Friday, June 01, 2007

Alpha, Omega and the Two-Rood Muse

I’ve been going through a rough stretch for a while, my mood pretty much matching the balance in my bank account. Not that being poor is a sin, but it does make it harder to adopt the rosy outlook I see plastered all over the faces of people I watch greeting each other on the street. ‘Course, none of it is meant for me, they don’t know me from Adam, and I guess I can’t blame anyone for being selective about when and where to spend their gestures of civility. Evidently, smiling at strangers, especially those who tend to lack the means for designer haircuts and/or clothes, is not a priority, and I’m cool with it… I understand, really I do. What if a friend were to happen by and catch you acknowledging the presence of a homeless man or nodding your head at a bum… I’m sure there’d be uncomfortable questions to answer at your Happy Hour gathering, and as I recall, there’s nothing tougher in life than listening to your pals make snide comments about your new ‘buddy’ and having to defend yourself or explain that it really wasn’t what it looked like, that all you were doing was trying to get him to leave you alone. Hell, if you weren’t careful, you might find yourself looking for a new foursome for Saturday morning’s Best-ball Scramble at the club or a new workout partner to spot you at the gym. So, I get it… don’t think a thing of it, I know you have more important matters to concern yourself with. If the Market doesn’t rebound soon, you stand to lose your Mercedes and I know how embarrassed you’d be if forced to drive a Beemer.

But enough… this story isn’t about them it’s about me. Forgive my self-indulgence if you can, but there’s very little point to the story if you don’t understand a little about my history. It’s of no importance where I come from, so I won’t bore you with details, but please understand that destinations planned early in life are seldom reached and never recognizable as originally conceived. For many years, I embraced the old adage, ‘fail to plan and plan to fail’. Like many young people, I set up a timetable of accomplishments to be achieved, and worked toward the satisfactory completion of each step, carefully assessing my progress and evaluating the next plane. And it all made sense. Maybe it worked a little too well, I can’t be sure, but at some point I felt the uncomfortable pangs of niggling doubt start to work their way into my psyche. The victories became muted and the ever-increasing setbacks proved difficult to dismiss. I found out that when one sets a goal, only three things can happen, and two of them are bad. One can fail, die before reaching the goal’s finish line or satisfactorily achieve the desired end point. Even if you make it, while temporarily basking in the euphoria of success, you face the realization that you now must set another goal, and the process repeats itself… again and again and again.

At some point, it ceased to make sense. I realized that I couldn’t eat more than one meal at a time, no matter how full my refrigerator might be. It became clear to me that I could erect tall walls of stone and post a guard at the gate, but I couldn’t keep the real enemies out, I could only keep myself in. My coffers overflowed but I was dead from the neck up. More and more often, when I was sober enough to realize it, another old adage swam effortlessly through my mind, ‘Be careful what you wish for’. Eventually, my ambition became my accuser, judge and jury, and I was convicted of fraud and sentenced to a refuge from reality that became my prison. One by one my friends and family came to visit less and less often, not that I could have acknowledged their presence in any event. I slid further and further down the slippery slope paved of drugs and alcohol, the mind-numbing pain-killers that facilitated my descent into oblivion.

Oblivion… almost sounds Biblical, even magical, doesn’t it? The Thessalonians shall smite the lawless and claim the land of Oblivion for the just. Amen. But I know better, because I’ve been there. It exists deep in the darkest jungles of despair; it is a quagmire of muck and filth more wretched than sin and denser than society’s impenetrable heart. My journey there took a path I could never have anticipated; after all, I was one of the chosen.

Who are the chosen, you might ask; why do they fall? We’re the pre-anointed, easily identified, can’t-miss effete. The almost brilliant, the nearly noteworthy, and the faux elite fill our legions. We’re smart enough to pass the entrance exams of nearly any university yet we have no idea what we’ll study once we get there. Have a test you want passed? Merely tell us where and when! We’ll parse your sentences, correct your arithmetic, and help you set your goals, even though we have none of our own beyond those we’re expected to achieve. While we’re at it, we’ll do your taxes, wash your car, clean your pool and figure out ways to help you stretch your entertainment dollar. Very little sneaks past us even if we’re slow to admit it. Oh, if only we’d found a star to which we could hitch our wagons.

But, we seldom do. Just when it appears that we might prevail, either circumstance or kismet taps us on the shoulder and reminds us that we needn’t trouble ourselves any further, that we just don’t have the right stuff. And off we go, dreams stashed neatly in one or another pouch of our backpacks, to chase yet another star, to inevitably choose the road to Oblivion regardless of our intentions. You see, we are what we are, the well-meaning odd-man-out with the capacity to accept many burdens and the ability to handle all but those conducive to our benefit. Then, mired in the confusion created by public labor and private torpor, we listlessly accept whatever scraps we’re thrown off the side of the chuck wagon as we pack up and head on down the road, grateful we’ve lost the gnaw of hunger but weary of the effort, desire having long since been swapped for temporary satiation. Even hormonal lust, at some point, accepts its muted ambivalence in some hidden cache whose flap button can be opened by neither sober fingers of intention nor clumsy whiskey-fueled digits of twisted revenge, becoming just another bullet to discharge just because we want to chase away the demons a little while longer.

But enough about oblivion—just understand that for those of us who through choice or chance find ourselves on the road, hope is a precious commodity. The concept itself carries a watered-down implication; a subdued resignation reaped from a raw sense of reality that most wouldn’t understand except as a theoretical exercise or experiment. Struggle is basic to life on this planet and acceptance of a certain amount is necessary for everyone, but when one is forced to struggle through every thought and every daily movement, at some point the reality of failure becomes the norm rather than the exception, making the merest victory over the elements stand out as treasures to be defended at all costs. When a man is willing to kill for a pair of cast-off sneakers rescued from a dumpster, the paradigm of hope becomes a hollow, meaningless phantom.

Now, phantoms, on the other hand, exist in my world as surely as night follows day, and they don’t always wait for darkness to make their appearance. The fact that they choose to interact with me exclusively makes them no less real. Just like you, my perceptions form my reality, and I make no apologies for them, although I do sometimes wish they’d go bother someone else. Coincidence that ‘phantom’ and ‘perception’ start with the same letter? I think not, but when push comes to shove, it matters little; in fact, I’m willing to wager that you’d never considered it yourself until just now. We all tend to think in terms of the literal rather than the abstract, don’t we? Besides, I have nothing to wager, unless it would be one perfectly good set of Reeboks (nobody ever throws away Nikes anymore unless the cat pisses on them and even I wouldn’t consider wearing them… that’s just disgusting) that I recently came upon. We’ll consider it a gentlemen’s bet and move on, the point is moot in any case.

Unless someone is seriously fucking with my head, even I have to assume that the 1900-pound concrete statue of Jesus Christ of Nazareth standing in the Silver Creek Memorial Garden is pretty much just an abstraction, a religious symbol meant to bolster Christian mourners’ congregation with the Almighty as they either plant a loved one or spend a little time in meditation with a grave stone (which, by the way, no one would consider odd in the least, even though many say God actually talks to them). Further, my observation that the statue weighs 1900 pounds is merely an educated guess, although common sense and a better-than-average understanding of physical laws came to bear before I hazarded an estimate given the statue’s height, girth and materials of construction. For those scientists among you, I’m sure it’s conceivable that the damn thing could weigh as much as 20% more or less, and I hope it makes you feel better to question my math, I know how important it is for you to always be right. Consider the source, I’m a contemptible drunk and an anchor tied to society’s hind end. I get it, trust me…

So when this 10-foot off-white monolith with two iris-less chicken eggs for eyes started following me as I moved about the headstones, it startled me at first. His long white hippie-hair didn’t move, his robe didn’t bustle at all, even with the 10 mile-per-hour breezes blowing from left to right as I looked at him, but those damn eyes followed me ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly except to the trained eye. His out-stretched arms moved, too, following me so that they were squared up in front of me, even when I moved behind him. Please notice that I didn’t capitalize ‘him’ at the end of the last sentence; I don’t need to pretend that it was actually Jesus Himself, I’ll leave that to all of you Christians in the audience. I’m not trying to pick a fight, I’m just trying to explain my feelings at the time—and don’t send me letters, either, I promise you I won’t answer them. (Note: That was a joke… I couldn’t possibly answer them seeing as how I don’t have a mailing address or post office box. But I’ll bet that you knew that, didn’t you? Okay, let’s move along, it’s getting pretty close to suppertime and I’m thirsty… er, hungry. Yea, I meant hungry.)

After a few minutes, I might have forgotten all about it if the thing hadn’t winked at me. Honestly… it closed one eye and wiggled his left index finger a little. Who knew Concrete Jesus was left-handed? I guess it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility, but since Catholics are supposed to make the Sign of the Cross with their right hand unless amputation or stroke or some other affliction affecting their right arm prevents it, I guess I’d always assumed that Jesus was right-handed. Go figure… who knew?

Anyway, now Left-Handed Concrete Jesus is winking at me and beckoning me to come closer. I have to be honest, at this point— considering the behavior of a fair number of Catholic priests— I began to question the entire concept of religion as it relates to celibacy. Was it merely a front for a multitude of salacious sex fiends preying upon the weak, the very young— the most naive members of the flock? Have the wolves really infiltrated the ranks of the shepherds? I have to admit, that might explain chastity… Don’t give it up here on earth, ladies, I likes Me some virgin pussy!

Sorry… that was uncalled-for. I’ll try to keep it clean. I know how easily your sensibilities become upset and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for any late-night gastric distress. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea ultima culpa. (Don’t you just love Latin? Sometimes I just about get a nut just thinking back on all the Latin phrases I learned as a kid. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. And who can possibly forget Dominus vobiscum, et cum spiritu tuo?) Ah, yes… makes me think back on all the time I spent on my knees at St. Dominic’s, getting the crap beat out of the back of my head with a ruler by one of Christ’s Black-and-White’s who evidently seemed to regard my predisposition for slumber as a sign of disrespect for the Lord. I’m sure the Lord demands that one or more of His confederates walks point on little boys in church while they’re supposed to be praying, so I forgive them—I’m sure they were only doing what they were told and their corporal propensities had nothing whatever to do with the sexual frustration they had to be experiencing given their eschewal of all things carnal.

Now, I admit that I may have enjoyed four or three smallish carafes of Ripple’s finest port that morning/afternoon, and that I could see a little better if I closed one eye, but nothing could have prepared me for being hit upon by Suggestively-Lewd Left-Handed Concrete Jesus. Even for a tipsy homeless man, this can be disconcerting.

But there I was, nevertheless. Suddenly, I felt the need for speed, but my legs didn’t want to cooperate. If you’ve ever experienced the fight-or-flight syndrome, I’m sure you can understand how a dedicated pacifist might opt for the latter. Now, I could see a bulge under his robe in the area of his crotch. Yes, it was an act of cowardly desperation, but I had no desire whatsoever to become the love slave of a Suggestively-Lewd Apparently Homosexual Left-Handed Concrete Jesus With a Dick the Size of a Louisville Slugger, so I began whimpering like a naughty puppy whose owner just caught him pissing on the living room rug. In fact, when he started to bend down toward me, I was pissing, only it was just in my pants, an eventuality for which I hold no pride, I assure you. Now, wet pants chafing at my legs, I began to run like I’d never run before, my stride suddenly rivaling that of an Olympic sprinter, my heartbeat surging in my ears with each footstep. On occasion, I looked back to see my nemesis closing on my position, although he certainly couldn’t approach my deer-like pace. Apparently, he experienced no fear of discovery, that someone might witness his reprehensible behavior and turn him in to the Cemetery Elders and risk banishment or at least some form of retribution for his hideous felonies upon me.

I raced toward an open gravesite, hoping that someone might be there to help me. Typically, as my luck would have it, the workers had gone home for the day, leaving behind a makeshift fence, a crude rope spread between four posts, evidently meant to sequester the site from the curious. Quickly, I stopped and pulled the rope from its stanchions, coiling it as best I could, although I could have done much better had I a bit more time and a bit less buzz. It would have to do, and since I saw no judges, I renewed my now-somewhat-less-than-gazelle-like gait as best I could, trying to decide exactly what the hell I could do with this damn rope. I couldn’t shoot it, it wasn’t worth a damn as a cudgel, and I wasn’t at all sure that you could hang a Possibly Murderous Suggestively-Lewd Apparently Homosexual Left-Handed Concrete Jesus With a Dick the Size of a Louisville Slugger.

But, it was all I had, and I had to formulate a plan, so I adjusted my beer goggles and settled into full cogitation. Almost instantaneously, I decided to climb a tree and find a limb that would support me, somewhere out of his reach, hoping that he couldn’t jump or climb, although certainly in my world almost anything was possible. I slung the rope over my shoulder, allowing myself a moment to wonder if I looked anything at all like one of those Con-Ed pole climbers with the spikes on his boots, and began my ascent of a huge old oak tree that decorated the property’s outer fence. The going was tough at first, my tree-climbing skills severely tested by the rough exterior bark that both aided and impeded my progress. Once I reached the first branch, I used them as steps to gain enough height to discourage the most outrageous of Saviors. Reaching a large horizontal limb, I sat down and began to tie the rope to the branch, making sure to secure it with my best approximation of the double half-hitch knot I learned while a Boy Scout, another societal attempt to make me neurotic before I celebrated my thirteenth birthday. The rabbit comes out of his hole and goes around the tree and over the hill, then crosses the stream and goes around the tree again before he goes back in his hole. Honestly, that may be totally wrong, I tended to let my mind wander a good bit during those days and I never claimed total recall. Suffice to say, the knot appeared to hold, so I wrapped the rope around my chest and made a noose. If any manifestations of non-secular abomination tried to pull me out of the tree, perhaps the rope would prevent it.

Unfortunately for me, he found me. Now, he reached upward, his prodigious hard-on now growing at an exponential rate as it progressed through the branches in search of its quarry, the penultimate nexus of my virginity, my poopchute. I realized that if he ‘sniffed’ me out, I was a goner, so I tried to hide behind the trunk. I elected not to move a muscle as the now-giant dildo reached my branch and craned its ‘neck’, one large eye looking directly at me.

Now with no further options available to me, I steeled myself (so to speak) and tightened the noose, only this time I moved it up to my neck. If he wanted me, I couldn’t stop him, but he wouldn’t get me while my heart still beat in my chest. The fall would snap my neck and I wouldn’t suffer. A serene ambience fell over me as I looked down at my size 12, slightly dirty Reeboks for the last time and for the first time bemoaned the fact that my feet are size 10. As I tried to step off the branch, the extra toe length built into my sneakers caused me to hurdle ass over applecart, hitting every branch before striking my head on the trunk of the tree and knocking me cold as a beached mackerel.

Worse, when I woke up, the cops were pulling me down from the outstretched arms of a certain 10-foot tall 1900-pound concrete statue of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Well…

I used my jail time well, I think. It provided me the opportunity to assess that afternoon in greater depth and search for a conclusion that would explain the events that either did or did not transpire, depending upon your point of view. However, two facts were now inextricably cemented upon my psyche; I had one very sore bunghole and more importantly, a new appreciation for the concept of irony.


jo janoski said...

Well, ha ha, what an adventure! The only thing I'm sure about is that with that knowledge of Latin you throw about, you used to be an altar boy.

Bubba said...

There can be no doubt about it... ha! Yea, I spent a few years supporting the good padres' efforts to guide me down the straight and narrow road... unsuccessfully, or so it would seem to many.