Friday, July 25, 2014

In my defense...

Should I really come forward and defend myself? I have, after all, told the truth. Some who stumble upon these pages, and may have seen themselves within them, though they will never be named in this impassioned but tired tale (most of which does not appear on this blog) are bitter that I have shed some light on a life that involved other people...that involved them. Lives seem to do that. I respect both sides of the coin, of course, but I shall continue to etch the stories of heaven and hell, of hope and love and loss, without apology. This is the only landmark I may leave, as I am rather useless at most other creative ventures. This is the only way that I may truly spell my own name, and the only way I may find a flickering light as I tread back to stormy years with family, friends and lovers alike, as I confess countless regrets of self-destruction. I was always the biggest fool among the characters I've carved out in every chapter, and rightfully so.

Such was a similar case when Leonard Cohen wrote his book "Death of a Lady's Man"...a book of poetry largely focused on his broken relationship of the time. In fact, the source of his sorrow still lived with him while he penned this dark but breathtaking journey. This is what she had to say:

"Living with a writer, you feel that it's all a white page, that it's all a rehearsal, that the author has the right to pause, erase, repeat, vary and repeat again. So I let him. Leonard found solace, purpose and comfort in the deconstruction and complaint of daily woes. I wanted to be a good audience and company, not just the reactive wife, although the last was inevitable at times of course." 

Here is an excerpt from that book:

This Marriage

"I said because it is so horrible between us I will go and stop Egypt's bullet. She said, that's beautiful. Then I can commit suicide and the child falls into strangers' hands. Great, I said. Yug, yug yug she said. What you did to me, I said. The lonely, we said. The nights of hands on ourselves. Your unkindness, we said. Your greed. Your unkindness. Your bitter tongue. Give me time. You never learn. Your ancestors. My ancestors. Fuck you, I said. You shit. Stop screaming. I can't stand it. You can't stand anything. Nobody can live like this. In front of the child. Let him learn. This is no good. Yer fuckin' right it's no good. This kitchen was once beautiful. Oil lamps, order, the set table. Sabbath observed. That's what I want. You don't want it. You don't know what I want. You don't know anything about me. You never did. Not in the beginning, not now.

In the realms where this marriage was sealed, where the wedding feast goes on and on, where Adam and Eve face one another, the foundations are faultless and secure, your beast's hair flares like black fire upward and your breasts, now in maidenhood, now in motherhood, draw down my face, our hunger blessed by sun and moon, a ring of dancers round the house where within the room is hid, where within the bed is undone, whereupon the hunger's joined, where within the hunger speaks precise instructions to the chosen ones who cannot leave each other."

Leonard Cohen, "Death of a Lady's Man" published 1978

I'll add one more from the same book. Bear in mind that he still lived with one of the major subjects of this book while he wrote it-his wife-his muse...

Death To This Book

"Death to this book or fuck this book and fuck this marriage. Fuck the twenty-six letters of my cowardice. Fuck you for breaking the mirror and throwing the eyebrow tweezers out the window. Your dead bed night after night and nothing warm but baby talk. Fuck marriage and theology and the cold goodnight. Fuck the idolatry of anger and the priests who say so. How dare they. How dare they. Thanks for your judgement on me. Murder and a fast train to Paris and me thin again in my blue raincoat, and Barbara waiting at the Clancy Square Hotel. Fuck her for never turning up."

Of course, Leonard Cohen wasn't the only one to bring people close to him into printed word in a perhaps questionable fashion, and I will write a second part to this post to further underline my defense.

The burden of a memoir is heavy and not without consequence, but the truth is the truth and within the truth is a story. In my case, it is a story of a man who is like many men..who has loved, laughed, cried, died and woken again to live another day. I am not alone among you in such an experience. And you are not necessarily alien to my tangled words; it's safe to say that your own reflection, if even very faint at best, is within the pages. It is the story of a man who had the best of intentions in the worst possible circumstances, and who had the worst of intentions in the purest of situations...a man who was betrayed and one who betrayed. It is the story of a pirate, of a vampire, of a Romeo and a Juliette...of a circus freak and a cop, of a drugged-out bum and a sharp-dressed man. It is the story of a mother and a child, a devoted wife, a drunken husband, a beagle and a goldfish, a hopeless hope and a final prayer from the depths of hell. It is a story of perfect love and of bitter hatred. It is the story of many people...for without many people, there is no story. Finally, it is a story that has been published in part and will be edited in full and hopefully cut into black and white pages for all time, many times, very shortly...thus it is one I will bank my life on. I will stand among my critics with a stone face and an iron conviction. I have already faced my worst critic..myself; the broken mirror lies at my feet and I tip-toe around my own blood. I will mark my words in my subsequent posts...the stories within the story..the stories that sit on an editor's desk (while I gnaw at my nails awaiting a reply, wondering if honesty really is the best policy)...the stories I was afraid of most, but knew I had to tell once I had dragged all of the players to the stage. It may get dark in here, dear reader, but I will absorb the cost for turning out the lights. If you hit a wall of your own along the way, do not blame me...simply enjoy the view. You will find your way out if you are looking for it...or you may stay awhile.

There is no purpose in painting a broken house that it may look better from a distance. Let us not fool ourselves nor one another. Let us brave our way inside of that house and understand how it began to crumble, and how we can fix it. Let us embrace the ugly and learn how to make it beautiful. May others who have lived, or now live in broken houses, take comfort in a few simple words read from a forgotten book, as they sit behind their own weakened walls while the winter wind howls. Let a nameless name and a faceless face ensure them that the universe has not ignored them. Let us draw closer, not further apart. As Mr Cohen so famously coined: There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in."

Let us not paint over the cracks.

Monday, July 21, 2014

And in the end...

He sits in a void. There are no walls, yet he's trapped. It's darker than our darkest dreams, Mother, if that's possible. He looks like a convict awaiting sentencing, baffled by his own folly, terrified of his fate. His eyes are sunken, afraid to see what surrounds him. I wonder if he foresaw this sad destiny while he still walked among the living. Surely my father knew that there was a high cost for low life-a divine tax on his unholy war with the world. I can hear him now, though speechless he sits:

"Jay! Jay, Jesus Christ, what the hell is going on? Jason! Get over here! Where the Hell am I?"

I was his eyes and his ears at the end, Ma. I was his feet and his hands. I was all he had left.
Abraham once told a deceased rich man who, in life, had shunned the impoverished Lazarus, that he could not breach the barrier between life and death to warn his brothers of this awful place, yet I saw my father in this same place, I am certain. Surely I was meant to see. Death awoke me in a dream, and took me to where Dad sits now- to that pit that still rattles me when I hit the pillow at night. Surely I'll qualify to join them both one day. Surely this was my warning. My own path grows dimmer by the day and my inner fire all but consumes me. The vision is burned into my overheated brain and carved into my aging heart. I pray that he does not remain there, that perhaps his is only a probationary state. The scales of the Almighty cannot possibly tip too far against him. I forgave him, with a weak and willful soul. It only stands to reason that Perfect Love cannot condemn him if a fool like me can let him off the hook for the years he stole from us, Mother. I know that you want only white-hot lightning and Heavenly fire for his final walk, but such a wish may only bring you the same wrath in the end. Our time is running out-every single grain of sand that counts our days is falling faster through the narrow glass and bringing us ever closer to the hour when we can no longer decide for ourselves where we will go in the end. 

But perhaps the end starts much sooner than that. The heart can stop beating and bleeding long before all systems fail. We've both proven that, old crow. Perhaps this is the real finality for us, the worst possible fate. Perhaps Love pleads with us without condition as we chase our days, and we simply refuse to hear. Maybe, dear woman, it is not the Divine who will cast us out, but rather us who will reject the Divine as we clutch our wounds and curse the universe that allowed this dark spell we're both under. I reach to the heavens as I write, with a fist of steel, and I shake it to its very core. I call the Great Unseen out from hiding, and He hears me not. I demand that Love show itself, but it cowers and cringes. Thus, I reject it outright and swear myself to solitude. I am a raging vampire. I am the king of romance, the hopeless hoper, the lover who lost. The story just took a sharp turn south. I tear the pages and toss them. They fall like ashes at my feet. Only the nighttime world can comfort and contain me. Only falling stars can light my way. And in this nocturnal trance we shall meet one final time and we shall forever part ways, bitter blood of my heart. We are in fact one, Mother. We are joined by the tainted primordial ooze, yet we cannot exist under the same October moon without causing a collision that will crack the sky wide open and seal us together forever within the chasm where the rich man and Abraham argue into eternity. You must leave. You are casting a shadow on my perfect black night. She too must leave, my porcelain wife, the sun that burns my skin. There is no life-blood to be drawn from her; her heart beats dry. Everyone must leave; the end is near. I will see you soon, Father.

Footnote: "It is sometimes refreshing to embrace a position of uncompromising unforgiveness...there are surprises and rewards that follow in the wake of undiluted expression of one's hateful seizures..."
Leonard Cohen

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Without a Trace


Our ordeal ended like a violent storm finally releasing its grip on a ravaged landscape. I lay on the bed, breathless, defeated. I don’t wish to recall every detail, their gnarly edges peeling layers of 
protection from my thick skull as I try to trap safe fragments into words and somehow exorcize the demonic front. I want to believe that it‘s not real, this darkest dream. But I can’t wake up. I’m  frozen in a helpless hypnosis.  

I slunk into to the bedroom like a scolded pup. I knew what was there; I knew she wasn't. For all of the times  I told myself she can leave if she must, I knew now that she must return to me. She must! I'd called to tell her I'd be home in two days, and Ma Bell told me she'd moved out of town as the new number was recited in its dispassionate mechanical female voice. Ma Bell knows a lot of secrets Mother, but judges no-one. She comforts no-one either; she broke my heart.

Hope dried up like an impatien under a sudden scorching sun. 

I know that you're saying it:

“You’re just like your father.”

Throw your daggers, Mother; I have bullets. I can alliterate you into oblivion! I can pour prose so thick over your being that the you will suffocate! I swear it! I'll do it, should you spit one bruising syllable! One single "I told you so." and these pages will become no more than a dark epitaph, freezing us both in time, for all time. And it will hardly be fiction!

The bottle still laid where it landed behind the bed, the bottle that unleashed my long brewing madness and drove them away at last. Ghosts lined up at the edge of our marital mattress: 

"We've been ex-s-s-s--s-pecting you! C'mon in; the water's fine!"

I briefly considered returning to the treatment center, Mother. After all, what was left now? But then again, what is a rehab really, after the pinnacle moment of introspection, the moment of truth, but a mere hideaway? Is it not merely, at that point, an escape from an escape, a new set of walls to replace old walls, a new crutch for the fractured mind to replace the old one?

I still must walk among the living, at least for a moment or two.
She left with the children while I was away at Coconut College, to prevent  me learning of her escape. I don't blame her, I suppose, though her cowardice burns a hole right through me.
The ghosts spoke freely in the devil's tongue: 

"Hey, she's no angel either, Chump! You got dumped on your head! Go get your pound of flesh from her! What kind of wife does that s-s-s-s-sort of thing my friend?"

And another, more boldly still:

"You're better off dead, Soldier!"

They remained at my side as days melted into seamless weeks. Memories...days that had so often escaped my senses...birthdays, Christmases, camping, cuddling, new birth and new hope, the entire equation of  life, circled me like buzzards, pecking away pieces of my scrambled brain. 

Finish it you fuckers! Just finish it! Quit taking little bites; dive in and feast and get it over with!

I fell in and out of a barren dreamless half sleep. My skeleton pushed through paper skin. My eyes retreated into my head, not wanting to see anymore.

The ghosts urged me to the upper closet of the creaky house, to the orange electrical cord that sat coiled like Eden's serpent, ready to suspend me from the window and bring me to another place. I resisted for the children, my wife, my soul. I had to win it all back, any way at all, despite the prophecies of the spirits...despite what you yourself may say, dear mother.

The empty house gradually grows as cluttered and chaotic as my booze deprived brain. Send me a maid, Mother. Actually, don't. I don't want to be bothered with appearances anymore. The surface of things only serves to mock a dying man. I don't care to maintain my own tomb. 

Perhaps in time I'll simply become one more of the dusty relics amidst the rubble. Let me harden like the iron handle of my candle holder. Let me melt away like the wax that runs from its base. Let me disintegrate into a million fragments of dead dust, settling on the furniture and the floor, unrecognizable, insignificant, forgotten. Should she never return, that will suit me just fine.