22 March 2006

"I do think many writers have what you might call a demonic nature. They are always in trouble, you know, and not only while they're writing or because they're writing, but in every aspect of their lives, with marriage, love, business, money, everything. It's all tied together, all part and parcel of the same thing. It's an aspect of the creative personality. Not all creative personalities are this way, but some are."

                                           -Henry Miller

15 March 2006

He Tells Me The Thing To Worry About Isn't Your Thirtieth Birthday

He tells me the thing to worry about “…isn’t your thirtieth birthday, but the thirty-fifth one.” You’re all the way to forty practically and there isn’t much left but the downward slope. You can feel the anguish in his words; sense the weight behind his thoughts. Listen, I say, look at it this way: you’re at the pinnacle of your life. You can live another thirty-five years and this is only the half-way point. Everything after this is easy sailing. What’s the problem with that, I ask.

Nothing doing. He isn’t really listening to me, and, for my part, I’m not supposed to be answering him. Something about a twenty-six year old man-child telling a grown man, almost thirty-five, what to do. Besides, it’s a rhetorical question that has no answer. But for some reason they come to me, all of them, former lovers, friends, family. They all come to me wanting to know what they should do with their lives; their fears palpable, knowing there is no answer that will satisfy them.

My mother, nearly fifty-five and still dreaming for a simple, rich life where worries evaporate and money, while not growing on trees, springs up from a well in the ground, wants to know what to do with her life, why she isn’t happy. They all want the same thing. They want the contentment of our culture to sweep them away and off their feet. They want to know what they are supposed to do next, what steps to take, where to go on vacation.

But I suppose it isn’t that simple. They simply want to know what they’re doing with their lives, what they are going to do with their lives. And so far, no one has told them, no one they trusted. There were adults no one listened to when they were young: “Find something you love is full of shit. The thing to do is find something that will make you rich and then you won’t have to worry about anything for the rest of your life,” they’d say between their third or fifth scotch and water. But there it is, the aw ful, glaring truth of our culture: We believe, in our heart of hearts, money solves everything.

And so here this man is, this close friend of mine who feels the anxious accumulation of years behind him, a gaping hole into which the future falls before him. The prospect of no job, no career, no money are his only comforts. He wants to be able to not worry, not have to think about money or food or sex or any of the thousand little things we distract ourselves from the act of living by abusing. He wasn’t ready for this; this isn’t how it’s supposed to be; it isn’t fair. He doesn’t say these things but they’re there, at the root of what he’s saying.

And how do I comfort him? How do I assuage the fear in his heart? If he hasn’t figured it out by now, the most it seems, I can hope for him is a quick and painless death, no more suffering. But even this he is too afraid to attempt. Oh, he may say he’s thought about it quite a bit; felt the knife on his skin, the cold blade against his warm flesh, but he hasn’t really thought about it. The same way you or I haven’t really thought about it. We joke in our conversations it will be our end, would be preferred over the long, slow crawl towards cancerous vegetism, but even these thoughts are follies we share to alleviate the situation.

“If I could just not worry about what I am going to be doing, whether I’ll be sleeping in a dumpster or under a bridge somewhere in the next three months, if I could just know that it’s all right, then I feel like I could get a hold of my life and do something,” he says. I ask him what it is he doesn’t have that make him so miserable, what is he that he has to change? He can’t tell me these things, just like I can’t describe what it is in my thoughts that recedes when I brush against it, that lurks in the shadows of my dreams and eludes my attempts to lure it out in the open. Perhaps, it’s the Self, hiding because it knows what the stakes are, what would happen were it to come out into the light.

There are no easy solutions, no truthful answers. The future holds for us what it has always held for us: uncertainty. That is the flaw, I think, in my friend and in myself. We are looking for a certain future, one that differs from all the others, one that leads out of the trap of Time and History. We are looking for a future that is endless, that doesn’t include death or pain, or the humiliation of the failures of our past, or the terrible, terrible realization that life isn’t worth it, not this life anyway. We are looking for fame and fortune, while abhorring what we have to become in order to achieve our dreams.

10 March 2006

Nine days

It's been nine days. Nine days. My mind will not wrap itself around such a simple concept. Its been nine days since I've had a cigarette and while I remember each and every moment crawling slowly by, I suddenly cannot fathom such a period of time passing without realizing it. But there it was, staring me in the face when I woke up, following me down stairs into the kitchen, holding the door for me when I went to work. Nine days.

The news has just come over the opera house TV, its been nine days of trying. Nine days of dying. I let Bowie out the back door near the base of the skull, just behind the left ear. I here the screen door slam...I drift off into late, summer autumnal memories living in the middle of nowhere, where the opposums hide under the sink at night and the cicadas sing so loudly you forget there's such a thing as silence. But silence comes, at three in the morning as the house settles into itself and all the doors to other rooms slowly leak the dreams of their occupants.

The silence is deafening except for a lone pick-up travelling through from nowhere to nowhere, head lights carving out of the darkness something short-lived and lonely, before disappearing behind a curtain in the night. As the engine fades, a single cricket begins to serenade the night with its song. I drift back from the memory into my room, into my body waiting patiently for my return. It's been nine days.