The Brink of Sanity

An Essay on Depression

 

 Against the Medical Model of Depression

There is an emergent trend in mainstream culture to view depression as a kind of medical illness. It is not uncommon to hear analogies between a mind “suffering” from depression and a broken bone. “Seek help” is the advice that is most often touted along with such diagnoses’. Though seemingly well intentioned, this paradigm for viewing depression is deeply flawed for it carries some implicit suppositions that do more to aid the problem then to solve it.

Before we get into that, however, it is worth noting that depression, like all other mental states, exists on a spectrum ranging roughly from mild irritation to being on the cusp of suicide. Consequently, the kind of solution that may be appropriate for one person might very well be the last thing another needs. It should be a startling statistic then, that 1 in 6 adults in the U.S. have been prescribed an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication. This may be due to a cultural tendency to view doctors as deities and pills as long-term solutions, but even still this number strikes me as unreasonably high.

The reason for this unfortunate reality may well be the end goal of the medical model itself, which is to readjust the “patient” so that that they can function normally within society. This is warranted for a person who suffers an injury or grave illness. Here we are right to use medical methods to heal the ailments and return the patient to their previously mobile and independent state. However, there are very important differences between how the body functions and how the mind functions.

For example, it is quite evidently true that a body that is able to function well in its environment is a better body. A fast, strong, and flexible body is better than the antithesis. But, consider for a moment if the environment we were trying to get our body to strive in was a 1-meter by 1-meter metal cage. Here, strength, speed, and flexibility (admittedly to a lesser degree) are not such useful attributes. In fact, the simplest and surest way for a body to thrive in such a small space would be to pulverize the bones so any regular sized human could be crammed into the cage. In this case, instead of trying to determine a method to get a body to fit into the cage, it is probably more prudent to question why you would pursue such an end in the first place?

We may be able to say something similar about the mind, that is, that one which functions well in its environment is a better mind. But to make this claim we need to have an understanding of what kind of environment we are operating in. I’m not exactly suggesting that contemporary society is analogous to a cramped metal cage, but the method by which we go about nursing our minds back to normality assumes that the environment we operate in is a valuable one. And to that end it uses dubious and perhaps dangerous means (e.g. pills and prescriptions).

The goal of the medical model is to treat depression “patients” so that they may return to society as happy and proactive participants, but this assumes that it is a good thing that a person is functioning well in society, which in turn carries the assumption that society is functioning well (otherwise, why would it be a good thing that a person was functioning well in it?). Neither of these is a given assumption, and we should be wary to proceed in any course of action that takes them as granted.

A separate but equally pernicious problem lies within the medical model as well. The idea of depression being a sickness does little to help the depressed person feel as though they have any control over their environment. Since depressed persons reliably communicate feelings of helplessness and hopelessness it seems any solution designed to help them should aim to return some semblance of control to their lives. Though the cry to “seek help” may be rooted in good intentions it seems to send a mixed signal. Is the message we want to send to a person who feels hopelessly out of control, that they really are so? This strikes me as a counterproductive position, which may hobble the depressed mind more than it already is.

Let me be clear here. I would not suggest that it is ideal for a depressed person to become solipsistic and desperately grope for a solution to their suffering in isolation. I would not be writing this essay if that were the case. Open communication is vitally important in any crisis in a person’s life. I’d simply argue that a more productive course of action would be to restore as much autonomy as possible rather than foster dependence. Do everything to encourage the idea that people who feel depressed can help themselves. Let’s not enforce the idea that a puppet needs to visit a puppeteer to fix its strings, rather let’s act to transform the puppet into his own puppeteer.

Before we get there however, I want to briefly describe my understanding of what depression is. Partly because my solutions will best apply to my experience of depression, and partly because I feel it is another area in which the medical model falls short.

 

The Logic of Sadness

Because the medical model treats the depressive mood state as something that is wrong (i.e., like a brain malfunction), we are forced to understand depression as something de facto of negative value. The upshot here suggests that the antithesis, joy or contentment, is something that should be strived towards. This conclusion is not self-evident.

The famous French philosopher Albert Camus dedicated his intellectual career to addressing the question of suicide. In his analysis his pushes logic to its extremities and shows that it is not irrational to see suicide as an appropriate response to the absurdity of life. I can personally attest to a kind of lucidity during bouts of depression. Things are not confusing or mysterious; they are, quite the contrary, starkly clear. The illusions that grant meaning to our lives are quietly stripped away to reveal the barren truth of human existence. Depression is a wrestling match with the singular, inalienable, axiomatic fact of life; we are all born to die.

But why should we avoid this fact? Why should we treat it like a disease when it is a conclusion of the upmost importance? Why should we bury our heads in the sand and pretend such questions are not worth asking? To claim that these ponderings are “wrong” is willful self-deception. There is nothing intrinsically “good” about feeling happy; it is just a state of mind. Likewise with depression, there is nothing intrinsically “wrong”, it is just a state of mind.

Still, either mind state in excess is not useful or pragmatic. Feeling too much of anything is bondage of the mind. It limits you to experience life through a single filter. Just as mania deprives a person their ability to live fully and function effectively, so too does depression. A balance must be struck between the two, a logical understanding of the tragic elements of life, and an unsubstantiated and unreasonable desire to be happy despite that.

 

Towards a Solution

I think the merit of the medical model is that it provides an actionable solution to the feelings associated with depression. The only other salient solution that seems appropriate is suicide. But, if we are to agree with Camus that despite its reasonableness, suicide is not a tenable solution, then an alternative needs to be found. The trick then is not to change the desire for an actionable solution, but to find an actionable solution that does not have the negative repercussions associated with the medical model or with suicide.

Fortunately for us, past thinkers far wiser than us have already solved these problems. All we need do here is repeat them and remind ourselves of their usefulness. Depression is nothing new, and our concerns are less pressing today than any day in history. So too are our lives more decadent, so any solution devised for harsher times should serve us twice as well now.

 

Take it in.

The primary goal here is to regain some semblance of control in your life, or at least the illusion of it. The first step is to completely disregard the medical model of depression. You are not sick. You are not ill. You are not broken. You are confronting a reality of existence, and you best bet is to embrace it.

Instead of a disease, it is helpful to think of a depressive state as a self-indulgent period of narcissism. Introverted people are more likely to grapple with these kinds of problems than extroverted ones, and for good reason. The neurotic attitude that accompanies a deeply introspective person is bound to make them believe that their experience is infinitely important. Self-awareness and introspection are important, but remember that your perspective is only half the story. Your feelings alone are not an accurate representation of what is actually going on. There is a world outside of you, and you would benefit from tuning into it. By doing so you allow yourself some respite from the vigil of sadness that a depressed mind feels obligated to uphold.

To this end the teachings of the Buddha cannot be overstated. The guru who lived millennia ago imparted possibly the greatest antidote to perpetual suffering ever devised, and that is simply to live in the moment. If one is truly able to do this then the feelings and inclinations that seem so burdensome during a bout of depression merely dissolve into the ether. This is because these feelings are intimately tied to the ego, and the ego concept is stubbornly present when we think of ourselves as an individual being moving through time. Destroy the illusion of yourself and you solve the problem.

Meditation was the Buddha’s prescription for achieving this, but meditation is not everyone’s cup of tea. I for one have an irritable and restless mind, so it is difficult to motivate myself to meditate. Luckily there are other ways to enter that esoteric and illusive place called the “moment”. My personal shortcut is to divide your experience of time into fragments as small as you can manage, like a breath or a heartbeat. When depression is truly at its zenith this is an onerous task because each moment tends to feel like an infinite expanse, but in a single second of experience there are so many details that can distract you away from this feeling.

The intake of breath, the movement of a leaf, or the buzz of a fly all serve as adequate distractions that will carry you through the present moment so you can deal with the next. You will also notice that pain is much more bearable when you are experiencing it in this fragmented state. It is when we extrapolate and project our current mood into the indefinite future that depression truly becomes overwhelming.

Eventually, and if you are persistent, this process will make you less aware of yourself, and more aware of what’s happening. You may still feel depressed but this method allows you to move from the belief that these feelings are happening to you, to the understanding that these feelings are just simply happening, and there is a world of difference between the two. The most profound difference being that in the latter stage you can come to the awareness that depression is not some evil burden you are forced to endure, but rather a window of experience, ripe with insights, which you have been blessed to look through.

 

Work it out.

Exercising your body is also a tremendously effective technique to shake off the melancholy. Aside from the well-established scientific studies that make valid the psychosomatic connection between mind and body, a philosophic understanding of what exercise is should help to alleviate the depressive burden. Recall the importance of feeling in control during depression. The process of fragmenting time explained above is meant to force the mind to focus on objects external to it, thereby jolting oneself out of the absolute self-absorption of a depressed state.

While exercising, wallowing is difficult to do precisely because you are too busy interacting with the physical world. Focusing your attention and will on small repetitive tasks like lifting a weight, or running, or swimming imparts a command of the body that nothing else matches. Even something as mindless and tedious as swinging an axe to chop wood can be an extraordinarily cathartic experience. Merely focus on the fact that you lifted that weight, or you took that step, or that you swung that axe and you can’t help but feel that you are overcoming something. It is a small amount of control true, but it is something to hold onto all the same.

The more one persists at a particular physical task the more command they have over their body and environment. Pushing a weight once more than you believed you could, or running the extra 100 yards when you thought your feet would collapse under you are the surest and most sublime illustrations of power and self-control an individual can preform.

It’s no wonder that the ancient Greeks (who were infinitely wise in so many things), put such an emphasis on the gymnasium. The act of overcoming an opponent in a feat of physical strength, was and is, as much an act of overcoming yourself. Today, the modern manifestation of the gymnasium is often looked at with derision by those who would fancy themselves high-minded or academic. I submit that the same ideals and noble spirit that governed these buildings millennia ago still do today. Do not consider a gym a place where ego mad competitors go to flaunt and showboat their strength. Instead consider it a place designed to resist your will and effort. Consider this place a challenge that can be overcome, and with that mindset enter the gym with the determination to prove to yourself that nothing can resist your will.

 

Write it down.

Emile Cioran was a Romanian philosopher who waged war with depression and anxiety for most of his adult life. In addition to having to deal with these problems during the waking day, he was also forced to endure endless nights of torment because of a persistent case of insomnia. His solution? Write.

He details his experience of lying awake during the dark, dead hours of the night, haunted by feelings of immense sadness and horror. One only need think how irritable they become at the loss of a few hours sleep to empathize with this. Nevertheless, in his twilight hell Cioran took to writing, transcribing his feelings and experiences to better understand them. Because I will never possess the capacity to form a passage as elegant and insightful as he could, I shall simply quote him directly.

Direct or disguised, confession by word, sound, or colour halts the agglomeration of inner forces and weakens them by projecting them back towards the world outside. It is a salutary diminution which makes every act of creation into a coefficient of escape.”

Cioran wrote extensively about the inner landscape of the soul and the nature of feelings. In his analysis he presents us with the insight that feelings can have an infinite scope of potential and influence when they live inside of us. This is certainly true of depression. When in a bout of depression it feels as though ones sorrow extends to the far corners of the universe. Our entire world becomes painted with the feeling that is imprisoned within us.

Creation and art are ways to dilute this harrowing sensation. By objectifying our internal feelings we make them something tangible, and once tangible they can be dissected. You can make yourself the surgeon of your own sadness. Simply take what you have pulled out of yourself and criticize it, attack it, admire it, and ruminate on it. Inside of you this feeling is infinitely complex. Because of this it is evasive and can hang over you despite your best attempts to rationalize with it or understand it. But here in front of you, it is solid; it is an object in the world that can be overcome, just like all others.

 

Play with a dog.

This one really needs no explanation.

 

Conclusion

Remember that the medical view of depression is a relatively new one. Historically, depression has often been viewed as nothing more than a personality trait or disposition. It may well be that our views of this fascinating phenomenon will evolve again, and perhaps the solutions presented by future methods will have more sophisticated insights.

I mentioned earlier in this paper that depression exists on a spectrum. Solutions will differ depending on the persistence and intensity of the feelings one has. I do not want to claim that my advice has universal applicability, I merely want to lend it out in the hopes that it may have pragmatic value to anyone who feels ostracized by the current state of discussion surrounding depression.

In truth this paper’s primary audience is myself. Having thought about these issues in great depth, I decided to try my own advice and “write it down”. Now it is available for myself and others to criticize, to attack, to admire, and to ruminate on.

 

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The Paradox of Loneliness

Those who were misfortunate enough to be cursed with consciousness in the technological age find themselves locked in an unlikely predicament. In this age, where communication is available with lightning fast immediacy, and the world lay literally at the tip of our fingers in the form of keyboards and touchscreens, we are ever-reminded that a general and persistent form of loneliness burdens the souls of our generation. How could such disparate states of affairs possibly exist concurrently? How is it that we are the most connected we’ve ever been in human history, and yet feel as alone as ever?

Psychologists and statisticians may grope for answers to this question but the workings of the mind are an evasive thing to grasp, and any theory is bound to fail in capturing all the complexities and nuances that guide our behavior. Any such attempt to describe and analyze loneliness must be, at least in some measure, an anecdotal one. In this spirit I shall walk the futile path of philosophy and offer yet another theory of loneliness.

It is true that technological advances permit a kind of hyper-connectivity that allows you to communicate with anyone, anywhere, at anytime. However, this power is a double-edged sword, because it is just this feeling of being connected that leads to a feeling of loneliness. Without the technology in place to forge and maintain relations, we would not feel the sting of their absence. It is not possible to feel as though you’ve lost something that you never had to begin with. What we have now is a permanent tether linking us forever to even the most insignificant relations in our life.

In years past many interactions would have begun and ended within the span of an hour, and thoughts of the rendezvous would have dissolved from the memory just as quickly. Today the opposite holds true. Imagine if you walked into a room in which every person you’ve ever met were gathered. They chatted amongst each other, or engaged in envy inspiring activates like drinking, partying, adventuring, and loving. Even people from these one-hour chance encounters were packed into the room, and it would be the simplest thing in the world for any of them to reach out and capture your attention. Imagine now, that not a single one of them turned their heads to acknowledge your entry.

This is in many ways analogous to the situation we live everyday. We are consciously, or perhaps subconsciously, aware that we have the ability to contact any person in our lives at any given moment, as simply as if they were arms length away. We of course rarely, if ever, reach out and engage people ourselves, and the reasons why are more suited for an entirely separate investigation. Suffice it to say it may have a lot to do with the insurmountable nature of the human ego, coupled with the fragility of power relations. But more to the point, the opposite is true as well. Any person who we are capable of reaching out to, is just as capable of doing the same to us. And this is a truly haunting and insidious thought.

Before we were granted the ability to send texts and make phone calls across the globe, we may have lived with the comforting illusion that those people we’ve met and had an impact on were thinking of us fondly and often. Whether true or not, the unverifiablilty of the thought must have granted some comfort. The man of yesterday, unburdened by the weight of technology, was able to find ignorant bliss in any daydream he chose to concoct. When not in the company of his friends he could imagine they were eager to see him, to laugh and drink. When not in the company of his family he could imagine they spoke of him over their dinner, and wondered when he would come home again. When not in the company of his lover he could imagine that she pined for his embrace, unable to sleep without him. Idealistic as they may be, it is not difficult to see why one would cling to these illusions when the dark cloud of loneliness loomed overhead.

But now we are in a position to be intimately aware of how little our existence occupies the minds of the people in our social circles, and given the correct source, human narcissism is a well of infinite depth. True enough, with the cell phone and the Internet we find ourselves in possession of a conduit to communicate with anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Yet we are also often forced to endure the knowledge that this conduit remains for the most part unused. We view the entirety of existence from behind glass, always a voyeur and never a participant.

Mr. Yesterday, dragged into the technological era, now has to witness his friends going on merrily without him, his family eating dinner without thinking of him, and his lover living a life of relative mundanity much like his own. Such thoughts need not be overt either. Just the subtlest awareness of the goings on of the people in your social circles is enough to evoke the fear and anxiety that comes from feeling left out.

Loneliness is then understood as a feeling of constant invalidation, brought about by the very real fact that you are being constantly unthought-of for the majority of your life. This is not meant to be a malicious sentiment. The truth is that it is entirely reasonable that you should not constantly be thought of by everyone you know at all times. But these desires are not within the realm of the reasonable, and so the mind’s response, predictably enough, is to overreact. Do anything possible so as not to feel alienated and ostracized. Posting on social media is not an attempt to find relief through approval as much as it is an attempt to avoid negation.

So what is one to do? The benefits reaped from communications technologies are too enticing to abandon. Perhaps what is called for is simply a bit of introspection. Analysis into the source and cause of the anxiety of loneliness may be therapeutic, but awareness doesn’t necessarily translate into relief. More than likely this is an unavoidable negative externality that comes along with the all-encompassing power of the Internet. To those of us who are unable to turn our gaze from the hoots and howls of our fellow apes, prepare to suffer indefinitely.

A Gentlemen’s Engagement

“Yeah but I mean, why cottage cheese?”

“I dunno man, she was on a diet.”

“Dude, cottage cheese is fucking disgusting.”

“Listen you fuckheads, when a chick tells you that she wants to lick something off of your balls, you’re not going to sit there and argue! You’re just gonna rub whatever the fuck that thing is all over your goddamn balls!”

Dick, Rick, and Mick are a trio of good friends who are acquainted by common lifestyle choices more than any kind of historical similarities. One of those lifestyle choices manifests itself as half gram of Peruvian cocaine, evenly distributed into three lines, resting on the CD case of the Lady Gaga smash hit reissue album, “The Fame Monster.” Another similar lifestyle choice is making itself present through the neon light shining through Rick’s Kia Sorento windshield. The periodic flickering of the purplish glow is meant to attract the eye to the words “Live, Nude, Girls.”

“Why the fuck would you buy Lady Gaga’s album? On the one hand it’s like the gayest thing to be released in the last decade, and secondly, who the fuck still buys CDs?” Dick quickly nods his head in approval of Rick’s comment. He is nodding because he agrees with Rick’s assessment of Mick’s buying habits and their affect on his sexuality, and he is doing it quickly because between the three of them they have already consumed a half gram of Peruvian cocaine and in so doing, Dick finds it difficult to remain seated motionless. His right leg is also jerking spastically in a vertical motion, pivoting on his toe, causing his heel to bounce off the floor of the car making a faint and repetitive thud thud thud noise.

“I like Lady Gaga alright! And if I don’t buy the CD, she won’t be able to keep making music that I enjoy. It’s simple supply and demand. It’s economics you shit turd.”

“That’s redundant.” Says Dick.

“You’re a real asshole Dick, anyone ever tell you that?” is Mick’s response.

“You know Lady Gaga is a tranny right?” says Rick knowingly.

“Ah for fucks sake, here we go again!” Mick is a little more than annoyed at Rick’s comment. It was not the first time they had debated the topic of Lady Gaga’s gender.

“It’s true! There’s a video out where she pulls her cock out and pisses on this underage chick.” Says Rick.

“That was R-Kelly…” Dick interjected.

“Shut up Dick. More than one celebrity has pissed on a minor okay. It’s like the fashionable thing to do or something. It’s just like the state of entertainment yea’ know. You gotta do some wild shit to get any attention. It’s why you’ve got a bunch of limp-dick morons jumping off of roofs to get some Youtube views and any chick with half an ass is shaking it on Vine to get some likes. And like if you’re not criticizing something then you’re not getting anywhere, you know what I’m saying Rick? Dick knows. Anybody whose anybody got there because they publically criticized someone else you know. It’s like you gotta feed the wolves before you get a bite to eat yourself man.” Rick.

“What the almighty fuck are you talkin’ about man. What does any of this have to do with Lady Gaga being a tranny? But I mean even if she were a tranny, how does that affect her music? What are you like a homophobe or something?” questions Mick to Rick.

“Listen, her being a tranny doesn’t affect her music at all, it would suck either way alright. And if it were the case that I didn’t like trannies it wouldn’t make me a homophobe. Everyone knows that trannies identify as chicks, so technically I’d be a misogynist… or a trannyphobe if that’s a thing.” The three of them sat in silence for a moment and pondered the points presented. Meanwhile Rick was evening out the lines of cocaine on the CD cover. Finally Mick speaks up.

“Didn’t you meet that chick on Twitter? Cottage cheese?”

“Oh, no, no, no, nah, you got it all wrong. Nope, it wasn’t Twitter.” Says Dick as he quickly nods his head in affirmation.

Rick begins to roll up a $20 bill and Mick promptly stops him, “Use a hundred Rick, it always tastes better with a hundo.”

Dick nods quickly as he pulls the hundred-dollar bill they used earlier in the night. He quickly and deftly rolls it up into a tight cylindrical tube. He manages to stop nodding for a moment and takes a deep exhalation of breath. Then he plugs his left nostril with his left thumb, places the tip of the hundred-dollar cylinder into his right nostril and lowers his head towards the Lady Gaga CD cover so that the opposite tip of the cylinder is about a centimeter away from the beginning of the center line of the three lines of the Peruvian cocaine. He then simultaneously moves the cylinder towards the line while sucking air through his right nostril harder than a Dyson vacuum cleaner hooked to a diesel engine.

After snorting a few more breathes of air through the same nostril for good measure he straightens up and with eyes bulging out his skull remarks, “It was Instagram.” He then passed the hundred-dollar bill along to Mick.

“Let’s head inside,” says Mick while he rubs the remains of the cocaine onto his gums. Mick snorted his line in the same way as Dick, in one go, through one nostril. Rick, an ardent supporter of fair distribution, divides his line equally into two parts and takes a half line in each nostril. The three of them get out of Rick’s Kia Sorento, pass under the flickering purple glow of the words, “Live, Nude, Girls”, and enter through the threshold of the fine Gentleman’s club known as “The Unicorn Barn”.

“There’s gonna be so much PUSSY in here!” Says Rick enthusiastically. Dick Nods quickly and Mick says, “Yeahhhhhh Buuuudddayyy!”

Upon entering, the trio of jacked-up amigos is met by the establishment’s long-term bouncer and part owner, Benny. Dick and Benny know one another through Dick’s frequent visits to the Barn, as well as the fact that Dick not infrequently purchases cocaine from Benny.

“No need for ID fellers” Benny says as he ushers them into the main hall of the building. The Unicorn Barn’s stage was not the usual one-wall-facing-out design. It was more of a walkway that split the club in two. The room wasn’t too large so it didn’t disrupt the Feng Shui of the environment. There was a small opening between the end of the stage and the start of the bar that allowed waitresses and customers to move around the room. On the far wall was a red velvet curtain that concealed a dark, black-lit, wobbly, narrow staircase that lead to an area filled with small booths whose entrances were also covered in red velvet curtains. This is the private dance area, a place that many wives, fiancés, and girlfriends either choose to believe a myth or naively imagine as a place where men actually receive dances. More accurately here is where men (and the occasional woman) receive “dances”, particularly at the infamous and renowned Unicorn Barn.

The three gentlemen seat themselves on a set of wobbly chairs, arranged around a small round table. Other patrons of the bar include an old man who appears so decrepit it seems as though he escaped from the sarcophagus of an ancient Egypt museum exhibit, a group of teenagers who managed to enter through the use of fake ID’s and are now nervously contemplating what kind of beer to order that will not betray their actual age, and finally a trucker, or because occupation is often undeterminable by appearance (don’t judge a book by it’s cover and all that), a man who looks like a trucker.

“Instagram’s a prime spot for PUSSY!” Says Rick who had the idiosyncratic habit of stressing particular words when he was high on cocaine (“Pussy” was one of those words.)

“That’s true,” says Mick, “but you gotta have a lot of followers. Hey Dick how many followers you have again?”

“Almost FIVE thousand,” says Rick jumping in for Dick. His eyes dart back and forth and find their home on the husky African American stripper who is making her way onto the far side of the stage.

“I’m gonna get some food!” Says Mick as he surveys a menu with his bulging eyes.

“No you’re not.” Says Dick as he nods quickly. “You always say that, and you never get any. No one eats at a strip club, and you’re right, gotta have a lot of followers for Instagram pussy.”

“PUSSY!” Says Rick, eyes locked on the husky black stripper.

“Welcome Gentlemen, to the Unicornnnnnn Baaaaarrrrnnnnnnn! Taking the staaage now is ShaQweelaaaaaaaa”. The announcers voice sounded over the P.A. system. He had a cool and smooth baritone voice, oozing with sensuality. If put to the right task the announcers voice could not only do justice to, but also bring alive in stunning vivacity, the poetic works of the world’s greatest romantics. He continues his announcement, “Keep your cocks hard and your wallets loose gentlemen, these ladies are here to please you, and fulfill all you’re dirtyyyyyyy deeesires”

“Those announcers always look like Tom Arnold or Ron Jeremy, or some mix between the two. It’s why they hide them in that booth with tinted windows.” Says Mick.

“True.” says Rick.

“They should get a chick to do it!” Says Dick in a moment of offhanded epiphany. He was looking at no one thing in particular but was aware of everything. His leg was a motorized piston that would not allow his wobbly chair to gain balance. Mick and Rick both nodded quickly.

“That’s a great idea!” said Mick enthusiastically.

The waitress came over their table and they ordered 6 tequila shots and three domestic beers. The interaction began with Mick slapping the waitresses’ backside after mistakenly believing her to be a conservatively dressed stripper, and ended with Dick intentionally slapping her backside after she asked/told him to, “stop shaking your fucking leg.”

“Man what a BITCH!” says Rick, emphasizing another of his preferred words.

“Totally, I mean if you didn’t want to work in a strip club then why the fuck did you take a job in a fucking strip club? JeeeeSUS!” She clearly upset Mick.

“Listen fellas” begins Dick. “She really pissed me off too, I mean just the plain cuntiness in her voice. Like just fuck off am I right? But listen. Fuck her. I think I can score some more chache. My buddy Benny works here. Remember the fucking bouncer?”

“Your buddy Benny?” Inquires Rick.

“Yeah my buddy Benny, he’s a bouncer here. He’s working and he’s always got some Chache on him.”

“Fuck yeah, I could go for another Hollywood!” Rick. Mick didn’t need to say anything for it to be known that he was in complete and total agreement with Rick (a true rarity of an event).

“Alright just hold on, lemme see if I can’t find Benny.” Dick shoots back his 2 drinks of tequila (which had since arrived in the hands of less than pleased waitress) easing his spastic leg and head movements, grabs his domestic beer and goes searching for Benny the bouncer for more cocaine. Mick turns his bulging eyes back to the food menu and Rick rearranges his seat so it was facing the stage where ShaQweela was busy wrapping her ass cheeks around the stripper pole suggestively. A vein in Rick’s neck is throbbing intensely as he is trying with all his might to suppress his urge to scream the word, “Pussy.”

Benny the bouncer was now leaned up against the wall next to the velvet curtain of the private “dance” area, so Dick would have to get through the small opening between the stage and the bar. The problem was that the opening was currently being blocked by the rather large posterior of Bubbles the stripper. Dick who was by now by no means sober, quite inelegantly tries to make his way past Bubbles and ends up spilling a large quantity of his beer on her (a difficult task considering that he is drinking bottled beer).

“WHAT the FUCK asshole?” Bubbles irritated reply.

“Sorry, can’t talk now baby, I’ll take you for a ‘dance’ later.” Dick responds, completely oblivious of Bubbles’ irritation, or the fact that he spilt any beer on her. He continues on his way and soon finds himself face to face with Benny. Benny is cleaning his fingernails with a toothpick. This doesn’t impart any of the macho bravado of the traditional dangling of the toothpick from your mouth, nor does it equate to the badassery of cleaning your fingernails with a knife. Rather the peculiar hygiene ritual gives Benny an overall effeminate look and detracts from the fear of his authority, Dick thinks. Anyways, after some hushed and euphemistic conversation, Dick is happily clutching a small plastic baggy of what Benny insists is 90% pure, but in actuality has been cut down to a still quite impressive 83%, cocaine. “Best I ever had!” says Benny, and also, “You gotta tone ‘er down a bit Dick, might half to give yer the boot if you can’t keep yer shit together.” Dick snorts some air through his right nostril and swallows intentionally, “Not a problem there Benny my man.” Then after a short layover at the bar, Dick finds himself back at the table with Mick and Rick.

“Ordered the fish and chips.” Says Mick in a manner that suggests that he believes this to be some kind of an accomplishment.

“We’re all getting some fish tonight, some PUSSY!”

“Good point Rick, I’m gonna go find that fat assed chick, she had the eyes for me. Not gonna drop more than 60 though, that’s a damn promise.”

“How the hell you gonna pull that off? PUSSY’S pricey Dick.”

“Don’t you worry about that my friend, I know my business.”

“Whatever, just remember to keep your ass off the leather you dirty ass-munching MOTHERFUCKER.”

“You’re the ass-muncher you fucking homo.”

Mick’s fish and chips had arrived but he had sent the waitress back to fetch more tartar sauce, “Experience.” Says Mick on Dick’s behalf. Dick had decided to forgo the ensuing conversation in search of Bubbles.

“Huh?”

“You asked Dick how he was gonna get his jollies for 60 bucks. The answers experience.”

“The fuck you talking about Mick? Industry standards always a hundo for a BJ and like at least 180 for the poontang; what’s experience got to do with it?” Says Rick.

“Dick’s got experience Rick. See that fat ass stripper he went for? Remember how he poured his beer on her ass? He had her right when he did that. Know why? Because any ripper whose standing by the bar ain’t getting no action so right when Dick poured his beer he made it known that he was gonna give her some action. And then Rick, remember how she made a run of the room when Dick was talking to Benny? Remember how even the mummy over in the corner there brushed her off? Well no you’re right Rick, she didn’t go for the teeny-boppers over there but that’s because she’s an experienced ripper Rick. She’s not looking to go down for some child molestation charge or something Rick. Rick, they just let them in here to spend their allowance on some overpriced beer, and look Rick you can totally tell they’re teeny boppers cause they ordered those bitchy lime flavored piss beers, and they all got their hands on their crotched tryna tuck their little cocktail weenie boners. Anyways Rick, see what I’m saying is, that fat assed ripper made her turn of the room and no one was buying her tricks so she goes over to the bar where Dick in all his experience sees his mark. And now look Rick, look how he’s haggling, look how she’s got her arms crossed and her eye’s narrowed. She don’t like it Rick, she don’t like the idea that she’s gotta go to the back with an asshole like Dick, but look how many half naked bitches there are in here tryna earn a cent Rick. It’s simply supply and demand Rick, economics Rick. EK-o-NOM-iks. Rick you listening? Rick… Rick! Fuck it… Ah yissssss, my fuckin’ tartar sauce is finally here!”

Rick’s full and undivided attention is centered on ShaQweela’s neon-green-glowing-radiantly-in-the-blacklight-g-string panty crotch, which is moving closer towards him. ShaQweela, an experienced exotic dancer, noticed Rick’s unflinching, and red-eyed gaze while she was on stage and set her mark on him.

“I’m not going back there for less than 140.” Says Bubbles to Dick. They had begun negotiations on the price of a fellatio service. $140 is a price that all experienced strippers propose to capitalize on the rare newcomers. These doe-eyed fools who are so unsophisticated in the craft will sometimes actually pay the 200% price inflation. But Dick is not unsophisticated in the ways of prostitution solicitation. He is a savant of the courtesan. King of the costly cunt. Hooker of hookers. Whore wrangler. Ride-giver to street-walkers. Spender on sluts. Purchaser of poontang. Shooter of the proverbial fish in a barrel (considering of course that the barrel and fish have been bought and paid for), merchant of popped cherries, coochie capitalist, and general buyer of lady parts that are for sale.

“I’ll give yea’ 60 bucks to suck my cock till I bust a nut.” The last stipulation Dick had learned was essential to any contractual agreement of the sort, because agents of the trade were notorious for not specifying the length of the service to be provided and then opting out after a song or two leaving the customer woefully unsatisfied. This had happened to Dick once but never again, because since then he has developed the habit to always include “bust a nut” in his proposal. Mick’s analysis of Bubbles being mostly true, she begrudgingly agrees to Dick’s offer and leads him past Benny, through the red velvet curtain, and up the narrow staircase to the private “dance” area.

Dick takes his seat on the red leather chair that seems to keep it’s integrity intact through a few remaining hard-willed threads.

“Get comfy honey, we’ll start after this song ends.” Bubble’s demeanor had changed from that of a cheated service provider to an enthused stripper, wet with anticipation, a testament to her professionalism and dedication to her craft. She removes a bandana from a small clutch handbag that Dick had failed to notice, causing him to believe that she had magically conjured it from thin air, or perhaps from some recess or cavity of her beautiful naked fat ass. She lays it across his lap and sits down on it, a practice that is meant to introduce some semblance of sanitation to the proceedings, even though Bubbles would soon be on her knees with a strange mans penis in her mouth. It was no doubt an action of habit.

“—imme the PUSSY and there’s a line of coke in it—“ was part of a conversation that was taking place by a person or persons walking past the “dance” booth that Dick and Bubbles occupied.

“Lets hear it one more time for Afro-desssssssiaaaaaa. How about that haircut eh fellas? That Carpet definitely matches the drapes! Remember its $5 bud light limes aaaaaaalllllllll night looooonnngg! This is the Unicorn Barn where we keep your cocks hard as long as your wallets open! Next on stage is FaaBreezzzzzz!”

“Song started, start sucking.” Says Dick before he takes a sip from his third beer. Following his acquisition of the fresh bag of cocaine from Benny, Dick had made a quick stop at the bar and ordered 6 more tequila shots along with 6 additional beers. So Dick at this point had consumed alcohol and narcotics in the amount of 4 tequila shots, 3 domestic beers, and nearly a gram of Peruvian sourced cocaine (not to mention the 1.5 grams of marijuana and liter of Silent Sam vodka that was shared by Dick, Mick, and Rick at their pre-drink drinking ceremony).

“Why don’t you slide those pants off for me big boy.” Though Bubbles was smiling, anyone who wasn’t as inebriated as Dick could have easily noticed that the smile was insincere since it was the product of furiously clenched teeth, and words she spoke were separated by ox-like nose air exhalations. Nonetheless Dick obliges and soon feels his bare ass come into contact with the unsettlingly warm, and even a bit moist, leather chair. Bubbles crouches in front of Dick’s lap, careful to ensure that the bottom of her high heels are the only thing to make contact with the room (turns out she was a stickler for sanitation after all). She took hold of his non-erect penis and began to massage it to non-non-erection. Dick for his part was tying with all his might to focus on bonering himself but as it turns out, and unfortunately for Dick’s dick, cocaine is a stimulant for only selective human organs.

“Come on baby, get hard for me.”

“Ah… um… yea’ gimmie a sec. Yeah that’s good… keep doing that… hmmm… ahhhh…. Listen just start sucking it, it’ll get there.”

“Listen dude, I’m not gonna suck your cock without a condom on it and I can’t get condom on it while your limp-dicking.”

“I’ll give you an extra 40, just start sucking!”

“… fine.”

By the end of FaBreez’s first song, Dick’s bare ass was dripping cocaine induced sweat onto the already damp leather chair creating a kind of cocktail puddle of foul mystery, presumably but not definitely, ass juices, while Bubbles was hard at work fellating Dick’s flaccid dick.

FaBreez takes her place back on center stage after her short 30-second break. Ass protruded and hands clasped above her hands she awaits the start of her second song with the look of majesty a dog has when it’s pissing in the wind (chin raised and eye’s fluttering).

I know that we are young, and I know that you may love me, but I just can’t be with you like this anymore Alejandro…

“My friend Mick loves this MOTHERFUCKING song!” Sounds Rick’s voice from a few booths away.

“What’s the matter? Why can’t you get hard? What’s your problem?” Bubbles.

“NOTHING! I’m fine jeez! Maybe it’s because you suck at sucking dick huh? Ever think of that? Fuck! Goddamn, listen sorry baby, I drank a lot tonight. Listen just turn around and bend over. Here lemme do a line of coke off your ass. It’ll sober me up and I’ll be good to go, I promise baby. You can do one too babe come on please. Please!”

“Ugh! Forget it, I’m done here! Your dick smells like fucking cottage cheese anyways. So fucking gross!”

“SHE WAS ON A DIET!”

“Huh? What are you talking about you fucking creep! Just give me my $100 and get the fuck out of here.”

“What! Why the fuck would I give you any money? You didn’t do your part. We had an agreement, a contract, I ain’t giving you shit!”

“This isn’t a fucking courtroom you loser. Besides it’s not my fault you couldn’t get your stinky fucking rod up!”

“That’s it, I’m fucking outta here!”

Don’t call my name, don’t call my name ALEJANDRO, I’m not your babe, I’m not your babe FERNANDO…

Bubbles screams out, “BENNNYYYY!” and Dick gets up and pulls the velvet curtain aside before pulling his pants up over his bare ass. Upon stepping out of the “dance” booth Dick’s face, specifically the bridge of his nose, is greeted by Benny’s scarred, hairy, heavy-knuckled (though impeccably manicured) fist, driven by the full weight of his 237-pound frame.

CRUNCH… crunch

The first crunch is sound of Dick’s nose being pulverized and is quite audible. Though to Dick’s fortune he had accidentally stumbled upon the art of auto-anesthetization (due to his unrestrained consumption of alcohol and cocaine) so he felt virtually no pain at all. The second almost unheard (except to Bubbles and Dick), is the sound of Dick staggering backwards, the bare cheeks of his less-than-sanitary ass engulfing Bubbles face, who is still crouching from earlier, and driving her head into the sweaty, swamp-ass, mystery juice leather chair. The crunch then, muffled as it is, is the sound of Bubbles nose breaking; a sort of chain reaction of nasal destruction.

“BEH-Y WHAT THE FUCK!” says Dick. Rick and ShaQweela stick their heads out from a private “dance” booth down the same hall to investigate the commotion (Rick’s head protruding from a lower point from behind the curtain than ShaQweela’s, raising the question of what exactly was going on in that booth). Rick gives Dick a perplexed look and comments “PUSSY?”

“Sorry fellers, gonna hafta give yer the boot.” As he tries to determine what has happened to Bubbles, Benny is still poised with his fist raised. He speaks hesitantly and with a bit of confusion, almost but not quite sounding like what a man would sound like if he was saying something like, “Oh God, what have I done!”

“Whatever Beh-y, last tibe I buy fro- you!” Dick was having some trouble annunciating, partly because of the loss of structure in the bones of his nose and partly because of the steady stream of blood falling from it. From Bubbles was heard a quiet and muffled weeping. She has not yet raised her head from the sweaty, ass-swamp leather.

Rick says his goodbyes to ShaQweela and offers his regrets that he wasn’t able to finish. ShaQweela for her part graciously refuses to accept any money from Rick explaining, “Boiii, yo’ did more fo’ me than me fo’ yo’! Yo’ brin dat lil’ ass-munchin’ mowff back anytime ya’ hear!” and with a wink and an ass grope, Rick and Dick are on their way.

As they head down the narrow black-lit steps, Dick surveys his surroundings through bleary eyes and the neon glow of black-lit cum stains muraled on the walls and floor create for Dick a kind of dreamscape of debauchery. He decides he is going to need a particularly large dose of cocaine to straighten himself out. Past the red velvet curtain Rick and Dick reconvene with Mick who has his arms draped over the back of his chair and with one leg pushing against the edge of the table so his chair is balanced on two legs. This is a feat that is in no way achievable by someone who is high on cocaine so it was quite evident that Mick and possible Rick and Dick as well, were all coming down off the high.

“JeeeeSUS Dick, what the fuck happened to you?!” Says Mick when he turns away from the young lady on stage who was slowly pulling her pink satin panty’s out of the intimate opening of another young lady, whose own panty’s one could only imagine the location of.

“Dunno Mick, but Benny gave us the boot. Chug your beer, lets get the fuck outta here.” Rick says as he watches the young ladies on stage reverse roles and a new pair of purple satin panties emerges from the nether regions of young lady number two.

“Fucki-g cu-t!” In reference to Bubbles.

“Dick you shouldn’t be talking man, doesn’t your face fucking hurt?” Rick.

“-o, the cocai-e ubbed my face.”

“Did you score any more?”

“Yis, less go to the car.”

“Alright lemme just pay for the fish. It was fucking delicious by the way.”

“Man fuck that!” says Rick, and further “We got the boot, who pays after getting the boot? Lets just fuck off!”

“Hol- o-, lebbee take a selbie firse.”

“Are you fucking serious Dick, where the hell are you gonna post this?” says Rick in bewilderment.

“I-stagrab! You wab-a know how to get followers? Dis is how righ- here. Crazy e-gagebebt.”

“Engagement?” Rick asks in clarification. Dick nods quickly sending a few globs of blood into Micks empty plate of fish and chips.

“Dick knows his business Rick. Shock value gets you followers. Followers get you pussy. It’s displayed value man, it’s economics.” Mick.

“Is no- ego-obics you re-ard! Is all in the hash-ags.” Dick slants the screen of his phone towards Rick (difficult to see as there were numerous blood-colored, thumb-print shaped splotches all over it). The list of hashtags attached to a picture of Dick looking up at the camera with a shattered nose and blood-smeared face with a quarter of Rick’s head and the back of Mick’s head (he was again transfixed by the spectacle on stage, which now consisted of the two young ladies putting larger and more misshapen items into unmentionable places) are as follows; #BoysNight #FriendsTilTheEnd #RideOrDie #GotMyBack #BrokenNose #Warrior #Battlescar #FucksGiven? #Zero #ToAHundred #RealFast #ComeAtMeBro #KeepIt100 #NoHardFeels #Forgiveness #WhatGoesAroundComesAround #Karma #Truth #… #YouThoughtIWasDoneButI’mJustGettingStarted #UnicornHunters #RockHard #RockSteady #RockBottom? #NotEvenClose #Dicktation #TheDicktum

After attempting to decipher Dick’s onslaught of hastags, Rick quickly gives up and the three amigos make their departure from the renowned and infamous Unicorn Barn.

“Unicorns don’t sleep Gentleman, so we’re open alllllll night loooooongggg! As long as your wallet’s open and your cock’s hard stick aro—“ The heavy steel door shuts close behind Mick who is the last one out, rendering the sounds of nudity, and arousal from that nudity, mute. Once seated in Mick’s Kia Sorento reflection and conjecture ensue.

“Lemme see the coke.” Says Mick to start.

“Ere.” Grunts Dick as he hands it off.

“For fucks sake can you put a clog in your fucking nose Dick? You’re getting blood all over the fucking place.”

“Gibbe sobthig the- asshole!”

“I think he’s asking for a Kleenex or something Mick.” Rick clarifies. Mick points to the glove compartment as he begins to chip off small pieces from the newly purchased 1-gram cocaine rock with the edge of his credit card, and then crushes them into a fine powder with the flat back side of the card. “Say Dick, how are you gonna do a line if your nose won’t stop bleeding?” Rick asked inquisitively as he was rummaging through the glove compartment. When he found the box of Kleenex he turned around to offer it to Dick and was met by a face struck with the look of perplexed horror.

“FUUUUUCCKKKK! How ab I suppose to do a fuckig li-e if by ose wot stop bleedig?” Clearly panicked, Dick quickly layers a few sheets of tissue, raises them to his face and attempts to blow the blood from his nose. Of course, as any medical professional would tell you, applying pressure to a broken nose does nothing but aggravate the injury further so Dick’s plan A was a bust.

“Fucking relax Dick! You’re getting blood on the coke! Jesus man, what the fuck is wrong with you? Didn’t that hurt? Christ just plug your damn nose with the fucking Kleenex.” Mick screams as he rearranges the three lines away from the drop of blood that landed on Lady Gaga, Fame Monster CD cover.

Dick, with a solemn look of melancholy removes a few more tissues and holds them in his hands. Just as Mick straightens up and snorts some air after doing his portion of the coke, Dick is struck with a novel idea.

“Put by coke ib the Kee-ex! Put it ib the Klee-ex!” Mick and Rick are looking at Dick with understandably confused faces. Dick snatches the CD cover and carefully transfers the leftmost line into the center of a square sheet of tissue. He then bundles the tissue into a small wad and with a look of absolute delight, shoves the wad into his right nostril.

“You’re a fucking mad man Dick.” Mick says to Dick with look of mirrored satisfaction.

“I’b a gebius!” Using a portion of Rick’s line, Dick preforms a similar ritual with his left nostril. Rick beings breaking a bit more of the rock for himself. “Is workig, I’b gettig a drip!”

Rick finishes arranging his line. He tightens up the hundred-dollar bill, lowers his head, sucks air through his nostril like a Dyson vacuum, but instead of jolting upright and ritualistically sorting in a few more gulps of breath for good measure, he stays slumped down (as most cocaine connoisseurs will tell you, this is quite strange because the jolting upward part of snorting a line is not so much an optional component but more of a physical necessity. The initial sensation of “bucking” a line has among other things an effect that rockets through your spine, leaving it very temporarily rigid and erect. That being said, Mick and Dick were a little worried when Rick stayed slumped).

“Rick. Hey, you alright man.” Mick shakes Rick’s shoulder.

“Yea…” Mick and Dick’s primary fear of Rick being dead were at least put to rest, but a new set of concerns are raised, when Rick having finally straightened up and with watery eyes and a single tear navigating it’s way down his cheek he asks, “Are you guys happy?”

“What? You mean like right now? Yeah I guess so, Rick what the fucks wrong with you man.”

“No, no I don’t mean right now… I mean like always. Like are you happy? You know what I mean? Like happy, like actually happy?” Rick was having a hard time conveying what exactly he meant by “happy”, and Mick a person who was usually extremely uncomfortable around genuine emotion, adhered to his usual character and turned his attention to doling out 3 more servings of the white stuff. Dick on the other hand, having drunk the most alcohol of the three, and whose shattered nose offered a direct route into the bloodstream for the cocaine, was in a state of mind of profound philosophical inquiry and analysis. He looks Rick dead in the eyes and begins;

“Appy… Lebbe tell ya Rick, appi-ess is the biggess fuckig illusio-, the biggess lie ever told. Whez the lass tibe you rebebber bee-ig happy? I cat for the life of be rebebber. Is like this barely beborable –ostal-ia like thig. Like right at the tips of your figers, like a word o- the tip of your to-gue that you just cat fuckig rebebber. Is the ed of the rai-bow, the carrot daglig ib frot of the horse. Appi-ess is’t sobthig you cat actually have Rick, is a abstractio-. Is a bebory of sobthig you ever had Rick. Is fuckig de ja vu. You see the i-ea of appi-ess everywhere you fuckig look, that’s why thikig about appi-ess drives you fuckig isae Rick. You see all these people i- bovies ad on B.V. spy-lig ad acting appy, is just so they ca sell you sobthig Rick. They’re actors Rick. They preted that they foud that thig that everyoe’s lookig for so you’ll ope your fuckig wallet ad shell out a few weeks paycheck o- a phoe or a watch or a fuckig diabod ecrusted shoelace. Sabe as the ripshow Rick. You think those rippers i- there actually wat to dry hub ad blow ad fuck ugly otherfuckers like us all day log? No fuckig way Rick! You’re kiddig yourself if you thik that’s what’s go-ig o- i- there Rick. Those wobe- are a busi-ess, they’re sellig the illusio- of appi-ess just like everyoe else. You wat appy Rick? Appy is shuttig off your brai Rick. Appy is ig-o-rig yourself, is ivestig i- the illusio Rick. You wat appy Rick? Trust be, appy is a bobent like this righ here. Appy is doing sob good coke, gettig your dick wet, and shootig the shit with your pals Rick. Lebbe tell yea Rick, if you ai’t appy righ now, you ai’t ever goa be appy. This is as close to appy as you’ll ever get. “

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“Dick… I have no idea what the fuck you just said.”

Thoughts from the Train

A brick of ice forms in the pit of my stomach and a hornet’s hive comes alive in the back of my head. My eyes are pointed down into the palms of my hands. The train rattles past graffiti smothered buildings and wilted trees. The sun sets slowly over a lifeless suburbia. I look into the palms of my hands and shut my eyes and breath in a deep breath.

The beginning of my day is much like the end. In the light of early dawn the weight of the train falls onto the rails, which in turn put their weight onto the planks. This relation gives rise to rhythmic language of commerce;

“tick.tick.tick.tick.tick.tick.tick.tick…”

The noise is muted but alive, and it communicates the arrival of a city; a metropolis in which the wheels of capitalism turn, unhindered by any protest.

The silent eyes of half-conscious minds are focused out the windows or on the illuminated screens of laptops and cellphones. I myself find my eyes looking into the palms of my hands, the light of the dawn sun casting itself onto them. There’s nothing especially note worthy about my hands, but they provide a place to look, so that is where I look. The woman next to me is overweight and her fat floods over the armrest pushing me closer against the window. The man in front of me is unnaturally tall so his legs occupy most of the space between us, pushing me further into my seat.

The train shutters to stop. The fat lady and tall man get up and begin to file out with the rest of the passengers. I sit a while and look out the window. Too many people on too small a platform, shuffling forward in penguin steps, bottle-necking their way to the stairs, which are also too small.

Watching ants climb in and out of an anthill always seemed like an interesting thing to me. These seemingly mindless insects moved by some guiding force that seems bigger than them, of which they couldn’t possibly have an understanding. As I look down at the platforms, the parallels become unsettling.

I must eventually will myself to get up and join them. In the terminal the penguin steps continue, this time in lines to get more train tickets, information desks, but far and above the longest lines file back from coffee shops. I suppose people need some kind of stimulation before exiting the terminals and facing the daunting prospect of a new work day.

The city itself is something to speak of. I do not see things in such a Fitzgeraldian way. To me there is no glamour or shimmering aura of magnificence radiating from this cesspool. The apparent truth is that this place is empty. Not in a physical sense, because materially this place flourishes. There are things everywhere. The emptiness comes from something else, of which I have no words to communicate. The physical is something that can be explained, and from that perhaps you will know what I mean when I say “empty”.

Putrid smells invade the nostrils as noise of indeterminable origin penetrates the eardrums like a blitzkrieg. Buildings graduate above each other in what appears to be an infinite procession, chopping and screwing the rays of the sun so they fall in columns of blinding light. Life exists in three primary forms: human beings, pigeons, and insects. Perhaps these are the only creatures resilient enough to bear the weight of the air of the downtown core. Perhaps all other life is wise enough to realize that this is no way for life to exist.

What this place lacks in an abundance of species variety however, it makes up for in concrete structures. So much so that the common unit of measure for navigation is a “block”. A block of concrete no doubt. Buildings are erected in all directions for miles, providing the perfect environment for a claustrophobic purgatory. If one dares to look up a powerful feeling of vertigo is likely to strike, and this matched with the sensation that the building are falling down onto you can leave a stomach as weak as mine nauseated. I keep my eyes down.

Within the buildings themselves it can only be guessed at what goes on. The idea, I believe is that by entering them on a daily basis for 8 hour durations, you will somehow create purpose in your life. Something of value lies within these walls, something that is great but cannot be spoken about.

To me these building are not monuments of human greatness; they are epitaphs of corruption and envy. They are the tombstones of a people who imagined greatness in a vague way. People who believed that they were laying the foundations of what would one day be a Utopia of human existence. To see the manifestation of their efforts now seems a crime of injustice. A dream that was to reach higher in one’s station, to be more than what one was, is now a contorted and dismembered reality. We do not climb higher to touch the heavens; rather we are in a perpetual and everlasting rat race. The ideal is not to better oneself, but to be better than the other. A great friend and thinker likened the mentality to “crabs in a bucket”, clawing and climbing above one another, with no cognitive awareness that the bucket cannot be escaped.

What then of the people; those with silent eyes and half-conscious minds? They have now gone a step further and become dead-eyed and unconscious. Automatons guided by the language of commerce. They enter the infinitely graduated epitaphs and claw at each other to reach the top floors, while those at the top look down and think what? I would like to imagine that they are happy, for then the rat race has a finish line, and the wheels of capitalism turn for a reason, but I doubt that is the case. I imagine that they look down at the rest of us and envy our naivety. Believing as we do, that they have achieved something worthwhile, while they know that the top floor of the building is as empty as the first. The view only serves as a daily reminder of how far they have climbed away from their humanity. How far they have climbed for absolutely no reason.

I’ve spent time in the woods, the great Canadian forests. With not another person for miles in every direction, you are in all objective terms alone. But even still, there exists a natural attunement of life, in which, what you believed to be passive life begins to act and react to your movement, right down to the air that you breath. As you move through the ancient forests, the trees speak to a forgotten part of your soul, and likewise that shattered and forgotten part of yourself forms together again and speaks back.

In this concrete hell, if you can manage to choke out half a breath, it would surprise you to see any sort of reaction whatsoever. To be sure, you are surrounded by movement, by teeming active life forces. Yet in the company of humanity, pigeons, and insects, the transparency of your own solipsism becomes a stark reality. As you move through the crowds, the lack of recognition, of reaction, from anyone or anything serves only to push you further inside of yourself. A swirling mass of strangers who push you aside so they can get to someplace more important. To do something more important. You are nothing. You are an object in the way.

“MOVE!”

On my way back from work I always pass the same building. A man, or what remains of what is usually called a man, lays slumped against the concrete wall that forms the foundation of this building. He lays slumped in a puddle of his own urine as yellow, viscous mucus drools from his mouth. On the other side of this wall is one of the most elite and prestigious Italian eateries in the entire city. Within its walls you will see many middle-aged socialites draped in the skins of slaughtered animals sipping poison from thin-stemmed glasses with their pinkies protruded in a comically cliché fashion. The man slumped against the wall rattles from violent tremors as the socialites throw there heads back and let loose a sound that can only be described as a chortle. I say chortle because laughter is organic and this noise is anything but organic. It is meticulously crafted so that the pitch and timbre of every exhalation of breath communicates amiable camaraderie that masks an unmistakable derision. Hatred painted on smiling faces.

What can be said of this dichotomy? Viewing the dividing line as clearly as this, makes the Marxian ideals seem like a necessity. Why should some have so much, to the point where they have the luxury of faking laughter and enjoyment, when others live in a hellish reality of urine, mucus, and tremors? Who gave those socialites leave to be happy? Did I? Who allowed the remains of a human to lie on the cold concrete, shaking violently, dying, while people who wear shoes more expensive than the dying man’s entire life, step over him and scoff. Did I?

Distractions are useful because they pull my attention away from things I’d rather not think about, and downtown has many distractions. Some are nice, like the beautiful woman who walks through me to get to someplace more important than I. Or the domesticated puppy that can only survive in this concrete hell because of the magnanimity of its owner, whose generosity extends only to puppies and not dying bums. But that seems logical doesn’t it? Because puppies are bastions of joy and love, where as human beings are vicious, narrow-minded monsters.

I need to hurry or else I’ll miss my train. If I don’t get to the train station by 7:00pm the train conductor will close the doors of the train and leave without me. Then I would have to take the bus, which will leave at a later time and won’t take me as close to my house. Then I have to find a way to get from the bus stop to my house, which could take an hour more than my usual schedule. If I lose an hour today, it will bleed over into tomorrow morning and then tomorrow will be a bad and exhausting day. That’s why I need to make my train. That’s why I leave a violently ill human being dying in a puddle of urine.

I must stay vigilant and be careful to keep distracted, because a mind like mine, if given leave to wander, will begin to internalize the constant inadequacies of this world. And when this happens, the homeless man with tremors, who drools and sleeps in puddles of his own urine, is there because I put him there. His pain then becomes my own, and it makes the train seems less important. At first it is a sadness that manifests itself as a block of ice in the pit of my stomach. But I force myself to remember that my train is more important than that bum. Who is he to me? Then the sadness quickly changes to a profound rage and the ice melts in fire.

I hate that stupid fucking human trash!

He should get the fuck up and move out of people’s way!

He should get up and go jump into the fucking river and kill himself!

Better yet I’ll fucking kill him, the lousy piece of shit…

Pain is a potent emotion. Capable of great things, but also of forging a debilitating mindset. The world I see is the one I create. Meaning and value come from within. Pain is of the perceiver, and it is a conscious and exhausting effort to close your mind to the ever-present, all-encompassing pain of this place. From the sunken, dead eyes of those who walk through me, to the downtrodden bums who are dying in their own urine, to even the hollow, manufactured chortles of the pointed-pinky socialites.

But eventually I move past this all and set foot on the train again, and I find my seat amongst the lifeless automatons, who by this point have found some semblance of consciousness again. They turn their minds back on because here at the end of their day they can begin to think about the things they truly care for. A wife or husband, son or daughter, a book or video game, any kind of hobby that brings some kind of fulfillment or meaning to their lives.

I find myself wanting to speak to one of these conscious people, of whom there is none of in the concrete hell. Hello sir or madam, what to you feel or think? Don’t the smells suffocate you? Don’t the people infuriate you? Does the city evoke an unimaginable sadness in you?

Because it does for me…

But I stay quiet. Because you’re suppose to be quiet.

People are tired, and whether or not they think as I do is irrelevant. This is their time to think their thoughts. It is not my privilege to preach to these people. I must remain silent and keep my thoughts to myself. Even if those thoughts bring forth an unimaginable sadness. Even if they plague me with anxiety and fear and agony and anguish. As I sit on the train and a block of ice forms in the pit of my stomach, and as a nest of hornets build their home in the back of my head, I close my eyes and breath deep. It helps sometimes to melt the ice and shoo the hornets.

Most of the time it doesn’t.

Solace of Slaves

He inclines his head and watches the sun that had been burning his skin at last begin its descent. The shackles that bind his neck and wrists to the stone block behind him have begun to tear into his flesh despite the calloused skin they are wielded onto. The stone is the purpose of his existence. Moving it forward is the master’s command. The shadow of the master’s whip-man is the only thing to block out the sun and it was an unreliable shadow. Like a scorpion atop a mountain of prey, the whip-man lashes out at the toiling and boiling men, disrupting the soothing cool his shadow provided for the few who were lucky enough to fall beneath it. He is wise enough to avoid the eyes of the scorpion so he walks with his head bowed.

The same man, in a different time and place, raises his eyes to inspect the time on the monitor of his company’s computer. Quarter to five, nearly time to leave and the sound of the assistant managers footsteps echo through the office. He’s a newly graduated 20 something year old who doesn’t know his head from his ass but he managed to secure employment through family connections. The assistant manager stops behind him.

It is disrespectful show your back to superiors and so he is wise enough to make eye contact.

“I need you to stay late tonight. We need those files by tomorrow morning and there are some major gaps that need to be filled in.”

“Not a problem sir.” Although in truth he wants nothing more than to leave the labyrinth of cubicles he is lost in.

“Good man.” Says the twenty-something twat and saunters off.

 

He would have sweat if there was enough moisture in his body to produce perspiration, but there wasn’t. He would have died if there weren’t enough water in his body to cling to life, but there was. His being had morphed to meet the reality of his situation. A husk with muscles like tangled ropes that had enough force to move the stone; no more, no less. Lofty ideas have no home in his head. The scope of his concern is limited to the next step; no more, no less.

 

He reaches into the top right drawer of his work desk and pulls out a small container of prescription pills. Carefully removing two he places the lid back onto the bottle and puts it back into the drawer next to a similar sized bottle. He rotates his right wrist, which produces an unnatural cracking noise. A similar occurrence follows when he rotates the left. Carpal tunnel causes the cracks, and the container holds the cure. As for the cause he has no care.

He removes the second bottle and takes a single pill from it. “Prescribed for the Heart”, the heaving in his chest as he swallows stale air is the symptom of the syndrome. High levels of stress have left his heart weak and woeful.

There is a third bottle that sits upon his bed’s nightstand. Upon the third container is inscribed, “Prescribed for Insomnia”, and underneath and unread “Do not take if suffering from heart disease.”

The cause of these ailments has eluded him. He considers himself lucky that the company medical benefits mitigate the costs of these medications.

The neon light of the fuzzy screen strains his eyes and he wishes he said, “No sir, I can’t stay late.” Try as he might, he has not the fight to say what he wants. The neon light of the screen washes over his face, revealing the sunken eyes set in pale withered skin.

He needs to motivate his mind to stay focused. “No skin off my back” he mumbles.

 

The whip comes down and tears a crimson gash across his back, slicing skin and sinew. “Move faster!” the whip-holding scorpion screams. The rattling of shackles and shuffling of feet respond.

He moves one foot ahead of the other grips the rope and positions it firmly over his right shoulder. Then he pushes forward with a force that can only be summoned by the fear of the scorpion’s sting. His muscles wrinkle and writhe underneath his sunburnt and scared flesh, and the stone block behind him inches forward.

“Extra rations to the man who makes three more trips before nightfall!” shouts the scorpion. The rations are the fuel for the futile, feeding fools to forward blocks of stone for reasons forbidden to know. But these thoughts evade the simple minds of shackled men, and the scorpion’s lash ensures the simpletons stay dedicated to the task at hand.

He is simple and so succumbs to what the scorpion says. And so the strain of the rope on his shoulders intensifies. The strain of the chains around his neck and wrists intensifies. The strain of his muscles against his skin intensifies and he groans forward.

 

The clock goes “tick, tock”

The keys go “click, clack”

His wrists go “crack, crack”

He stares at the computer screen trying to decipher the meaningless jumble of words and numbers. His life’s work. The meaningless purpose of his life. And as he toils away at his meaningless task, and the repetitive drum of the computers keys echo’s through the empty labyrinth of cubicles, he thinks of the peace of the nights sleep he has to look forward to. A shelter of solitude that wards away the worries of the world. The roof that will remain as long as the payments are made. The payments that will be made as long as the paycheck is paid. The paycheck that will be paid as long as the work is done. The work that will be done as long as…

The clock goes “tick, tock”

The keys go “click, clack”

And the wrists go “crack, crack”

 

The stone block has made it to its destination. No applause and no ceremony accompany its arrival aside from the ritualistic clatter of chains as they fall to the ground when man and stone are at last separated.

For a moment he allows his head to be unbowed as he watches the sun complete it’s decent and is displaced by the darkness of night. As he shuffles to his sleeping chambers the shackles that squeeze his neck and wrists seems softer. His skin, which is burnt and cracked, begins to heal itself in anticipation of another sunrise. But before that dismal dawn he has in front of him a night of bliss. The scorpion does not hunt at night and so the prey can rest.

He lays his head upon the stone floor of the prison he calls home. A prison built by shackled men long deceased. He imagines the shackled men who will sleep on the stones he dragged across burning sands. Soon sleep takes him and he settles into the serenity that will last as long as the sun stays set, as long as the scorpion stays sedated.

As long as the masters whip stays still, the sanctity of sleep is the solace of slaves.

Connection or Consumption: The Modern Dating Paradigm

I do not like shopping. Coincidently I also do not like dating. Whether or not these two things have any relation to one another is a question I find myself asking more and more frequently. For some reason the same boredom that descends upon me when I walk by the neon lights and skimpy mannequins that litter the shopping malls, also seems to arise when I am in the process of meeting a new person, and then even more so when I find myself on a date with one of those people. The frustrating consequence of this boredom is that I find it very difficult to connect with new people, and so in an attempt to solve this problem I have outlined the reasons as to why I believe it occurs. The first thing that needs to be clarified however is what exactly a date is.

Now there is no definition carved in stone but I suppose a blanket definition could be framed in the following way; a date is the process by which you form a relation with a new person for the intended purpose of eventual sexual relations. This definition is obviously exclusive for dates of the romantic variety. Also the definition meets what I believe to be the necessary components of a date. One could conceivable be looking for a more meaningful relationship through dating but the common starting point (the biological basis if you prefer) of all dates is the desire to have sex. So focusing on our definition and for our specific kind of date I think that we have something that works. You meet somebody new that you would like to see again because something in your body is telling you that you would not mind ending up naked in a soft cushy place with that person. So you ask them on a date – what’s next?

Well most people are not exactly comfortable stripping naked in front of a person they hardly know. There may be some biological or sociological basis for this; I’m not a biologist or a sociologist so I’m not going to offer any half-baked theories. The point stands though, that people would rather wait until they are comfortable with their new romancer before they decide to have sex with them. They want to get to know the new date-ee, where they’re from, what they like, what kind of person they are, and perhaps once these questions have been answered and the thirst of curiosity has been satisfied, copulation will commence.

These questions that are asked are a kind a probing technique that is used flush out similarities and differences between either people. More similarities often, but not always, lead to the two parties to like one another. When people engage in the dating game and find someone they “like”, what they seem to being saying is that they enjoy the personality of their newfound companion. If they like the person’s personality, the game may move forward. If not the date will end and the two people will not speak to one another again (Of course there are a multitude of other possible outcomes but for simplicities sake lets limit it to these two.) What then is a personality, this thing that has so much bearing on the outcome of a date.

Of course I am in no position to state unequivocally what exactly a personality is. Philosophers have been bickering over the concept for ages and are far from coming up with a universally accepted definition. But since this is an article about dating and dating often forces people to face existential crisis’, I will defer to the superior wisdom of existential thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, who delved deeply into the questions of consciousness and its relation to the world as well as other people. Adopting the idea of intentional consciousness (a concept created by Edmund Husserl and forwarded by Martin Heidegger) Sartre outlines his philosophy of consciousness. Essentially, for Sartre consciousness cannot exist independent from an object of consciousness. That is to say a person’s consciousness cannot become aware of itself unless it is focused on something external to itself. I am only aware of my consciousness of some thing when my consciousness becomes aware of that very same thing. In the absence of any external object on which my consciousness can intend itself, it would have no way of realizing itself. I don’t know how many other ways to describe Sartre’s conception of consciousness. If you are dissatisfied with my shortened explanation I invite you to read through the tome that is “Being and Nothingness”. The point I am trying to make here is that seeing as how our consciousness cannot exist without external objects, it stands to reason that those objects (whatever they may be) have a profound influence on the formation of consciousness, and in turn personality.

If you are still having trouble grasping Sartre’s theory, I will offer my own simplified idea of what a personality is, just to streamline the discussion a tad. I say that a personality is simply what a person chooses to do. That is to say, when confronted with any given choice, the choice you actually make is the manifestation of your personality. When given the choice to show cruelty or compassion in any given situation, the choice you ultimately make will determine whether you are a cruel or compassionate person. Similarly when given the choice to either see a movie or go to a museum on a first date, your choice will reflect your personality. Even your decisions to respond in certain ways to certain things is a representation of your personality. Laughing at a crude joke instead of scoffing for example may make you appealing to certain kinds of people and vulgar to other kinds. In this way I think my definition could be summarized by saying that a personality is nothing more than a summation of the choices it makes.

If you accept my definition – or Sartre’s – then we can move on to determine what conclusions can be drawn from it. To start I think its fair to say that a personality can become more diverse in light of more choices. The fact that two different people are able to make two separate choices is what distinguishes their personalities from one another. Put in other terms, personalities differ in light of there being more than one object of intention. That our consciousnesses are able to be aware of more than one thing gives rise to a multiplicity of choice (and according to Sartre, limitless freedom), and it is within this sandbox of choice and freedom that differing personalities emerge. These days we are faced with no shortage of choices. Things from past ages (e.g. clothing, diet, place of residence), which were never in a person’s hand to choose, have now become basic staples in our daily decisions. At first sight this may seem like a good thing. More choices mean more diverse personalities, which in turn means more interesting people to meet. Lets see if this is actually the case.

In his book “A Sacred Balance” David Suzuki devotes a potion of his first chapter to describing the consumption habits of the North American populace. He throws out some startling statistics. For example the average American child is exposed to 40 000 commercials a year, in 1987 the number of shopping malls in America exceeded the number of schools, we can choose from 25 000 supermarket items, 200 kinds of cereal, 11 000 kinds of magazines. Now I realize that these are outdated statistics but I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say that with the exception of magazines, all of those numbers have gone up. If you do a simple Google search on the first statistic for example you will receive results that show the average person sees around 5000 commercial a day (If you do the math that puts the current numbers well above 40 000 a year). Suzuki’s aim in reporting these statistics is to direct our attention to the dangers these habits have in relation to the environment, but I would argue that they carry just as much weight when talking about human relations. These numbers are so staggeringly high that it’s a wonder that people have time to do anything besides look at advertisements. These are the choices that form the landscape of our personalities. It is through purchases and interactions with the free market that we become aware of ourselves. If you doubt that this is true think about the bulk of your daily decisions. How many things do you do that depend on choosing one commercial brand over another? How often do you cruise the internet for things you would like to own? How many things have you purchased this week alone? If I am correct then the disheartening consequence is that our choices (the means by which we create ourselves) are devalued. Choosing what kind of cereal you eat for breakfast seems insignificant when compared to a choice of true character value. The bulk of our daily decisions are oriented to the way in which we interact with the free market and so the bulk of our personalities are derived from the marketplace. Not often are we forced to decide whether we wish to be cruel or compassionate, which seems like a decision that has more worth than the style of shoes you decide to wear. That is not to say that the decisions of worth have ceased to exist, only rather that they are few and far between.

Let me offer an example to illustrate how much advertising influences our conceptions of value. Imagine two different mothers serving their children dinner. By what benchmarks can you determine which mother is the better mother in this scenario? A few hundred years ago it used to be the case that simply being able to put food on the table would qualify you as a good mother. The case is not so simple now. Suppose one mother buys a brand of chicken that is advertised as healthier than the alternative. She also uses organic locally grown vegetables. The other mother uses cheaper meats and frozen vegetables. Is if fair to say the one of these mothers is better than the other? Perhaps not, but for some reason it still feels as if the mother who is willing to spend more on the good meat and veggies cares more for her children than her opponent. Why is this?

Perhaps it could be argued that people are too intelligent to allow their consumption habits to have any tremendous impact on their identity, and maybe you feel as if there is no significant difference between the two mothers above. The thoughts of contemporary thinker John Waide may shed some light on this argument. Waide describes what he calls associative advertising; in essence the substitution of non-market goods (e.g. love, self-esteem, etc.) for market goods (e.g. clothes, cars, jewelry, etc.). Advertisements grant us false promises of climbing Maslow’s proverbial pyramid with little to no work. All we need is a bit of cash. Waide further argues that this does harm to the cultivation of valuable human virtues that work to bring people together on a deeper level. I suppose I don’t have to bring forward a series of examples on how deeply advertising affects our lives. To say the least a lot more young men would still have three months salary if it weren’t for a genius marketing ploy by Debeer’s diamonds. The popular T.V. series Mad Men offers an interesting glance behind the scenes during the golden age of advertising and although many of the taglines and commercials seem gimmicky and superficial, their effects are insidiously far reaching. In one of my favorite moments in the show, the lead man Don Draper presents his marketing campaign to automobile manufacturer Jaguar. After a poetically delivered story about a man looking at a desirable woman from afar (with no chance of getting her) Don ends his presentation with the tag line, “Jaguar, at last something beautiful that you can truly own”.

Waides theory may also be applied to my case involving the two mothers. There is perhaps nothing intrinsically superior about the expensive foods mother, but the advertising behind the foods she serves her children lights the idea in our mind that she cares more for her children. We associate the value of a good mother with the brand and labeling of the foods she serves her children. Waide himself makes use of the same kinds of examples as Mr. Draper presentation, explaining how something like a new and expensive car is inexorable tied in with the self-esteem of the person driving it. It is an objective manifestation of our need to strive ahead, to be better than we were, to get to where we want to be. Of course this is a far cry from the kind of development that was urged by, say the different schools of Greek philosophy, or the kind that comes from religious and spiritual introspection, or even from reflection on scientific or mathematic anomalies.

Seeing as how the topic of this paper is dating, it might seem as if I have gone off topic, but I assure you the tangent was necessary. If we combine the ideas forwarded by Suzuki and Waide we have what I believe to be the general outline of the modern dating game. Recall now how personalities are formed in light of the choices we make, and also how the bulk of our choices take place in the free-market. Finally recall how the things we buy in the free market contort our conception of valuable human virtues, making us believe that we have cultivated or achieved something deeply important simply by making a purchase. Do you see the picture I’m trying to paint? If so let’s add another dimension to the problem. How exactly does technology and social media fit into this hodgepodge of ideas?

It’s fascinating how the human mind adapts itself to its environment so quickly, especially when given an outlet to do so. Monkey see, monkey do was never more appropriate than to describe how people advertise themselves on social media. These outlets allow people to showcase themselves as they would like to be seen and not necessarily as what they actual are. The ancient story of Echo and Narcissus comes to mind whenever I think about how people create online profiles. For those of you who don’t know who Narcissus is, he was hailed as the most beautiful man who ever lived, so beautiful in fact that he withered into death while staring at a reflection of himself in a well. Our online personas are perhaps not as beautiful as that but our ability to meticulously craft them however we wish does lead to an obsession of a like kind. Many of the free-market choices we make in our lives can be transferred online easily, simply by liking whatever it is you chose to buy, or following whatever it is that interests you, be it music, movies, T.V. shows, whatever. Then photos, which are most often overly flattering, can be added to round out the picture of what we are all about. From there dating applications such as Tinder can condense the information and present it to potential consumers – I mean relationship partners, and from there it’s a simple flick right or left to find true love.

The term “Market yourself” is thrown around often these days and it seems a shame that no one stops to analyze the consequences of colloquializing such a term. Of course it has a practical sense in gaining employment or presenting an image in a business environment, but the practice of “Marketing yourself” is bound to bleed over into other aspects of your life. In essence what we are being told to do is to mold an image that may not have anything to do with our own favored conception of what we wish to be, but rather something that has mass appeal. Instead of cultivating beautiful and sublime personalities we are told to present crude and simplistic caricatures if we wish to get ahead. Instead of striving for the Mona Lisa we have settled for Saturday morning cartoons. And that’s my grating conclusion, that we have forgone a deeper understanding of ourselves in place of presenting an amicable surface. We strive to shine on the outside while we are hollow on the inside. We have sacrificed true human connection at the alter of materialistic consumption.

So what bearing does this all have on my original quandary? Why do the halls of the shopping center evoke the same feelings as the eyes of a prospective new lover? The answer is simply that in both instances I feel the least like myself. In the mall I am bombarded with signals and cues that are telling me that I am not good enough as I am, and that improvement comes from purchases. On a date I feel as though I must take those purchases and implement them in constructing a favourable version of myself. I feel as if I need to be more desirable than I am so I bury any realistic components of myself and spew out a commercialized product. More than that, I feel I lose touch with the person sitting across from, not because they are less than a human but rather because they are attempting to do the same thing as I am. She is promoting an image of herself that she believes will entice me. All I see is clothing and labels, and flash and gimmicks. She see’s the same in me. Perhaps in time these false images start to fade away and a truer connection can begin to form (people do still get married after all), but I have come to find the first few dates so repelling that I rarely, if ever progress to that stage.

The Golden Pistol: A Tale of Poetic Injustice

Gather around readers, gather around and let me tell you a tale that is as old as the day is long, and as timeless as a full tank of gas! There once exists land somewhere, somehow, somewhat, and somewhy. A land with a rich and diverse history that in some ways resembles our own lives.  A strange pseudo reality it is, and it is known by its inhabitants as “Makesbelieveyville”.

Makesbelieveyville; the ancient and futuristic dystopian paradise. Many of the people, places, and events of Makesbelieveyville have little to no relation to logical thinking or even coherence and unity of thought, so before you continue reading I urge you to strip naked and suck a lemon.

There was much oppression in Makesbelieveyville, and its source was, as is always the case, an imbalance of wealth distribution. 20 years prior to the events of this story, the economic situation of Makesbelieveyville quite resembled our own, but during those disastrous times (or wonderful depending on who you ask), the middle class was all but eliminated. What was left was a dichotomy of living standards that could be best described as “shit” on the one hand and “gold” on the other.

On the one hand there were the coal miners. A raggedy bunch they were, not much wealth to go around between the lot of them and so they spent the majority of there lives in squalor with little to no hope for a better station in life. This pack of miserable whelps were made to toil day and night while being supervised by super robots who were not only capable of doing their jobs for them, but also with greater efficiency and precision. This was the case because it served the dual purposes of harvesting coal as well as setting the scene for a highly viewed reality television series titled, “Robo-bitches: Watch Yo’ Back”. For entertainment value the robots were programmed to spontaneously sodomize bent-over workers and the whole affair was filmed in vivid detail. Anyway looking like they did (covered in coal all the time) the coal workers attained the title “poop-look-alikers” or “Poopies” for short.

The brilliant creators of this derogative moniker were of the elite class of society. As was expected the proliferation of internet stupidity destroyed the concept of wit all together, and the most influential people in the world behaved more or less like half-literate baboons. The fashion of the era had evolved into a hybrid dandy-hipster combination. They dressed as if the 18-century British aristocracy had access to smartphones and tablets. Many a man sported curly white wigs and frilly laced shirts with Giorgio Armani sunglasses and Dr. Dre studio headphones. Even more perplexing was their use of the English language, which had also morphed to cohere with the clothing style. Certain sayings such as, “My good sir, you do look ever so swagged out!” where not uncommonly heard (spoken of course in a high pitched British accent).

Anyway, the exact origin of the term “Poopie” is shrouded in mystery but it is commonly believed to have been the brainchild of fashion and language trendsetter A-Darker-Shade-of-Blue Carter, the only begotten child of the Popular music mega couple Jay-b and Zeyoncé. Seeing as though A-Darker-Shade-of-Blue had lived her entire life in a state of extraordinary opulence (and consequently having little to no relatable experience with the majority of the population) it seemed a no brainer for the majority of the population to unquestioningly do what ever she perceived to be in style.

That is not to say that the trendsetter had not seen hard times. The histories of this family are rife with turbulence and despair. You see, her mother Zeyoncé had long concealed the fact that she was a closeted homosexual, and when the pressure of living a lie finally reached its peak she broke down and declared her love of vagina to the world. Soon after, she moved to a remote island and began a society of Amazonian lesbians who spent hours upon hours mastering the arts of belittling men as well as choreographed dance. Jay-b, unable to handle this trauma spiraled into a deep and dark depression. After attempting to undergo a series of failed sex change operations to win back his beloved he finally resigned himself to living out the rest of his days with a blow up doll which had a picture of his ex-wife plastered on the face. To appease the readers curiosity it should be noted that the sex change operations failed because Jay-b’s nuts were simply too big, which ironically used to be a point of pride for the music icon (incidentally this is also why he never wore “skinny jeans”). Perhaps you are thinking that this tangent is inconsequential and has no bearing on the tale of the Golden Pistol but I assure you it is not. These events had such a bearing on the young mind of A-Darker-Shade-of-Blue that all trends she set were in memory of them. As you will see those trends that she set had irrevocable influence on the history of Makesbelieveyville.

But enough about the Dandies and the Poopies, and enough about A-Darker-Shade-of-Blue Carter, this is a story about a particular gold pistol, one that had been passed through the generations of the most elite of the elite families; the Midas family.

Strangely, even in an age with such tremendous resources scarcity (urine filtration devices were common place due to water shortages) the inhabitants of the world still fully embraced the paradox of value, and a useless commodity was still prized for its “yellowy shininess” (I speak of course of gold, not urine). This being the case, it allowed the Midas family to amass tremendous wealth (being as they controlled the totality of gold interests in Makesbelieveyville) and ensure that future generations need never work a day in their lives. In the time this story takes place the heir to the Midas fortune was one Misses Midas, who preferred to be addressed more formally as Mr. Midas.

Mr. Misses Midas had grown up living a life of tremendous ease. He did not have a measly cheap silver spoon as a child, but rather (and quite literally) a gleaming gold one. It is rumoured that Mr. Midas’s life was so tangibly enviable that he received from his beautiful and busty French maid (complete with slutty French maid outfit) the most orgasmic blowjob imaginable, and all this at the tender age of 13. The rumour became so widespread that the Naughty Makesbelieveyville Porn Production Company created a new series entitled, “My Frisky French Maid”.

Most of the time, and in between binge watching seasons of Robo-bitches, Mr. Midas trained vigorously at his favourite video game entitled “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 16”. Quite a controversial and revolutionary game it was. Controversial in the sense that it was released with the tag line “Shoot the Poopies!” and featured a non-fictional story of a Poopie uprising that was subdued two years prior to the events of this story. Revolutionary in the sense that it featured a twist on the popular Zombies play mode in which you assume the role of one of the flesh-eating undead, something that gamers inexplicably found much more relatable than the previous gameplay style.

Aside from his aspirations as a professional gamer Mr. Midas enjoyed having sexual relations with his favourite blow up doll and smoking his favourite drug, methamphetamine.

Let me explain.

Now the official history books will tell you that A-Darker-Shade-of-Blue Carter’s tremendous influence was the cause of the plastic blow-up doll sexual revolution. Most reputable psychologists and historians agree that because of the childhood trauma she endured, A-Darker-Shade-of-Blue subconsciously influenced the male population to do as her father did and for the female population to do as her mother did. This humble narrator disagrees however. I believe that the sexual revolution was organically derived from a slow progression rather than the whims of a manic trendsetter.

You see the trends of fashion and beauty have long demanded women to look more and more plastic, and as must be the case, a tipping point was eventually hit for men in which actual plastic became more satisfying to copulate with than withering, repulsive human flesh. Conversely, with the increasing demand for men to further and further effeminate themselves to be desirable (I speak of course of the manscaping phenomenon), women eventually found it more pleasurable to pursue homosexual behaviour than the icky penis ridden alternative. Both parties figured themselves better off with the changes. The popular conception that all of this is the result of A-Darker-Shade-of-Blue’s handiwork seems to me to be nothing more than a fallacy of false cause.

Of course as I have already stated, the laws of logic have no bearing on the events that take place in Makesbelieveyville, therefore the entire rational discourse above is moot. Moving on then.

As for the methamphetamines, the immense success of the television series “Breaking Bad”, methamphetamines or “crystal meth” became so popular that government agencies all across Makesbelieveyville were forced to legalize and regulate it. It was simply unfeasible not to. For some reason (most likely increase in average stupidity levels) many of the newer viewers believed Jesse Pinkman’s two drug addled friends Badger and Skinny Pete to be the real heroes of the story, hence the unbridled explosion of meth popularity. It is now sold in a variety of flavours ranging from cherry to asphalt and is sold under the tagline “Meth: Try it, just once.”

But enough about Mr. Midas, there is another man whose story needs to be told in order for these series of events to be understood completely. Dante DiPshite (Pronunciations of his last name vary) was a Poopie born in the ninth circle of the Hellena mining camp, a place notorious for Robo-sodomy. Dante’s father was a man named Dennis DiPshite, and he was the man responsible for the non-fictional Poopie uprising that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 16 was based off of.

Dennis DiPshite led the Poopies to the doors of the Dandies and demanded satisfaction (satisfaction in terms of an equal distribution of meth and blow up dolls). Because of his bothersome nature Dennis DiPshite became known colloquially as “Dennis the menace” to the Dandy population. Ironically because of the intensity of the level of human stupidity that came to be, it was not realized that Dennis the Menace was a comic character from the past and so it was considered a great feat of literary achievement and intelligence to develop a rhyming nickname.

At any rate the inspiration for Dennis DiPshite’s uprising was found in the legendary Golden Pistol. It was a family heirloom of the Midas family, passed down from generation to generation since the time of King Midas who lived 1000 years before Dennis and Misses. Eventually however Mr. Misses Midas did finally become of age to be the owner of the Golden Pistol and, as is in keeping with his character, it did not take him long to lose it. It happened one day on a particularly intense meth binge in which he decided to amuse himself by mounting his golden steed and riding to the Poopie encampment where he proceeded to chuck feces at exhausted workers. It is noted in the histories that all who watched were amazed at the amount of shit Mr. Midas was able to produce on command and by sheer will alone! What happened during the commotion of crap-tossing, was that the Golden Pistol slipped from Mr. Midas’s holster and fell directly into the hands of the shit smeared Dennis DiPshite.

Looking at the shimmering majesty of the Golden Pistol Dennis was overwhelmed by a tremendous sense of outrage. You see he also wanted to ingest lethal amounts of methamphetamines! He also wanted to ass-blast expensive blow-up dolls! He wanted liberation from being ass-blasted by robots! And most of all, he also wanted to chuck his feces at strangers! With these thoughts in mind Dennis ascended the tallest pile of coal in sight, raised the Golden Pistol above his head and cried out in anguish, “FOLLOW ME FOR PLASTIC PUSSY AND METH!”

It twas from these noble beliefs from whence the Poopie uprising was spawned.

What eventually came to pass was that Dennis “the Menace” DiPshite found himself face to face with the king of gold Mr. Midas. They were of the same age at the time, fifty-three, which may seem strange given Mr. Midas’s immature lifestyle choices (as well as the incoherence of the timeline of events I am presenting), but I assure you there is nothing out of the ordinary.

Dante stood behind his father on that fateful day.

In Dante’s recollection Mr. Midas cruelly rejected Dennis the Menace’s pleas for equality and had his henchmen shoot the revolutionary down in cold blood. He then proceeded to the balcony of his office that overlooked his gold and coal empire, where beneath him the followers of Dennis the Menace (aptly named “the Menacing Poopies”) chanted in unison “DENNIS THE MENACE”. Smiling his best Dandy smile, which could best be described as the act of frowning while simultaneously opening your eyes as wide as possible (Synonymous with the look on A-Darker-Shade-of-Blue’s face the first time she walked in on her transgendered father humping a blow-up doll that resembled her mother) Mr. Midas shouted out, “YOUR HERO IS DEAD, GET BACK TO WORK POOPIES”. As this was happening Dante DiPshite quietly retrieved the Golden Pistol from his father corpse and without arousing the attention of the henchman, he quickly escaped the offices of Mr. Midas.

Two long hard years passed by with the memory of the death of his father burning brightly in Dante’s mind. He endured the agony of watching the Dandy population smoke copious amounts of meth and freely copulating with their blow-up dolls in the street, while he and his cohorts toiled day and night under constant threat of being ass-blasted by a robot. The unfairness of the situation was tangible, so much so that it spurred Dante to initiate his very own revolution. The Dandies who had exhausted their wit and creativity with the name Dennis the Menace, decided to rehash the title for the new revolutionary. And so it was that ten years from the day that whoever is reading this nonsensical, convoluted claptrap is reading it, “Dante the Menace” made his ways into the offices of Mr. Midas.

Fire burned in the eyes of Dante. He was standing in one of those rare positions where vengeance and justice overlapped and the relishing thought of killing Mr. Midas was enough to make him salivate. Mr. Midas on the other hand was high as a fucking kite. He had smoked enough meth to kill an elephant and was in the process of smelling his fingers after he thoroughly itched his butt hole when he was rudely interrupted by the angered young Dante.

Dante moved closer to the desk of Mr. Midas and raised the gleaming Golden Pistol. The light shining in through the windows glittered off of the Pistol, and although Dante was too stupid to comprehend the notions of symbolism or poetic justice the idea of killing Mr. Midas with his own family’s pistol felt much better than any alternative. “THIS IS YOUR END MIDAS!” he screamed

Mr. Midas, who was still high as a fucking kite, momentarily stopped sniffing his fingers that smelt like butt hole and managed to reply, “Well old chap, heh heh heh, I must say… YOLO!”

Dante, infuriated by Mr. Midas’ nonchalant attitude, squeezed the trigger of the Golden Pistol with all his might, and in place of divine retribution, in place of poetic justice…

The gun jammed.

Now, if you recall, this pistol was made 1010 years prior to the time that Dante pulled the trigger. Not only was it the case that the technology for firearms was horrendously bad at that time, but also the crafters of the weapon had no clue that pure gold is possibly one of the worst metals to construct a firearm from. Furthermore if Dante was not ailing from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his fathers death he would have remembered that Dennis DiPshite had also attempted to fire the malfunctioning Golden Pistol and exactly the same thing had happened to him.

What followed can only be described as a reenactment of the St. Valentines Day Massacre, with the small adjustment that all bullets were directed at the same person; Dante “the Menace” DiPshite.

After Mr. Midas’s henchmen stopped firing (10 of them, 8 of which reloaded their 30 round fully automatic weapons for another go) all that was left of Dante was a pile of goop that closely resembled coarsely ground raspberry jam. Except his face, Dante’s face was more or less left unscathed.

Mr. Midas, who had finally tuned into the severity of the situation, languidly rose from his seat and moved over to inspect the corpse of Dante “the Menace” DiPshite. Not an ounce of recognition came to the mind of Mr. Midas but instead he was overwhelmed with an instinctual urge that couldn’t resist being fulfilled. You see two years of playing “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 16” had subconsciously implanted a ritual urge into the synaptic mapping of Mr. Midas’s brain and when presented with a freshly fallen foe Misses could not help but do what he did next.

Believing that he only had ten seconds before the kill cam shut down and Dante re-spawned, Mr. Midas Leapt to the corpse of Dante, shed his dandy trousers and threw himself into a deep squat. He slammed his sweaty, salty ball sack against Dante’s chin over and over again. He did this while screaming vulgar and unsanitary comments about Dante’s mother, who by all means did not deserve such things to be said about her because she was quite undeniably a very nice lady. “I FUCKED YOUR DIRTY WHORE MOM ALL NIGHT YOU GODDAMN NOOB”, and things of that nature were screeched for an entirely, unnecessarily long time (far longer than 10 seconds).

In his tea-bagging ecstasy Mr. Midas felt a warmth emerging inside of him. It radiated outward until his whole being was one of elation. He smiled wide, and not the fashionable Dandy smile (A frown and wide eyes), but instead a real, wide human smile. He felt as happy and warm as a newborn babe being swaddled by its mother, and with one last rub of his balls against Dante’s chin he sprinted to the balcony. At no time during this elation did Mr. Midas bother to pull up his pants and so with his dick swinging wildly with the wind he silenced the new wave of Menacing Poopies. He laughed, not the deep methodically laughter of a true villain but rather the cackling, screeching laughter of witches brewing a potion. “YOUR HERO IS DEAD” He recited, with no recollection of ever having spoken the words before, “GET BACK TO WORK POOPIES!”

Epilogue

Eventually Mr. Midas’ henchman were able to convince him to stop swinging his dick at the angry crowd and brought him inside. What remained of Dante’s Corpse was put in the same place as his fathers, among the pile of blow up dolls that were too soiled to use any longer. I suppose you could say that in death, both revolutionaries attained what they strove to posses in life (to some degree at least.)

As for Mr. Misses Midas, with no real responsibilities burdening his mind he smoked up a good deal of meth and retired to his bedroom. There upon his bed, made from the fur of slaughtered unicorns, awaited a pair of twin virgin mermaid sisters. Unicorns and mermaids, while not abundant, still do exist in Makesbelieveyville and they offers pleasures that are quite incommunicable in any human way. The bed, made of the fur of slaughtered unicorns, did wonders to ease Mr. Midas’s back, which ached from the vigorous tea-bagging he had preformed earlier. The twin virgin mermaid sisters transported Mr. Midas to a realm orgasms that can most accurately be compared to having heroine injected into the tip of your penis and then radiating outward to all extremities and then reversing direction and radiating inward until all the heavenly, mind-altering pleasure is throbbing in the area between the male ball sack and asshole. Even though I cannot explain how one would have sex with a mermaid I assure you that mermaid pussy is the pinnacle of penis pleasure.

In the midst of this unbridled joy Mr. Midas was struck with an epiphany, a realization so profound he couldn’t help but lend his voice to it, “I do say good sir! I do say! it must be said that life is fucking awesome when everything goes your way!”

It twas from these events, from whence originated the tremendously lucid proverb “Fortune favours not the bold, but those with gold!

Staci the Whore, Igor the Idiot, and Billy the Kid

I like stories.

I like how they make you feel and how they so easily evoke emotions. I like how stories are able to touch upon the intangible aspects of human experience, how they give life to things that are so difficult to give life to.

One time I heard a story about an unimportant woman, not the kind of person you’d normally hear a story about. Her name was Staci and she was one of those unfortunate people who had a baby before they were able to support it, and like many young women who find themselves in such situations, Staci took up work in a less than reputable occupation. Prostitute, hooker, street walker, lady of the night, whore- take your pick. I like whore so lets say this is a story about “Staci the whore”. The way I heard the story she wasn’t a very high-end escort, quite the opposite actually. She was often forced to take clients who were also less than reputable.  You know, scumbags, whoremongers, wife beaters and cheaters, drunks and general amoral men- take your pick.

But Staci loved her baby, and she told herself she would do anything to keep it safe and happy. She told herself that what she did to earn money would be worth it and that all the dirty looks and pitiful glares were worth the cost of keeping her child safe. It was a nice story she told herself. Staci would stand in the threshold of her baby’s room and the slightly cracked door would allow enough light into the dark for her to see the sweet bundle of innocence sleeping soundly. She would tell herself that her baby would have a good life, filled with happiness and joy, and that her baby’s dreams would never be tainted or dark, and she told herself this story often. Almost everyday she would stand in that threshold and imagined this story. It made her life bearable, it allowed her to do things that many people would not be willing to do.

The way the story goes is that one day she was watching her baby sleep peacefully when she got a call. The voice on the other end was amiable, one could even say sweet. Of course it was a business call so you could call the person sweet as far as the word “sweet” goes to describe whoremongers. Now Staci the whore was the kind of person who never refused an opportunity to earn a buck so of course she agreed to meet the caller at a strange hotel at a peculiarly late time of the night. With a final tender glance at her sleeping baby she strapped on her hooker heels and left for the meeting.

The way the story goes she knocked on the door and heard the sweet voice reply, “Come in”. So she did, and much to her delight the man standing on the other side of the door looked as sweet as his voice sounded. She let her guard drop, a natural response I suppose given the fact that appearances are often quite convincing. Staci smiled as best as she could and said,

“What are you in the mood for hun?”

“Oh, just a bit of fun” replied the sweet looking man in his sweet voice.

Apparently looks can often be as deceiving as they are disarming and our girl learned this lesson the hard way. You see the sweet sounding man was not as sweet as he seemed, I suppose you could say his intentions were bitter. I should probably skip over the details of what happened next so as to not offend the audience. But details are often what make a good story. Details like how the sweet voiced man forced himself down our girl’s throat so violently that she tasted bile rise up into her mouth. Or details like how he beat and contorted her body so viciously that she had trouble walking afterwards, or details like how he strangled her to near death. Yes I think I will definitely skip over those details, because if I didn’t they would make a nice story about a dedicated mother seem a bit too sleazy and dark. But what is worth mentioning is the end of Staci’s night, what happened when she left her clients room.

The way the story goes she limped out of that motel room beaten and disgraced, spit, blood and semen leaking off her face. She made her way back home and after cleaning up as best she could she took her place in the threshold of her baby’s room. She looked over the beautiful child and reminded herself that it was all worth it. Staci cried. But she cried because she was happy. “All people suffer”, she told herself; at least she did it for a good reason. She told her self the same story she always did to justify her suffering, and it worked. It worked the first night that the sweet voiced man called, it worked the second time he called, and it worked for the dozen other times he called in the next few months. It worked every time a deranged sadist called because the end of the story was supposed to be a happy life for our girl’s baby.

I heard this story from Staci’s baby. She told it to me after I paid her for the same services her mother provided. The story I told might be a little different from the way I heard it, because the way the daughter tells the story, “The stupid bitch got what she deserved.”

I like stories.

I like how they make you feel and how they so easily evoke emotions. I like how stories are able to touch upon the intangible aspects of human experience, how they give life to things that are so difficult to give life to.

One time I heard a story about an unimportant old man, not the kind of person you’d normally hear a story about. Igor was his name. He was a hard worker and a family man. He owned his own little business and took pride in his accomplishments. He was past the prime of his life but still had a lot of life to live.

Well what ended up happening to our man Igor was that he was ripped away from his happy little life and thrown into a harsh and violent labor camp (I should probably mention that this old man lived in one of those harsh and violent countries where that kind of thing goes on. You know what I mean, the kind of places that are bad enough for an innocent old man to be stripped of all he holds dear but not bad enough for anyone to notice or do anything about). Igor should of known that living where he lived he had no right to be optimistic but that was just the kind of person Igor was. I guess you could say Igor was a bit of an idiot, which would make this the story about “Igor the idiot.”

Well anyways, the way the story goes Igor didn’t do too well in this particular labor camp. You see there were some hard men in this camp and they were suited to hard tasks. Men like these (men who were brought up in harsh and violent environments) don’t normally have much charity in their hearts. These kinds of people are able to look after themselves and not much else. On top of that there never seemed to be enough food to go around. The reason that old man Igor didn’t do well in this camp is because he was not one of these hard men. In these kinds of situations it seems it is better to be a hard man than a noble man, a lesson our man learned very well. You have to remember that Igor was an optimist… Igor was an idiot.

The way the story goes, kind old Igor never really minded the beatings or loneliness. Rather it was the constant hunger that gnawed at him. Apparently he used to shoo away the hunger pain by thinking about his wife. She was left alone when he was taken away and Igor thought of her often. He would picture her stocking the shelves of their little store, or sitting by the crackling fireplace knitting a sweater for one of their children. Most often he would dream of her sleeping quietly in the their bed, and how one day he might slide under the sheets to be with her, and by focusing on the rhythmic rise and fall of her breathing, he would forget how hungry he was. Of course her story goes nothing like one Igor told himself but we’re not talking about her story, we’re talking about his, and in this story old man Igor was hungry. I can’t imagine that many reading this know what real hunger feels like. Admittedly I don’t know myself, but it must be pretty bad considering the way the story goes.

One day during the lunch break, after witnessing Igor the idiot getting beaten for his rations, a particularly sinister guard approached him. He tossed the old man a handkerchief to wipe the blood from his lip and asked why he allowed the other inmates to take his food away from him. The old man was no fool (although he was an idiot) and so he knew that any response given to a guard was the wrong response. He said nothing. The guard moved closer and asked if the old man was hungry. Although he was tempted to answer this time, again Igor decided to stay quiet. After a moment or two (once it became clear the old man had no response) the guard asked Igor a deliciously tempting question,

“Would you like something to eat?”

Now we all know it’s the details that make the story and the details of this story go like this. The guards in these camps were fed a healthy portion of corn once a day. Anyone who has ever eaten corn (on or off the cob) could tell you that it is not easily digested. Most often the corn comes out looking the same way it did going in, but then again I wouldn’t expect many of you to know that given that most people don’t often inspect their own feces. If you are wondering why I am explaining the way the human digestive system processes corn, the answer is quite simple. Igor’s next meal was coming straight from the guard’s asshole.

“There you go,” said the guard as he pulled up his trousers, “Hot and fresh!”

Perhaps the idea of shifting through shit for undigested pieces of corn is unfathomable to many of you but you have to remember that Igor was an optimist. He told himself stories of one day sliding into bed with his wife, about hugging his children and of stocking the shelves of his little store. He told himself stories that allowed him to shift through the guards shit until he found six kernels of corn. Six little things that might keep him alive for another day, six things that would keep the story going. He was disappointed because the last time he had found eight.

The way I told this story is a little different from the way I heard it. I heard this story from a guard who enjoyed eating corn. He recalled his time in the camp delightfully and laughed merrily when he remembered the worker that used to eat his shit. I laughed too when I clinked my glass with his in cheers. It seemed a point of pride that the old man had died after only a year in the camp, “He was one of the weak ones”, as he put it.

“Must have been.” I said.

I like stories.

I like how they make you feel and how they so easily evoke emotions. I like how stories are able to touch upon the intangible aspects of human experience, how they give life to things that are so difficult to give life to.

One time I heard a story from an unimportant guy. He was the kind of guy who was not worth hearing a story about. I knew him as much as you can know anyone you don’t know so well. He had a dark sense of humor, the kind that was funny but never made you laugh. Sometimes it wasn’t even that, sometimes he would say stuff that just made you think after. One time after having consumed a sufficient amount of cheap whiskey and opium derivatives he told me a story that was like nothing like the ones he usually told.

He wasn’t the kind of guy to talk about himself, and so the story he told me was about some unimportant little boy that he used to know. The kid was called Billy, so I guess you could say that this is the story of “Billy the kid”. He was one of those kids who grew up in a family that wasn’t very well off. You know what kind I mean, that ones that always seemed to be a dollar short every month no matter how hard they tried. Anyways when money is tight frustrations always seems to be high, and when frustrations are high the brown bottle always seems like a good place to go. Maybe that’s why the family never had enough money, I couldn’t tell you for sure.

Anyways, the way the story goes “mum and dad” took to the bottle more often than not. A lot of the time they would just go at each other and the boy would watch from a corner, but sometimes the parents decided they wanted to do something a little different. “Variety is the spice of life” is what Billy’s dad used to say. Sometimes he said it when he brought a different kind of liquor home, sometimes he said it when he bet on the away team, he even sometimes said it when he was eating a differently spiced bologna, but most of the time he would say it when he laid out the following items on the kitchen counter: one leather belt, one phone book, one wire hanger (formed into the shape of a rigid whip).

Most of the time Billy the kid couldn’t get away and he endured vicious beatings against musical backdrops that sported such lyrics as, “You little shit, who the fuck taught you to eat so much!” or “Woulda gotten an abortion if I had known a fucker like you was gonna climb out!”

But sometimes our boy could gauge the mood of the evening and was wise enough to slip away someplace dark and hidden. In those places he would close his eyes shut and tell himself different stories from the one he was living. He would tell himself stories of loving parents, of money on the table, of greener pastures. He told himself these stories because he needed to believe that there were good things in the world, he wanted to believe that some stories have happy endings, he wanted to believe that his story would have a happy ending. That one day his parents may love him or that he may have a family of his own that he could love, a son that would never have to hide in the dark and a wife that he could hold close. I guess you could say that these last few things weren’t stories as much as they were promises…

Remember how I told you some guy who wasn’t too important told me this story. Well he stopped telling me the story right about there. He just kinda sat there looking at nothing for a while so I finally asked him, “Who was the kid?”

After another minute of his blank stare he turned to me and with a smirk he said, “I’ll tell you next time I see you.” I didn’t get the joke at the time.

I told that story just like I heard it. Next time I saw the guy his feet were dangling a couple of inches above a creek. His body was swaying gently back and forth as the wind moved passed him. Most people who jump from bridges to kill themselves don’t use rope. He always did have a dark sense of humor.

I like stories.

But not these ones.

To be sure, they meet all the requirements of stories that I like but they do it in an all too unpleasant way. I hate how they make you feel and how they so easily evoke emotions. I hate how they are able to touch upon the intangible aspects of human experience, how they give life to things that are so difficult to give life to.

Why then do I tell these stories? I suppose it’s for the simple reason that I remember them most. I think that for most people, stories are exciting because that is where our wonderful ideals find their home. One may hear a story and have the ideals of love and sacrifice flood their hearts and minds, or a different story can illuminate the ideals of justice and resolve. Perhaps one can learn to understand the meaning of hope and redemption through a story; unfortunately the stories I remember accomplish none of these things. These stories remind me a little more about what life is really like. They remove me from the realm of idealism and plant me firmly into the real. They remind me that no matter how we structure the events in our lives, they will never play out as majestically as we would like them to. We can try in vain to organize our chaotic existence into a beginning, a middle, and an end, but if viewed objectively the meaning in our lives is illusive and most likely non-existent.

Or perhaps it could be that why I remember these stories is because they show just how powerful stories can be. How they can make a person devote their entire being to the welfare of another, or how one can find the strength to go on even in the midst of hell, or of how a life can lose any semblance of meaning if there is no story to push it forward.

Maybe it all depends on how the story is told or maybe it’s all about how the story is heard. Maybe stories don’t matter, but I doubt it. I think stories matter a lot. I think that’s the truth about stories… it’s all we are.

Inspired by Thomas King’s “The Truth About Stories”. 

Hunger: A Lesson in Value from my Father

Growing up I didn’t always see eye to eye with my father. On more than one occasion I’ve thought him to be nothing more than a cheapskate looking to save a buck. I thought that for many years, and I never understood why I was berated and scolded on countless occasions for things as small as leaving a quarter in the grocery store shopping cart. But growing older I’ve learned a lot about the man who raised me and why he thinks the way he does. After throwing back a few drinks with my father I learned that there are many priceless lessons that can be learned from his life’s story.

This is a man who left his home and family at a younger age than most graduate high school with only a few dollars in his pocket and an education that never went farther than the tenth grade. And when I say that he left, I don’t mean he moved a few kilometers away. I mean that he left the country that he was born and raised in. He left the only life he had ever known behind and headed into unknown and foreign lands. He did this because the prospects for finding a terrible job, in terrible working conditions, with terrible pay, were better in Iran than they were in India, so that is where he headed. But he did not stop there. He saved up enough money and left Iran and continued to work through the Middle East in all manner of terrible jobs. The upshot was that the varying hodgepodge of employment provided him with a thorough education in nearly all forms of construction and trades skills. He would later use these skills to make a living for himself and his family in Canada but in the time between leaving his home in India and living comfortable in Canada, he had seen nearly half of Europe, he had crossed the Berlin wall, he had made it to Canada on his own merit where he continued to work until his work visa expired and then still continued to work as an illegal immigrant. He had evaded the authorities and as a fugitive he spent time on a native reserve hunting and drinking with Indian’s of a different sort. He married and had two sons, started his own business and defeated cancer, and now lives comfortably as a legal citizen in Canada. A lifetime of stories and adventures, but for all of that I believe that one experience my father had near the beginning of his journey out weighs all others combined.

During the outset of the expedition my father had paid a less than reputable travel agent a hefty sum of money to ensure he made it into Iran. He was one of around thirty men who had the same arrangement with this agent and so with their hopes of employment high they boarded a plane and took off to Afghanistan (The plan was to travel into Iran by road from there). Leaving India my father had a grand total of twelve dollars in his pocket.

The flight was a short one, a few hours at the most, and upon landing the group was hungry so they decided to buy some food. Using a considerable portion of his money my father bought a piece of naan bread from a restaurant nearby the hotel at which they were staying. Seeing as they were only going to be there for one night, and since money was tight, only a single room was rented. All of them somehow managed to cram themselves into the tiny room and ate their food while dreaming of greener pastures. Nearing bed time it was realized that a little bit too much food was bought, and not having anywhere to put and with no intention of bringing it along the next day, the cruddy discards where tossed in the corner of the room and everyone went to sleep.

The next day they arrived at the boarder to a surprise. It turned out that the less than reputable travel agent had gotten is hands on fake travel visas and so the entire group was denied admission to Iran. With no other options they headed back to the hotel to review their situation. Stuck in Afghanistan with no hope of employment, and next to nothing in terms of money. What to do? What to do? The deliberations went on and inevitably, the pangs of hunger found their home in the stomach of my father and his thirty cohorts. Of course anyone can ignore hunger for a time, but eventually you find yourself thinking only about food and where you can get it. The first time you look around to see what you can eat many things are not even considered edible. But as time goes on and the hunger stays vigilant, those previously neglected choices begin to seem a tad bit more appetizing. Perhaps something you didn’t feel like eating now looks tastier or perhaps something you threw away now seems like a mistake…

And so it was that thirty downtrodden hungry men all looked into the corner of the room at discarded scraps of food from the night before. This was the food that was not appealing enough to eat the day before when it was fresh. Today the warm air and dirt-covered floor had made the food stale and generously flavored with all manner of bacteria and disease. The fresh scraps from the day before were a feast compared to these shit-stained remains, but necessity prompted them to pick up the food, dust it off as best they could and swallow through short breaths. Suffice to say it was the least appetizing thing my father had ever eaten. Half of the party decided to return back to India that night; my father was not one of them.

A month passed in that hotel room, sleeping head to toe on the floor in the hot, smelly, confined space. In my mind I imagine one of those morbid pictures of mass graves, in which bodies lay shoulder to shoulder in a shallow, half-assed pit of dirt, the difference in this story being the men were still alive. In any case, for nourishment they managed to scrape enough together to provide a meagre ration of daal a day. For those of you who don’t know what daal is, it’s a kind of lentil stew. A staple in India and many other Asian countries I’m sure, but anyone who has had it will tell you it’s not a king’s meal. And to top it off my father recalls quite vividly how it was the worst daal he had ever eaten. So there you have it, a month of living on a spoonful a day of watered down daal in a roach infested hotel with more than a dozen other men. I probably should also mention that my father’s health was not well at this point, so bad that the other men cautioned him to go home. But my father knew better than to listen to these men. He had spent enough time with them to know they were not well-wishers. On the contrary they were a group of thieves and liars who my father had seen take advantage of each other countless times, whether it was stealing an extra bit of food or pickpocketing the few cents that remained among them from each other. Under what motives they instructed my father to go back on I can only guess at. Maybe their chances for employment were higher with one less person, maybe they wanted his share of the food, maybe they simply did not want to be responsible for him if he died, take your pick. No he did not listen to these men, he held on instead. He waited and persisted and eventually the unreliable travel agent conceived a plan. He would get them into Turkey, and from there they could backtrack through the country and enter Iran from the opposite end. And that’s exactly what happened.

Except that the travel agent seemed to have forgotten that it wasn’t any easier to get into Iran from Turkey than it was from Afghanistan. Another month passed in Turkey under much the same conditions as in Afghanistan. One day in particular the hunger was so overwhelming that my father collapsed in the street and had to be dragged back to his rancid accommodations. Not by any of travelling companions in case you were wondering, just a kind stranger, a rarity in the midst of poverty. But finally at the end of the two grueling months, the idiotic travel agent managed to obtained legitimate visa’s to allow the group to go from Turkey into Iran. After two months of hell, my father walked into Iran looking like a decrepit skeleton standing 6 feet 2 inches with a weight of 58kg, 13kg less than when he left India. Soon after entering Iran he began working his series of terrible jobs, and after two and half years he had saved up enough money to make his way through Europe and into Canada.

He has since told me that those two months were worse than his entire fight with cancer. I have never seen the man afraid of anything. I don’t say this out of some child-like admiration. I’m aware that my father is not a super hero, he has many flaws, and he is very human, but even still I have never seen him afraid of anything – except hunger. He has worked tirelessly day after day since those two months to ensure he would never be without food again. I sometimes think back on when I was younger and what I used to think about my father. “He’s a cheapskate”, I thought, “Who cares about a quarter anyways?” How wrong I was. It was not the value of the quarter that held any meaning for my father. That quarter represented the worst time in his life. A hunger that went unfed for two solid month; a hunger that brought him near death.

I take many things away from this story, such as the importance of self-reliance, of fostering resolve during trying times, and of having conviction and determination when pursuing a goal. More than anything else however I think that this story has taught me what a person should value. If my father has imparted any one piece of wisdom to me, it most certainly is that above all else you value food. Growing up this idea was lost on me because I have never been hungry before. It never once crossed my mind to question where my next meal was coming from. Instead I naively believed that things that cost more money are simply more valuable. Gold has value, designer clothes, and fast cars; these things are valuable because they cost more, these are the things I should strive to possess. Food is relatively cheap compared to these things, and so why should I ever worry about not having food?

We are quite privileged in how we eat; in fact many people are so comfortable with where their food comes from that they have imposed dietary restrictions on themselves. “I’m a vegan” or “I’m doing Atkins!” I’ve learned there is a wide array of diets that people impose of themselves as nothing more than a social identifier. You want to be known as a person who only eats fish, because the processes involved in other meat production is inhuman. Well I suppose you are a valiant and heroic person, but I cannot help but think how strong your dedication would be in the face of true hunger. I have often thought on the prospect myself. If I am ever forced to eat something I find less than appetizing, I wonder what it would be like to eat the same thing after it has been out in the sun for a day, lying in dirt and covered in insects. I try to imagine the heights of desperation that would drive me to scrounge through the garbage for the bread crusts I discarded a day before.

I am well aware that it is difficult to compare the subjective experiences of two people, after all it is not fair to say that just because someone had it worse than you, then you are not allowed to feel bad about something. Perhaps it reasonable to be upset because your clothes are not as nice as someone else’s or because you can’t afford to go to the hot new club that just opened up. But I do think it’s fair to say that the next time you feel downhearted about having a scratch on your five hundred dollar iPhone, you should take solace in the fact that your next meal is not coming from a fucking trash can.

A Pious Interview

Some nights you find yourself awake for no reason at all. Since there is no way to discover the reason for your insomnia, you focus your thoughts on anything that will distract from the fact that you cannot sleep. One night in particular I found my self in such a situation and the thing that distracted me from my wakefulness was a scent. It was a foul smell, like burnt hair and road kill, like something had been killed and left to rot. The smell grew more and more pungent until I could not take it any longer and I had to get out of bed to see what was emitting the odor. As I came around the foot of my bed I saw a terribly disturbing sight. A body shaped like a humans, but the gender was indeterminable. The eyes had been torn out and the ears were mutilated. There were no teeth and even behind the missing teeth there was no tongue. The flesh seemed to have been seared, as no hair grew on any part of the corpse. It was not freshly set aflame however, it was as if it was burnt and then left alone for many years, like a piece of meat that no body cared to eat. In many places the burnt carcass was rotting away with mold and bacteria eating through what little flesh there was.

I had no idea where this body came from or who it belonged to, and with no other course of action in mind the only thing I could do was look at it. For a long time I looked at this corpse. Long enough for it not to seem so disturbing and longer still.  Long enough to let the smell leak into my nostrils until I grew accustomed to it. Strangely enough once this happened I realized that this smell was very familiar, although I still could not place its exact origins…

In my moonlit trance something quite unexpected occurred. A low wheezing whisper, like the wind squeezing through the crack of a closed door, the corpse drew breath! I suppose its natural to assume that anything that can breath is most likely also able to move, but even still I was quite taken aback when it actually did.

Turning its head towards mine the corpse slowly rose unto its feet, and with its hollow sockets locked with my eyes it made its way to the sitting area by the fireplace in my room. After sitting down, head still turned in my direction; the figures hand rose and gestured to the empty seat opposite it. For some reason the scene before me sparked a feeling of déjà vu and the unknown familiarity of the situation put my nerves at ease. I took my queue, and made my way to the chair. I saw no need to light the fire as it was warm this night and my eyes had already adjusted to the dark. Besides I saw no reason to give myself a clearer view of the grisly spectacle in front of me.

I took my seat and waited. A few long wheezing breaths passed before I realized I should say something. And so finally I asked the question I had been pondering for so long, “Who are you?”

“I am God.” Came the reply. More than the answer itself was the voice that surprised me. It was as a whisper. Not in the sense of lowered volume but in that feeling of a brush of air that tickles the ear when one comes close enough to whisper. Again the gender was undeterminable but the voice was cool and smooth. I mean to use this description in the upmost sense, the voice was like ice on a frictionless surface, and what’s more it did not come from any specific direction. It was more as if it simply was. As if it spawned inside my head as opposed to vibrations in the air affecting my eardrums. The mouth of the corpse mad no visible movements either. The wheezing continued to originate from the body but the voice… A curious experience to say the least, and made stranger still by the answer that was given to my question.

“God” it had said. This rotting, mutilated husk was God? I suppose for the sake of an honest communication I should tell you that my first thought was, “Good!” That is to say that if this was the body of god then the bastard got what he- or she- deserved. It was satisfying to know that this deity was not sitting comfortably on a cloud somewhere laughing at us. I also should probably let you know that I am far from a religious person. Not from any deep-rooted hatred or feelings of betrayal (although I was hit by a bit of these at the moment), but rather just an overwhelming disinterest in the notion of religion or spirituality. You see I find there is no pragmatic use for believing in God. I didn’t voice this opinion of course, but the stench that I had grown accustomed to seemed to have grown a little more intense for a moment, “Where have you been?” I asked finally. I really could not think of anything else.

“I have been here all along.” I didn’t know quite what to make of this answer. Was it some kind of joke I didn’t understand? If after all God was around “all along” I would have expected a more pleasant outcome for the human species, rather than the chaotic mess that we have.

“What do you mean by that?” say I.

“I have been here all along. As long as humanity has needed me I have been with humanity.” This answer was even more cryptic than the last, and it gave strength to my assumption that this “God” was toying with me.

“Humanity has always needed you and you where never here. You let us suffer, why?” I asked God this because what else do you ask God? I wanted to know why people suffer? What kind of divinity would allow its creatures to live in misery for two millennia, and would allow its name to be used in the perpetration of countless atrocities? How could this God have been here all along and yet have sat idly by doing nothing? I wanted an answer as to why bad things happen, I wanted a solution to the problem of evil.

“As long as humanity has needed me I have been with humanity. In the early times I was many, and I did what I was bid by man. They asked us to help them hunt, to find food, to survive. We obliged and they prospered. Few knew of us then, the ones who had an understanding of the plants and animals also claimed understanding of us. In those early times we understood men well, but they did not understand us well.” This did nothing to address my question but the response brought with it a whole host of new questions, and not wanting to waste a promising line of questioning I pursued them.

“The early times? When you created man?”

“In the beginning there was nothing. And then man said, ‘Let there be God.’ And then I was.” What was this corpse telling me? Man said? I had always believed that the earliest conceptions of religion had always placed the Gods as creators and rulers, above men in all regards. This was truly an astonishing claim.

“Do you mean to say that you created man, and not the other way around?”

“No.”

“Where then, did man come from?”

“Before man I was nothing. Man said, ‘Let there be God’ and then I was. I know of nothing before this.” This was definitely a strange revelation, but given the peculiarity of the situation I did not dwell on the point.

“What happened after that?”

“As time passed, more claimed knowledge of the Gods. Man was still simple at this time, their prayers fundamental and essential. Soon we were given names and features. I had many names from different men, as did my family. Some of us were favored by one breed men and others of us were favored by a different breed, but we still gave man what they wished from us.”

“What to you mean by different breed?”

“Humanity, in its earliest days, was not united as it is now. Men from one side of the earth had no knowledge of men from the other side. They were of different breeds but they had one thing in common. They all claimed knowledge of the Gods.”

“Why do you say ‘Man’ only?” Where there no women?” I had an inkling to the answer of this question but I was curious all the same.

“In those early times man claimed greater knowledge of us than did woman. Man did not believe woman worthy of our praise and so we gave humanity what they wished. Soon men wanted more than to simply survive. They wanted to thrive, and once this happened they came into conflict. They then turned to us and we gave them conflict, as they desired. We changed to accommodate the wishes of man. We became violent and spiteful. We learned to punish man, and we learned to thrive off of their deaths. Many were sacrificed to our tables.”

“Why would you allow this kind of carnage, why wouldn’t you stop us from killing one another?” This is the question the deity had been dodging since we sat down. I wanted an answer.

“You prayed for war, so we gave you war. I have always given humanity what it desired.”

“Well couldn’t you see that that was wrong?”

“In that time your kind prayed not for right or wrong, but for satisfaction. It was not until the tree of knowledge that I was able to accommodate ‘right and wrong.’”

Tree of knowledge? This was most certainly a reference to the story of Genesis, of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. This was also the first time that the corpse made reference to any specific religion. I suppose the Pagan gods it referred to earlier were too varied and numerous to name, but in any case this allusion to Christianity certainly shed some light on this God figure. “Alright, tell me about the tree then.”

“Time passed and my family and I prospered. Man was easily understood in those times, but once the tree of knowledge came, man was not so easily understood. My brothers and sisters were killed and only I remained. I was given immense power at this time, and it was then that I became creator of all things that already were. It was then that I created man and woman, and it was then that I created the tree of knowledge and forbade the first two of humanity from eating from it. It was then that I punished them for their sins, and it was then that I caste them out of my paradise and back into the chaos from which I came.”

“In what manner were your siblings killed?” A strange explanation given that the Gods were supposed to be immortal. That was almost a universally held belief among theists.

“Mankind saw no need for them. You created many Gods when you had an elementary understanding of our kind. When you realized that one could do the job of the many, your new god killed them. I killed them.”

It may have been prudent to show some compassion at this time, after all I would imagine it is not easy for any being to commit familicide. But I had too many question for sympathy to intrude. “How can you say now that you created man when before you claimed that man created you?”

“I have always given humanity what it desired. At this time humanity desired that I be their creator.” This fallen God of mine seemed to be not so all-knowing or all-powerful as I supposed but this was a weak excuse to stop such an intriguing conversation.

“Tell me then, what else did humanity desire from you at this time?”

“Your species had grown more complex. In addition to conquest, they wanted love as well. They wanted guidance and purpose, and so I obliged.”

“What manner of love and guidance did you provide? History shows nothing but war and torture stemming from your name? Tell me of the love you gave mankind?”

“They prayed for love in the form of guidance. The tree of knowledge provided guidance but all guidance comes with rules, and all rules are constraints. Some men imposed my guidance on others, they constrained others, and so the true purpose of humanities prayers became clear to me.”

“And what is that?”

“Power. Authority. Conquest.”

“Perhaps some prayed for those things but what of those you genuinely wanted your guidance and love? How could you ignore them?”

“It is true that in addition to conquest some also wanted love, but they did not want it enough. Your kind loved conquest and power more than they loved the ideal of love. How could I have given them both? The prayers opposed each other and so I gave humanity what it truly desired. I have always given humanity what it desired and at this time power and authority were the answer to your prayers.”

I could not argue this point. I was out of my element here. I had always believed that if there were a God he would have power over us, not the other way around. I decided to return to the bible since that was the origin of this line of discussion. One topic was largely ignored in our conversation, “What of your son? Did you really send him to us?”

“I have had many who claimed to be my child. Your kind followed their words because of it, but I have always been your child, you have never truly been mine. In some places these men have preached love, and so they earned love. In many others they demanded power and cried for hatred, and so I gave it to them.”

“What of the tree of knowledge, had you not learned right from wrong by this point. Were not hatred and power considered activities of the sinful?” A burst of flame appeared in the fireplace and blinded me. My eyes were accustomed to the dark and this light was more than irritating. After some time however my eyes adjusted to the light and focused on the horrible spectacle in front of me. This creature was significantly more disfigured than I had previously assumed. In addition to the burns and missing organs there was an abundance of gnawed flesh, as if some one had chewed on the body without actually ripping any of the flesh off. In addition, many bruises and cuts were clearly visible now. In particular there was a deep and penetrating flesh wound that began at the base of the jaw (on the right side) and coiled around to the opposite side. It was cut so deep that it was quite surprising that the head was still attached at all. It brought to my mind an event that was covered by the news in the past week. Some radicals had sliced off the heads of a group of catholic priests over religious differences. The clips of the event were extremely graphic and the wounds resembled those inflicted on the corpse. I had nearly forgotten what I had asked until the deity began to speak.

“Look at me” it said, calm as ever. “What do you see?”

“A corpse” said I.

“Could you ever grow to be accustomed to the sight of a corpse?” I had to admit that I had done just that before our conversation had begun and the longer I looked at it the less the new disfigurements bothered me. Not significantly mind you, but with enough time I supposed that it would not bother me much at all. I told the corpse as much.

“And the smell? Could you also grow accustomed to that?” The truth was that I already had grown accustomed to it as well but I thought that that might be conceding too much.

“In time, perhaps,” I replied trying to sound as sincere as possible. Considering the complete lack of facial features I was quite surprised when the mouth of the corpse (or what was left of it) curled up into a smirk.

“Yes. In time everything is possible, even what is considered right and wrong. In time, morality can morph, right can become wrong and wrong can become right. The tree of knowledge was your construction, as was I. In those times right was what you needed it to be, as was I. These ideas were never written in stone, they have always been crafted from clay. I have always given humanity what it desired, and at that time “right” was power and hatred. “

“There must have been those who loved, people who desired kindness and compassion. Did you ignore them?”

“No. Their prayers were answered. They loved conquest and war, it gave them meaning, and so I answered their prayers. They had compassion for what was familiar, their hatred for the unknown was much stronger and so I answered their prayers.” Again I felt as if my questions where being dodged. The corpse had an answer for everything but something was always missing.

“What about fairness? Tell me how the cruel and sinful have always prospered, where as the righteous have suffered.”

“I have already told you, there is no ‘righteous’. Humanity has always told me of right and wrong, and I have always done what humanity has desired. As for fairness, your kind had created another to explain their misfortunes. He was me and I was him, we answered your prayers, we fulfilled your desires.”

“The devil?” Who else.

“Yes.” This was no surprise. If God was an object of our desire the Devil must have been much the same.

“And what of salvation? What of heaven and hell, do we have souls?” Perhaps this should have been one of my earlier questions but it had only occurred to me now. Also quite strangely I seemed to have caught my acquaintance off guard for it paused before responding.

“I do not know…” This was not satisfactory for me. I waited in silence, staring into the dead hollows that should have held eyes until I received something more. It continued, “If humanity does possess souls, then they are not my possession. If humanity requires salvation it is only from themselves. I know only what humanity has shown me, nothing more.”

I saw no need to pursue this line of questioning but I had no idea where I should direct this interview next? Towards eastern religions? No, I assumed that much of the same kind of thing was happening there under the guise of different names. The afterlife? No, this creature could not answer any questions outside of the realm of human understanding, that much I had learned already. I supposed forward in time was my only option.

“What happened next?”

“I answered your prayers. You wanted war so I gave you war. You wanted death so I gave you death. You wanted corpses so I gave you corpses. I gave you what you desired.

This went on for many years. Many different men claimed to know me better than others, but men have always been the same for me, they have always wanted the same things. They waged war on each other. They spilt blood in my name. This went on for many year, and man was easily understood until I was forced to face my past, until the new God was forced to face those of old. Man was easy to understand until I was forced to face my past.”

“Do you mean the new world?” It was most certainly referring to the discovery of the new world, when the European nations discovered the Americas.

“Yes. The new God I had become was taken across the ocean to the ‘New World’ where the old Gods still thrived. War and conquest were not sought after as much as survival, and humanity was still easily understood. But the new God, the God you demanded I become, he knew much of war and conquest, of power and authority, and that is what he brought across the sea with him.”

“What happened when you encounter yourself across the sea?” I barely understood the question I had just asked but I had no doubt that there was an answer to it.

“I destroyed it.” There was a pause, not long, but not quite short either. Breath wheezed from the decaying body and the fire flickered, flashing shadows of a mangled corpse across the empty wall. It continued, “Humanity had taught me much that my old self had not learned. I learned how to punish. I learned wrath and anger. I learned how to kill, and I applied my skills without mercy, for that is the God that humanity desired- merciful to believers, merciless to all else.”

“What of the believers of the old Gods? Why did you not answer their prayers?”

“They were too simple to ask for what they required. What did those simple minds know of greed? What did they know of the tree of knowledge? They had never manipulated morality to suit their purposes. They had never manipulated me. For them, I was eternal, I was in all things and all things were in me. The God that I had become, the God that humanity had created, destroyed their naivety. I showed them the one true God. I gave them what they desired.”

“How can any man desire his own destruction?”

“How can they not? I have known mankind for a long time. Your kind yearns for nothing more than destruction. Opposition is needed for man to unite. In the beginning you opposed the forces of nature. As time passed you conquered nature and needed new opposition. You prayed to me as you fought each other. When you crossed the sea you found a strange new opponent. Those men you found across the sea where men of old, but they had never opposed the forces of nature; rather they embraced them. They knew little of opposition and conquest for they thrived on peace. These men were the answers to your prayers. Many cried my name in those times. To you, I was a tool for battle, and of course, I obliged.”

I suppose I was not ready to hear this truth. Of course with any attempt at introspection I could have easily known that this fact about human life was true, but I deluded myself into ignoring it. We like to believe that human unity and bonding are the result of love, but the truth is that hate brings us together far more powerfully than love ever could. I had no response to this revelation, no wit that could respond with any amount of satisfaction. The only words that I could formulate were, “What happened next?’

“Conquest. Although in that much time humanity had learned to pray for something more than simple “war and conquest”. These ideals had to be pursued in pursuit of a yet greater ideal. From humble beginnings, greed became the prayer that was uttered from every mouth before bed. “I want more” is what humanity prayed, and I have always given humanity what it desired.

An entire world lay at the feet of those who worshipped the new God, those who worshipped me. This was a world they had never encountered before and it was one in which they could face the forces of nature anew. Greed fueled conquest and wars were fought. Of course this time around it was not as difficult and the opposition did not last for long. After the new world was brought to its knees my existence grew complicated. Those who settled in the new land had waged war from the place from whence they came, and they prayed for conquest as always. The complication arose from the fact that those who had never left demanded the same of me. I suppose that those who defeated the old Gods had earned some strength from it, for I simply watched this battle and did not partake.”

“Why not” I said. A valid question considering that our God had never refrained from butting in before.

“Opposition was the common prayer from either side. Conquest was also a common prayer, but since I could not grant the latter to both sides I gave them both the first. The settlers of the new lands conquered their opposition and I saw a minuteness of peace for a time. Of course your kind has always called for blood in my name but at this time you found a small measure of peace. I gave you what you desired.”

Peace. I wondered why that topic had not arisen in our conversation until now. Was this not what humanity desired? I suppose to small degree this question was already answered but I decided to ask regardless.

“Why only now? Did we not always prayer for peace? I have always believed that that was the ultimate human ideal, peace and unity.” The face of the corpse turned towards the fire, thinking back on it this was the first time it had broken eye contact with me. Some time passed as the deity surveyed the flames, I cannot say how much, but finally,

“A pleasant fiction. I know little of peace. I have heard some prayers for peace. I have some idea of what it is, but it nothing more than a fleeting idea. In the mind of mankind, peace has always been nothing more than a distraction, or perhaps a justification. Peace was the ideal used to initiate conflict on more than one occasion, especially now.”

This last remark caught me off guard. I had been so absorbed with the history of this deity that I had forgotten to ask about now, about today. What role did it play in our lives? What purpose of ours did it serve? “What do we want now?” was the question I decided on.

“I do not know.”

This was agitating to say the least. The corpse had an answer for nearly every thing except this? “What do you mean you don’t know? I want an answer to my question?”

“What answer would you prefer? Meaning? Purpose? Destiny? Fate? Karma? Salvation? Love? Sex? Power? Greed? Wealth? Life? Death? Your demands are endless. In the beginning you wanted only nourishment. You wanted to survive. And then I was made to deny you nourishment. I forbade you to eat from the tree of knowledge so you could satisfy your new desires. Nourishment was never mine to give; it has always been upon the earth. Knowledge was never mine to give; it has always been in your minds. Ambrosia has always been the food of man, ichor has always flown in the veins of man, and the Holy Spirit has always been the spirit of man. God has always been what man desired God to be.

In the early times humanity was easily understood, but they did not understand us. Now humanity has understood the Gods, we are what you made us; we continue to be what you make us, but I no longer have an understanding of humanity. “

It was my turn to look to the fire now. It may seem that my recollection of this encounter with god is a bit apathetic. As if I did not care that I had found a corpse at the foot of my bed, as if I did not care that I was sitting face to face with God. I assure you nothing could be further from the truth. I was terrified, and exhilarated, astonished, and upon hearing the deities latest response I was ashamed. At times in my life I had thrown blame on God for any difficulty I encountered. More recently I had resigned myself to the fact that God did not exist. And now I find myself faced with the prospect that we did more harm to God than God did to us. I raised my eyes, slowly, from the feet of the corpse until my eyes looked straight into those cold dead sockets. “Why do you look like that?” I said.

“I am made in the image of mankind.” Nothing more was said. I had not the heart to probe further. Our shadows danced at our backs and the wheezing breaths broke through the dead silence. At last a final question entered my mind. I suppose it was the question I was seeking an answer to all along but I chose not to ask for fear of the answer.

“What do you want from me?” I said.

“Nothing.” Said God, “You wanted this.”

And with that the flames went out. I was blinded by the darkness, and by the time my eyes recovered I found myself sitting across from an empty seat. I navigated my way back to my bed and crawled under my sheets. I did not sleep that night or the next. In truth I have not slept soundly since that night, for you see some distractions do not help you to fall asleep but will keep you awake longer than you would like. Never again did I hear from God, but the stench that first awoke me that night has stayed with me until this day.