Monday, February 21, 2011

Fallin' off the floor

Let's follow the craven twenty-year-old, with his long stringy hair and smelly clothes, sniffing his father's razor, taking in the awful sweet perfume of dessicated flesh, the tiny specks of his old man, now dead, rubbing his thumb along the blade, feeling for a flaw, then finally nicking the tip of his ring finger, letting the blood run out into the sink. Let's watch him as he stares into the mirror and makes faces at himself, looking for the essential soul inside the plastic frame. He rubs his temple, squeezes a blackhead, rubs a growth on his lower lip. The vanity light is severe. His eyes are red -- from sleeplessness? from crying? Let's watch as he runs the cold water and douses his face. It looks like he's trying to come to.

When you're young you can't be honest about this shite, the fact that the life you imagine and the life you lead are two separate things, far apart, and there really is no way to bring the two together except in art. Effin art. Philosophy is something you try for a while. Sex is a wonderful ameliorative, but it leaves you lonely. Food, sports, drunkenness -- it's best to test them all and be convinced that each is wanting. Then you're free to realize the absurdity of being human -- a creature called to sing, dance, paint, recite poetry, to celebrate the very fact of being alive, while the house goes up in flames, protesters die in the streets, patients cry out in the cancer ward, and an old man stares uncomprehending at bondage porn just days before his death.

Let's watch the kid -- he's not yet a man -- rummage through the old man's chest of drawers. Let's see what he finds there. There's a gavel inside a felt sack, inscribed "President, NYC Chapter, DPMA, 1964 - 1966" and a beat-up copy of
Roberts Rules of Order held together with a rubber-band. A flashlight and two spare "D" batteries. He clicks the switch on the flashlight but it doesn't work. The batteries inside have leaked, the contacts oxidized. Another useless piece of equipment. Some bound volumes of falling apart sheet music -- Czerny, Dvorak, Chopin, Studies for the Pianoforte. Flannel shirts, saggy underpants, yellowed handkerchiefs. A bar of soap. The kid looks at each item in its turn, then puts it back in its place in the drawer. Little does he know how much these things matter to him, these effin totems. A scene from a movie comes into his head, the funeral procession in Fanny and Alexander. It takes only one happenstance to change a life completely. A letter unanswered, a violent storm, a third martini before a ride home.

I never had control of my life, he thinks, I only thought I did. This is what will become of me. The blood pounds at his temples again -- the fear is back, the fear that he is falling into a deep depression. Not just the ordinary sadness and disappointment of everyday living, but the black abyss of despair. We watch him gather his coat and hat and gloves. He runs to the back door, flies out, stumbles down the stoop, and grabs the garden gate to hold himself steady. Dry heaves. It snowed again, another six inches. The world is white and cold. He gags and spits. He wanted his life to be different than this.

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