I’m going to rip the bandage off. Rip it off like a mad doctor. Not like these other doctors with their neat little ideas about the “healing process.” Not me. I’m not like that. I’m going to rip the bandage off. Expose the wound. Some will say it’s gritty. Some will use the word fierce. A bold new voice.
Okay. Here we go now. Here we go. I’m going to tell you a story. This is how it begins. Chapter one. First sentence.
Um, I don’t think I have anything to say. I used to be driven by the demon of things unsaid.
Which sounds a bit like a pastel drawing. Of trees in autumn. So I’ll re-say it. I used to think I had secrets that needed to be outed. And so I outed them. Best as I could. They came in shards and strands. Some people liked what I wrote. Someone said I was a bold new voice. Someone used the word fierce. Which was the hip word back then. I had a small squall of success. If that’s what you call it when people publish the things you write. But the secrets seem to have been told now. I don’t so much care about what an editor might think anymore. And I don’t want to read my work in public. And I don’t want someone to review it. Fuck all that. And fuck the readers too. I don’t care about them either. That’s how rebellious I am. Some might say revolutionary.
You might ask why a revolutionary like myself is writing at this moment. I know I sound like a prick. And I am a prick. A downtrodden prick who, despite what he says about himself, has tried his hand at writing and has failed. Now nobody cares what he has to say. Now, when he sends stuff out, on those rare occasions, the agents thank him for thinking of them. That’s the first part of the letter. In the second part of the letter, they tell him why he can go fuck himself. “Although it’s obvious that your project is worthy, I’m afraid I didn’t fall in love with it.” They always use the word love with the word didn’t or don’t somewhere preceding it. And then they say his worthy offering is too quiet. And they’re afraid they wouldn’t be the best advocate, since they didn’t quite fall in love with it. And these letters, only ten years ago, would have made me come in my pants. Because someone had actually read something I had written and they had actually responded in some way. I’d say, “They said my manuscript was worthy!” and I’d have a big celebration for myself involving alcohol and cigarettes. But now I know that everything in the first part of the letter is pure bullshit and everything in the second part of the letter is the truth. And I expect the rejection. Because I know I have nothing to say anymore. And although I claimed just a few sentences ago to not care, I do care. Not about what the editors or agents say. I care that I no longer have anything to say. I no longer have that demon inside. That fire. That excitement about the world. Or love. Or success. Or whatever the fuck.
I imagine it’s aging is what it is. I’m aging. And when you get older, you don’t give a fuck anymore. Someone says something you don’t agree with or tells a joke that isn’t funny or is maybe racist or sexist and you don’t pretend to appreciate it anymore. You don’t feel the need to set a moron at ease. Because you don’t care what they might or might not think. You don’t care. And yet you do wonder what’s happening to you. Why have you ceased trying to set people at ease? And why are all of life’s calls receding? Does it have something to do with your plummeting testosterone levels?
I know we’re all looking for the next good little thing in our lives. The sweet desert after dinner. And then, to extend the meal even further, that capstone cup of coffee. You want to extend the meal. Because you’d looked forward to it all day. And when it’s over, what will you have left to look forward to? The book on your bedside table? Sleep? If you smoke, it’s easy. You look forward to that next smoke. It organizes your time quite neatly. It’s like playing a video game and you’re always finding gold coins or something. That’s what smoking a cigarette does for you. And it happens and happens and happens and you never really get tired of it because tobacco is addictive. You’re addicted to it. Same with drugs and alcohol. It’s the next good little thing in your life. But the most powerful good little thing is getting laid. The possibility of getting laid has kept conversation rolling since language came into being. What can I say to make her want to allow me to have sex with her? What can I possibly say? In what ways can I be witty and charming? In what ways can I ingratiate myself to her? And then, one day, that next good little thing is gone and you don’t care whether or not she might want to allow you to sleep with her. You don’t care at all. And she says some stupid shit about a crappy movie she just saw or some art opening she just attended and she drops a bunch of highfalutin names and you don’t respond the way your balls, in years past, would have had you respond. You tell her she’s a name dropper. “You’re a name dropper,” you say. “Aren’t you? Yes you are! And you know what? I didn’t like that movie at all, the one you loved so much. I liked the one you hated. That’s the movie I liked a lot.”
And so, when it comes to sex. When it comes to financial or professional success. What car you might be driving. What clothes you might be wearing. What haircut you might be getting. When it comes to these things, when you just don’t give a fuck anymore, what is left for you in this world? Now that you’ve thrown over every single thing that has motivated you since you were a little bean sprout, what will motivate you now? And why shouldn’t you fall into that very common, dark catch-basin for people your age. That place that requires strong drugs originally designed to eliminate seizure activity or inhibit swelling or whatever. Zoloft. Or whatever. Drugs. To make you not so much happy or joyful, but accepting of your not giving a fuck about one single thing. And although it’s not necessarily something to be proud of, to be propelled through life by a series of selfish desires, at least the selfish desires propelled you through life. What desire will propel you now?
This is the place where two highways cross and you make a turn. The crucial place where you leave behind the world that had everything to do with you and, partly because you have become a withered specimen after all as compared to the ripe fruit you once were, leave behind the world of your ripe-fruitedness and embrace your withered-fruitedness. Your smallness. Your unimportance. Now is when you for the first time kneel before life. Sacrifice that paltry, withered thing that is the remainder of your soul. The remainder of your time. Your existence. And, free from all the hubbub surrounding your thoughts of yourself, answer the question, what can I bring? It’s Christmas for Christ sake. What good thing can I bring?