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2. Mind of a Man-made Madman

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I consider myself “mad” in a few ways, all of which are impossible to put into words. Figures, right? I’m not insane in the kind of way that I might snap at any point and go on a violent rampage. I’m insane in the way that I was raised analyzing everything. I was raised by therapists – my parents – the proud doctors. I was bred a certain way, as we all were. I consider myself mad because of my methods. Yet, at the same time, I’m proud of my observational skill. It’s a talent that few possess in this modern day and age. It just comes with the pace – you have to sacrifice to keep up. So it goes, you know?

Being a constant observer has its down side, as all things tend to. There are people who notice you noticing them and get annoyed. Some get nervous or edgy, ruining their basic character, creating a new self that they’re constantly on top of, making sure that you’re only seeing their best features. I live for candid life, for the secrecy of it. When they catch on, it ruins the art of it, making it something different. Then it just becomes entertainment – you’re watching a show being put on by an actor completely unprepared, without lines or dialogue, without a situation or “for instance” to work with. Completely unaware. Caught off caught, improvising desperately. Why desperately? Because time is ticking. Every second that you stand there, frozen, on stage, deer in the headlights, the audience loses more interest. Some people like the attention, strive for it. They’re losing the spotlight; they’ve got to do something interesting to get it back. Faster. It’s moving ever so slightly, inch by inch – you’re getting caught in the shadow, they’re hissing at you from stage left, urging you off. But you just stand there and do the first ridiculous thing that comes to mind. And if all else fails, smile. Because in some cases that is enough.

Next scene please?

The blood’s racing, the palms are sweaty, and you’re standing there, baking under the stage lights. It could be terrifying. Unless you don’t know you’re there – center stage, up on your fictitious pedestal trying to make your way in the world, trying to etch your name into the stone. You want people to remember you. You want the world to mourn should your life end suddenly. But it’s all false pretenses, it’s all acting and curtains and smoke. Nothing more than a foggy glimpse of whom you could be. That is how we present ourselves to the world. Dim the lights though, tell the actor that the camera’s off. And that is what makes the world go round. That raw, untamed, pure…honesty. It’s nearly dead now, but it’s there, somewhere. It just needs finding. And appreciation.

This is what I do. I look and I appreciate. I try to understand people from a distant view, try to put together the pieces from miles away. Assemble their character and personality in my mind, figure out which gear turns what. The interesting few kept my attention, the rest just faded into the gray, the background – the consistently moving fray of existence. It happens. There’s too much going on at once, you can’t keep it all in mind. It’s impossible to hold on to every small scrap and fragment – the pointless disappears under the slightly impressive and you keep the little accomplishments of life near and dear to your heart. To my heart. I keep other people’s achievements in my heart, my mind, preserved, filed away, safe. I keep them as part of my own madness, and yet, part of my own happiness. It’s all ultimately part of something more. The wheel turns – the chain gains links. Life goes on.

Back to the point, assuming I ever had one. You can never be too sure these days. I might be on a rant for no good reason, dragging you along for the ride simply because I can. Scared yet? Are you going to run away in absolute horror? Are you scared that I might be mad? That I might not know what I’m doing or why? Must we be in charge at all times? Must we all have our lives within our grasp at every turn? Just let go. Let it slip from your fingers and follow aimlessly. Follow because you don’t know what you’re doing or why. Stay with me for lack of reason, if nothing else. No, I don’t know what I’m doing or why, I have no idea where I’m going. But if you stick this out with me, you’ll share the surprise with me. I write this for myself, it doesn’t matter who reads it. But every writer is writing to someone, it just makes what you do more…rational. Secretly, we’re hoping that someone will read our inner thoughts and be enlightened. That they’ll see these base terms and someone will have a better existence. It’s a feeble thought, but all the same, one we all embrace. We wish to be remembered, but more so, we wish to be longed for. We wish to be appreciated, our work deemed sacred. We want eternity, words that live forever, a legacy. We’re writing for a fictitious audience at all times, just in case. Just like how we present ourselves to the world, we present our writing. It’s prepared, the cases defended, everything protected, if all else fails, the common defense that “it’s just a story” is ready and waiting. It’s fiction, but even so, it’s censored. Because writing, this, this is my soul, the page. And in order to get it there, I must tear myself open. I leave a gaping hole inside myself, a recess that allows these words to pass to this page. And in return, I leave myself vulnerable. For my honesty, I’m more prone to everything else. An unfair trade perhaps, perhaps not. Either which way, even this, this pouring of thoughts without reason onto paper is not pure. Everything is censored. Our most scrupulous censors are ourselves.

I feel at times that in speaking aloud, I would be intervening in people’s lives. I would be interjecting into a time, place, situation that I don’t belong. Which I don’t. The only conversations that I have saved in my memory are ones that I’ve stolen from somewhere, overheard casually as the nights wore on. There are times where it’s difficult not to intervene, not to shout out advice, to step in where I think I might be needed. But in the end, I know my words will only fall on deaf and disapproving ears. Because I don’t belong. That’s the only reason, of course. If I belonged, they might take a few seconds before completely disregarding my words.

In this world, in this day and age, we’re all so pride-ridden. Nobody wants to admit when they need help or why. We’re all too damn high and mighty anymore. Then again, there’s the other extreme, people who have no pride at all, who’ll sell out anybody for a little bit of fame. Not even money anymore, Thirty pieces of silver has been replaced by fifteen minutes of fame. Can you imagine? What Judas sold Jesus for seems like such an amazing amount anymore. Thirty whole pieces of silver. I mean, really, you can’t even find real silver anymore these days. Everything’s white gold, pewter – never silver. Coins are covered in some sort of silver type substance, something that’s never even seen the real thing. I’m not even sure if silver is in the light-sensitive paper that photographers use anymore. This is what we call “modernization”, the advances of technology. I call it a decline in quality control.

So here we are. For quite a few pages now, I’ve written down my thoughts. Nothing’s happened. I’ve just merely let you in to my mind. You’ve met the characters in the abstract, but not personally. There’s been no conversations, no actual events, nothing but a vague, general idea of what’s going on. Bored yet? I suppose I should include something of substance. Anything at all. But wouldn’t that take the fun out of my mental derangement? Perhaps. We’ll see.

Let’s start with…

Morning. New day. I can hear activity next door through the thin walls that are crumbling every bit more, year by year. I hear the door slam violently when Deacon first comes home, the heavy thuds of her boots on creaking boards. The sudden stops when she gets confused or disoriented. I’ve been listening to her patterns for months by now, even though there’s barely a method to her madness. She comes and goes at all hours, the slamming door commonly jarring me from sleep. I sit up in bed, leaning against the wall, trying to discern anything else from the noise. The steps move off, further away, I hear water running. She’s in the bathroom. I have nothing better to do than this. This is how my days start, wondering what the girl next door is up to. She gets around, but she’ll never rest her gaze on me for a moment if she can permit otherwise. Not that I’d blame her. You’d think that your neighbor would say something to you from time to time. Not a damn thing. I could barely get a greeting out of her if I caught her in the hallways. There was a point where I used to time my exits to try and catch her attention. I felt bad for her hardships and wanted to be friendly. She blew me off every time. When I could help her in some way, she’d come. That’s how it always seemed to work. I had one up on every other guy she ever slept with – I knew how she worked before she came crawling to me.

I can hear the mattress creak through the walls when her entire weight collapses on it, like when you just fall flat backwards and pass out. I bet solid money that she’s high. I get up, taking my book with me, writing absentmindedly as I do, starting coffee across the room. I put the book down and open my door, looking up and down the hallways. The boys from her band are hanging around outside, probably waiting for her. I recognize some of the regulars from the bar as well. A home away from home that comes home with you. The bar’s located downstairs, so it makes a lot of sense for everyone to be so close. I can’t remember if I found the bar before my apartment, or I moved here because of it. Either way, here I am.

Before I forget, my parents. See, my parents dealt with a lot of community leaders around here for years. Between them and their partners, they’ve dealt with owners of various businesses, some families as well. Most of the social leaders have died out, taking their families with them, but some spoke to my parents, or grandparents, before leaving this world. I come from a family of doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists. They were disappointed when I didn’t follow suit, yet had a very logical, and psychoanalytically correct explanation for it. I disregarded their theory and went out on my own as an artist. It’s hard to pretend to be scraping to by when you have Mommy and Daddy to bail you out all the time. Not that I’d go to them, but the choice is there. I think my family worked with Deacon’s family, and the families of the boys outside waiting for her. They’re currently working extensively with Brie, Lucius’ girlfriend.

I sat and drank my coffee, continued writing haphazardly. It was too quiet…so I got up and put on music of some sort, I don’t know what kind of music, I just pushed play and let it go. Sitting back down, I tried to plan what I’d do with my day, but nothing of import came to mind. Tonight’s a show so I would go to that, try to enjoy myself. I thought about what I’d wear for a moment, shrugging it off. I didn’t really care, but it was something to distract my mind for a little bit. Just a minute. Finish the coffee, clean the cup, return it. Well, that occupied an entire amount of ten minutes, tops. I move off to shower and get changed, thinking vaguely if I have any other projects to work on. None come to mind.

After getting dressed for the new day, I decide to go down to the bar early, see if Irish won’t let me work a few hours before the show, maybe during. I feel so out of place, sitting there while they play, as the distant observer. I go out my apartment door, careful not to get in the way of any of the wanderers in the hallway. I catch Red coming up the stairs as I’m going down. He looks pissed off and in a rush, I nod to him as I head down the stairs, he returns the gesture halfheartedly, without losing a step at all. I could hear his incessant pacing as I made my way down the stairs to the bar.

I walked through the doors slowly, careful not to be too noisy. There were a few people lingering around, and one of the bartenders that work the day. Irish was walking around taking chairs off of tables, wiping them off with a damp rag as she went. She turned her head to see me as I came in. She might have smiled.

“Hey kid, what’s doing?”

I shrugged, hands in pockets, trying not to look too desperate. “Wondering if you need a hand? I’ve got nothing planned for today.”

She smiled wider, a kind of smirk. “You never have anything planned,” she replied, but she tossed me her rag all the same. “Finish up for me? I’ve got setting up to do for tonight still. But you already knew that, didn’t you?”

I smile a little in spite of myself, shrugging casually. I catch the rag skillfully when it comes near. “Perhaps.”

She keeps smirking, moving to walk away. With how much I’m here, Irish knows that I’ve got no life. She knows that my artwork is slowing down and I need to keep busy. And for some reason, she seems more than happy to appease me. I wipe down all the tables then move on to cleaning windows and stocking the bar. The bartender working the day yawns a few times after a couple hours then decides to head home. I bid her farewell and take her place for the remainder of her shift. Irish is working with the sound crew that’s setting up amps and wiring for tonight’s show, which consists only of our local boys. I work all day, staying at the bar for lunch, writing on my breaks, hoping desperately to come up with new ideas. In the late afternoon, before the regulars start to file in and the crowds form, Irish and I stand behind the bar and chitchat about whatever minor instances comes to mind.

“So what’s really going on? You spend all of your time here. Are you obsessed with someone or something? This’ been going on for awhile now and I’ve got no problem humoring your, you’re a hard worker and a consistent customer and all, but I’d like to know what’s going on, understand?”

I nod, trying to think about what she wants to hear. I want to give her the right answer. Because she’s my boss. Because I respect her. Because she might respect me. Because she speaks to me. I don’t want to screw up. I feel like I’ve been handed an assignment and I’ve got no notes. There are no multiple-choice options here. But I don’t know. I rack my mind, trying to think of something, anything. Am I here for the music? For the money? The people? Deacon? Do I even know what I’m doing here? I feel so…lost. Time’s ticking, time is money. The more time slips by, the more suspicious she’s going to be. I have to act. I have to decide.

“I…I’ve run out of creative flow. I’m trying to survive by remaining in an environment that provokes some sort of reflection.”

She nodded in return. “I kind of thought you had it out for one of the girls.” Pause. “Or one of the guys.” Make eye contact. “No offense, but whatever you’re into, that’s your preference. I never see you with anybody.”

I nodded. This was turning into one of those conversations where we’re speaking in words but neither one of us has any idea what so ever what we’re talking about. We’re both driving blind, shooting in the dark, hoping to hit on something. Anything. I’m about to walk away, give up on this blind venture, when Deacon walks in and saves me. Unintentionally of course, but her entrance distracts Irish just enough. The conversation ends.

“Hey kid,” Irish calls to the door. Deacon creeps over, looking the place over. She’s trying to get comfortable. She catches my eye, nods.

“Hey Irish.” She nods at me again, trying to say hello. I can see the problem. She doesn’t know my name. I nod back at her, almost about to mutter my greeting. I clear my throat instead, keeping eye contact consistent, making my words clear and precise.

“Hey Deacon.”

Her eyes light up for a moment, turning back to me on their trip back to Irish. She keeps them locked there, thinking if she can respond without knowing me.

“Hey,” she mutters, giving up on her query, realizing that is the best answer she’s got. She steps over and talks to Irish; I politely take my cue and step away so that they have privacy. The crowds will be coming – the regulars have already started. The night bartender should be here at any moment. I sit and count seconds in my mind, as the little wheels click into minutes – I make the conversions and keep counting. Time wears on, as it’s meant to.

To differentiate this ranting from the main event –

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