I don’t know what brought me here, I’ve awoken from a nightmare 4 years in the making and find myself strangling with a JC Penny tie around my neck. I sit in bed in the early a.m. and I don’t look at you – I don’t look at the bed or the dusty typewriter on my desk, I stare at the wall until my brain turns numb. I won’t think of it; I won’t think of us or anything at all. Willingly brain-dead the morning routine before the commute down Route 80 – neurons shriveling, a brain matter withering into the mundane hum of the skull. I find myself at work with a tire-iron bashing the hood of my car. I don’t want a Keurig or all the clothes in your closet and I will go through life with a single pair of jeans. I’ve thrown in the trash every little gift you’ve bought me. I’ve been drinking beer every evening on the drive home, just so I can stand walking into our house. I’ve blown out the speakers to heavy death metal and dreamt of wrapping the car ‘round the tree in our front yard: a windshield shattering in my face and a welcomed wave of fresh air. I want to be free of this life, from washing machines and office PC’s and the nights we sit through in silence because three years ago I choose to say I Love You. And I still do. But I can’t live with myself enslaved to shitty illusions and the delusion that plunging a career through my chest is somehow what’s best for ourselves. This morning I put our kid’s chair through the flat-screen: no more watching Sesame Street. No more watching ER dramas or those lying commercial comedies. There isn’t a single thing to laugh at here. This morning I screamed that would you please just shut your mouth, we’ll pay the god damned thieving bills when they turn the power off. There’s still a shattered refrigerator pitcher on the floor that I refuse to sweep up. There are holes in the dry-wall. I broke your precious bathroom mirror and flushed his toys down the toilet. I’ve lost it. I woke up this morning and shaved my head with a number 2. No more pompadour comb-over, this sweet rider on the storm, I woke myself up this morning and can’t see that it’ll ever come back.
There are rats in our ceiling though I know you didn’t hear them. The house was crowded, it was loud, little house reverberating with the sound of New Year’s tidings. You were speaking to your friend’s parents, the ones who work at a hospital, and my sister was planning her wedding day. Everyone was talking, everyone was watching the countdown on TV, everyone was enjoying the simple normalcy of things. But there was a scratching in the ceiling over the kitchen, a noise that isolated me. I had to focus to hear the little claws. I admit it was easy, to disconnect from the party and hear the silence in my head quickly broken by the scurry of little claws. And maybe the silence has been there a while, is why it was so easy to find – spaces in broken conversations to hone in on, like the air you find inside the cardboard décor of furniture stores. It is all empty air and the silence it was piercing my head. And this is when I first heard the rats, seated in silence at the kitchen table hearing friends go on about fantasy sports and TV shows to ring in the new year and the vacuity of it all suddenly transpired – in me a distant hollow ringing, the fear of floating away in the wake of a cruise that’s already left the bay.
I believe they noticed I was pale and clammy, these people at the kitchen table with me. They regarded me with a safe distance, like a child around whom you carefully choose your words. I was the idiot they looked at and had to repeat exactly what they meant when they said the stock market was a better way to hedge their bets. As if I were the idiot! They couldn’t hear the rats clawing six feet above our heads. The tendons in my chest began to tighten, I was sweating with a pain that could have been the flu or claustrophobia – more rats were filling into the ceiling, the scraping reaching a frantic pitch and no one could hear a god damned thing but their own platitudes and plaints. My eyes were stuck in the middle distance of nowhere, focused compulsively on the silence that surrounded me, filled me – and how quickly it was broken by the clawing in the ceiling! I had to act. Visions of insulation and wires being ripped apart by the clawing horde making nests in my ceiling.
It was the footsteps they heard, paired to the conspicuous vacation from the kitchen chair I’d occupied all night: they knew it had to be me on the roof. Figure, it would be only me they heard through the ceiling. I admit I was stomping trying to find a weak patch in the roof, a way to get through to the rats making nests in my ceiling. I didn’t notice them at first, my audience below, and the sight must have been something to see – the front yard matted with leaves I never raked, garbage bags piled in the drive I never took to the street, and the dozens who gathered in the cold New Years’ drizzle to see me stalking the roof with a flashlight and cleaver. My plan I hadn’t fully thought through. It was you who called up to me first. I waved you away and said go back inside, this was something I could handle. And this must have been the stroke of midnight, because somewhere behind our house fireworks were going off. And I imagine the fireworks put me in silhouette because the light of them was bright enough to hide the shine of my flashlight. I was looking up in the trees over the house, for the rats, because even on the roof I could still only hear the scraping somewhere above me.
It began with a long day in bed when I slipped too deeply into my head… Short walk to class, an hour long now trying to avoid the eyes of each person I pass by.
I am the person walking up and down the same flight of stairs, convinced, utterly convinced this is the quickest way to nowhere.
I am the hollow-eyed nightmare shaking, standing in the campus square, trying to ascertain which direction I was supposed to go.
I am the unreachable stranger walking laps through the mall bundled thick in winter jackets on an August hot day, speaking nothing to no one, softly muttered to no one.
These are the gaps in my flesh – please come take a peer at this hollowness, the oblivion inside these cracks.
This is the fragile waste bucket seated beside you in class, huddle forward on my desk with a face distantly pacing the floor beside my chair; that is my spunk right there on the desk, naked and scared and bared boneless for all to feast.
Bury yourself face-first in the muck of this mire, self-negated with nothing left to hide, nothing to strive for or to die; the wandering days melting down the clock-faces into a formless pulp rid of meaning.
These are troubled times.
The skeleton stalks through the bookshelves for something to eat, having found behind his eyes the rats that infest the manifolds of his brain; having found nothing of interest, he wastes 7 hours browsing internet trash, and then goes back to sleep.
This is the trouble with trying to complete the litany of tasks dictated by a dream of socially-acceptable success – these dents in the table are the blood-smudges of a forehead that bears repeating: It cannot fucking focus. Have you paid your fucking speeding tickets?
Did you finish your homework on time?
Did you remember to pay the bills your wife keeps asking you to pay the bills but instead I put rat-traps in the ceiling is what I did for all of fifteen minutes yesterday. That is what I did yesterday. The rats haven’t been heard again and I am safely huddled in my bed trying not to openly weep; it is now my new belief the rats are dead.
There is a purpose here buried in the interference and the babble of a family speaking distantly at Christmastime – distantly from across the dinner table. And the task here is keeping track of the echoes to listen for my name while simultaneously keeping track of the little sparking flashes fluttering ‘cross my corneas. The fluttering it needs to be pinned…
to stick them to the wall with nails pulled from this cranial rot, stick them to the walls the butterflies with their wings spread wide and poke at them, the wings, until I’m sure each one has died.
But I am utterly convinced it is just as futile to die.
The mothers again have taken to baking their babies into walls around their Gucci gardens, and the fathers are found soliciting sex dolls to drive their careers far from town. The zeppelin overhead shines the face of democracy, and the bureaucrats have barred my door with towers of papers to be filed. Skeletons stalk the streets looking for doctors to eat, and the alley behind Burger King is where the Velez family sleeps on cardboard pads from the dumpsters. Read More