Nine Years Gone By.

9/7/08.

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.

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Anomalies Amidst Mindfulness Meditation.

8/19/17, 1:15 AM:

I sat in my chair and decided to set the alarm on my old iPhone for 21 minutes his time. For the past two or three weeks, since I picked up mindfulness meditation as a daily practice again, I had been doing 11 minutes a day, and the last few days 16. Along with cutting back on the drinking significantly, I found it simply made me feel better: more present, more focused, with more periods of equanimity. I feel I’m getting more out of sleep when I actually manage to get some shut-eye, too. Why I abandoned this for perhaps two years or so is beyond me.

I had been noticing the same weird stuff happening during meditation, and even outside of it, that I had the last time I’d routinely engaged in this practice. Though it has gotten better the past few days, I find that when trying to focus on my breath coming in and going out through my nostrils I would experience what I can only call localized, transient, fluctuating dysmorphia. This is to say that one nostril would seem large and close up to my face as the other would be barely noticeable, giving a lopsided kind of feeling. It would never be stable, however; the nostrils would seem to change in size independently and with varying speed, making it difficult to maintain a steady focus. Typically this happens near the beginning of the session, giving way to stability as I keep at it without fighting this illusion.

Another thing I noticed, and which had happened previously, is that as I meditated on the breath I would reach a point where I would suddenly and quite drastically become more aware, my mind became silent. At that exact moment I would feel and hear a sort of crunching sound in my head as I felt myself coming to entirely inhabit the area behind my forehead. It’s almost as if I’m feeling my brain shifting gears. Once seemingly inhabiting the area behind my forehead I would feel a pressure right above and between my eyes as well as within and around my nose, particularly around the nostrils, the area which I’d been focusing on. Since picking up meditation again, this has also been happening while driving, an activity that generally makes me anxious and during which I fight to keep focus, as I’m constantly phobic about something going awry.

Neither of these things — fluctuating nostril dysmorphia or the crunching sound and sensation within the head — are things I have heard happening to people under meditation.

On this particular early morning, however, after a few minutes of meditation, I found that I kept falling into a vivid, detailed dream state and then popping back out again. At first saw a carpeted floor by a door before quickly popping out of it, focusing back on my breath. Next time, I found myself in a similar environment, though I was now sitting on a chair. I bent down towards my feet and then crawled down onto the floor, looking for something. In the process I hit my forehead on the chair — and that was what snapped me out of it again. As my awareness returned to my body abruptly I could still feel the pressure and tingling sensation on my forehead, where I had hit myself in the dream.

When I slipped into the dream state again, this time I leaned down from the chair and picked up what turned out to be a small child, perhaps some rendition of my new nephew, who I then held for a brief moment before snapping back. Each time I came back to my body my awareness was more clear and crisp, and it was easier to focus on my breath, as my eyes seemed fixed behind my eyelids.

This act of popping in and out of vivid dream environments also happened sometime recently, either during my daily meditation sessions or when I listen to Michael Sealey’s YouTube video, “Guided Meditation for Detachment From Over-Thinking (Anxiety / OCD / Depression),” in bed before sleep. In any case, I would see these dream scenes play out at a distance, like from a third person perspective, and deliberately try to push myself into them so as to experience them from the first person, but I kept losing consciousness when I pushed in, only to regain it briefly before snapping back to third person perspective again.

The Timely Tale of an Anxious, Directionless Jackass.

I had been out of cannabis for a day or so when, on Saturday, I drove to the Circle K a short distance from my apartment, checked the ATM and was happy to find that my check had finally gone through. After withdrawing some cash I called a friend I work with in the hopes of buying some plant-life, but after some time without a response, I texted Elizabeth and Jonas. They in turn got a hold of one of their cannabis contacts and said they would have him meet me at the fast food joint where Elizabeth and I work.

After spending a good deal of time waiting there, the guy still hadn’t showed and I was growing annoyed. This was taking longer than I’d hoped for. Did I really have to hang out at my shameful place of employment on one of my days off? Damn this place to their mythological hell for being a convenient halfway point between home and that goddamn college town. I texted Elizabeth. Her and Jonas weren’t able to get a hold of him, either, so they offered to let me hang out at their apartment until they could. If not, they knew another guy. While not a bad idea on the surface, my directional dyslexia made this quite a challenge in my mind. Yes, I had been to her apartment before, but it had been some time and I evidently cannot retain driving directions. Elizabeth asked if I remembered where Gabes was and I felt fairly certain I did — after all, it was on the same road as work was, albeit in the aforementioned college town.

Off I went.

Off my rocker, too, of course. Predictably, I couldn’t find the damned place. As I drove up and down the road, I almost wished that this was a foreign experience, though it was all too nauseatingly familiar.

My sense of direction:
a spinning compass
on a vessel
in the very heart
of the Bermuda Triangle.

On my fourth time pulling around, I think, I finally saw the sign, clear as day at a considerable distance. After pulling into the lot, I saw her car immediately, even before she flashed her lights, and parked so that our driver-side windows met. Thinking back to the text I sent her regarding how I knew where the place was, the first thing I said to her was a statement of the pathetically obvious: “So I guess I don’t know where Gabes is.” In response, she politely smiled. Elizabeth knows me well enough to have expected this, or at least that this ridiculous scenario of me getting lost was well within the realm of possibility, so I do have some comfort in the fact that she wasn’t surprised. Still, it was frustrating, embarrassing. I was ashamed of myself and I felt sorry that she was empathic enough to deal with my limitless shortcomings.

I followed her back to her apartment, parked in visitor parking, and then hopped into her car, after which she drove us to a spot closer to her apartment complex. All the while I was juggling between conversation and my self-loathing thoughts, already frustrated not only with myself but how the day was going in general. I just wanted to hide in my apartment until I had to work tomorrow and all I wanted was some pot to help me relax, maybe get some restful sleep, and shit just kept getting more drawn out and complicated. Now I was coming down slowly from my mild anxiety attack on the road.

Upstairs, I watched Jonas has he played some video game, shooting it out from the first person perspective in some battle on the television screen. I’m always kind of a lost voyeur when people play video games when I’m around — which isn’t an entirely bad thing all-around. Sometimes I’m awed by the graphics or by their proficiency in the game despite my entire lack of interest in the game itself. Personally, though? Full disclosure, I stopped following and playing video games back when Atari 2600 was top of the line, so I wasn’t about to ask if I could join him. It’s just not a desire. But watching him play — and watching him play that game in particular — made me wonder how I could ever make it out of such a battle alive, simulated or otherwise. If doomsday is ever upon us, I’m fucked. If my past life memories are true, it simply boggles my mind: how the bloody fuck could I have fought in a war, be it in an earthly jungle or an alien desert?

Absurdities atop absurdities.

We seemed to wait forever till the pot peddler finally got back to them. As it made little sense for me to follow or even accompany them, they left me behind to chain-smoke and watch Family Guy episodes only to return a short time later with a baggie for them and a baggie for me.

They said that the cops were everywhere; they’d passed at least two cars that had been pulled over. I worried about my taillight, which some random guy in my apartment complex told me was out and which I had yet to fix. I worried about getting lost on the way back to familiar territory. More importantly, perhaps, I worried about having this psychoactive bud-in-a-bag, which I could smell through the plastic at a good distance. And it smelled fucking great, but that was entirely beside the point. Elizabeth suggested I take her bag of Jolly Ranchers, bury the green sunshine beneath the candy, twist it like a motherfucker and fasten it with a hair tie. Or she told me that to some degree, anyway, for that is exactly what I did. I decided that once I got to the car I’d just toss it in my trunk for safety.

I didn’t want to stay much longer. I was tired from lack of sleep and from freaking out on the road, but I felt it would be rude to just grab the bag and go, so I announced that I’d have one more cigarette before taking off. In the midst of my smoke Jonas kindly asked if I wanted to toke a bit of herbal remedy before my launch, but I thought it would be ill-advised. When he then offered me one hit off their relatively new bong, I hemmed and hawed, however, but before I had consciously decided either way I found bong and lighter in hand and this growing gurgling filling my ears.

For some time I’ve been aware that I have an issue with taking monstrous hits in general — even off my cigarettes — and to make matters worse I honestly don’t remember the last time I took a hit off a bong. Or a hit that big. I coughed, it seemed, for a solid minute, during which time Jonas told me my face was the color of the red flannel I was wearing. He thought I might puke. For a moment I did as well.

Before I was even done choking I knew that I was high as fuckity-fuck and that this had been a poor decision on my part. Instantly I was reminded of a Louis CK bit in which he explained how he smoked some pot with some kids after a show. When he realized how high he was and that he had to drive back to his hotel, he was struck with a dismal revelation.

“Oh. Shit,” he thought. “This is an ordeal now.”

To be honest, his bit as a whole was fitting as fuck. I was embarrassed, tortured by shame that I was so helplessly, hopelessly stoned after a single, solitary hit. Had I been home and alone this would have been relaxing, but: I was not, and this sure as hell was not.

I was fucked.

Elizabeth offered some Doritos, which at first sounded great — not only were they tasty, they would help me sober up — but after grabbing the bag she passed to me and shoveling two of its contents between my lips, any remaining moisture in my mouth was simply gone. I was cradling a lump of sand behind my teeth. Sipping from the cup of coffee I had gotten from work, java which had long since grown cold, utterly failed to remedy the dry mouth, but I could finally swallow the flavorful sand, in the very least. I only hoped the caffeine wouldn’t exacerbate my anxiety.

I focused on belly breathing, trying to relax and focus. My cigarette, long since out. Watching Family Guy as Jonas played on his phone, I felt like I was overstaying my welcome now. I was beginning to feel awkward. Belly breathe, I told myself. Relax. From the book of Dream With the Fishes, fuck the Water-Rat. Be the Buddha Rat. Summon sobriety. Conjure confidence. Go the distance.

Go home.

“All right,” I said aloud, though in retrospect it seemed as though I was telling myself more than them, “I think I’m going to try and drive home.”

If I was a religious person, this is where I would start praying, but I denied myself the comfort of that illusion a long time ago.

Jonas put his number in my phone. After I promised to call him if I got lost and text him after safely arriving home, I exited the door. As I began walking, I told myself that it wasn’t too late to turn around, knock on their door and confess to somehow still being so stoned off a solo hit from their bong that I could hardly think straight, much less drive.

Hopeless. Powerless. Confused as fuck.

And: I’m ba-ack.

There was no way I was doing that to them unless I absolutely had to.

In the midst of thinking this I realized that I was already walking down the hallway in a probability-wave-collapsing direction. Even if I turned around I wouldn’t know the right apartment door — I wouldn’t know it if I walked my stupid cranium right smack into it. So I kept walking. Kept pushing through. One foot in front of the other. There was this vague sense that I might have turned out of their door and down the hall in the wrong direction, but I heard someone walking behind me and I was too nervous to turn around and seem foolish in the eyes of a stranger or, for all I knew, an officer of the law. So I kept walking.

“Are you going through hell? Keep going…”

If I found an exit at the opposite end of the building that only meant that I would have to walk all the way around the building. No big deal. No problem. I’ve done this countless times at malls, at Walmart. It might take a shamefully long time, but I would find my car. I could not be so dumb and blind as to pass by it.

All would be well. No worries.

Lost in thought, it comes to my attention as I’m walking down my umpteenth flight of stairs that I had taken the elevators up to their apartment. This suggested that I must be heading towards an exit at the other end of the building. I may have turned around after hitting the bottom floor, but I am fairly certain that I ended up exiting the doors Elizabeth and I had entered. In the end, to be honest, it made no difference.

Outside, it was dark. For what seemed like forty-five minutes I walked around that building over and over, fixed in my frantic orbit, determined but increasingly clearly unable to locate my car. On countless occasions I became convinced the search was over only to find, a foot from the car in question, that it was not my own after all. At least twice it was the same car that I had mistaken for my own.

This could go on forever.

Embarrassed, I felt sure that the college kids were watching from their dorm windows, transfixed on this creepy, 38-year-old guy with a handlebar mustache circling their apartment complex endlessly, clearly on drugs, holding his car keys, cup of cold coffee and his cannabis coffin, a bag of jolly ranchers, as he stared anxiously at all the parked cars. I feared this was the kind of suspicious activity that was likely to attract the cops, which didn’t help my confused and hopelessly paranoid state of mind.

Around and ’round and ’round: I was getting dizzy and angry.

Finally it hits me. I suddenly see it for what it is. There is another parking lot. It is right beside the parking lot around the apartment complex — the one which I have been revolving for a seeming eternity. It is a lone, large compartmentalized sector off this main lot, connected by a branching road to this lot and the exit, and so presumably used for this building, too. Which is to say: it suddenly hits me that this might just be the visitor parking area. I mean, it made sense that I would have parked here, in an area removed from the building itself, given that I am a visitor.

Hopeful, I walked down to it and almost immediately saw my car — or what I mindlessly presumed to be my car. “That’s not it,” I said aloud in frustration, ready to freak out. I then spun around. “But that is!”

This time, it actually was my car, and I was relieved — though irritation was still the predominant emotion. Wasting no time, I opened the door, stuck the Jolly Rancher bag behind the front passenger seat (I was too eager to get home and paranoid that I was being watched to even take the time to pop my trunk, much less bury the fruity weed coffin in there) and almost left my cup of cold coffee on top of the fucking car. While I still had light, I took a look at the directions I wrote on my cigarette pack:

Left out of parking lot.
Right at the light until you make it home.

I rolled down both my driver and passenger windows. It would not only air out the car but help me sober up as I drove, for even after all that walking around, I still felt stoned out of my stupid, hypersensitive mind. This was rather bothersome, as I had to go through the heart of the college town and then pass through the degenerate town I work in so as to reach the long, dark stretch of road that would bring me to my safe, comfy, warm fucking apartment. As I drove totally stoned I worried that I was weaving. That I was hugging the yellow line. Or the white line. That there was no possible way that I was not going to get pulled over.

And then I saw it. Those flashing red and blue lights reflecting off my dash.

Fuck. Fuckity fuckballs.

In that moment I knew it was all over. I was going to jail. They would pull me over, have me step out of the car. They would surely smell the weed on me, see it in the bursting read veins surely bursting like cracks in the desert in my eyes. Suspicious, they would search my car. They would find the bag of Jolly Ranchers in which my bag of sunshine was gestating. But no. No, it was actually a cop car somewhere far behind me who had pulled someone else over.

Keep driving. Stay the limit. Relax as you focus, focus.

I finally made it out of the college town, passed the fast food joint I basically lived in, and forward, through the five-way intersection and into the darkness beyond. Shortly thereafter I noted the quality of my vision and the third-person sense of perspective. The vision itself seemed to be of a widescreen, high-definition quality that made me think of my memories of the alien, desert world for the second time in a single evening. In the midst of this, eager to get home, I attempted to measure how much longer it might be until I got there and reasoned that I had driven halfway home from the starting point of the five-way intersection.

Then? Then I saw the stop sign in the distance. This stop sign is a very short distance, certainly less than a minute, passed the aforementioned five-way. Though the air was taken out of me with respect to how much farther I had to travel until approaching my lair of leisure, I was nonetheless amazed at how warped my time perception had become. At the sight of that stop sign I knew damned well that this meant that I still had a twenty minute journey ahead of me, however, and there were certainly fears that, at least in an experiential sense, this journey might very well take forever.

Once home, try as I might, I still didn’t relax. Even so, I kept my promise. I texted Jonas:

The Eagle has landed.

I kindly omitted the fact that the bald, featherbrained motherfucker had not landed so gracefully.

Crazy.

Sometimes I think I’m crazy. Sometimes I know I’m not.

— Stone Sour.

Always and forever, that question rears its ugly head once again, popping back up like some dreaded, stubborn Cheerio of Doom in the cereal bowl of my life: am I crazy?

I mean, I’m plagued with anxiety, experience periods of depression and bouts of blinding rage: does that alone make me crazy? Or is it the whole alien thing coupled with the seemingly paranormal phenomena that makes me so damned qualified?

Probably the alien thing, right?

Its rather stupid, too, I must admit, as I’m treating the “crazy” label as if it in itself might be an answer, but what does it explain, really? What the bloody fuck does it even mean?

Nothing.

It’s just a dismissive word. Calling someone crazy is a thought-stopper, not unlike saying “god did it.” It’s an easy out because you don’t have to question their motivations, their influences, the inner workings of their mind and heart. You need not understand a single thing. Crazy means empathy is unnecessary, even dangerous.

If my unusual experiences are little more than a mesh of waking dreams and hallucinations supported by delusions, that still leaves a lot open to question. For me, anyway. I know I’m not consciously and deliberately imagining these things and yet the experiences can be so sensory-rich, lifelike, structured — and totally governed by subliminal, autonomous processes. My battles against them are battles against some aspect if myself, but that makes it no less of a battle, makes them no more under my control.

And if I am crazy, does that mean the people I have met throughout my life who have had similar experiences — who have seen aliens, experienced paranormal phenomena for themselves — are also crazy? It would stand to reason. So I am not merely judging and dismissing myself but many of those who are dearest to me.

I may not be crazy, then, but calling myself crazy might make me a dick.

Memory In Absentia.

Its evening when I finally decide to leap out of bed. After watching some videos on the net and reading an article or two, I make some coffee and finally get my ass in gear. I leave first for the grocery store just down the street before they close to buy some body wash and a bag of burritos. When I bring my stuff up the register, the old lady there greets me, scans it and tells me what I owe. In response, I slide my card and press Debit. It asks for my four-digit code.

Terror fills me. I just freeze. My mind goes blank. Try as I might, the information is — poof! — just fucking gone.

After less than a minute, I give up and press Cancel. She hears the machine make a weird noise and directs all attention to it. I nervously explain to the cashier I meant to press Credit instead and she brushes it off like its no big deal, but I feel like I’ve yet again made a total jackass out of myself. On the way to the car, on the drive towards Circle K, on the drive back home I’m constantly trying to conjure it. What are those four numbers? What are they? Where are they? By the time I make it to my apartment door, I’m fairly certain I remember, but that does little to diffuse my concern and curiosity.

After all, this has happened before. Many times over the years, in fact. Not always with numbers, either, but the names of people I know damn well just up an vanish into the goddamn ether. The information always returns, though typically long after I needed it. This has always led me to questioning why that information disappears. Back when I was younger, I just ignored it, depending upon some idiot idea I cradled that if you ignore it, it will just go away. Since I have come to fight against that inclination to go ostrich and stick my head in the ground, however, it has increasingly come to plague me. Is this a symptom of anxiety, or a dissociative disorder, or does this shit happen to everyone and its just that no one talks about it?

I fear its just one more suggestion that I’m bat-shit insane.

Diagnosing the Alien Lab Monkey.

In her 1999 book The Stranger in the Mirror: Dissociation — The Hidden Epidemic, Marlene Steinberg, MD
notes that “[a]bductees have the same dissociative symptoms as the trauma survivors I see in my psychiatric practice.” From this she extrapolates that alien abduction experiences must be screen memories for sexual or physical abuse. 

Similarly, according a February 17, 2003 article in New Scientist entitled, “Memories of alien ‘abduction’ cause physical effects,” by Shaoni Bhattacharya, a Harvard University discovered that the ten abductees they studied suffered from physiological effects consistent with PTSD. 

They could be distinguished by those with “genuine” traumatic experiences by means of asking the question, “Do you wish this had never happened?” The abductees responded in the negative, asserting that despite the pain they felt that the experience was somehow beneficial to them spiritually.

I have been able to find only one study so far that examines the psychology of alleged alien abductees without the presumption that the experience is imaginary, hallucinatory, or due to false memories.

In 1983, Dr. Elizabeth Slater conducted a blind study of nine abductees (5 male, 4 female) which she published in “The Final Report on the Psychological Testing of UFO ‘Abductees.’” The nine were subject to a psychometric evaluation using psychological projection tests and the Wechler Adult Intelligence Scale for the purposes of ascertaining “similarities and differences in personality structure, as well as psychological strengths and weaknesses”. While she found them all to be diverse in character, they nonetheless shared certain underlying commonalities. Aside from an above average intelligence, they had “a certain richness of inner life that can operate favorably in terms of creativity or disadvantageously to the extent that it can be overwhelming” and a “relative weakness in the sense of identity, especially sexual identity”.  

They also have a sense of vulnerability, a heightened sensitivity in the realm of intimacy and are generally wary of involving themselves in interpersonal relationships. “Such modest elevations mean that we are not dealing with blatant paranoid symptomology,” she writes, “but rather over-sensitivity, defensiveness and fear of criticism and susceptibility to feeling pressured.”

Importantly, methinks, Slater and the other examiners were kept in the dark regarding the fact that all nine subjects recalled alien abduction experiences. After Slater was informed that these subjects were alleged alien abductees, she wrote an addendum to the report in which she states: “The first and most critical question is whether our subjects’ reported experiences could be accounted for strictly on the basis of psychopathy, i.e., mental disorder. The answer is a firm no.” She added that “while testing can do nothing to prove the veracity of the UFO abduction reports, one can conclude that the test findings are not inconsistent with the possibility that reported UFO abductions have, in fact, occurred. In other words, there is no apparent psychological explanation for their reports.”

In his article, “A Brief Review of Issues Relating to the Reality of the Abduction Phenomenon,” John Mack concludes: “It is true that abduction experiencers do show some of the symptoms associated with post-traumatic states, but these symptoms appear to be the result, not the cause, of what the experiencers have undergone.”

When we exhibit behavior such as that described by abductees of their captors — when we abduct animals from their native environment, examine them and involve them in experiments only to later return them to their native environment — we are conducting what is known as a longitudinal study or survey. In the human execution of such studies, we are often charting the natural development of individuals within a species. Sometimes we do this in order to study how individual animals change over time. Other forms of a longitudinal study can deal with studying the long-term consequences of certain changes we made in an organism. We do this by “catching” the same animals out of their native environment throughout their lives and examining them locally, in the controlled environment of our laboratories, only to “release” them again. We also subject them to remote surveillance through the tags or remote monitoring devices we have implanted in their bodies. While most of these studies have thus far been of a single generation of selected individuals, there are also intergenerational studies, and these are what resonates with the abduction phenomenon.

Given that the abduction experience suggests a higher intelligence using us as we use life forms on our own planet, perhaps we should look at the effects of experimentation on them.

In her April 2, 2013 article in Scientific American, “Psychiatry Tries to Aid Traumatized Chimps in Captivity,” Kelly Servick does just that. She introduces us to Martin Brüne, a psychiatrist at the University Hospital in Bochum, Germany, who is interested in the similarities between the minds of humans and their ancestors, chimpanzees. This interest only grew when an Austrian primatologist had him study a group of retired lab chimps. After the projects of which they were originally a part, many animals are recycled, reused in other research projects — much like was depicted in the 1987 film, Project X — and are later retired to sanctuaries. Here, Brüne found the chimps to exhibit recognizable symptoms of depression, aggression, self-mutilation, anxiety and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Might it be that the alien encounters are real and the abduction experience is traumatic in its own right — that the sense of anxiety, alienation, paranoia, lack of trust among them make sense in this context? Could dissociation serve as a defense mechanism against the stress of repeated abductions?

Break Down, Crack Up, Cave In, Freak Out and Die.

Anxiety creeps in again, lounges at me, possessing me, clawing and punching away at my insides ruthlessly, without mercy. Chaos reigns within and around me. I feel like I’m on overload, trying not to break down, crack up, cave in, freak
out and die. Its like I’m holding my breath or trying to contain what promises to be a violent, explosive shit.

Trembling. Dry mouth. Cold sweat and hot fucking flashes again. My soul feels like a fist. Emotions and sensations have such volume, build to such noise, that I become deafened to my own thoughts.

For clarity, I must speak aloud. I cannot quite hear myself think. My mind feels jumbled, lost at sea, and then someone wants to talk to me, and the next person, and the next, one after the other or at once. I feel like I should say something even though I don’t know what to say and I force it to fill the silence, trying to be funny or at least be engaged with the conversation with the person but I only come across like I’m trying to sound far smarter than I really am, and often what I say is entirely nonsensical. Then I feel like a fake. Like a total idiot.

Hang me from the gallows. Burn me at the stake. Stone me in the bad way. Excommunicate me.

Another Prison System.

“Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule.”
— Nietzsche.

No more refills, so the time is here. I should call on Monday to make another appointment, to continue this guided pharmaceutical alchemy. Buspirone, 15 Mg, twice a day. Fluoxetine, 40 Mg, once a day — though yes, yes, I should have taken her suggestion months and months ago when I last saw her and taken the increase to 60 Mg. It has taken such a downturn since then.

Or am I being too dramatic? In any case, have I become entirely reliant on the hopes of medication, of drug use?

Psychological medication is just our most current popular attempt to forcibly adapt our bodies and brains to the artificial culture we have collectively created. Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, OCD — everyone has a mental aberration, psychological dysfunction or emotional imbalance. Why have we all evidently gone crazy?

Maybe we haven’t.

This may be a symptom of our declining culture, of an impending societal collapse. The way I have come to see it, its a lot like when there are a growing number of citizens filling up the prison system in a culture: it is the culture that is failing, say cultural anthropologists, more than the people foolishly wed to it.

This is the way a way of life travels when it is headed for extinction.

When more and more fail to fit a culture’s psychological ideal, perhaps the truth is that the ideal, the culture, is the real fucking problem. The occupants, molded by their society since birth, born into cultural contract, are little more than prisoners.

Driving Through the Rain.

(Letter to the Self,
on 9/12/15.)

How did you like today? Just waking up like you did, deciding to go out and run errands — and doing it despite the fact that it was pouring down rain from the time you left to the time you came back?

Typically you’re too paranoid to drive around and do things, of course. And you hate driving in the rain.

Even so, you failed to realize how well you dealt with it until you got back to your apartment. Amazement in retrospect. You didn’t freak out, not once. It was all natural. You weren’t in a cold sweat, shaking and so on. You were still kind of nervous when around people and in dealing with them, sure, but nothing like usual.

The change today was rather dramatic. Unprecedented.

This, this should happen more often. This is something you should nurture, help to grow. Relinquish your old ways of dealing with yourself for awhile, try and embrace this mode of being.

Cease the wretched self-loathing.

Look at it this way: for years you have beat yourself up and talked down to yourself inside, and often enough aloud as well. Circumstances have not improved. This is not helping things, that is clear. How about we try a little tweaking? Like this: ease the fuck up on yourself.

This is what you did without trying today.

Its bad enough fucking up, why drag out the pain through needless reinforcement? Quit tonguing sore teeth, man. Try again, try another way, give the fuck up, but this rumination, this negative thinking, is utterly useless. This obsessive concern with how you make people feel or how they feel towards you or just how they feel has got to stop.

I’m not saying obliterate your empathy — I’m saying quit letting it paralyze you. Quit being its puppet. It’s not helping you or anyone else and you must come to terms with that fact. Change will then come naturally.

Lubrication for the Spinning Cycles.

When I drink alcohol, when I take a hit of weed, I put up with momentary discomfort for later, longer-term gain.

Still, the nature of the two certainly differ.

With alcohol, it may taste horrible going down and (given you achieve reckless consumption) absolutely horrible coming back up or in the very least give you a sluggish sort of headachy hangover, but during that in-betwixt state, man, you’re going to be feeling rockin’, you know?

Still, either end of that sucks. Poison in, chunks out.

Or, in the case of weed, it tastes good coming in but makes you cough as it barrels back out of your mouth a few seconds later as a plume of smoke. Shortly thereafter you just feel rockin’, so you jerk off to get your rocks off and have incredible results. To celebrate, you take an endorphin-infused, post-masturbatory nap.

You wake up in a hangover called comfortably numb and hungry, wash your hands, get something to eat — which, whatever it is, tastes delicious — and watch a bit of a movie, take your Prosac and Buspar and commit, at long last, to perhaps a few hours of dead-to-the-world sleep.

You sleep. Sleep safe and sound like a dead baby log. Then you need to wake up to get ready for work: a zombie rising from his plaid-skinned grave, in a state conducive to his fear-elected undead vocation.

Still always and forever Back to Start it seems, yes — but lived up at every end in the very least, put to bed with a redeeming climax every single, solitary time around.

Nightly burnouts to ensure a cloud of comfy at dawn. Lubrication for the spinning cycles. That was all this was.

Be it with booze or green, you are just oiling up for eternity.