Have you lost your mind, are you wingstruck, is there a piece of you gone, why can’t that fire fall out of your chest or are you completely unstrung with the stripping him down to the hot quick of you and too lamentably eyesick, voicesick, breastsick to understand there’s no hope for you— you must…
Now that I’m writing longer fiction, I’m beginning to suspect all the voices I’ve carried around inside me, or which seem to otherwise arrive, have been seeking to inhabit me. They’re not things negotiating their release; They want their turn at the helm.
I was born under unusual circumstances. My mother was a svelte, graceful but capricious witch and my father was a disembodied warrior from the 12th century that seduced my mother one night when the unseasonal autumn heat was driving everyone crazy and stirring up trouble. When I imagine them making love, I picture all the windows and doors of our stately (and capacious) 19th century farmhouse open. The sky overhead is full of clouds, but there’s an inviting, evening light at the horizon. I can feel the foliage breathing and gently preparing for the night. It’s like a semibreve rest—there’s a sense of settling and then this handsome gaseous specter comes blowing in through a window and finds my mother underdressed and agitated. Ready for action. I imagine it was electrical and sudden.
Nine months later I was birthed into a shoebox and licked clean by my loving, surrogate dog-mother just as the sun broke free of the corn fields to the east. I pushed myself out of the pile of my dog-brothers and sisters, brought my newborn grin into the morning light and felt for the first time the conviction that would stay with me for the rest of my life: I was going to terrorize this planet and bring it quaking before my terrible fists!
Certain though I was, the following years brought the usual collection of missteps, wrong turns, periods of floundering, hormonal confusions and general waywardness. Certainty is a great foundation for action, but it often comes in doses best thought of as inebriating. Clumsiness holds hands with boldness and trips it on the way to the stage.
Oddly, though my memory begins at birth, there’s a blankness of several years shortly afterward. I remember the smell of wax; a melted crayon near a radiator maybe. My dog-mother breathing behind me. An old blanket tacked to the wall depicting a sort of enormous bird. And then blackness. I was a few months old. The next thing I remember is crab apple, green grass, stung by bee! Maybe the shock of unexpected pain “woke” me up. I remember the bright summer light and the way the bee resembled a monster. Insects are real and I know that they are real. They are all around us and I knew in that moment that the monstrous was more beautiful somehow and more true than all the petty decoration that seemed to consume the attention of humans around me.
I’ve never forgotten that bee. He lives within me. I carry him around inside as a token of the monstrous and as the herald of my rebirth into memory.
From that moment, I threw myself into the world.
Imagine this: imagine you are standing at the edge of a high cliff, a zenith of land with the world spread out in hazy brushstrokes below, everything saturated in golden light and distance. There is only the barest breeze, like the sky is breathing, and you fling with all your joy and recently developed gross motor control a painstakingly fashioned paper airplane into the open, colorful abyss of the world and watch it soar, watch it fly, watch it get born aloft and god damn if your heart doesn’t sing along!
That was me. I was 3 years old and in love with action. Driven. I maneuvered myself into a succession of consuming hobbies, a bright eyed Napoleon at conquest. I was hungry and the world seemed to have gathered itself expressly for my pleasure; it was ready and waiting to be devoured.
I went to work at the tender of age of 4 with a local match-maker. I don’t mean match-maker as in an oaf who pretends to wield with his fat, unguided hands cupid’s mythical arrow (with greater or lesser accuracy depending on the price of your selected package); I mean an actual match maker. Our specialty was in oversize matches in scented woods; a rose pine topped with a distinctive pink flint was our signature. It was a surprisingly wild time in my life, given my age and chief occupation of my attention. I learned to drink. I learned that certain libidinal urges are native and inescapable. I came to be convinced that in all mammals the will to live is very closely related to the instinct of procreation. The two converge and flow into each other in the way of waters, rushing into a common stream. I learned to dance a number of dances my master claimed to come from his village but which I suspect were actually his own inventions (he was an eccentric). One, I remember, was called “the moose” and required the aid of a floppy hat.
I remember best the evenings on the porch. And the feel in my hands of the cardboard boxes in which we packaged our wares. I remember the room of woods, in the far back, under the canopy of rigged canvas, to prevent the direct rays of sunlight from overheating the workroom and damaging the exotic or delicate among them. I remember the tuneful morning half-melodies he’d emit while making breakfast, and I remember the feeling of pride I experienced when first it was discovered that my hard work had resulted in callouses. He said now my hands were “true.”
Since the miracle of the bee I’ve had trouble trusting “culture.” That human practice of distraction and obfuscation. The finely wrought cottons and melodic panaceas, the handsome men trapped forever in marble, and all the words, etched, scrawled, printed or pronounced from a stage, all of it somehow seeming to me to be concerned with advancing an argument against the world as it is, which is violent and enormous, far larger in fact than our minds could ever contain and uninterested in being contained by us. It is founded on a vast labyrinth of uncertainties, and we want to be certain. We want to be good. We want things to make sense and turn quickly away from those things which do not. A human child starves to death and wild dogs eat its body and there is a beauty in that. To understand the world you have to be ready to accept this beauty, which is literally all around you, but culture is more interested in pulling the curtain across the scene. It’s hopeful and stupid and it has a certain charm, but I do not trust it and cannot in good conscience support a movement which seeks to supplant the true wonder and mystery of the world with an antiseptic revisioning, which only acknowledges the dark edge of the world in fitful whispers and from a great distance.
I was born twice: first, as a baby boy, carried to term by a loving, surrogate dog-mother while my irresponsible witch-mother charmed her way through a string of fantastic (phantasm) lovers; and then again years later, as a murder of crows—a conceit explained to me as an “instructional device” by my newly-acquired and extremely powerful mentor Baba Yaga, but which in all likelihood was simply a cheap diversion for her own entertainment (she was easily bored).
You’re in an unfamiliar apartment and there’s too much glass and the windows are high up. There’s an oversize magazine on the coffee table; it’s sky blue and wide and there’s no text or other graphics, it’s just sky blue. You open it and it’s page after page of draw something skrillexes or “dubstep,” most of which feature skrillex. There’s hundreds.
You hear a loud bang which startles you and you drop the magazine. A pretend dead man falls from an open doorway into the kitchen.
You regret being in this apartment and cannot remember why you are there.