Yesterday I was blazing across the western sky, 30,000 feet or so above blurry topography I hardly cared about, feeling run-down and broken. And I don’t mean that in some small, cutesy way. I mean my insides were putrified, brain and all, from which I still have not recovered (and probably never will). During the flight from Boston to Houston I felt a sickness creep up my throat and I knew I had contracted something from some fucking jerkoff in New England—maybe from holding on to a hand strap on the T, or from touching the railing to steady myself as I ascended from the darkness of the orange line and into those cold, cold streets. Or it could have come from one of my housemates at the “monastery”—we were in close proximity, living like brothers who were also strangers—in which case I forgive them entirely. They were good and decent people. I met few others.
I am in a rotten mood and I feel as though I could get angry or frustrated easily, which is unusual for me, so I have taken to my bedroom to get away from anyone I could harm to write this thing and have put on some good music and lit some candles and incense and have got with me a hot cup of peppermint tea. These creature comforts, which barely affect me anymore (and which were once so powerful), are mostly ineffective tonight. But what else can I do? The alternative is darkness and silence and time spent deep inside my head, which, other than a public space filled with terrible, mindless, screaming human beings, is the last place I want to be.
Something has flipped, a switch—a significant one, maybe—and I feel like I can’t do the damn thing anymore. I carry on with this ageless face but inside it’s all turned to ash. My body has finally caught up with my mind. It aches and is useless to me. I feel like a wireframe outline of a human: a phantom, an empty highway of misfiring nerve endings and fading neon.
I have just opened a matchbook I found in the breast pocket my denim jacket—when did I put this here?—to light another candle, only to discover my own drunk handwriting scrawled on the back of the cover. If anything can be said to even happen at all, then this must have happened three nights ago when I was wandering dead neighborhoods in Rhode Island feeling bitter and insane. As best I can tell this is what I wrote, probably because it seemed important that I remember it at the time:
I see purple lights under the bridge on Pleasant Street . . . and I think, “What? Why?” This isn’t pleasant at all. I was awoken by the cold and my body needed warm blood surging through it or I would collapse again . . . the sign reads “Pawtucket celebrates 200 yrs of freemasonry.”
Well, I’ll certainly use it when I write this piece, which is complete in my brain and has been since the moments erected themselves around me. On a night when I put myself in the way of great peril, and did things which have, I now know, endangered my future on this planet, I had enough sense to jot down some half-decent ideas on train tickets and bar receipts. They are right here on my desk. I am looking at them. As someone who can’t stand virtually everything, especially my own witless rambling, I like these scattered fragments of that awful night. There is no filter, no audience in mind, just reactions to my surroundings—squeezed out, pulp and all, from a strange and badly wounded place. I will save these little thoughts, which I will turn into great big thoughts, for something that I hope will help my musician friends retire comfortably (“I will bleed myself out for you all,” I had told them in a less dramatic way. “I will make them see what they have ignored for so long.”)
It would be fair to say I have lost, or am losing, my mind. “Madness cornering me from every angle”—that sort of thing. What I want now is comfort and to hear beautiful noise and for my body to be restored. That’s not so different, I don’t think, from what I wrote at 3 am in a fit of exhaustion and delirium during that first stormy night in Boston, only six days ago now, but longer ago in my mind, like some half-remembered dream:
Really all I want is a cup of tea and a hug and for some friendly person to walk on my spine.
In the present my cup is empty and my face is leaking. Dante is hungry and he wants me to feed him. My spine is as crooked as a question mark.
I had said to Jon, the Zen monk, on the morning I left: “When a man is weary the world seems unkind.”
“When we arrive at ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ and the answer doesn’t make a difference to us,” he said, “then we can do either, or neither—or both.”
Rising from his place in front of the old oven, he wrapped a black scarf around his neck and looked through me. “Remember?” he said. “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”