Whoops (Part 3)
Sun Sep 18, 2022 12:26

Part 3

As he stepped through the revolving door that lead to the lobby of his condominium, his mirrored world spun like a cockpit in a twisting nosedive. “Hello, sir" said the security guard, a grey moustachioed figure who might as well have been the condo’s resident wizard given how little his presence registered. "May I please see your condo card?” he inquired. Chuck reached into his jacket pocket to retrieve his key card. Nothing is easy any more, not even entering your own home. Walking past the guard through the lobby, he had an urge to twist his head around like a cartoon character so he could see the furry grimace and the evil eye that shadowed his movements. The carpets in the hallways were forever shifting amorphously in his consciousness. One day they were a pixelated jungle, the next, an asteroid field or exploding boulders tumbling down a mountainside. The micro-organisms living in the dense weaves of the flooring were an ecosystem as devastatingly complex as the outer-reaches of the cosmos.

"Look ahead. Don't look down" he told himself. Fastening his gaze toward the end of the hallway and straightening his slouched shoulders, Chuck avoided the optical bear traps of the patterns beneath him. He would often entertain notion that his condo was a gentrified-version of the Overlook Hotel. Pure evil! Of course, what else could it be? It’s so much easier to imagine pure evil than pure goodness, or purity of any kind for that matter. Creeping toward his door, number 203, his brain-fog was worse then usual, a dimensionless haze, all mechanisms misfiring. He was weightless now, paralysis setting in, the sum of his being no more than a jumble of mistakes, timelines irrelevant, only the mantra, the rhythm of his steps, all else deconstructing and reconstituting, an irrational clump of atoms deranged by some deeper logic, tricked into existence, God’s forgotten experiment. He crossed the threshold.

Once inside, he felt safer. He had over-paid for his apartment. Money had lost all value to him, meant nothing. The pre-fab luxury unit was a bright cubby-hole with imported stained-glass windows from Eastern Europe, authentic, the agent had assured him, direct from a shuttered Church. Hallowed ground. The reality of this space felt vivid, enveloping him. His eyes performed a quick scan, the usual household clutter reminded him of a pleasant daydream. The moldy-stale smell, past-due food items festering in his fridge, the sight of dust warbling in a patch of sunlight, all this ephemera said 'welcome home.' His mementos mimicked the advertising world outside, looming larger than their physical proportions, broadcasting their portents better then any billboard--REGRET, NAUSEA, FEAR. Every object in the room threw off a unique reflection light that represented a distinct volume and configuration of space. Images spread like clouds across the sky of his retina, the dance-electric of an aurora borealis, muscles twitching, his brain laser-scanning barcodes. There was a framed photograph of his parents taken while they were still married, a small green Buddha given to him by an ex-girlfriend and the standard household appliances: toaster, Keurig coffee-maker, phone charger. Everything was in its right place. Nothing was in its right place.

God? Is that you? Are you there, God? Sometimes he could rely on a familiar paternal presence, a kind of guiding light that he had known since childhood that provided him with a feeling of warmth and security. Nowadays, he understood that this longing to connect with spirits invisible or imagined was a vestige of a mental breakdown that he had gradually recovered from. He had done extensive research on schizoid personality disorders and knew that he was a borderline case of the grandiose type especially when indulging his most egocentric and narcissistic tendencies. A preoccupation with God is fairly common among schizophrenics but Chuck had always been obsessed with Religion, Greek and Roman Gods, demons and witches, well before he was told to lay off these obsessive thoughts by his psychiatrist. He ambled toward the bathroom, cogitating on deep, mournful, existential questions and lesser physical needs like relieving his full bladder.

Chuck had many religious phases—first was Judaism, a byproduct of discovering late in life that his paternal father, not the one that had raised him, was Jewish. Then came Christianity. He had been interested in The Christian Community, the Church influenced by the philosopher and mystic Rudolf Steiner, whose Eucharist services Chuck often attended on various press junkets across Europe. In his research on Mary Shelley, born Mary Wolstencraft, he had undertaken a study of Unitarianism, which asserts the supremacy of a single divine creator while also acknowledging the divine spark in Christ. He had his Muslim phase in which he had gone on the Haj to Mecca and Medina. He had also had a brief Buddhist phase but could not truly commit to a practise of meditation and mindfulness. He had taken something from all these experiences and had grown into what could now only be described as an ascetic, almost monk-like and solitary routine, lost in a modern world that that defied all his attempts to comprehend it and left him humbled and alone.

Part and parcel of his religious explorations were his deeply personal intuitions about Frankenstein. He could not separate its surface story and characters from a religious worldview. The act of creation aside, the singular act with a Genesis-like power to it at the centre of the book, there was also the novel’s trinity of the The Father, The Son (a monstrous and re-animated son), and The Holy Spirit, which Chuck took to be consciousness itself. He had fallen so deep down a rabbit hole of historical research combined with his own delirious and unspeakable visions that married the text to a warped personal narrative that he fell into a horrible in-between state that made it difficult for him come back up for air, to return to his own life, the non-literary one, his inner nobody.

In his worst moments, he had even imagined that he was the monster and that God, The Father, was his creator, pulling him across time as if his body and flesh and soul were merely the armature of a puppet dancing on strings. If it were really true that he was a monstrous creation, that we were all God’s monstrous creatures, it turned original sin into a sort of denial, a turning away in disgust at the evil that He/She/It knew their offspring was capable of. It was unbearable to carry this knowledge and opinion in his heart. It made him feel wrong and gave everything around him a smooth, terrifying and descriptionless edge. Softening this stance over years of dull anxiety that amounted to a long-term psychic torture he had come around to the view of a pantheistic maternal universe, a world as chaotic as it was spontaneous, bearing and infused with a womanly love and a womanly insanity—a multi-dimensional place of possibility, a canvass for pure invention, a life that Spinoza said belonged to the Intellectuallis to which Chuck would add danger, mania and even murder, those sour and bitter notes in a diabolical and intoxicating cocktail that tempts us to taste it before it wipes away our innocence and carries us through death’s gates.

When Chuck looked in the mirror, it would have been less shocking for him to see a monster staring back at him than kind and understanding eyes with a studied yet quizzical expression set deep within a weather-beaten face. The greater shock was that the eyes he saw in the mirror were the eyes of a perfect stranger. “Tu es moi?” He asked, but there was no reply. This was getting him nowhere. He needed some escape from this overly-medicated, psychiatric dystopia of a life. He needed to get to work, to put his talents to use, to stop spinning his wheels endlessly with nothing to show for it. Chuck decided to rinse off the day’s debris but hesitated briefly before pulling back his shower curtain, half-expecting to see Norman Bates lunging at him. After pat drying himself, he once again looked in the mirror. The monster is back, he thought satisfied. “I am Frankenstein,” he told himself. The scaly creature winked at him as he turned off the lights that had become so bright compared to the rest of his apartment that they appeared to impart extra steam to the haze of his hot shower.

After sitting down to write longhand at his desk for an hour, Chuck paused to read from the draft, cracking his knuckles over his head. His efforts amounted to a single sheet of paper. He read the text out loud:

Why is tonight different the all other nights? Because tonight you yourself will imagine what is like to have angry villagers, out for blood, carrying torches and stalking you through cobbled streets. You yourself will imagine what is like to be a half-breed of necrotic flesh and living tissue, trembling at the threshold between life and death. You yourself will dream the thoughts of a monster. And tonight, apart from all other nights, we leave our door open to Him, so that he may emerge and join us in this feast we hold in his honour. This is no seance. We celebrate so that his name may echo through time. Frankenstein.

As he held the page which represented the bulk of his recent output and almost an entire week of procrastination up to the light of his lamp, it was like he held his own fractured life up to the mirror of art, and was saddened but what he saw. What was he turning into? Was he falling down the evolutionary ladder? Was he becoming the very thing that eluded him in order to understand it? Was he becoming The Monster? The story was always about him. He had become the creator and the creation. If he was not evolving, growing, or changing did that mean he was devolving, aging and disintegrating? He found himself breaking apart and dissolving a lot these days like a bubbly liquid spreading across the floor and underneath his door into cavernous spaces, real and dreamed. He sunk into the cramped recesses of his mind where he attempted to gather his thoughts into treasure, where he purchased peace and silence and earned his day of rest. In the past, when he wrote, he went traveling at supersonic speed maneuvering around mental obstacles like a fighter pilot as his fingers danced across the keyboard and the words filled the space in front of him. Now he felt as though he were stuck in mud and trapped in concrete.

Never take the time to learn anything that you can't afford to forget, he would often tell himself, as he approached every page like a Jazz saxophonist, improvising, bending the rules and compressing them, etching the characters of his own alphabet line by line, constructing pyramids of language. But he had lost the plot and let go of his tenuous hold on his talent and abilities not to mention any sense of direction. After living in the dark, sitting down to write like this was an effort to charge his backup generator. That’s why despite the mother of all writer’s blocks he sat down and attempted to write every day, like a chess player playing against a supercomputer. He knew he was going to lose but he was always ready for the next encounter. It was only after Chuck had started to earn a decent living from writing and eventually a substantial income that he started to resist what he felt was a mental poverty that threatened to overwhelm him, a complacency, an urge to quit. Why should he write another novel? It could hurt his brand. Let them wait for the next one, he opined. People will suffer terrible indignities for their art and call it noble when in their hearts they know it’s only commerce.

While he was famous and successful, not to mention increasingly weary and jaded, Chuck became neurotic about his public appearances, the palms he shook. This put a strain on his marriage given his wife’s professional obligation to promote his work. He drew Heaven’s ire. It was a conflict of interest. By then he was a byword. A name brand. He considered himself a Warhol, a Mailer, an aesthetic object rather than a creator, like a French film often spoken about but rarely seen or a painting constantly changing hands on the art market. There were other problems brewing well before the accident. Chuck began to find it hard to let go of ideas for books that simply wouldn’t materialize. He became too precious about his own ideas. “Just move on,” Heaven used to say. He never wanted to move on, Chuck wanted to return to a time before he had lost little bits of himself to the amnesia of negative experiences. He dwelled on the past and spent a fortune on therapists. He gradually lost interest in new experiences and focused on a kind of self-discovery rooted in what had been there are along, the kind of introspection that most people put aside or deliberately repress.

These excursions into the past were both pleasant and unbearable as if he were haranguing himself over a commanding chess position he managed to blow. There he was, drifting once again into another dark and beautiful evening. By the lamplight of his desk he walked the sculpture gardens of his memory, admiring old friends, stone sphinxes, as mysterious as they were solid, existing in the most dim and murky region of his consciousness. Existing is the wrong word but he lacked a better one to describe their presence and his imagined one, projecting himself into that garden where the statues of the people that once occupied his life now stood. The more distant the friendship, the more cracked the veneer of the statue. The more ancient the marble, the more he admired it. What was he expecting to find here?  Perhaps he was trying to locate himself amongst the ruins.

Some nefarious alchemy was disrupting his thought processes, or so he imagined. He recognized familiar traits where they did not belong, in a passing face, a voice carried across a room, searching in vain for a melody. The people in his life tended to morph and swirl into one another. And suddenly he was no longer at home but on his way to his dealer in somewhat of foul mood, pure self-pity mode, cursing himself over ex-wife’s social climbing and cutthroat personality, how their relationship had blurred personal and professional boundaries until none existed resulting in a catastrophe of a marriage. Re-enacting a specific episode now, he recalled Heaven’s expression as she delicately and seductively suggested that she sleep over that night to ease his writer's block. Something about that expression seemed so familiar to him. It was the dance between pursed lips and half-smiles. 

—You never let me sleep over any more, she was saying.

—It’s not that simple, he told her.

—I don't want to take our professional relationship for granted. I don't want to turn into one of my characters.

—When did you become such a prude? said Heaven.

 How afraid of intimacy had he become? How afraid of another person's touch? 

“What do you call this?” asked Chuck, awakening from his revery, propelled into the living room of his teenage pot dealer whose mother worked evenings.

—Heavy Metal ...its my new sativa indica blend, said Jackson.

—Why heavy metal?

—It reminds me of the feeling I had after going to a show, ear drums blasted, slight numbness of the brain, I guess.

    • Cont. Redjeans, Sun Sep 18 12:28
      Chuck smoked the lit joint that Jackson passed him. Minutes later, as Chuck was attempting to explain the plot of Treasure Island, one of the many books he’d lent to Jackson, he heard the faint sound ... more
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