Series Two: DEVOTIONS
Once, at a thirteenth-century French monastery, I collapsed of nervous exhaustion, right straight into the shrubbery, and was given a silent room in the infirmary that looked out on a flowering tree. This actually happened once. Now I cannot help but wish for it all the time.
I made a great show of liking the dog whom I really did like. Half Lab and half Boxer, which turns out to really work: love with a square head. It was one of those dates that feel like an audition. File under: defeat as self-fulfilling prophecy. Like one of those nights when I tell myself that the next day will be all right -- if only I can sleep. “No one likes walking on eggshells!” said my brother before I left home for 25 years. This one’s a young man with a red beard. He’s read both Nabokov and Gogol. His erection is so long and so persistent that, when he needs to go somewhere, he tucks his cock into the waistband of his pants I enjoy it if a man has one or two positive characteristics. Any more than that is terrifying. He was a real-live bisexual. I named him Waistband. As he drove me home I asked, “How is it possible that you don’t have eight boyfriends and six girlfriends?” Waistband said, “I tend to get tired of people.” I do not expect to hear from him again.
What a difference it would make if I could believe, for several seconds in a row, that anything in which I am involved could ever turn out well. You know, just temporarily kind of sort of well, the variety of well prevalent on this planet. I am oh so ready for some of that.
When I feel afraid, I remind myself that I am not without allies, saints, protectors. I chant their holy names: Disquiet. Robert Walser. Zen tales. Tiles the Hopi painted and sold to tourists in the 1920s. Tales of the Hasidim. Paley, Barthelme and Davis. Quilting contests. No Other Life. Juan Gris. Excitability. Hopscotch. Lascano Tegui, Viscount! Harry Mathews. Cookie Mueller. Why Did I Ever. “I will do this work of transformed and even distorted memory and lead this life, the one I am leading today.” Are you aware that Clarice Lispector answers prayers?
The man says, “It’s got a button on it. It might as well work.” Then later, “What do we do? I say we PeeWee Herman the shit out of it.”
These are a few notes on the challenges of living with a hyper-devotional nature. (Another word would be ravenous.) This is in addition to what I call being nervous! very very dreadfully nervous in an Edgar Allan Poe sort of way. On the plus side, I receive intense sensual pleasure from being left alone in large open spaces, including those commonly referred to as “empty”. I can sit in a silent room and listen to the very minute sounds with the same pleasure others receive from music. In the same way I am able to feel real visceral relief over the fact that today I will almost certainly not meet any celebrities. With any luck I will be able to dodge both the successful and the important. To tell the truth, I very often enjoy having my particular mind. Most men need to have their prostate repeatedly and forcefully stimulated to receive the same pleasure I get from pencilling in-depth notes on neglected works of literature in translation. I do admit, however, that this is not a mind well-suited to everyday living. No. Not so much.
Always, always I have an idea of the day I ought to be having, the way it ought to unfold, the flawless discipline of my actions (out of bed, meditate, fast walk, work) but then there is the actual day (unexplained itching, ardent thoughts about uniformed South American security personnel, email, unavoidable conversations, complaints -- and before I’ve even had a chance to brush my teeth and then I’m caught up oh yes I am) and how it unravels. Every now and then I have the day I am supposed to be having. Sort of a to-do list decathlon. So many good things! Spinach salads, bill-paying, strenuous creativity. I have the day I am supposed to have until about 3. By 3 I’m ready to fill the water bottle with wine and head to the baths. Honestly it seems like the most prudent option, considering my level of agitation. For the next three days I do nothing right whatsoever.
How about some new good habits? For example, condoms should have an assigned place. Condoms all the time falling from pockets, notebooks, and bags are tacky and unpleasant for everyone. When I need a condom, I can’t find one. Every time I’m looking for something else (for example a dollar) here’s a condom instead. I ask myself: am I not already sufficiently ridiculous? One of these days a condom will land in the tip jar. I will have to decide whether or not to retrieve it.
The wish to be led to a silent white-walled room, a room looking out on the upper branches of trees, to undress in silence and bathe for a long time, to dry off and to pray, and then to be comprehensively fucked, fucked and delivered of spunk, then immediately fucked again, or maybe I fuck him the first time and the second time he fucks me, fucked and jacked off down right to the root of the spunk so that, for at least three days thereafter, it is impossible to desire anything more complicated than sandwiches.
Once I fell in love with a man I saw only one time each week. Just four hours on Thursday. That was it. And there wasn’t anything you could call conversation. Low growls, grunting, praise of various attributes. The rest of the week we wrote each other notes. I think it would be very easy for me to fall in love with a man who writes me notes every day. Of course, it has to be a man with a liking for my particular look and style: accordion / basset hound hybrid with Poe-ish tendencies. He has to be able to tolerate devotion. Which is far less common than you might imagine. I remember a man once told me, “Please. Less awe.”
Sex for hyper-sensitives. Ideally, when you take off your pants, there would be a solid hour for staring, sniffing and weeping before initiating the process which leads from nuzzling to full-blown adoration. I would also prefer to be completely invisible but -- I understand that’s something I should probably deal with.
Few men tolerate devotion. Not statements of it any way. (I believe there is evidence that God, too, is annoyed.) For one thing, devotion is intensely repetitive. Devotion is not in a hurry to be on to the next thing. Your left armpit alone is worthy of at least twenty minutes of my focused attention. When you slap me on the face with your hard pink cock, that’s it, I am done. Nothing else needs be achieved. You can go right on slapping me like that for the next ninety minutes. It’s all I want for Christmas. It’s a suitable afterlife. No wonder people find me so annoying. I don’t blame them. It is likely difficult to understand that, for me, everything is close and loud and bright.
Evolution, alternate theory. Perhaps the reason there are so many stones is because so many people want to be them. In the meantime, there’s liquor. Liquor is a strategy for sitting in the same room as pain without wailing aloud. The first three drinks are for relief. After that, you are human with a head of grief, with feet of grief, with hands of grief. A hybrid, like a basilisk. Your letters will never be answered. Who writes letters? This is an example of how you have fallen out with the world. People have moved on. The pronouncement has already been issued. You are not to included.
One of my aunts, ever a role model, went away to the asylum in 1964. For a time she was diagnosed with what is called hypersexuality. So perhaps there is a biological basis for me. A more likely explanation is provided by a simple experiment done many years ago now. Test subjects put their hands in a large pot of water and waited while the water was very, very slowly brought to a boil. They were allowed to pull their hands out when they wanted, but they were told to keep their hands in the water as long as they could possibly bear it. Test participants were each instructed to think of different things. Those preoccupied by sexual fantasies withstood the pain the longest. By far. They lasted much longer than those who, for example, attempted to busy themselves with cheerfulness.