No Reason.

(2008)

I. Squaring the Isosceles.

Eva had come out her seemingly self-imposed exile. She used to turn off her phone and disappear without word for days, weeks on end, and nobody could get a hold of her, nobody could find her. She kept her distance. And then suddenly she began going the other way. Eva seemed to have opened up, blossomed in a way, and very quickly — and it occurred around the time I heard of Abbey and Zeke’s break-up.

Zeke had departed, leaving an empty space beside Abbey, and Eva seemed to rush in to fill the silhouette. To feed the gaping, hungry void. You could feel the connection she was forging with Abbey. I’d sit in the back seat of Abbey’s car and watch the two of them up front, just talking, and sense the bizarre intensity of the rapport. And it was from both ends, yes, but it was more, I don’t know, naked and confident from Eva’s end, far more unhinged and certain, far more passionate and unambiguous in general.

I don’t mean to imply I was tapping all this through psychic intuition, of course. It could be in the tone of voice, in the body language that the nature of the matter here was conveyed. It could have been in the many ways one can pick up signals that inspire that feeling of certainty about something without entirely knowing why.

There were others in our circle who had said Eva seemed to have more than a friendly attraction to Abbey, but it was taken more along the lines of a joke; I, on the other hand, felt it to be serious, though I denied it when it was brought up, at least at the beginning. Still, I felt certain.

Abbey was horny. I was horny. There is, at least on the surface, a simple and obvious solution to our resonating predicaments here. Eva seemed very territorial around Abbey, very aggressive to me when I was around, and I couldn’t help but feel that it was because she knew that Abbey and I wanted to have sex and she felt her newfound place by Abbey’s side in the wake of Zeke’s departure might be threatened by me.

If I was right and Eva just told me, if I knew for certain I wasn’t crazy, then I wouldn’t do it. Of course, part of me thinks its senseless for Eva to tell me she doesn’t want me to — after all, if she won’t make a move on Abbey and Abbey won’t make a move on her and Eva has denied it to others and Abbey has denied her attraction to Eva to a large degree even to herself, then why not? What is it about Abbey and I getting it on that would be threatening to Eva? We would just be two friends doing each other a favor. Two friends having sex. We would not be in a relationship.

Anyway, regardless as to whether or not Abbey and I were dating or just having sex, wouldn’t Eva rather Abbey be with me rather than with some presently unknown guy or — which would be worse, I think all who know him would agree — that she get back with Zeke, her negligent asshole of an ex-boyfriend out of her intense desire for some intimate, if only transient, human contact? And doesn’t Eva think that this sort of thing is going to happen eventually, one way or the other?

II. No Reason.

About half passed nine I’m in the dining room, cleaning the tables at work. I check my cell phone and notice a text from Eva from about twenty passed nine, in which she asks, “What are you doing?” I text back that I’m about to clean the restrooms. The question seemed rather out of nowhere and I had the feeling something might be behind it, so I also asked her why she wanted to know. At about fifty passed nine she texts back, “No reason.” I don’t believe her, so I text back, “There’s always a reason.” Quickly, she texts back a simple, “No.”

And Eva’s, “No,” sounded loud and bitter. It reverberated. It was a lot like when someone snaps at you; someone you have never heard snap at you before, never thought could possibly snap at you, and the shock is compounded by its seeming lack of any conceivable justification. Even if this person had snapped at you, in other words, you can think of no reason why they would at this exact moment.

It took me entirely off guard. I didn’t respond for the rest of night and there were no further texts from her. Still, even right after I got the text, I just felt confused and dismissed it as my imagination. As me merely projecting again. As strong as I felt the anger in her voice, the power behind that, “No,” of Eva’s, there was no real reason to think she might be mad at me. My mind couldn’t cook up a reasonable scenario. I coughed it up to misinterpretation, as a momentary paranoia. I let it go and went on about my work.

Then, out of nowhere, something incredibly unprecedented and absolutely terrifying began to occur within me. I began to feel hatred towards me. It felt as though people I really fucking cared about hated me at an inconceivable depth; as if I’ve done something horrible. There was this dread, this need to fix something, to say the right thing or explain or help or something. Finally, in my mind, in some vague, transparent kind of daydream, I saw or got a sense of Abbey and Eva talking and had the weird notion in my mind that they had both determined something about me; that they had teamed up, bonded in some joint agreement with respect to something that was bad about me. I definitely got the feeling I was being talked about, and that what was being said would hurt me if I could actually hear the words. It felt like a joint thing, however, between Eva and Abbey; like you might talk ill about someone behind their back but would never have the indecency to be so candid about it to their face.

Then I felt a deep, writhing agony, almost like fear, like abandonment, and I had the silly notion all of this came from Eva, and it was this collage of negative emotions that slowly grew within me throughout the night. I couldn’t shake the certain feeling though that these were absolutely not my emotions. They were coming from somewhere outside of me. It was like there was a wall between me and her and suddenly it cracked and out dribbled some emotions towards me. The pressure on the other side of the wall built, the crack grew, branched, there was more dribbling, now spouts of water. Steadily this proceeded. By the time I was in my car and driving home I was unable to contain it.

The dam fucking broke and it was proceeding on what seemed to be its course towards breaking me. I felt cold, I was shaking, it was a full-body emotion. At this point it was so intense I could not possibly choke it down or ignore it or push it to the side. It was everywhere. It was filling me up, bloating me, radiating off my skin. I started screaming in my car, asking what the fuck was wrong with me. I knew and could not ignore the knowledge that there was absolutely, positively no rational reason whatsoever for me feeling like this at all, let alone to such an intensity that it felt worse than death.

The only comparable experiences I was able to come up with — and I should say that I came to realize this later, in retrospect — were my break-ups with Anne and Kate. Worst of all — perhaps merely because she broke up with me, rather than vice versa — was the break-up with Kate over the phone when she had called me from what turned out to be her permanent vacation to see her parents in California. The feeling in the car was not as bad, of this I am sure, but the feeling that night was far, far removed from my normal range of emotional pain. But this was the closest I had felt to it. And add into that the fact that I felt certain these were not my emotions and the terrified reaction to this fact, to the fear of what this emotion might do to me or how long it might linger or how much greater it might grow. The terror inherent in not having any level of control here or even any means of anticipating its course as it was, as I said, not my rush of emotions.

It all coalesced into alarm, horrific alarm, and I got home and sat in front of my computer and just tried to relax in the familiar environment. My safe haven. I stared at the phone. I wanted, needed to call Eva or Abbey. Or both. What could I say? If I was wrong, I’d sound insane and feel insane, which would most certainly not be a glorifying addition to how I presently felt. And even if I was right, they may not admit to it, which would not be much better, because I’d have no sound reason to think they were lying and would be forced, through the eye of reason, to label myself batty as fucking hell.

How the fuck does one ask the question I wanted to ask, anyway? “Hey, was there maybe some shit-talking, after which Eva decided she fucking hated me and wished I’d die a miserable death and feel all the pain she felt for whatever horrible thing she had decided I’d done to her? Why? Oh, no reason. No reason.”

So I just sat there at my computer desk, in my chair, staring at the bottom of my computer for awhile. A few minutes, maybe, I was just zoning, trying to cease freaking out, waiting for the foreign emotional mass within me to quell and depart, to have some mercy. Then I reached out and plugged in my cell phone so it would charge. The moment I did that, it rang.

It was Abbey. I picked up.

“Hey,” I said, unable to conceal the terror in my voice and my simultaneous and blatantly contradictory relief, pure ecstasy over the fact that she had called me. I somehow managed to tell her that I was freaking out for some reason, that it felt worse than death, that it had come out of nowhere. She told me to try to calm down. She asked me when it started to happen. Confused, hopeful, I told her about nine-thirty. I added in that Eva had texted me around the time it started, but I didn’t see how it could have anything to do with it. She had asked me an odd question, asked me where I was, asserted there was no reason she asked, but nothing in that conversation could possibly produce this. There was just no way.

Eva was already in her mind when she had asked me when all this had started, however; she checked her cell phone and informed me that this was exactly around the same time she had been talking with Eva and had told her that her and I might be having sex. Eva, apparently, was quite against the idea, as Abbey implied.

I didn’t ask for elaboration. A part of me felt I really didn’t need it.

All Abbey said was that it was strange timing, considering. I asked her if she would call her to see if she was all right. I would, but I wouldn’t know what to say and, well, it might not help matters. Might make them worse. “I don’t know why you’d be so sensitive towards Eva,” she said.

I said I’d try and call her, so I hung up the phone and did so. Eva didn’t answer the phone, so I left a message — a stupid, insane, and thankfully vague message — and called Abbey back. She was sincerely worried about me and, I think, a little curious about the whole thing, too, and so tried to call her for me. Curiously enough, she managed to get through. I texted her, asking if she was okay, if I was insane. Abbey texts back, while apparently on the phone with Eva, “You’re grade-A bonkers.”

I thought this would be good news, but I texted back to her something along the lines of, “That does it. I’m getting on medication.” And at the time, I really meant it. If something this intense was nothing, I honestly was insane, and I really did need professional help. I certainly did not want this happening, unprovoked, tearing me up inside whenever it wished.

After I calmed down a bit, I decided there were two options. That either I’m insane or this is something weirder. And if its something weirder, then Eva really ought to be honest with me, because I’d back off in a fucking second if she gave me validation of what I’ve felt from her towards Abbey. I don’t want to hurt anyone. Make anyone feel the way I’m feeling now. Least of all Eva.

Then Eva suddenly calls, but for some reason I think its Abbey when I pick up the phone — swear it was her name I saw on the screen — and Eva seems, I don’t even know. I know she’s calling because I’d called her and left her a text message. I tell her it’s nothing, I was wrong, I’m probably crazy, and I make haste in getting off the phone with her.

Abbey calls me back after talking to Eva, but we speak only briefly; she tells me that maybe I just need to sleep, as I had confessed to her that feat has not come easy for me as of late.

The next day at work, Abbey texts me to ask how I am; I tell her that I feel as though, for the most part, my emotions are my own now, and I guessed that was good. I felt increasing disconnection (though never entirely) from the source of the emotion, which I, in my likely insanity, still felt to be Eva, but the connection never went away entirely, although the emotions were losing force. It was kind of like when you loose control and maybe bark at somebody and you realize, shortly afterward, that you didn’t know your own strength; you kind of say, “holy shit,” to yourself and take a step back, let the air clear a bit.

Towards the end of the night, I felt that “piercing through” sensation in my mind — I remember the moment; I was at the counter and talking to my coworker, Mister Peepers — and impressions started pouring through again. Not like the night before, but the normal flow of emotions I sense from others. It again seemed to be from Eva. But subtler, thankfully.

III. Recovery of the Second Act.

It took me a day or two to realize what the flood of emotions I believed I had received from Eva reminded me of; what personal experience in my history it was analogous to. The answer, as it turns out, was my break-up with Kate. That was when I had felt that intense pain so many degrees more lethal than the cold fear of the clear and present potentiality of death. That is where I had felt that horrible sense of abandonment.

I remember it clearly.

It was not simply as if the universe, which was suddenly personified in my mind, simply had no sense of justice; it was not only that it had failed to recognize that I had, after all, earned this chance at true and lasting happiness through my agonizing endurance of loneliness over the years. It was not merely that the universe was impersonal. No, the universe was downright hostile — and it was hostile to me, specifically. It was cold and cruel and that night she called me, when my paranoia revealed itself to be intuition and she told me she was not returning from her vacation, I wanted to die. I felt as if I was the butt of the cruelest of the cosmic jokes, and I should have seen it coming from the beginning.

I should have seen the formula in action. It was simple. Clear steps. Take someone who fails to believe in love and fails to believe with normal strength. Break him down, convince him until he stops and goes retrograde, does a complete 360-degree turn. Watch him believing in love completely. Go too deep, too fast. Let him lift himself up on her wings, up higher and higher still and then — and then drop him. Make him a fool. Punish his stupidity. His naivete. Punish the crimeless, the ever-so cautious in trust. Reinforce the doubt he had for so long maintained despite the pain all in order to protect himself from abuse, betrayal and abandonment. Teach him there are no exceptions, no matter how convincing. Teach him you cannot believe in anything. Trust in anything. Punish him. And do it mercilessly, as if he were just any old fucking fool of love; as if he was the sort who had it coming.

I felt as if I had been tricked, as if I had been betrayed at a level so high and a degree so profound it was previously inconceivable.

I realized what the emotions had reminded me of maybe a day or two after the whammy emotional transmission. And three days after that psychic punch, I had a dream.

There is something I’ve found about dreams; maybe it is this way with everyone. Usually, if you look at it long enough, hard enough, and from enough angles, you can determine to some level of satisfaction why it is you had a particular dream at a particular time and what, at least in a generalized way, it was manufactured by the dark of your mind to convey to your conscious light. It has often seemed to me that dreams process data and make correlations waking consciousness may not see so clearly; this assumption of mine was only reinforced by my dream on November fifth, as it answered a question that had been gnawing me in the wake of the experience. I felt she cared for Abbey in a more than friendly way, but I still didn’t understand why she felt the way she did about the prospect of Abbey and I having sex. And then, as I said, along came the dream.

In the scene, I am at front counter at work, right in the area where those guys did construction in real life, but here its like a bar rather than just a counter. There’s an empty seat between me and someone else and this guy I know fairly well but haven’t seen in awhile sits down. He’s distraught, apparently, because he has just broken up with his ex-girlfriend. He explains things about the break-up to me and the guy on the other side of him — as well as to some tall, skinny, hairy heavy-metal-looking guy working by where the fryers would be in real life. Quickly I come to realize that this guy’s newly ex-girlfriend is Kate, my old ex-girlfriend. He just broke up with Kate? I try to hide my excitement, this surge of energy in me out of respect, but I’m excited by the possibility that she’s available. That things aren’t going terrific for her, that this guy has been tossed aside, that there might be hope for her and I because this guy has been removed from the equation. That there is a space to be filled now, and potentially by me.

Almost immediately afterward, I felt that this dream leaped off the similarity I had just recently consciously recognized between Eva’s transmitted emotions and my own. On the basis of conscious recognition my subconscious built up an analogous situation which would put me in Eva’s shoes and give me the opportunity to understand another aspect of her situation — one that, at least to some feeble degree, might also be analogous to the circumstances that had occurred between Kate and I. In the dream I learned that Kate’s boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend, was out of the way; their relationship was over. However unlikely it was that her and I would get back together in light of this fact, it nonetheless gave me space for the hope. And the idea that Kate was quite likely presently alone, lonely and unhappy because of this, that there was a space to be filled — it somehow added to my hope, however morbid that might sound.

So what on earth does this have to do with Eva and Abbey? Well, perhaps its analogous to how Eva herself felt when I told her I was convinced having sex with Abbey would ruin our friendship and that the romantic feelings I sensed Eva herself had for Abbey only added to my hesitance. She felt I was out of the way. When it seemed to Eva that Abbey and I wouldn’t be having sex after it at first seemed so certain that we would, I became analogous to the “ex-boyfriend” of my dream and her hope was lifted. And in that, the dream filled the gap between what we could refer to, for the purposes of order here, as the first and last acts.

The first was my awareness of the triangle. The third was seemingly unprovoked the psychic punch. The dream, then, provided the missing “second act” — it helped me, through analogy based on similarity of shared experience, just why Eva felt the way she did. Kate chose her parents and friends in California over me and I was expected to simply respect that because her love for them was not just different but of a higher order of importance. I could not compete. Then her father said he’d help her get a job, then she met that boy, got pregnant, got married. I could not compete. None of that was ever said explicitly, of course, but the circumstance seemed to communicate it in utmost clarity. Actions speak louder than words; as cliche as it sounds, it is undoubtedly true.

Perhaps Abbey’s desire to have such intimate contact with me made Eva feel the same kind of thing. She could not, or would not be so bold as to offer a resolution to Abbey’s sexual frustration; she could not, in that sense, compete. And if she had convinced Abbey she was not attracted to her, and Abbey could therefore not be rightfully blamed for failing to consider Eva’s feelings since she had been convinced that they did not exist, then the blame, in her mind, at least in a relatively transient and yet intensely emotional and reactionary moment, was to be laid upon me, who she knew to know of her feelings towards Abbey. And so in the very least she would have seen me as considering her feelings to be irrelevant in the matter, or at least of a lower order of importance, than the raging sexual impulses of Abbey and I.

IV. Instinct & Psychic Latrines.

On the phone, I tell her that I cannot seem to accept things as confirmation. It’s weird, because I automatically trust what I feel, what I intuit, the strange things I experience, but then I stop and step back and I don’t trust my trust. Silently, I know the problem is that I’m afraid of being wrong, that I feel as though maintaining doubt is my only means of defense against insanity — which is perhaps itself insane, because accepting nothing as true necessitates a standstill, which is clearly at odds with my quest for answers.

I explain how I’m also trying not to be a hypocrite. I spend a lot of my time attacking the blind faith of religion and fear falling into the same trap. She assures me that its not the same thing — that its an instinctual response to accept your perceptions after they satisfy certain basic criteria; that this is a sort of survival technique. And that sort of cliques with me, I must admit.

“And you can never know for certain if you’re right,” she says.

I also told her that when I had previously come across people who fit into the category I’d place both her and I in we both seemed to have intense affects on and reactions to each other — the paranormal activity between the two of us, in other words, tended to amp up, and weirdness in general seemed to escalate. Though I didn’t say it in this way, it seemed that when I came across people like Eva, who had recurrent experiences in the weird, we tended to synchronize in a way analogous to how women synchronize their menstrual cycles.

In her email a day or two ago she had confirmed to me (once again) that she did indeed hear my voice inside her head so long ago and, though much more hesitantly, she now confirmed, over the phone, that she had indeed purposely “downloaded” her emotions into me that one evening, much more recently. She says that she didn’t think it would have hit me so hard if I wasn’t so receptive, however, and then went on to suggest that my receptivity was only one of my many feminine personality traits, to which I conceded.

I explained the sense of abandonment I felt that evening. While she seemed hesitant to confess to it at first, she tried to explain what I felt to be a sense of abandonment and elaborate upon what she meant when she said she had purposely dumped her emotions into me. And she expressed it in what I think turned out to be an effective analogy. She said it was like when an animal’s eating and you try to take away its food — it tends to snap at you.

I am, of course, supposing Abbey was the food in this respect, and I, the foolish hand.

Most interesting is what she said next. It seems that once she dumped her emotions into me at a distance, she no longer felt them herself — they were gone; out of her. So I had in a way become the psychic equivalent of her emotional toilet.

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Spanking the Monkeymind.

After some point, perhaps only out of frustration, I adopted the belief that emotions cannot be controlled, that you can only elect to express them in a pure or sublimated form or repress or dissociate from them. You could decide what to do with them, then, but that was all. Controlling them at the roots seemed futile.

I now think — and have always hoped — that I was wrong.

Now it seems that thoughts and emotions are cultivated through our interaction with them. Where attention goes, energy flows, and it doesn’t matter if the intention of that aim is craving or aversion, absorption or dissociation, fixation or repression, pulling a thought or emotion towards you or pushing it away: either direction is attention, either way you cultivate the thought or emotion in question. Not trying to think of something requires thinking of it; the same goes with emotions.

The third approach is mindfulness: observing dispassionately, witnessing with indifference. Not first or second person to your mind, but third person. Awareness and noninterference.

The monkey-mind is an attention whore, and when you starve its thoughts and emotions of the attention they yearn for they wither away, dissipate.

The way
to get on top of this
is mindfulness.

All the peace
the inner eye can find
if you just stop spanking
the monkey-mind…

Attack of the Flashback Bitchslaps.

My mind has a masochistic bent, which I first realized when I was younger. I would develop a mood, emotions, thoughts that effected me just as they would had they been spawned by some experience in the exterior environment, but they were all reactions to imagined scenarios — shit that had never happened at all. These might be potential future scenarios or entirely fictitious. In any case, it struck me that those around me would be unable to piece together what I was thinking or feeling or why as it was so far removed from anything going on in the immediate environment.

Nowadays that still happens, but more frequent — and disturbingly autonomous — are intense, intrusive memories I have come to call flashback bitch-slaps. They pounce on consciousness like a predator when my mind is idle, as when I’m sweeping, mopping, taking a shower, a piss or trying to sleep. They come in the form of brief, intense flashbacks that burst into consciousness from out of nowhere, usually regarding circumstances or interactions with people that I have had throughout the day, slightly less often something more recent or something that happened long, long, ridiculously long ago.

As an immediate reaction I find myself reconsidering how the other person in the flashback reacted to me. Maybe he or she took what I said this way, or might have thought or felt that way regarding my actions, words, or even tone of voice. Almost invariably these are negative assessments; I feel certain that I made them feel angry, depressed, awkward, used, pushed to the side or violated and I feel intense guilt, shame, or self-loathing as a consequence.

Unable to distract myself from the flashback or my intense emotional reactions to it by mean of another thought, I find myself compulsively damning myself aloud, though usually under my breath, hissing that I am stupid or an asshole. In tandem with the verbal part of the compulsion I also often make some irrelevant movement, typically jerking the head or bugging out my eyes, as a distraction.

It’s like I bury the thought, try and “talk over” the feeling of embarrassment and shame by means of blaring loud anger and hate towards myself.

There are potential solutions I’m exploring now that I have come to identify this issue — for instance, there are the techniques of mindfulness meditation. When the flashbacks come you merely let them and respond without craving or aversion. It feels weird just letting them play out. Just watching. Observing. It takes some effort and I don’t always feel “right” about it, but when I manage, it’s very liberating at the same time.

Locked & Loaded.

It may be dramatic, but this is how I’ve come to see the circumstance:

My mind is a battlefield. Every day is just another battle in the ongoing war between intellect and emotion. All I know and accept of myself is the aftermath; my life, the collateral damage.

Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, then, is just ammo for the intellect.

And finally, fucking finally, I’m packing. Locked and loaded again.

Yay for that.

Observe & Merge With the Spanda.

Nonjudgmental observation through achieving “witness” consciousness was the topic of the first chapter in Stephen Wolinsky’s book, Quantum Consciousness: The Guide to Experiencing Quantum Psychology. By focusing in breathing or the space between two breaths in meditation, we learn to distance ourselves from our thoughts, to observe them without identification or resistance. I’ve been experimenting with this intermittently over the last few months and only recently read the next chapter, which deals with emotions.

While he fails to state it explicitly, what Wolinsky does in this chapter is break our typical human emotional experience into three separate components. There is (1) the emotional sensations themselves, (2) the source ascribed to the emotion, and (3) the judgement of the emotion — as good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate, and so consequently leading to our experience of craving or aversion towards the emotional experience and it’s ascribed source.

In trying to define the fundamental emotional sensations, Wolinsky references a Sanskrit text known as Spanda Karikas (“Lessons in the Divine Pulsation”) in which it is evidently explained that spanda, the “divine pulsation,” is this basic emotional essence. Wolinsky seems to prefer the term “energy” over spanda for this raw emotion, however, and this seems appropriate enough to me, for whom emotional sensations could collectively be explained as an analogue to the sensory sensations of texture and movement. Describing emotions as “vibrating energy” is, if nothing else, a good description of the experience.

My remaining issue is that energy does not seem to me to be merely internal. It feels as though an emotional landscape is superimposed over the world around me, always lingering in the background but quite capable of abruptly becoming the foreground and taking center stage. I feel my energy within and around myself and the energy within and around others in interactions generally experienced as sensations of resistance, resonance and fusion with their energy, the last two of which I feel causes me to feel what they feel. Emotional reception and my
emotional reactions usually seem distinct to me in the moment — though I have all too often noted in retrospect instances where it appears I have mistaken reception for reaction and taken on the emotions of others as my own.

Of course, I often consider I might just be nuts. Whether or not I am actually receiving the emotions of others, however, Wolinsky’s suggestions would seem to have potential value.

Rather than focusing on why you feel a certain emotion or whether or not you should feel it, you strip all of that away to instead concentrate — without intention; as a curious and nonjudgmental observer — inward, on the root emotional spanda in the body. Every time your mind wanders back to why you feel this way or how you should or shouldn’t, you gently bring your attention back to the fundamental emotional sensations in the body. Not only would this as a consequence keep any emotional receivers you might have “introverted” and focused on your own emotional sensations, but you are also not permitting emotions to infect you — regardless of their source.

He also suggests trying to ascertain the “shape” of the emotion and, finally, to merge with the energy. I tried a this a bit the last few days and I was surprised to find moments, however brief, of focus, clarity, and that rare feeling that everything is okay.

Mounds of ANTs.

When I recently began researching automatic negative thoughts, I found the suggestions that these ANTs caused moods and emotions counterintuitive, as it had always seemed to me that emotions precede and influence thought. The literature on ANTs suggested that the exact opposite takes place as well.

We can experience sudden shifts of mood due to either our emotional reactions to sensory stimuli or as a consequence of our emotional reactions to thoughts. Self-reinforcing mechanisms within mood such as mood-dependent and mood-congruent memories and perceptions provide fertile ground for ANTs that, through their influence on the conscious individual, successfully generate a recurrent feedback loop of positive reinforcement that not only sustains the mood/state but intensifies it.

We get angry that we’re getting angry, perhaps, or we fear the sensations of anxiety, thereby reinforcing the anxiety and spawning a recurring feedback loop that swiftly spirals out of control and sends us into total fucking panic. All due to pesky ANTs building an emotional mound in the mood they call home.

Kind of Zen.

“I don’t feel anything,” began my roommate, who then went on to explain how his essential incapacity to feel any emotion has recently come to his full and conscious attention. All of it struck me as rather absurd, as I know he has emotions, but most of my observable evidence has come through in cracks in his masque through body language, voice tone, most often his characteristic smirk — or in extremes, typically of hurt or anger.

The emotions are there, the moods come and go — it is only his capacity to feel his own emotions that seems dulled, that’s all, so overt reaction is a rarity. Dull just like the rest of his damned senses.

His vision is horrible as is his sense of hearing, sense of smell and even his sense of taste. His sense of touch? Dulled or unremarkable. When he has heard that the loss or poor quality of one sense boosts another, he looks at his across-the-board poor quality sensorium and offers a perplexed, “What the fuck?”

Given his poor senses, it should not be surprising that he describes his dreams as being rather two dimensional in terms of background scenery, color or detail not directly relevant to the scene, which he describes as being as plain and ordinary in content as a typical, boring, routine day. His dulled sense of his own emotional states just seem to be another embodiment of this theme.

His mention of this is rather coincidental, too, as I have been slowly reading Stephen Wolinsky’s 1993 book, Quantum Consciousness: The Guide to Experiencing Quantum Psychology. It goes into mindfulness meditation, where you discipline yourself to observe or witness your thoughts, emotions and sensations without reaction or involvement with them. In this context, Wolinsky writes:

“Some of us are natural dissociators and some of us are natural mergers… The dissociator will be accustomed to separating himself from his internal responses, whereas the feeler will be accustomed to identifying strongly with each and every response and reaction. If you are a dissociator, learning to observe will seem familiar, but allowing yourself to feel what you’re experiencing will be more foreign. If you are a feeler, learning to detach part of yourself in order to observe (rather than respond) will be more foreign.” Freedom, he adds, comes only by having access to both capacities and the ability to merge or dissociate at will.

I am a natural merger. My roommate, it would appear, is a natural dissociator. It’s not that he’s unemotional and psychopathic. To the contrary, he’s just kind if Zen.

Duality, Meet Fantasy’s Tombstone.

It swells inside and I feel mad as a rabid animal, hurt like a sensitive child. You are a person, a subject, not an object, yet you become one to a part of me that has gone a step further, evidently, into feeling that you are an object of ownership — a possession. 
 
My emotions reduce you to a tree I have pissed upon. My intellect judges those emotions to be childish and primitive. 
 
I wanted you and have done nothing and here you fucked your ex-boyfriend, evidently got back together with him as well. I have no right to feel this way and yet I do and, it would seem, can do nothing about it. All I can do is manage my irrational jealousy and hurt and anger, and I think I’m doing rather well.
 
Go ahead, laugh it up. I can feel your glee inside. Beautiful, sadistic. I’m not satisfying you by reacting, but you sense it in me at a level nonetheless. 
 
Now I need to ensure you cast doubt on yourself. 
 
I’m killing you with still water, a blank slate, an unaffected face so you can let your projections go wild. You think you’re seeing me, though its only your own reflection. I feel confident you’ll see what you deserve to see. 
 
Through you I’ll finally see what, if anything, you wanted of me. You’ll stand naked in all your glory. Then I’ll know where to go.

The Child of Hope and Fear.

Chances are that most people have had at least one major scare.

Some such scares are false alarms, others are aborted or sold, but there are those scares that  lead to active, premature parenthood in less than a year, and this circumstance is too common for comfort. How it all happens is, of course, an easy enough question to answer. Maybe Mr. Wang’s wetsuit slipped off one night or, worse, you were dumb enough to go spelunking without any hard-hat on at all and her monthly visitor of bloody devastation was abnormally late in arrival. Or, if you are of the female gender, maybe you were drunk and let him jackhammer his stiff-eel into the lip-lined bliss boat without a safety jacket. Call it carelessness, call it bad luck, this oopsie could have potentially life-altering implications.

You wait a bit before you get the pregnancy test, of course, not because you honestly believe that good ol’ Clotty McPlasma is bound to arrive riding a mighty wave of red any time now, but because you instinctively know that even walking into the store with the intention of buying a stick to pee on will act as a powerful ritual that conjures into your unwelcoming consciousness the true, potentially life-shattering seriousness of the matter. To buy it and try to falsify the fear would constitute a Ritual of Acknolwedgment. Until then, you can cough it up and play it down to nothing more than a fanciful yet predictable product of a paranoid mind. In the woman’s case, a paranoid mind occupying a body bearing a bloodless vagina that’s maybe just a little behind schedule for its traditional display of twat spots. Reactions vary among men, of course. Some would appear to feel ultimately indifferent about the matter,  whereas others seem to feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility that leads them either to step up to the plate and be conscious about how they dealt with their role or to, in one form or another, scurry away like a wide-eyed deer mouse straight out of hell.

In any case, the scare is the fear of premature parenthood. Of having another human being depend on you when you can’t even keep a pet turtle alive. Of having to provide for another human being, perhaps the mother as well, but hardly able to keep your financial head above the water with the shit job you seem so hopelessly bear-trapped in.

Despite the fact that it rarely seems to be a safe, socially-conscious maneuver to suggest that the male gender might generally have it worse than women in pretty much any matter, consider that that the woman has the final say-so regarding the abortion option, that women win most custody battles, that men are often charged with child support that threatens their ability to maintain their own survival and yet have at best limited access to interacting with his children. So with respect to surface, across-the-board material, the scare of unplanned parenthood can be an intense one for men given the all-too-common circumstances.

Aside from the circumstances, there is concern regarding the nature of the child-that-may-be. What genes will you pass on, what dire characteristics might you be contributing, what might you involuntarily inject into the kid through your DNA that is a sting in yourself? What might you be a carrier for, what seeds from way back in your family tree might you have planted when your shroom-tipped tickler’s tiny tadpole chased the light at the end of the tunnel like an eager insect and met an egg at the end of it that ultimately hacked off its tail and dismantled its guts? Relax, you tell yourself. Genes can remain asleep, after all, akin to seeds that are not given the environmental conditions necessary for their growth. One merely passes along genetic predispositions, not determinants of personality, psychology and behavior. Genes don’t make psychopaths or schizophrenics, they only plant the seeds of what-could-be. If they are stimulated out of latency, hope is not lost; they can be sublimated given the social inheritance of the right psychological and behavior patterns. If that proves difficult or impossible, there are still ways you can manage the damage. Regardless of the factor of genes, there is the factor of what you will teach the child merely by being yourself, acting as role model. What horrible habits and tendencies of your own you might unintentionally be etching in the soft brain of an infant? With all your issues, what kind of a role model would you be?

With the world the way it is and seems destined to be, is bringing in another human being to this fucking circus even ethical?

Anyone who has not been forced by personal circumstance to stare into the abyss of that question that provokes the scare — “Am I a daddy?” — can probably surmise the kind of things that run through your mind in the midst of a scare. It is one thing to question such things at a distance, however, and quite another when you’re staring it straight in the face. The process of consideration you undergo when in the grips of an actual scare lends less of itself to purely intellectual analysis and doesn’t have the level of emotional security abstraction might offer you, to put the matter unjustifiably mildly. Curious things emerge out of the abyss. In the very least, that is what I have sensed in myself during my two instances, and the first lasted for five long, agonizing years.

It was not a one night stand, thankfully. If we were still on speaking terms at the time of this writing, I would have known Anne for roughly seventeen years now. I had known her perhaps a little over half a decade when she took my virginity, which it suddenly strikes me is quite the ridiculous thing to write. Though common parlance, it seems unnatural, almost gruesome to state it in such a way, as I felt as if I left the experience with more, not less. Even in face of the ruins that would become of our friendship, I can’t help but maintain the position I’ve had and held since the night it happened, which is that there could have been no better person to initiate me into that realm of experience than Anne.

Not too long before I met with that mark in my life, strangely enough, I must confess that I was fairly certain that I would perhaps never see or hear from Anne again. After she left for basic training when she entered the Army, she sent me quite a few letters, but they only seemed to show the distance she was successfully placing between herself and all that existed behind her and back home. This sense I had was finally caught blatantly in a letter in which she seemed to me to get more than a bit too preachy. By joining the Army, so she claimed, she had stopped chasing her own tail and plowed forward in a straight line down the path of life. If one does not set goals, one ends up running in circles, stuck in the same old cycles. To this she added the unnecessary words, “Sound familiar?“

Despite her alleged evolution, her letters revealed that things seemed to remain the same beneath the veil of external manifestation. For instance, in perfect alignment with my expectations given her intelligence, hyper sex-drive and physical beauty, she had potential boyfriends at an arm’s reach. It didn’t escape me that she kept returning to the subject of two specific men and fellow soldiers, however, whom she found herself drawn to.

When she spoke of Quinn, a short and buff Latino, there was only reference to the superficial. He was a gentlemen among friends and fun to fuck. He was ambitious. He was grounded in what she called “the real world.“ All these things she referenced in her letters, all these godlike qualities in her eyes, and yet for some unknown reason at the same time she deemed him as someone who is “certainly not husband material.” All of it just made her wet. They both thought that they looked good on one another, she told me, and looked upon each other as toys.

She explained to me how she viewed sex as a form of recreation, not some expression of love, and while that may sound cold to some prejudgmental ears, at least she wasn’t kidding herself. For some reason her view made me admire her all the more. This was especially the case as time went on and I watched the couples around me more often, more closely. Take, for instance, what some call love, but which under closer inspection reveals itself to be nothing more than a hormonally-induced form of temporary insanity. Merely a response hardwired into our genes and elicited out of latency given the appropriate constellation of stimuli, delivered through a biochemical cocktail that floods our brains with emotionally-charged, species-serving delusions. Nothing more than an instinct to ensure pair-bonding, in turn increasing the probability that two people will engage in the procreative ritual which, if successfully giving rise to offspring, would in turn serve the ends of species survival and the evolution of life on the planet.

Yes, the experience is powerful — thy brain’s drugs are indeed quick, with apologies to Shakespeare — yet should we expect any less? It is fueled not by the individual organism’s desire not to expire, but serves as a survival technique of a species, individual be damned. As a consequence, this kind of instinct should be more suspect than most, as it is not merely the force of your body’s natural desire not to expire that one is forced to contend with here. Rather, it is the force of generations behind you, pushing at your back, pushing you to take one (if only for the team) and pass it on. The impulse behind this is bigger than you. It was around before the ol’ skin-can you meander about in was so much as an orgasm, and it will continue to be around long after you die if it has its way. It will do this by passing along the chain-letter of DNA, typos mysteriously building up as it continued to be passed along, a lot like the wretched childhood game of telephone (which also helps explain the Bible, as chance would have it, but I perpetually regress).

While that provided a rich context with which I could understand her limited relations with Quinn, mystery largely remained with respect to her other point of focus, the guitar-playing intellectual wary of any commitment that might clash with his marriage to music. His passion was in other areas; his attention was directed within himself. He wanted to form a band, to get in touch with his soul, to find meaning in life. Anne explained to me how he cradled this personal philosophy relating to what he called “no thought,” which he would name the band he wanted to form when he finally got around to it. Though she explained him as a dreamer with his head in the clouds, a stark contrast to Quinn’s roots in the real that caught me right away, she nonetheless seemed fascinated by him, entranced by his passions. Here, I felt, was something with substance, something deeper than the flesh, something authentic she could build on.

When she was on leave from where she was eventually stationed in Korea, she had come back putting on this false front of confidence and nonchalance, but she was putting so much into advertising her product that I knew this wasn’t just her trying to be someone else. It was a facade and she just wanted you to buy her product. And the product was just a new masque she wanted to hide behind. It angered me on the level that she would want to hide, and that she wanted to hide from me specifically. It angered me at the level that she thought I was dumb enough not to pick up on it, too, as it was undoubtedly an insult to my intelligence.

Every weekend that October we would get together, for the most part just sitting around, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and shooting the breeze. Slowly she let her masque slide away and show me a bit of the face I knew and adored, which I was happy to find untainted, unchanged. Then, out of nowhere, she would suddenly become conscious of her exposure and build up that wall again. Transparent as it was, she had successfully erected her boundary, and I still had not the foggiest clue why. She locked it away in the shadows by the far wall, locked in that little black chest in her mind as if they were her most personal effects, secret and forbidden, never to be touched by any hands or spied by any eyes save for her own. For that reason alone I tried my damnedest to respect it, which only fed the anger burning in my veins. What was her game here?

Many years later a good friend of mine would explain to me of a situation he was in with a girl at the time: “The game is impossible to win, but you’re forced to play anyway.” As you do play, however, you do so with the knowledge that it is a game, and the game she’s playing against you helps shield the game you are now free to play with her. In my case, to give it a spin, the grand prize in my game was knowing why she was playing her game.

Her game was played by my mother and used by my mother to play her same old game with me. And both games added up together constituted a bigger game called two stones, one bird, and that one bird is me. An audience member awkwardly sitting on stage as two complimenting games played with me and off one another. Their words were darts and they bull’s-eyed me with every line. We’re dealing with linguistic and nonverbal ninjas here, and manipulation was the name of the game. These two were not women that liked losing. A forfeit was the closest you ever had a chance of getting to triumph.

I felt pathetic, betrayed, almost abandoned as I stood beside them on the front lawn fist-bumping my knees with how deep they were dug in my pockets, kicking the grass as I continued circling like a dog looking for a place to crouch down and deliver a fragrant brown batch of steaming soft-serve anus-birth. As they spoke so fluently, I tried a few subtle strategies to weasel in on the conversation, but failed. Anne was busy as a bee confidently conveying all her experiences in the Army, how she had jumped on the camouflage bandwagon and would be set for life once she got out. Mom seemed to take in everything she said like a sponge, as well as how Ruth presented herself with her posture, eye contact and every other sign of confidence. She even liked Anne’s brand spanking new red car. Mom had been giving Anne that look of respect that I was never given, could evidently never hope to receive, and at the end of their conversation, as if the entire fucking circumstance wasn’t quite enough, my mom dropped what served as an emotional bomb for me. The words metastasized the emotional cancer she had infected me with since birth.

“I’m proud of you,” she said to Anne, “it’s nice to see that someone’s getting it together and doing something with their life.”

There was that sort of “loud subtlety” she used to emphasize the word “someone” just in case I overlooked the fact over the course of my life that she took every opportunity to poke at my weak spots and so might miss that she was talking about me without the name-dropping that would justify a verbal retaliation from the likes of me. Glancing towards Anne, I at first found myself confused by the overall lack of reaction. Anne is an extremely intelligent girl, a fact that seemed to make it highly improbable that she had missed what underlay my mother’s words. Only later did I realize what should have been obvious to me then, which was that they had an unspoken agreement on how hopeless I was.

On her last weekend of leave, we had gotten together and hung out with her sister, Janice, her sister’s roommate, Bella, and some guy Bella was fucking. It was fairly late by the time we got back to her sister’s place, and though I wanted to go home, Anne convinced me to stay. I had no car to drive home with, as she had driven me to her sister’s place, and she told me it was too late for driving, anyway. She promised to take me back in the morning and pushed me to call my parents to tell them where I was. Before going to sleep, Janice, Anne and I sat around the table in the middle of the small kitchen and played some game that only involved dice, and the conversation, which soon became more engaging than the game, eventually landed back onto the subject of her philosophizing musician. At some point she threw out a string of words that ensnared me, left me caught awkwardly between an ego boost and a slap in the face.

“In a lot of ways,” she said, “he reminds me of you.”

Clearly with him being in the Army, however, he was still more evolved than I, and so there were evidently some things I could learn from him. She told me that I could probably benefit from the state he called “no thought.” How I should just make my mind shut up as I became receptive to emotion, saturated in sensation, fully focused on feeling. Laughing defensively, I try to explain to her how I have often tried but always found myself back mangled in the mesh of thought. She shook her head and looked at me quizzically, almost frustratingly, asking me, almost pleadingly, “Can’t you just feel?”

We returned to this topic after we all settled down for sleep. The kids had gone to bed in Janice’s room. Bella had gone into her room, along with her friend. Janice took the couch by the window in the living room and Anne and I were on the floor below her, atop the mattresses we had taken from the kid’s room. Telling myself that there was no reason to think she wanted anything to do with me that exceeded the bounds of the platonic, especially now that she was juggling what appeared to be two serious interests and had certainly conveyed she felt me to be a hopeless individual that, I felt, she recognized would do nothing more than hold her back as she struggled to plow forward in life, I didn’t want to put my head close to her own. Ensuring I wasn’t sticking my feet in her face, I lay my head at the other end of the mattress, submitting to dealing with what I presumed to be a restless night of insomnia while everyone else in the house slept soundly. Then she engaged me in conversation, however, and told me that this would be easier if I was on her end of the mattress, so I promptly repositioned. As we smoked sugar-tipped, vanilla-flavored cigars she had purchased earlier, we continued to shoot the breeze, eventually leading to her talking about what she described as her pseudo-relationship with Quinn and how they had, before her leave from Korea, left each other on leave on “uncertain terms.”

Soon our conversation worked its way into reminiscing, and I could no longer take it. I had nervously asked the question. She told me that I never have to ask, and I tried to justify my asking, but she cut me off by slamming her wonderful tongue in my mouth. Throughout our dance of tangled tongues and eager hands, involuntary intermissions would on occasion emerge from me, but the annoyance it arose in her and the one or two times in which she placed her fingers with pressure against my lips eventually won me over. Once silence commenced, I swiftly found myself absorbed in the moment, at one with it. Instinct was given the wheel and, having relinquished myself of the impulse to engage in even backseat driving, I became but a passenger on this off-road journey towards sensation saturation. Divided legs straddling me, she suddenly took the manhood she had been rhythmically massaging and slammed it against her lovely lower lips.  A break in the building rhythm, a pause in the flow, and then it was her who spoke.

“Is this okay?”

My answer, without a moment’s pause for dramatic effect, was a most enthusiastic yes. Any fear of regret in what I had just agreed to was annihilated upon my guided entry. I lay back, and she moved atop me like an angel of the god I don’t believe in. It was smooth, warm, rhythmic. For some time I built up the courage to ask her, though I cannot say why it was so important that I do, and when she answered that yes, indeed, I could have the top, I felt as though I had robbed her of her rightful throne. She was fucking beautiful; adjective. I was fucking beautiful; verb. Go with the flow, I told myself, grow in the flow. I did the best an amateur can do. Somewhere there in the rhythm and electric sweat between her and I, eyes closed so to better breathe my comfort in her in, I felt as though I was in two places at once. Though still with her, I was at the same time possessed by a vision that appeared in my mind as quite real, with a sense of motion that furthered the quality. Swiftly soaring from a bird’s-eye view above a dark, desolate desert landscape, my inner eye occasionally caught sight of what, from this height, appeared as dark ants to my inner eye. Back home, my body was one with the experience. Every pore of my being was irradiating in this sensual fire, and soon enough that once again became the sole soil for the roots of my attention. After we went on awhile, she grabbed the sides of my body tightly and told me to stop moving in a very sudden, urgent voice.

“You’re about to feel a female orgasm,” she said.

Rippling all around me in grappling waves, it felt as if my soul was some stone that had been cast out into a vast ocean of sensual motions. She rode her own tsunami to the crest, back arching, sweet, primal melody literally cut off at the climax. Later I learned that not one, but two virginities had been taken that evening. As she acted as my rite of passage into the world of sexuality, she experienced her first orgasm. Movement continued when she had finished, insisting that I should “finish up” myself, and I closed my eyes yet again, entering into a world of color and abstraction within as I climbed to the crest of the wave myself, as I was presented with a picture show of Picasso-like still lives to my opened inner eye. As I sped up in rhythm atop and between her, everything rushed to silence, to static, to a blissful blur. It was nothing but pure sensation; pure emotion. When I reached climax, she grabbed my sides. As I swelled in her, I felt the most awesome thing in all my life. Afterward, we would sip our cups or water and smoke her Malrboro Lights, and after a restful sleep I would awaken to find myself deep inside of her, her straddling me as I lay asleep.

When night had finally fallen, we were parked in her car beside my own in the lot around the square in my hometown. There were few cars out, and there was hardly a sign of life anywhere. To my over-tweaked mind, we could’ve been the only two people in the universe. Just two lost souls left. Just a girl confused about a boy and a boy confused about everything. She told me that she was leaving tomorrow. That it was late and she had to go home. I could follow her home, she said; I could see her off again, go to the airport and see her go. I didn’t follow her home, though. I told her I wanted to be alone; needed to be alone, to think, to sort out my head. She again told me that I wouldn’t have another chance to see her for a long, long time, and that I should take my chance. No, I was going to go home. Needed to go home. My head felt funny. I’d write her, it was good seeing her again, and so on and so fourth. She drove off that evening, a girl frustrated and confused about a boy. I drove off in the other direction, a boy endlessly frustrated about his confusion.

After she returned to Korea, we began sending emails back and fourth amongst one another, and it was perhaps her first or second letter to me after she left that she announced that she was pregnant, becoming Catholic and getting married to Quinn. Honestly that was a lot to take in at once. The shortness of the letter did not seem to do it justice, though nonetheless after I had read it I found myself emotionally closed off from the whole thing. As the emails continued, I sensed what I had sensed within her when she had been up here, but there was more to it now, and it seemed to underlie and imbue all that she wrote to me. When I called her out on it, I received a response that spawned years of cold silence between us.

What angered me most about it was that she had said none of this to my face in the years she had known me, but had evidently been collecting all these little things she had thought about me and could only shoot it at me in rapid machine-gun style from a distance, through the written word, where she merely had to type it all out and press send, where she never had to look me in the eyes as she proceeded to slay away at me. If the pen is mightier than the sword, the e-mail has A-bomb potential, and in this case it actualized that neon-blazing potential to its fullest. I immediately became the emotional equivalent of Hiroshima.

At the heart of her letter she paraphrased a Biblical quote: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Essentially she had gone on in the letter to detail how bitter I was at the world, how I resented all my friends for taking risks and changing, which I was unwilling to do myself. This all fed into my apparent refusal to grow up, as I associated adulthood with mindlessness, superficiality and subservience, just as I always have. This was evidently an incorrect assessment on my behalf, her act of becoming a Catholic and marrying a guy she described as a toy and form of decoration notwithstanding.

Some time passed enduring the intense brew of emotions I had towards her until I was able to stray from the rage a bit and began to contemplate just why she had blown up at me in the first place. After all these years, what made my million-and-one malfunctions matter so much now? The question became a fixation of mine and slowly, reluctantly, I let the theory come together in my mind.

She had taken my virginity. Later, in Korea, she learned that she was pregnant with my child. Perhaps she thought I would feel as if I was being forced at gunpoint, put on the spot, forced to gaze into the abyss between what I was and what I could be and decide whether I was courageous enough to take on the labor required to bridge that yawning chasm. She feared what she saw as my likely reaction. I was no more psychologically prepared to deal with fatherhood than I was financially. I was too much of a child to raise one myself. Then she looked over at Quinn, a muscular alpha male bloated and bleeding with ambition, ready to take the world by the goddamned gonads and so clearly ready to get married and raise a family.

Her decision to never tell me, she doubtlessly deduced, was as simple as it was rational. She did what she had to do in order to ensure the child had a life worth living, and was understandably angry over the fact that I wasn’t mature enough to be part of it, feeling at some level as if I had thrust this circumstance upon her. So in what she vowed to herself; to be her last, frustration-fueled effort to inspire some semblance of evolution in me and my life that would, if not serving that agenda, no doubt cause a rift between us that would end our friendship and so act as a guard against allowing her own thoughts to meander to the topic of what might have been, she decided to move forward and leave this wasted weight behind.

One day in the future, perhaps the kid would learn the truth. A daughter, or so I imagined in this scenario, though I did sometimes imagine it to be a boy in others. She would track down the man who, unbeknownst to him, was her father. I imagined myself in this scenario to be an embittered, cynical newspaper editorialist riding the bus, a man, she gathered from her reading of my material, had not changed so much inside from when her mother still knew me. Certainty met all-time heights after she approaches me on the bus and engages me in discussion about love, about worldviews, about the past. Before exiting the bus and throwing the manila envelope in my lap that contained baby pictures and a copy of her birth certificate, she had reached the same conclusions both her mother and my own mother had evidently reached, far before she was ever conceived. Despite my wrinkles and thinning, grayed hair, I was still little more than a hopeless child, clutching ever-tightly to his childish fucking things in his adamant refusal to become a man.

When we once again made contact with one another through email, what had seemed like a cold forever between us quickly diminished. Though she was now living in Texas, undergoing a separation with Quinn, she planned on visiting her family in Ohio. When she finally did, we met up and saw each other for the first time in half a decade. It was slightly awkward, which she became prepared for with a pair of 70s-style sunglasses to veil the telepathic tell-all ocular vortices. We had lunch at a local restaurant, came home and chatted for a bit in the kitchen and then my bedroom, where we ended up having sex. This only occurred after my nervous silence, her asking me what I was thinking, my act of verbalizing the blatantly incorrect word, “nothing,” followed by my asking if it would be all right to kiss her. If I was her, I would have been pretty tired of this by now, but in some way — akin to the way you might react upon hearing a small child try to form words that he verbally scrabbles and stumbles over like the clumsy little clown he is — she almost seemed to find it cute, never mind that it went to show how this child of fear has failed to grow up much at all over the course of these years.

We both agreed I should be over this by now, so I just kiss her. Longer and deeper, and it felt so good. Always does with her. We fall back slowly onto the bed and continue, re-position, continue. As we go on, its starting to rain outside. Soft first, then harder. Deep rumble of thunder. An occasional flash of lighting through my drawn shades, and now thunder again, thunder that you can hear and feel. This seemed to be our background music, and, at least to me, it accentuated the mood of the moment quite beautifully.

What I’m thinking is how I just hate wanting it all the time, how I don’t know why I feel so suspicious and even guilty about this desire, but at the same time I’m thinking how I haven’t had sex in eleven months, since my ex-girlfriend visited her family in California and never came back. Before that, there was only Anne. Here I am, like a serpent hungry to swallow his own tale, an apparent straight line proven to be an illusion provided by a larger cycle finally revealing its pattern.

I ask if we can have sex. I asked her if that was blunt enough. A smile and a yes was all I needed. So we had sex. Changing rhythms, shifting positions, beautiful sounds and sweet sweat, that wonderful aroma of the act filling my nostrils like some divine perfume. I missed this and I missed her. I missed this with her. She had hers, I had mine.

We get dressed and she lies back on the bed. That surreal summer evening, the sweet scent in the air, the endorphins in my bloodstream and my mind in absolute awe, I looked at her lying on my bed staring at the ceiling, saying nothing. After awhile I’m beginning to wonder, and this goes beyond post-performance anxiety. Sitting on my chair at the desk, looking at her still, I think maybe I’m just being paranoid, so I ask her if she’s falling asleep. She says no. I asked her if she was staring at the blanket on my ceiling, which Nick had gotten me for Christmas, which depicted a Celtic mandala design. She says yes, and I inform her that the continuity errors in the thing really get to you after awhile. Her face twists into confusion. Understandably. Worry not about cats itching to get tongues; one should learn the art of holding one’s own. People always say to speak your mind, but it still pays to have updated editing software between your brain and blow horn. Truth is, sometimes you will say anything to keep that awkward silence filled, especially if you’re afraid of her asking you what is on your mind now. Though you’re secretly good at lying, you can only do it when you really have to, and even when you have to you hate doing so. Sometimes you can’t tell the truth and no deflection would serve to divert attention, only reveal the fact that you’re working hard to cover things up.

In my defense, it was true, as the continuity errors in that thing really do get under my skin, but my real concern was that she could be weighing the pros and cons of telling me I am the genetic father of her young daughter, who has been raised by her for the most part, but around a father figure that she had felt had more promise than the spin I might have put on the role. Later in the relationship that would dawn when Anne decided to move back to Ohio from Texas, she shared her observation that fatherhood, be it planned or unplanned, serves for some men as the catalyst that finally inspires growth and change where evolution once seemed hopeless. As I sat there in the chair at my desk and watched her on my bed, staring up at the ceiling, part of me really wanted it to be true. Maybe I was really the father and now that she was separating from her husband I might step in, take on the package deal, do my best to bridge the chasm between what I am and could be. Repositioning on my chair, I come back to the moment and think, hey, this is when verbally questioning a person could come in handy. I could ask her what she’s thinking. Instead, though, I climb atop her and kiss her again. And, I suppose inevitably, heat rises and cloths are stripped and we have our wondrous sex again. The silence around us blissfully broken by beautiful sounds. Between our skins that sweet sweat and all those things we cannot say.

All the things that would eventually kill us again.

Her sexy black Mustang pulled into the driveway the next day, sun reflecting off the pools of water in the yard and the concrete, still damp from the soft rain that had passed. She was standing outside the car and we both went about talking, smoking our cigarettes, but my attention drifted over her shoulder, through the front windshield behind her, into the back seat, where the five-year-old Allie sat in her child’s seat. Shortly thereafter, I officially met her, and she was beautiful. She was blunt, hilarious and highly intelligent. Like her short mother, this child, tall for her age, often walked on her toes, heals hovering off the ground. She had dark hair, dark and pretty eyes. She was also quite clearly half Latino.

What I would have expected was an awesome feeling of relief, as if I had been holding my breath for five long years and finally could exhale, and while there was some sense of relief, the predominant feeling was one of disappointment. A revised edition of my thoughts the previous day began to play out in my mind. Perhaps I could fit in this role anyway. Maybe I could change, even if she wasn’t my daughter. Anne and I might spend the rest of our lives together. This painful story could prove to have a happy ending after all.

None of that would happen.

“She wanted intimacy in areas other than sex,” was not exactly how Otis said it to me years later, but that grabs its general essence by the balls. Otis was the psychologist I saw on campus during my two year tour though college, which happened a good time after I freaked out and pushed myself out of the relationship that had once again formed between Anne and I. Leaping out of those words  of his was the indirect suggestion that I, unlike Anne, only invested intimacy in sex. I had always been aware that the converse was true in Anne, which is to say that for her sex was generally a form of recreation with no necessary emotional attachments. His viewpoint didn’t just refuse to recognize the fact that she considered herself to be a potential nymphomaniac, that in any case she engaged in sex frequently, which I had always empathized to myself in my mind. It was never a negative emphasis, however; it was a part of who she was and so constituted a vital part of the far grander package for whom I found myself yearning, to whom I had become deeply attached. Her character emphasized it, and so my description of her character must follow suit.

I had never much thought about the notion that sex, for me, might serve as some major if not sole means of access to true and honest intimacy. Yet despite the contrary views of most, if not all of my fellow heterosexual male friends, I cannot derive much satisfaction from sex at all if there is not romantic feelings in me towards the girl in question. For some reason the way I’m wired or have been imprinted or conditioned dictates that I will forever associate sex with intimacy, a notion that my experiences in the realm of casual sex have only served to reinforce, leaving my heart yearning for a relationship, that which my intellect and observation have deduced looks suspiciously like a trap. A cell block in a prison.

I know that if there’s any hope it must reside on the other side of these fears. It’s just that I’m not sure there is any hope to be found, which would reveal these fears to be not irrational paranoia but justified concern. No use wasting time and energy on a dangerously pothole-ridden dirt road with a dead end, right?

Annie saw hope in me, at least sometimes, perhaps in the way a bipolar person is sometimes manic. I felt hope, but it scared the hell out of me at the same time. Any hope to be found in me was certainly not ripe for the picking then, and for that reason I find myself glad the scare proved a false alarm.

Had it turned out to have not been, though, I would have nonetheless found endless happiness in the knowledge that Anne’s bright and mouthy daughter was also my own.

R.A.T.

Fashioning an image from the vague outlines she inherited through the cultural hand-me-down, she built her castle of security and tried to live as close to the masque she donned and had so elegantly moulded as she could. Still, she felt herself slipping into that gap growing into a chasm, that frigid fissure that had yawned to a void, like some serpent stretching to consume its prey; she felt the agony of the increasing distance between who she was and who she pretended to be.

If she didn’t truly love him, she might blame him. And how she tried to hate him; how logic dictated he should be so easily hateable. Yet she knew damned well this was not a matter of logic. This was not a rational issue at all. Clearly. And how perplexing, as she was herself so rational, so practical, so cool, calm, collected and ambitious. What was it about him?

“So, it’s been awhile,” he wrote her over a social network on August 31. “How’s life?

And she had to stop fooling herself: he would never be ready. Never willing to commit, to raise a family. She knew he felt that he didn’t belong, and that he was unwilling — or perhaps unable — to forge such a close and traditional bond.

On September 26, she writes back three words. She writes “In Memory” in quotes, followed by “Shinedown.” In response, he wrote on September 27, “It’s not traditional for us, I know, but put your fingers to the keyboard and write words directly to me. Direct communication could be a road worth exploring. So, again: what’s going on in your life?”

She knew she must leave him behind. Cut the tie that bound her to him. She must commit herself to a hollow shell, this thick armor she had hand-crafted, this fortress of fiction she was building, for she could no longer bear waiting, suffering in the tension of this suicidal gray area. So she grabbed her gun. Took another, threw it as his feet — those soles, so worn — and, aiming the barrel at his chest, taunting him with wicked words, trying her damnest to tempt him into picking up the gun and pulling the trigger.

On September 29, she writes: “You want direct? How’s this for direct. The only reason you even have access to this is because I am an evil bitch who wants you to be able to look at these photos and wonder, and agonize and analyze as you do. It is not to have contact or dare I say even a conversation. If I didn’t make it clear in the past, allow me to be direct. I can’t, and won’t have contact with you. I can only move forward and make the best out of what I have. Yes, it may be completely colorless and totally lifeless, how I now choose to live, but I only choose forward. I can’t, and won’t look back. Since it will only make me bleed. Make me want for things that can not be. I am contented with what I do have and as always, I have no rear view. I make my choices and move on, so stop trying to install something in my car that was not manufacturer’s specs. Now, if this isn’t direct enough, I don’t know what is. Now, you will get a couple of days to read this, at which time I will sever this last tie. I am going to continue to build and love who I am with to the best of my ability and don’t need reminding of what never really was’s.”

Then he wrote her back the same day: “Yes, that was direct. And I understand. If you don’t desire contact or conversation, that’s your prerogative. But I think this is stupid. And you’re not going to make me angry at you.”

No, she told herself. He will pick up that gun. He will point it at her. He will pull the trigger.

And so she responds, on September 29:

“Trying to make you anything would require action. You don’t do action, you do inaction. I really don’t care at this point, truly. I will do what I need to do for myself and I don’t require or request approval or opinions from you. Most importantly, I will not do anything that for one minute makes my man doubt me. I don’t and will never do, have never done, men as ‘friends’. Especially ones I have history with. He is paramount. Period. That includes any and all contact with you. You remained a faceless, nameless person to him so far, and will stay that way. As they say the past is history. My future is him, and we are building it as we speak. Next year we are getting married. Buying a house. That is all that is important now.”

To which he promptly respond: “Okay, then. Congrats. And goodbye. Delete away.”

He refused to play her game. So she lowered her weapon. She cut the tie and walked away. And she tells herself that if she had indeed shot him in the chest, nothing would have come bleeding out.

Nothing at all.

And he wonders if perhaps she might be right.