Like ocean waves.
Like cosmic music.
Like a jackhammer.
Like no one else.
Just feel and feed
off the response.
Like ocean waves.
Like cosmic music.
Like a jackhammer.
Like no one else.
Just feel and feed
off the response.
It’s April eleventh, and I’m on the toilet taking a dump and reading Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle when I notice that I’m getting incredibly tired all of a sudden. I wanted to type out the rest of my notebook writings this week, the shit I’ve been writing about everything, and the bit of shit from last week I never got the chance to type out, but the coffee is simply not kicking in for some reason. As I’m reading, I’m finding my eyes are closing and I’m getting that falling feeling, like I’m falling or wobbling out of my skin. I’m not just tired, no, I’m inexplicably exhausted, ready to zonk out, so I just finish my chapter and climb into bed. And, poof, I’m out like a light.
Sometime later, I wake up, immobilized. I can’t see anything, all is just a black, formless void, and I can only hear and feel things faintly, but it’s clear I’m being moved. It feels like I’m being pulled across some fabric of some kind, like polyester, and I can hear that high-pitched screeching as my body’s pulled across the fabric or whatever it is. I feel so numb and passive, though, so fucking relaxed that struggling to open my eyes and see what the fuck is really going on never even crosses my mind. In retrospect, that bothers me, and it bothers me even more that it only bothers me in retrospect and didn’t bother me at the time.
When I wake up, things aren’t right, and I immediately know this is the case. I’m awake, but I’m not in my body, not really, not in the physical sense. I still can’t say if this kind of experience is a dream or some parallel reality or another plane of existence, but the fact of the matter is that I’m wide awake in this place and it’s not our traditional waking world. Perhaps this is just a lucid dream. Regardless, I wake to find myself in some version of the room I used to live in when I was at my parent’s house. It’s dark and there’s a bed, a sofa chair, but the room seems tinier than my room was when I lived with my parents and far more cluttered. I get up, fully aware that this isn’t real, or at least what we traditionally regard as real, and I look around the room.
I stand up and look in the mirror, which I have developed a certain fondness for doing when this sort of thing happens, this astral projection or whatever this is. My reflected image seems distorted in places, and I don’t know if it’s due to smudges on the mirror or it’s just my vision, but overall, I certainly look like me. Getting real close to the glass, I start searching for the scratch on my nose that I know I just got at work last night, but I cannot find it, and I’m curious and amused. The longer and closer I look the more I notice that my eyes look a hell of a lot shinier, a lot darker, and the glare off of them is so great I can hardly see my pupils or iris. I reach for my cigarettes because I really want to smoke one, and I put one in my mouth, holding off on lighting it. I’m thinking about going out the door of my room, maybe roaming around, checking the place out, maybe going downstairs, but I’m still drawn back to the mirror, finding myself transfixed on the reflection of my own image. Suddenly, it looks as if my chest isn’t my chest anymore, but my back. It looks like my head’s on backward. And then I wake up.
I don’t remember anything exactly after waking up, but I remember walking down my parent’s stairs, and my mother is talking to someone, some guy I know, who has just come in from outside. It suddenly comes to my attention that mom was somehow observing throughout the whole parallel reality or dream experience I just had. That was my inexplicable and sudden assumption at first, anyway. When I hear her talk to the other guy, it seems that he observed it all, too, and they were quite interested in it all. She started describing the dream, and the guy’s agreeing with her, with every word she uses to describe it. She starts talking about some riverbank, though, and he nods, and that’s when I shake my head at both of them. “No,” I say to them, “mine was different,” because I remembered, of course, no riverbank.
Just then I look out the door the guy had just come in from, which looks no different from my parent’s door in reality, and I see a face, a body on the ground outside the door, just on the edge of what appears to be a river beyond the door. I feel an instant sense of alarm, yelling, “BODY,” as I run down the remaining steps and cross the dining room and run out the door.
When I get outside, however, there is no river’s edge – no riverbank, that is. Just a lush, green lawn, but the body is still there. It’s a young, blond-haired body, eyes closed, just lying there with his legs together, arms at his sides, comfortable and not looking dead at all. Just lying motionless in the sun upon the lush green grass of what seems to be a beautiful summer day. I’m not good at judging age, but he’s maybe nine or ten years old, I’d say, if forced to guess. I just look at him, curious and confused.
And then I wake up again, but I’m inside my head, trying to find a way out, trying to wake up in the right place this time, and suddenly I wake up in my bed. I run to my computer desk and try to write it all down, try to remember as much as I can because I feel this is incredibly important. My eyes, as I write, they’re all out of focus; it’s as if I can only clearly see out of one, and the other’s all fucked up. My teeth feel as if they’ve been clenching. Am I having seizures during these experiences? I’m not sure. I can’t be sure about anything.
I look at the clock, and it reads 10:34 in the morning. It was ten-something when I went to bed, which means the whole experience, it shouldn’t have taken longer than half an hour, and probably considerably less. My experience seems like it might have fit into those time constraints if it was exactly ten when I went to bed, but I would have had to have started “dreaming” or whatever as soon as my head hit the pillow. That seems incredibly unlikely.
And I think about the kid in the dream, and my mind goes back to the kid I saw on December 15, 2001, and the weird experiences that followed that encounter, and how that child I saw way back when seemed to be maybe four, and how the kid I just saw in the dream or whatever, he seemed to be maybe ten, and I just shake my head, because that doesn’t help this make sense.
II. Altogether Numb With Psychospiritual Novocain.
It’s the Wednesday before last. It’s raining outside, and I spent the drive home trying to relax, doing my little mental ritual that makes me feel more protected and secure, all the while hoping to high hell I won’t go tires-on-a-Slip-N’-Slide and hydroplane. And that my spare won’t go flat. That a deer won’t run out in front of me. That I won’t veer into oncoming traffic. I try to make the relaxation come on more easily by putting on some pleasantly distracting music, but the only songs playing on the radio bring back angry, frightening and depressing memories, most of them from high school, slightly before or shortly thereafter. I finally settle on listening to Guns N’ Roses November Rain, which is a peculiar choice, considering the song’s themes. You know. Rainy weather, death.
Having survived the trip home, I pull into what has become my usual parking space in the lot outside my apartment. I open the door, smell the exhaust from my car, put out my cigarette in the ashtray overloaded with tangled butts and clumps of soot. Outside, the rain beats down on me. I’m leaning in the open door, reaching in for my book bag, when something weird happens.
My consciousness suddenly shifts. Like a head rush, but more than a head rush. More breadth and width than a head rush. Just for a brief second, just for a blink, it’s suddenly as if I’m looking, feeling, hearing, smelling it all from outside myself, behind myself, above myself but through myself. It’s not just the perspective that’s changed, either, but my sense of self. It’s as if my everyday ego is just some costume I put on, some role I play, and this is a deeper aspect of me waking up after a snooze and just peeking through the curtain. And this hiding, now-peeking-out me seems so much more awake and alive. I feel like I am somebody I am, but I’m not the me I fooled myself into believing I was.
I look around and realize that I’m leaning inside a vehicle, reaching for a book bag. That I have a job and go to college and live alone and have somehow managed to survive enough to get here. And I am awash with perplexity and disbelief. I realize a lot must have transpired in order to get here and I am skeptical with respect to the notion that I really am. This can’t really be the case, can it? How did I get here? How did I make it this far? This is inconceivable, considering where I was last time I peeked out from behind the curtain. It’s exciting, I notice — the freedom I have — but the world is also frightening. I find it amazing that this world even exists, really. That the circumstances are the way they are.
It’s as if I’ve just really woken up out of this dream-like zombie state I’d been in since who knew when. And everything I — the me I think I am — takes for granted, it’s all so unbelievable.
This sudden shift in consciousness lasts a second, as I said, a mere second, and I shift back. I go on about my usual routine like it never happened, but inside my apartment, I’m contemplating. It’s so weird how we live the majority of our lives thinking we’re awake when in a moment we realize just how asleep we’ve really been. We’re altogether numb with psychospiritual Novocain, really.
III. The Blurs Strike Again.
It was Sunday, somewhere between four-thirty and five-thirty in the evening, I was at work, and I had just come back inside after having taken out the trash. It didn’t hit me until I looked at the face of Pops Girl in the drive-thru that something was wrong. Although I was looking dead at her I couldn’t see her entire face. I looked at Gus, at others, and it was the same thing. Looking at her eyes, I couldn’t see the bottom half of their faces; their mouths, their chin, were just gone from my field of vision. It affected part of the side of their face, too; focusing on one eye, I couldn’t see the other. I tried to act natural. Tried to keep calm. As I walked passed people, I noticed that in the upper-to-middle right-hand corner of my field of vision there was this purple blob, kind of like the blob you get when you stare at a light for a really long time, only this was remaining stationary, pulsating. And it didn’t remain a purple blob for long, either; soon it became what I’ve come to call a ”distortion worm.” In the same place in the upper-to-middle right-hand corner of my field of vision, it was this wavy line that looked a lot like a slithering snake, only it was stationary and pulsating, and though it was transparent, it distorted everything it obstructed and began to shimmer in these sparkling rainbow colors.
Maybe I should just shut up about it this time, I told myself. If I ignore it, the blurs will probably eventually go away, and trying to explain this to people who don’t understand and won’t give so much as half a shit won’t do me any good anyway. I went in the back, though, to start cleaning the top of the shake machine when Moe, over by the fryers, asks me if I’m okay, and I had to confess I didn’t know. I tried to explain to him what was happening, how it starts with the purple blob, transforms into a distortion worm and then it slowly grows across the center of my line of sight until I have nothing but the most minute amount of peripheral vision to go on. Two other guys in the kitchen, Louie and Ronnie, take interest in what I’m saying. Louie steps in and offers that it might be something in my eye, maybe a hair, or maybe a cataract or perhaps my eyesight has been going bad, but I shake my head, tell him I don’t see how any of the above could be true. For one thing, this isn’t the first time this has happened to me. It happened first on September 30, 2002, and it happened on three more occasions after that. But it hasn’t happened to me in five years. Not since my last day at the first store I worked at, as a matter of fact. So it just doesn’t seem like this would be a cataract or my eyesight going bad. And the idea of something being stuck in my eye seems just as unlikely. It’s not my eye, it’s my field of vision — I can cover either eye and it’s still happening. It’s happening in my head, in my brain; the problem can’t be located in my eyes.
Back when this had begun happening the first time, it was shortly after I had met Angela Briss. Eventually, she and I would sit down over some coffee and she’d tell me some interesting, weird things that had occurred to her over the course of her life rather consistently — shit that sounded quite familiar. Among her experience was something she called “the blurs,” which was, it seemed, exactly what had been happening to me.
The last time I had an attack of the blurs was, as I said, my last day at the first McDonalds I worked at, which also happened to be the last day I had ever seen her. Just a few days ago, I finally found Angela online and tried to contact her, though I hadn’t heard back from her. I don’t see how that could be anything more than coincidence, but I think it’s worth noting. Another thing worth noting is that when I described this particular experience to my parents sometime later, it turns out my ”blur attacks” sounded exactly like what my mother saw during the extremely serious migraines she used to have when I was really young. The distortion worm would start at one end of her field of vision and slowly work its way across her field of vision, sparkling and pulsating until it reached the other side, at which time her migraine would just be over. The difference in my case is that the blurs don’t always go that far, but sometimes they go farther — either way, a headache never accompanies them, though I do feel a “pressure” in my head and my state of consciousness is drastically warped.
It’s also true that I’ve been freaking out a lot lately, however, and that I hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before. Aside from that, I’d been contemplating whether the ailments I’ve been suffering as of late might have been of a psychosomatic nature. One issue was the sharp ache in my right foot, which made it extremely painful to walk on — incredibly for one day, and then increasingly less for two to three days afterward. Then, after that had dissipated, I felt this lump in my ear and one morning I awoke with the entire side of my face throbbing with this profound ache that subsided in a day or two. Perhaps these ailments, as well as the blurs, were all psychosomatic reactions to stress, which for various reasons have been high lately. For one thing, they all occurred on the right side of my body. For another, I’m almost sure the blurs have to be psychosomatic because when I can manage to relax they suddenly subside.
As I was cleaning the shake machine, the blurs got a bit worse, with the distortion worm crawling a little further across my field of vision and another blob forming on the lower half of the right side of my visual field, pulsating. My vision got all surreal as if everything was in a sort of haze and at a distance, but it slowly seemed to calm, and after I went out for a cigarette it seemed to subside entirely.
T’was in the last week of this August and just after eight in the evening when I stepped outside my apartment door. Before I even fully turn around to close it behind me something black zooms passed my head. A near collision, too. Though it caught me by surprise, it didn’t strike me as unusual until it hit me: I’m not outside. I’ve merely stepped into the hallway of the third floor of the complex.
Turning my head, I watch as the bird, bat or whatever books down the hallway at record speed and smoothly banks to the left, towards the stairwell. It was too perfect, too smooth of a maneuver, as if it had intended to turn down the steps the entire time, as if it was well-acquainted with its environment.
Perplexed, I do what I typically do: examine the weirdness only to the extent that it doesn’t threaten my sacred sense of sanity and then ensure both of my feet are resting on solid, practical, mind-numbingly mundane ground by behaving as if it never happened. I turn down the opposite end of the hallway from which it came and make my way down to my car to go to work, wondering all the while whether the whole thing actually happened.
This is the issue, living the life I lead: I feel I have to constantly call any experience of mine that falls even slightly out of the realm of the ordinary into question. Anything even mildly out of whack with conventional expectations brings my experience into question. At least some part of me begins to doubt my sanity, though at times events I make a big fucking deal about in my head or on paper inspires nothing more than a shrug from the people around me when I tell them. I end up embarrassed over having evidently made something out of nothing. Conversely, I sometimes mention something under the assumption that while not conventionally spoken about in public discourse is perhaps a kind of thing relatively common, just not something people tend to acknowledge, and I receive a rude awakening when the person looks at me with a strange, worried, almost frightened look and may even tell me I’m crazy.
The safest waters with respect to confessions of the seeming weird are the people in my life that I know and trust infinitely more than the rest — people like Moe, Channing, Elizabeth and, when I feel confident it will not inspire further worry in them regarding me, my family. I told both Elizabeth and my parents about the bird/bat-black-flying-thing, and I received an ambiguous response with respect to the largely subliminal or unconscious realm of the Underneath — which is to say in the language of nonverbals, tone of voice, and vibe — but nothing short of dismissal as if it was nothing unusual on the Surface, which is to say the direct form of communication people of every form and flavour are well-acquainted with. It was probably a bird or a bat, they told me, just as I had suspected myself.
I had even surmised that, given this was not some hallucination, it — most likely a bat — must have squeezed itself through an air vent or something, and upon inspection I discovered that my memory had served me well in this case, as there was just such an air vent in the hallway, and it was positioned on the ceiling from the direction from which it had come.
No notices had been hung by the doorway, however. No sign that anyone else had seen a damned thing.
I wanted a definitive answer and, as with so many things, I solemnly presumed the mystery would maintain its status and I would be left in the dark forever. When I came home this morning — September 15, 2017 — just after my third shift had ended at five, I had picked up my beer at the Circle K in town, and so perhaps forty minutes past five in the morning. As I came up the steps of the side entrance to my apartment building I saw what I first determined, despite my natural inclinations, must be a monstrous dangling dust-bunny from the vent a short distance from my apartment door. It was the same vent I had earlier suspected the black flying thing must have squeezed itself through.
Fixated on it, I was compelled to take a closer look. It was a small bat, dangling from the air vent, peacefully wrapped up in its wings like a living burrito, sleeping away in the early morn. A grin blossomed on my face. From deep within me bubbled up a beneath-the-breath laugh. I was right after all: it had been a fucking bat. To make sure it was real, I even took a photo with my iPhone.
I like mysteries. I always have. But my interest in mysteries stems from an intense desire to know the answer, to in the very least gain greater understanding if I ultimately fail to determine the truth. There is such a sense of relief when a mystery is solved, when a plaguing question is answered, in the moment when a known-unknown becomes a known-known, that I cannot fathom why anyone would prefer ignorance and come to equate it with bliss. Lust should be reserved for reality, and it is sad that this is not always the case. We should flirt with ideas, but only so as to ascertain their true nature through observation, correlation and experiment. Creativity is a prize to be honored, a talent to be exploited — but if honesty and facts are not the aims, such focus is ultimately dangerous.
After having written about it recently, I’ve come to wonder if my automatic thoughts, specifically those regarding explaining or justifying my behaviors towards authority and visualizing myself being interviewed, function for me in much the same way that I have found writing a letter to someone seems to. I remember how Vonnegut once said that whenever he writes, he imagines writing to or for a single person. In my experience, it helps my writing, my thoughts, gain focus and structure.
This makes sense, as communication first developed in a face-to-face context rather than the kind of abstract way we are capable of imagining, or even speaking on
stage in the form of a monologue or soliloquy. It is more natural for us to have a particular person in mind — real or imagined — to whom we are writing. This may also be why I default to explaining my motives to authorities or interviewers spontaneously in my daydreams: its a means of self-analysis, with focus and structure further provided by the questions involved. I’m asked question and actually strive to provide an honest answer (unlike, for instance, a fucking politician), as challenging as it might be for me to formulate it.
Of course, it is also true that I much prefer this explanation to the notion, at least with respect to my justifications to authority, that I am some spineless slave with a pasty, empty sack hanging below me, flapping in the breeze…
It happened again in the midst of meditation, as it has continuously since I started following the breath for 21 minutes a day roughly a month ago now. Occasionally amidst the intrusive and seductive thoughts interrupting my focus on the sensations of my breath as the air entered and exited my nostrils, I would find myself in an area of a house I had frequented in childhood.
The house belonged to the family of that used to live directly across the street from us when we lived at our first house. My sisters and I used to go over there and play with Devin and Jamie, who were around my age. A few strange experiences of mine took place at that house which I have documented elsewhere.
They moved later in my childhood into a bigger house some distance away. We visited a few times, but I most clearly remember the period in which they were away and my mother had been asked to take on the duty of checking on and tending to the house. As soon as we got there, we parked in what was, relative to us, a rather large parking area, ran passed the house and towards the latched wooden gate that led to the in-ground pool, where my two sisters and I played as mom did whatever and eventually came to check on us. I remember the day they came home, presumably unexpectedly, and the mother, Lori, strolled in through the wooden door to see my mother standing by the pool as us three kids were in the midst of a glorious time. I remember none of their words, perhaps only because I heard little to none of them to begin with — perfectly conceivable, as I was likely in the pool at the time — but the general conversation as conveyed through body language and vibe seemed clear enough. Mom seemed intoxicated by some cocktail of fear and shame and Lori appeared understanding and extremely compassionate in a way that was impressive to me, as it seemed to be not in the least bit contrived. My sense was that mom was embarrassed because she thought that this would imply to Lori that she envied and sought to take advantage of her friend’s wealthy residence while she was away rather than the mere checking and tending she had agreed upon. She was embarrassed because she feared Lori would think it was this selfish motive rather than the kind gesture of a friend that had driven her to watch over the place. It was obvious that she was ashamed that this revelation of her envy had been received. Lori got it, though, she understood, and almost immediately she seemed to compassionately take on the role of extinguishing my mother’s reactionary guilt.
Or maybe I’m fucking insane and these are all false memories. Who knows? Welcome to the twilight zone, where I have evidently set up camp.
In any case, inside the aforementioned image that keeps drawing me in during my mindful drift, I am standing in a room, facing the doorless doorway leading into the large room with sliding glass doors that lead to the pool outside. Passed the corner near to the doorless doorway is a bathroom, and passed that the doorway to the computer room and a flight of stairs. I don’t remember their positions, perhaps because they weren’t visible in this exact memory, perhaps due to my total lack of any sense of direction when walking or driving, which implies I am plagued with an extreme form of geographical dyslexia.
In any case, I have no idea why this scene, essentially a still frame, has been repeatedly arising in my mind. On the off-chance there proves to be any relevance, there was a strange memory I had of that new house of theirs and the pool specifically. I think I eliminated these memories from my book, judging them strange but ultimately insignificant in content.
All I remember is being in their pool, clutching onto the very edge while in the water as either a fog surrounded me or my vision blurred almost to a degree that would be synonymous with blindness. I couldn’t see an inch in front if my face. I couldn’t find either of my sisters. Before I could get out of the water a paralysis crept up and seized me.
Is the scene that keeps popping up in my mind a prelude to the eerie memory in the pool? Does the persistence of this vivid still-frame suggest something is hiding there, some greater memory that for whatever reason feels the need to surface at this time? Fucked if I know. I wish I had control of my mind or that a clear and healthy form of communication between my conscious self and subliminal aspects could be effectively established and exploited when needed.
Understanding oneself, it shouldn’t pose such a challenge.
I have always hated sleeping on my back. The story I’ve always told myself is that this is due to the fact that I would have nightmares as a kid when sleeping supine, though I can recall not even the vaguest example of single occurence. In any case, when I do my second meditation session before sleeping — this one guided — I do indeed lay on my back in bed. Before the session is through, however, I often turn it off on my old iPhone and take out the earbuds because I always have the overwhelming, even painful urge to roll over.
Last night I felt that intense impulse and, for the first time, refused to move. I did it for the same reason I’ve been trying to resist scratching itches or squirming around to get more comfortable in the midst of meditating: I need to learn to examine these emotions and sensations rather than impulsively react to them.
So I tried to examine the body sensation from a witness perspective. I was to some degree still within the emotion or sensation, still somewhat identified with it, but mostly on the outside, looking in, examining it like some scientist at the zoo observing an animal behind the safety glass. The violent energy and sense of urgency was remarkable. It was equally remarkable to be in that position outside of it, examining it, experiencing with clarity that I was by no means synonymous with it.
Last night I got home from work and decided to eat and watch the new episode of Rick and Morty before meditating. When I eventually sat down and started the timer, my stomach refused to just shut the fuck up. It often does this when I’m tense, which I suppose I was, as after ten minutes of trying unsuccessfully to ignore its relentless gurgling and focus on my breath I screamed aloud for it to shut up and wailed my fist into my tummy several times in rapid succession. This state of going apeshit is, to make a mole hill out of a mountain, totally at odds with my “witnessing” accomplishments lately.
I stopped the meditation session short for the first time since I picked up the daily routine again. I drank, smoked pot, and later, when the intoxication had largely worn off, I sat again before bed, much more successful this time.
Its frustrating. I get tired of losing my shit, almost as much as I’ve grown tired of freaking out and feeling down. For those that seem to equate consciousness with the body-brain, I must wonder how it is I came to be in such a profoundly oppositional position to my body, mind, emotions, instincts — everything save for the inner eye that I feel is the most essential part of me. Even in my own mind and body I don’t seem to belong, and that’s perhaps the most frustrating fact of all.
When people approach me desiring not to spill to me like some atheistic priest but to engage me in conversation, I all too often find myself frantically, desperately grasping for words, trying to ignore the sting of awkward silence as I initially choke, as I fail to say anything at all — though ultimately fill the silence with something stupid and void of true substance.
It happened late Saturday afternoon as I stopped at the dollar store nearby my parents house in the hopes of procuring a graduation card for my sister’s boyfriend. I was going over the cards in the isle when I thought I heard someone say my name, then convinced myself it must have been my imagination until I heard it again. It was a guy I had gone to high school with, and my social awkwardness initially seemed to lead him to believe I didn’t recognize him.
This happened again during the outdoor party at my parents house, where a guy my father had gone to school with and for a time worked with attempted to have conversation with me. He suggested I try and write, draw and self-publish a children’s book for my niece and nephew. Not only does it stand as a good idea, but this was by no means the first time it had been offered to me. Even so, I felt as though I was constantly standing him up — at best, arriving late — when it came to the give and take characteristic of friendly conversation. I wanted to engage but my mind kept leaving me hanging, anxiety rushing in to fill the vacuum. I found myself seeking an exit despite actually wanting to engage, too.
This is perhaps why his suggestion is so dead on: we now live in a world where if I played my cards right I could not only avoid social situations altogether and work from home but even someone as anxious as me could manage to make money off of his passions rather than the kind of shit job I have now — or the factory jobs him and my father no doubt hated but felt they had to acquire in order to support their families. Yet I’m not taking advantage of the freedom inherent in my personal circumstances — namely, my childless bachelorhood — or the technology that provides greater opportunity for me today than there would have been for him and my father, even if they had been neurotic, childless bachelors themselves.
I’ve been pissing it all away.
Or not entirely, perhaps. I did finish my book, after all, though I have yet to try and self-publish it, or even really figure out how to do so. Is it truly the anxiety, or am I just lazy?
I came to work roughly thirty minutes early with two projects. One, expressive: work on my article, or whatever you wish to call it, regarding repetition compulsion, tying it in with my newfound perspective on the nature of the ego as well as the Eastern concepts of samsara and karma. The other, digestive: reread Terry Hansen’s 2000 book, The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-Up, and take notes for a future article or perhaps some powerpoint-like presentation I might eventually try and put together and post to YouTube. Though I cannot remember which I was doing, I believe I was working on my article, thumbing away on the Notes app on my old iPhone with the cracked back-side.
That was when I heard a honk. I turned my head to the right, passed the seat where my bag lay and through the grimy glass of the passenger-side window, leaning in and squinting in my attempts to ascertain just who it was I was looking at. Not a moment passed before I realized it was Rezi.
I first met her perhaps a decade ago, though she spied me before I so much as knew of her existence. Zeke and Abbey, my friends at the time, had tried to set her up with me, but she wanted to see me without me seeing her before she decided whether she wanted to make an approach, so they drove her up to the fast food joint where I worked at the time — and, I must confess, now. Spying me cleaning lobby through the windows, she didn’t even exit the car. I wasn’t her type.
No, she wasn’t about to fuck this bone-thin, deer-in-the-headlights white boy.
In any case, I eventually met her officially, in person, without knowing about the whole thing until long after. We got to know each other a bit and though there was certainly no spark between us, we became okay friends — and significantly better ones since we both drifted from the circle Abbey and Zeke were a part of. We see each other only occasionally, typically limited to brief conversations when she came through the drive-thru, though occasionally we’ve had more enduring conversations as we had today.
Upon seeing her, I excitedly got out of my car and approached her driver side and we got to talking as I began my first smoke before I had to clock in at four. We exchanged stereotypical surface pleasantries for only a short time before I took a delve into the real and asked her whether she had gone to any of her sex parties as of late. Last time I had seen her, it had been through the drive-thru window during my Wednesday nights to Friday mornings third shift, when she had just been coming back from one.
Just recently, she told me, and there had been a bit of an incident. Though she said she usually doesn’t get down and dirty outside, she wanted to watch one of the girls she knew get jackhammered by some other guy outside, so she went on the porch or whatever with a guy of her own. After they had done the deed, he evidently wanted a bit more, which she was certainly fine with — but he got a bit too into it as he was pounding her on a metal chair. It broke, collapsed, and she ended up hurting her leg and busting her lip. The three of them rushed to her care and suggested she go to the hospital, but she didn’t want to end up at “one of those stories” — like the ones my mother had told me about her time as secretary at a hospital, or the kind of fucked up shit you read about when you discover the Darwin Awards. So she just dealt with it, she told me, though she confessed to still hurting. Indeed, evidence remained. Taking her index finger, she peeled her bottom lip away, revealing a scar.
“It sucks,” she said, laughing. “My lips are big enough as it is.”
I just shook my head.
As we discussed her and these parties, she finally came to say something that I felt had long been dancing at the tip of her mind, if not her tongue: “You should come along with me sometime.”
When my sexual fantasies have not only that lucid, focal content but also provides a context, it typically involves going to a strip joint and getting a private dance from an exceptionally intriguing and agonizing attractive and suitably kinky-clad girl — typically a redhead or a girl with hair dyed pink, purple, or some other wild color, but sometimes brown or black hair, very rarely blonde, and only in the case of that hot woman who was Satan’s mistress in the miniseries rendition of Stephen King’s The Stand, gray. But, for the lack of god was she hot. On other occasions, frequently enough while intoxicated on this and/or that, I had imagined going to a fetish party. A sex party. What I imagined, naively and without the most nanometric shred of evidence, to take place were the way things unfolded during such a party. In either case, this rarely failed to turn me the fuck on.
Still, I had little context. I knew what little she had told me, what I had read in some article Chuck Palahniuk had incorporated into one of his books, and some of the porn I had incorporated into my evening ritual of release. She offered, and the more I chewed on the idea in my mind, the more I thought to myself: could it hurt, going with her to one of her sex parties? I mean, so long as I avoided metal chairs?
Though I can’t be certain exactly what it was I said, the general gist of it was that I was seriously considering taking her up on her offer. I intended to convey that, in other words, but I’m not entirely confident she took it as an honest response. She may have only taken it as a kind, however deceptive, response, and how could I blame her? However unintentional, I had the tendency to pull this sort of bullshit all the time: make half-baked plans that never achieved fruition. There was no real way she could have known that the thought actually kind of made me all tingly in the nether-regions.
I remember looking down at my cell phone in the midst of our conversation and realizing it was 3:59 PM and I had one minute to spare before I clocked in. I bid her a swift adieu before locking my car and rushing in the doors. Clocking in at the terminal, I then went about my usual routine of changing all the trash behind the counter, but on my way to the back room, I passed the kitchen, where I saw Hady.
In retrospect, at the very least, it’s not surprising at all that I bonded so well with Hady. I first met her twin sister, Sadie, when she began working here years ago, and in the ensuing years, we grew close. Sadie ultimately became a member of the group that used to frequent the line of bars occupying the outskirts of the nearby college town. Later, Sadie and a girl we were mutually attracted to became subjects of my first, second, and third threesome. Though considerably calmer and slightly less hyper-sexed than her sis, Hady was no stranger to it all: like Sadie and me, she was plagued with anxiety and prone to depression; like Sadie, she had been bitten by nymphomania and was drowning in a sea of vagina (and the occasional penis). She had a bit of distance, however; some breathing room between herself and her neuroticism that permitted the growth of some much-needed perspective. It was in this capacity that our conversation quickly turned to her sister and how she thinks she’s a sex addict in denial.
It was a strange thing, to have these two conversations within twenty minutes of each other. It was also strange: I had an issue getting laid; Sadie had an issue with not getting laid. Was there a happy fucking medium — literally?
For me, having had no vaguely sexual interaction now for over half a decade and resorting to nightly porn, sex had become a sort of spectator sport. It’s been so long since I’ve had sex that I feel my desires have almost come full circle as if I’m in fucking high school again. I find myself thinking, “It’d be cool to, like, just to make out with a girl again.” I’m tired of masturbating, tired of porn, tired of sexy hypnosis videos. I just want something real — but not enough to sacrifice my privacy and personal freedom for a relationship.
In addition, I have no desire to return to the sort of headspace generated when I have to deal with when wanting a girl or seeking sex, my constant concerns and fixations. Am I good enough for her? Do I look okay, dress okay, smell okay? Am I too skinny, too hairy? Am I sufficient in the region below the equator? Do I want it too much? Not enough? Would she be into that?
Still, sex without strings attached would be nice, and Rezi’s invitation would certainly be the most ethical, if not the most fruitful, means of pursuing it.
If nothing else, tagging along would leave me with something new and interesting to write about.
I. Lazy Stalker Without a Spine.
Sighing out a cloud of smoke, I reflect on how in a way I’m sort of like a stalker, only without the vaguest sense of ambition or the tendency to behave in accordance with conventional logic as a response to my desires. Or are those core elements to the profile of a stalker? Fuck it. Doesn’t matter. I drop my face to the ground and flick some ash from my cigarette, watching it fall to the concrete my feet are resting on. It’s just before my second class of the day, around eleven in the morning, and I’m sitting on the third step up from the patio below Cunningham Hall. I’m uncomfortable, restless, nothing new.
Head up, my eyes are scanning the river of people flowing by on the sidewalk. Just people-watching, mind you. Typical. Really, I’m not looking for her. That’s what I tell myself, but I’ve been known to lie to myself when I feel guilty about the truth. When the internal assertions become a mantra, I know I’m trying to play over some whispering truth, trying to drown it out with a rhythmic lie, so I change my tune. I turn it off. I just shake my head and admit it. Truth is, I’m desperate to see her. All of this is stupid on multiple levels, not least of which is the fact that even if I knew for certain what she looked like I wouldn’t have the guts to talk to her anyway. That firmly in mind, I dig my butt into the ashtray behind the garbage can, walk up the steps, go inside and meander into the lecture hall some ten minutes early. Because, really, fuck this. I mean, I’m not going to find the courage to talk with her anyway.
After taking my seat, I suddenly realize only half of the class is here today. Only those with last names beginning with the letters ”A” through ”L” need attend today, as we were told last Thursday; the rest are to attend this Thursday. We’re taking a field trip on campus to look at plant life. The idea is, as Sasquatch tells us, that we walk to some grassy area on campus, toss a hula-hoop randomly, and wherever it lands we describe, on paper, the various forms of life within the hoop. I’m serious. This is a college course. This is how irreversibly idiotic this class is. If they gave us crayons to write with and had us break halfway through counting blades of grass for nap time, I wouldn’t be all that surprised.
From my chair in the back of the room, I continue to feed my lazy stalker instincts. As Sasquatch gives us the run-down from up front, my eyes scan the back of every female head before me, neck-gazing, looking for her. My eyes keep coming back to one, about the center of the room. Reddish-auburn hair tied back into an almost-ponytail, wearing one of those boxy ball caps; almost the dimensions of a policeman’s cap, but felt, not stiff, and colored army-green. Sexy neck. Relaxed, cool and confident posture, like she’s calmly holding in an atomic explosion worth of intensity. Self-contained, as if she needs no one and nothing, only wants. Wants and knows oh-so well how to get what she wants. And the vibe, even from this distance. No doubt about it, it’s got to be her.
After Sasquatch gives the word, we all shuffle out the door of the lecture hall, out the doors a few paces away from me, through the doors in the vestibule and out the doors right on into the outer world. As I push out the last door, I hold it open behind me and glance over my shoulder. It’s her. She’s wearing those big, seventies-style glasses. Down the steps to where I’d been sitting prior to class and onto the sidewalk below and she’s beside me. Window’s open. I can feel it. She notices me, it seems. Is it my imagination? It’s like she’s waiting for something, anticipating it, but perhaps I’m misreading it. Or misreading the direction. I mean, why the fuck would she be waiting for me in particular to say something to her? You think of all the guys in this class she could be interested in, why would she specifically be waiting for some creepy kid who had sat behind her last week, who she probably, in all rationality, didn’t notice, why would she be waiting for him — for me — to say something? She’s a fox and I’m dirt, I’m nothing. I’m a lonely, intense, withdrawn, fucked-up, going-nowhere almost-thirty-year-old with a total lack of self-confidence which may very well be justified. So I surmise this was just an unprecedented moment of arrogance talking.
Either way now is my chance to say something. Whenever I do say something in such situations, though, all I can come up with in the grips of my growing anxiety attack is either something off-the-wall weird or overly pessimistic. Something that makes it sound as if I’m trying a bit too hard to break the ice, maybe, which just happens to precisely be the case. I’m always so extreme, too intense, especially so in moments such as this. Better to stay quiet, to hold it all in reservation. Better to remain a nobody in her eyes than a somebody to avoid because she sees him as weird or, worse, a total jackass. So I fall behind, let her walk in front of me, figuring if I can’t help but look and take her in I may as well do it from a vantage point where she’ll be least likely to notice it and I’ll be least likely to make her feel uncomfortable about it. I note that she has that enticing hourglass-like figure, and that’s when I realize that she kind of reminds me of Anne. So it’s Anne who has become a yardstick for women once again.
I tell myself to shut up. To just shut the fuck up. Back to the matter at hand.
Usually, we’re cooped up in a classroom. She could sit anywhere; I could never have the chance to talk to her. This is the perfect opportunity and I’m screwing it up. Just fucking talk to her, Ben. Get to know her. Say something, anything. You’ve got nothing to lose and could gain anything, everything. Something would be more than you have.
The professors tell us to split up into groups of five, to follow them and the grad student in groups of twenty. I could go with her, but I don’t. I don’t move fast enough. Purposely. Conventional logic would dictate that if you admire a girl, want to get to know her, want to see her face, you maneuver in order to get into her group when you’re in a class that demands you split into groups during some retarded outside function. I intentionally do the opposite, however. I go with the group going in the absolute opposite direction. Reason is, of course, that I’m scared. Terrified, and so I distance. I always distance. Always fucking alienate myself. So she remains a girl without a face and me, a lazy stalker without a fucking spine.
Typical, really. Nothing new.
II. Smell of Roses.
Way back when, I never used to visualize — or have spontaneous visions, for that matter — of the sex act. I saw a pretty girl and felt that burning, aching need, but there was no imagery to go along with it, just a feeling. An intense inner yearning. A girl would elicit a raging, sensuously volatile internal psychic substance in me, but it would just be a bodily experience. That substance would not take form within my semi-private headspace in motion-picture format. Now, though, now the imagery blossoms in my headspace all too frequently, involuntarily, as some release valve when the pressure gets too high in my body before a sexy member of the female of the species. Now it’s so vivid in me sometimes I can almost taste it, almost touch her with my mind. I know I do this because I don’t have what it takes to get with and ”do” her. I know I’m sublimating. In my mind there plays this action-packed Kama Sutra sneak preview of what could be ”coming soon,” so-to-speak, but never will unless by my own hand because I don’t have the metaphorical balls to exercise the necessary skills to get to the handshake, let alone plot the course from the handshake to so much as a fuck, let alone something substantial and meaningful. What kills me most is that feeling I get sometimes, rarely, but sometimes around a particular girl. Where the visions in my mind, however intense, are fully recognized by me as being more than just cheap, more than just an insufficient substitute, but rather the high-ranking through-the-roof granddaddy of all shame. Where I feel certain that if I only had this girl, just for a night, just for a few hours, and just had the chance to let myself loose on her, damn it, I’d not only make it worth her while but all the shit, every lump in the sea of shit in my life would evaporate swiftly into sweetness, the smell of roses, that all in life would be perfect and beautiful, if only for an instant, if only in a moment in the midst of the perpetual flux of existence. And maybe if I said and didn’t just think so much. Maybe if I did, not merely imagined. Maybe, but alas.
III. Hegira via Illeism.
On a beach with her sister, collecting seashells, her parents off somewhere in the distance. I can see her in the inner eye’s wide lens. She holds a cell phone to her ear, talking to her boyfriend, telling him how much she misses him. How she will be back soon, on August eighth. How she’s going to bring him a photograph of the sunset out here, she says, because it’s so beautiful. She says to him how she wishes he could see it. He asks her to bring him back a tumbleweed if she can. And — get this — she didn’t think it was weird.
Next time she calls him, she’s crying. I can see her through the zoom lens. She tells him how her mother found out that she’s smoking pot and locked her out of the house. How she might be coming home early. He felt sorry for her and thought her mother cruel to be doing that to her own child, but had to hide the simultaneous excitement inherent in the prospect of her coming home early. Every passing second without her was utter agony and he didn’t understand it. He had never felt this way before. And he knew it was silly, he had no reason to doubt her, but he feared losing her. Feared she wouldn’t return. He couldn’t even believe that he had her when it all came down to it. He never thought there would be anything, and now she was everything.
Without her, he was nothing.
A stick figure with skin. A big head, a fat nose that served as a breeding ground for blackheads, a mustache that didn’t feel right to him without the goatee, which his job would not allow him to grow. He wore flannels and faded dilapidated jeans and hid his thick, dark brown hair beneath a black ball cap. He drank far too much coffee, smoked way too many Marlboro cigarettes. Thought too much. Felt too much. Said, did too little. He worked in the kitchen at McDonald’s in a nearby shit-towne. He was a boy on back line, or a BOB, as his girlfriend liked to put it.
His girlfriend. His. Girlfriend.
She was slender with shoulder-length red hair and eyes that changed color in accordance with her mood. Blue, gray, green. Those wonderful, intense mood eyes. Soft lips, soft skin. She had freckles and twitched involuntarily, and often violently when she was falling asleep. There was a tattoo of butterflies on her belly, a moon on her thigh, and a Celtic sun on the back of her neck. Her tongue was pierced. She smoked a lot of marijuana. Since as far back as she can remember, she has practiced what she has come to call candle magick. She rolled the candle in her hands, carved something into its surface, lit it and meditated on it until it burnt all the way down. To end someone’s pain. To bring someone joy. To bring something or someone to her. To extinguish a grudge or get over a heartache. Sometimes when she was angry she would write her feelings down on a piece of paper and burn it to banish the anger. And however it worked, it worked for her. She never learned it, not in this lifetime, not that she could remember. It was a natural part of who she was. It seemed to all be a reflex with her.
She knows how to utilize her pubococcygeus muscle and utilized it when he was inside her. Hugs from the inside. Her favorite flowers were daisies. She didn’t like giving blowjobs but had no gag reflex. She didn’t like the feeling when a guy went down on her. She grew up a Mormon, but had relinquished it and had an intense interest in religions in general. Intense. She was so intense, so mysterious. She was an insomniac and they often fucked themselves to sleep. She worked at Arby’s and McDonald’s for a while; now she just worked at McDonald’s. She worked mornings while her scuzzy, stupid, going-nowhere boyfriend worked evenings. She liked the bands Godsmack and 30 Seconds to Mars. Her parents lived in Barstow, California, the setting of many Tarantino films, and her father worked for the factory depicted in the movie Erin Brockovich.
She left behind two things at her boyfriend’s house, before leaving for California to visit her parents, just visit them, just for two weeks. It was only supposed to be two weeks. He had no photograph of her, not a single one. But she had given him a little ET figurine he kept on the dashboard of his car. He had a blue comb of hers. Aside from the people around him, so few, that remembered her and brought her up, he had no other evidence of her existence. For all he knew, she was a dream that might end, leaving him in a cold, hard reality made all the more cold and hard set against the background of that amazing, beautiful dream if she didn’t come back. So she had to come back. She would, would come back.
He walked around the basement of the house he lived at in Kent with two roommates whenever she called him from California. Right before she left, right after they had sex, she told him what he made her promise never to tell him. Three. Bad. Words. She called him at work one day and before getting off the phone he said those same words to her, those dangerous words he had vowed never to utter again. Three. Bad. Words.
Sometimes he felt responsible for how people he knew got along with one another. There were countless previous girlfriends he didn’t want to introduce to others, secretly, because he thought they might not like her, might not get along. With her, though, there was none of that. It evaporated. He wanted her to meet everybody. No one disliked her. She was an anomaly in so many ways. So perfect she couldn’t be real. The mind couldn’t even manufacture dreams this wondrous. That she existed was amazing enough, but she was with him. Him.
When he was nervous or tense, he bit his lips, licked them. They were always chapped and bleeding. When she came into his life, they became as smooth as his skin. He felt vibrant, healthy, alive. She was the antidote. And when she didn’t come back, the pain was physical. Without her, the antidote, his blood was poison. Life was a nightmare, devoid of meaning again. All the colder because of this cruel joke it had played on him. She was worried about her mother, sure. Her father, sure. She missed her family. It killed him when she didn’t come back. Her boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, that little bitch he was, he’d go on whining about it in his head for years. Reflecting on little snapshot in his memories, the only photos he had of her, locked in his cranium. The showers in the morning. The water they drank after the sex. When she was in pure agony on his bed, having her cramps during her time of the month, and he felt so sorry for her, so powerless to stop her pain, so deep in pain just watching her, feeling her. The way she’d stare down at him as she straddled him in bed, staring at him in the eyes. The candles she would position and light around the room. Their first night. Their last night. A dream. Slope into a nightmare.
The injustice. An indifferent universe.
That kid, that boy, he should just get the fuck over it.
IV. Lament for an Infant.
With a high-pitched, drawn-out fart noise the door opens, closes, opens again as fellow college students trickle in like urine out of an old man’s ding-a-ling — and then in comes this with girl with a stroller. There is no doubt that the annoying door has met its match. You couldn’t hope to miss the obvious displeasure in the wriggling infant she was wheeling around as — he, she; let us settle, for the sake of argument, on the neutral ”it” — shrieked and wailed with such deafening, agonizing intensity you half-expected it’s little developing baby cranium, unable to take it, would have exploded like a balloon filled to capacity with red Jell-O and dropped from a seven-story building onto the cold, hard concrete. The professor came in, doing an admirable job of screening out the obnoxious screaming as he took attendance and went on to his lecture. It seemed fewer of us were able to ignore the auditory equivalent of an elephant in the room as time went on, however, and in fact it took fifteen minutes into the class for someone in the back of the room to finally say to the prof, ”Yeah, uh, I can’t hear you with this baby crying.”
The professor here in Literature in English I, he’s an active old guy, always moving and really enthusiastic about the material it’s his job to convey to us. His glasses sit on the bridge of his nose and he leans down, head beneath shoulders, occasionally staring at a student in particular, and dead in the eyes as if addressing them specifically. He often ends a string of high-powered words with a “right,” sometimes under his breath, sometimes more loudly, but undoubtedly as a subconscious reflex. And either way, it’s his verbal equivalent of a period, less often a comma. He wastes no time jumping on the guy’s comment about the baby, having been waiting and silently preparing it the whole time, having no doubt been irritated with the noise since he walked in the class but reluctant to say something about it himself without prompting. As kindly as he could eh suggested that she maybe take the child from the class until it stops crying and with that she quietly, slowly, solemnly took her portable shitting, pissing, wriggling alarm system without an off switch out the door, held in a nurturing way to her breast.
Having lost his place, he backtracks a bit. The topic had been the reading assignments, The Wanderer and The Wife’s Lament. Pushing aside the religious references, I must say that much liked the content and style of The Wanderer, though Wife’s Lament struck me as little more than a whiny, melodramatic, archaic sort of diary entry. A ”woe is me” passage, if you will. Really, this poem could be the precursor to everything emo. After empathizing that these were two poems, not verse, even though they were rewritten when translated in verse form, he reflects on possible ways in which poems, in general, come into being.
He wastes no time offering the perspective that “god bestows them upon us,” hitting that ball of petrified bullshit, to put it in a graphic way, right off the bat. This was, of course, allegedly the case according to Bede in the case of Caedmon, the cowherd-turned-monk-through-revelation, who created (but not literally wrote, since he was illiterate) his famous Hymn, and this had been our first assignment for the class. In a way, and to a point, I found Caedmon’s story interesting. People would get together in a building, have a feast, pass around a harp to each other and sing songs. Caedmon would always attend these feasts but when he saw the harp would soon be passed on to him he made some excuse and left, for he wasn’t at all versed in the Anglo-Saxon art of song. On one such occasion, he had gone back to the cattle shed it was his duty to guard and went to sleep. There he had a dream that someone appeared at his bedside and urged him to sing about the creation, which, with some reluctance, he eventually managed to do. In the morning, he went to his boss and told him the story, and then brought before learned men, to whom he told his dream and recited his poetry. He was instructed to make more poetry and then take his monastic vows.
Still, I don’t know if it’s simply the material we’re reading that prompts it or some religious viewpoint he personally harbors — for a few reasons, though, I’m increasingly suspecting the latter — but he keeps referencing this Christian god thing and it’s making me wince. Making my teeth grind.
But in The Wanderer, he says, we come across another means by which poetry comes into being; what we might call existential despair, though these are not the words he used. More faithful to the way he put it would be to say that poetry is a product of man’s awareness of how fucking difficult life can be, as such hardship can often ”move” or inspire us (in the passive, impersonal Aristotelian Unmoved-Mover kind of way, it seems) to bleed it all out through pen and onto paper. He goes on to explain how the Wanderer’s condition is representative of what all of us eventually come to face — namely loneliness, isolation, pain, suffering, exile, some sense of homelessness. So one simple thing the poem does is to let us know that we’re not alone in this respect, no matter how much we might feel that this is the case when plagued with such a state of mind and being, as these emotions, thoughts, conditions are universal. Its our human heritage, if not the heritage of all forms of intelligent life in the cosmos.
Aside from merely addressing the issue in the poem’s content or message, however, the poem also provides potential answers to the question of what we might do about this type of human experience. First, it seems to recommend we not be ”too hasty of speech.” This suggestion no doubt derives from a particular code or custom referenced in the text that dictates that one not engage in self-revelation, that one not express ”woe is me” sentiments, at least not in a reactionary way. The poem states that ”no one can become wise until he has wintered into wisdom,” and this seems wedded to the concept that only through silent endurance can we truly ”winter” into such wisdom. One should learn to think clearly, that one should be patient, reflect over one’s experience and think over what one wishes to say, let one’s experience gestate, you might say, before one goes about expressing oneself. This silent endurance of life’s “winter” — life’s pain and loss — makes it necessary for us to ask questions. To gain not merely knowledge, but true insight and understanding. Once such a wanderer has once again found a home with a king and a kingdom, then, once that period is in retrospect, he can feel free to express himself to others.
To illustrate the idea of not being ”too hasty of speech,” the professor makes convenient use of the child that had been wailing in the classroom not all that long ago. He motioned towards the door, trying to display some sympathy for the wailing infant that had been delivered from us through it, saying that though it wasn’t the child’s fault, it was screaming because it was unhappy. It was scared because it was in a strange, foreign environment, and it obviously didn’t want to be here. We aren’t like that child, however. As we grow, we learn to hold that sort of thing in. To ”man up,” as my friend Moe often puts it. While we might be bored in this class, he said, not wanting to be here and waiting for this guy up front to shut up, we don’t express that in the here and now. And while he doesn’t say it, I think our instincts to shit, piss and fuck also apply here, as out in the wild, without any culture, as animals run on pure instinct, we’d exhaust the primitive desires in near-immediacy; within culture, however, we don’t just shit when we feel we have to shit, piss when we need to piss, or pin a girl to the wall and fuck the shit out of her when that incredible, mind-boggling sense of need strikes us as lightning. We hold our breath, in a way.
The poem not only makes commentary on it but also, in a way, exemplifies it. Whoever it was that wrote The Wanderer was using a strategy, a technique that kept this code in mind and delivered the contents in a way that remained faithful to it. It was also based on the awareness that how something is said is just as important as what is said; how we might make effective use of words. Or as I’ve always put it, the package and delivery of a message is just as important as its underlying content; something I could never seem to get through to my old friend, Grim, so many years ago. Specific to the poem, an acceptable form of self-revelation, with the code in mind, would be to pass on one’s experience as if someone else had lived it and expressed it. What the poet does is use passages, which are contained in quotations in the translation, which express the thoughts of the wanderer. Other passages, not in quotations, are of the narrator; the poet himself. This gives us the impression that the poet is not the wanderer himself, but sharing a message he had received from another; the truth may be that he was merely expressing his own voice through the character of the wanderer.
Some girl in the class comments how the Wife’s Lament doesn’t seem to abide by the rules expressed in The Wanderer, and that it does indeed sound like unreserved whining. Indeed, the narrator seems to boldly proclaim her right to whine in light of her circumstances. The girl said to the professor that she was thinking maybe it was that way because women are more emotional than men. He smiled nervously, nodding cautiously, saying, ‘”I’m glad you said it, because if I said it, that’d be an entirely different matter.” He was quick to add, however, that the wife in the poem explained how though her heart was aching she faces the world with a glad continence. She was able to transfer her weeping into poetry in order to maintain that; expressing her feelings and circumstances in words presented a way of dealing with that condition.
By expressing oneself immediately in words as a release valve in order to maintain our mask of strength in life, as in The Wife’s Lament, or by expressing oneself only after enduring the metaphorical winter, after reflection, after the birth of not just knowledge but true insight and understanding — either way we choose to sublimate our existential despair and it’s sweet and bitter fruits — perhaps we share this with others in time, perhaps in literature form. In so doing we add to the wisdom of those that came before us. At the same time, we can all experience the reservoir of experiences piled up by those that came before us vicariously, through such literature, by means of the empathy it elicits. Through their words, we can gain wisdom from specific experiences we never had personally. We can also, at the very least through the universal themes expressed therein, gain a sense of community.
Meditation has brought me to realize, yet again, the rampant, automatic nature of my monkey-mind; that my mental radio is locked on the rumination station. I have been paying extra attention this time, deliberately trying to increase those periods of self-awareness in which I adopt what, in the wonderful world of writing, is referred to as the third person perspective, and what in meditation specifically is referred to as observing, witnessing or witness consciousness. I have come to do this not only for the 21 minutes I sit following the breath every night but frequently during the workday as well, all in the attempts to identify and categorize the shit arising in my mental space.
I also came upon some notes recently which I made during my previous period of mindfulness meditation in which I noted some mental patterns that have thus far escaped my awareness this time around.
Let’s begin with my Radiohead Syndrome, which is to say the presence of this ongoing and frequently disappointing soundtrack to my life. Two or three weeks ago, I listed at least a short list of the songs that echoed in my head during a two-day period. On Sunday, I noted that I at first replayed Sleep Apnea by Chevelle, from their SciFi Crimes album, then the Twelve Days of Christmas, and finally Go With the Flow, by Queens of the Stone Age. The next day I catalogued the song, George of the Jungle, and then Letters from a Thief, another song from Chevelle’s aforementioned album.
Though I had been listening to Chevelle on Spotify through my phone as I cleaned dining room during the last hour of my shift, it wasn’t always the last song that I heard which got stuck on loop in my mind the next day. It could also be triggered by something I saw or heard. One day recently, for instance, I remember having seen a plush Winnie the Pooh doll on the shelf in the break room and as aware as I was, try as I might, I could not, for the life of me, get the Winnie the Pooh song out of my head for a good portion of my shift.
Imagining myself being interviewed (as an artist, writer, musician or for reasons unspecified) has for long been my default scenario for depicting inner dialogue. It seems I do this for self-reflecting purposes and self-analysis. It is significantly different when it comes to what I call my Narratives of Justification, however, where I imagine the dumbest scenarios, such as explaining to someone why I put things in particular places or positions on the shelves while doing stock, talking in a similar fashion to cops who I imagine pulling me over, to my landlady as to why rent is late, or talking to cops that end up at my apartment door because someone smelled me smoking weed.
Other spontaneous daydreams involve fictional scenarios in which I rescue or save people, as in during a hold up in the restaurant in which I work, or when a customer grabs a hold of the arm of a girl on front counter. In any case, I cast myself in the role of either defending people or calming them, sometimes both.
On other occasions I find myself taking an imaginary guilt trip, doing something that inadvertently harms or even kills someone else. I hit a dog, a child, or an adult with my car, as an easy example. If I am unharmed or crippled as well, they suffer greater damage, typically death.
Another form of catastrophizing I engage in is imagining my own death. I am only torn apart by the reactions of others — either their grief or the lack of effect my corporeal departure had on them — not in reference to my own state.
Consistently I have found myself looking back on the present moment from some imagined point in the future, viewing the present as past, the now as later. As one example I documented some time ago, I was sitting at my computer desk, putting on my shoes to go do some errands, running through what I was to do in my mind. I started damning myself for being too lazy to add getting quarters to do laundry to the list — as if I had already gone out, not gotten them, and came back despite the fact that I had yet to leave.
More frequent is my imaginary fighting or arguing — with my mother, my boss, old friends, the fucking prep lady. Even imaginary people in totally fictitious scenarios. I get pissed off about arguments I never even had and I notice it primes me, at times, to have such arguments in real life, or bitch about those people in the attempts to blow off steam and circumvent such confrontations. This is clearly a waste of energy and it just makes my life more miserable.
Then there are the flashback bitchslaps: sudden, intrusive memories of high emotional intensity. These are of events which I feel — perhaps at the time, but surely in retrospect — made me appear stupid, inauthentic or pretentious in others’ eyes. Or the episode may have dealt with me having hurt someone. This may have been done intentionally, albeit while in the grips of consuming rage, or I may have only realized I had unintentionally done so out of ignorance or insensitivity just after it occurred. Far worse, I may only come to realize, or in the very least suspect, that I unintentionally hurt them only in retrospect, when the flashback hits me. Instead, I may realize that I had plagiarized someone else, which makes me feel phony, or that it at least had likely seemed that way to the other person.
The flashbacks in question may have been of events that happened earlier in the day, but may also be incidents that transpired weeks, months, or even a shocking number of years ago. In any case, in toto these flashback bitchslaps deal with me doing or saying something that I fear inspires others to perceive me in a way I find unfavorable.
I immediately, automatically and aggressively try and swallow it down in my mind by beating myself up inside through guilt, shame, embarrassment and anxiety in tandem with automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) in the more traditionally-conceived sense of internal dialogue — “judgements” might be a good label for them. So far in my personal notes, my personal judgments include the following phrases:
I’m such a turd.
I’m such a fucking asshole.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
Why do you get like that?
At some point years ago I began engaging in “thought-stopping”: things you say in response to the negative thoughts, emotions, memories and fantasies that arise automatically in your mind. I often find myself saying it aloud, as if in an attempt to talk over the noise in my head as I cringe inside:
Who the fuck knows?
I don’t fucking know.
I don’t even care.
I don’t give a shit.
I don’t even understand.
Oh, shut the fuck up.
Fuck that shit.
As a consequence, thought-stoppers like those listed above have become automatic as well — which is unfortunate, as thought-stopping not only fails to work but exacerbates the issue, leading to what is known as thought rebound. Pushing thoughts away is no more effective than clinging into them. Where attention goes, energy flows, but also: what you resist, persists.