Is There Anybody Out There

Document Sample
Is There Anybody Out There Powered By Docstoc
					Is There Anybody Out There?




          ?
           By Brad Musil
                                                                              2


                            A Table With Some Content

Part 1       Reality

Chapter 1    Welcome To The Machine                                     4

Chapter 2    Learning To Fly                                            8

Chapter 3    Careful With That Axe, Eugene                              18

Chapter 4    Pigs On The Wing                                           34

Chapter 5    Bike                                                       43

Chapter 6    Brain Damage                                               51

Chapter 7    Julia Dream                                                63

Chapter 8    Obscured By Clouds                                         79

Chapter 9    The Show Must Go On                                        97

Chapter 10   Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together   109

             In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict

Chapter 11   On The Turning Away                                        140

Chapter 12   One Of These Days                                          148

Chapter 13   Goodbye Cruel World                                        159

Chapter 14   Is There Anybody Out There?                                167

Part 2       Reality?

Chapter 15   Comfortably Numb                                           175
                            3




PART 1: REALITY
 Someone you know thinks…
                                                                                            4



                        Chapter One: Welcome To The Machine


       Am I awake, or just dreaming? I think I think, I think. What I mean is that I’m

not even sure that I think. I used to be what your mother might consider normal…at least

that’s what I’m told. One can’t be sure of anything as far as I’m concerned. But, as sure

as can be, I am sure. I used to be “normal.” And, to be honest, I don’t really know what

happened to me. It was by all means gradual, or so it seemed. The transformation—from

normal to “psychotic”—was a slow and steady process to be sure. Since I was born, I’ve

steadily grown more and more neurotic. You tell me: do I really sound that crazy? I still

think I’m normal, or at least as normal as one can ever hope to be. But, that’s not what

they tell me. Not at all. These things with faces, bones, and blood, these “people,” are

always assuring me that I am indeed nuts. Or, so I think.

       For the most part, my real insanity started manifesting itself when I entered

college, though the signs were always there. You see, college is when I started thinking.

I mean, really thinking—really heavy-duty thinking. The kind of thinking that makes

your brain hurt. Hell, I even thought about thinking too much. I knew I thought too

much. I knew I was different in this respect. But, so what? So I thought a lot—big deal.

Does that make me psychotic? Crazy? A raving lunatic? I was just a normal guy in

every other respect. I loved to drink beer, smoke pot, and look at girls. I liked to hang

out with friends. Friends. Looking back, the only thing that seems to matter to me was

the fun I had with my friends. We used to have the greatest discussions, discussions that

would make me think for weeks…hell for years…how long has it been now? Decades?
                                                                                                5


At any rate, those were the days. Nevertheless, what are those days to me now? Nothing.

Only nothing lasts forever.

        When I entered college, I met these real friends. In fact, it’s the first time I ever

had any true friends. Ironically, my entrance to college also marked the beginning of my

“downward spiral.” I know what you’re thinking—I was hanging with the wrong crowd!

Bullshit! I’m surprised I didn’t drive them crazy. Everyone has always agreed that I’m

the real whacko. Listen to me. I can’t even finish a coherent thought without getting

sidetracked. That’s precisely the problem—my mind wonders off and gets lost. I don’t

know how others can keep focused so well. Do they have mind leashes? Sometimes I

think my mind is like a frickin’ dog. I have to watch after it and hold on to it tight, or it

runs off and shits somewhere. I really mean this…but you’ll see what I mean soon

enough.

        I grew up in the middle of nowhere, Shokey, NE. 25,000 people. 24,999

conservative and God-fearing Christians. A bunch of different faces, sure, but everyone

really seemed to be the same person inside those heads—where real personality resides (a

face is not a person). I couldn’t wait to get out of the place. That’s why I was looking

forward to college. Finally, I could escape the hellish life induced by the monotonous

throngs surrounding me—I could find the salvation I had always been looking for. Now

that I look back, I wonder if maybe I would have been better off taking up Christianity

after all. Not that it’s any closer to the truth, or that my heart would have been in it, but it

might have sedated my mind…for a while anyway.

        Finally, the time to escape came. I was applying to colleges across this land we

homo sapiens call America. I had excellent grades, good SAT scores, and decent writing
                                                                                              6


capabilities. I deployed my weapons to the best of my ability. And, I connected.

Unfortunately, several other “honors” students connected too. Hence, other exceptionally

gifted students also targeted the same schools I had, some with even more powerful

weapons than the ones I was fortunate enough to possess. I was admitted to my dream

school, The University of Chicago, but was expected to pay over $30,000 a year. This

fact coupled with my money-minded dad’s incessant voice permeated my soul and led

me to do the unthinkable. Yes, in the Fall of 1999, I entered the University of Nebraska

at Shokey. The university was no more than a mile away from where I lived.

       Bummed and discouraged, I managed to accept my fate, but only after I had

realized that I didn’t like the prospect of debt either. I knew right away what I wanted to

do. As I became more and more disgruntled with the Christian dominance in the minds

of those around me, philosophy had begun to consume me. What had possessed these

human beings, making them think that they could explain so much? Thus, as early as my

junior year in High School, I had known what I would spend the rest of my life doing.

About the only thing I had to look forward to as I entered college was that the university

actually had a philosophy department, though it was equipped with a whopping three

professors and did not offer an official “major” in the subject. Could anything save me?

       Philosophy saved me. Or, perhaps it has ruined me. You can be the judge after

you’ve heard all the evidence. I must admit, I was extremely happy with the quality of

the philosophy department at the university. My first philosophy class, Intro to

Philosophy, was taught by a genius (whatever that is), who still, to this day, is the

smartest man I have ever met…if, in fact, I ever really even met him. Did I meet him?
                                                                                           7


        Dr. Tednf did nothing but fuel the fire. For once I was with other human beings

who thought about the same things I did, thanks to his classes. Was I dreaming? I was

introduced to Plato and Freud, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. All of these minds triggered

questions in my own mind. What was “Just?” Was God dead? What does Nietzsche

mean “God is dead?” Who is God? What is God? Is Freud’s pleasure principle just, or

merely profit? Does it matter? Was I philosopher-king material? Was I material?

        And, after one engaging philosophy class came another. After Ancient

Philosophy came Philosophy of Science, and after Philosophy of Science came a Seminar

on Immanuel Kant. One by one, I was intoxicated with a new branch of philosophy, each

as engaging as the ones before, with completely different problems to think endlessly

about. With the passing of each class, I became more and more aware of just how

infatuated with philosophy I really was. Was it noble, as Plato and Aristotle would have

me believe? I’d say it was cancerous, an addiction of the mind. I thought so much I

literally scared my self. Howev{R}er, in the end the real problem was not philosophy but

the absurdity of life itself.
                                                                                              8


                               Chapter Two: Learning To Fly

        As far as specifics, I can only remember as far back as a month ago—that’s what

it seems like anyway. But, what do I remember? I specifically remember a cold and

unusually dry winter day. It was a Friday, and school was out for the week. I came home

and turned on the television. I typically only watched two things on television, sports and

the news. It was just 3:30, so sports were not an option. Instead, I turned my attention to

the news of the day. Once again, there was the never-ending chatter about an impending

war. Should we or shouldn’t we attack Iraq? Those damn bastards…well, they’re

bastards. A couple of Muslims blew up some American buildings, and now it seemed as

though all hell might break loose. Everyone that the President deems suspicious must be

obliterated. Well, it’s not quite like that. The suspicion is warranted, but perhaps

America is a tad bit trigger-happy.

        Sometimes human beings seem so cruel, so unbelievably cruel, that I almost cry.

I certainly feel like taking a knife to my chest, a hammer to my head, anything to not

have to witness such absurdity. What is wrong with people? Who would fly an airplane

into a building in the name of a God? What kind of God would this God be? Is God the

right word? Who could possibly murder another human being? Perhaps the better

question is what could possibly murder another human being? Who could assume the

authority of such a choice? I am no God and I don’t think cold-blooded, ruthless

murderers are either. What happened to compassion? Sometimes I think about what I

would do if I were ever held up. I would be so completely and utterly crushed—I think

I’d want to die at that point. One thing is for sure; I would try to talk to the culprit. I

would try to reason with him. After a tragedy, you see the sensitive side of 99.999999 %
                                                                                             9


of people. But, there are always those few bastards who commited the tragedy to begin

with. These are the bastards that make me sick.

       By the way, I think my mind is a bastard. Sometimes I get these thoughts that

won’t leave me alone. Thoughts that are so scary I want to shut myself off. You see,

your mind has an on/off switch, and it’s called alcohol (actually, any drug will do).

Sometimes I have dreams in which I have committed a horrible atrocity. Constantly

throughout the dream I am fleeing from the cops and committing more and more

atrocities. Sometimes I’ll just blow someone’s brains out for no reason. Sometimes I’ll

rape an innocent girl. Sometimes I’ll be smuggling drugs and get caught (which is a

horrible atrocity on the part of the cops). Finally, I’ll wake up and thank God it was all a

dream. But, you know what the scary part really is? I don’t thank God it was a dream

because I’m glad I didn’t actually commit the heinous deeds. No, I thank God because I

won’t live in prison for the rest of my life. That’s what scares me. Where’s my

compassion? I’m sick to my stomach over the despicable acts of others, yet I can be so

selfish when it comes to myself.

       But, I can’t lie. It’s not always a dream. Sometimes I have these creepy thoughts

when I’m awake in class or talking to someone I think is boring. I see someone and I

imagine picking up a pair of scissors and stabbing them repeatedly in the chest.

Sometimes it seems so real. Is it real? Am I guilty? These thoughts make me just as

sick as when the same acts are actually done, in “real life.” My mind is like a light bulb

that refuses to turn off, especially when it’s time to turn off the lights at night and go

nighty night. Endless nights ensue. It drives me nuts. Or perhaps I should say, it drove

me nuts.
                                                                                            10


       Sometimes I have these obsessive thoughts that I think only someone with

obsessive-compulsive personality disorder—whatever that is—would understand. To

make matters worse, they are very, very self-destructive. Some begin as dreams and

quickly become more “conscious.” Others waste no time, and start in my waking hours.

I had a dream in which I could not shake this compulsive urge to push my bottom teeth

against my top teeth from behind, until the bottom teeth forced the top teeth out of their

roots and out of my mouth. Worse yet, in the dream I could not shake this horrible

compulsion and actually did it. My mouth was a bloody mess and I was constantly

sobbing…until I woke up. Of course, now I have this obsessive thought while fully

conscious. Now I’m truly freaked out. What the hell makes you constantly think about

something so grotesque and utterly morbid? Worse yet, why do I actually continue to

think that I might do it?

       Slowly after the onset of the teeth fiasco, I began envisioning a pencil to the eye.

There I was sitting in class one day, and all I could think about was how completely

absurd it would be to utilize my freedom at that particular point. Here I had eight quiet

classmates, all completely, one hundred percent normal. What the fuck would they do if

one of their classmates suddenly, and for no apparent reason whatsoever, jammed a

pencil into his eye? No doubt, some would faint. Some would likely vomit. Perhaps

some would even break down, finally realizing just how little the world really made sense

to them too.

       And, there I was, driving over the overpass with a train of cars behind me. And,

there I was, veering off the side of the bridge, plunging to my death, grinning as I

envisioned the spectrum of expressions displayed by those that witnessed the “tragedy.”
                                                                                            11


Want to talk about freedom? Instead, how about we talk about the absurd possibilities of

freedom? Why debate about whether we have freedom, when we should debate about

whether or not the absurd possibilities freedom allows are warranted? I must admit, I

almost did it a number of times, just to see the reaction. Just to see the reaction. The

only reason I never drove off of that bridge was because I just might not ever be able to

actually see it myself, rendering the absurdity a little less meaningful. Maybe in the

afterlife there is no after. Who knows? Maybe in the afterlife I could have seen the

reactions after all. I’ve always wondered whether we get to rewind and view parts of our

life all over again in the life beyond. Who knows?

       So am I really any better than the convicted felons swarming a state penitentiary

near you? After all, I do have the same thoughts. Am I not just as guilty then? At the

same time I shed contempt for other despicable human beings, I recoil with shame, as I

remember just how devious I am as well. But, don’t blame me, blame my mind! Suffice

it to say that all it takes for me to alleviate any anger I feel toward any other human being

is for me to remember what my own mind is capable of—what I am capable of—and that

I too am guilty. I am no better than the bastards that flew into the buildings. Am I?

       Needless to say, I could only watch for about five minutes before I was caught up

in the endless mind games I have just illustrated. I could take it no longer. The world

was killing my brain with its knack for pain, its rampant violent, and its political leaders

who, judging by their overly dramatic expressions and their over-emphasized gestures

during glorified speeches, clearly deserved shots in Hollywood. Or, was it my own

mind—my own way of thinking about things—that was really doing my brain in? How
                                                                                         12


do you know—how do I know? At any rate, I decided to turn my mind off, and headed

over to my friend Raheed’s house.

       Fortunately, Raheed lived in an apartment right across the busy highway in front

of my own place. We had actually lived together during our earlier undergraduate years,

both in a dorm room on campus and in an apartment we shared for about a year off

campus. Raheed was about six foot, two inches, parted his short black hair down the

middle, and never, ever answered the phone when his caller-I.D. read, “unavailable.”

Raheed hated gay and racial jokes with a passion, and refused to listen to country music.

Sometimes Raheed would walk with a limp, just for the hell of it. Raheed loved life, but

he wasn’t quite sure why. The U.S. government knew him simply as “505-18-9394.” To

most of the world, he wasn’t much more than a number either, but, to me, he was a

thoughtful, compassionate, and honest human being. A simple recipe, to be sure.

However, these are the only necessary ingredients for a “good person” in my book. Most

of us still manage to fuck it up.

       Once I arrived at Raheed’s apartment, the two of us immediately began to smoke

weed. I smoked occasionally in high school. I would have smoked a lot more if I had

had access to it. Most of the time I had smoked, it was with one of my other good

friends, Rob. Rob and I used to smoke in his college dorm room. Rob was two years my

elder and, consequently, when I was a junior in high school (when I first smoked

marijuana), he was a freshman in college. Rob also spent his entire life in Shokey,

including his college years. But, forget Rob for the time being.

       I still remember the first time I tried to smoke herb. I had never smoked anything

before, not even cigarettes. I held the pipe up to my mouth and lit the marijuana pipe
                                                                                           13


exactly as I was told to do. After lighting the pipe, which took all of two seconds, I

casually brought the hand with the lighter down to my side and inhaled with all my

might. Nothing happened. I complained to the friends I was with that nothing happened,

and they demanded that I try again. This time they watched…and almost died laughing.

After about five minutes of the loudest laughter I have ever heard, I angrily mustered a

response from one of them. “You have to light the weed while you inhale,” he managed.

With a sigh, I took my first hit, and fell in love immediately.

       There’s just something about marijuana that I can’t explain. Some of the most

genuine and moral human beings I have ever met smoked pot everyday, all day. These

same “potheads” also seem to be some of the most intelligent people I have ever met,

with the exception of Dr. Tednf and my father (and perhaps they have habits I don’t

know about). I like marijuana because it relaxes you and makes things feel less

important, like they should feel. For someone who can’t stop thinking about thinking

about thinking about thinking, pot is a miracle drug. Life suddenly become funny, just

when you thought humor had become archaic. Most importantly, pot makes you think in

a completely different manner than you might ordinarily think, makes you think about a

problem from a completely different perspective than you might ordinarily take. Pot

helped me solve Immanuel Kant. I think. I had the hardest time interpreting a particular

text. One night, I came home stoned and suddenly a divine interpretation came to me

through the medium of the green herb. That night, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. It felt

so good to have finally solved that menacing passage. Believe it or not, I was inspired to

write a novel when I was stoned once. It was the greatest idea I have ever had.
                                                                                              14


        Raheed and I eagerly smoked right away, each hoping for some newfound

inspiration or, better yet, meaning. But more importantly, what we each really

anticipated was the moment the weed would take effect, a moment marked by a clear lack

of concern for anything in this shitty, meaningless world. The moment the world would

dim out once again, and we could each forget how truly chaotic, and painfully repetitive,

our daily lives had become.

        Sure enough, I was turned off in a matter of minutes. Don’t get me wrong; when

the mind is turned off, it’s still on, but just on a lower power. It’s not so, shall I say,

bright. And, as was usually the case, I had Raheed engaged in a discussion pertaining to

religion in a matter of minutes. Raheed used to be Christian, or that’s what he told

people at least. After meeting a skeptic, one either becomes a skeptic, or becomes a

vigilante. Raheed now saw things the way I did. There must be a God, or so we must

hope, if life is to mean anything. Hence, the existence of God seems justifiable, or at

least plausible. But, what about the essence of this God? What about religions that

subscribe to a particular essence, to particular characteristics? Is it justified? Why?

These are the kinds of questions we would concern ourselves with. We might be having

the worst days of our stupid little lives, but, I tell you what, we could come home, roll up

a joint, talk about religion, and forget about it all.

        For the most part, everything seemed normal that night. Not a hint of armed

robbery or first-degree murder in the air, that’s for sure. Still I must admit Raheed did

seem a bit peculiar at times. But, hey, he always seemed a bit peculiar. On this particular

night, he just seemed to react funny in certain instances, almost inappropriately at times.
                                                                                              15


       I spoke of a just God, and he burst into laughter. “JUSTICE!” he screamed, after

the laugher subsided. “IT’S ALL IN YOUR FUCKING HEAD!” he ranted like a frickin'

lunatic. “All that exists is nature! Nature struggling against nature, and none of it

making any sense! Reason…what is reason?”

       At this point, I quickly changed the subject to computers, something I knew

would calm him down. Computers were his life. He lived for computers. He worked on

computers all day long, helping others with their own computer problems while eagerly

working on his own personal projects as well. He inhaled input, and exhaled output.

Hell, I’d even venture a bet that he slept with his hard drive.

       After we finished smoking and hanging out for a couple of hours, we parted. I

went home, looking forward to what I hoped would be my third consecutive night of

sound sleep. As I walked home from his house, I was nearly killed by a drunk driver.

The car seemed to appear out of nowhere. A group of four or five kids riding along,

lacking any inhibitions whatsoever. Luckily, I have quick reflexes, and I jumped toward

the median as soon as I saw them racing toward me out of the corner of my eye. Of

course, this spawned a series of long, tedious, and implicative questions. Why did I jump

out of the way? What was really my motivation for doing so? Was it just a matter of

natural law? Was it my instinct for survival? Did I have a duty to preserve my life? Did

I really want to preserve my life? Did it matter if I wanted to preserve my life, if it was

my duty to?

       These kinds of questions always guide me back to one essential question that

seems to sum them all up: What keeps me from putting a gun against my head and

blowing my fucking brains out? Really, why shouldn’t I? I mean, I don’t know what
                                                                                            16


will happen after I do such a thing, but I do know life can sure suck here on this Earth.

Why not? Why not gamble? Odds are it’s unlikely that an existence after death could be

any worse than existence before it. At least, there is no rational argument in favor of

such a conception. This whole notion of Hell is a bunch of bullshit. What kind of just

God would ever send any being into an eternal Hell? Who could ever deserve such an

incredibly evil punishment? If nothing else, God would have an obligation in the

matter—why hadn’t he/she/it shed some light on the contaminated soul?

       God to the sinner: Look Marilyn, you’ve been a sinner your entire life. Never

have you used the freedom I’ve granted you to choose a noble course of action. Now

burn sucker! Burn in an everlasting, eternally damning, fire.

       The sinner to God: God, why did you give me the freedom in the first place you

damn fool. Moreover, why are you either: a) stupid enough to think I’d make the right

choices, or b) cruel enough to punish me for something you knew I’d do?

       Of course, all this dialogue leads to is the inevitable problem of evil, the

granddaddy of them all in philosophy of religion. Why does God allow any evil to begin

with? I’m not sure that there is any definitive answer, but I know how the theist might

get out of the problem. After all, which is better, having good things or not having good

things? Clearly, it seems that having good things is better than not having good things.

But, to have good things, we must have bad things. Otherwise, what would it mean to be

good? If everything is simply good, what really is good? In other words, pretend you

lived in a world in which everything was black, and Sally asked you to hand her her black

necklace. Does “black” really help? Would it mean anything at all? Would the
                                                                                             17


designation “black” ever have even arisen? Hence, if we want the good, we have to

contrast it with the bad. I think.

       At any rate, what really keeps me from blowing my fucking brains out? Clearly, I

can’t be punished for doing so. For me, it comes down to the fact that here on this earth I

know I have something. What if after pulling the trigger there is absolutely nothing—

whatever that is? At least I have my own thoughts here on earth, even if I can’t be sure

of anything else. This is what keeps me going when I feel like I have nothing else to

lose. Even if I were dirt poor, living in the streets of Calcutta, I’d still choose to preserve

my life. Not for any fear of Hell, or even any sense of guilt, but because I’m sure I’ve

got something here—even if it is just myself.

       That’s why I live. That’s why I jump out of the way when someone tries to run

me over. That’s why I fight back when someone hits me. That’s why I fear disease and

decay. That’s why death scares me sometimes.
                                                                                           18


                     Chapter Three: Careful With That Axe, Eugene

       The next day was Saturday. Not only did I have the entire day off from work, I

had plans! After about ninety minutes of an intense basketball workout with Raheed,

Luke, and Rick, I came home, showered, and bought the bottle of vodka which would

allow me to disappear into the night. There was a get-together at Luke’s house that night,

and I wasn’t going to come ill prepared.

       Everything went according to plan. Everyone quickly consumed as much liquor

as possible within the shortest amount of time humanly possible. Everyone became much

less inhibited, noticeably louder, and much, much jollier. Friends that were ordinarily

questionable “friends” became the focus of all my attention, seemingly my soul’s only

desire. I could have talked to a tree for most of the night—hell, perhaps I did or have on

several occasions—and felt like I had built a wonderful, long-lasting friendship in doing

so.

       As it turned out, it’s a good thing I could count on trees to be there for me,

because I nearly lost all my other friends that night. It’s one of those things that you

yourself don’t notice, but everyone else points out for you. And you know you really are

guilty of some grievance or error because everyone points it out to you. Apparently, as

many of us engaged in our usual drunken conversations throughout the course of the

night —legitimacy of the death penalty, pro life versus pro choice, and the existence of

souls to name a few—I became much more “heated” and “cut-throat,” and “couldn’t be

talked to sensibly.” Evidently no one wanted to talk to me because “I was never wrong”

and could never see validity in contrary viewpoints. Luke told me the next morning that I
                                                                                          19


was downright hostile the night before, almost frightening to be with. Perhaps this night

truly marked the point at which I started to go crazy? Am I crazy? Crazy?

       And, of course, after Luke made his revelations I couldn’t get the ordeal off of my

mind. Why do others think that I’m so hostile? Do they really think that they can’t win

with me? Why don’t I notice this myself? Am I a bad person? What can I do to change?

Why am I like this? Can I stop? I wanted others to like me and that night was no

exception, but apparently I have no idea what I’m doing when I’m doing it (shit, that

sounds pretty damn crazy!). It’s kind of hard to change something if you aren’t even

cognizant of it. At any rate, I became obsessed with what others might be thinking of me

at any given point. On numerous occasions following my epiphany I almost stopped

talking in the middle of conversations with friends, as thoughts of what they might be

thinking about me exploded in my head, sapping my attention. Even I recognized that

this qualified as crazy. I was a basket case. Soon, I stopped paying attention to

conversations altogether and, instead, assumed the role of a detective. Did this person

think I was crazy? Did he feel threatened by me? Having not said a goddamn word yet,

does he think I’m stuck up, or that I think I’m too good for him?

       And, of course, others began to get irritated with me precisely because I was not

responding to them. They would ask me something like, “Have you been listening to a

goddamn thing I’ve said?” or, “Do you not give a goddamn what I have to say?” Not

surprisingly, my thoughts would then begin to tailspin in this direction. Thus, I would

answer them with more silence, wondering how my simple silence, my humble silence,

could lead them to all these conclusions—to think these crazy things about me and

unearth all kinds of ulterior motives.
                                                                                            20


       I couldn’t take it anymore. After this particular weekend I became more and

more of a recluse, avoiding social interaction as much as possible. Ironically, whenever I

would directly ask someone close to me what he or she thought of me, I’d always hear

how I was socially adept and fun to be around. Naturally, this only enticed me to

question why others would lie to me and tell me that I was so sociable. It never occurred

to me that it might all be in my head. But then again, what isn’t in my head? Everything

is in my goddamn head…

       What is reality anyway? What enables me to see/touch/interact/think about this

reality? Is reality that which we perceive through the senses, and nothing more? If I

could completely cut off all my sense perception of the outside world—no sense of touch,

no sight, no taste, no sound, and no smell—would I still experience reality? And, if so,

what would it then consist of? Merely thought? What then? What becomes real? For

this person, completely cut off from any sense perception, reality is whatever he thinks.

       When I was younger, I was always fascinated by a Metallica video called “One”

that depicts a soldier injured during World War II. This soldier has lost every available

sense perception of the external world around him. The lyrics go something like:

“…landmines have taken my sight, taken my speech, taken my hearing, taken my arms,

taken my legs, taken my soul, led me to life in hell…” Can you even imagine?

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts. That’s all one would have. I wonder if you’d even know

you’re alive. How could you? What would serve as your reality check? And what about

dreams? Would you know when you were awake and when you were dreaming?

       At any rate (just pick one), what is this guy’s reality? Could he ever be deemed

insane? On what grounds? I couldn’t imagine any kind of existence worse than this. Or
                                                                                            21


perhaps I’m looking at it from the wrong perspective. You could never be crazy in a

“sense-less” world. In fact, you’d never have to worry about anything in a sense-less

world. It would be nice to still be able to think, and never have to deal with the “extra

baggage”—you know, those damn senses that always make you wonder if maybe you do

have it all wrong. The same senses that always have you second-guessing yourself.

       But, my life still carried on. Difficult as it was, I continued to exist. That

weekend passed, and soon I was back in the soothing monotony of the weekday routine.

Get up. Go to class. Go to work. Go to sleep. Get up. Go to class. Go to work. Go to

sleep. Monotony really cuts down on thinking, and I really looked forward to it. A funny

thing happened at work that week. I think it was really there at work, and then, during

that week, that I really finally snapped.

       Working at a hotel can have its perks and its headaches. Unfortunately, the

headaches are usually migraines. That week there must have been a convention in town,

because we were full every night (which was very rare for weekdays during the school

year). By the end of the week, I could no longer take the incessant bitching about the

usual qualms guests have. “Isn’t there anything on the first floor?” every single one of

them would gripe. “That’s the cheapest rate you’ve got?” they’d all moan.

       And, my god, no one can approach a front desk clerk with a frickin’ smile.

Instead, every guest approaches as if he or she is entering World War III. They all think

that the motel is out to get them, ultimately seeking to rip them off in every way

possible—which might just be the case if we’re considering the owners of the motel.

However, this is most certainly not the case for employees making seven dollars an hour

regardless of whether the motel is deserted or overbooked. Needless to say, a rookie desk
                                                                                              22


clerk turns into a seasoned veteran right away. You learn to stand your ground and stare

in a very pissed off manner. Other wise, you’ll quickly find out that the guests are like

tiny little gnats, refusing to leave until they think you’ve finally acclimated yourself to

them being there and annoying the hell out of you. You’ve got to smack them right

away. Of course, practical necessity keeps you from doing what you really want to do to

many of them. While you want to tell the majority to “fuck off,” the obligation to make

money and avoid poverty strains your verbal flexibility.

       And so there I was on Thursday of that week, enduring another night of living

hell. What I would have given to exist only in my thoughts right then and there!

Suddenly landmines didn’t sound so displeasing. Perhaps I really did only exist in my

thoughts anyway, conjuring up the details of my pathetic life. Nevertheless, it seemed

too real at the time. So even if it was merely my thoughts that existed that night, I didn’t

want them either. And before I become completely derailed, on with an account of one

of the most bizarre, enlightening, and fun nights of my life.

       Guest after guest came in, one right after another, starting the second I walked in

to begin my shift. And guest after guest complained about the ridiculous rates and their

second floor location. And then it happened. I snapped. Freedom got the best of me. As

one particular guest glared at me with penetrating, seemingly evil eyes, I snapped. What

could I do? What could I do to stop myself from going completely and utterly nuts?

       Turn the event into comic relief of course! As the guest stood there staring, in

utter disbelief about the rate of his room, I decided to do something completely random

and only possible through the absurd freedom granted to me: I barked. I barked at him

like a crazed dog. I barked as loudly and as harshly as I could. And then I barked some
                                                                                            23


more. This poor human being had never seen anything like what his ridiculous rate

brought him that evening. And I had never laughed as hard as I did after he ran out of the

motel, sporting a face that screamed, “I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life!”

What a strange soothing feeling. There really is nothing like it. Try it. At some point in

the monotony of your day, perhaps as you’re walking by someone along the sidewalk,

bark. Bark. Bark for no reason at all. Be random. No one will expect it. Shock is

soothing.

       But don’t even begin to think that I was finished there. You weren’t, were you?

Instead of letting these over-bearing guests drive me nuts I continued to fight back.

Sometimes I would bark, but sometimes I’d do other things. About an hour after my first

barking victim ran for his life a young woman, probably about thirty, entered the lobby.

After agreeing to the rate, she paid, and I began to point out where her room was.

Unfortunately and fortunately, all hell broke loose.

       “I can’t have second floor—there’s no elevator!” she yelled.

       I tried to reason with her. “I’m sorry ma’am,” I said. “But, there really is nothing

I can do. First floor is not available. I can help you with your luggage, if you’d like.”

       “Are you going to carry me up too?” she whined. And then it dawned on me.

Reason has failed. Now, instead of sitting here and carrying on a boring argument with

this lousy human being, I could be amusing myself with the absurd possibilities of my

own freedom.

       “Alright ma’am,” I interrupted her in the middle of some long tirade that I hadn’t

been listening to anyway. “Let me see what I can do for you.” I proceeded to walk over

to my “cure-all” computer. “Oh my,” I said with an astonished look. “It looks like I’ve
                                                                                          24


made a mistake. We have nothing left on the second floor either. All we have left are

rooms on the fifth floor. Unfortunately, I don’t think my back would hold up if I

attempted to carry you up five flights of stairs. What do you think? Care to wager on

it?”

        Her jaw dropped so fast, I didn’t even have time to laugh. “This is the most

ridiculously run motel I have ever been to,” she snapped. “Five flights of stairs and you

have no elevator? Is this some kind of joke?”

        “Nope,” I replied. “No joke. It’s all a matter of economics. You see, regardless

of what motels try to make you think, this day and age it’s not about customer

satisfaction. It’s merely about profit. Elevators cost too damn much!”

        She scoffed sardonically, and then hastily walked out of the motel. Three seconds

later she came back in fuming. “This motel only has two stories!” she screamed

hysterically.

        “I don’t know what’s wrong with you ma’am” I lied. “This motel is five stories

high. Are you feeling alright? You look a bit mad. Oh well, I guess we all are to some

extent, right?” Never have I seen a lady so red in the face. It looked as if her head might

explode, spraying bitter bits of brain throughout the motel lobby.

        “I’ll be in touch with the property owner,” she assured me as she exploded out the

door.

        Admittedly, in retrospect I immediately felt a small degree of remorse about what

I had done. After all, one must always feel guilty about something; such is the nature of

life as a human being. Thus, I decided that I’d still amuse myself, but just not so harshly.

Sure enough, it didn’t take long before I was given an opportunity to do so, as another
                                                                                            25


guest walked in less than ten minutes later and couldn’t believe his rate. His rate was a

whopping $53.96 plus tax. A hefty price for just about anything else in the world…but

not a motel room.

       “Alright,” I replied to his initial bewilderment, “what do you think is fair?”

       He looked flabbergasted. “Are you joking?” he asked in amazement.

       “No I’m not FUCKING joking,” I responded.

       I think he temporarily hyperventilated. After collecting himself he said, “I don’t

know what the big idea is, but is that the lowest rate available?”

       Again, I walked over to the cure-all. “Well, sir,” I whispered, “let me see what I

can do.” I fumbled around for a minute on the computer and finally said, “Actually, it

looks as if we do have a miser rate of $5.95.” The absurd possibilities of freedom!

       I think his heart jumped up into his throat, but he still managed to say, “What the

hell is wrong with you, you psychotic freak!”

       “Is $5.95 not cheap enough for you, sir, because that’s our lowest available rate,”

I snapped back. He too ran out of the motel in a fit of rage. The funny thing is, I would

have given him the room at that rate. Was I really working anyway? Or just thinking?

       The curious comfort I felt from being outrageous at work that night puzzled me.

Why did I like being so utterly absurd? Was it a devilish pleasure? Nonetheless, I

couldn’t help myself. The pleasure spread like the plague, and soon I was barking at

pedestrians as I drove by them, snorting at classmates for no particular reason, and

wearing shorts and a tank top in the middle of blizzards. Gosh, maybe I really was crazy.

Maybe not…
                                                                                            26


        Fortunately, I benefited mankind with some of my absurd behavior. On numerous

occasions I walked up to complete strangers on campus and gave them ten-dollar bills.

Needless to say, they responded with utter disbelief, and usually asked what I was giving

them money for. Was there “some kind of catch?” With a sigh, I’d reassure them that

“it’s a gift, no questions asked.” It’s amazing how skeptical people are of other people.

“Is that your lowest rate?” “Why are you giving me $10?” As if there has to be a

magical “reason” for everything. Sometimes I wonder if trust is just a figment of my

imagination.

        Of course, there are a lot of things I really don’t understand. The only reason I

was sane for as long as I was was because I had my girlfriend and close friends to help

comfort me, to help ease the pain implicit in such an absurd reality. Anytime my mind

began to wonder my girlfriend Renee would bring me back to reality, or Raheed would

challenge me in a video game, or Luke would challenge me to a game of one-on-one at

the court. I could usually keep my mind on a short leash. At the very least, it never

completely broke free. I’d come home from philosophy class, head in the clouds,

completely furious about a problem I was having. Nothing would be making any sense.

Yet right before I would lose my grip Renee would give me a hug, and everything would

just disappear...at least for the time being.

        Renee and I had been dating for around 1,432 days. All in all she was fantastic—

a perfect ten. Any girl that could stick with me longer than it takes me to say “I’m sorry”

is definitely a keeper, and Renee was no exception. She kept a healthy perspective on

life, and for this reason in particular she complimented me nicely. She was also smart,
                                                                                            27


attractive, and every other possible good thing you could think of to describe the woman

of your dreams.

       Renee was certainly charming when it came to putting my mind at ease. But in

the previous few weeks, absurdity had gotten the best of me. In large part, I think it was

due to the comfort I felt when being absurd. However, there are other instigators to be

sure. The semester’s list of available classes included Philosophy of Mind, which I

eagerly registered for. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that the metaphysical problems

inherent in this branch of philosophy were much more challenging and obscure than

most of the philosophical problems I had dealt with before. Ironically, the same semester

I registered for Philosophy of Mind would turn out to be the same semester people began

telling me I had lost mine.

       After each class I’d be so engaged in the problems of that day that I couldn’t think

about anything else for at least a couple of hours. I often felt so differently about the

problems at hand than the other students and, unfortunately, the professor did, that I

would come home upset and the rest of my day would be ruined. Philosophy no longer

simply interested me—it possessed me, consuming my every waking moment.

       I became so passionately involved in the philosophical problems I encountered

each and every day that I could think of nothing else—nothing else mattered. I was

warped, and nobody could help me anymore. I became so discouraged by most of the

classes I was taking that I began to write incessantly in my notebook during classes rather

than pay attention to the strange human being in front of the room eliciting barely audible

sounds from his or her mouth. I began to tune the classes out and, instead, concentrated
                                                                                          28


solely on the conflicting thoughts fighting for pole position inside my own head.

Eventually, I quit going to classes altogether.

       The last class I attended was the day after I discovered the pleasure in absurdity at

work. Yes, indeed, it was two weeks prior to my departure from (your) reality, a Friday.

I think. I came home so furious from class that day that I demanded no one talk to me,

and I sat in my library debating the problem all night. The problem? You guessed it.

Reality. What the hell is it? But why was that Friday worse than any other day?

Because I discovered another lost soul, a philosopher, who seemed to be thinking

precisely the same things I was, and the entire class period was spent destroying the

plausibility of his philosophy. Try telling somebody that everything they’ve passionately

thought about for so long is nothing but a waste of time. See how they react.

       Who was my fallen comrade? René Descartes. Descartes, searching for certainty

in a world you couldn’t be less certain of, began his philosophy by doubting everything.

Did he truly doubt everything? Probably not. Instead, he simply wanted to find

something he could be certain of, something “real,” and in order to legitimately begin his

investigation he couldn’t presume anything was real. An assumption is not certainty.

Thus, he began by doubting everything. What enticed him to do so? Because he felt

uncertain of reality to begin with. Can you blame him? Perhaps we are much too

confident of what we know. Descartes’ real skepticism seems to have started with the

senses. The senses are always deceiving us, he tells his reader. We think our senses of

sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell are all real. But are they always? How often have

you had a dream so vivid that it seemed real? Better yet, how often, when dreaming,

does the dream not seem real? And, of course, there are sensory illusions when we are
                                                                                           29


awake. Pencils appear to bend in water; you see your friend in the distance, only to find

it’s a complete stranger when you run toward him; you could have sworn you heard an

intruder or smelt something burning. Nope. You’re just crazy. Descartes questioned

why we should trust our senses at all if they’ve deceived us even once. How can we ever

be sure that they are not deceiving us? What can we be sure of? I’m pretty sure that I’m

not sure if I'm sure that I'm sure of anything.

        Thus, Descartes embarked on a frightening journey in an attempt to find some

truth in this mystery we call life. Descartes discovers something right after he begins his

method of doubting everything. Something/some being has to actually be doing the

doubting. Hence, something/some being has to exist if there is any thought/doubt to

begin with. And, as a result, he concluded: “I think, therefore I am.” Here he had his one

certainty—himself. After coming to this conclusion, he proves the existence of all kinds

of wonderful things like God and the certainty of his senses (talk about going the

roundabout way…). While I doubted his many conclusions, I certainly admired his

initial doubt.

        The class sure as hell didn’t. They pounced on Descartes like a pack of rabid

dogs. “How does he know his senses were ever wrong to begin with?” they all objected.

“To say they were wrong at one point,” they’d continue to gripe,” he has to know they

were right at other times. Or else, how does he ever know that they were ever wrong to

begin with?” They would finish with the most triumphant expression on their faces.

They really feasted upon Descartes’ problem with dreams. Descartes points out that in

his dreams he often has passionate conversations with other people. Then he wakes up

only to find that no conversation ever took place, and that his senses had deceived him.
                                                                                            30


       Dr. Kaboogle quickly jumped all over Descartes at this point. “Don’t you see,”

he’d ask the class, “that, for Descartes to realize that the conversation in the dream isn’t

real, he has to wake up in a world he considers real and does not doubt?”

       And this is always where we’d end up at. Everyday. I could never succeed in

conveying to Dr. Kaboogle and the class what I felt Descartes’ real problem was. I’d

always get cut off, and Dr. Kaboogle would either dwindle the argument down into

Descartes’ linguistic mistakes or the fact that Descartes had to have some notion of

reality to distinguish anything else as not real. Never did I get the chance to finish a

thought.

       Descartes is merely questioning the certainty we too often claim to have. If

something that seems so consequential, so vivid, so real, as dreams is found to be nothing

but figments of the mind, then how can one be sure of anything? I’ve had dreams that

seemed to last years. I’ve killed several people, ran from the cops for several days, and

spent months in prison. Then, I wake up sweating, and realize it wasn’t “real life.” What

if it’s just a matter of time before I wake up from this world in which I am

communicating with you? What happens to this reality? It is for the same reason we

doubt dreams that we should doubt this world. How far does the “ah hah, it wasn’t real”

chain go? Better yet, how far along the chain are we? I’ve had dreams in my dreams.

I’ll “wake up” sweating in my bed…in my dream. Then, I’ll live for a while in what I

thought was real, only to “wake up" sweating in my bed in this world (I think (I think (I

think (I think…)))).

       Waking up in reality is truly frightening if you think about it. Of course, we could

just dispel all concern by rendering it “crazy” and “fruitless” thinking, absurd gibberish.
                                                                                               31


And, this is precisely what happened day in and day out of that philosophy class before I

eventually stopped going. On the very last day I attended class (that Friday) I became so

upset that, after trying to participate for the first ten minutes, but to no avail, I simply

exploded in my notebook. I wrote the following in my worn and cursed notebook:

        Stupid fucking “humor.” They are so quick to doubt

        dreams, to laugh at Descartes, and yet they contradict

        themselves by doing both. When will you wake up?

        Oh…that’s just it; I am awake. No Kaboogle, you’re

        fucking crazy, and soon you will wake up in an asylum

        where you really are. Where do you fucking draw the

        line? When are you “awake?” How do you know? You

        should take Descartes seriously for the same reason you

        doubt dreams. So, when does a conversation take place?

        There are two people in your dream and two people in

        your dream (when you think you’re awake) and two

        people in your dream (when you “know” [hahah] you’re

        awake) and there are two people…

        Bottom line: there are two people. Does it matter when

you wake up? You might not be awake just yet.
                                                           32


I can’t stand how class constantly gets derailed by

irrelevant side “humor” about shit that doesn’t matter,

all the while we’re supposed to be talking about important

things. Isn’t there a point where language puns aren’t

funny anymore? Time flys. Hah hah hahhah hah hahh

ahahha hah hah ha haha hahha hah ahha hah haha

ah aha hah ha hahah ahahah ahha ahha ahhaa haha

hahhhahaha ha ahahahha hahah. Cut off your hand

because it deceives you and go to the second hand

store…hah ahhah ahhah ahahahh hahahha hahahhah

hahahah. There’s something about the grammar in

this—ah shit, here we go again. hah ahahha hah aah ha

What does a noun do? Is Descartes really trying to give a

grammar lesson? Is that what he’s doing? Do you

understand what he’s saying? No, you profess not to

because his language doesn’t make sense? Then why are

you so ardently sure that he is wrong? Why are you so

spiteful of him? You, yourself, don’t seem to understand

what he’s trying to say, so how can you detest his thoughts

and be so quick to judge him? What, Dr. Kaboogle, is he
                                                                                         33


       saying? Oh my God. What do I mean by “saying?” By

       saying, I mean... Do you know what I’m saying? Saying?

       Did? The? Who? It? ?

Truly a psychotic frenzy, I must admit. I was pushed to the point of no return, and it

showed in my class attendance shortly thereafter…
                                                                                               34


                             Chapter Four: Pigs On The Wing

         I was sitting in our favorite pub Lightingtails, slowly killing brain cells with my

weapon of choice, Amber Ale, when I calmly took in my busy surroundings. It was a

Saturday night, the night after I had divorced class, and the place was swelling with

throngs of people. Moreover, they all looked suspiciously normal. So, I decided to test a

theory of mine. Rob was sitting to my right and Raheed across from me. We occupied a

booth centered in the middle of the pub, directly visible from every other booth

surrounding it.

         Normally, someone will look shocked if someone else does something totally

unexpected, totally atypical, and totally absurd. As I grabbed my full sack of illegal

marijuana from an inside coat pocket, I half expected the majority of those around me to

pass out when they witnessed what I was doing. I poured the contents out onto a menu

placed on the center of the table, and then began to roll a joint. A big, fat joint. Absurd!

Spark!

         At first, the others within the bar were such assholes. I was ready for excitement,

controversy, and meaning. All they gave me was nonchalance. Nothing, not even an

awkward glance. God. Would I have to speak up—let them know I was breaking the

law? I can’t be absurd if no one realizes it. Were these people oblivious to protest? Or,

did they all smoke pot? Silently reflecting upon my silent reflective spite for these silent

disrespectful bastards, I began to feel an eerie sensation. I felt like I was being

swallowed by hundreds of curious (and jealous?) eyeballs.

         Must have been the smoke that finally drifted in through the nostrils of my fellow

human beings, because they were all staring at me now. Raheed covered himself with a
                                                                                           35


cough, stood up, and went to the bathroom. Rob stared at me with a zealot’s

concentration, drool dripping down from his mouth. For a second I was honestly

concerned for his safety. Or, was it his sanity? What’s the difference?

{E}    I’m the one that’s insane anyway. Thus, it would seem that anyone I deem insane

is, by virtue of my own insanity, actually “A-O.K.” So here I was, smoking a joint and

contemplating the subjective nature of the “insanity” label, completely disengaged from

my immediate surroundings…lost in a whirlpool of self-reflective intrigue. Goddamn!

Am I nuts? Maybe I am. Label me and lock me up.

       The bartender tapped me on the shoulder. “Leave.”

       “But I’m a regular,” I pleaded. “I’m A-O.K.!” I shouted as he took my beer and

mumbled something insignificant to Rob. Rob awoke from his deep slumber with a

bang, ignited by something very, very consequential. Meaning? World peace?

       “Let’s go,” he spat. “He’s calling the cops.”

       It was Saturday night and there was alcohol to drink. Of course, at this point in

my life there were Tuesday nights and alcohol to drink. Wednesday nights…and alcohol

to drink. Can you blame me? Explain starving children. Explain mosquitoes and I’ll

only take ten shots a night, not eleven. Explain the beginning of time and I’ll make it

nine. Win me the lottery so I don’t have to slave away at a goddamn motel for some rich

owner with seven boats and three wives and I’ll quit drinking altogether. I need alcohol

to numb my mind, to numb my reason. Do you blame me? Blame God. He’s the one

that created my brain chemicals that created my insanity. Crazy if you think about it!

       There we sat, high above the football field, comfortably arranged in our hard,

uncomfortable folding chairs, mocking a play-by-play trio of announcers in the press box
                                                                                          36


of the university football stadium. Three o’clock in the morning. Why do they leave the

door to the press box unlocked? Is this reasonable? Cost effective? Don’t they realize

that there are plenty of lunatics just itching to throw folding chairs out of press box

windows, thereby increasing student fees by five cents next semester? Don’t they realize

that there are drunk and insane human beings just waiting to take advantage of unlocked

press boxes at three o’clock in the morning? What’s wrong with these people?

       Reckless abandon. Comic relief. Absurdity. What’s the difference? At three

o’clock in the morning, breaking into a press box is quite funny. There is absolutely no

reason whatsoever that anyone should ever break into a press box at three o’clock in the

morning. This, for sure, marked the beginning of the end for me; this event was the

clincher; I had finally lost all hope; I was unreasonable; nuts. I think.

       And then there was Sunday. Everyone packaged in their churches, eagerly

awaiting shipment to heaven. I slept until three o’clock that day. Hell would have been a

blessing. Nothing is worse than waking up on a Sunday afternoon equipped with a

headache and nothing but “Why?” and “What?” running through one’s mind. Why did I

get so drunk last night? Why did I have an urge to drink last night? What drove me to

drink last night? What wasn’t enough? What was I missing? What? Why? Whatever

the answers are to these questions I knew one thing for sure. Getting drunk made me feel

better. Getting drunk made me forget these cryptic questions with millions, and, at the

same time, zero answers.

       I needed comic relief. I needed to abandon myself. So, I flicked on the ol’

thought molester to channel seventeen, the “Trinity Broadcasting Network.” It didn’t

take long until I was zoned out thanks to the invention of the millennium. The powers of
                                                                                         37


the speakers giving their sermons on this channel were unbelievable. Grown adults

would instantaneously fall to the ground, in a trance, at the touch of the speaker’s hands

on their foreheads. Big fat men that looked like they’d been through their share of A.A.

meetings and ex-wives with mothers from hell. But, don’t get me wrong. I’d be willing

to best that most of the audience hadn’t even heard of a “bar” before. Was this part of a

plan—“the plan”?

        As I sat there drinking beer and watching people be saved, I started to frown.

Why hadn’t I stumbled upon this channel sooner in my existence? Talk about bad luck. I

liked to ask Raheed the same question every time we’d watch the channel together: “Is

the audience in on it or not?”

        “Are you kidding,” he’d respond, “I refuse to believe anyone is that dumb.” “Of

course they’re in on it—they’re probably getting paid. Just like acting.”

        “What you’re saying,” I’d counter, “is that the whole thing is just one big gigantic

lie?”

        “Precisely,” he’d say. “Rather ingenious, if you ask me,” he’d continue. “You

need the fantastical to reach some people,” he’d ramble with the fervor of an abortion

clinic bomber. “Some people need to be tricked into the truth,” he’d say as he wrapped

up his closing arguments, “you know, a ‘noble lie’.”

        “But isn’t that sacrilegious,” I would wonder aloud? Kind of like the guy who

says he hates philosophy but reads it all the time….

        Snap out of it! Again I caught myself in deep reflective thought that would surely

have sucked me down into an abyss of endless contemplation if I hadn't been lucky

enough to snap out of it. What if I really was sucked in one of these times? What if
                                                                                             38


someday I just didn’t snap out of it, forever caught in thought? And what the hell was it

about television? Why these tendencies to get lost in thought while watching television?

Jesus, I needed another beer. That’d wake me up. Turn me off.

        Turn me off, and tune me in. “God spoke to me in a dream last night,” an apostle

was saying on the screen. “And he revealed to me something quite disturbing.

Something that is going to happen within the next few months. ‘But’, God said, ‘Benny

you can’t reveal what I’m telling you until Monday morning’. I asked God, ‘why’? But

all he said was, ‘Never mind why’. So my people, you’ll need to tune in to tomorrow’s

program to get the full details. I can only tell you that it is a stunning revelation that will

have a tremendous impact on the entire world.” Damn it. Benny was always holding his

people in suspense. I didn’t know which was more ironic—Benny having the

conversation with God or having to wait to hear about it.

        Snap out of it. Maybe if I wasn’t so out of it I too could talk to God. What’s

wrong with me? Why doesn’t God make revelations to me? Reveal to me why Benny

can’t reveal except on Monday mornings. Reveal to me why human beings require sleep.

Reveal to me why Socrates once said, “The only thing I know is that I know nothing at

all.” Socrates! The king of reason! Reveal to me why the king of reason could say

something so irrational. Reveal to me why some authors write very, very long

meaningful books that could have been very, very short meaningful books. Reveal to me

why motel owners make six frickin’ figures a year, have seven boats, and three wives,

while their desk clerks make seven dollars an hour, can barely support themselves, and

then have to spend everything they have left on their sedative of choice.
                                                                                            39


       Snap out of it! God doesn’t reveal himself until God sees fit. Snap out of it! At

this point, I realized that I had one of two options available to me. Obviously, I wasn’t

able to control myself at the static rate in which I was proceeding. So I could do one of

two things: 1) take five shots of vodka in a row, or 2) head over to Raheed’s house and

smoke some of that pretty pot plant. Naturally, I took the five shots, and then walked

across the street to Raheed’s.

       I knock on the door, and I hear Raheed shout from within side, “God?”

       “Yep, I’m here to save you,” I shout back, right on cue. “You’re one of the

chosen ones!” With that, the door handle turns, and I am allowed inside. “Why is it I

always have to save you,” I ask him as I shut the door behind me.

       “Because you’re a savior,” he tells me.

       “Don’t,” I snicker, “you’ll give me delusions of grandeur!”

       As if he instinctively knew I was coming over, as if he instinctively knew what

for, I noticed that he had just finished rolling a nice big fat joint. “We smoke a lot of

pot,” I said out loud to no one in particular.

       “So,” he responded to no one in particular. “It’s just a coping mechanism,” he

continued to tell no one in particular.

       “A coping mechanism?” I asked.

       He turned toward me, put the joint up to his mouth, lit it up, inhaled to full

capacity, said “it helps to cope with this thing they call reality,” looked up toward the

ceiling, and exhaled the biggest cloud of smoke I’d ever seen in my entire life.

       “Hmm…that’s an interesting philosophy,” I said as I admired the cloud of smoke

that began to swallow me whole.
                                                                                             40


        “It helps to numb the nonsense,” he coughed.

        Why does it seem like we spend our entire lives looking for ways to cope with our

lives? Morphine. Crack. Pot, or, as law-enforcement personnel call it, dope. Even

cigarettes help “pass the time.” Vacation. Work…for money…so that we won’t have to

cope anymore. Then, cocaine after we do get the money, but realize it doesn’t quite do

the trick. Sleep. Death.

        “What if death is a gift?” I blurted out

        “Like this is hell, and it can only get better?” Raheed asked.

        “Something like that…I’m not sure really…but something like that,” I answered.

“What I really think,” I continued, “is that everyone’s fear of death is, at best, irrational,

if not completely absurd.”

        “Is this a revelation?” he asked, suspiciously flexing his eyebrows.

        “Look at it like this,” I said. “Just like no one can tell the future, no one can

explain what happens after death. Do we have a fear of January 22, 2009—”

        “January 22, 2009?” he interrupted. “Is that when it’s all ‘going down’?”

        “No, no,” I said. “That’s precisely my point. We have absolutely nothing to fear

on January 22, 2009 because we could fear everything. January 22, 2009 is exactly like

death. We have no idea what might happen. We could get brutally murdered in the

streets of some small midwestern town on a cold bitter night. Or, we could win the

lottery on an unusually bright and sunny January day. We might rot in a community of

graves. Or, we could sing songs on cloud nine. Why fear anything? If you fear death,

you might as well fear January 22, 2009, and tomorrow for that matter. Fear of death is

just as irrational as cults that believe that such and such will happen on such and such
                                                                                             41


particular day. None of it makes any goddamn sense. Nothing makes any goddamn

sense.”

          “But cults are insane,” Raheed countered.

          “You’re missing the point,” I managed.

          Nothing makes any sense. Nothing. What does death imply? Perhaps

NOTHING? Consequently, everything on earth would be meaningless, superficial,

stupid, pointless, nothing? But, why? Don’t we have to ask “why?” Perhaps

SOMETHING? Heaven and Hell? Cloud nine? Reincarnation? Life on a big hashish

plant? But, why? Don’t we have to ask “why?” Nothing makes sense.

          Raheed interrupted my thought process with something like, “Yeah, man, nothing

makes any sense; the world is absurd, and we’ll all live absurdly ever after.”

          “Let’s go to Lightningtails,” he said suddenly with the ecstatic enthusiasm of a

child learning to ride his brand new baby blue bicycle.

          “Think they’ll let me in?” I wondered aloud.

          “Shit,” he said with a hint of disappointment. “I don’t know, but it’s worth a

shot.”

          And off we went to Lightningtails. At the door, we were met with an air of

hostility, controversy, and disbelief. “How could we?” the bartender asked with a glance.

He immediately picked up the phone. We immediately turned around and walked out.

Banned from my home away from home. This world was really driving me to drink!

Now desperate, we hopped in the car, headed back to his place, and called a few friends.

If no one would accept us, we’d have to start accepting them instead.
                                                                                           42


       Thus we threw a party. Well, what we call a party—six friends sitting around

drinking beer into the wee hours and talking about nothing but sex, guns, rock and roll,

and God. Mostly just God though. Then someone usually gets really into it. And then

Raheed or I usually get really into it back. Most of our friends are Christian. Most of our

friends don’t mind discussing religion. We just get really into it. Hour after hour. Why?

Why do we discuss topics that have no foundation, no root, no answers?

       “It just doesn’t make sense.” “But, it could be.” “Then anything could be.”

“Well, how do you explain it?” “I don’t explain it.” “Why not?” “Why?” Hour after

hour until finally our eyes would give out, and our thoughts fade away…
                                                                                             43


                                        Chapter Five: Bike

       And then there was Monday. Always Monday. I woke up with the strange

realization that I had absolutely nothing I was supposed to do that day. What a strange

feeling indeed. In fact I loved it, and I was deep in thought in no time. Able to do

nothing at last, though I was sure I would feel guilty about doing precisely that in no time

at all. Unfortunately, there’s always the guilt that accompanies the uneasiness of doing

absolutely nothing at all.

       Not only that. What was I to do when I did nothing at all? This was the ultimate

catch-22. I wanted nothing more than to do nothing at all—to sit silently by myself and

enjoy the inactivity of the body I was forever plagued with. Yet at the same time,

nothing grew more agonizing than the incessant tendency to drift away in thought while

doing so. Sheer agony. In the back of one’s mind one’s always aware of the fact that one

is doing absolutely nothing but thinking, and thoughts of what one should be doing

instead begin to make their presence known. “Do this, do that, but don’t do nothing at

all!” the guilty conscience will scream. Finally, you can’t help but want out of that

goddamn head of yours. Crazy fucking mind. Crazy!

        Monday, and once again I needed comic relief. Again I needed to abandon

myself. So I began thinking to myself in little thoughts that began with “So…” “So what

shall I do today?” “So shall I try to think, talk, and write in what contemporary literary

experts deem ‘proper style’?” “So by doing that would I have to eliminate sentences that

begin with ‘So…’?” “So at one point a couple of weeks earlier, when engaged in a

conversational debate with a debatable conversationalist, I was told that beginning any

sentence with ‘So…’ was not good style.” So?
                                                                                           44


         And at this point I realized I had spent the last three minutes talking about myself

to myself by myself. Something wasn’t quite right. What was I doing? Does everyone

carry on conversations about themselves to themselves? I suddenly felt like there were

too many of me. “Snap out of it you freak!” an inner voice screamed inside my head.

“Why are you talking to yourself?” another demanded. “Haven’t you anything better to

do? Haven’t you anyone else to talk to? What you need is a bottle of vodka and a couple

of pops to chase your shots with.” I just couldn’t disagree with myself on this one.

         As I threw down my first few shots I began to wonder about all those people that

walk around talking to themselves, especially in crummy gas stations. Was I one of

them? Was I just better at hiding my affliction—my incessant inclination to ramble

endlessly about myself to myself? I just did it behind other people’s backs, whereas the

public exhibitionists did not. Is it A-O.K. to talk to yourself about yourself when you’re

by yourself but not when you’re in the presence of others? Perhaps one is only “weird” if

the conversation becomes audible. As long as you talk to yourself silently, perhaps it’s

A-O.K.

         What? This doesn’t make any sense. Why should it matter if I talk to myself

aloud? Silent speech seems like some kind of cover-up—something to hide? I decided

then and there that I was going to hide nothing. What did I have to hide? Nothing. After

all, whenever I said something I tried to be as sensible as possible. Hence, I had nothing

to be afraid of. Furthermore, if I talked out loud someone else could, and probably

would, correct me if I said something that wasn’t sensible when talking to myself.

         From that point forward I hid nothing from others. My thoughts were for all ears.

I wanted to be critiqued. If I wasn’t thinking properly, I wanted to know. Why do we
                                                                                          45


walk around afraid and all bottled up inside? Admittedly, when I began talking to myself

aloud it was hard to get everything out. It’s impossible. Quick, say everything that goes

through your mind out loud. Simply impossible. But, I did my best. And soon I was

talking to myself out loud all the time without even consciously thinking about it; it

became as natural as breathing for me. Ironically, this is when the world started dropping

little hints: “Freak.” “Psycho.” “Nut.” “Maniac.” “Creep.” “Weirdo.” “Jesus man, get

a fucking life.” At least they others were not hiding anything either. But shit, some

things you should just keep to yourself. What mean fucking bastards people could be!

How can people be so damn mean to me?

       As I threw down my last few shots, I realized I needed to get out of my head for a

while. I needed to escape. Not surprisingly, I found myself stumbling across the

highway soon thereafter, whistling some stupid meaningless tune to keep my mind

distracted for just a little while longer. The next thing I know—and by this I mean the

next thing I’m seriously consciously aware of—Raheed and I are passing a pipe back and

forth in his living room.

       It’s strange how our consciousness works. Every waking moment we’re alert and

doing something, even if we’re simply staring at the wall. Yet, only occasionally do we

seem to consciously pop up from a seemingly third-person perspective and take note of

what exactly it is we’re doing. For instance, we finally realize we’ve been washing the

dishes. How long had we been doing the dishes for? What happened—had we simply

zoned out while doing the mind-numbing chore? Or we finally note that there’s this

computer screen in front of us and that we’re typing something. And then we realize that,
                                                                                         46


yes, we’ve been typing a letter to so and so for the past ten minutes, going on and on

about things that obviously never required our full attention.

       Needless to say, I came back to my life as Raheed and I were smoking weed in his

apartment. Hmm… The television was on. How long had it been on? Were we actually

watching something? Was there a game on or something? No way to tell now, as a

commercial littered the screen. Ahh… Beer. Raheed and I were both holding beers.

That’s right, he had asked me to grab one for both of us as I walked in earlier.

Interesting. But enough of this attention to detail, it was time to drift…

       “Open the door to perception.” “Enter the realm of the unknown.” “Feel the

vibration of the worldly energy.” “Get in touch with reality.” “Do drugs.” Nothing but

gibberish. The words of a stoner or mushroom man? Or, the words of a lonely soul on

the verge of giving up on a sober, meaningless world around him? You decide.

       “Drugs are bad m’kay.” “Don’t do drugs.” “Don’t cross the street before looking

both ways.” “Don’t talk with your mouth open.” “Don’t hit a girl.” “Don’t leave the

toilet seat up.” The words of God or Truth? Or, the words of your parents, grandparents

and congressmen, all on the verge of a nervous breakdown because they can’t, try as they

might, solidify their own self-respect and sense of control?

       And then it happened. Suddenly, Raheed sets down the marijuana pipe, gets up,

and punches the wall as hard as he can. “Fucking commercials, stupid fucking bullshit—

what is wrong with this place, is this where our money is going…why…what!” he shouts

in one long word and begins shaking his hand, the hand looking like the tail of a dog

anticipating a bone. “Shit, that fucking hurt!” he screams.
                                                                                           47


       “Been there, done that,” I begin to think, as I recall the time I punched a brick

wall because a friend of a friend of a friend said he didn’t like me for no particular

reason. I mean, I don’t care if you don’t like me, but just give me a reason. “Your ears

look funny.” “You sound stupid.” “You drive a Ford.” “You’re insane.” Some inkling

of a reason, please. Snap out of it!

       Raheed was pissed for a very good reason. Another anti-marijuana commercial

had just aired on the thought molester, “paid for by the U.S. government.” At the time I

remember thinking: “These commercials are really stupid. They make the U.S.

government look really foolish to anyone who really knows anything about marijuana. I

mean, seriously, who really thinks marijuana causes their daughter to get pregnant

because, after smoking a doobie, she just didn’t have the will power to say no? This

commercial isn’t even the worst. That one where the two kids are sitting in the drive-thru

is really bad. Two kids sit in a drive-thru laughing their asses off before realizing neither

one of them has money, and then speed off like they’re in a drag race…only to hit a little

boy riding his bike on the sidewalk next to the street. Come on! No one with the

munchies would forget their money at home! Besides, pot doesn’t make you stupid, it

only makes you happy! Granted, I still wouldn’t punch a wall about it. Or would—”

       At this point, I was interrupted by Raheed who asked me in a more or less

informative manner, “Are you fucking crazy? You’ve been talking to yourself for the

last three minutes!”

       “So?” I responded innocently enough, though unsure what it was he meant.

       “Out loud!” he managed.

       “Shit, so what!” I snapped back.
                                                                                            48


       “Well, that just doesn’t make any sense…you’re not like that,” he muttered.

       “What, is there something wrong with thinking aloud?” I asked defensively.

       “Maybe not when you’re by yourself, but when other people are around they’ll

think you’re crazy,” he responded. “What am I saying—it is fucking crazy!” he corrected

himself.

       “Well, I just don’t see what’s wrong with it,” I returned.

       “Well what if everyone started doing that, just think about the consequences of

that,” he said triumphantly.

       “Perhaps that would be a bit odd,” I agreed. “Millions of people simultaneously

thinking out loud regardless of where they are, or whom they’re with. Wouldn’t the

world be a better place, with everything out in the open like that? Nothing ever hidden

from one another!”

       “Now that’s just like you,” he sighed.

       Unlike our typical tradition of just leisurely flopping about within his apartment,

quibbling about important issues like what God’s favorite color is, we decided to take a

walk around the neighborhood. It sure was a beautiful day in the ol’ neighborhood!

What a provocative little neighborhood it was that we lived in. A fitting description of it

might go something like: “Everything Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood is not.” Old run

down apartments, half-disintegrated dumpsters at every-other, every-other block, and

beer boxes seemingly growing like money off those trees we never seem to find. We

took in the beautiful neighborhood atmosphere with indifference, having smelt its odors

numerous times before. If I had it to do all over again, I think I would have melted into

the experience, absorbing everything that was so real about our neighborhood, the truth it
                                                                                             49


expressed so very innocently. Of course, if I had it to do all over again, I’d do it all over

again—honestly, who wouldn’t?

       Unfortunately, our walk quickly turned into quite the ordeal. For no apparent

reason whatsoever, Raheed kicked the back tire of a bicycle lying in the front yard of an

old dilapidated white house. I began to ask why he’d done something so immature, but

was interrupted by a thuggish looking Honduran-Mexican-American wearing a plain

white t-shirt and exhibiting a terrible looking growl.

       “What da’ fuck you think you doin’ essay?” he roared as he stepped out onto his

porch. It only took a second to take in other important details about him. Like the can of

beer in his right hand. Or the way in which his left hand was clenched. And the

significant muscle tone he exhibited, not to mention, the significant muscle mass that he

was.

       It only took a second for us to start sprinting in the general vicinity of anywhere

but there. Surprisingly, he didn’t take off after us. When we stopped a couple of blocks

away to collect our breaths and assess the situation, it only took a second for me to tackle

Raheed with the perfect form a linebacker might exhibit on any given Sunday. I took

him down hard, outweighing him by more than sixty pounds.

       “What the fuck are you doing goddamn it?” he muttered into my chest.

       “No, what the fuck are you doing!” I snapped back, finally easing off of him a bit.

       “Having fun,” he managed before breaking into an incessant laughter.

       “I just don’t get it,” I said shaking my head, “how was that fun?” He then

attempted to give me a rationalized defense of what he’d done. In a sense, it seemed to

make sense to me. He informed me that the world was fucked up and didn’t make any
                                                                                          50


sense. Therefore, any particular action makes just as much sense, when all is said and

done, as any other particular action, both equally absurd and senseless. Excitement, he

concluded for both of us, was more fun than any other form of nonsense, so naturally he

sought it with the fervor of a lawyer seeking to pass the bar exam.

          I asked how long ago he had adopted this philosophy. “The seed was planted

when I made your acquaintance,” he answered with a wink.

          As we continued our walk, with me in between him and the yards mind you, I

contemplated the intriguing conversation we had just finished. I could find no holes in

his conclusion itself, but his reaction after having reached the conclusion just didn’t seem

right. Would he start kicking babies in the head, burning down houses, holding guns to

my head? Just for excitement?

          “Don’t worry,” he said as if reading my mind, “I do have limits, I do have control,

and I’m not fucking stupid.” But even as he said this a playful and carefree tone seemed

imbedded within his voice, a lack of seriousness that was not at all comforting. Was my

best friend going crazy? It’s funny now, looking back, to think that I was crazy, or

almost crazy, or at least somewhat departed from the norm, when I entertained these very

thoughts. Judgment can be a funny thing sometimes. Crazy!

          We walked back to his apartment, he with an air of nonchalance and triumph, me

with a head full of fear and apprehension. How could such a short conversation prove so

utterly demoralizing? When we finally returned to his apartment I made up some excuse

that allowed me to go home. Once home, I immediately called Rob, yearning for

someone to express my anxieties too. We agreed to meet for dinner at a local Chinese

buffet.
                                                                                             51


                                Chapter Six: Brain Damage

       Rob and I went way back. As I said before, we each grew up in Shokey and both

went to college in Shokey. We were both tired of the same kinds of people, and we both

shared the same discomfort with people in general, though Rob had a tendency to mimic

a rollercoaster—one day he’s very positive about life and ready to make a difference in it,

and the next he’s saying nothing but depressing things about the misfortunes life brings

us all. Ultimately, both of us wanted nothing short of something different. Aside from

that we weren’t quite sure what exactly it was we were missing, we just knew something

wasn’t quite right in this world. And this could easily be attested to by the horrific bad

luck that seemed to plague us both. He was a dear friend and, though we had had our fair

share of spit-spats, we could always count on one another.

       Wearing his typical unenthused look and his matching lackadaisical swagger Rob

reluctantly pulled open the door to the restaurant and honed in on my location. He

greeted me with, “ you have a horrible habit of picking the worst possible spot to eat.”

       “I thought you liked Chinese,” I retorted.

       “I do, but I don’t like sitting in the corner,” he informed me. “It makes me feel

insignificant, and plus it’s a much longer walk to the buffet,” he finally finished.

       Such were his ways. Still I always enjoyed his company nonetheless. A

curmudgeon with something to bring to the table, indeed a rare combination. He had the

ability to step back and spit out criticism with the best of them, and we had a blast when

we weren’t being critical of one another. Something told me he would have disliked

sitting at any table in that restaurant for one particular reason or another.
                                                                                               52


        “This is rather unusual for you—wanting to go out to eat,” he said as if he were

asking a question but not looking for an answer. “Did you win the lottery, or are you

drunk?” he queried.

        “I’ve got a buzz,” I assured him. “But I wanted to talk to you about something, or

someone rather,” I continued with a queer smile.

        “Who?” he asked.

        “Raheed,” I returned.

        “Oh, that asshole,” he said with derisive spite. More or less stunned at his

atypical sincere anger, especially to whom it was directed, I sat silently for a moment,

reflectively considering what it could have been motivated by. Rob and Raheed had been

such good friends since I had introduced them two years ago. Obviously something

significant must have happened because, while it was not out of character for Rob to

make such a comment, it was extremely unusual for him to direct any ill will towards

someone he considered a true friend. What could possibly have happened?

        As if reading my mind, Rob interrupted my train of thought and said, “yeah, it

takes a lot for me to get pissed off at a friend, but Raheed sure as hell tested that theory

last night.”

        “What the hell happened?” I asked curiously.

        “After you left his house last night everyone else stayed up pretty late,” Rob

began. “You must have been really bummed out or something because you’re usually the

night owl. Anyway Raheed started acting extremely immature. It’s very strange. It’s

almost seems like he’s not the same as he used to be. Call me crazy, but he’s kind of an

arrogant asshole these days. I just don’t know what happened to him. He used to be this
                                                                                               53


guy that everyone liked, always the last one to jump into an argument and pick sides.

Always this guy that was nice to everyone. Lately he seems to be the exact opposite. He

says the meanest things sometimes. He starts arguments over nothing. But the thing that

really pisses me off is the joy he seems to get out of it. It’s almost as if he’s said ‘fuck

everyone’ just for shits and giggles. To top it all off, he humiliated me in front of

everyone last night. Out of nowhere he brought up how I was ‘just too pessimistic for my

own good.’ Naturally I took offense, and I tried to tell him that I was not pessimistic at

all. To this, all he says, or rather does, is look at me and snort like a fucking pig. He

snorted at me! At this point, I was fuming. I was genuinely happy when he unexpectedly

announced that he had to go to the bathroom and left the room. The others in the room

immediately expressed sympathy as soon as he left the room and I finally began to relax.

Just then he walked back into the room, cheeks all puffed out like a goddamn chipmunk.

No one knew what the hell was wrong with him man. I quickly recognized that he was

walking toward me, as an internal radar was sounding off. Then, BOOM. His cheeks

magically deflated as water came gushing out of his mouth and poured down all over

me—all over my face, my clothes, and my dignity. I wanted to hit him, but just left

instead. What the fuck is his problem lately, seriously?”

       While I didn’t want to believe what Rob had just told me, it somehow wasn’t all

that surprising. I informed Rob of Raheed’s immature stunt earlier that afternoon, and we

began to discuss Raheed’s complete change of character along with his newfound

philosophy. Rob began to ramble on about various psychotic disorders, all of which he

insisted that Raheed must be in the process of succumbing to.
                                                                                          54


       “You know, he probably has anti-social disorder,” he informed me. “Most

afflicted with the disorder show signs early on, like in their childhood, but psychology is

a strange thing man. Maybe he just had this innate affliction all along. He’ll probably

just go completely crazy, become schizophrenic or something. I just know he’ll mow

down a president or blow up a building or something. It’s just a matter of time. All we

need is the spark.”

       “Rob,” I snapped, “shut the fuck up!” “He’s not a fucking psychopath. He’s not

a deranged serial killer. He doesn’t have repressed feelings for his mother. He didn’t

have a troubled childhood that’s finally catching up with him. He’s just a fucking human

being struggling to come to grips with reality!”

       “No, you’re wrong!” he snapped back. “We all have trouble figuring things out,

so don’t give me that fucking bullshit sob story. Face the facts. Something is wrong with

him. Kicking a bike is one thing, but giving a reason for doing so like the one he gave is

another. And spitting water at someone when you’re six is one thing, but when you’re

twenty-two? You need to face the reality of the situation. Something serious is going on.

The reality is that there’s probably nothing we can do. Whatever is going to happen will

happen, and probably always was going to happen. Yet, we should try some kind of

intervention nonetheless.”

       “What?” I cried out. “You and your hopeless materialistic outlook. Nothing is

hopeless Rob! Not everything is determined at the beginning of time—whatever that is.

At the very least you certainly cannot live thinking this! What a hopeless, helpless

attitude. We should try to help him, because we probably can. Raheed is, at heart, a

reasonable person, no matter how abstract his attitudes and way of life have become.”
                                                                                            55


       “Yada, yada, yada,” he replied. “Get off my case, will ya? I’m not the one with

the problem here. Don’t get upset at me.”

       “Fine,” I agreed. “But you have to set last night aside—don’t let it eat you alive.

We only live once, and we’re all gonna die anyway, right? I think we should both talk to

him at the same time. Try to talk some sense into him. That way he might take it more

seriously than he’s been taking anything else lately.”

       After some initial gripes, Rob nevertheless agreed to the monumental task of

reorienting the spirit of our best friend. After I finished eating and he finished

complaining about the logic of leaving a tip at a buffet restaurant, we both, despite our

reservations, drove over to the apartment of our fallen comrade. It would prove to be one

hell of a rescue attempt.

       He met our opening arguments with a barrage of heavy, uncontrollable laughter.

He thought we were joking. When we informed him that we were not at all joking, he

responded with another wave of unmanageable mirth. “You can’t be serious,” he finally

managed. We informed him that we were completely serious and that his laughing

demeanor was childish and uncalled for.

       At this point, and only for a matter of minutes, he seemed to snap out of his

infantile regression. Turning to us, he said with complete sincerity, “how can you guys

be so serious? How can anything demand such a serious attitude? I think you guys need

the reality check! You’re both much, much too serious. This world demands nothing but

laughter. Look around you. How can you not laugh? Incest. Rape. Children with

cancer. Poverty. Hate. Genital herpes. Junk mail. Bombs. Life. Death. No
                                                                                               56


explanations. It’s all so serious it’s got to be a joke. Isn’t it funny? If you don’t laugh,

you don’t get the joke.”

       And then he started to laugh again.

       “Jeez, I must not get it,” Rob responded angrily. “Some joke. What’s the punch

line? Poverty makes you laugh? What the hell is wrong with you? Children with cancer

make me cry. You piss me off. Spitting water on your friends is not funny. It’s stupid!”

       Raheed began to laugh again, and Rob walked out as a result, driving off in a fit

of rage.

       I collected myself and tried to think of something that would reach Raheed,

something that would somehow “wake him up.” But I couldn’t. The problem was that

he already seemed to be awake. Everything he said seemed right. The world really did

seem too serious to be true. How can you not laugh at the absurdity so abundant within

it? How else can you cope? Can a world with children suffering from cancer seriously

be rendered meaningful? A world in which disgruntled coworkers kill one another,

ending lives? The world is serious to be sure. The world really is too serious! A million

tears are shed for every smile that manages to emerge. That’s fucked up. The game is

flawed!

       “ Exactly,” Raheed interrupted my train of thought, either reading my mind or

interpreting the expression on my face.

       “What?” I asked bewilderingly.

       “The game is flawed,” he responded. “The game is not worth playing, but we’re

forced to anyway. In fact, the game is just plain wrong. It’s sinister, it’s evil, and it’s

without a doubt immoral. That’s why I say break the fucking rules. They’re meant to be
                                                                                              57


broken. They have to be. Nevertheless the world’s too caught up in the rules of the game

to notice that there are no fucking winners!”

       After collecting my thoughts, I prepared a response. “You know, you have a lot

of good points, a lot of good reasons for what you say. But, you must ask yourself where

these moves you make are going to get you. I know what you’re going to say. You’ll

insist hat you don’t care, that life’s but a joke, that it doesn’t matter where you end up,

that it’s all meaningless in the end. That’s just a terrific attitude! And, when you end up

in prison with no friends to come visit you and no family that cares enough to come visit

you, you still won’t care. Fine. Go ahead, sit in prison laughing to yourself about this

joke we call life, about this joke no one else gets and no one else laughs at. At some

point you have to realize that it’s just not funny anymore. Perhaps stupid, but not funny.

The truth is, you’re probably on to something. Still, you’re attitude is hopeless. And,

matters of hope are not funny. And, I’m not joking!”

       I turned around, headed toward the door, and, walking out, said, “I hope for all

our sake that you figure this one out.” As I walked home I realized that I wasn’t really

sure what anything I said had meant, but at the same time felt it had needed to be said. I

sensed the need to help my friend who shared so many of my very own thoughts. I

couldn’t let reason get the best of him. I knew he was going off the deep end. Going

crazy! How could I save him? Would it really make sense to reason with him? To be

perfectly honest, his problems were reasonable! I had to appeal to his sense of comfort

somehow, to his sense of pleasure and pain, to something he still felt! Shrugging it off, I

realized I had done the best I could, that the situation was, itself, hopeless, and I too was

stuck playing the game.
                                                                                           58


       Needless to say, it was time to break the rules. Renee and I were supposed to go

to the nine-thirty showing of some romantic comedy she had been anticipating for

months. It was presently eight-thirty and if I was going to break any rules the sabotage

would have to be quick. Once back home I hastily rolled a joint while downing a beer,

all the while remembering in the back of my mind that I had to work the very next day

and would need to be somewhat competent then—the beer would have to be regulated!

But after coming to the realization that I was already drunk anyway, I guzzled down one

last beer for the time being and raced hurriedly out to the car, rolled down the

wind{A}ows, turned on the stereo, and sparked the joint.

       Five minutes turned into ten minutes turned into twenty minutes turned into,

“she’ll be here any minute.” I began to wonder why girls were nothing but maintenance.

There were always relational problems to ponder 1) wouldn’t there ever be a point at

which they will have seen enough romantic comedies? Hell, I admit even I liked some of

them before Renee drowned me in them; 2) what was the big deal if I smoked pot and it

was illegal? As if the behavior was wrong simply because it was against the law and not

because it was actually wrong; 3) so what if I play video games at the age of twenty-one.

At least they’re more stimulating than watching whoever’s famous wearing whatever’s

fashionable now, which was all she ever seemed to care about.

       What’s wrong? What did I do? What did I say? What do you want to do? Why

are you so upset? Nothing but incessant worries about the stability and emotional state of

the “better half.” Always is she ok, never am I A-O.K.

       And poof, like magic, there Renee was standing by my car door. Had she even

walked up to the car, or had she just appeared, like magic? Was I really, really stoned, or
                                                                                             59


just really, really lost in thought? But, I didn’t have any more time to speculate, as she

was already rudely interrupting my thoughts with, “you really scare me when you talk to

yourself.” I was about to question her about this, but she again interrupted my intentions,

sayig, “and, do you have to smoke weed? You know I don’t like it!”

       “You don’t like most of what I do,” I said with swelling anger. “You don’t like

the books I read. You don’t like it when I play video games. You don’t like it that I

drink and smoke. You don’t seem to like my sense of humor. Do you even like me?”

       With this, she morphed into this completely different persona, as most girls have

the ability to do. She quickly told me just how much she loved me, how she’d never love

anyone else, mushy, mushy, mushy! Yuck yuck! I’d have rather she continued bitching

about what I did wrong than warp into this expression of mushy sentiment. It seems to

me that the feminine specimen has a split-personality function innate within them. A

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” sort of ability, except better expressed as “Miss Whine and

Big Mush.”

       Nonetheless, I was in the house getting money for the show in no time at all. You

certainly can’t live with them, but you can’t live without them either. Such is the nature

of the sexes, and I wasn’t about to argue with natural order of any kind.

       The movie was pretty much uneventful, in regard to both its content and my

actual experience. I fell asleep about halfway through and woke up to Renee sporting a

scowl, whispering something about how snoring was rude. I took some delight in her

implication that it was merely rude to snore, but not to sleep. Perhaps she’d be ok with

me bringing a pillow to these cheesy flicks if I could somehow manage to control my
                                                                                            60


nasal tendencies!? At any rate, the movie ended with “and they all lived happily ever

after,” and we drove home with intentions of hanging out.

       We didn’t hang out for long. As soon as we walked into my apartment I headed

for the fridge to grab a beer, after which she immediately headed straight for the door. I

tried to plead with her. “I’m only having a beer, it’s not the end of the world. You can

have one too! Everyone drinks!” But, it was to no avail, as she informed me that I “had

a problem.” She hesitated at the bottom of the porch steps, and I began to relax for a

moment, thanking God, and/or Nature, and/or Chance that she had finally come around.

       As I breathed a heavy sigh of relief, she turned to me and said, “I was wrong

about you having a problem. You have problems! Lot’s of them! Call me when you

sober up!” I wanted to tell her that I was sober, but stumbled over a chair on the porch,

and by the time I recovered my balance it would have sounded awkward anyway. Or

something like that. I think, I think. I think?

       Having reconciled myself with the impossibility of any feeling of significance out

in the crowded streets of reality, I eagerly resigned to my fate. I returned to the dungeon,

or what others might call my basement apartment, and reigned supreme over all that

which was mine. Agonizing thoughts, paralyzing fears, depressing desires, and

ultimately some semblance of significance. There’s something strange and soothing

about being alone. Everyone longs for human companionship, but the truth is you can

play a much bigger role alone. You are reality, completely. No one else steals your

sympathy, and you don’t forget how depressed you really are. The spotlight is on you

and only you. A bigger audience would be nice, yet it might steal the show.
                                                                                              61


         That night’s show was a success, though at some expense. As usual, one beer

turned into two, turned into four, turned into a run for some more. As usual, the drunker I

got the more I thought, the more I wanted to cry, and the time came to get high. And, as

usual, one puff sounded good, three sounded great, but twenty was my fate. Intoxicated

beyond all belief, I stayed up well into the night, earlier dreams of sobriety no longer in

sight.

         And whenever I came to this point, no longer caring about how drunk I was, what

I had to do the next day, or who might learn of my dubious activities, I could also be

expected to exhibit well intended expressions of creativity. In fact, the only diary entries

I have ever actually written occurred on nights when I have had too much to drink. It’s

amazing how many journals one can start if one has enough to drink. Interestingly,

whereas a little bit of either substance—pot or liquor—has the wonderful effect of

reducing mental activity within my head, a lot of either produces the exact opposite

effect, immediately inducing a million trains of chaotic thought that I can only struggle to

orchestrate. But this is not always a bad thing. Sometimes I can be truly creative when

I’m half past wasted. I think with such fervor that, if I can succeed in my struggle to

retain focus and coherence, I sometimes find myself favorably regarding the insights I

had even when sober the next day. However, this creativity is rarely ever unaccompanied

by a sense of sadness concerning existential difficulties, sometimes practical problems, or

quite often a mixture of both. Hence, any recollection of such drunken fits often

propelled a sense of silliness the next day. How could I be that upset? Am I really that

emotional about the travesty of the war in Uqabanana? I was “such a girl.”
                                                                                            62


       Nevertheless, I proceeded to get very drunk, forgot about all the responsibilities

that reality had thrust upon my innocuous existence, and dwelled on all sorts of

impractical nonsense. Were we ever going to be able to feed all the children? Why not?

Was God, also potentially known as Nature, also potentially known as Chance, willing?

Were Americans really more violent than the rest of the world over? Why? Was He,

and/or She, and/or It willing? Willing to do what exactly? And why? Was I crazy for

asking these questions? If so, why? If not, why? Was I crazy for thinking myself crazy?

And, again, why…or why not? Why was I crazy and/or why was I not crazy?

       It proceeded to get so bad that the last thing I remember thinking about that night

was asking something along the lines of, “Why why?” Why does this question permeate

every sequence of every thought I ever have? Why did I have such inquisitive

tendencies? Why, fucking why damn it?! Why! Why! Why? And…zzzzzzzzz…I was

out…
                                                                                           63


                                   Chapter Seven: Julia Dream

       It came as no surprise when I woke up the next day at two o’clock in the

afternoon, one short hour before I had to be at work, the only practical enforcer I would

never be able to squelch. What did come as a surprise was two-fold. Not only did I not

feel horribly hung over and ready to die should God, Nature, and their Chance bid me just

such an opportunity, I didn’t feel horribly hung up with the prospects of having just a few

cold ones before the reality of work had a chance to set in either. These unusual

circumstances in themselves called for a drink, perhaps a shot.

       Of course getting corky before work wasn’t unusual in its own right. I had done it

several times before, but never after a heavy night of drinking. In fact, I preferred to

“take the edge” off before work whenever possible. It always proved to be an effective

sedative, helping to numb the pain I was sure to encounter during the inevitable battles

waiting to erupt at work. To be honest, while a little pre-game warm up was always

encouraged, a few furtive timeouts during the game itself were not only more

tranquilizing, they also provided engaging challenges to pull off. A game within the

game we call work, within the game we call life. And I’d never lost a game yet.

       The strategy was simple: 1) conceal one’s liquor of choice in a bag of one’s

choice, carrying it through the video taped lobby and into the laundry room where Big

Brother could not watch your every move, 2) punch yourself somewhat hard for

forgetting to bring something to mix your liquor with, being careful not to punch yourself

too hard as it really isn’t that big of deal, but hard enough that you’ll remember to bring

the Coke next time, 3) buy a mixer from the vending machines, unless of course you hit

yourself hard enough during the previous game, 4) mix the two liquids, carrying a
                                                                                           64


dignified look upon your face (you are, after all, breaking a stupid rule that deserves to be

broken—this is what you tell yourself anyway), 5) carry your cup filled with illicit

content out into the lobby, acquiring a few mints from the mint basket along the way, and

always keep the cup a safe distance from the counter that separates you from the enemies,

and finally, 6) cheerfully (the importance of this cannot be overstated) consume, always

having mint in hand, ready to pop if a customer should happen to drive up.

        And there you have it, a sure-proof plan. I’d never been bothered much by what

friends had alluded to as a “guilty conscience.” They told me I was crazy—getting drunk

and getting paid at the same time. Sheer blasphemy! The working world would never

have it. Why not damn it?! I’d always wondered why one hundred percent of my

employers insisted that alcohol was strictly prohibited while on duty. Did they have no

idea about the more amicable and enthusiastic moods alcohol instilled in those it

possessed? Hell, business might boom! I’d be happier scooping manure drunk than I

would most activities sober. It seemed simple to me. But of course it had to be within

reason. We couldn’t have employees crawling to the counter reeking of vomit, or pistol

happy drinkers—if you’re a mean drunk, you shouldn’t be drinking to begin with. Hell,

there are risks to everything. Isn’t that what business is all about? Why not, damn it,

why not? A few drinks might prove better for customer relations and my sanity. Let it

be, man, let it be.

        And with these sorts of attitudes jostling for position in my unfortunate and sober

mind, I skipped off to the fridge, visions of eleven o'clock, the end of my shift, already in

my head. Along the way I turned on the C.D. player and put in Dark Side of the Moon,

the greatest album ever created. In my humble opinion every Floyd album is the greatest
                                                                                             65


of all time in its own right. A man of habit, I always listened to track five, entitled

“Money,” on Dark Side before going to work. Somehow it made the reality of work less

real and more of an ideal, inasmuch as that was possible.

        After quickly consuming a couple cold ones, I decided to play “the game” at

work. Why not? And, after throwing on my uniform and splashing on some cologne, I

made the necessary preparations, careful not to forget the coke. As Dark Side played its

last tune, I joyfully walked out to the car, ready to take on the joyless wonders of work,

knowing I had my vodka by my side. Had I known the tumultuous turn of events that

were about to occur, I would have better prepared myself with the more appropriate

feelings evoked by the likes of Nirvana, not the uneasy easiness Dark Side had set me up

with.

        Nothing can properly prepare one for the prospect of a good old fashioned firing.

Nothing can pacify the sense of utter helplessness. Nothing can ease the pain of the

overwhelming sense of injustice. Nothing can restore the confidence destroyed by the

suffocating sense of dejection. Nothing can prepare oneself for the horrible, disgusting

sense of feeling like absolutely, resolutely nothing! Nothing.

        Consequently, my initial reaction upon hearing that I had been fired from my

stupid, worthless job was, well, nothing, nothing at all. How was I supposed to act?

Then, like an ambush beyond defense, the helplessness, the dejection, and the injustice

bombarded my weak internal stability. I struggled to breathe, I struggled to think, I even

struggled to stand. I struggled to do anything at all except absolutely nothing. How

could this have happened to me? What had I done to deserve this? When it’s all said and

done, I’m a good guy at heart. I was trying to play by most of the rules, quietly minding
                                                                                           66


my own damned business, careful never to step too hard on anyone’s toes. Yet this shit

happens. Shit always happens. Why was I always being shit on? Why me?

       Everything had appeared so normal. I drove to work without a hint of what was

to come. No ominous six-car pile up in front of me. It wasn’t raining. Hell, I wasn’t

even late! Why was I always so ill prepared, so misinformed? I had pulled up to a rather

empty parking lot and parked in my usual spot. I walked in as usual, half-buzzed, ready

to talk to The Boss about that night’s pitching match-ups and other trivial small talk.

Only after The Boss failed to look me in the eye after our hellos did I suspect something

might be horribly, horribly wrong. Even then I failed to detect the true ghastly nature of

what had happened, instead thinking that the night clerk was again terminally ill due to

her battle with hypochondria or that we had ran out of waffle mix again!

       Then he informed me that he would need to speak to me in his office. Oh the

office. The dreaded office. The economics of the matter ruled out the possibility of a

raise, hence it could only be down hill from that point forward. “I’ve been hearing some

pretty bad things,” he began. “Your communication with guests has been very, very

suspect. I’ve had a number of complaints from our guests over the past week. I was

given no alternative but to reluctantly look into the matter. Unfortunately, the front desk

camera gave me all the information I needed to confirm some of the accusations. I don’t

know what is wrong with you, have you always done this? It just doesn’t seem like

you…why? Why?”

       I tried to mollify the situation, telling him that it had been a bad week and that I’d

had a lot of personal issues to deal with, and assuring him that it would never, ever

happen again. “I’m sorry, I can’t risk it,” was all he could manage. And with that, he
                                                                                          67


“let me go” as I stood speechless and unsure about what was supposed to happen next. I

knew only one thing, I was not nearly drunk enough.

       Then a deluge of thoughts overcame me. If money was God of the practical

world, as George Orwell so excellently put it in some of his works, and I had none, I was

surely sinning. What would I possibly do without income in a world that revolves around

the dollar bill? Oh God, what would I tell my parents? I certainly couldn’t do that! I’d

rather risk robbing a bank to cover it all up.

       “Now don’t get that desperate,” The Boss interrupted. “There’s plenty of work

out there. Everyone makes mistakes. The point is to learn from them. Look at this as a

learning experience. This is a very valuable lesson in customer relations. You just can’t

upset the customer—your dollar depends on it. The customer is God, profit his gift.

Remember that. Remember that, and your pocket’s fat!”

       With these parting words of advice, I left that motel for good. Looking back, that

motel is surely what drove me over the edge. That motel had to be the impetus for all the

insanity of the entire world. Had that particular motel never existed, so far as I was

concerned anyway, I’d never have had such depressing thoughts. Perhaps this firing was

really a sort of gift from the Gods, masked as something despicable. But, what was I to

do about money? What was I going to tell my parents? What was I suppose to do?

       Sitting in my car in the motel parking lot, I contemplated my next move. I had

quit going to school and, consequently, didn’t have classes to look forward to dreading

anymore. I didn’t have a job to occupy any of my time. I didn’t have a sick grandma

waiting at home for me to take care of her. I was completely and utterly free. Still, I

seemed so desperately confined to a piss-poor perspective. All that occupied my mind
                                                                                            68


were thoughts of a dismal lack of direction. I was free, but where was I to go? I had no

direction anymore. My compass needle was spinning out of control.

        Grabbing the two liter bottle of coke out of my bag, I dumped the top fourth of it

out into the motel parking lot, and filled the bottle back up to the top with vodka, shaking

the mixture with a brimming sense of hope that liquor might somehow provide me with

some sort of direction. Chugging as quickly as I could manage, I peeled out of the lot

and headed for the interstate, again no particular destination or direction in mind.

        As I was en route to the interstate I passed a B.M.W. with a picture perfect

American family seated comfortably within it. They were probably headed to a fine

restaurant to eat a decent five-course meal, looking forward to the choice of desert they

would entertain toward the conclusion of their dining experience. I barely stifled a

sudden urge to side-swipe them right off the road, realizing hospital bills would trouble

them nothing like they would trouble me. And then they’d have a reason to buy this

year’s Mercedes, the B.M.W. having lost its metallic shine from the wreck. I contently

drove on, recognizing that I would only be doing them a service if I drove them off the

road.

        As Chance, Nature, and God would have it, my vision fell upon an unkempt

homeless man pushing an old grocery cart filled with bags of everything he owned on the

shoulder alongside the highway. Maybe Marx was right, everything does seem to come

down to economic class struggle. This man would probably have risked his life for that

B.M.W. I nearly sent into the ditch, while the American family would likely have risked

theirs not to have to push such a disheveled looking cart around all day. What was at the

root of their differing perspectives concerning the same shitty, absurd life? Money. My
                                                                                           69


perspective would certainly be changing shortly, now that I shared the same income as

my cart-pushing comrade.

       I pulled off to the side of the highway, parking the car on the shoulder a hundred

feet in front of a member of my new social class and all his possessions. I anticipated

some sort of advice, perhaps some semblance of direction. Taking a swift swig of the

mix, I quickly exited the car and began to beckon him forward, yelling for him to “come

quick.” He looked at me with caution upon his initial approach, observing a possession of

particular importance—my car. I was, after all, a bit of a deceiving case. Not yet a

member of his class, but soon to be. It would only be a matter of time before I had to

pawn off my car and other lucrative possessions. Or so I thought. I think. The strong

drink had begun to take effect. I had been drinking it much, much too quickly.

       “Wanna ttalk,” I stammered. He returned only confused bewilderment. I

repeated myself, and then added, “We need tto ttalk!”

       Finally, he spoke in a language that sounded peculiarly foreign. “Why?” was all

he said at first. The “w” was mysteriously silent. Then he continued. “What do we have

to talk about—I haven’t done anything to you!” he said defensively. Unfortunately, I was

a bit taken back by his inability to pronounce his “w”s and the odd effect it had on his

speech, and I failed to respond.

       Eventually, I came around again and realized that he was now a foot away from

me, indeed a bit closer than I was comfortable with. Had he closed the distance between

us that quickly? Had I spaced out or something? Was I that drunk? It was as if his act of

walking towards me was separated into bits and pieces, and I had only seen the beginning

and the end. The middle pieces were simply missing. My perception was not one long
                                                                                            70


continuous stream of uninterrupted visual input, but choppy and deceiving. I was very,

very drunk! I think.

        “Ssorry, you’re qquickk,” I managed to say. “You were there, and noww you’re

here, just like that,” I said, snapping for emphasis as I said “that.” “The reason I’m

beckoning you at this pparticcular point in time, and att this pparticcular point in this

place is because you and I are brothers man, brothers. Yyou understand what I’m saying,

man? Brothers. Human bbrothers. We’re both ppoooorr!”

       “Have you been drinking?” he asked in a conniving sort of way. “I love to drink

ya know! You gotta cold one for me? We could talk about anything you want, anything!

It’s been way too long since I’ve had a nice cold one. Boy, a cold one would really hit

the spot.”

       This man suddenly seemed as talkative as my drunken ass. “For you,” I said,

“I’ve got tenn. Hopp in the car and we’ll head to the damn liquor store, man. Youcanna

pick out anny thing, man, anything!”

       With that, we were off. We managed to get his cart in my trunk, much to our

surprise. As promised, we stopped at the liquor store to pick up plenty of supplies. Too

my surprise, he chose a case of cheap beer, while I picked up three cases of three

different beers, a bottle of vodka, and a bottle of whisky. I always picked up a bottle of

whisky when I was anticipating a night of serious drinking.

       Our plan was to run back to the apartment, stock a cooler with beer and the

necessary ice to keep it cool, then head out to the interstate for a much needed road trip.

But something went amiss. At one point I was grabbing the C.D. case, asking my brother

to grab the cooler, and making my way for the door. The next thing I’m conscious of is
                                                                                          71


finding myself coming to on the living room couch. Again something seemed to be

missing.

       Was I that drunk? As I awoke on the couch I was overcome by eerie feelings.

Something strange was going on. Where was my brother? Where was the cooler of

beer? Had he hit me over the head and robbed me of my beer, lying me on the couch

because of some underlying sense of guilt? Why were all the lights on, every single light

in the house? I never wasted energy! Who had turned the C.D. player on? Who had put

Radiohead into the C.D. player? At this point, the chorus of track four on “Kid A” rang

out, “I’m not here…this isn’t happening, I’m not here…I’m not here…”

       With this I shuddered, as I suddenly recalled a dream I was having just before I

awoke. It was a strange, intense dream, like most dreams tend to be I guess. But there

was something especially peculiar about it—I kept waking up within the dream itself! I

remember initially being on some drunken escapade with Raheed. Then, all of a sudden,

I was waking up…within the dream, somehow realizing that this episode with Raheed

was just a dream and that I had been sleeping. For some strange reason, I awoke on the

living room floor in my parent’s house, curled up next to the cats. And I proceeded to

“live” for a while, doing various activities. At some point I was playing basketball on the

familiar court where we always played at the park, when, again very suddenly, I “woke

up.” This time I awoke in my bed, in the comfort of my own apartment. Once more I

proceeded to do normal things like read, write, and talk to friends. The last thing I

remember before coming to in my present state of affairs—there on the couch, Radiohead

playing, and every light turned on—was talking to Renee about some sort of mysterious

viral disease that was killing an entire country in Africa.
                                                                                            72


        As all this hit me like a punch in the face, I jumped off the couch with a start.

What the hell was going on? Something crazy was happening to me! A flood of doubts

swept over me. Was I awake? How could I be sure? Was I simply going to wake up

again? Pinching myself, I thought hard about what seemed to be the last “real” thing that

had happened to me. I didn’t remember anything about falling asleep on the couch, the

lights, or the music. I did remember something about being fired from work and getting

ready to road trip with the mysterious homeless man. But where the hell was he if he was

so real?

        Calm down, snap out of it! I tried to regain my composure. There was obviously

a clear, rational explanation for everything. I had been really drunk and had simply

passed out. But I didn’t feel drunk. How could that be? Why was nothing making any

sense? I had events to consider, some of which seemed real but I was still unsure about,

and others that were certainly not real. The only certain event I had to consider was the

present point in time. After all, I had pinched myself. Everything else was a mystery.

Assuming I had been fired, drank way too much way too fast, and picked up some bum,

why couldn’t I connect these events to my present certainty? Nothing matched up. There

was no bum, I didn’t recall lying down, or turning on the music and the lights for that

matter, and I didn’t feel drunk at all.

        Panic took over. What time was it? Where was I really? Sleeping somewhere,

about to wake up? Was I supposed to be anywhere, did I have any commitments? And,

where was that damn bum? I wondered around the apartment and everything appeared to

be normal aside from the lights and music.
                                                                                             73


        Suddenly I had an idea. What time was it? Time might give me an indication of

what was really going on. If it was before three in the afternoon, I certainly hadn’t been

fired, assuming I hadn’t slept through an entire night. And, that would be ridiculous; I’ve

never been that drunk. If it was just a little bit past three in the afternoon, I had reason to

doubt the sequence of events I’d been pondering, or at least the part about having been

drunk, as I would surely still feel drunk. If it was late evening, odds were that everything

occurred precisely as I had remembered, my drunken stupor accounting for my inability

to recollect how I arrived at my present situation and the lack of a bum with a cooler full

of beer. I looked up at the clock. 8:18 p.m. Hmm… Yes, everything I seemed to

remember could have actually happened after all. Perhaps I really had been fired, really

had picked up a bum, and really was responsible for the strange situation I currently

found myself in. What strange tricks the mind can play!

        Just to be sure, I drove to the motel to do some investigating. Oddly enough,

there was no cart in the trunk as I had remembered, nor any indication of my brother’s

presence at all. As I eased into the motel parking lot, I recognized the manager’s Blazer,

a sure signal that I had indeed been fired. Why else would management be there at that

ungodly hour?

        So I was fired! But what did I do after being fired? Did I really drive out toward

the interstate? If so where was that goddamn bum? When did I lose him? Strange, oh so

strange. Wait—the cooler! I drove home in a flash.

        Much to my surprise, the cooler was in its usual spot. This seemed to suggest that

there was no bumming’ around earlier. In which case, what the hell was I remembering?
                                                                                         74


How did I get those memories? Was it just a dream? But how did I get home from

work?

        Sober and confused, I picked up the phone and called the motel. “Dick, did you

fire me today?” I asked. He informed me that he had indeed fired me, and wanted to

know if something was wrong. Click.

        Picture it. Go ahead. Take a snapshot. You’re twenty-one years old. You refuse

to go to school because you feel like nothing is to be gained there. You don’t have a job.

You have a girlfriend who doesn’t like the things you do. You can’t stop thinking about

the absurdity of your own predicament. Why you?

        And that was me. Hopeless and helpless. I collapsed on the couch. I determined

one thing right away; there would have to be a damn good reason for me to get off that

couch. I wanted so badly to melt into the couch. If only it were that simple. Why does

everything have to be so damn difficult? Why? And, so I sat. And sat. And sat. I sat

there motionless in the dark for a good half hour before the telephone finally rang.

        My first struggle. Do I get up? Why? But, I got up anyway. “Yellow, this is

blue,” I said.

        “Hello?” my former boss managed.

        “Out of order,” I said before hanging up. Back to the couch. I remember sitting

there thinking that I would not get up until I thought of one good reason to do so. A

minute later, I got up to grab the C.D. remote. Then I collapsed again and resolutely

refused to move unless I had good reason to, or bladder problems.

        I woke up the next morning sitting on the couch, listening to Radiohead with

drool puddles all over my shirt. I remember thinking, “God damn it. Why?” However I
                                                                                            75


was quickly interrupted by a loud knock at the door. Then I remember thinking, “God

damn it. Why?”

       Rob eventually took it upon himself to walk in, as I couldn’t manage to say

anything in response to the loud thuds sounding from the door. The second he saw me he

looked as if he had seen a giant rat eat a village of little babies. His jaw dropped and he

wore a perfectly perplexed expression.

       “O.K.?” he finally managed to say in response to the initial silence. “What?”

       I still said nothing.

       “HELLO!” he screamed.

       “Jesus fucking Christ, shut the fuck up!” I quickly yelped back. “What do you

fucking want?”

       “I just wanted to see what you were up to,” he responded. “Geez—is something

wrong?”

       “Yeah, I have no point,” I offered.

       You wouldn’t believe the discussion this espoused. Depression this, depression

that. Serotonin. Reuptake inhibitors. Rob proceeded to shell out every bit of knowledge

pertaining to depression that could have reasonably existed. I tried telling him that I

wasn’t depressed. I tried to tell him that I simply had no direction, no motivation to do

anything at all. He insisted that the two were one in the same. If you felt like nothing

was worth living for, then you were obviously depressed.

       We finally managed to agree to disagree about whether or not I was truly

depressed. Then, and only then, I was able to tell him that I was refusing to get off the

couch, explaining to him in detail what had provoked me. He couldn’t believe I had been
                                                                                             76


fired, and he wasn’t even aware that I had quit going to classes. Thinking he could help

matters, he plopped his ass down beside me and said we’d figure it out together.

        I asked him what exactly it was that we were going to figure out, to which he told

me that we had to find a point or else he wouldn’t get up either. You know the rest of the

story. Either there has been a universe of matter that has always existed and, in which

case, was never initially created at some beginning point, or there is creation of a

universe. In either case, you’re left asking why. Why does God exist? Or, why has a

universe of matter always existed? Why? Why something and not nothing?

        As we sat and reached no conclusions we had one hell of a conversation. Rob

displayed a side of his character I had never witnessed before. He was much more

existential than he lead others to believe. He had the same thoughts running through his

head that I had running through my own. But just when you start to get lulled into that

false sense of security, just when you begin to think that life just might be alright after all,

the absurd world laughs in your face.

        All of a sudden Rob pulled out a handgun, pointed it directly at my face, and

squeezed the trigger. Not loaded, the gun fired a blank.

        With piss running down my legs, I pounded my fists against the wall in a fit of

anger. Could the world possibly be any stranger? What next? I didn’t know Rob even

knew how a gun worked, let alone that he had access to one. Why was someone pointing

a fucking gun at my face? Some “jokes” simply aren’t funny. What could possibly have

been his point? Could he have had one? Should I ever listen to a goddamn thing he says

again? How deceiving everything in this world was becoming!
                                                                                             77


       He tried to lighten me up. He told me he wasn’t serious. He had found it in his

dad’s closet. He didn’t mean to scare me. He didn’t know what he meant. He was sorry.

He didn’t want me to be upset.

       I told him to get the fuck out. Then I told him again, this time screaming

uncontrollably. After he finally left, I fell into deep reflection on my particular set of

circumstances. How was it that shit kept happening to me? Why? Why did one of my

best friends point a fucking gun at me? I wanted a goddamn explanation, I wanted the

authority to demand one for once. Yet, whom could I ask?

       Stunned and probably in shock, I sat in my apartment alone with the lights off,

and listened to Pink Floyd for a few hours. I just sat there. I didn’t think about a

goddamn thing. I sat on the couch and stared into oblivion without any attempt at

conscious thought. I had had enough. The world could take a back seat for once. I

merely wanted to drift into nothingness. Or melt into the couch. I wanted anything but

to be a human being. I didn’t want to worry about voting. I didn’t want to worry about

past due movie rentals. I didn’t want to have to worry about freezing to death. I didn’t

want to have to worry about clipping my nails. I didn’t want to have to worry about

eating. And I certainly didn’t want to worry about going to the bathroom.

       I literally sat on the couch until the middle of the afternoon. Then after several

hours had passed, I stood up for some strange reason. I suddenly had the urge to take a

walk. I never take walks unless I’m depressed and need to rethink my situation in life. I

hoped that I might perhaps walk it all off so to speak. You know, when you just walk

and take you’re mind off of whatever. The problem is that you can’t take your mind off

of itself. Hence, there you are walking and you’ve dodged your problems for five
                                                                                           78


minutes, but then all of a sudden you find yourself thinking about why you like cracks in

sidewalks and you start to analyze yourself all over again. And then you can’t help but

refer to your original problems in your new analysis, and your walk is utterly fucked.

       Nevertheless, I decided to take a walk anyway. Life certainly couldn’t get any

worse! But before I had a chance to leave, the phone rang. I quickly flipped a coin to see

whether I should answer the phone or not, only answering it after the coin landed heads-

up.

       Raheed mentioned something about video games, weed, beer, and a sack of

assorted electrical wires, but all I really heard was BEER. Boy did a beer sound great

about then. I couldn’t think of anything better…nope…nothing but beer… and so I

chased the wind as I ran across the street to his place, forgetting to care if I should happen

to trip on a decrepit hubcap lying along the side of the street, hurling me face forward

into the cement directly before an oncoming jeep. Luckily, there was no jeep.
                                                                                             79


                                Chapter Eight: Obscured By Clouds

       I must have looked like a total wreck when I showed up panting at his door with

urine stained pants and a drool soaked shirt, because he looked as if he’d just seen a giant

rat eat a village of little babies. It took him a few seconds to regain awareness of what

was going on in his life on earth.

       “What the hell?” he managed. “Jesus, God, what?” he muttered. “What

happened to you?”

       “Hell,” I said.

       “Oh, that’s it huh,” he communicated in laughter.

       “Yeah no biggie,” I responded. I gave him an account of the last twenty-four

hours of my miserable life. He didn’t seem at all surprised by anything I said. He

informed me that I was experiencing the absurdity of life he had hinted at before. God

threw nothing but curveballs.

       The only thing to do, or so he told me, was to fight back. Live life like a God. Be

God. I have to admit, it sounded great, but what the hell did it mean? His response: “Do

whatever you want, whenever you want!” We drank a beer to that, and I contemplated

whether or not I wanted to be a God with Raheed. Why not? Why not do whatever the

hell I wanted whenever the hell I wanted? Why was I living my life within such

suffocating restrictions and formalities impinged upon me by society? Everything was

defined for me. Why? Why was life so pre-determined? You’re born, you go to school,

you find a girlfriend, you get a job in the “real world,” you work your ass off for years,

you raise kids, you send them off to school, you retire, and then you fucking die. Quite

simply that’s all there really is to life. Why? Why can’t I just work at McDonald’s all
                                                                                               80


my life, do drugs, read books, and write? Why do I have to feel so guilty about that?

Why can’t I define my own damn life without feeling so damn guilty? As if I’d actually

done something wrong. I mean what the hell is that? Wrong? How can we qualify

anything in such a meaningless, pointless world? Perhaps only if we take control, if we

do actually define what life should be, if we do play God.

        And so it was determined, we decided to be Gods. We began by making a few

declarations. It was a sin not to consume at least one beer every day—unless of course

one didn’t feel like drinking a beer. But insofar as one had so much as a hint of a desire

to drink a goddamn beer, he was obligated to have one. No guilt was allowed to overrun

his decision-making. Everything took a backseat to what he desired at any given point in

time.

        The toilet seat was to be left however the last user had left it, and that was that.

There should be no reason to feel guilty about leaving the toilet seat up, down, or

sideways. The onus was on the next user to acclimate himself to the situation and make

whatever changes he deemed necessary. No more bickering about bla bla bla being the

right way to leave the goddamn toilet seat. It’s just a fucking toilet! There is no right and

wrong in regard to a fucking toilet! I’m supposed to leave the seat down for the female

counterpart, yet she never lifts the seat back up for me? What kind of bullshit reasoning

is that? Besides, why does anyone fucking care so much?

        We had only formally established these two rules before we were overcome with

an urge to walk aimlessly around town doing nothing in particular. Well, to be honest, I

had a secret inclination that I did not initially reveal to Raheed. I’d always wanted to lie

on my back on the grassy median that separated traffic on the highway in between our
                                                                                           81


two apartments. I never really knew why. It just seemed like having traffic whiz by in

both directions with people going somewhere to do something while I laid in the grassy

median for no particular reason gazing at the blue sky and puffy clouds would provide

some sort of amusement or comfort. Detachment always seemed to appeal to me.

        So as we walked across the highway I stopped on the median, and then collapsed

in the grass. At first, Raheed, having not yet realized that I had stopped, kept walking

across to the other side of the highway. But when he finally sensed I wasn’t with him, he

quickly turned around. I think he knew right away. He ran back and fell down beside

me, and we both looked up at the bright blue sky, losing ourselves momentarily in the

beauty of the infinite space we couldn’t ever seem to grasp. Neither one of us said

anything for several minutes. I think we both shared the same feeling of infinite curiosity

and amazement, coupled with a slight fear of a cosmos we both knew really couldn’t

ultimately make any sense. We were both caught in the moment, acknowledging the

truth that none of those cars and those people ever even stopped to think about because

they were either too scared to or were simply too stuck in the monotony of their practical

lives to notice—instead merely remaining another component of the machine.

        I doubt either one of us would ever have wanted to get up. Unfortunately, the

aforementioned machine posed a bit of a problem. We were lying there for no more than

ten minutes when a police officer suddenly appeared above me, peering down at my face

with a perplexed look I had never seen before. Raheed started to laugh. Instantly the

officer naturally looked over at him. I could only imagine what was going through his

head. He probably thought we were high as kites, or drunk as skunks. Little did he know

that we were just seeking a little bit of clarity.
                                                                                           82


       We were met with an onslaught of questions. What were we doing there? Were

we A-O.K.? Had we been drinking? Why had we lied down for absolutely no reason?

Why didn’t we have a reason? Were we hiding something, not telling him the full truth

and nothing but the truth? Eventually he had to let us go because we didn’t have any

machetes, drugs, or anything else incriminating on our persons. We weren’t drunk either,

having had consumed only one beer prior to our encounter with this armed human being.

I remember wondering why we didn’t have any drugs or alcohol with us. That wasn’t

like us. Why hadn’t we brought a couple of beers with us? What were we thinking?

       He informed us that we couldn’t remain there because it was a safety hazard.

Reluctantly, we agreed to leave and wondered across the street toward nowhere in

particular. I looked back to observe the officer one last time as we walked away, and he

was shaking his head from side to side the entire time I observed him. Poor guy, we must

have shocked the hell out of him.

       Suddenly sirens pierced the air, and I quickly covered my ears. Jesus! They were

so fucking loud! Raheed asked why I was covering my ears, telling me that the sirens

weren’t that loud at all. I asked him if he’d ever had his hearing checked, but couldn’t

hear what he said in response. It wasn’t important anyway. An ambulance whistled by.

I shuddered and we walked toward nowhere a little longer.

       We walked through the local neighborhood streets talking about random subjects

that never seemed important or worth talking about at all. Thus is the nature of any

human discourse. What was the point? Yet, we had to do something, and so we walked

around the familiar neighborhoods and reminisced about old times, trying to predict our

futures as well. Where would we end up and why? We both confessed that we had no
                                                                                          83


particular goal we were heading towards. As a result, we agreed that our future was

simply a matter of chance. I remember kicking a soccer ball in one of the lawns and

asking him if he even cared what chance would inevitably make of him. He laughed.

       We walked and walked and walked. We talked and talked and talked. We had to

do something. Suddenly I realized that Raheed wasn’t in class, and it was after all a

weekday. Was he not going either, was he slipping too now? I questioned him, and he

told me that he simply didn’t feel like going today. However, he also made it a point to

mention that he usually did go and that I should be going as well. This seemed to me to

be a total contradiction within the whole “be a god” philosophy that he had been

buttressing earlier, and I called him on it. He conceded that I was right and that there was

no reason I should or should not go to class—I simply should do whatever I wanted to do.

The only ought is what has already been done, and that’s more like a “must.”

       We discussed various insignificant issues as we weaved our way through the

droning city blocks. Suicide, God, true love, and reality just to name a few. As we began

to chat about more serious issues like beer, music, and pot, we eventually made our way

back to his apartment. Neither one of us felt like doing anything but drinking beer, so

that’s exactly what we did. We were gods after all. Who the hell was going to reprimand

us now?

       By then, it was well into the evening and we were feeling strangely good about

ourselves. We had the whole night ahead of us! I for one had no obligations to worry

about, having given them all up, and at the rate he was consuming it was unlikely that

Raheed would care about any of his for much longer.
                                                                                            84


        About ten beers into the night, Raheed’s cell phone rang. Apparently, there was a

party at some house a few blocks down yonder. Our friends urged us to come, and we

said we would consider the generous offer, carefully taking down the address for future

reference. Neither one of us was a big fan of large crowds, especially large gatherings of

sloppy drunks slurring and fighting over nothing in particular. However, when we

ourselves were drunk our attitudes changed, and we found such occasions intriguing and

worthy of our presence after all. I think.

        On this particular night the Gods assembled and unanimously decided that this

particular gathering was to be part of their divine plan. As we were preparing for the

party by rounding up beer and assorted liquors, Raheed suddenly shattered my

monotonous role as an innocent, law-abiding citizen, instigating an interaction that

seemed to step outside of the society and its predetermined interpretations of reality in

which we found ourselves nearly every other moment of our waking lives.

        One moment he’s grabbing a beer and getting ready to put it in a duffle bag. The

next moment he’s dropping the beer from his hand and letting it crash to the floor whilst

he asks, “Why shouldn’t I just fucking kill you right now?” with a possessed look that

could kill.

        My existence froze. “What, are you fucking crazy?” it furiously questioned

Raheed. Why were all my friends insinuating I should be killed? My existence took a

step back and was about ready to turn and run when Raheed abruptly said, “Whoa, relax

dude. I’m not really going to kill you. I’m just asking if I have any reason not to. I

wouldn’t actually do it. I’m not that crazy! Now you on the other hand…”
                                                                                             85


        I seemed to snap back into reality, realizing that Raheed wasn’t posing any real

danger. “Me?—you really worried me!” I retorted. “You said it with such a sincere,

straight face. What the hell did you do that for?”                                    {L}

        “You mean you didn’t get my point,” he muttered half-heartedly, as if he had just

been informed of his own mother’s death.

        And then I actually stopped to think about what he had said. What he said really

worried me. All I could say was, “There has to be a reason why you shouldn’t kill me, or

anyone else for that matter, I just can’t pinpoint exactly what it is. But that’s all that

matters; don’t lose sight of the probability…‘Compassion’? Maybe that’s a reason.”

        “Listen to yourself man,” he said said reeking of hopelessness. “Throwing out

meaningless words in self-defense. But they never really make any sense! Our search for

an ultimate reason always winds up empty, and that’s not reasonable at all…not so good

for reason…and gives us reason to wonder if it’s reasonable to even believe anything

that’s reasonable at all.”

        “But we don’t have a choice—what alternative do we have?” I countered. “We

can’t be anything but reasonable. It’s not like we can just forget our reason and

magically turn into rocks. You could kill yourself, but, insofar as you exist and are able

to communicate with me, you will always have to assume that there is a reason. So long

as you’re human, you reason…right?”

        For a few eternal seconds we both looked at one another, anxiously waiting for

the other to provide some sense of closure. But instead of satiating answers, we were met

with the painful sound of sirens. Sirens. Everywhere there were sirens. Why? Why was

I always hearing sirens?
                                                                                          86


       “Why are sirens always sounding?” I asked.

       “Because people break laws and get hurt, why do you think?” he mumbled.

Before I had the chance to offer a reaction, he was mentioning something about the bitter

taste of his last beer and motioning for me to finish getting ready, as if we were actually

in a hurry to do something meaningful for once. For a second I was reminded of the

passing motorists I had observed earlier in the day, and was thoroughly repulsed. Haste

was disgusting and utterly deceiving. To even suggest that there was reason to move at

anything but a leisurely rate…how could we? A reason? That would be absurd…I think.

       As the sirens continued to sound from some far off locale we finally made our

way out of his apartment and toward our goal—whatever that really was. I remember

thinking about how intriguing the day had been as we slowly walked the city streets. It

seemed as if so much had happened…in just one day! How was that possible? Police

encounters. A gun to the face. A trigger pulled. Existence frozen. Best friends

proposing murder, but not really. Silly, meaningless walks that seemed more meaningful

than any alternative actions. Beer guzzling. How could so much happen in such a short

time? Was it really possible? The world never ceased to amaze me.

       “What are you talking about?” Raheed asked, waking me from my contemplative

slumbers.

       “What?” I asked back, feeling somewhat defensive.

       “You were the one talking out of your ass, not me,” Raheed said defiantly.

       “I didn’t say shit!” I snapped back.

       “Are you kidding me?” he pleaded and, after observing my sweet look of

innocence, exploded into a loud and irrepressible laughter that made me want to vomit.
                                                                                         87


What on earth was so fucking funny? Why was I always missing the joke? Ordinary

people seem to find everything funny, while I only find myself sincerely able to laugh on

a rare occasions. It’s hard to laugh when you can’t stop thinking about the absurd nature

of the world; nothing seems funny when you think about philosophical problems all the

time. Apparently, Raheed didn’t have that problem, as he was still chuckling when we

approached the stupid front door of some stupid house on some stupid block in some

stupid city in some stupid state in some stupid country on some stupid planet in some

stupid galaxy in some stupid universe that, for some stupid reason, just had to exist.

       I always felt strange and awkward in front of pretty much everybody, even

friends, though to a lesser extent. Intoxication helped to alleviate the uncomfortable

annoyance of such interactions, but I was always unnerved to some extent by contact

with other people. It’s funny how one can have the ability to put on a mask of confidence

and agreeableness, and present oneself anew to the world as such, while underneath this

mask his insides are squirming and begging to be left alone at once.

       Hence, the discomfited sentiment I felt as we made our way through the kitchen

of fill-in-the-blank’s house came as no surprise. However, I should have paid more

attention to Raheed when he mentioned something about how strange and out of place he

felt. We sat down on a couch in fill-in-the-blank’s living room and looked for our

friends, with no luck. He mentioned that he didn’t really know many people there. I

tried to assure him that I knew a few of them from high school, but as I was attempting to

do so I began to realize just how few people I did in fact recognize and the words seemed

to stumble out of my mouth and drown in the carpet beneath our feet. We irritably tried

to pass the time—for what we weren’t quite sure—by talking about trivial nothings.
                                                                                             88


       Out of the blue (or was it the green?), a kid I barely recognized from high school,

and whose name I didn’t even know, appeared in front of us. Out of the blue, or green. I

mean there he was. Who the fuck was he? To just appear like that!? And then to say,

“You need to leave.” ?

       “What?” I asked completely baffled, fearing that I might be imagining things.

What language was he speaking? It sounded like English, but the words seemed so

obviously out of context. Those words simply couldn’t have been said; this couldn’t be

happening! What had I ever done to this kid? Why does nothing in the world ever make

any sense when you actually stop to consider why anything in particular happens at all?

       “You need to leave,” strange reality was telling me. Some people here don’t like

you. It’s best that you leave now.”

       I wavered and I think I sensed Raheed doing the same. Tottering on the cliff of

confusion, I slipped a glance to my side and noticed complete unbelief where I should

have seen Raheed’s face. Obviously, he shared my skepticism. “This would just be too

unreasonable,” he communicated to me in an expressionless expression.

       Inclined to think that he was probably right, it dawned on me that maybe there

really was this stupid person saying these stupid things, standing right there in front of

me. I managed to say, “OK…why…ok, I guess I’ll be going…ok…”

       *****************************************

       I turned around, ready to leave, but saw Raheed and another guy wearing

argumentative expressions just a short distance away. Raheed was saying, “OK, just let

me leave then. We’re gonna leave.” I heard someone else say something like “What was

your problem?” I’m not sure how, because I really can’t remember, but we made it
                                                                                           89


through the crowded living room and were ready to attempt our way through the kitchen.

The next thing I remember, I’m getting ready to walk out of the house through the

kitchen door when someone taps me on the shoulder from behind and say, “Hey. You.

Wait. Wait. Wait. You stay here.”

       Naturally, I turned around. Standing before me was Reggie Brisbin, a graduate of

my high school (to tell the truth, I’m not sure whether he ever graduated or not) and two

years my elder, whom I knew very little about and had never personally met in my life.

       “What, why?” I said, visibly frustrated.

       “I need something to hit!” he belched.

       What? Could he possibly have just said that in this here real world? And then I

experienced one of those moments in which imaginative reflection takes over for an

eternity. Time slowed to a blur. In what couldn’t have taken more than a second, I had

the most vivid and intense vision of what I really wanted to do to that pathetic

motherfucker, Mr. Reggie Brisbin—kill him. Kill that stupid little shit. I found myself:

       looking up his address and staking out his neighborhood. It’s dark

out now, and I’m here in my car staking his house out. It shouldn’t take

long before I visually see Mr. Brisbin. Unfortunately, I now realize that I

really want to torture the bastard before I kill him. This will require us to

be alone for at least a short amount of time so that I can mutilate him to

my liking. His face should honestly look like ground up hamburger meat

when I’m done with him. There he is, he’s walking out the front door

right now. There’s no time to consider other options, I’ll just have to
                                                                               90


take him back to my apartment. I can’t even begin to think how I’ll cover

this mess up, but regardless if I get caught or not it’ll be worth it to me.

      I get out of my car, and after he hears my door slam he looks over

toward me. “Hey,” I’m yelling. “Remember me?” I’m asking.

      He’s yelling, “Yeah, what the fuck do you want?”

      “Oh nothing, just to talk,” I’m answering back, but feel a laugh

swelling up from within side me. Shit! I just started laughing. He’ll know

something’s up. “Just wanted to make sure we’re A-O.K., you know, after

the other night,” I’m saying. A few feet away from him now, I’m quickly

reaching behind my back and grabbing the hammer, yanking it out from

inside the waistline of my jeans. And I’m drilling him right on the side of

his skull, but trying to let up a tad, remembering that I don’t want to kill

him right away. He’s falling. I’m grabbing him and frantically pulling him

back toward the car as I’m looking around in suspicion of a possible

audience. I’m shoving him into the back seat. I’m grabbing one of his

shoes from off the seat and turning the shoe sideways as hard as I can,

trying to literally twist his foot off his ankle. His ankle is cracking and I’m

laughing. I’m spitting on his face. I’m fighting off the urge to whip it out

and piss all over him. I’m shutting the back door and running around to

the front driver’s door. I’m slowly driving home. I’m consciously trying

to look as if nothing in the world is out of the ordinary. I’m parking, and

as I glance around to make sure no one is watching I’m beginning to

swell with anticipation of the torture that awaits Mr. Brisbin in the
                                                                              91


dungeon below. I’m dragging him down the stairs toward the door to my

apartment and breathing a sigh of relief that I’ve been able to make it

this far.

       I’m now boiling the water on the stove, smoking a joint, and

listening to Floyd. I’m hearing the bastard begin to murmur, and turning

around to see if he’s finally awakened yet. Sure enough! “Would you like

some hot water?” I’m asking as he begins to turn toward me. He’s

probably beginning to realize that he has been tied up and constrained,

the poor thing. I’m picking up the pot of water off the stove and bringing

it over to Mr. Brisbin. I’m slowly tipping the pot over, slightly above his

head, using care not to pour too much—I don’t want to kill him just yet.

Too much scalding water might kill him! Boiling water is dripping down

onto the top of his head and beginning to run down the front of his face.

He’s trying to scream with every ounce of physical energy he has, but is

certainly realizing how futile his attempts are because of how well he has

been gagged. I’m setting the pot of water back down on the stove and

heading toward the table where I set the hammer down earlier. I take Mr.

Brisbin’s gag off for a moment, but only after threatening his life should

he make a sound. I’m telling Mr. Brisbin, “You have such pretty white

teeth,” as I’m spreading his top and bottom lips, exposing his pretty

white teeth with my one hand, and swinging the hammer toward them

with the other. He’s spitting teeth and blood out all over me and I’m

saying, “Jesus Christ you fucking slob! Knock it off!” I’m setting the
                                                                                            92


hammer back down on the table and grabbing the mechanical pencil

that’s lying on the other side of the table. I’m looking Mr. Brisbin in the

eyes about two inches from his face saying, “You don’t need to see

anymore of this—it’s going to get pretty ugly!” I’m forcing his left eyelid

open with my left hand, and gauging the eye with the mechanical pencil

gripped in my right. His right eye is beginning to cry.

       And then time continued its normal pace. After that eternal moment had ended, I

realized I had done absolutely nothing in reality. Reggie Brisbin was still standing in

front of me looking like a drunken fool, and I was still standing opposite him looking like

I’d finally lost all hope in a reality that exists for a real reason. Damn it! I wanted not to

do absolutely nothing so badly! This guy deserved to be pummeled, and I could do it.

But I didn’t. For some reason, I just stood there doing absolutely nothing instead.

       Raheed was yelling at me, and I quickly turned around again and faced the door.

It dawned on me that Raheed had been tugging on the back of my shirt. Hmm…wonder

how long he had been tugging on my shirt and yelling at me? The mind sure does

distract us from the reality of a situation sometimes! We made it out through the kitchen

door, but still faced a considerable crowd that had gathered on the lawn. We managed to

make our way through in reality, though my mind doesn’t recall exactly how. There was

an alley that ran behind the back of the house, so we made our way around the corner of

fill-in-the-blank’s house and began walking down the alley as quickly as possible, away

from that strange reality and those strange people.

       “Unbelievable,” Raheed managed to say. “Simply unbelievable.”
                                                                                            93


       I wanted to agree with him, but I don’t think I really had the willpower at that

point to say much of anything. Besides, I was completely distracted by a feeling that

none of this could really actually be happening anyway. It had to be in my head! A

nightmare or something. It was simply too…surreal. Too surreal!

       Or was it? Then, in reality probably only seconds after we had rounded the corner

of the house, but, in my mind, only after more than a few more eternal moments of

reflection, it began to rain…bottles! A thudded crash startled us somewhere to our left

just a few feet, and we quickly turned around to see what the hell was going on now. Our

situation took a turn for the worst as we realized that a shattered bottle had landed only a

few feet away from us. I turned around and saw a group of guys standing back by the

corner of the house, one of which happened to be launching a bottle at that very

millimillimillisecond. Thankfully, we were a hundred feet away from them by now, and

they’d only be heaving with the accuracy of drunken fools anyway. Still, we quickened

our pace to an uncomfortable trot. Crash. The next bottle had fortunately landed a good

ten yards behind us. I wanted to think that they weren’t really trying to hit us anyway.

Unfortunately, I still don’t think I know what to really think. I think.

       Soon we were more than a block away and could no longer even hear their voices.

Neither one of us said much until we made it back to the safety of his apartment. Once

inside, I looked at Raheed and told him that that had been the craziest thing that’d ever

happened to me in my entire life. He concurred. We talked for a long, long time about

the situation, as though talking about it would somehow enable us to better understand it.

There was a sense of comfort we each felt in the ability to communicate the oppressive

feelings we bore, overwhelmed by a lack of any sensible answers, feelings that were
                                                                                              94


crippling our spirits at the time. I can’t help but wonder how I would have responded if I

had gone through the ordeal alone, without anyone else that could relate to that feeling of

utter hopelessness that sets in after such an absurd ordeal. There was no good reason for

what had just happened, let’s face it! It was hopeless in every sense! I don’t think I

would have made it through the night if I had endured the absurdity alone, languishing in

the pit of my own incessant reflection.

         I told Raheed how I had felt like I wanted to kill that bastard at the kitchen door.

He told me he had wanted to kill each and every one of the shit heads that were there.

         “No,” I persisted. “I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. I actually felt

like killing that guy at the kitchen door!”

         “I heard you, man,” he responded. “And I felt like killing each and everyone of

them!”

         I never did feel like he actually understood what I was really saying. “I mean I

actually envisioned ruthlessly killing him,” I pleaded. “Isn’t that kind of scary? To

actually picture killing someone? I can’t…I don’t want to…believe it’s true—not me.”

         “Calm down man, you look like you’re going to pass out or something,” he said

worriedly. “It seems like it would be perfectly normal to imagine killing someone in that

situation, provided you wouldn’t really follow through with it.”

         “That’s just it,” I said. “That’s what worries me. It’s A-O.K. to imagine doing

anything, any kind of crime. But then to actually do it is not ok? Why? I’m not so sure

about the distinction. Both the imagined and the actual act scare the hell out of me! I

never want to imagine anything like it again. I think I feel just as horrible about it as I

would had I actually killed the guy.”
                                                                                              95


       “You need to get a grip,” he said as he pinched my arm somewhat hard. “We just

went through hell, granted, but you can’t kill yourself with these kinds of thoughts.

Relax! You think too much. Stop! You’re going to kill yourself or drive yourself insane

if you don’t.”

       And then it occurred to me. Maybe I was insane. All I ever did was think about

how, really, reality is so absurdly strange. The more I think about how the world is so

absurd, the moreI begin to wonder if I myself have to be crazy. What is it that I’m not

getting? Don’t I have to assume I’m crazy if I want to have any hope that reality—the

same reality I’m not really getting to begin with—isn’t absurd in itself? And then I have

thoughts like that one. And I’m caught in the catch-22 of logic. I sit to think it all out,

sensing it must be of the essence to figure it out., compelled to solve the absurd mess.

This itself is part of the catch; you sit down to figure out an absurd problem because not

doing so would be absurd. And it dawns on you that now you can’t even have a single

thought that isn’t somehow caught. Then just for a second (and these seconds are getting

shorter), you seem to step outside the box. You realize that you have been reflecting for

an infinite amount of time. You reflect to yourself, “Isn’t there something worth doing,

so I’m not simply thinking all the goddamn time?” “Damn,” you think, “I’ve just been

caught again!”

       And then Raheed pinched me very, very hard. “You’re not crazy,” he tried to

assure me. “Quit worrying. That’s your problem! If you don’t quit worrying all the

time, you’ll go insane!”

       Had he just said that? Was he talking in riddle? Or, maybe he was talking in

code. He could be. Maybe he’s in on the joke. Some divine game where everyone in the
                                                                                       96


world knows something I don’t, and some God looks on pleasuring himself as he watches

the entire thing unfold. But what about Raheed. Not Raheed. Raheed just couldn’t bear

it. Raheed was somehow different from all the others. He sympathized with me for

whatever reason, and was somehow trying to reveal things to me in some strange code

that I still haven’t figured out. No. That couldn’t be. A God wouldn’t allow that to

happen. He/She/It is all-knowing and all-powerful. Nobody could sneak anything by

Him/Her/It…unless this was His/Her/Its will!? God? Are you out there God?
                                                                                               97


                               Chapter Nine: The Show Must Go On

         Raheed was splashing me with a cup of water when I finally seemed to snap out

of my reflective distractions. By this point Raheed had already called Rob over to the

apartment, and Rob was presently flipping out about some kind of psychological

definition for “insane.”

         “So,” I started to say, then stopped. “You’re right. This is getting me nowhere

guys. Really, what am I doing!?”

         “Oh thank god!” Rob exclaimed. “We thought we lost you man!”

         “What’s wrong with you?” Raheed asked, actually sporting a look of concern.

         His deep concern seemed funny to me. “What’s the matter Raheed?” I quizzed

him. “Why aren’t you laughing?” I asked in a curious voice.

         “Shit, this isn’t funny,” was all he could say. I wanted to laugh, but resisted the

urge for the sake of their sanity.

         They interrogated me for the better part of an hour, asking various sorts of

questions, seeking reassurance that I was A-O.K. And I did my best to play the role I

suspected I was supposed play given the reality of the situation. I told them what they

wanted to hear. I told them I was ok; I would quit with the philosophy for a while; I

would quit trying to think at all; I promised; I meant it; I would try to quit thinking! I

think.

         Somehow we managed to make it through the night. Oh but what a night it was!

My life seemed to be reaching a climax at the ripe age of twenty-one; how could my plot

possibly thicken anymore? Later in the night we embarked on one of our always

meaningless little walks, a walk that somehow guided us onto the college campus, up
                                                                                             98


onto the roof of one of the dormitories. And there we all tried to cope with the problems

plaguing our lives, conversing for hours on end with one another, hoping we could

somehow assimilate our individual interpretations of our experiences on planet Earth.

Raheed and I recounted the unbelievable reality of the party we were still forced to accept

as true. Human beings had actually thrown beer bottles at us! I reflected on the horrors

of my own imagination, and fears of future philosophical conundrums. Raheed and Rob

tried to comfort themselves by accentuating their thoughts of the present me (responsive

and semi-lucid) and expunging any recollection of how absurd I had acted just a short

time ago. And for a while we all reflected on existence as we silently, yet still strangely

together, struggled to assuage our infinite curiosity, lying on our backs on some stupid

roof of some stupid university dormitory, eyes focused on the starry heavens above,

falling into divine reflection on the possibilities of an infinite and/or finite universe.

        “Snap out of it!” Jamie’s phone screamed as it suddenly began ringing. As he

began what was to become a rather lengthy telephone call with, judging by the serious

expression Raheed wore throughout the conversation, someone I presumed to be rather

important, Rob started talking about something of which all I remember are incoherent

bits and pieces. Perhaps he was mentioning something about weight rooms, or rubber

gloves, or rent, or love, or subways, or heroin.

        I think he detected my inattention because he broke off the sound that was

escaping from his mouth and, instead, heaved a very, very heavy sigh. I guess I had this

mysterious knack for pissing people off by simply saying absolutely nothing verbally, yet

screaming the wrong thing facially. No one seemed to realize that it was me who was

lost. Never did I think that what they said wasn’t meaningful or worth a response, I
                                                                                          99


simply thought I had no such response, nor found any such meaning. Why couldn’t they

accept that?

       I managed to mumble, “Sorry.” Then it dawned on me that I was hearing sirens

again. Sirens at this time of night? Go figure. Sirens any time—go figure. These

fucking sirens! I remember thinking, “GOD DAMN THESE FUCKING SIRENS!”

       My expression must have screamed it because Rob dropped his jaws and Raheed

dropped his cell phone. And again, time slowed down—time seemed to be slowing down

more and more frequently, constantly screeching to a halt, most often stopped by some

mesmerizing thought cycle. They stared at me for what had to be 8,463,021 years

bearing looks of disbelief that cannot even begin to be described in words! Finally, after

waging a silent war over which of them must be burdened by the obvious need to say

something, Rob simply sighed, “There…there are no…there are no sirens…”

       I remember thinking, “How could they hear me when I was only thinking about

the sirens? Had they really heard me? Have I been speaking my thoughts without even

realizing it? Terrific! But the sirens worry me! Why do I hear sirens that they don’t

hear? Why?”

       Raheed merely said, “There are no sirens,” but as if he wanted to say more.

       “You mean you don’t hear sirens right now?” I asked in utter disbelief…again—

everything always seemed to be said in utter disbelief.

       “No sirens,” Rob said, confirming the worst.

       At this point I felt the pull. Philosophy and thought were tugging on my soul. I

gave in and thought to myself:
                                                                                           100


       Are the sirens real? I hear them all the fucking time. They’re everywhere I go,

every time of day, yet I rarely see their source. I hardly ever see police cruisers and

such. But how could I just be hearing things? I mean, what else am just I hearing? Do I

have to ask others if they too hear particular sounds each time I hear them? Jesus,

maybe it’s just me that’s seeing things too. Oh my god! Why is this happening to me?

Why do I hear noises that don’t really exist? Maybe, just maybe, I’m hearing things that

really do exist, but that other people for whatever reason just don’t hear. Or maybe a

few of them can, and I just haven’t met them yet.

        I wonder if other people hear things that I don’t hear. Jesus, maybe everyone

hears different things. What? Are we suppose to say, “Hey, do you hear that?” every

time we hear a fucking sound. Of course not, that would be…INSANE! Maybe most

noises we all hear, but certain noises are only heard by some people all the time…or by

all the people only some of the time. What don’t we hear? Why?

       Good grief! Could this apply to all our sights as well? I mean, most of the stuff

we see we all see in common, but what if some (many?) things aren’t seen by everyone?

       “Do you see that?” “Did you hear that?” Better ask, or you might be hearing

sirens that no one else is hearing…or seeing people other people aren’t seeing!? Maybe,

just maybe, the voices a schizophrenic hears and the things a schizophrenic sees ARE

real, and we just don’t have the sophisticated sensibility required to hear or see them.

No? Does your reality make any more sense?

       “Hello!” I could have sworn I heard Raheed screaming at the top of his lungs.

“Earth to crazy earthling, ARE YOU THERE?”

       “Now that wasn’t a very practical thing to do,” I remember thinking.
                                                                                        101


       “Oh, thank God, he’s talking again,” I think Rob said. “Dude, what’s wrong with

you? Seriously, snap out of it!”

       “Sorry guys, really,” I said, assuming my role again. “But you guys have to

understand that it will generally come as a shock to have people tell you that the sirens

you just heard weren’t fucking real!” They both mused over these words for a moment,

and their faces seemed to suggest that I might have a point. “Just imagine it,” I

continued. “Rob, what if Raheed and I told you that we don’t see that car,” I said,

pointing to a car that was driving off in the distance. “Wouldn’t you take a few minutes

to collect yourself? Wouldn’t you have your share of complete disbelief? A complete

lack of understanding? Wouldn’t you wonder how that’s possible? Well that’s all I’m

doing right now. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s A-O.K. to think a little given

my circumstances. And if you still question my behavior at this point just ask yourself

one question. Does your reality make any sense? After all, here I fucking am.”

       “How is it that you always have this incredible ability to rationalize your actions

in almost any situation?” Rob asked in a revering manner. “You’re almost always right

too!” he continued, acknowledging some epiphany he was having.

       “Now I don’t know what either one of you is talking about,” Raheed said,

collecting his phone and nearby jacket. “I don’t ever know what anyone is talking about

anymore. No one makes any sense. I can’t take it anymore, man. I have to go home and

go to bed. Maybe God will allow me to wake up tomorrow in a world a little less

strange.” After jumping down to an adjacent power box, then to the ground quicker than

a flash of lightning, he left, leaving Rob and I in a somewhat awkward and strange
                                                                                            102


situation. What could we possibly say that would render any of the evening’s strange

happenings more meaningful?

       Neither one of said anything for a good thirty seconds. Before I would eventually

break the silence, I made a startling discovery. I heard the silence that resonates when

nothing in particular is heard. Some call it white noise, but I just think of it as the sound

of silence itself, as odd as that might sound. It’s simply the sound of nothing in

particular. The sound that you hear when you don’t consciously listen for any one thing

in particular, and instead listen for every audible sound at once. This isn’t easy to do.

Certain sounds always seem to distract the listener, even with one’s best efforts to block

them out. The stereo is on. You turn it off, but then you hear a distant television. And

then the sound of water running. But it can be done. The key is to notice each sound, but

not to focus on any in particular. Eventually you’ll begin to hear sounds you would have

never noticed before. The distant cry of a baby, screeching brakes, someone singing, the

gentle breeze brushing against the window pane, and some weird humming noise are all

somehow heard at once. If it were possible to describe it would be something like: the

blurred sound of a million particular things all mixed together, each silent in itself, but

together, an utterly fantastic sense of sound—the sound of existence.

       For the first time in my life, I heard existence—not Rob breathing, not the sirens

blaring, and not the car horn—but the silent sound of mere existence that underlies every

other particular sound, and is audible if you stop to listen for it. For a second, I

considered mentioning it to Rob, but decided against the idea, realizing it was probably

just in my head anyway. Instead I simply looked at him and said, “Maybe he’s right.
                                                                                         103


Perhaps we should go home and sleep it off too. Sleep always seems to make the world

go round again.”

       “Yeah…something like that,” he agreed, and so we collected our belongings,

hoping for a more meaningful morning, then walked our own separate ways. Alone at

last, I was finally free when I settled into the comfort of my lonely one bedroom

apartment. I was free from a world that never stopped confusing the hell out of me,

withdrawn into the shelter of my own seclusion. Perhaps I was destined to be a hermit.

       I tried to sleep, I really did. But I couldn’t. As I lay awake in bed, thought after

thought after thought exploded inside my head, deep down within my own isolated

existence. “But out of what?” I suddenly found myself asking, interrupting the

momentum of my thoughts. Where do thoughts come from? And it dawned on me that I

wasn’t even free within the realm of my own consciousness. To a certain extent, I wasn’t

even able to control my own thinking. Sure it was true that I could focus my attention on

a particular thought I had previously, in an attempt to produce more particular thoughts

related to it. But what the hell made me think of what I thought of to begin with?

Thought seems to originate by spontaneously bubbling up out of a mysterious void for no

particular reason; we certainly don’t seem to have much control over this birth of

particularized thought.

       And then I couldn’t help but wonder why I think the way I do. Pretend for a

moment that I had a sudden thought occur to me that might explain something never

before adequately accounted for. Why did I have this great thought that will now

certainly gain me immortal fame? Why do “brilliant” thoughts emerge when they do?
                                                                                        104


Why did the theory of relativity occur to Einstein? Is personal thought also merely the

manifestation of something else, some other indescribable?

       I swung up out of my bed and clutched my head with both hands. “Shut up, shut

up, shut up!” I yelled at myself. “Get a grip you freak! What is wrong with you? Stop

this insanity and pull yourself together. Can’t you just stop thinking so goddamn much?”

I started to weep uncontrollably. I was overwhelmed with self-pity—what had I done to

deserve this? Why did I think this way? Why me? Why these thoughts? Then I realized

how alone I really was given that I was the only one that seemed to have such a problem

dealing with reality, and I began to cry harder than I’d ever cried before. Consequently, a

sense of shame overcame me, as it suddenly dawned on me that I was crying; I never cry.

       Grasping that I was crying, I stood up and walked out of my bedroom, ultimately

heading for the kitchen. “Snap out of it!” I actually shouted at myself. “Wake up

goddamn it!” Next I found myself leaning against the kitchen wall, next to the stove with

a knife in my hand, and wondering what I was supposed to do next. All I ever really

wanted was to know what I was supposed to do. But that would require an existence with

some sort of purpose, some sort of evident meaning. And I realized that that was

precisely the problem I had stumbled upon; I admitted to myself the truth about

existence—it has no purpose. I had no purpose. When you realize you have no purpose,

finding yourself in a kitchen holding a knife and unsure of what to do next doesn’t seem

so surprising for the simple reason that nothing ever comes as a surprise anymore—and

that’s when the anger first begins to appear.

       When I realized I’d been leaning against the wall clutching a sharp knife, not even

surprised at the fact that I was doing so, I became very, very pissed off. I mean look at
                                                                                           105


the situation. Look what I had been driven to. Yet it wasn’t even surprising. What had

my existence reduced me to? I had lost all expectations, and I was now nothing but a

blatant lack of surprise. Without surprise in a meaningless world, everything seems so

helplessly hopeless.

       I stood up and threw the knife at the wall opposite me. It hit the wall hard

creating a loud thud, and fell to the floor. I realized that I had lost all motivation and that

a sense of anger was swelling up within me. I had no reason to do anything. I could get

a job. But why? I could call Raheed. But why? I could drink another beer. But why? I

could take another step. But why? I could slit my wrists. But why? How fucking

absurd everything is! WHY! I could be pissed about the absurdity, and indeed I was.

But why? Why not!

       I grabbed a beer out of the fridge, why not? I casually walked into the living

room in a fit of rage, deciding I would construct a new philosophy of life for myself, why

not? I’d play the fucking game of life, why not? I’d change the rules, why not? I’d do

something instead of nothing, why not?

       And there I sat, feet propped up on a stack of books, deciding that I no longer

cared to make a concerted effort of only smoking weed outside in the car. I rolled up a

joint and prepared an old beer can to serve as a makeshift ashtray. As I began to smoke I

realized how invigorated and almost happy I felt after finally giving up on all societal

structures and the pretend-hope they seemed to instill in so many. Done pretending, I

began to think about how I wanted to live my life, and how I would best be able to do so

given the obvious obstacle that would inevitably impede my intents—those same societal

structure and their pretend-hope.
                                                                                           106


       No more school. That was certain. All that pretend knowledge was what made

me think so much to begin with. No more pretentious teachers who, while teaching the

method of the great Socrates, never seem to get his message—ignorance—and, instead,

proffer the antithesis. I would still read, but only what I wanted and when I wanted.

Forced reading is the absurd consequence of an attempt to teach someone that really

doesn’t want to learn to begin with.

       I exhaled to that profound thought, and flicked some ash toward the general area

of my provisional ashtray. I considered the significant difficulties society would create

for me, thwarting my attempts to establish my own private paradise. Jesus, would I have

to get a job? Obviously I would have to cover-up my secret plot, and it’d be tough—

societal herds can smell an individual a mile away. Maybe I should start going to church;

no one would suspect anything then. I would certainly have to avoid suspicion.

Suspicion might land me in jail for some offense like smoking weed, or it might land me

in an insane asylum for harboring such “unhealthy” and “abnormal” thoughts. To the

outside world, I would have to appear as normal as possible. The trick would be to

perform my scripted role in an acceptable manner while still secretly maintaining the

greatest personal satisfaction attainable. Certainly a tradeoff, but a tradeoff I had to

accept because this stupid fucking existence demanded I make it.

       So I decided I would go to church on Sundays, because I really didn’t have a

choice. I had an image to nourish. But did I have to get a job? Of all things! Yes, yes I

would have to get a job. Church doesn’t pay rent. I couldn’t go homeless. I remembered

how desperate my bum-brother was for beer (was he really?), and that was simply

unacceptable. No, I would have a refrigerator full of beer at all times.
                                                                                         107


       But the job could wait. I had a decent amount of money saved up that I could live

off of for a while. Indeed, the day would come when Practicality came knocking on my

door. But until then, why bother?

       The core of the strategy I was forming had been founded on one clear and distinct

principle—I would limit my exposure to the absurd world outside of my apartment.

There was absolutely no reason I should ever deal with that senseless monster when

necessity did not require that I do so. Thus, limited exposure on Sunday mornings, an

occasional trip to the grocery store and liquor store to stock up on the essentials of

survival, and future trips to work and back would, ideally, be the only confrontations I’d

have to endure with a world I simply wanted to forget.

       After exhaling again, I contemplated what exactly I would do all day, everyday.

There were the obvious—drugs, liquor, Trinity Broadcasting Network, and sleep just to

name a few. But what else? Hell the possibilities were endless! But which ones…hell,

no need to deliberate on the possibilities—I’d simply do what I wanted at each particular

moment of my stupid existence. I began to smile as I rehashed everything I’d been

thinking. I would simply do what I wanted to do…

       Oddly, what I wanted to do at that point was take one last walk in that monstrous

world around me. I wanted to see the seven stars that were still visible in the night sky

above the city. I wanted to take in the fres{I}h air one last time while I finished

elaborating my personal philosophy. I wanted to see the trees, and feel the breeze. I

hoped to hear one last dog bark, and to step on one more twig. Strangely, I wanted to

see, just one last time, those stupid houses and those stupid cars parked in those stupid

driveways, and the stupid businesses and stupid roadways that steered humanity.
                                                                                        108


       As I prepared myself for the adventure ahead, I made a startling discovery. It was

already seven o’clock in the fucking morning. Where had the time gone? Time not only

slowed down these days, sometimes it seemed to disappear altogether, kind of like my

life in general. I was twenty-one years old but it seemed like I was ten just the day

before. I put on a jacket and headed out the door, ready to embark on one last pilgrimage

in the lands above my dungeon.
                                                                                             109


                       Chapter Ten: Several Species Of Small Furry Animals

                      Gathered Together In a Cave And Grooving With A Pict

          At first I just walked around the neighborhoods that were surrounding my

apartment. But as time escaped, I grew bored with them. I must have walked them two

or three fucking times. But, all I wanted to do was walk, so I began walking due West on

Highway 30. After walking a mile in the direction of San Francisco, I realized a sudden

need to relieve myself. Naturally, I entered the closest gas station, still well within city

limits.

          Just a goddamn gas station, that’s all it was. Yet, it proved to be another site for

one of life’s great revelations. More confessions of absurdity. After attending to “the

business,” I leisurely walked around the snack aisles, contemplating the temptation to

actually buy something. And then the revelation. I could rob this gas station. I really

could! So utterly absurd, these possibilities of freedom! I could actually do it; nothing

prevented me from doing so.

          “Well shit, do I want to?” I remember thinking as my eyes fell upon the lottery

scratch tickets. My focus shifted to the scratch tickets, and all I could think was, “Do I

have to get a job?” I walked up to the register, paid for ten scratch tickets, and briskly

walked out, anxious to scratch off the cards as quickly as possible, though I knew my

anticipation was utterly absurd.

          I realized I really did have to get a job after netting nothing on the scratch

tickets—not one single fucking dollar. I headed North for no particular reason. I began

to think about the conclusions I had reached and the resolute decisions I had so

confidently made. I contemplated the practical choices I had made, and my resolve to
                                                                                          110


avoid the practical world as much as possible, plus the theoretical views that these

choices reflected. What philosophy did they suggest?

       Clearly I believed that the world didn’t make sense—that much was certain. I

also felt that this fact—my lack of understanding the world and why it was the way it

was—was awful…it disgusted me. Shouldn’t we expect better than this piss-poor

condition? Thus the world seemed absurd to me. Yet at the same time, I was keenly

aware that my existence—good, bad, or ugly—depended on this same absurd world.

Ultimately, I had an unguided urge to do something with the existence I was burdened

with—to try and make the best out of the situation my existence was sworn to. I had

made the fall into the pit of absurdity, but I wanted to get up. I would do anything to get

up.

       Hmm…”the fall.” The notion sounded familiar; had I heard it before? Suddenly

I remembered reading The Fall by Albert Camus when I was younger. I remembered not

understanding much of it at the time, but that it had something to do with absurdity. It

was decided; I would read the book whenever I decided to go back home.

       But I had more important things to worry about at this point, as I realized that

somebody had been walking about thirty feet behind me for several blocks. I could hear

them walking, but that was it. I didn’t dare turn around. That would be too awkward. It

was probably just some old lady taking her morning walk. Or, maybe it was some

drunken college kid walking home from some house he didn’t even remember being at

the night before. Possibly someone was walking to work?

       And then the agony, the awful agony of paranoia set in, as I realized the god-

awful truth. Walking a short distance behind me was a raving lunatic, concealing a gun
                                                                                          111


in his pocket and relishing the thought of pulling that sweet little trigger. I was the

unlucky victim that was soon to be written about in nine hundred newspapers the next

morning. I began to sweat profusely, and my pounding heartbeat woke people up from

their sleepy slumbers. Thump…thump…thump.

       A car drove by. I considered myself lucky. No doubt the next car that came by

would be driven by some broken-hearted, lonely teenage girl ready to dump her car into

the side of a house I just happened to be walking a little too close to. This shit happens!

Isn’t it absurd? This could happen. Oh, but of course—such a small chance, right?

Everything’s always a matter of chance! Think of it this way: that guy you read about in

the papers who pulled out his automatic at the post office and started taking out

everybody in sight, he’s in front of you in the customer service line right now!

Remember this next time you’re at the post office…or the bank…or the park. This shit

happens to real people. I’m a real person…I think.

       Raheed was a real person, and stupid shit seemed to be happening to him. After

all, he had needed a reason not to kill me. What if he didn’t know me? Then he’d

probably have a harder time finding a sufficient reason. And I was sure it could get a lot

worse than Raheed. Some had already killed and experienced whatever it was they

experienced during “the kill.” What if they fucking loved the experience? What if it felt

like a divine orgasm to them? What then? It occurred to me that I wasn’t safe anywhere

at anytime. Anything could happen.

       Nevertheless, as I became even more aware of the footsteps mimicking my own,

it occurred to me just how absurd my paranoia was. I, the same person who believed

death was something not to be feared precisely because anything could happen, now
                                                                                         112


feared everything around me precisely because anything could happen. Damn, what a

hypocrite I was. How stupid! Yet, in the back of my mind Raheed kept screaming,

“What reason do I have not to just fucking kill you right now?” And I just couldn’t take

it anymore.

       I whirled around and shrieked, “What reason do you have to fucking kill me right

now?” and found myself looking at a forty-something-year-old housewife with two kids,

a three-car garage, and walking weights in both hands. Oh god! I I prayed for that

woman momentarily because she looked like she was on the verge of fainting. I turned

back around and ran as hard as I could, forgetting to look both ways as I crossed the next

two intersecting streets.

       Finally slowing down to a jog, then a walk, I tried to mentally collect myself.

Paranoia could not possibly help my situation. I had to be practical, that’s all there was

to it. My existence, or at least my sanity, depended on it. Get a grip! You’re losing it.

Snap out of it!

       Thankfully I forgot all about the paranoia. I began to tell myself a story as I hung

a right at the next street corner, now headed East toward New York (and San Francisco if

you think about it…I think): A girl was born. She hated her mother, but adored her

father. When she was two years old, her seven-year-old sister died of bronchitis. When

she was eight years old, she constantly wondered whether God could really be

everywhere. When she was sixteen, she determined she would become a nun. When she

was forty-two, she realized that she was forty-two, a working, middle class, married,

mother of two, boy and girl, and not much else. When she was seventy, she cried herself

to sleep at night, realizing that it was almost over. When she was eighty-one she died.
                                                                                         113


       Walking East was proving to be a bit of a bore, so I decided to enter Lexington,

“your entertainment superstore.” The store opened at nine-thirty, so I was in luck. The

store opened at nine-thirty? Who had time for entertainment at nine-thirty in the

morning? Shrugging the aside aside, I walked into the store hoping to find some kind of

entertainment that could distract me from my boring life for an extended period of time.

       And I found it. I found entertainment in walking fruitlessly around the store,

making all kinds of absurd observations that did indeed distract me from my worries for

the time being. It was a star-studded cast, featuring life and all its wacky ways. Ten

minutes after I entered the store, I stumbled upon a very, very fascinating book entitled,

“Pregnancy For Dummies.” I almost cried from laughing so hard. What next, “Dummy

Books For Dummies?” And then, “Dummy Books For Dummies For Dummies?” Was

the world really this dumb? “How To Wake Up For Dummies.” “How To Breath For

Dummies.” “How To Be Not Dumb For Dummies.”

       Another highlight of my entertaining walk through my entertainment superstore

was the absurd pleasure I took in following other patrons and observing them (which was

something I had done quite frequently in the past few years), but for no particular reason.

I selected a college student about my age for my victim, though college kids are typically

the most boring because they’re so concerned about what others think that they usually

never act like they would if they were alone. But at nine-thirty in the morning, I didn’t

have much of a choice. Besides, it could’ve been worse—high school kids were even

more self-conscious.

       The victim must be alone, or else the whole point in following anyone is nullified.

Let me begin by saying that following someone without arousing any suspicion from
                                                                                            114


either the person being followed or other bystanders is not an easy task, though it can be

done. The trick is to keep as far away from the victim as possible and still be able to

observe them. You must also maintain an appearance that screams, “I’m not interested in

anything else but this here book (or movie, or C.D.) that I’m looking at,” while secretly

engrossed in your observation of the victim and not the book you hold in front of

yourself. A difficult task, but the reward is well worth the risk.

       What is the reward? Brutal honesty. When someone thinks he is alone, he acts

honestly. All other action is a fabrication, whether he intends it to be or not. A father

must set an example when with his daughter, a daughter must pretend to follow her

father’s example, a lover must not upset his or her significant other, and, of course, we

must all protect our image in the presence of friends. Never are we free to be ourselves,

unless we’re by ourselves. When alone no one hides anything, and only then does one

act honestly. There’s something absurdly pleasurable in watching someone act honestly

because they thinks they’re alone. Certainly an invasion of privacy, but how else can you

catch a glimpse of true human nature? The facial expressions. A finger in the nose. Lost

stares into space. The beautiful innocence that pervades all honest human behavior. The

naked truth.

       I followed my chosen victim around the store for more than fifteen minutes,

observing his every move. My observations began over in the C.D. section before

eventually moving into the books. My victim had a peculiar habit of sniffling his nose at

least every thirty seconds as if he had a cold, yet something seemed to suggest that he

wasn’t sick—it was probably just a habit he had acquired over the years and wasn’t even

personally aware of. He must have picked up, thumbed through, then put back—in the
                                                                                            115


wrong place—at least fifty different books, beginning in the “True Crime” section,

moving into the “Self-interest” section, and ending up in the “New Age” section. On

several occasions (at least three or four different times) I could barely hear him mutter

something to himself, then chuckle out-loud, almost awkwardly loud.

       After one of his indecent fits of laughter, I grew disgusted and was about to leave

the store entirely when I noticed something strange in the way he suddenly carried

himself. It seemed like something was amiss. His body language suggested that he was

extremely agitated or nervous because he was constantly moving his head from side to

side, as if he were taking note of everything that was going on in the store. Perhaps he

sensed my presence? Maybe he had some ninth-sense that alerted him of an invasion on

his privacy.

       Or he was preparing to slip a book into his pants. I couldn’t believe it! I had

witnessed a shoplifter in the act. How often does that happen? Incredible! I felt as

though I’d just seen a shooting star. However, I was quickly overcome with a sense of

loathing. For some absurd reason, I felt like this guy was a worthless piece of shit. He

could have stolen anything…but a book? Why did he have to steal a goddamn book?

Books were something I nearly worshipped—they meant everything to me. The written

word had always had a special place in my heart. Strange as it may sound, I would’ve

cared less if he’d swiped a C.D., or a D.V.D, or anything else for that matter. But a

book? There was something too pristine about books; you just can’t steal a book! I

walked up to my victim, said, “Put it back man,” and walked out of the store, never to

return again.
                                                                                       116


        My sudden moral concern caught me off guard and seemed to zap me of any

energy I had left. I wasn’t quite sure I could even make it back home, as the walk was

well over a mile and a half. Nonetheless, I focused on the warm, comfortable bed that

awaited my return, and began the grueling walk home. Absolutely nothing eventful

happened on the way home, which really came as a shock and seemed somewhat eerie in

itself given everything I had been through in the last few days. Surprise! Surprise? Was

I surprised at last? I think I think I was.

        It had been an eventful late night and early morning, and I suddenly felt that warm

and strange sense of satisfaction we all get every now and then when we feel like

everything is going right—for once. Half asleep by the time I entered my apartment, I

somehow managed to close the door to the apartment, stumble into my bedroom, and

land in my bed. I went into hibernation, sleeping for more than twelve hours, and finally

woke up just as most people were preparing to go to bed. “Good grief,” I mumbled to

myself, noting that I was still wearing my jacket and urine-stained pants from the

previous day. Unbelievable! How the hell could that have possibly happened? How

many people saw the stains? Worse yet, how many people saw the stains and didn’t say a

goddamn thing to me? It’s like the chocolate all over your mouth that no one tells you

about save the mirror, but worse—urine! I was a bumbling, mumbling disaster. Nothing

went right in my life but an occasional dream at night and a fleeting sense of self-

satisfaction after reaching some elusive epiphany during the day. My mood took a

nosedive, and I felt nothing like I did before I had collapsed into bed that morning. I was

a roller coaster of emotions. Monotony was beginning to set in.
                                                                                          117


        Suddenly I remembered my resolve to read Camus, so I immediately went to my

bookshelves to find the book I had recollected earlier. After eventually finding The Fall,

I sat down and began reading. Before I knew it I had finished the book. What a

spectacular book! It was the best fictional work I had ever read, both philosophically to

the point and entertaining to read. Camus chose his words with such precision and a

knack for clarity, writing with such brutal honesty somehow captured in pleasurable

prose, that I immediately fell in love with his writing. The main character in the book

was me! Never before had I identified with anyone, fictional or real, like I identified with

Clamence, the main character of Camus’ tale. If his novel was any indication of his

personal philosophy, Camus was the closest I had ever come to finding someone who

actually viewed the absurd world from my perspective. This book changed my life, and

I’d never forget it. I think.

        Having amassed an extensive library over the course of my academic career, I

immediately ran over to my bookshelves after The Fall, anxiously waiting to get my

hands on anything else that said “Albert Camus” on its cover. I knew I had at least one of

his other works, The Myth of Sisyphus, but thought I might have another. Sure enough, a

copy of The Stranger turned up right away. I sat back down, eager to delve into both

works, when someone knocked on the door. All I wanted was an isolated life to myself,

alone in my own apartment, withdrawn from the world, and now the world insisted on

coming to me anyway.

        Reluctantly I opened the door and was immediately greeted by a big hearty smile

that could only have belonged to my good buddy Jake. Jake wore a big hearty smile all

the time, no matter what the occasion was. Even at a funeral it would’ve been a difficult
                                                                                          118


task to turn that smile upside down. I was a bit surprised to see Jake because I hadn’t

seen him for over a week. He had been on his honeymoon in Vegas, having just been

married less than a month ago. He was a good friend and his unexpected arrival,

especially at eleven-thirty at night, seemed to brighten my spirits, which had grown

dangerously dim.

       Jake and I went way back as he too was a native of Shokey. We attended the

same elementary school, played the same backyard baseball games, and screamed in the

same arguments, though I never smiled during these spats. Jake was a walking

overabundance of joy, and upon initially meeting him one couldn’t help but wonder if

there was something wrong with him due to this very fact. How could a human being be

this happy? What I lacked in mirth, he more than made up for and, as a result, we tended

to get along rather well.

        As I anxiously beckoned him in the phone rang. “Good god!” I cried out, and ran

to the phone. Raheed, drunk and slurring, wanted to know where the hell I had been all

day. He had been drinking all day—where the hell was I? He had called me after each

beer he’d finished, and I had never once answered the phone. “I didn’t?” I retorted

sarcastically. I briefed him about my hibernation and agreed that he could come over.

All I wanted was to be alone but my friends had other ideas.

       Jake and I had a great deal to tell one another, as is to be expected when good

friends don’t talk to each other for more than a few days. He began by telling me how

well his honeymoon went as we sat down on the couch. Jake and his fiancé Symphony

made more than a thousand dollars gambling on their trip. This bit of news didn’t come

as that much of a surprise to me. Jake gambled all the time; he might be what you would
                                                                                          119


call a gambling addict. But Jake was one of those rare sharks who always came out after

gambling excursions with nothing but big hearty smiles; he won almost all the time. He

nearly worshipped poker and it paid off.

       After informing me of his financial success in Vegas Jake threw me a curveball.

He said, “I liked your novel.”

       “What?” I asked.

       “Your novel, the novel you gave me,” he answered back. “I read it on the plane.”

       The novel. I had forgotten the novel. I had completely forgotten all about the

damn novel. In an instant I was at the apartment door. In another instant I was at the

mailbox. My mailbox was overflowing with mail from the past week or so. Shit. I

hadn’t checked the mail in the past week? Didn’t I have bills or other important shit that

came in the mail?

       At any rate, Jake revived a memory that had very nearly died. A memory of the

novel I had submitted to well over a hundred publishers just three short months ago. The

novel I had invested more than a month’s time into. Yes, an entire month of my

existence was spent literally sitting in front of a computer typing—morning, afternoon,

night, thirty whole days. Can you imagine? That’s a lot of fucking time! As I

remembered back to all those countless hours I spent typing away, I realized just how

long I had spent on that book and it truly surprised me. I seemed so utterly obsessed with

that novel at the time. I would spend ten hours at a time typing in front of the computer.

I had such a passion that I just couldn’t stop myself from typing. No one could. The

ideas seemed to flow out of me, as if I had no control over the creativity creeping out

from within side me.
                                                                                           120


       And it had been so, so pleasurable. When I typed the computer listened. Within

the confines of my lonely, hellish mind, pockets of swelled frustration about my absurd

life popped, resulting in the expressions that bled out onto the computer screen, my stress

somehow captured in words—and I don’t quite know how. But what was really absurd

was the small hint of hope I entertained that someone else might actually get it, that

somebody else might see things the way I saw them—fucked up. Certainly absurd,

because if things are fucked up what really is there to get? There is no order to things

and life isn’t fair. So nothing can be explained, while in another sense everything can be

explained—and that’s fucked up. So I could and could not explain all the rejection letters

that began coming in the mail about a month ago, averaging at least one a day. Yet for a

while there, I still entertained a glimmer of hope and checked the mailbox faithfully

everyday. Success might have entailed never having to do another goddamn thing! No

one can completely put out that desire. I had almost forgotten about the book, but here I

was at the mailbox again, with this stupid, ridiculous hope that someone who actually

matters—someone with lots of money and who may or may not have justifiably earned

the privilege to judge my written work that is—might like what I’d come up with.

       There were several rejection letters lying in the mailbox, a handful of bills, and

two notices from the post office. You can always tell a rejection letter from anything

better than a rejection letter because rejection letters are always extremely thin, merely

containing a rejection letter. Anything better than a rejection letter has to have something

else besides a simple letter. At least that was the assumption I was under. I heard Jake

calling my name from within the apartment, so I quickly returned inside.
                                                                                            121


        “I’m sorry, what were you saying?” I asked. “I’ve been forgetting to get the

mail,” I explained as I dumped the mail from my arms onto the couch, not giving him a

chance to answer my original question.

        “My god,” he said. “Did you go somewhere?”

        “I must admit, I don’t feel like I’ve been here lately,” I said, laughing awkwardly

to myself.

        Passing me a glance of honest suspicion, he said, “I was just mentioning what I

thought of your novel.”

        “Well, what did you think of it?” I asked.

        “I thought it was good,” he said, looking almost desperate.

        “Really?” I said, but asked.

        “Yeah, really,” he assured me. “Naturally there are a couple of suggestions I’d

like to make though. You’ve gotta have PORN! There’s no mention of PORN

anywhere! And a few things didn’t seem clear either. Nothing big. Other then that, it

was pretty damn good, and all in all it was a fast read. I don’t usually read fast. But I

sure did read that fast.”

        “So you really did like it?” I asked.

        “Yes damn it,” he screeched.

        “Really,” I asked, but said. Suddenly I realized what likely accounted for this

apparent impossibility. Jake was my friend. Of course he was going to claim he liked it!

I could still try to get some answers from him though. “You thought there was enough of

a story, and not just a bunch of intriguing thoughts?”
                                                                                          122


       “Well,” he stumbled, “no…I mean…yes, yes it was interesting…it was a good

read damn it.”

       “A-O.K.,” I said. “I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t some bullshit mumbling

about nothing significant. I wanted it to be meaningful. Not something revolved around

a plot—nothing formulated like that. I wanted it to be REAL, something every reader

could relate to and not some fantastical, make-believe, one hundred percent fictional

bullshit. That bullshit just makes reality seem even worse. I wanted my book to be so

brutally honest that the reader would think it seemed crazy. I wanted my book to leave

the reader feeling as if he’d just read the words of a raving lunatic, because then I’d feel

like I had succeeded in not merely writing some superficial, made-up story with lots of

twists and turns, overblown action, and lots and lots of coordinated events. Success for

me is knowing I at least made people think from a different perspective, and I know I’ve

made them think if they shrug what I say off, putting so much effort into pretend that it’s

all complete nonsense.”

       “Whoa, settle down there buddy,” Jake laughed in words. “All I can say is that it

seemed very real, and I found it very entertaining. Hell, I’ll even agree with whatever it

was you just said—yes, that’s exactly how it made me feel. And you know, most of the

classics don’t seem to be so plot driven either. For instance, Catcher In The Rye seems

to pick up at a random point and then end at another random point; it was good because

of the underlying meaning within it. But I’m no publisher, nor am I the general public

for that matter. But, do you really care what they think???”

       He was right. What the fuck did I care what they thought? I vowed to show my

lack of concern for their opinion on my hard work by framing their rejection letters or
                                                                                         123


something. A kind of “fuck you” to everyone that’s ever judged my opinion on a matter

of opinion. A sarcastic memorial in honor of their insignificant opinions. I wanted a

chance to judge them for once. Only my judgment would be a mockery of the very fact

that we have this absurd necessity to judge to begin with.

        “No, not really,” I finally responded to his question. “I guess you’re right, I don’t

really care. But that won’t help me secure a means to preserve my existence for the

remainder of my life. On one hand, I don’t really care what anyone else thinks about the

book. Yet at the same time, I still have this absurd hope that maybe, just maybe, I’ll get

lucky and never have to worry about doing a goddamn thing in this world again. You

know, nothing but what I want to do.”

        “Why don’t you just play the lottery buddy,” he said, bursting into laughter. “We

all have that hope. The fact is that it’s hopeless.”

        Was it hopeless? Was I forever bound to practical necessities? Would that be all

that my absurd existence entailed—fulfilling practical obligations so that I could continue

existing? What was the goddamn point of that? I would either have to get lucky or

else…

        “So what have you been up to?” Jake asked, interrupting my train of thought. I

proceeded to tell him about the extraordinary events of the past half-week, giving

highlight after highlight, ending with an account of nearly every moment I had been

awake while he was gone. He expressed disbelief, and I returned the expression as I

began opening more rejection letters.

        “So what are you going to do?” Jake asked. “You have to get a job!”
                                                                                        124


       “Yeah, I know,” I replied. “I’ll have to get a job eventually, but I’m not worried

about it right now. I have money saved up. I dread the day I have to go back and work

for someone, but I suppose it will come eventually. That’s just reality, right? We have

no fucking choice. I’ll probably just apply to McDonalds or something. Something part-

time you know, just enough to get by. Something real simple like putting onions, pickles,

and tomatoes on a hamburger. Something that requires no focus, something that doesn’t

require me to pay attention at all. That way I can still escape the absurdity of the

situation by reflecting on my own thoughts and imagination.”

       “Why don’t you consider getting a job like the one I have?” he suggested. “I

mean, hell, all I do is drive a maintenance van around town doing petty little chores while

I listen to music and talk to people. It’s great. I love my job. I don’t have to worry about

any of that bullshit you’re talking about.”

       “But someone still tells you where to go,” I sighed. “Do this, do that, but don’t do

nothing at all. I can’t stand it. Why does the world have to be like this? Why?”

       “Why think about it?” he countered. “We don’t have any choice. That’s just the

way it is. Why think about it?” Suddenly a knock exploded from the door.

       Drunk Raheed stormed in loudly and without waiting for anyone to let him in,

bellowing, “Well whoopty fucking diddle doo!” at the top of his lungs.

       “Drunk Raheed!” I shouted. “Shut the fuck up goddamn it! Shut up! What is

your problem!?” Then Jake, who knew Drunk Raheed rather well through me, started

laughing at the exact same moment Drunk Raheed burst into a loony laughter that I, for

one short second, thought might never, ever end. Were they laughing at me? Was this a
                                                                                          125


good laugh? What was I supposed to think of this? “No, seriously, don’t ever, ever yell

that loud around me again,” I continued. “Do you understand me goddamn it?”

       Silence silenced the silent silence again, and I thought it might forever remain

silent. But Drunk Raheed finally said, “Yes.” “Yes, I understand you.”

       “Look,” I said, realizing I was supposed to say something reassuring at this point,

“I didn’t mean to snap or anything. I mean, I’m not mad…I’m not that mad. There’s just

no reason for you to ever, ever yell that loud around me again. That’s all.”

       “Ok…ok,” Drunk Raheed scoffed.

       “We should watch PORN! right now,” Jake said as if he thought he had just said

something funny to lighten up a really, really awkward moment in our pathetic lives.

Fortunately, everyone was able to spontaneously forget everything that just happened by

concentrating on what immediately came nest. Oh, but what immediately came next, you

ask?

       Drunk Raheed noticed a philosophy paper that I had printed for class but never

handed in sitting on the coffee table. Drunk Raheed was reading, word for word, every

last word of the paper…

                          Why Am I Writing This Paper?

       The ideas of myth and logos pervade Plato’s Phaedrus.

Logos is understood as defining one’s terms for the sake of

clarity. This, of course, would not be needed if one never

communicated with anyone else. Thus, this need to define one’s

terms arises in some form of discourse between two or more

individuals. This discourse may be oral communication between

speaker and audience, or it may be written interaction between
                                                                    126

author and reader. The point is that logos arises out of a need

for clarity implicit in any linguistic communication. Linguistic

communication involves words, and words involve ambiguity (see

sections 263A and 266A). Logos is an attempt to expunge this

lack of clarity. Myth, in turn, is a story. Insofar as it is a story,

myth may or may not reflect “Truth.” Generally, and especially in

the case of platonic dialogue, myth is intended to give a plausible

explanation of a given problem, yet never does more than this—

give a plausible or possible explanation.

     The Phaedrus is intriguing because its very theme is a matter

of dispute amongst platonic scholars. In my opinion, the

Phaedrus reveals Plato’s epistemological stance—that of a

skeptic—through an examination of the limits of logos, both its

written and spoken limitations. Along the way, Plato introduces

myth as an attempt to “fill in the gaps” of our limited knowledge.

It seems that Plato believes that knowledge is forever limited

because we cannot understand the nature of the world as a

whole. We can attempt to talk about such and such, say the soul,

by defining what we mean by the term, indubitably incorporating

countless other terms and concepts along the way. However, it

seems that we are forever stuck in this process of defining what

we mean by words (logos), especially ambiguous words like

“good,” “justice,” and “soul” (263A). As Socrates points out,

“doesn’t each one of us go in a different direction” (263A)? Now,

what is the reason for this difference in direction? As mentioned
                                                                     127

earlier, we are limited by our ignorance and lack of knowledge

of the world as a whole. “Do you think, then, that it is possible to

reach a serious understanding of the nature of the soul without

understanding the nature of the world as a whole" (270C)?

     Thus, we arrive at the epistemological failure. We cannot

explain the world. Logos ultimately fails in any of its attempts.

It aims to get clearer on a particular issue/concept, but can

only do so by resorting to other issues/concepts. Logos

becomes stuck within its own process of dealing with

particulars, one at a time, and fails because it can’t get outside

the box and see the “big picture.” Enter myth. Given our

condition, what can we do but tell a nice story and pass the time

away? And Socrates does just this. After defining the soul as

self-moving, he goes on to tell a long, sophisticated, and, in my

opinion, fanciful story about the world as a whole.

     It is important not to read too much into the myth. After all

it’s just a story. Granted some stories are presumed to be better

than others, but in the end all stories, by nature, distort the

truth. Hence, myth is not without its faults. A myth is good

insofar as it resembles reality, but because we are not gods this

reality isn’t very clear. Consequently, not only will our ability

to create good myth be limited, our ability to judge good myth is

itself limited. And it is, after all, just a story! Furthermore,

knowledge is concerned with particulars as well as the whole

that these particulars comprise. Therefore, because it gives a
                                                                   128

glimpse at the whole picture and ignores the particulars, myth is

also limited because of its far-sightedness and lack of concern

for particulars in the “here and now.” In a sense, it lacks logos.

      Plato appeals to myth only after logos fails to get at the

fundamental certainty that lies at the heart of our desire to

know. Socrates tells Phaedrus that the soul is “self-moving,”

and, therefore, immortal. Here he defines the term. Yet the

reader, along with Phaedrus, must be left unsatisfied. What does

that—that the soul is self-moving and immortal—mean in itself?

And why? Why is there a self-moving, immortal something? Logos

might attempt to answer the first question (what does that mean),

but it is then stuck in an infinite regress (not really an answer at

all; this is the fundamental problem in epistemology). Logos

can’t even consider the second question (why), because it is part

of the picture itself and an answer to the question requires an

external perspective (from which one must step out of the box

and paint the picture). Thus, Socrates tells Phaedrus, “to

describe what the soul actually is would require a very long

account, altogether a task for a god in every way” (246A). Human

logos simply can’t give a complete account of the soul or, more

generally, anything at all. Alternatively, we can make up a

complete account based on the limited knowledge that is

provided by logos. “To say what it [a complete account of the

soul] is like is humanly possible and takes less time” (246A; my

italics).
                                                                   129

     Moving forward, I can only ask what we’re doing reading

the Phaedrus in a philosophy class. Philosophy attempts to make

sense of the world primarily by the dialectical method. A

gangster is trigger-happy; a philosopher is distinction-happy. We

compile, divide, classify, and manipulate facts given to us in and by

our experience. We do so by dialectic. Insofar as we seek to

communicate our composition and division to others, we rely on

logos. “By ‘yadayada’ I mean ‘boohoo’” “When I divide the soul

into seventeen parts I do so because…” We obsessively explain

ourselves within the process of logos we’re stuck in. Logos is

essential to the discipline of philosophy.

     Does philosophy really getting us anywhere? Is this “logic-

chopping” really satisfying our insatiable desire to know? Plato

says “no.” It cannot. What we really desire, in a sense, is to

complete a task “altogether a task for a god in every way.” What

we want is “perfect logos;” a complete account of everything in

the world. But the fact is we didn’t paint the picture.

Nevertheless, we still have the implicit desire to have just such

an account. By nature all men desire to know, as Aristotle

rightly points out. However, Plato seemed to have recollected

even more. All men desire to know what men cannot know.

     So what do we and every other platonic scholar do? We

read Plato as if there is some knowledge to be gained by doing so.

And hence we miss the target altogether. Plato’s “philosophy”

isn’t philosophy; it’s just a story! At best, it’s a plausible account
                                                                     130

served up to sooth our thirst for the unquenchable. This is what

he himself tells us. Yet we read him philosophically. We dissect

what he says, linking this with that, taking what he says

philosophically and as “truth-claims.” “You must know what the

decision is about [in this case, Plato’s intention when writing], or

else you are bound to miss your target altogether” (273C).

     Plato tells us how his story is to be read (namely, as

story/myth), yet we write philosophy papers, books, and doctoral

theses on his work. It would make sense to write a philosophy

paper on Plato if, and only if, his portrait of

philosophy/logos/dialectic is properly framed. Yes, I realize

Plato/Socrates claims to be a lover of philosophy and dialectic.

And to a certain extent one can’t help but do philosophy and

dialectic—it’s imbedded in our nature. But ironically, Plato hints

at the ultimate futility of this methodology in all his work. It’s

“altogether a task for a god in every way” (246A). And this is just

like Plato. He plays with the reader, refusing to commit to any

consistent something that the reader is able to grasp on to. Now

why would he do this? Perhaps because he recognizes that this is

precisely the predicament. Plato’s philosophy is that philosophy

is too strong of a commitment and doomed to failure because it

forgets the only truth (the only epistemological stance

available): “the only thing I know is that I know nothing at all.”

     Undoubtedly, few will sympathize with my extreme

interpretation of Plato. But this is how I read him. Why are there
                                                                   131

so many conflicting readings of Plato? Hmm…perhaps because

this is the nature of discourse, especially written discourse. In

discourse we rely on logos (words/concepts/ideas) to get

clear on what we are thinking/meaning. But remember, we can

only clarify words with other words, and that can be a sticky

situation. Inevitably, “doesn’t each one of us go in a different

direction,” or aren’t we at least unsure what direction others

are going?

        This poses a problem in both verbal and written discourse.

However, as Socrates points out, it is even more problematic in

written discourse. When giving a speech, or just talking with

someone else in general, the “author” of the discourse can be

interrupted and asked to clarify what he means. On the other

hand, written discourse provides no such allowance, and

consequently it becomes all the more susceptible to

misinterpretation and “communication breakdown.” Could this be

responsible for my breakdown? I can’t ask Plato what he means,

and neither can you, so I guess we’ll never know—how ironic is

that?

        What we do know is that Plato clearly despises written

discourse. “No discourse worth serious attention has ever been

written in verse or prose” (277E). Please read this last sentence

one more time. Now you tell me, have Plato’s dialogues received

serious attention? Has any other “philosopher” ever been the

subject of more essays, books, and doctoral theses?
                                                                 132

     Now the question has been begged: why does Plato write?

Personally, I think Plato might have been a sort of existentialist

at heart (talk about possibilities for interpretation!). Perhaps he

recognized the underlying absurdity of the human condition.

Here we are with this annoying desire to know that which we

can’t know—can it get anymore absurd? Further, I think he

witnessed even more absurdity in the thinkers around him who

began professing particular philosophies and epistemological

stances. I think the one particular aspect of Plato’s writing that

is not meant ironically is the confession of Socrates’ ignorance.

The real irony emerges when Socrates says all sorts of this’ and

thats’ in the dialogues, and everyone buys into what he says, as if

he really is wise and not merely seeking wisdom! The following

passage is worth quoting:

           Socrates: Well, then: our playful amusement

     regarding discourse is complete. Now you go and tell

     Lysias that we came to the spring which is sacred to the

     Nymphs and heard words charging us to deliver a message

     to Lysias and anyone else who composes speeches…anyone

     else who has composed poetry either spoken or

     sung…anyone else who writes political documents that he

     calls laws: If any one of you has composed these things

     with a knowledge of the truth…then you must be called by a

     name derived not from these writings but rather from those

     things that you are seriously pursuing.
                                                                 133

             Phaedrus: What name, then, would you give such a

      man?

             Socrates: To call him wise, Phaedrus, seems to me too

      much, and proper only for a god. To call him wisdom’s

      lover—a philosopher—or something similar would

      fit him better and be more seemly. (278B-278D)

At best, we are merely lovers of wisdom, or philosophers, but we

are never wise per se. We are in love with something we can never

have. Isn’t it ironic?

      In such an absurd condition, what is one to do? Duh.

Playfully amuse oneself. What would be more amusing than to

dupe lovers of wisdom and philosophers who think something can

actually be accomplished (that some knowledge may be

ascertained) or, worse yet, think they’ve already accomplished

something (acquired knowledge). Life’s butt a joke. And we’re all

the butt for reading so much into Plato. We don’t even get the

joke. Plato is a philosopher only inasmuch as it is human nature

to be so. Essentially, Plato dismisses the obsessions of the

philosopher for what they are, absurd, and attempts to get some

kind of satisfaction out of life through amusement and pleasure.

Or, so the story goes. Why am I writing this paper?

             “On the other hand, take a man who thinks that a

      written discourse on any subject can only be a great

      amusement…Such a man, Phaedrus, would be just

      what you and I both would pray to become” (277E-278B).
                                                                                          134

Just joking…

…out loud. For some strange reason, Jake and I quickly forgot the fact that it was so

strange that some human being was standing there reading an entire seven-page

philosophy paper aloud, for no reason at all, and instead we simply listened to what was

being said, hoping it might help clarify the puzzling world around us.

          When Drunk Raheed finally finished reading the paper he grew a sad, confused

frown and barely, just barely, managed to say, “But…but I don’t get…I don’t get

it…what’s so funny?”

          I began to chuckle absurdly to myself and said, “No one gets it! That’s what’s so

funny!”

          “Is that all you do?” Jake broke in. “Just sit and think about philosophy problems,

and then write papers about them? Why?”

          “I don’t know,” I said, changing my perspective and addressing Jake. “I don’t

think I’m going to anymore. It does seem rather pointless. If you really think about any

problem, I mean really think about it, you realize that it has no solution. Most of those

philosophy papers were pointless efforts to buttress one pretend solution over an equally

valid alternative pretend solution which I chose not to support only because the language

didn’t sound as convincing. I think I’ve finally realized that there is no solution. Zilch.

No answer. Coincidently, this negates every other possible meaning for existence

derived by what must now be deemed our irrational reason. You realize the gauge is

broken when you finally lose faith in reason. You’ve just had one too many well that just

doesn’t make any sense experiences, and you begin to doubt whether our much-esteemed

reason can really shed some light on your seemingly meaningless existence.”

          “What, what, what?” Jake managed. “Was that philosophy?”
                                                                                         135


       “No,” I answered, “that was suppose to be a refutation of it.”

       “Dude,” Jake stammered, “are you alright?”

       What was the problem I wondered? Am I alright? Why didn’t anyone else ever

understand what I was saying? Was I not given the same program as them—was I not

running properly? Did I not think like they did, either properly or improperly instead of

improperly or properly? Was that improper? Honestly, I only think about things

rationally, or so I think, and people think I’ve gone off the deep end. So either I am

thinking about things rationally and I’ve gone off the deep end, or I’m not really thinking

about things rationally and I’ve gone off the deep end. Either way, I’m “out there,”

drowning in the deep end. Nonetheless, I still want to shout, “WAKE UP PEOPLE!”

       “Yeah,” I finally managed to say, assuming my role. But secretly I was thinking

about an unbelievable insight. It dawned on me just how fucking crazy I really must be.

It would explain everything. The world that didn’t make sense. The people that didn’t

make sense. The incessant demands of practical life that didn’t make sense. It was me

the whole time! I’m really the one that doesn’t make sense. I’m fucking crazy! The fact

of the matter was that I was probably in an insane asylum right then and there, conjuring

my whole life up inside the confides of my own skull, or about to wake up from some

horrible, horrible dream. It was just a matter of time before I would wake up, this time

for real, and everything would finally make sense. That has to be it. Nothing else could

make any sense, or so I think.

       “Well whoopty fucking diddle doo,” Drunk Raheed said, breaking an almost

unbearable silence. “What’s happening here guys? Is someone going cuckoo bananas?”
                                                                                         136


       “I was just about to memorialize these,” I said, picking up a pile of rejection

letters. Drunk Raheed and Jake began a conversation about something to do with beer

and its ability to suppress complicated thought as I set to work on a project that would at

least give me something to do—some kind of direction—for the next fifteen minutes of

my stupid, pathetic, and absurd life. After collecting some tacks, I slowly worked my

way around the living room, pinning up rejection letters in random spots. Some were

placed at the base of a wall, others on the ceiling. I overheard Jake questioning Drunk

Raheed about what had happened to me while he was gone, but I didn’t really care about

his concerns. Fuck, was he even real? At this point, nothing made sense to me anyway,

so why should I have cared? I merely tried to appear as natural as possible to the absurd

world around me, and people still thought I was cuckoo bananas. What’s there to be

concerned about? They might be right. How does concern fit into an absurd world? If it

does, it too is only absurd!

       After I had finished memorializing about fifteen rejection letters at various sites

on the living room walls and ceiling, I sat down on the couch, ready to contemplate my

next move. What the hell should I do next? What comes next?

       “Dude,” Jake said, pinching my arm. “Why don’t we listen to music or

something?”

       “Yeah man, let’s do something,” Drunk Raheed chirped poetically.

       “Let’s,” I said as I picked up the remote and began flipping through the endless

channels, one-by-one. Nothing but horseshit. Never anything but horseshit. Why did I

even bother with the though molester? I should just smash that stupid piece of shit right

now. It’s nothing but a goddamn waste of time. I never even feel consciously alive when
                                                                                           137


I watch television. If I watch a football game, the only significant memory I have is of

me sitting on the couch after the game is over, thinking to myself, “What happened

during the last three hours of my existence?”

       I stood up on impulse, stepped over Jake’s feet, and headed for the kitchen. Jake

and Drunk Raheed didn’t say anything, and simply kept watching whatever channel

happened to be on the television. I opened a drawer that contained my tools and grabbed

the hammer. After calmly walking back into the living room, I positioned myself near

the television and proceeded to smash the T.V. screen with my hammer repeatedly, over

and over again.

       Both Drunk Raheed and Jake were completely silent for a good twenty-two

seconds after I delivered my final blow and let the hammer go crashing to the floor. Then

Jake shrieked, “Dude, what the hell did you do that for?”

       “Guys,” I began my defense, “I can’t take T.V. anymore—that’s all there is to it!

Sorry. I just think that television is a complete waste of time that still strangely calls for

my attention, almost as if sucking me in to a state of nonexistence. It’s nothing but a

temptation to waste my time. Bullshit. I don’t need it anymore. Can you blame me…be

honest?”

       “Yeah,” Drunk Raheed replied, “what if you want to watch a movie or

something? Movies are good. You don’t like movies?”

       “I can always read a book,” I said in return.

       “Yeah, but a book can’t capture the story visually, at least not to the extent that a

movie can,” he protested.
                                                                                          138


        “Good books do!” I exclaimed emphatically. But then I began to wonder. Had I

made a mistake after all? Something seemed horribly, horribly wrong. And then I

realized the stupidity of my action. I could have sold that television to someone else,

giving me a little while longer to enjoy my status as unemployed. What had I been

thinking? Was I thinking?

        “Well I don’t know about you guys,” Jake began to say, “but I’m about ready for

bed. Besides, I’m afraid that this night could get stranger.”

        “Well, A-O.K. man,” I managed to say. “Have a good night.”

        And with that, Jake left. Drunk Raheed was singing a song softly to himself on

the couch. He looked as if he might pass out during the next few minutes. And then I

seemed to recognize all over again that Drunk Raheed was singing a song softly to

himself. Why was he singing a song softly to himself? It seemed so strange.

        “Hey Drunk Raheed,” I interrupted him. “Why is it that when we’re alone and

listening to music we still feel self-conscious about dancing to the music?”

        “I dance to music all the time,” he replied.

        “Really?” I asked, somewhat amazed. “Every time I’m alone listening to music

and I realize that I’m dancing, I immediately stop, yet I don’t know why. I guess I just

figured everyone did.”

        “Not me man,” he said, “I just keep right on dancing, though I do think I know a

little bit about that self-conscious feeling your hinting at.”

        I envied him insanely for a second. He was able to keep dancing? He was so

free. And so drunk! Here he was nodding off, only moments after he had participated so
                                                                                      139


attentively in a conversation with me. One second he’s talking to me, the next he’s

snoring. Oh so strange.
                                                                                         140


                               Chapter Eleven: On The Turning Away

       Personally I wasn’t tired, so sleep wasn’t an option. I suddenly had a desire to lie

in the bathtub, immersed in warm water, and listen to Pink Floyd in the dark with a fan

blowing on my face, drinking a nice cold beer. And so I did just that. At one point, I

remember lying in the dark and wondering what would happen after I shut my eyes for

the last time. I was reminded of a dream I had had just that afternoon actually.

       There I was in a plane and, of course, it was going down. I remember looking out

the window and seeing the landscape appear closer and closer. Then I spontaneously

closed my eyes and braced myself…I braced myself, but for what? And I remember

thinking, “I am going to die. This plane is about to explode, and when it does, something

significant will happen to me. My consciousness will be altered in some way. But how?

What will I wake up to as soon as my body explodes?” And of course, that’s when I

woke up from the dream.

       It’s funny to think that at some point we’re going to “die” in this world, and

reality will completely change. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe it will just be over. Then

again, maybe not. Maybe one moment I’ll be driving along the interstate, anxiously

awaiting to get to wherever it is I’m going, and then, flash, it will happen. Fleeting

snapshots of a semi to the side of my car, and then a ditch in front of my car. And then,

GOD! Nothing but the color white all around me, or so it appears at first. I realize that,

in fact, I’m not sensing anything like I used to. Instead, I merely have some kind of

intuition of God’s presence.

       Or there I am walking down the street at four-thirty in the morning. Not a sound

can be heard except for the chilling breeze that blows harshly against my face, and not a
                                                                                          141


single person can be seen anywhere. Naturally, I start to get jittery, as it’s always strange

to feel so completely alone outside in an urban setting—like something isn’t quite right.

Sure enough, a guy appears out of nowhere, wearing a stocking mask over his face and

pointing a gun that was aimed at my existence. One moment I’m trying to reason with

him, then for a split-split second I hear the sound of gunfire, and the next moment I’m not

me anymore, but a newborn baby with no recollection of any previous existence. I’m

you.

       A fly landed on my nose as the water began to get noticeably cold. The fly sat on

my nose, and I nearly began to shiver. Finally, after what seemed like forever the fly

fluttered away, and I wondered if I’d ever notice that fly—that exact fly—again in my

life. I drained the water, dried myself, and got ready for bed, knowing I wouldn’t be able

to fall asleep anyway.

       Before finally falling asleep two and a half hours later, I managed to read The

Myth of Sisyphus. An exceptional work of brilliance by Camus, only this time it was a

non-fictional work. In it Camus discussed many of the problems I had seemed to become

so obsessed with myself. He discussed the absurdity man faces in an honest approach to

life. The insatiable why that stares him in the face every waking moment of his life. The

inevitable implications this recognition will have on the remainder of his life. And these

were only the preliminary subjects of a wonderfully expounded exposition on man’s

honest condition, though the end did tend to get obscure.

       I couldn’t agree with him more. The second I really realized the absurdity of the

world I lived in, I couldn’t help but be effected by it in everything I did, practically and

intellectually. Only after somebody finally recognizes the absurdity of the world has he
                                                                                          142


truly done philosophy honestly, with a completely open mind. He will have become

extremely aware of the very odd world around him, asked himself the question “why?”

and not made up any pretend solutions to the question he knew he really couldn’t answer.

Only then, will he recognize the only honest philosophical conclusion: this world is

absurd because ultimately there is no discernable reason for it to exist. God? Why? My

only conclusion is that there are no true conclusions.

       Let me tell you, it’s not a pretty thing to do philosophy honestly. After you’ve

actually stopped to think about it and admitted that the world is absurd, you find it hard to

do much of anything anymore. Everything seems so meaningless. And you wish you

had just kept pretending. But once you’ve been honest, there’s no more pretending. You

just can’t do it precisely because it would still be so meaningless, and you know it—you

can’t fool yourself anymore. All you really want to do is nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Unfortunately, one must always think, and these thoughts get the best of the honest

philosopher—they become an obsession.

       Camus was not quite so pessimistic, but he was still honest. Eventually, I turned

out the lights, fell into bed, closed my eyes, kept them closed for a long, long time, and

finally fell asleep. I slept for a good six hours before I was roused by a rude knock at my

door. Nine o’clock in the morning, and somebody was pounding on my bedroom door.

“Come on man,” I heard Drunk Raheed holler, sounding as if he were drunk if I wasn’t

mistaken. Was Drunk Raheed drunk?

       Sure enough, I found out he was already well on his way to getting tanked after I

got up out of bed and greeted him at the door. “Have you been drinking more, or

something?” I asked him.
                                                                                        143


        “Yeah man,” he responded, “let’s get drunk.”

        “What,” I blurted, “are you nuts?”

        “Come on man, why not?” he insisted.

        “Why?” I asked.

        “Why not?” he shot back.

        “Wait,” I said, “I asked you first.”

        “Oh Jesus, man, just have a fucking beer!” he sighed.

        “Don’t you have work, or class, or something to do—some kind of obligation?” I

asked him.

        “Man, I just don’t want to do any of that shit,” he replied. “It makes life seem so

trivial.”

        “But then what are you going to do?” I asked him.

        “What do you mean?” he shot back.

        “I mean, aren’t you worried about your future?” I said and asked.

        “No, I’m not,” he admitted. “When it comes, it comes, and it will be just as

shitty, but not any shittier, as this moment now.”

        “I see,” I said in response, and began to contemplate what he’d just said. Why do

I even care about the future? What was it about the future that I was so worried about?

Why did I always make sure that I had the means procured for a decent future? It seemed

like it was an obsession. Make money so that you can pay next month’s rent. Get a

Ph.D. so that you can teach and make a decent amount of money…so that you can have a

satisfactory future. Get your chores done now so that you won’t feel as guilty later when

you decide to play. Future, future, future. Never, now.
                                                                                        144


       “But doesn’t your future existence nevertheless depend on what you do now?” I

still managed to wonder aloud.

       “I don’t care about the future!” he practically snapped. “Don’t you understand

that it will never get any better? Everyone worries about the future as if worrying about

it actually makes it better. But when that future comes, there’s always the next future to

worry about.”

       Profound, but could it possibly make sense? “Look,” I said, “don’t you care

whether or not you’re living in a cardboard box in the alley? Isn’t there something inside

you that plans ahead so that that shit won’t happen?”

       “Would I be any less happy in a box in an alley than I am right now?” he asked.

“You’re missing my point altogether. The fact of the matter will never change, and that’s

that this world is fucked up. How will planning for the future nullify that sad, sad fact

that underlies every aspect of our existence?”

       At this point I was scared. Drunk Raheed’s words were sounding a lot like my

own. As I instinctively followed him to the refrigerator, I realized the truth in what he

was saying. Why am I motivated to do anything for the future when I know that

everything is meaningless? What will it matter if I am some famed philosopher

remembered for centuries? What does that mean, really? What does it matter if I am the

author of several bestsellers, with a beautiful wife and three ornery kids, all of whom I’m

so very, very proud of? I’m still going to die, and so are they. Eventually, say five

hundred years from now, my existence will surely be forgotten altogether, and this is only

the best-case scenario. How can I do anything for the sake of the future when the future

is so meaningless in a future future?
                                                                                          145


       “Aren’t we suppose to make something out of ourselves?” I asked him as we sat

down on the living room couch. “Shouldn’t we make something out of nothing?”

       “Like God,” he said sarcastically.

       “Well, yeah guess,” I replied. “Weren’t you feeding me some shit about being

gods or something the other day?”

       “I am a God,” he said emphatically. “I am God of the present.”

       “Oh Jesus,” I muttered. “So what are we doing on the couch?”

       “Where are we suppose to be?” he asked.

       “I don’t know,” I managed to say, “shouldn’t we be doing something?”

       “We are doing something,” he reminded me as he turned to his beer and smiled.

       “Do you ever feel this lingering guilt and sensation that something is missing?” I

asked abruptly. Not giving him a chance to answer, I continued, “No matter what I do, I

always have this feeling that something is missing. Like there’s something I should be

doing. Like if I could just do something, though I’m not sure what, I’d finally be happy.

I have this incessant feeling of lacking that pervades every waking moment of my life.

Do you have any idea what the hell it is these words that are coming out of my mouth are

trying to express?”

       “Well,” he began, groping his chin like with his right hand like some esteemed

intellectual, “I don’t know if I have what you have exactly, but I do always seem to be

unhappy.”

       “No, that’s not it exactly,” I returned. “I’m not stressing unhappiness. It’s more

of a feeling that is an impetus for action. This feeling, that something is supposed to be

done, drives me to do whatever I do, even though I realize that my every move is futile
                                                                                             146


and absurd anyway. No matter what I do it will ultimately be pointless, and I can always

ask myself why I’m doing it to begin with. Yet, I do something because of this feeling I

have that I must go on, that I must continue to exist through these actions. But no matter

what I do, there is always something else that still seems to be missing. No matter what I

do, it never seems sufficient. I can never stop doing something because I always have

this feeling that something must be done. BUT WHAT? AND WHY?”

         Drunk Raheed looked up from the can of beer he had been staring at in his left

hand and said, “Man, I don’t know if any of that made any sense.”

         “Probably not,” I agreed. “Probably just something else I feel, but can’t put into

words.”

         “Yeah,” he concurred, “I know that feeling!” “Nothing but a lack of being able to

say what you really mean.”

         And with that, we said nothing for the next ten minutes or so, both understanding

perfectly. It was odd. Sitting with a best friend in an apartment in some city for some

reason, doing absolutely nothing but drinking a beer and thinking in the presence of one

another. Neither of us seemed to mind that it was odd. But suddenly I was overcome

with an overwhelming urge.

         “Drunk Raheed,” I said, breaking the silence, “are you in on it?” I winked at him

slyly.

         “What?” he slurred, dumbfounded.

         “Give me some kind of sign if this is all a game, or a trick, or something, and I

don’t know about it,” I pleaded. “You’d let me know if there was something I don’t

know about, right?”
                                                                                         147


       “What are you talking about, man?” he asked, sounding as if he were taken aback

by the sound seeping out of my mouth via my consciousness.

       “Oh, alright,” I said. “But, don’t you ever just wonder if there’s something the

whole world knows about, except for you?”

       “You mean like that movie, The Truman Show?” he asked.

       “No, that was all fake,” I answered back. “That was just a movie about a

hypothetical reality television show; it was just ‘pretend’. Don’t you ever wonder if

everyone else really does know something you don’t know? Like some metaphysical

certainty that would explain everything you can’t seem to understand about the world?”

       “I suppose it’s entered my mind,” he admitted. “But I never take it seriously.”

       “Why?” I couldn’t help but ask.

       “Why?” he couldn’t help but ask.

       And we sat silently for another ten minutes, doing absolutely nothing but drinking

beer on the same couch in the same city for the same reason—or lack there of.

Eventually words were spoken and trips to the refrigerator were taken. Soon an hour had

passed. Then another. And then as I was drinking my seventh beer and Drunk Raheed

his tenth, someone knocked on the door.
                                                                                         148


                               Chapter Twelve: One Of These Days

         Reluctantly, I made my way to the door and opened it with just enough will

power. Luke stood on the other side of the door, wearing a strange, perplexed look. Why

was everyone I encountered these days looking as if they’d just seen a giant rat eat a

village of little babies?

         He stepped into the apartment and announced, “I was just over at Raheed’s

house.”

         “And,” I said growing anxious, sensing that something was horribly, horribly

wrong.

         “And now I’m over here,” Luke said innocently. “Are you guys drunk?” he

asked, spotting the beer cans that littered the floor.

         “Yeah,” Drunk Raheed and I replied in unison.

         “Damn it,” Luke responded. “I thought we’d play some ball today.”

         “Don’t you have work, or something?” I asked. But then I began to wonder what

day it was. Perhaps it was the weekend after all. What fucking day was it? “What day is

it?” I asked aloud.

         “It’s Thursday,” Luke informed me, throwing me a suspicious glance. “It’s

Thanksgiving. Are you feeling alright?”

         Thanksgiving? Shit! Thanksgiving? How could it be Thanksgiving? How could

I not know it was Thanksgiving? I looked over at Drunk Raheed. Did he know it was

Thanksgiving?

         “You didn’t know it was Thanksgiving, man?” Drunk Raheed returned the

question to me as if he had read my mind.
                                                                                          149


       “I guess I lost track of the days,” I admitted. And then I had to explain everything

that had happened to me over the past half-week to Luke, all over again, because his look

suggested that he couldn’t possibly understand how someone could lose track of the days.

Luke was a practical man, and a practical man never, ever forgets what day it is.

       For a second I didn’t know if Luke was going to make it. He looked as though he

might faint after I finally finished giving him the details of the pathetic events that had

occurred recently, also delineating my new philosophy on life that they had spawned.

When at last he seemed to recover, all he was able to say was, “Dude, are you crazy?

Seriously, are you ok?”

       “What?” I asked, truly shocked.

       “You can’t just quit life!” he demanded.

       “I’m not quitting,” I replied defiantly. “I’m just changing the rules.”

       “You can’t change the rules,” he responded. “You’re stuck in this world and you

have to play by its rules. You simply have no choice.”

       “Sure I do,” I battled back. “I have some choice in the matter. For instance, I

don’t have to live the American dream. I don’t have to be that practical. I don’t have to

be some big bank executive. I don’t even have to get married. I don’t have to live in a

big house. I don’t have to eat breakfast because it’s good for me. I don’t have to keep a

clean apartment, and I certainly don’t have to clean the bathroom. I don’t have to talk in

sophisticated words to impress everyone around me—I don’t need that diction. All I do

need is a job at McDonalds, some beer, and a few good books.”

       “Are you kidding?” he asked, completely baffled. “Don’t you want a good life?

Obviously everyone has the same questions you do, but you have to know when to stop.
                                                                                          150


Why don’t you get a job at the bank with me? I think we’re hiring for a new teller. It

would probably pay a little better and you wouldn’t be working at McDonalds!”

       “Just forget it,” I tried to say in a respectful tone. Why didn’t anyone ever

understand me? “So, what’s new in Luke’s life?” I asked him in an effort to change the

subject.

       “Actually,” he said, “you guys aren’t going to believe my news!” At this point I

couldn’t help but wonder whether there really was anything I couldn’t believe.

       “What, man,” Drunk Raheed asked anxiously, “did you get a new car or

something?”

       “No, still looking,” Luke replied. Then he dropped the shocker. “Adrianana is

pregnant. I’m going to be a dad!”

       I couldn’t believe the news. They had been trying to have a baby for several

months now. “Adrianana is actually pregnant?” I asked, still in disbelief.

       “Yeah,” he said, swelling with happiness. “I’m going to be a dad!”

       “You’re going to be a dad?” I asked, stunned. My friend, my age, was going to

be a dad? I had a hard time justifying getting out of bed, and a friend my age was going

to be a dad? I envied him so much that, for a second, I thought I might kill him out of

jealousy. I envied him to no end. He had such direction. Almost…almost…almost…a

purpose? “Wow,” I yelped enthusiastically, “congratulations—that’s terrific!”

       “Thanks,” he said, nodding in my direction.

       “You know, there’s nothing like the miracle of birth,” I preached. “Without you

and you’re thoughts,” I said staring intently at Luke, “this baby would never, ever exist.

This baby is you for all intents and purposes and beings and situations and degrees.”
                                                                                            151


         “Yeah,” Luke said, looking as if he were a bit confused, “it really is special.”

         “Sit down you two,” I said suddenly. “We’ve got to hear Dark Side of the Moon

right now!”

         “What?” Luke sighed. “I don’t have time to listen to music.”

         “Oh come on,” I pleaded. “You have time. Instead of playing ball you can listen

to music, can’t you?”

         “But I don’t really want to,” he admitted.

         I put the C.D. in anyway, and turned the volume up to a nice agreeable level. We

all sat on the couch for an awkward second, Drunk Raheed and I with beers in our hands,

all three of us waiting anxiously for a cue to make a sound or move a muscle. Finally

Drunk Raheed created one by saying, “Did you guys hear about the twelve year-old

mother that shot the father of her baby and then cut her baby into pieces and threw it

away?”

         “You’re a sick, twisted fuck,” I instinctively snapped. “That’s horrible!”

         “That’s reality,” he barked back. “I read it in the paper the other day.”

         “You must be kidding me,” Luke said, refusing to believe what he had heard.

         “Nope,” Drunk Raheed said flatly.

         “I guess it’s not so surprising,” I said. “After all, that shit—that seemingly

fictitious shit—happens all the time in reality. Fiction is almost a contradiction in term

anymore.”

         “Yeah, it’s all a bunch of bullshit,” Luke reluctantly conceded.

         Then, another knock! Bang, bang, ban! Not your typical knock. This was

certainly a knock that was meant to say something. Pissed off neighbors? Mom and
                                                                                         152


dad? A robber? A ghost? For a second I relished the agony of suspense. Who was

knocking on my door? A sudden mystery that most wouldn’t have even bothered paying

attention to. Who cares about wondering who it is, get on with answering the door damn

it!

       As Dark Side changed to track six I opened the door and found Renee furiously

staring me in the face. “I just came over,” she said, shaking with unmistakable rage, “to

make sure it is clear who broke up with whom!”

       What? Were we broken up? How did that work? “We broke up?” I asked, with

an unmistakable tone of indifference?

       “You haven’t even called me since the other night,” she said, beginning to sob

uncontrollably.

       Oh god, the sobbing. The sobbing. Nothing is worse than the presence of a girl

crying. I was supposed to comfort her, to tell her everything was going to be alright. But

secretly I wanted nothing more than to not exist. That was it, non-existence! Yet, here I

was. And I had to say something. “Sorry?” I said, but in the tone of a question. Big

mistake.

       “Are you really sorry, or just saying you’re sorry?” she snapped back.

       “Both,” I said, growing tired of the stupid love game.

       “Fine, just make sure you realize I finished it!” she said, striking a pose, the pose

of a queen that is. She began to gush tears and finally turned to the stairs to go disappear

somewhere.

       I walked back into the apartment knowing full well that I was supposed to feel sad

or depressed or something to that effect. But instead, all I felt was nothing. Drunk
                                                                                           153


Raheed and Luke each looked as though they had just seen their mothers naked,

flabbergasted and unsure what to say.

       “Are you going to be ok?” Luke asked me.

       “Yeah, I’m fine,” I replied, trying to reassure them.

       “Shouldn’t you go say something to her?” Drunk Raheed asked me.

       “I don’t know what to say,” I answered truthfully. “That’s the problem.”

       “You’ve been together for over three years!” Luke said in disbelief. “Are you

sure you’re ok?”

       “Yeah,” I said as reassuringly as possible. “I just can’t figure girls out. So I

decided I’d quit trying.” I meant every word I said too, yet still felt guilty all the same.

Obviously I should have done something. Even I knew that. But why? And what?

       As the end of track eight finished I set the C.D. player on repeat so that it would

play Dark Side over and over again, until I eventually decided to turn the C.D. player

off—though I wasn’t sure that would ever actually happen. I was getting very drunk, that

much was clear. Luke seemed to be growing uneasy, and Drunk Raheed looked as

though he might wonder off into the depths of his own thought at any second. Something

needed to be done. But what? And why?

       “Well I guess I’m going to take off,” Luke stammered after a long silence that

would have been unbearable without the music. Thank god for the music!

       “Oh come on, man!” Drunk Raheed pleaded. “Don’t leave. The fun has just

begun.”

       “Nah, I’ve got stuff to do—I can’t get drunk,” Luke sighed.
                                                                                          154


        “Congratulations again,” I managed to say. I also remember secretly

congratulating myself for being able to say anything at all.

        As Dark Side began to play all over again Luke made his way out the apartment

and disappeared. There we sat again, Drunk Raheed and I, each with a beer in hand,

doing and saying absolutely nothing…on Thanksgiving! Of all things! Wasn’t there at

least something to do on Thanksgiving? Then the phone rang, apparently answering my

silent reflection.

        The phone was ringing! Who could it be? Who was calling me at that exact

moment? Was it someone important? Had I won some gigantic prize? Was it someone

who would magically make my life better? Who could it be? This just could be the

phone call that would change it all.

        Or it might be just another phone call from my parents, which it turned out to be.

The parents! I had forgotten all about the parents. What would I tell the parents? Should

I tell them I had turned into a freak over the past few weeks, or make up something

completely different? Perhaps I should lie and tell them it’s been a very, very busy

week…

        I told my mother that I had to work that night, and wouldn’t be able to come over

and see my extended family that “only gets to visit every now and then,” much to my

dismay of course. And when she asked how I had been lately, I simply told her that life

was life. She agreed that life would always be life, and I agreed that I would call her

more. And with that we hung up.

        Finally.
                                                                                      155


       The phone call was over and Drunk Raheed was flashing his biceps at an

imaginary admirer. “You need to read Camus,” I told him for no particular reason.

       “Who?” he asked.

       “Albert Camus,” I said.

       “Why?” he demanded.

       “Because he will s-p-e-l-l-i-t-o-u-t-f-o-r-y-o-u,” I responded.

       “Spell what?” he asked curiously.

       “The truth about reality,” I assured him. All I wanted to do right then was read

Camus, but how could I read Camus with his company?

       “Alright, I will,” he said.

       “You will what?” I inquired.

       “What do you mean ‘will what’?” he asked, looking bewildered.

       “What do you mean ‘what do you mean “will what’’’?” I retorted.

       “Stop!” he shouted. “Man, you’re fucking psychotic!”

       “What?” I kind of wumf. Words were beginning to turn into blank expressions of

nonsense.

       “SHUT UP!” he screamed. “Man, you’re really not making any fucking sense!”

       Evidently I must have missed something. At what point did I not make sense?

“At what point did I not make sense?” I asked Drunk Raheed.

       “You never have made sense!” he shouted hysterically.

       I remember thinking, “A-O.K.. What the fuck is wrong with Drunk Raheed? Is

he a basket case? Why is he always freaking out like this?”
                                                                                      156


       I remember hearing, “Man, you’re the one who is always freaking out! I’m not

the basket case here!”

       At that point we both said simultaneously, “Look, people are probably crazy for a

reason!”

       Ok. What just happened? That didn’t just really happen, did it? Drunk Raheed’s

expression suggested that he was wondering that exact same thing.

       “Weird,” was all he could manage to say.

       “Agreed,” I replied.

       “Drunk Raheed,” I said, “I think you need to go.”

       “Why?” he whimpered.

       “Because I need to be alone,” I admitted.

       “I don’t know if that’s a good idea, man,” he responded.

       “Are you that drunk?” I asked him.

       “Something is wrong with you, man,” he demanded.

       “Is something wrong with you?” I asked him. “I just want to fucking read Camus,

alright! Why can’t I just fucking read Camus!”

       “Jesus Christ,” he shrieked. “I’m fucking going. But you need fucking help.”

       Having finished what he felt needed to be said, he picked up his remaining beer

and headed out the door and, finally, was no more.

       I began to think as soon as he left. It was clear that something was wrong with

either reality or me. One more thing was for sure. I would have to quit thinking myself

out of my life. What was wrong with me? I had started off so reasonable, and now

nothing made sense. Why?
                                                                                                  157


       I immediately sat down and reread Camus’ masterpiece, The Fall. Brilliant once

again. Dark Side thundered out track six as I got up to put the masterpiece back where it

belonged. I wanted nothing more than to not have to face the question that I knew I

would eventually have to ask myself: “What do I do now—what comes next?”

       Like I usually did when this happened, I whipped out a notebook and a pen as

soon as this question emerged on the horizon of my conscious thought. Then I wrote the

following:

               What do I do now? Here again I sit, drunk! Drunk, yet philosophical. Struggle.

       It seems to define human existence. No one is happy; everyone wants more. Nothing is

       ever good enough. Yes, I realize I have a lot more than the average Earthian. Does that

       make me “lucky?” No. That makes me even more pissed off. I am not happy and even

       more struggle for what I don’t have. What kind of God have we?

               With a world that doesn’t make sense, what am I left with? Simply questions of

       existence. Why do I keep yearning to exist? Why? Existence sucks for everyone! The

       fact that some are satisfied with less than what I have does not make me selfish! It

       makes them complacent!

               What have I now? Why do I still choose existence? Fear? That is all I can think

       of. Why not just end it all right fucking now and get to the “real meaning” if it really

       exists? Why am I still here? I fear ending my existence might entail ending all possible

       being. But why?

       A knock suddenly interrupted my scribbling. Of course! Knock, knock, fucking

knock! Surprise, surprise, somebody was at the goddamn door. Who could it be this

time? Why was someone always at my front door these days?
                                                                                         158


          Thankfully, it was only Jake. He stopped by to pick up gloves he had forgotten

the day before. I suggested he come over later and he suggested that he just might.

          After he left I continued to drink beer and do absolutely nothing else. Dark Side

was playing song number three and I was drifting into the music until, finally, I fell

asleep.




                          Chapter Thirteen: Goodbye Cruel World

          When I awoke Drunk Raheed had come back with a new six-pack, and he was

thumbing threw one of my Camus books.
                                                                                       159


       “How long have you been here?” I asked.

       “A while,” was all he offered.

       He looked rather peculiar for some reason. He looked as though he had lost all

his marbles in someone’s head.

       After a brief silence I continued, “You look really, really drunk.”

       “I’ve had quite a few,” he admitted.

       “Is something wrong?” I asked, feeling as though he were subtly sad.

       “No…no,” he muttered, “no…not really, man.”

       I sat up straight, then reached for one of Drunk Raheed’s beers saying, “May I?”

       “Of course,” he said.

       So we sat and drank beer all afternoon. What a horrible human being I had

become. Why? Why not? This was my life. That’s supposed to mean something, right?

We shot shit about the absurdities each of us had unfortunately witnessed at such an

unbearably young age. What had we gotten ourselves into? Then we reminded each

other that it wasn’t our fault—this shit just happens.

       Then shit happened. We ran out of beer. How the hell could we have run out of

beer? Inside me panic set in. Drunk Raheed’s appearance suggested indifference but he

still managed to say, “Wanna go get more beer?”

       Beginning to relax, but just a bit, I said, “Sure, I guess.”

       We assembled the necessaries—wallets, coats, Dark Side of the Moon, and

keys—and headed outside. “Why don’t you drive,” he suggested.

       “Me,” I said, “why do I have to drive?”

       “How about if I go in and you can wait in the car, then will you drive?” he asked.
                                                                                              160


       “I guess,” I conceded.

       And so off we went, driving the short distance to the liquor store. After taking my

order, Drunk Raheed walked inside the store and I began humming track four of Dark

Side out loud. The comforting breeze blew gently through the open front seat windows,

and I could have sworn I heard a distant owl hoot. As I listened to the breeze and stared

at the plain white bricks comprising the side of the liquor store, I truly realized for the

first time in my life that nothing really mattered to me. Then,

BANG!

       Time slows. Drunk Raheed is sprinting out of the store. Drunk Raheed is getting

in the car. Drunk Raheed has a forty-ought humdinger pistol in one hand, a six-pack of

Heineken and a moneybag in the other. Drunk Raheed is pointing a gun at my head and

shouting, “GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE GOD DAMN IT, MAN!”

       Something inside of me manages to say, “What?” And then a thought emerges,

“Is some one pointing a gun at my existence again?”

       Drunk Raheed is pressing the barrel of the gun against my forehead and shouting,

“DRIVE MOTHERFUCKER!”

       Instincts took over from there. I calmly weaved my way through the small mess

of neighborhood streets that separated my apartment from the liquor store. I heard sirens

but ignored them. I remember thinking, “Fuck those goddamn sirens!”

       “Don’t park too close to your apartment,” Drunk Raheed instructed me.

       I turned to him and asked, “Why not?”

{Y}    “Because I just fucking robbed the liquor store,” he spit out, “and we need to

distance ourselves from the car.”
                                                                                         161


       But it was too late. He had me at “Because I just fucking robbed the liquor

store…” Drunk Raheed had just robbed the liquor store? This thought occurred to me

over and over and over again. How could this be happening? All I wanted was a life all

to myself. I had made it my resolution not to get involved in the absurdity of the

practical world. And here I was, an integral part of it. How could this be?

       We walked the couple of blocks separating my car and my apartment. Neither of

us said much, though neither of us had to. Looking back it was definitely right there and

then that I truly “lost it.” Naturally! As we walked those couple blocks my mind simply

gave up. What was I doing in this world? What was I really trying to do? My body kept

walking, yet my mind didn’t really seem to care anymore.

       I had a sudden epiphany: I had no idea what the hell I was. Was I these legs

walking frantically toward 718 West 25th Street, #B? Was I the 110 hairs surrounding

what I considered to be my belly button? Was I the shit I called thoughts that came

from…well…wherever it was they came from? Some spontaneous thoughtful abyss?

       If it wasn’t for what I was seeing and hearing, I would never have believed that

maybe, just maybe, Drunk Raheed really had robbed that liquor store. He was a nervous

wreck. When we were finally safe, at least for the time being, inside my apartment,

Drunk Raheed let out an enormous sigh of relief, and then immediately headed for the

refrigerator as if nothing had even happened. I couldn’t help but ask myself, over and

over again, “Is this really happening?”

       I was in shock. I am positive of that, I think. I was most definitely in shock. I

think. I think I am positive, though I’m not positive…I think. Drunk Raheed had

returned me to reality. This was indeed happening to me. A robber, who happened to be
                                                                                        162


my best friend (one of life’s gut-wrenching coincidences), was in my fucking apartment,

and I had driven him there. No! No, this could not be happening. Cuckoo bananas. I

must be crazy. What would the newspaper title read? What newspaper?

       Drunk Raheed walked into the living room with a beer in one hand, and his

moneybag in the other. “I suppose you want an explanation,” he calmly said as he began

to open the moneybag.

       “No,” I replied, “not really. I don’t think there is one. Is there?”

       “I was taking out the garbage when it hit me,” he began.

       “Brilliant,” I said, “simply, brilliant.”

       “Why don’t I just rob a goddamn liquor store,” he continued, “and so I did.”

       “Where did you get that gun?” I asked, nearly sounding impressed.

       “I was just over at Rob’s parents’ for dinner,” he replied. “Rob’s dad has a nice

collection of guns, man.”

       “I thought you and Rob didn’t get along?” I said, sounding surprised.

       “Nah, we made up the other night when you went psycho in my apartment,” he

explained. “When you kicked me out earlier today, I met him on the way out.”

       “I wasn’t sure if he was ever going to forgive you,” I said.

       “Nonsense,” he insisted. “Rob and I are each civil. We know how to handle our

quarrels. Smoke a bowl, and none of it matters anyway.”

       I was sucker-punched by reality for a painful second, and suddenly blurted, “I

can’t believe you just robbed the liquor store! Are you fucking out of your mind?”

       “I don’t know man, am I?” he reflected.
                                                                                           163


       “Jesus, you can’t just rob people,” I snapped. “That’s bad. The cops. The cops

are going to be after you—me. Wait, you pointed a gun at somebody?”

       “Yeah,” he responded, not at all surprised by the question.

       “How did that feel?” I couldn’t help but ask, curiosity getting the better of me.

       “I don’t know man,” he muttered. “What kind of question is that?”

       “It didn’t make you feel sick and twisted?” I asked. “Horrible? Anything at all?”

       “No,” he said blankly.

       “Do you ever feel anything at all?” I asked. “Don’t you care about anything

anymore?”

       “Shut up, man!” he screamed.

       He proceeded to slam down one beer, then another, as he separated wads of

money according to some sophisticated system. While he kept slamming the booze, I

kept trying to stay grounded. I was losing touch with reality, but curiously felt like I was

actually about to wake up. No. One has to hold on. This existence has to mean

something. These arms and legs must mean something!

       Drunk Raheed was leaning back against the couch, arching his back, and making

strange audible sounds that can’t be translated into words, when suddenly, can you

guess…?

       A knock sounded from the door. Drunk Raheed froze, and I began to laugh.

“What now?” I asked aloud.

       Naturally I opened the door and, just as naturally, Jake walked into the apartment

wearing a sad frown, or a smile but upside down. He looked as though he were the
                                                                                          164


bearer of some very, very serious news. What could it be? What had happened? Would

there be an explanation? Some kind of answer?

       “Did you guys see that game,” Jake said with the greatest of enthusiasm, “the

Cowboys got so lucky…” And with that as an introduction, he walked in and took a seat.

       What a silly, silly world we live in.

       “Why?” I asked everyone on Earth.

       As I asked, I looked at each of my friends, first to Jake, then to Drunk Raheed.

However, as I studied their faces and their expressions more closely than I ever had

before I noticed that they didn’t seem to look anything like what they normally did. It

was amazing. I had never paid much attention to them, visually speaking, when I looked

at them before. Instead I had always looked, but without any recognition of what it was I

was actually looking at. Their faces seemed so utterly strange now. Here were these

faces, but what were they really? Merely covers, masks? Underneath these covers real

people supposedly existed, personal thoughts that I could never, ever perceive.

Underneath this face was some real person, undressed. But if I couldn’t ever perceive

them, what were they to me, really? An educated guess, perhaps a necessary

assumption?

       What were Jake and Drunk Raheed? A bunch of limbs with a mask that’s

supposed to indicate something to me through its expressions and sounds? And these

mouths that were supposedly part of their faces, what were they? They were moving, I

could see that. And these noises. Voices!? Voices, but what are they? Sounds that hint

at the thoughts of these assumed persons? Were these sounds supposed to mean
                                                                                         165


something, to give me access to real people? All around me, every day, voices, but what

are they really?

       “Dude,” Jake said, pinching my arm. “Why don’t we listen to music or

something,” he continued.

       …I had a sudden fleeting thought…“Have I been here before…is life déjà vu?”…

But what was he really thinking? Damn it! What was he thinking? Fuck this pretend

noise. Was Jake really inaccessible to me?

       “What are you thinking?” I asked Jake inadvertently.

       “What?” he asked, confused as hell.

       “Never mind,” I said, covering up my mess of thoughts with noise. But really, I

couldn’t get the issue off of my mind; it was all I could think about! As Drunk Raheed

took it upon himself to turn on the stereo and put in a C.D., I struggled to come to grips

with the god-awful truth about all these legs and arms and faces and voices. Had I finally

woken up? I was merely an isolated universe of thoughts that walked and talked, and did

and said pretend things, but that never really adequately revealed itself to the other

isolated universes of thoughts that these other walking and talking appearances seemed to

indicate must exist. But was there really anybody out there? If I closed my eyes forever,

would they still exist? Was it all in my head, merely part of my universe? Really, what

was the world without my recognition of it? Without me, the world couldn’t exist, at

least insofar as I could know. With that said, what did real mean anymore? It’s in my

head, it’s in my head! It has got to be in my head. The lunatic is in my head. All I do is

think anymore! I think.
                                                                                       166




                       Chapter Fourteen: Is There Anybody Out There?

       Suddenly I realize I’m in a car, and the car is going extremely fast down the alley

that runs behind my apartment. In a daze, I realize that Jake and Drunk Raheed are in the
                                                                                          167


car with me, but only after Drunk Raheed’s voice says, “Man…this isn’t good, man.

What are we going to say? ‘Our friend here is nuts?’ I mean, how does this work?”

       I couldn’t help but think to myself how ironic it was that Drunk Raheed, an armed

robber and raging alcoholic, was concerned at all about getting someone else help. What

a nut. Simply absurd.

       “I don’t know,” Jake said, frowning. “I can’t believe that this is happening.

What’s wrong with him?”

       “Guys,” I said, collecting myself and struggling to sit more upright, realizing

this—whatever it was that was happening—wasn’t good. “What are you doing?”

       Jake nearly drove his truck into a garage before he finally regained control of the

truck. He had swerved out of control when I muttered my innocent question. “Christ!”

he shouted after pulling his truck to a stop. “You’re talking!”

       “Yes I’m talking,” I said. “What’s the big deal?” I asked. What was wrong with

these people? Were they actually going to commit me to a hospital or something? What

the fuck just happened? Did I space out or something? Besides, who cares if I did?

What’s the big deal?

       “The big deal,” Drunk Raheed said, beginning to answer the question I had never

even asked, “is that you’re insane! You just lose it man. You look as if you’re lost in

thought or something, and no one can ever get any kind of response from you until you

suddenly start speaking again as if nothing ever happened. You just stare off into space,

and it freaks us out. I mean, where do you go?”

       “What,” I said, definitely not asking. What was he fucking talking about? Who

the fuck was he? How could this nut possibly get freaked out by anyone else? Could this
                                                                                          168


really be happening? Something was happening to be sure. After all, I was certainly

conscious of something! But this? Why this? “Chill out you guys. You’re completely

overreacting! I was probably just thinking.”

       “Nobody thinks like that,” Drunk Raheed interrupted. “Your eyes showed no

signs of life, man.”

       “Shut the fuck up you loony goon, you’re scaring me!” I shouted back. “I’m

alive, can’t you hear me talking to you right now? You guys are not committing me to a

fucking hospital.”

       “I don’t know,” Jake muttered. He turned to Drunk Raheed and said, “What do

you think?”

       “I don’t know,” Drunk Raheed offered.

       “Let’s just go back to my apartment and talk this over,” I offered since Drunk

Raheed had nothing to offer. My mind began to race. What the fuck was going on?

Why was I even bothering to worry anymore anyway? What did the world have to offer

me? Why not just commit?

       And suddenly out of the blue, I think, Drunk Raheed looks at me and says,

“You’re fucking insane. You really are insane!” We both started laughing. Sinister

laughter that lasted forever and ever, amen. I finally knew what it meant to be insane.

One who is insane simply loses all hope in sanity. There’s something he wants to do

more than anything else, and that’s nothing. I began to drift somewhere resembling

nowhere.

       Nothing. Could you blame me? Nothing. Nothing but nothing. No more painful

activity for me! No more struggle to find reasons and meaning. Fuck it! Was I
                                                                                         169


schizophrenic or something? Probably. Fuck it too! What do you call someone whose

reality is all fucked up according to those whose reality isn’t all fucked up? Human?

        Wake up, wake up, wake up! For all my life it had seemed like I was only half-

awake, always still half-asleep, and never sure which I really was—awake or asleep.

Now I was sure I must be sleeping. The alternative just couldn’t make sense. Don’t we

judge ourselves to be awake or dreaming by the coherence of that with which we

interact? I mean, what else do we have to go by? Yet nothing ever seemed to be

coherent to me…

        Why is everything the way it is? Why notebooks, diarrhea, and the letter “e?”

Why did I order a coke at Luigi’s café on March 3, 1997? Why had I gotten so depressed

after realizing I was by myself and doing absolutely nothing on the evening of Friday,

August 10, 1999? Why did I have brown hair and such a large head? Why were there so

many fucking stars in the sky and so many fucking people on the planet? Why was there

something instead of nothing?

        And what were these things all around me? A pen I could stab myself with. A

knife I could cut myself with. A ruler I could shove down my throat. A wall I could run

into headfirst. A book I could throw across the room. Erasers, posters, and sidewalks?

Arms, plastic, and vomit? The bible, Mecca, and holy wars? What did all of these things

mean?

        And why this set of circumstances instead of another? Was I insane? Did I drive

myself nuts? Did that cause me to suddenly appear in strange situations with no

recollection of ever getting there? Could that explain my entire waking life? How I

suddenly appeared on a planet called Earth because something called semen did
                                                                                           170


something nothing short of miraculous and unbelievable. How I was suddenly four.

How I suddenly found myself in high school, hating every minute of my waking

existence and yearning for something, anything, but the status quo. How I was suddenly

a senior in college and driving myself insane with philosophical questions in an attempt

to get as far away from that absurd situation everyone else called reality as I possibly

could. How I was suddenly eighty-two—though, according to those plotting the

conspiracy, I was still only twenty-one—and waiting for fate to turn the page to the next

chapter in the absurd book entitled, “Reality.”

       I realized that I was conscious, and that I didn’t know why. And that there was a

world I was conscious of, a world that didn’t make sense. Was I really expected to

believe in the reality that this world I was conscious of imposed on me? “Life” and

“death?” Didn’t it seem strange to anyone else that semen turned into thought? Was I

really supposed to believe that my thinking began in semen? Did that really seem

reasonable? And was I really supposed to believe that this world of things really existed?

I mean, where the hell did it all come from? Why something instead of nothing?

       I think we may have it all wrong. This world of something, this world of things

around us, is really…nothing. Every now and then, I stop, I mean really stop, and pay

attention to this stupid, absurd world that I’m somehow conscious of. And in doing so I

realize that it must be a joke, that it has to be butt a joke! And I’m the butt of the joke. I

realize that it must be a dream, that it has to be a dream! That I’m still going to wake up!

         Yet I still want to scream, “WAKE UP PEOPLE!” to all the people I see in the

joke. “Something’s up,” I want to tell them, “this can’t be reality, really. Reality has to

make sense! Come on people! Quit going to work and quit doing your chores! Stop and
                                                                                        171


think for a second, just one goddamn second. Can this make sense? What the fuck is

going on?” Nevertheless, I realize that they’ll stop to think about it for a minute, perhaps

even agree with me that the world is in fact absurd, but then go right back to the chores

again. The fact of the matter is that no one seems to be as troubled by his or her absurd

existence as I am. I cannot help but incessantly ask why there is this machine of

existence. Nonetheless I feel as though I’m expected to be a cog in this very machine!

Here we are making babies and going to work, but why? Here we are going on picnics

and screaming at best friends, but why? Here we are doing everything we’re supposed to

be doing, but why? And some of us raise the question “why.” But, how many of us

seriously raise it? After you think about it seriously you never think about anything else,

because everything else seems so utterly futile once the honesty takes over and you

realize just how absurd doing anything else really is. What’s the point?

       A Radiohead song suddenly begins to play somewhere…I think it might have

been within my apartment. People are there, and there’s stuff all around me. I think. A

couch, a table, books, beer bottles, and a bunch of other stupid shit—probably nothing

really. I begin to drift into the Radiohead song that’s playing in the background, and the

lyrics begin to sink into my existence: “I’m not here…this isn’t happening…” What was

I to do now? What comes next? Why do something? Why do something when there’s

always something else I’d rather do? Nothing. All I wanted to do was do nothing at all.

Nothing.

       A confused muddle of something—a world of things—continues to constantly

evolve around me. Noises are coming out of mouths, and ants are crawling on carpet

somewhere. Ants? Why ants? Somewhere, for no particular reason, a professor is
                                                                                         172


giving lectures to a room full of eager cogs. For no particular reason one plus one is still

said to equal two. Why two?

       Yes, all around a body I presume to be mine a meaningless world evolves,

spinning on some axis and orbiting around some gigantic ball of gases. I think. I have no

reason to believe any of that though, do I? Why even bother with that world of shit

anymore? What do I ever get from it anyway? Fuck that meaningless, evolving world,

and fuck that gigantic ball of gases too! I’m done wasting my time on shit that may or

may not be shit. It’s all a fucking guessing game anyway, and no one wins until they

die…maybe. What’s the point of that?

       Six billion people on the planet Earth, and none of them know what the hell is

going on. Still, they fight religious wars, call each other insane, and make condescending

judgments about clothing apparel. Six billion fucking nuts! Six billion fucking cogs and

one giant machine called existence. Turn, turn, turn. Everything changes, but nothing

changes. Billy dies, and Susie is born. A new president is elected, and poverty still

prevails. A new preacher mans the pulpit, and still no one gets any real answers. I am

born, but nothing will ever make sense. Always a search for meaning, yet a search that

never elicits a why. Six billion different people, all insane just the same. Sanity? Why

not give it up, it’s insane anyway!

       Now all I do is think. I never even consider reality anymore. Well almost never.

Occasionally I do seem to do something. For instance, occasionally I say, “WAKE UP

PEOPLE!” or “read the book!” thinking for some strange reason that doing so might

prove to be somehow meaningful, though realizing it’s ultimately absurd nonetheless.

Meaning? Fuck meaning. The more you think about how the world is absurd, the more
                                                                                         173


you think about how the world is absurd. And before you know it you’re caught in

thought. Honest philosophy is deadly—suicide!

       The mere consciousness of this world—any world—makes me throw up in

thought. Not surprisingly, I see the words, just for a moment, and realize I must have

been committed: Hillside Clinic For The Mentally Disabled. And then I see faces, but

only for a moment, and sense something of which I’m still not quite sure. Then the

question pulls me in—why?—and I start to drift again…

       …People and places and things, but, why? And then I begin to think…I think.?

But am I thinking, really? I mean, I think I think I think. I think. And the world

disappears into an infinite series of questions.

       But these faces! The faces. Aren’t these faces something? A mask? But aren’t

masks still something? But how much sense does something make? Doesn’t nothing

make just as much sense? And then I’m lost because I can’t help but think, “Really, is

there anybody out there?” You tell me. You’ve heard all of the evidence. Am I crazy?

Is there anybody out there?

       Am I awake, or just dreaming{?}
                                                                                     174




                             PART 2: REALITY?
          And meanwhile at the Hillside Clinic For The Mentally Disabled on some

                      stormy, summer night in your home town…




                         Chapter Fifteen: Comfortably Numb

       The director of the Hillside Clinic For The Mentally Disabled, Dr. Riley Jordan,

threw a glance at his watch as soon as he thought the mayor wasn’t looking. God damn

it, his wife Teresa would kill him if he was late! Why did the mayor pick the most
                                                                                            175


inopportune time to get acquainted with the facility and its procedures? What the hell did

he care anyway?

       Mayor Mackey loosened his tie as he walked up to a counter where a nurse was

hunched over a computer screen trying to type the rest of her reports so that she could

hurry her sweet little ass home in time to take her son to soccer practice. “And what

exactly do you do around here?” the mayor interrupted her.

       Dr. Jordan patiently appeared to be interested in the mayor’s every move, while

inside he secretly yearned to smash the motherfucker into a million little pieces. The last

time he showed up to his daughter’s rehearsal late Teresa had verbally lectured him for

the better part of an hour…during Monday Night Football no less! God forbid if he

would ever let that happen again.

       “Would you like to view the patients now?” he asked the mayor, trying his best

not to appear as though he were in any rush.

       Thankfully, the mayor merely replied by saying, “Certainly.”

       Dr. Jordan led the mayor through a labyrinth of hallways, finally reaching the

main observatory room of the clinic. The main observatory room was a gigantic room in

which most of the patients spent their days sitting on chairs and staring off into space,

lost in their own worlds, in their own heads, rotting, forever. The main observatory room

provided an easy means to observe a large portion of the patients with only a limited

number of staff, certainly a frugally sound procedure that Dr. Jordan was very, very

proud of.
                                                                                           176


        As the mayor began to realize what he was seeing, his face grew into a question

mark. “What’s wrong with these people?” he barely managed to ask, sounding as if he

had seen a giant rat eat a village of little babies.

        Dr. Jordan began to laugh and said, “Oh mayor…(stifling a

laugh)…mayor…they’re just mad! What did you expect the patients to look like?”

        Mayor Mackey expressed a look of slight disgust for a good amount of time,

making sure the doctor understood that his integrity was not to be questioned, before

finally saying, “I know they’re mad,” in a civil tone that nonetheless expressed his point.

All around him, Mayor Mackey made a note to himself, were a bunch of bodies that

looked almost soulless, certainly lifeless to say the least. What was his city doing? Why

was the city preserving these freaks?

        Dr. Jordan began to briefly brief the mayor on the kinds of patients the clinic dealt

with. The lights flickered for a moment and thunder screamed outside. A fly landed

gently on Dr. Jordan’s shoulder and Dr. Jordan swiftly swiped at it, hesitating his words

for a noticeable second. The patients of the clinic still sat doing absolutely nothing.

        “For the most part,” Dr. Jordan was saying, “we only deal with the most severe

cases. Our patients typically suffer from the most severe comatose cases that can land

someone into a mental health hospital. Would you like a few specific case examples?”

        “Certainly,” the mayor responded. Of course he would like a few specific case

examples!

        “This is Harry Pederson,” Dr. Jordan said, walking up to a patient and patting him

on the shoulder. “Harry suffers from a very, very severe comatose condition. All he

does is hunch over like this during the day with his eyes closed. The staff has to force
                                                                                        177


him into a wheelchair whenever they notice his eyes are open, so that he can come out

here and enjoy some kind of environment other than his own hospital bed. Yet, he won’t

even open his eyes out here. Harry is about as bad as they come.”

         “Does he talk?” the mayor asked.

         “Oh God no,” Dr. Jordan said, beginning to laugh.

         The mayor’s heart began to beat faster, and his fists began to clench. “He’s pretty

bad,” he managed to mutter.

         “And this guy here suffers from a case almost as bad,” Dr. Jordan said, walking

over to another patient and patting him on the shoulder, simply a matter of the good

doctor’s practical routine these days.

         “Why isn’t he as bad?” the mayor asked.

         “He doesn’t quite exhibit the same lack of awareness,” Dr. Jordan responded.

“His eyes are always open when he’s awake. In other words, he’ll blink like anyone else.

My point is that he will at least keep his eyes open unlike Harry. He also occasionally

moves his eyes around and looks at various objects, though he never moves his head.”

         The mayor looked to be muddling something over then finally asked, “Does he

talk?’

         “Very, very rarely,” the good doctor offered. “Ten years ago, or so, he began to

utter a few things every great once in a while—”

         “Wait, wait, wait,” the mayor interrupted. “You mean to tell me he’s been here

for ten years?” The costs, oh the costs! He silently languished in his absurd realization.

         “Actually,” Dr. Jordan responded, “he’s served the second longest time of

anybody in here right now. He was admitted when he was just eighteen years old, thirty-
                                                                                        178


eight years ago! His family just brought him in one day. They said he wouldn’t talk to

anybody and refused to do anything. And now here he is, thirty-eight years later, and he

still doesn’t talk to anybody or do anything.”

        “I thought you said he talked,” the mayor interrupted.

        “But that’s only like once a month, or every other month, on average,” the good

doctor countered. “Sometimes he doesn’t say anything for like three months at a time. I

mean, most of the time we’ve had him here he hasn’t even said a word. He only started

talking ten years ago. And, when I say ‘talking’, what I really mean is ‘mumbling a

couple of words to no one in particular’.”

        “What does he say?” the mayor asked inquisitively. “Does he say anything

intelligible?”

        “It’s strange,” Dr. Jordan responded. “He actually says two different things.

Sometimes he’ll say ‘read the book’.”

        “Read the book?” the mayor repeated awkwardly. “Does he like a certain book or

something?”

        “That’s another weird thing,” Dr. Jordan answered back. “His family says he

never read books, never wrote books, never did much of anything but what every other

teenage boy his age would do. Or so they thought…”

        “Weird,” the mayor agreed out loud. “Absurd. What else does he say?”

        Dr. Jordan broke into a lifetime of laughter. Chuckling to himself and wiping

tears of laughter aside, just barely managing to stifle the overwhelming sense of

absurdity, he finally managed to say, “‘WAKE UP PEOPLE!’!”

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Tags:
Stats:
views:5
posted:9/16/2012
language:Unknown
pages:178