. These machines work with, not against, dying. Death is inevitable, but they extend dying. And the worst thing about death is dying.

Later that day, everyone would thank me for coming. They were glad I was here, they told me. She would have wanted me to come.

No more than a week later, at party, I would be down in the basement with Nick, both of us drunk, and we would get in a conversation where I pushed a bit too hard to try to make him come out with his feelings about his grandmother. As a consequence, he would storm away and punch a hole in the wall upstairs. Bill, on the video tape we made of the hole just after it was created, would later claim with confidence, “I did that with my penis.”

Even later, weeks later, I would visit Sandra in her new, vacant apartment, the first apartment she would ever have by herself, and she would tell me how she should have taken that dream she had the day before Irma died more seriously. That dream where Irma was calling out to Sandra frantically. And I would look at Sandra, see that vacant look in her eyes, feel that pit in her heart she would quickly try to fill in with various mind-altering substances and promiscuous behavior, and I would be powerless to stop her dismal decay.

But now they pulled me into the circle of joined hands, this ring-around-the-Rosie they formed around the hospital bed. I bowed my head with them. It was the most difficult thing to bow that head of mine, to participate in this ritual. They went about their prayer to a god that doesn’t exist, and I played along the best I could. In my head, I speak as if to Irma, assuring her that Sandra knows she loves her.

And then Irma waved the white flag.

We all watched her die.

Crowley, Change & Learning How to Bake a Cake.

Aleister Crowley once wrote:

“ANY required change may be effected by the application of the proper kind and degree of Force in the proper manner, through the proper medium to the proper object.”

I’ve always liked that line. I was never one to believe the end justified the means. Instead, it has always seemed clear that the means determine the end.

We often look at means as the road and the end as the destination, but the means are really the ingredients, and the end is the cake. This is why trying harder will be fruitless and why trying smarter is the only thing that counts. People try to earn something or get somewhere when what they’re really doing is making something.

We talk about fate or destiny or about how this or that was or was not “meant to be” and how things happen for a “reason,” forever referencing some author in the sky with some grand plan etched in stone. Here’s a thought: there is no author in the sky. We’re all co-authors, and that is all there is: co-authors of a continuing narrative, co-creators in an ever-evolving universe. We are all the writers.

If we try for something in earnest for years, we aren’t impressing some big daddy in the sky who might at any moment take mercy on us and reward us for our efforts; doing the same thing over and over expecting that the more you do it the more likely it is to eventually work is a fruitless endeavor. Bearing fruit here relies upon finding or producing the right conditions. Planting the right seeds.

Fetching the right ingredients and learning how to bake a fucking cake.

Art of Buying Time.

Climbing up to my
island of serenity,
a soft sacred place inside
where no one can get to me.

Where I can find my center once again,
enjoy temporary embrace, knowing
that it forever ends all too soon.

Where I strive to realign
with the face here behind the masque,
this awkward creature here,
writhing beneath the costume.

Quelling the tension to death,
rebirth following like a child in need,
though I know any release
buys me time,

postponing the inevitable
tearing at the seams.