Thursday, September 5, 2013

First Person

I don't like it. Let's get that out of the way right now. I'm cool talking about you, but I don't dig this "I" shit all that much. But I am realizing more and more that sometimes you don't get to choose, and sometimes the First Person is the only way to get it done.

I'll give you something to look at. That might help. Here it is. An old memory:

There was 'old school' black and white victorian tile in the bathroom. I've always been a fan of staring at patterns. Things come out. I see things. I can't do it with my eyes closed. Blurry, yeah. At any rate, this tile was fucked and cracked and unloved, just like the rest of the house. I used to stare at it every morning. I'd rest my head against something cool and porcelain - usually the sink - and I'd stare at this black and white geometric monstrosity around me. My David Lynch mornings, I suppose. A lot of things came out of that tile, and most of them were unpleasant; I'd try to reason them out while swallowing saliva and trying not to puke because I had just stopped filling the toilet with blood. And I didn't want to see any more blood.

I'll snap you back now. That's how good writers do it. Fuck that 'smooth transition' shit. I still stare at patterns a lot, but now I see mostly cartoon characters. Faces. Dogs. Boring things, but boring is a good look for the first thing in the morning. I don't miss hangovers one bit.

I think I tried to be everything I didn't want to be because I thought it would make everyone else happy, and then they'd leave me alone. It didn't work. I've stopped that now. And, most times, I don't even want to be left alone. Not really.

I look at shadow leaves dance on the sun-stroked facade of the building across the street, and the images come and go, but the words never stop. I suppose that's a choice I made. Let's say it's a choice I made. I can say whatever I want. I can't make you agree with me, but you'll have to take my word for it. Or don't. I wouldn't. In reality, it is probably because some part of my brain is broken.

Every day, I tell myself something like this: "You dumbfuck. Listen. Stop thinking about whether people are gonna buy your books. Stop worrying about whether the girls are really enjoying themselves. They will or they won't. Stop trying to control everything. Just. Fucking. Stop." And then life shows up and blows my pep talk right out of the water.

There are things I cling to. Stupid things. I once caught a steelhead while standing in a beautiful stream with a sunset behind me. It was one of those sunsets. Like someone said, "eh, sunsets are OK." And then mother nature was like, "the fuck did you just say to me, bitch? You want to see a fucking sunset?!" Blam. It was like that. Like someone turned fire into paint and spilled it across the sky. I never knew there were so many shades of pink and purple.

I have a few snapshots. When I throw my daughter up into the air at the pool, there is a moment at the apex when her face IS pure happiness. I can just see it. And I can't help but laugh. The bald dude with the shitty tattoos can make his girl smile. I want the world to know. Then I wonder why I give a shit if anyone knows but us. Then I think about that for twelve hours while life is happening and I'm stuck at the pool. Not being able to hear well doesn't help.

My older daughter plays her cards close to her chest like me. She is like a wary animal. I know it all too well. Sometimes, I weep for both of us. But it is what it is. For both of us. And when she tells you something, she fucking means it. I just teared up thinking of a few things she has said over the years. Things I won't tell anyone because I want them to be just for us. They are precious, and I know that we both understand that. Enough. My eyes are tired of making tears.

I don't know if I deserve it, but I am a wealthy man. I could sell everything I own and still be in debt. I hope every night that the economy collapses completely so everyone will be as fucked as I am. Then, I think what a dick thing that is to wish for and I feel bad. Because I am wealthy in so many ways. And I am poor in one very big way that means jack shit. Only it means more than it should.

Something else to look at? Sure. I've seen my wife lots of times. But there are a few times I remember with absolute clarity. If I could paint, I would paint them. Instead I hog-tie them with words and keep them tucked away. Writers aren't supposed to use cliches, but they're supposed to sell lots of books and I don't do that, so I'm throwing out the whole goddamn playbook. Here's a big fucking fat cliche and fuck you and fuck Mark Twain and fuck John Fante. Understand that love and hate run a very fine line when stirred with panic and jealousy. I have never seen a more beautiful woman than I saw on my wedding day. And that's the goddamn truth.

I try to think of metaphors for life and they all seem pat or overly dramatic and emo. And everyone's path is different. I feel like I've spent my life walking down a long hallway bumping into shit. Some good shit, some bad. I don't feel like I've had all that much control over it, to be honest. Which scares me, because I held life by the throat for as long as I could, trying to make it do things my way.

I wonder, frequently, if everyone is as weak and scared as I am. I think they are. Unless they delude themselves. I don't think I'm being overly dramatic about it. I think life is filled with wonder and, if you're lucky, you get to hold onto some of the wonder for when the storms of doubt and sadness come.

I put these words down, and maybe a few dozen people care. I'm not feeling sorry for myself. I know it sounds like it, but, honestly, I'm just shocked by the futility of it all. Some days, I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile. Creating. Something. Then other days I think: "Peoples' fucking kids die. People are born with AIDS. People suffer unimaginable horrors. And you have the audacity to think anyone gives a shit what you think?! What's the worst thing that ever happened to your privileged ass?"

And that's not to say I don't have my share of sob stories. Bring a bottle of bourbon over and I'll have you crying in ten minutes. By the end of the bottle you'll think I'm some kind of saint. I fucking hate that about myself. That's why I like to tell other peoples' stories. Mine are all sappy bullshit.

But it's all just futile and stupid and masturbatory and ugly. The whole fucking thing. Like a story about a kickball will change the world. Like anyone is going to turn off their TVs long enough to wonder. I should get a TV. I should chuck it all. I really should. But I won't. Because I'm selfish and stubborn and I want people to listen to me. As long as it's on my terms. Again, this is why I like the Third Person. Or the Second. Let's talk about you, because I'm a mass of bullshit and it's too hard to sort out. You're much easier.

But, for good or ill, this isn't about you.


  1. Damn it, Mader, you are good - as in the writing. But you are also a good person.I know. And I DO care.

    And, yes, I'm scared, too. I think you're right about that part.

  2. Yeah, it is. It's totally about me, brother. Not me, but us. That's the point of writing; it's not masturbation, really, it's kind of a delayed, disjointed fucking. This is why I take issue with just one part of what you write: "And you have the audacity to think anyone gives a shit what you think?!" I see it like this: it's not about what you think, but how you think. How you feel, how you react, how you lash out, how you go silent, how you tremble in fear, how you show your defiance and your love and your hate when the bullshit descends from out of a clean blue sky. That's why we read the words of others, I swear.

  3. Pick any two random people in the world. Hell, pick any random 10 or 100 or 1000......and you can bet your ass that they will all have more in common than not. We all succumb to Maslow's hierarchy. Same wants, needs, fears. Our secrets may be different, but they're secrets nonetheless. No matter what nasty shit we have experienced or committed, we have the capacity to empathize. To care. But there's a catch. We have to allow ourselves to be receptive to the feedback.

    My biggest life changing experience: During the span of no more than 10 minutes three things occurred. I nearly died. I saved someone's life. I took someone's life. Have you ever heard the saying that "there are no atheists in a war zone"? Well, I'm here to tell you that's bullshit. I realized that searching for meaning is a fools errand. There can be no meaning to the random vagaries of life. Things just "are". Now I just accept it. Deal with it. Live in the present, love in the present, do what must be done to survive. There is more than a small sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in doing that.

    I've rambled on enough, but it's your fault. What you wrote lead me to think about things I haven't thought about in quite some time. In doing so, you have made a difference in my life. Plus, you're cheaper than a shrink. ;)

    1. Ha! Way cheaper than a shrink. I'm glad the piece resonated with you, and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Truly.


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