I want to twist your insides, God damn it. I want to hook you by the nerve endings and bring you up here.
“Put the damn snuffbox away,” Arctor said. He felt, in his head, loud voices singing: terrible music, as if the reality around him had gone sour. Everything now—the fast-moving cars, the two men, his own car with its hood up, the smell of smog, the bright, hot light of midday—it all had a rancid quality, as if, throughout, his world had putrefied, rather than anything else. Not so much become all at once, because of this, dangerous, not frightening, but more as if rotting away, stinking in sight and sound and odor. It made him sick, and he shut his eyes and shuddered.
I’m having me a good old time with this book.
When people ask me what I want to do with my life, I want to tell them, truthfully, “Get to a point in my life where I can wake at noon and spend the rest of the day in bed reading science fiction with ‘Nights in White Satin’ on repeat. No one calls and no one knocks.”
She had said, in my dream, “If you want me to be alive, then I’m going to be an alcoholic.”
And I to her: “I used to feel good, I think, or at least something close to good, a long time ago. Yes, and I think I loved people, and would be sad if they went away.”
Paranoia eats you and time goes by. Wake up!
Philip K. Dick, you God damn bastard-genius, you:
“Life,” Barris said, as if to himself, “is only heavy and none else; there is only the one trip, all heavy. Heavy that leads to the grave. For everyone and everything.”
Today I stood in the back yard of my shitty house and realized how much I’m going to miss that shitty house. In two weeks, I leave it forever. If I wasn’t headed for California, I would probably be even more sad than I already am.
I have written a longer farewell piece about my house, which I will post soon. For now, this will suffice.
I love you, shitty house.
(If you look closely, you can spot Dante somewhere in the picture. He was too scared to join me out there. He preferred to have a quick escape route.)
- She had a pulse and I could tell that what she was doing was blinking and breathing, but behind the eyes you could tell there was nothing but sawdust and dead electricity.
- I’ll tell you what’s in Providence, you rat bastards: Providence is in Providence. I had never been there, I told them, so I may as well go. I almost felt like it was my duty. What if Providence was the United States’—or even the world’s—best kept secret? Maybe we had all been conditioned to dismiss the great state of Rhode Island and its fine capital as part of some well-intentioned state government initiative to keep the riffraff out. “Don’t go to Providence, Rhode Island!” the billboards had said, maybe, in our collective memories, which were badly warped anyway. “You might get killed!”
- Gritt’s shotgun had, at one time, been a police standard-issue pump shotgun. Over the years he had heavily modified it to suit his needs. He had the barrel filed down and the stock was carved out like a jack-o-lantern to reduce the overall weight. The ammo capacity was increased from four to ten, and a scope was added to the top of the gun. He called his creation Sin-Daddy Slim.
- That night, I was alone and sprawled out on the hood of a compact sport utility vehicle in a podunk American town that no longer knew my name. I was ruminating on things that I thought were interesting or useful, like molecules and dark matter and orgasms and tangerines and even rock and roll. I laughed like hell thinking about the movements of Earth—that wild, unseen carnival ride I had been strapped to as long as I could remember. With my arms folded behind my head, I gazed upward with blank eyes, letting that blue-black darkness and all of its little points of light fill the space inside of me where there had been nothing before.
- It’s funny: you can look someone straight in the eyes—and I mean really look deep inside—and tell them an absolute truth and they’ll think you’re nuts anyway. I’m starting to think that half the bums and lunatics who have approached me have had some truth to their insane tales: freaks and creeps—outliers—with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to love them in a broken, diseased world that doesn’t make a lick of sense.
- An animal who is bored or lonely or sad will wander off and find something to make that go away. With humans you run the risk of them buying an automatic rifle and picking off children as they get off the school bus.
- In the twilight of my time on Earth, I decided I would attempt, one last time, to understand my own species. I would study them in their sinner’s paradise, in their hedon parade. . . .
- This thing is so God damn bloodless. Cheap sentiments and no substance.
- There have been people like me over the years. We never last long. We’re here to give you a few books or a few songs and then we leave quietly.
- If I survive this, it will be a halfway decent book. And if it isn’t then I truly am mad.
- Light a plant on fire and the secrets of the universe faintly enter into your brain.
- I awake and become aware of my surroundings. First I define the physical properties of the world before filling them with the memories I have of them.
Ain’t nothin’ better than ideas, man.
Most of the many letters I write every week end up in someone’s mailbox, and then that someone will say to me, “I got your letter.” And I’ll say, “Oh, that’s swell.”
Sometimes those letters go nowhere. Sometimes they come back to me.
In February I wrote to a friend in Baltimore. After several weeks, I asked if she had received my letter, and she said she hadn’t. I figured it was lost to the void, never to return.
But it did return. It went all the way from Austin to Baltimore and then back to Austin. It is sitting on my desk, inches from my coffee cup, written with neat handwriting in black ink on lavender paper. After reading it over again, I’m glad she didn’t get it. She probably would have been freaked out.
I don’t mind freaking out the rest of the world, and I hate to think that words ever go unread, so here it is:
I hope it was nice to open that envelope and discover that I have written this letter on lavender paper. I don’t care what anyone says: lavender is a great color. Purple is, after all, the color of kings. I’m not sure why it is commonly associated with adolescent girls. They don’t own it! It is everyone’s color. I am taking it back—someone has to.
Even though Austin has relatively mild weather, I’ve still felt the cold and darkness recently. I guess wanting to avoid feeling like this was hoping for too much. The sun is already on its way out, and it’s not even 6 p.m. By the time I get home from work, it will be completely dark outside. No sunlight for me today, I’m afraid. Still, I guess it’s hard to complain when it’s probably twice as cold and miserable where you are, in the doom metropolis of Baltimore—in the dead city.
I have, for a long time, wanted us to be close friends. I think I’ve published that exact sentence on the internet many times before, actually. So I hope it’s OK that I’m going to write to you as though we were close friends. Friends confide, I think, yes? You may confide in me, anyway. . . .
So: I am miserable, so fed up with this thing, that I almost feel nothing at all. That sounds laughable coming from me, I’m sure! I have almost made sadness a commodity with my dumb overwrought writing. That’s why I’ve almost completely stopped publishing work on the internet: I feel like a parody of myself when I try to be honest. That being said, please believe me! It has been a long while since I have shifted from the stagnant, reliable warmth of day-to-day melancholy to the frigid waters of existential dread. A long while!
Now I struggle to find meaning in anything I do. I cannot. Everything feels cardboard and weird and meaningless. I cannot go on any longer pretending to care about my job or my car or my things. I want to feel things again—want to go to places and make friends and be productive. But I’m having the hardest time even remembering to eat dinner or go to sleep before 3 a.m. I mostly ride around my neighborhood on my bicycle and try to envision dreams of the future. Sometimes I just want to hear other human voices, or see the light of the moon. My roommate and I are just too different, and my girlfriend goes to sleep early. I don’t think I really even have friends anymore. I’m mostly alone. The other night my father called and told me that my older sister almost died. I haven’t seen her in seven years. People may think it’s all a show, but I really do have a hard time with everything. I try so hard to change that, but I think I’ve failed.
I have felt, my whole life, that I am an alien having a temporary human experience. Not literally, of course (I don’t think). But I never shook the credo of so many American teenagers: No one understands me. At work, in public, during dinner with friends, holidays with my family—I have to censor myself, act happier than I am, and “play along” because my mind works so much differently than the people I surround myself with. I have to keep it all a big secret. Who wants to be around someone who can’t find meaning in anything—who is perpetually despondent? What kind of woman wants a partner like that? I feel diseased and weird.
In reality, I just want a few things that I am seemingly denied: for people to be nice to me, to feel as little pain as possible, and to be left alone sometimes. I think the word “peace” will suffice as a blanket term for my wishes for happiness. I am not (too) out of whack and delusional. I’m just a harmless, overly sensitive, overly analytical, moody sad-dude who dreams of a world that isn’t so tremendously worthless. It’s all a bunch of dumb chaos. And I feel as though my “kind” are unwelcome on Earth. (Jesus, listen to me! I sound like a dope.)
For the past three days, I have watched Donnie Darko (the director’s cut!). There is this scene where Donnie’s dad explains that most of the world is full of frauds. He calls them “bullshitters.” And man, isn’t that true: “Whatever happens to you, be honest—tell the truth, even if they look at you funny. They will. [. . .] Almost all of these people are full of shit. They’re all part of this great big conspiracy of bullshit. And they’re scared of people like you, because those bullshitters know that you’re smarter than all of them. You know what you say to people like that? ‘Fuck you.'”
Look: I have written something called “It Ends Badly”—and it’s about life and death and time travel and money and sex and all that. I’m not sure what my aim is—I guess to put ideas out into the universe. It is written from the first-person perspective of an old man who may or may not be me (I actually haven’t decided yet). I’m not sure where I’m going to put it, but if you want to better understand the dystopian future I envision, that would be a cozy read. (Note: I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am concerned I may come off that way!)
So: Hey! How are you? Are you still moving to California? I think June is when I’m going there. Come visit me in San Francisco, if that’s what you feel like doing. I will see you in LA at some point, I’m sure. . . .
Be well. Don’t despair. I love you.
My cat can be self-centered, supercilious and willful, but more often than not he’s a charming little dude and I sure do like him a whole lot. And really, have you seen a more handsome domesticated quadruped in your life? If he still had his testicles . . . shit, we’d all be in trouble. (Man, that’s kind of a weird thing to say but whatever.)
Is there anything more heartbreaking than seeing an adult sitting alone in a park after midnight, pondering some secret thing in their terrible head? Shit, you see these people stumbling around in the darkest parts of the night trying to feel something again . . . totally unable to connect to the world around them. . . .
And then you become one of them. It’s sad but it’s comfortable. I have enjoyed it, in some strange, unhealthy way, these past few months.
Last week I got roaring drunk in a park near my house. No one bothered me as I drank my six beers and listened to the frogs and crickets by the water. At one point I put on my headphones and, because I was horribly twisted and spaced-out, I heard almost nothing but noise. It was good noise—good chaos. But you know how it goes: the brain hears what it wants to hear—it is actively scanning the world with its invisible feelers to find things it likes. So while the nice young man with the guitar was talking and strumming along, I was able to block most of it because I was more focused on the electricity going round and round up there. I would lift my arm or close my eyes or stretch my leg and marvel at my body’s obedience. So neat!
Later I sat there appreciating gravity—just throwing things around to see where they would fall. (Neat as well!)
An hour later I was crumpled up on my lawn—the skeletal reindeer aglow, the clouds above whipping by at a thousand miles an hour—and I wondered how long I could realistically stay there before someone noticed and called the police or made me go inside.