Friday, February 27, 2015

Profaning the Namesake of Art

 
 
I was reading voraciously even before I learned how to walk. A love of books is the shortest distance between wanting to be a writer and writing. By the third grade, I was writing mini-treatises and novellas on all sorts of things. 
 
But the public education system doesn't always reward such interests or intentions. It wasn't until after graduate school that I began to write fiction seriously.
 
During my senior year of high school, I'd written a thesis in a class called "college writing" about the dangers of multinational corporations and globalism. I received a "D" on the paper, which yielded a "C" in the class.
 
The next year, as a freshman in college, I submitted the very same research paper in a macroeconomics class and received an A+.  This easily put me over the top to receive an A in the course. I photocopied my professor's glowing feedback and sent it to the spinster that had given me a D in high school. She never responded.
 
Fiction writing was no different. When you think outside the box, our education system does not reward you. It's designed to indoctrinate, not to teach original thinking. I didn't understand that completely, until I read a book by John Taylor Gatto called Dumbing Us Down (see the video below).
 
While in grad school at NYU, I longed to enter the creative writing program, but I didn't dare. Why? I strongly suspected that it would bastardize my genuine love of writing, and replace it with tedium. Most students I knew who had entered the program with a love of writing, came out with a dislike for it, and stopped writing. This was no accident. The few that persevered in their "craft" weren't any better writers. All of their voices sounded the same, like soldiers emerging from boot camp.
 
Finally, I relented and began auditing creative writing and poetry classes. The most memorable was taught by Alan Ginsberg. In front of the class, he was a very boring professor who was still obsessed with Gregory Corso. There wasn't very much inspiration in that classroom. It felt like work. Studying poetry from Ginsberg left very little room for joy. It resembled the tired, broken life of a man suffering from chronic depression and mommy issues from having been raised by a schizophrenic  matriarch. 
 
I also sat in on the classrooms of E.L. Doctorow and Mona Simpson. Although they were not suffering from mental illness, their approach to writing reflected the values of the society in which their careers as writers had flourished. In short, they were also bores and totally full of themselves. Were they great artists or great writers? Hardly. The blind lead the blind into a ditch.  
 
I would have given up writing if it wasn't for TC Boyle. He read through the first six chapters of my first novel, Peel, and offered some very helpful ideas. Yes, he encouraged me to enroll in a graduate level creative writing program, and perhaps that bit of advice was not off the mark, either. If I had enrolled in a famous program, perhaps I would be a "successful" writer today, if one measures success by the size of one's wallet.
 
TC Boyle's writing hasn't inspired me since he hammered out his last fresh novel (The Tortilla Curtain) but that doesn't matter. The man is the real thing when it comes to his heart and his soul. Yes, Boyle's writing over the years has become a caricature of itself, chockfull of similes and metaphors to the point of becoming a hopeless distraction, like a carnival barker hopped up on speed, and his vision is far from being prophetic, but the man's humanitarian impulses are present, and, so far as I know, he is an honorable human being . . . which is saying something, given his role as a cultural icon in the carnival funhouse of pain we call "high art."
 
The academic institutions that bestow titles upon its priest class ("great" writers) will continue to turn out cultural indoctrinators, and the general public will continue to venerate them, lapping up their drivel like prisoners in Plato's Allegory of the Cave that watch puppet's shadows on the wall, mistaking them for reality.
 
In 2006, I enrolled in the Tin House Writer's Workshop at Reed College. What a mistake. The class spent most of the time cultivating feedback from other writers that had no experience. By then, I had written five novels. The instructor read my fourth novel, and then proceeded to write his own novel with a very similar premise. Even today, he is still writing work based upon that novel. He was recently given a grant from the Gugenheim to create works of literary art.
 
One of his pieces, about shadow people, is obviously inspired by Cowslip. Most of his works seem derivative. I wouldn't be surprised if every single novel the man has written was inspired by someone else's work. He's lived a charmed life: free rides to Ivy League schools, a fellowship at Stanford, and yet, his mind is not very creative. He is a product of the modern education system. It creates conformists who consume original works of literature and then spit out a web of conformity. This professor's version of Cowslip involved a journal written by a homeless girl. His art-poem about shadow people took my fresh approach to language and mired it in the clay of tired old prose that sounds like other famous novels written by famous writers who earn their living now as professors.
 
The modern education system has brainwashed people to think that writers are supposed to live lives like Charles Bukowski and Hank Moody (David Dukovny's character in Californication). Novels like Lolita, which seek to normalize the twisted logic of a career pedophile, are elevated to "great" status. But this is all a sham. True writing is meant to elevate the reader's perception of reality, not to shove it down in the mud by glorifying drug use, alcoholism, mental illness manifesting as sexual obsessions, and heroic battles with garden variety depression.
 
If one measures great art by examining the way healthy human societies have worked, down through the ages, one sees a pattern: art walks hand in hand with spiritual enlightenment (true enlightenment, not the "age of enlightenment," which was designed to darken the world rather than showering it with light).
 
Modern society is broken spiritually, and that's no accident. It's been purposefully sabotaged by the people in power. They have also sabotaged people's sense of what constitutes art.  They have profaned art, exactly as their kind has profaned the insights of so-called "prophets" down through the ages by creating religions designed to crush spiritual insight rather than fostering it.
 
Since the mid-20th Century, the sciences have done the same thing to peoples' awareness of so-called "supernatural" events in the world, like the actions of ghosts, intradimensionals, and cryptids such as bigfoot. These topics have been pushed to the perimeter while everyone's attention has been focused upon the sham known as the "social sciences." Why? Because real life exceptions to the artificial rule cannot be tolerated. Charles Fort summarized this phenomenon when he wrote, "I conceive of nothing, in religion, science or philosophy, that is more than the proper thing to wear, for a while.”    
 
I worked in the psychology department of NYU when its experimental and clinical programs were ranked in the top five of the western world. It didn't take long to realize that most of the professors there were totally full of shit. They were lost souls that had initially been attracted to the field of psychology in order to heal themselves of terrible wounds inflicted by other adults upon them when they were children, or from living through traumas.
 
When they realized that psychology could not help them, a magickal thing happened. This knowledge empowered them to assume positions of authority in our society and that's exactly what happens in the fields of physics, astronomy and other pseudo-sciences that are really more based upon indoctrination than genuine discovery. The cultural icons that dominate such fields are propped up posterboys and girls. The most powerful ones, like Sigmund Freud, Carl Sagan, and Einstein, were given enough knowledge of how human society works to allow them to parade on the stage with some modicum of usefulness.
 
 
Charles Darwin was not such a poster boy; rather, he was a planner, himself, a billionaire of his day, with royal blood flowing through his veins. He was an insider, who knew the end-goal of the educational system of dogma he was creating. Yes, like all good propaganda, his views were based largely upon observable phenomenon, but this phenomenon was then filtered through a hopelessly cracked lens. It's worth noting that neither Charles, nor his father, Erasmus, probably came up with the idea of natural selection. Rather, they borrowed it from other, less famous, and less influential, people who have since faded into obscurity.
 
Natural Selection, like the Big Bang, is largely a myth, not unlike the myth of Adam and Eve in their Garden of Eden. Hard geological and anthropological evidence that flies in the face of the prevailing scientific paradigm is deftly swept out of the public view, and then summarily filed away, or, if the evidence is truly damning, destroyed. The human race has been on earth much much longer then we have been led to believe, not shorter. As Charles Fort once mused, "The earth is a farm. We are some one else's property." That farm is not bound by the laws of space and time in which we, the herd, are encouraged to live, between the psychological mile posts and fences of our rigged cultures.
 
Of course, it's worth pointing out that Natural Selection led to social Darwinism (the rich deserve to bully everyone else because nature made them powerful) just as Hebrew fables led to Manifest Destiny, which justified clearing human "trash" off the continent of North America, so the New World Order could plant its seed. Controlled chaos like pandemics and genocides were  harnessed with the help of Northern European immigrants, which were imported for precisely such a purpose, just as other races today are being used to build a vast interconnected framework of conformity rather than exhibiting the pioneering spirit of rugged individualism from centuries past. 
 
Self-reliance in the 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s paved the way for bankers and corporations to take over once the land had been cleared, and the prevailing European-based culture had been established. It's worth noting that this culture had been carefully managed for millennia by cultural planners that originally hailed from Rome, Khazaria, and the swamp-laden City State of Venice. Any way you slice it, humans are being used as pons on a global chessboard that politicons like Zbigniew Brzezinski pride themselves as orchestrating. Meanwhile, cultural gatekeepers such as TS Eliot, HG Wells, Aldous Huxley, Isaac Asimov, Ayn Rand, and Martin Amis occupy the same place as writers "in the know." 
 
Speaking of "rigged," our modern education system has been set up to confuse people and to blind their spiritual insights rather than enabling a connection with "other." God is not dead, and God is not a "he." Even the name "God" has been defiled to the point of pointlessness. To most professors at NYU, or in the physics department of the University of Washington, when I worked there for over a year as a lead administrator, God was dead. It's no accident that they thought such a thing. It had been taught to them, over and over and over again, by the educational system that replaced a belief in spirituality.
 
Creative writing--as a process of discovery, practice, and finally, mastery--is no different. True writers are not wounded souls with so much emotional baggage over their heads that they cannot function. Rather, they are people that have learned to see through the charade and throw off the cultural baggage that has been holding them hostage, and keeping them a prisoner.
 
Today, degenerates with suicidal tendencies are rewarded by the powers of our culture, which heralds them as brilliant thinkers, and for good reason. Focusing people's attention away from true enlightenment and spiritual perception helps to keep the same dull round in place. As the romantic-era poet William Blake wrote, "the same dull round, even of the universe, would soon become a mill with complicated wheels."
 
That treadmill has become a menagerie of microchips and fiber optic cables today, which tug people away from even cracking open a book. Such is the nature of so-called progress, as one antiquated hierarchy replaces another. Yesterday's pantheon of writers and painters will morph into tomorrow's virtual innovators. If present trends continue, their art might well be mainlined directly into the brains of audience members of the "civilized" world. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street: Programming du Jour


While fast-forwarding through The Wolf of Wall Street, I was struck by how obvious much of the propaganda was. I will first list the fable that the film presents, and then follow each fable with my view of reality:

Fable #1: Wall Street is like nature with its wolves, bulls, bears, etc. Stock brokers don't know what is going to happen to stocks; they merely have to guess.

Reality: The stock market is and has always been rigged in favor of the richest people on earth that use the market to con the vast majority of investors into playing along to the game known as "stocks and bonds."

A casino in Vegas has more true chance involved than the NYSE. Like any good con, the appearance of an actual institution is achieved through a lot of genuine companies and genuine investments each and every day. But the really big moves are controlled by those who run the rigged market. Black Monday was rigged. The big crash of '29 was rigged.

Often, the most money is made after the market tanks. The biggest players did the same thing in Europe, especially in England after the war with France, when the English stock market was fleeced about two hundred years after the people who fleeced it were allowed to move into England from their base of power in Venice and Germany. Previous to that, their base of power had been in Rome, and before that in the Middle East.

Fable #2: Every stock broker is a thief.

Reality: The market could not survive if this were the case. Most stock brokers are simply the slaves of those that rule the market. When the market is meant to gain momentum, the slaves are rewarded with huge profits, such as in the late 1980's when I lived in NYC and witnessed this phenomenon first hand when my fiancée worked on Wall Street.

True, most brokers are morally challenged, at least to some extent, but not wanton thieves without any morals at all that are teetering on the verge of falling into cesspools of drugs, alcohol, and prostitutes.

One thing is true: as society throws morals and principles out the window, stock market traders will be come more and more dishonest and reprehensible. And that is the way things are "supposed to be." Yes, our society is definitely being nudged in that direction by . . . you guessed it: Hollywood, the venerable bastion of depravity that makes movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street.


Fable #3: The biggest cons on Wall Street are invented by creative thinkers from the "school of hard knocks."

Reality: Most of the biggest scams are simply rehashes of age-old scams that have been used century after century by the hired hands of the world's richest families. As for "modern" scams, they are mostly cooked up by think tanks.

One of the greatest illusions about Wall Street is the fact that a huge percentage of the terminology and technical "facts" are smoke and mirror tricks. Yes, the market is designed to seem complex but it's really not much more high tech or scientifically impressive than a Vegas casino. The Federal Reserve uses the same sorts of tricks to swindle and fool the general public even while its media lapdogs forward the idea every day that the market is "difficult to understand" and that modern economics is "the province of high IQ wiz kids." You can put lipstick on a pig, but it will never raise the animal's IQ. And that goes double for putting a pair of nerdy glasses on its snout.

Speaking of pigs, just today, I was listening to NPR on my way home from work. The business of scamming (stock market report) was delivered by Kai Ryssdal, whose on-air manner resembles a sports announcer far more than a journalist. There's a very good reason for this (aside from the fact that he has been trained to sound like a coach). In point of fact, Kai is not a journalist by trade, at least he wasn't before his current job was handed to him on a silver platter.

A brief glance at Wikipedia reveals that Kai used to work for the Pentagon. He has no background at all in media or in journalism. He does, however, hold an MBA from Georgetown University in National Security Studies, and he was a soldier that flew very expensive planes. This last factoid kind of makes me wonder if he comes from a well-connected family that raised him with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Today was like any other day on-air: Kai Ryssdal opining about the wisdom of the Federal Reserve and marveling at the rough hewn naturalistic wonders of Wall Street. This of course (if we are to believe Kai) is the same Wall Street that operates like a forest or an ecosystem, which, understandably, needs to be stewarded to keep it from growing out of control.

As a matter of fact, Kai finished his broadcast with the words, "God, I love the Federal Reserve." And then he repeated his programming mantra one more time for listeners: "I just love the Fed." I was so disgusted with this programmer's craven application of operant conditioning that I quickly changed the station.

NPR is very hard to stomach these days whenever anything having to do with "security" of any sort (economic, foreign, domestic) is being covered by reporters/covert operatives, most of whom now have names that resemble characters in a Dr. Seuss book. My favorite is the tried and true "Nina Tottenberg" which literally means "The strength from Dead Mountain." Hey, you can't make this stuff up. Truth is stranger.

Fable #4: The market is regulated by the government, which keeps corruption in check.

Reality: Nothing could be farther from the truth. Both the government and Wall Street are run by the same ultra wealthy interests. The only thing these interests fear is being found out by the bulk of humanity. It is for this reason that the appearance of propriety is kept; not to actually level the playing field so that criminals are apprehended and penalized for breaking laws. In point of fact, those very laws were designed and implemented by the biggest criminal families on earth to protect their key interests.

Whenever a Wall Street "tycoon" is arrested in high profile court cases and well-publicized prison sentences, rest assured they are simply mid-level fall guys. The real tycoons never get caught. Ever. Why? Because they not only rule the roost of Wall Street. They run the government itself, and that includes all branches of the Executive Branch, as well as the Judicial Branch.

As for the Legislative Branch, need I even mention how corrupt Congress and the Senate are? Show me a representative that has lasted more than a few terms and has gotten some juicy committee assignment and I will show you a well-trained sheep dog. Show me a senator that has raised enough funds to get himself or herself elected, and I will show you a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Fable #5: Women are property

Reality: We all know that this point of view is misogynistic tripe. Women are half of the human race and they are NOT the property of men. Hollywood loves to vacillate back and forth between vivid depictions of the objectification of women in one film, and then focus dramatically on the abuse of women in other films to such a strong extent that it makes innocent male viewers actually feel guilty for merely being a man. This form of psychological warfare is called "cognitive dissonance." Such male guilt is also being used to metrosexualize men, causing the average college educated male under the age of 25 to "soften" his behavior, especially around women, in order to seem less threatening.

The "softening" of typical male behavior, which tends to cause men to speak in higher tones at times, as well as acting slightly effeminate, also undermines healthy relationships between men and women. The human race is designed to thrive on a wide range of behaviors, shapes, and sizes. Most women have been designed by nature to appreciate masculine voices, masculine (gentlemanly) behavior, masculine reactions, and masculine strength. When such qualities are villainized by Hollywood, causing men to compensate for their manliness, then the natural dynamic between men and women has been damaged.

In the case of films like The Wolf of Wall Street, female objectification is designed to make men seem like pigs. Dramatizing obviously uncouth and immoral behavior to such an extent for nearly three hours does at least temporarily alter the viewers sense of reality. It also tends to drive a wedge between men and women in real life, and undermines couples from trusting each other. It also causes men to lapse into misogynistic behavior out of guilt and also out of a feeling that it is normal and a part of life.

In one scene, a female co-worker accepts a bribe of $10,000 to shave her head in a humiliating way in front of her male co-workers and the president of her company. This woman is the only one I can recall that was not a hooker, a waitress, or a wife that was eventually cheated on by her disloyal and hypocritical husband.

Online porn also undermines couples from trusting each other, but raw porn is more obvious when this dynamic is facilitated by male and female prostitutes having sex with each other on camera for money. In a film like The Wolf of Wall Street, there is actual mind control going on to a greater extent then in regular porn because the behavior in the film is paraded via a fictional setting that bombards the viewer with predictive programming.

It's also worth noting that The Wolf of Wall Street prominently features a close-up scene in which its star, Leonardo DiCaprio, engages in an act of hardcore porn with an actress. In the scene, he sticks a drinking straw up her anus repeatedly. The camera angle of the scene obscures the viewer's ability to actually verify the penetration, but either CGI was used in the scene or DiCaprio is actually sticking a drinking straw repeatedly where the sun don't shine.

Make no mistake: this hardcore porn scene is the cornerstone in a long line of litanies designed to undermine healthy relationships between the sexes. The Wolf of Wallstreet is quintessential predictive programming aimed at objectifying women and downgrading the ethics of men. Yes, it's obviously "over the top" and less than admirable much of the time, but the script and the way this film has been shot does not set up the main character to be either a tragic anti-hero or a villain.

Rather, Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) is a vehicle to batter the minds of viewers through the sheer repetition of degrading situations (nearly three hours' worth). Think of Chinese water torture, but instead of drops of water hitting the viewer's head between the eyes, it's naked hookers, drugs, cheating clients, infidelities, wanton materialism, the glorification of money, and far more cursing than was necessary to imitate the coarsest possible mentality of the film's lead characters. One word stood out more than all the rest: variations of "fuck" as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs--over and over and over again, to the point of being more of a depraved mantra.

Yes, Mr. Scorsese, Il Regista, we get the point: "Trading shit on Wall Street is like fucking." Oh, isn't that just so original. Not unlike marines using this tired concept to illustrate kills on the battle field in the film, Jarhead. How low did you think the mean IQ of your audience was again? Not as low as your expectations for the people who bought your tickets and insodoing "took out your trash." Congratulations for being the first director to use close-up hardcore porn during a seminal scene in your "psy op" of a picture show.

Fable #6: At the end of the day (and the end of the film), "justice is served." The bad guy, no matter how likeable, always goes to jail.

Reality: When the "Wolf of Wall Street" goes to jail at the end of the film, you are watching predictive programming. Viewers are meant to live vicariously through this character and then to have their "joy ride" reinforced by the "rude awakening" that crooks go to jail. Justice is served, bla bla bla. No, justice is not served. The real crooks have rigged the system. It's a sham. Sorry, but that's the truth.

This sham is held in place by the faith of the general populous. The people that run the world think of you as livestock. They do not understand the value of human life or the dignity of humanity. Most of all, they have no idea why doing the right thing is right, in and of itself. They are, quite simply, "moral idiots" (the 19th century term for psychopaths).



The real way of winning at life is not by associating winning with how much money you make. Love is the way you win. Loving everyone you possibly can. And the most pure form of love, is unconditional love, which does not originate in getting "pay back," either from your kids, your spouse, your co-workers, or your friends.

The same families that run Wall Street do not want you to realize how powerful love is. They also do not want you to realize that modern society is a sham. Technology is also fixed. Do you think that your car is getting as much mileage as it could? No, the technology is rigged to keep you spending at the pump. I owned a Honda in 1983 that got better gas mileage than my Toyota today.

The best way to win at life is to work only as hard as you absolutely must in order to put food on the table and a roof over your head. Spend the rest of your time with your family. And save some time for yourself: to ponder the nature of reality. Dare to dream about a life filled with happiness. The more you expect goodness and happiness in your life, the more it will conform to your expectations.

Ultimately, your imagination is the most valuable commodity you will ever "own." Conversely, the richest and most so-called powerful people on earth are paupers in terms of their spiritual receptivity to universal goodness. They live in a subculture that will never let them tell the world what they know about how the system is rigged. Their lives are controlled by sociopaths that live in fear of intra-dimensional beings, whom they petition and grovel beneath for favors. These people are mostly doomed from birth. Even though their families seem to "hold all the cards" on our planet, they are emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually bankrupt.

Not so for you. You have all of the potential in the world to break the bank and find your way out of maze that has rigged to keep you wasting your time in an effort to earn money to buy things. It is designed to glorify money and to associate wealth and political might with success. In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth. This fact transcends all religions and cultures. It is the very fabric of spiritual reality. Welcome to the true light of day. Lady Gaga might want to "marry the night," complete with its werewolves of Wall Street, but the true illumination of Love belongs to you and it belongs to me. 

Don't let demon-lovers ruin your life by convincing you that your worth is measured in the material things you own or produce. Even your own children are not a sign of your spiritual legacy. Each and every moment that you love unconditionally is "money in the bank" that will help you to find your way to real freedom, which is not even found in a flesh and blood body. It is found in the radiance of your true nature as children of light, descendants of goodness, and heirs of universal wisdom.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Horror that is "Halloween"


My girlfriend went to John Carpenter's "Halloween" with a friend the other day. The theater audience treated it a little like Rocky Horror Picture Show. Laughter, amusement, and aping of corny lines. Cori said that the main characters in the film, which were supposed to be high school kids, "acted like five year olds in terms of their innocence."

I think the fact that the film, Halloween, was once scary to young people and now seems absurd (to the current generation of youth) says something about how jaded our society has become. I have never liked "slasher" films. Even as a high school kid, I thought they were indicative of mental illness being paraded sensationalistically. In other words, "sick and wrong." I was always surprised by how many of my fellow classmates loved the films, regarding them like a roller coaster ride at the carnival.

Now the same sorts of films (like Halloween and Friday the Thirteenth) have become a laughing stock to people aged 14-24. Horror films aren't taken seriously by today's youthful audiences unless the films have infinitely more CGI effects, joltingly inhumane situations, and at least a few characters that mirror all too many kids in today's society: jaded, selfish, entitled, and, at their core, lacking in hope as well as the deep kind of satisfaction that comes from feeling spiritually connected to each other and the universe.

"Heroic" acts (almost always demonstrated by a male character) in today's horror films seem almost like subliminal conditioning designed to inspire future enlistees in the military that might be sitting in the audience. Yes, the trauma-based mind control in cinema is more sophisticated, but it has become a pillory of itself, at least to the enlightened viewer.

People who possess even a modicum of spiritual connectedness can instinctively detect sadism in psychopathically-inspired rituals being touted by Hollywood (and the nebulous financial investors behind Hollywood's Oz-like curtain) as horror films.

Why not call a spade for a spade, and categorize so-called "slasher" films more accurately as what they truly are: terrorism?  

Can you imagine a section at your neighborhood video store called "terrorism?" No, probably not. It's far too accurate. Such a moniker would call the viewer's attention to the fact that he is not watching programs on television; rather, he is being programmed. Calling attention to this predator-prey dynamic would be bad for sales. Then again, Hollywood these days produces mostly garbage that is poorly written, poorly directed, and poorly acted.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Samples from the Novel, Cowslip






Foreword


 


The journal you are about to read began as a project in Julia Fleischer’s writing class at Portland Community College. Although it spans some five months, only the first thirty-four pages were handed in for credit. The remaining pages are, as Julia says, a record of “life experiences.” They chronicle her beginnings as a cowgirl in Mt. Angel, Oregon, and the steps leading up to her explosive rise into the professional rock scene. 

Two years have passed since her death, two long years, but there isn’t a day goes by when I don’t feel her presence. When she died, Julia had it all: a talented band, a million-dollar recording contract, dozens of friends who would have done anything for her that was humanly possible.

She also had Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, and eventually, it caught up with her. Yet she got further than me or anyone else in her position could have gotten. I should know. As Julia’s best friend, I saw her change from a jubilant young woman into something else entirely: A wide-eyed mystic with tales of angels and demons—accounts gathered from sojourns in a murky realm that divides our world from the next.

Julia’s brushes with the supernatural were neither welcome nor appreciated. But rather than shrinking back in fear, she utilized each new experience to create a working model of God and the universe. 

By this I don’t mean to suggest that Julia Fleischer was some kind of spiritual seer or prophet. That’s not for me to say. Everything she felt, everything she experienced in the last few months before her death has been recorded here. Along with the songs on her album, those memories are all she had left to give, her legacy.

Bringing this manuscript to an agent was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, but ultimately I think it was the right one. Now Julia’s message can reach the world—and by extension, you, the reader. That’s who she had in mind when she wrote down her most personal secrets.

So if you begin to feel a bit like a voyeur, don’t worry, it’s part of the experience. To Julia, artistic integrity meant full disclosure. She wouldn’t have had it any other way.
 

                                                                                                                         Ruth Cohaine
                                                                                                                              New York City



 
ENTRY THIRTY
There’s no use pretending anymore. Just because I fooled that doctor in the emergency room at St. Francis, telling him I’d mixed antibiotics with alcohol, lack of sleep, that I’d been distressed, beside myself about a personal matter involving my ex-boyfriend, it doesn’t mean I have a clean bill of health. It only means I can trick those who want to help me, or at least those who show a pretence for trying to help.
Yesterday, I was sitting at Café Lena, working on these poems that I’m secretly writing for Ruth, and I felt the awful slipping feeling come over me, stronger than ever before. People’s voices at nearby tables kind of slowed down, or sped up, and I could see these shapes moving all around me, out of the corner of my eye. I thought of ghosts, but that would be silly, like the movie Ghost Busters.
The grey shapes, shadows—whatever you want to call them—didn’t really seem to be aware of the other people. But they were painfully aware of me. That I know. The more attention I paid to them, the faster they came—rushing over like insects, huge grey shadowy insects drawn to the heat of my presence until they were pressing in around my table.
As soon as I got my “tofurkey” burger and started to chow down, I was fine. My conscious mind shooed them away. Eating must have had something to do with it. Maybe they were literally the manifestation of hunger. My body trying to communicate on a subconscious level. There’s no way to tell for sure, but the whole experience was beyond freaky.
OK, time to change the subject.
Remember that story I mentioned, the one Ruth wrote about that Kibbutz in Israel? The Alchemy at PCC accepted it! They’re going to publish it in the fall! Bless her heart, Ruth was so excited! The Chair of Creative Writing sent her a personal letter of acceptance!
That’s another reason Ruth should come with me to the poetry reading tomorrow night. We’ve got to celebrate! Ruth is such a sweetheart. I feel embarrassed about what I wrote about her last week, all those sensual things.
The next morning, I read through the entry and blushed. It didn’t even sound like me talking. It sounded more like Deeksha. I came very close to deleting the whole entry; can you imagine how embarrassing it would be if Ruth ever read it?
I wonder what she’d do if I told her that I’m attracted to women as well as men. Would it get in the way of our relationship? Despite how “progressive” Ruth likes to think she is, with parents from Manhattan, she’s never really discussed her sexuality with me. It’s just sort of taken for granted that we’re both straight. We talk about other guys—appraising their faces, legs, asses—but that’s only for laughs. I wonder what Ruth would say if I told her I thought another girl had a nice ass?
Life is so mixed up right now. I don’t want to jeopardize our friendship. Ruth is my rock, my fortress. Even though she doesn’t know it, she’s helping to keep me from cracking up.
Sometimes I get this impulse when I’m walking down a busy street to take a few steps sideways in front of a bus or a big truck. I could end it all, so simple. No more changes, no more dark energy, nothing. God, how I wish things could be the way they used to be. I just want to be happy again.
 
These days, it’s really weird at home with Deeksha. I think she’s been kind of embarrassed about that time she came on to me in the garden. We haven’t discussed it. But she doesn’t walk around naked anymore. Instead, she wears this slinky Japanese kimono made of silk. I almost feel like doing her just to get it over with. But that would be so wrong.
Even when I go into my room and shut the door and put on my headphones, it doesn’t feel private. I imagine Deeksha listening from the next room, wondering if we’ll ever get together. Touching herself, thinking of me.
That’s part of the reason I could never tell Ruth how I feel. If I somehow put her in the same position, I’d rather curl up and die. But there’s one good thing about my predicament with Deeksha: I don’t feel guilty about the rent anymore. All that tension in the house, it’s such a drain that I’m earning the rest of this month’s rent just putting up with it.
And Jeff. He’s been calling me at the house. Deeksha has a nose for his timing. She always picks up the telephone first. Then she gets this really sarcastic tone in her voice and says, “Oh, Julia . . . it’s for you.” Jeff hasn’t mentioned anything about getting back together, he claims he just wants to check up with me now and again to make sure I’m hanging in there. According to him, Nadja moved out, he never sees her outside of work. Not that it really matters. I guess she found some other teddy bear to squeeze.
The other night still has Jeff rattled. I know he feels guilty, like it was all his fault, my passing out and stuff. And he’s partly right. Every time I start to stress, the shaking gets worse. Fainting isn’t out of the question, especially if I’ve missed a meal. I haven’t told Jeffrey about the illness, though. He doesn’t have to know. It’s really one else’s business but mine. Jeff thinks I’ve got an iron deficiency because I’m a vegetarian. He’s been pushing for me to start eating fish, to become a “vegaquarian” like Ruth. Whatever. I wish he’d just give it a rest and quit calling.
Next time he does, I’m going to say so. Enough is enough. He can see me at the show. That’s the soonest I’d want to see his big dumb baby face. He can stand out in the audience and watch all the other guys get hard-ons and remember “once upon a time, she was all mine.”
 
God, I’m totally rambling. It’s getting late, past my bedtime. When I’m tired, it’s hard to concentrate. These last few entries have taken me a lot longer to write than usual. I should write in the morning first thing when I get up, but I usually have to rush to get to work on time.
Maybe if I go to bed earlier, I can get up earlier and do the writing then. A glass of orange juice, one piece of rye toast, along with a Morningstar Farms breakfast patty, and I’ll be set. No more coffee, though. No more caffeine, period. That’s taboo. If I drink anything with caffeine these days, I’m a basket case. I get the shakes so bad it’s all I can do just to keep my teeth from rattling in my head like a maraca.
I’m going to call Ruth now. Three rings and then I hang up if no answer. But she’s probably still up. Girlfriend’s a night owl like me.
 
ENTRY THIRTY-ONE
Forget writing in the morning. I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes just staring at a blank screen. That whole early morning thing was just bogus. You can’t deny your nature. Plus, there’s the Deeksha factor to contend with. In the morning, she’s in full gear, puttering around, banging pots in the kitchen, vacuuming in the hall outside my door—all in an effort to get my attention.
Why put off the inevitable? I’ve got to move out. Like, immediately. Things have gone from bad to worse. Deeksha’s been making these elaborate dinners, expecting me to drop everything at the last minute, wanting to “talk” about my life, which basically ends with her dishing out a liberal helping of Osho vomit every chance she gets, cramming it down my throat.
I was going to write about what happened at Café Lena, when I read my love poems about Ruth with her there and everything, but it’s going to have to wait until after work. Screw this. I can’t even type, my hands are shaking so bad.

ENTRY THIRTY-TWO

Ahhh. Much better. I’m spending the night over at Ruth’s, so I’ll have to transfer this file back to my computer on disk.

Gotta stay out of Deeksha’s lair. She thinks she’s helping me, but she’s only making everything worse, much worse. I almost told Ruth about her coming on to me, but then I thought better of it. So I just said that she was on the rag, PMSing, and that I had to get away, which is probably not far from the truth.

One of the bogus things about living in Deeksha’s house is the way she and I synchronize our periods. I don’t know how it happens or why, but I’d rather not “share” my cycle with her.

Now Ruth, she’s different. There’s almost something endearing about her cycles, the way she groans and leans on my shoulder as we walk to class: “Oh, Jules, I’m not going to make it. Can’t you just carry me?”

We both get cramps really bad. If we were synchronized, we could sit around and moan together.

 

The other night at Café Lena was probably one of the best nights of my life. I was kind of burnt from work and band practice, so Ruth invited me over to her place and we took a nap together.

Oh, heaven! It was absolutely amazing lying next to her! We kept our clothes on but I was tingling all over! We must have slept for at least two hours because the alarm clock never went off and we were late getting to the reading.

I’d already brought my poems, so we drove straight there. Ruth had a few of her own, which sort of caught me by surprise. I didn’t even know she wrote poetry; she’s never mentioned it before. I think every writer worth her salt should write poems. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the purest form of literature.

We got to Café Lena about twenty minutes late and I was really bummed out because I figured we’d be around twentieth on the list, but guess what, Tina Blanchard, a friend of mine who knew I was coming, put my name under hers, which was third! That meant I was going on fourth. Perfect! Just long enough for people to settle into their drinks.

But then I remembered Ruth, so next to my name I wrote “& Friend.” Tina thought that was really clever. She had a table in the corner by the window, our favorite place to sit. I think she must have gotten there really early because it’s usually taken.

 

The first poet who read was totally boring, rambling on with a fake Irish brogue about wine, women, and song, trying to sound like this latter-day Odysseus from Ireland. He fell flat on his face, but everyone clapped loudly because that’s one of those things, at least at Café Lena. People are understanding, since most of them are nonprofessional writers. It’s a kind of embarrassment insurance: that way, if you end up sucking the big one, at least you’ll get some applause. There’s nothing worse than a room that’s totally quiet after you’ve just poured your heart out.

The next poet was this slam type, yelling in the microphone about titties and beer, a real turn-off. I discreetly took out my poems and started to arrange them, figuring out which one to read first.

When Tina’s turn came around, I put everything away and gave her my undivided attention. She’s so adorable, this really petite girl, and they always have to lower the microphone for her. But she has a great presence despite her height and her squeaky voice.

Tina’s poems were about places and natural things, very little about people. That’s cool. Most poets at open mics tend to go off about poppy Americana like game shows and Elvis, so it’s always refreshing to hear some well-crafted poems about nature.

Since the crowd really loved Tina’s first two poems, she took out a third one—this really long one that was totally different, about her brother and how she’d felt after he committed suicide. I hadn’t even known she’d had a brother.

The poem was so touching that I saw a few people get misty-eyed. I probably would have too if I wasn’t nervous about reading next. When Tina finished, there was this awkward silence. People didn’t know if they should clap, but then Roger (this tall, skinny flamer who only writes sonnets and heckles the bad poets) stood up and clapped.

Everyone took his lead, standing up. The emcee came over and said a few words of encouragement to Tina as she was sitting down at our table. She was crying, so the whole thing must have been true. Man, that took guts. Ruth and I patted Tina’s little hand, told her she’d done great. Then it was our turn, we were up.

I decided to let Ruth go first. She’d always been more confident than me in class, raising her hand a lot, so I figured she wouldn’t mind and she didn’t. She read this one poem about a trip she’d taken back to her grandmother’s house in Brooklyn. It was very polished, like something you’d read in the New Yorker and people were obviously impressed. But it lacked emotional conviction, especially after Tina’s reading.

Still, Ruth’s voice was strong and clear and she came across well, much better than most people who read.

The audience clapped and I was up.

All eyes shifted on me, and that’s when I realized how bad my hands were shaking. I couldn’t even read the words on the page. Ruth gave me this worried look that said, OK, go ahead, you can do it! I felt like I was going to cry. The people in the audience seemed a little caught by surprise, too, because I’d been reading at the open mics for over a year and this had never happened before.

Ruth put her arm around me and gently took the pages, holding them for me to read. My whole body was shaking. I could tell because Ruth’s arm felt so calm and steady. I felt the dark energy flow out of me into Ruth and it anchored me down. Once I started reading, the poem found a voice. I just relaxed and let the words spill out of my mouth:

 

Summer


I wait for the coming of summer

Like a sparrow saving up her twigs.

 

I wait for the chance to brush

Against the cross-currents of your hair,

Trailing in the wind.

 

You are the season of my release,

Bending your arms like the boughs that hold me.

 

Your essence clings to the roof of my mouth,

Lofty as the arches of a cathedral set against the clouds.

 

You have a soul as generous as the sun,

Yet dangerous as a storm cresting over the fields.

 

The voice of the wind calls your name to me as it rushes

Through the branches of proud oaks, waving at the sky.

 

After I finished, Ruth rubbed my back, turned the page. Everyone was clapping really loud, but I almost didn’t like it because I knew part of the reason was because at least some of them were my friends worried about me. Also, it felt so weird standing there with Ruth’s arm braced around me, reading the poems I’d written for her, labored over, agonized for her sake.

And then I smiled because I realized that it was beautiful. She would never know, I’d never tell her, it was just one of those things. Now, I was getting the old rhythm back. I felt my “sea legs” as I launched into the second poem:

 


Dreaming Open Days


Where do the winds go on days that move like beetles

Across a heap of dry driftwood?

 

Where does the rain go in summertime

When the firs smell of pitch

And dreams leave me open to chance?

 

I reach out to the sun and your voice spreads

Its rays into the pores of my skin.

 

Take me in your arms, and I will sigh the sigh

Of open days

 

 That rise up like steam from milk-washed lips

 Toward the window of hours yet to come—

Hours spent together

  In the bosom of a blue-streaked sky.

 

The crowd clapped even louder as Ruth turned the last page, but I didn’t need to look at the words. This one, I knew by heart. I’d been reciting it earlier that afternoon, committing it to memory as I lay next to my love, watching her sleep, cherishing the rush of her breath, the rise and fall of her breasts:

 

Your Body

I drink in the sight of it

With reverence

Like a sip from the Holy Grail,

Nakedness spilling down my throat,

Hips smooth as the bank of a slow-flowing river

That has caressed a favorite bend of sandstone

Lovingly

For a millennium.

 

Ruth put down the sheets and hugged me right there in front of everyone. She took my hand, led me back to the table. Tina scooted her chair over next to mine, asked if she could get me anything. Everybody was looking.

All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so well again. I thanked her and said yeah I’d really like a Tofurkey burger. Tina looked nervously over at the waitress who said she was terribly sorry but the kitchen was closed.

That’s OK, I said. Maybe a glass of soymilk. Then I got up and went to the bathroom to compose myself in front of a mirror.

Edgar Alan Poe would have fallen in love if he could have seen me: Chest white as snow, fine blonde hair starting to get long, already going light from the summer sun, from sitting outside cross-legged meditating in the garden.

Funny how life works, strange. Without meaning to, I’d finally done it. I looked like a rock star, an actress, a model. The weight had slipped off my body, leaving behind a different person. There was a wildness about the eyes—larger, wider. A look that said: “Tomorrow I may die, but you shall remember me forever.”

I’d never thought of myself that way before: beautifully doomed, with a sad, haunting transience. But my face, my body, everything about me accentuated this fact, and now it was undeniable.

 

A knock at the door, Ruth’s sweet voice: “Jules, honey. You alright in there?” I burst out, throwing open my arms to give her a tremendous hug.

I could tell she was chafing at the bit, dying to ask what was wrong. Slyly, I took her hand, dragging her back to the table. Not another word. We had to support the other poets, that was our solemn duty. We had to clap for them as loud as they’d clapped for us!

A big glass of soy milk was waiting for me. Tina winked. I leaned over, gave her a peck on the lips. Her eyes went wide and she giggled nervously.

That’s right, baby, get used to it! The new Jules can do anything she wants! People were looking again, whispering about the change that had come over me, a fresh new glow in my cheeks. They probably thought I’d shot up in the bathroom. Well, fuck ‘em. They could think what they wanted.

I signaled to the waitress, ordered a glass of wine. Tonight was a celebration! After the poetry reading, I’d invite Tina to join us next door at Chez Grill for a bottle of champagne. Life was a celebration, especially with Ruth at my side: O, for a draught of vintage that hath been cooled a long age in the deep-delvéd earth! Wipe away your tears! Come, run with me through alien corn!

And when night is over and the time has come to resign ourselves to the morning minions’ mercies, then and only then will you count me among the darkling drawn . . . not lost, but passed, like the bridge of a song.

 

ENTRY THIRTY-THREE

Went back to the free clinic today, not for a prescription, but to ask the doctor for that card again, the one from PHSU. He wasn’t there, so my visit turned out to be pointless. The nurse was there, though, she remembered me.

When I asked her about the card, she couldn’t recall. It had been a very busy day, she’d had people coming in who looked quite a bit sicker than me. But she was kind and told me that I could schedule an appointment with the doctor for next week. He was at a conference, out of the state, but he’d be back the following Monday. I thanked her and made an appointment for eleven-thirty, Monday.

Now I’ve got five days to stress out about it. Oh well. Them’s the breaks.

 

After going to the clinic, I was exhausted and hungry. The weather sucked, a light misting of rain—more the rule than the exception in Portland—except for July, August and September, the sunny months when it actually warms up.

Today was cold, dark clouds drooling, not the kind of day to sit outside in a park looking for my friend, the can scrounger, for a pick-me-up story. I thought about calling in sick to work. I was due to come in at one o’clock, and it was only eleven-thirty.

I hadn’t really eaten breakfast yet, so the changes were starting to kick in. Just barely. I’d been fighting them on and off, ever since that night when I had passed out at Jeff’s, but a morbid streak in me was curious to find out what would happen if I didn’t eat. I wasn’t particularly hungry, though. My stomach had already started to shrink.

I drifted west, up toward the Pearl District where I knew there were lots of interesting cafes. At Ninth, I turned left and followed Burnside up to the biggest, most famous branch of Powell’s Books, which has always been a safe haven for me, the perfect place to experiment. What psychologists would call a “controlled setting.”

 

Powell’s Books was fairly deserted inside, it being the middle of the day and all. I went straight to the literature section and started browsing.

I just love the way Powell’s is laid out, not like most bookstores: One whole city block with three big floors (four if you count the rare book archive upstairs). It reminds me of an ancient library from Borges’ Fictiones: Seven rooms, each a different color. I went straight to the Blue Room where all the literature is kept. The clerks put their favorite books with the covers facing outward to attract your attention with all these little tags that say which employee recommended them. And they usually have good taste. That’s how I’ve come across many of my favorite books—by going for the yellow and blue tags.

As I strolled down the isle, I could feel a low, resonant whir start up in my bones, like a big generator straining way down in the basement. But I knew there wasn’t any such generator—not really. It was a telltale sign the changes were already upon me.

Thumbing through a novel, I began to hear voices whispering behind the stack. This time, I could understand what they were saying. Instead of calling my name or jabbering amongst themselves, they were mocking me through a new and ingenious method: reading aloud!

If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought the books themselves were talking—the souls of long-dead authors leaking out into the cold, stale air.

It took every ounce of restraint not to dash outside, into the broad daylight, where the Shadow People wouldn’t be able to track me so easily. But a part of me knew instinctively that I had to find out more about them in order to beat them at their own game. And Powell’s was the perfect place.

I rushed over to the “K” section. Animal Dreams wasn’t on the shelf, so I picked up a nice, big hardcopy edition of The Poisonwood Bible. I squinted down at the first page in Kingsolver’s latest book. To my relief, I could make out the words, despite a few backwards letters here and there. Reading aloud, I hoped the sound of my voice would steady me.

I froze, mid-sentence. What was that? It came from down in the Rose Room: A long, plaintive howl. The man standing just down the aisle from me hadn’t even flinched, but I could hear the Shadow People jabbering. No more fun and games. Now it was everyone for themselves!

Another howl and another—more animal than human. This time it was much closer, over by the stairs.

I listened for the Shadows’ reaction: Nothing. They’d bailed, leaving me alone to confront whatever it was coming up the stairs. Fuck that! I bumped into some lady, knocking a book out of her hands. She backed away, as if I were some kind of lunatic.

When I got to the Coffee Room, I scoured the shelves for anything of substance, but there were only starchy foods—bagels, muffins, scones. The girl behind the counter asked if she could help. “Yes!” I said. “Do you have any protein?”

She blinked at me stupidly. I began to get desperate: “You know! Soy, meat, anything!” The girl shook her head. This was a cof-fee shop, not a restaurant. But there was a pizza place right across the street.

“OK, fine” I said, trying to calm myself. “Is there a back way out of here?” The girl forced a smile, “Uh, no. Not really. Your nearest exit would be that way.” I followed the tip of her finger down the stairs to where she was pointing, even though I knew exactly where the front entrance was.

No sooner had I glanced down there, than my eyes tracked the movement of something that didn’t belong. At first, it seemed like the shadow of a large dog on the wall, elongated by the lights down in the Rose Room. And yet, I knew this was no mere shadow.
Not this time. Shadows didn't have bristles . . . the bristles of a coat, hair.

The realization took a second to register. In the flicker of that instant, the creature froze and turned its head. I looked away, but not before I caught sight of the monstrous black lips and fangs. There was something about them that lingered in my brain like the flash of a light bulb. What was it? A smile, horribly animalistic, yet conscious of itself like no animal could be. I'd seen that look on the faces of sportsmen in photographs displaying their wares, gloating over the carcass of some poor sad being that had fallen victim to their deadly game.

“Please,” I begged the girl, reaching into my purse and whipping out a twenty-dollar bill. “Don’t you have anything?”

The girl glanced down at the money. “Hang on,” she said. I scrunched behind the trashcan as she went into the back room. She came out with a sack lunch. “There’s a sandwich in there,” she said. “It has meat.”

“What kind? What kind, damn it!

“R-roast beef! I, uh . . . made it fresh this morning. It’s my lunch, but for twenty bucks you can have it.”

“M’RO USHÁLYIN!” The creature looked right at me, getting ready to pounce up the stairs—its eyes hypnotic, burning yellow. I grabbed the lunch sack and dropped behind a shelf of magazines.

Crouching down, I ripped the sack open. Red meat. Of all things, it had to be red meat, cow. I stripped off the bread, wolfing down huge bites that made my eyes water as the cold flesh slid down my throat.

As soon as it reached my stomach, I could feel my body start to come back online. The roaring in my ears stopped. Just to be double sure, I ate the potato chips and the orange. Then I pulled my knees up to my chest and waited.

Several minutes passed. No sign of the demon. Not even so much as a growl. By this time, I knew I was safe. The headache told me so. It pounded mercilessly on the coils of my brain, bringing tears to my eyes. 

 

When the security guard came to escort me out of the store, I didn’t have any objections. He was this really nice Hispanic man in a green T-shirt who didn’t say much of anything.

Outside, on the sidewalk, I apologized. The security guard smiled, no harm done. Just don’t come back for a while, OK? I asked him how long that would be, and he said one month, maybe two. I could tell he thought I was on drugs by the way he was looking at me, studying my eyes, making a mental note of my hair color, height, weight, etc., obviously for a report of some kind.

 ø

Oh, man, I’m exhausted. All this talk about shadows and demons has drained my brain. I can barely type another word. Such heaviness, heavy thoughts. Instead of focusing on dark energy, next time the changes come, I’m going to keep a lookout for angels. Surely, they must be there, waiting, just out of reach, wanting to help.

 

ENTRY THIRTY-FOUR

Speaking of angels, my father’s spirit seems to have some connection with light. I’m remembering that time at Jeff’s when my soul left my body and the voice shouted “Cowslip!” to keep me from sinking too far.

Or maybe it wasn’t my father, maybe it was an angel who didn’t want to frighten me.

Whatever it was, I have the feeling it would help me again. Whenever I feel myself start to sink, I’m going to listen for it. A few words of encouragement from above. There’s so much blight and ugliness. I just want to be good.

Even if this whole thing is just one massive hallucination—a soul that’s packing up and getting ready to leave behind a spare body—I can deal with that. At least I’m trying to make some sense of it: The possibility that I’m searching for pearls of wisdom in a lump of crap.

Putting everything down here in this journal makes me feel better. It’s like a breath of pure oxygen, helping to give my life a purpose. Yet another outlet for my soul, along with my music.

 

So much to think about: Fame, fortune . . . fate. Will I die rich and famous, a victim of some rare degenerative brain disease? Locked away in a special wing of some hospital. Or worse, in a lunatic asylum.

I can’t help speculating about the obvious parallels between the way our sheep acted on the ranch after they’d contracted scrapies and the way my father acted once his so-called “Alzheimer’s” took over, filling his brain with paranoid visions until the very lint on his blanket roared loud enough to make him cower in fear.

And now I’m the same way, hearing voices in bookstores, running from my own shadow. Reality is starting to break down. I can’t tell what’s real and what’s illusion. If my suspicions prove correct, then both my father and I must have caught some kind of human form of scrapies. I know it seems unlikely. The man from APHIS told us that could never happen, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that allaying our concerns was in his best interest, not ours. He certainly didn’t care one peck about my father’s well being. He knew the implications of his report, how it would bankrupt the ranch, and yet he walked away as if it was nothing.

Thinking back on it, I’m sure that doctor at the Free Clinic must have made some kind of tentative diagnosis if he gave me that neurologist’s card at PHSU. And I threw away the card he gave me. Why? That was stupid, childish. From now on, no more rash decisions. I’ve got to keep on top of this thing if I want to get anywhere at all.

 

ENTRY THIRTY-FIVE

Ruth had me over last night. She’s sick of her housemate, too. We’re thinking about looking for a place of our own, just the two of us. Thank God her housemate’s on vacation. Bill Green. He’s this older guy, a retired construction contractor, who owns the house. Mostly, he stays upstairs. Ruth says he watches TV nonstop and drinks whisky, even in the morning. He looks a lot like Charles Bukowski but he’s uglier, if you can imagine.

One time, last fall, Mr. Green came on to me when Ruth and I made the mistake of drinking with him. That was right after she’d moved in, when she still was trying to make a good impression. He brought down his blender from upstairs and made the most delicious frozen margaritas. In a strange way, he seemed almost charming. Watching him grind that ice with such expertise, flexing the muscles in his forearm (still rock-hard from a life spent swinging a hammer) I imagined how he must have looked as a young man: Tall, strong, virile . . . and still ugly as sin.

Before he’d gone back upstairs with his blender tucked under one arm, Mr. Green had whispered that he felt a special “connection” with me because I possessed a “timeless beauty.” This followed by a tender kiss on the cheek.

You know, I’d never admit it to anyone, but I felt strangely connected to him right at that moment. If there’s such a thing as a “grandfather figure,” he certainly fit the bill. Now is that messed up, or what?

 

Ruth did most of the cooking for dinner. She’s got this dynamite recipe for tofu pad Thai and it was sooooooo delicious! When she was boiling the noodles I told her that I ate a roast beef sandwich the other day and she dropped the spoon on the floor she was so surprised. I didn’t tell her about the rest, though. I just said I’d been feeling faint; I’d need some protein really fast.

When I said that, I could see the wheels start to turn in her head. She twisted the corner of her mouth like she does when she wants to say something but thinks better of it. That didn’t last long, though. Over dinner, she broached the subject very delicately. She said that she’d noticed I’d started drinking a lot. I could tell by the way she said it that she thought I was becoming an alcoholic. That kind of ticked me off, so I decided to go ahead and tell her about the scrapie/mad cow thing.

Ruth listened really patiently to my whole spiel. I told her about the sheep on the ranch, how my father had gotten sick. His symptoms. I also told her about the Free Clinic and everything.

We were done eating by then, so we went into the living room and sat on the couch. Ruth listened really attentively to all my theories on the disease without passing judgment. When I was finished, she gave me a hug. Then she jumped up and said she had a surprise. She opened the freezer and voila! A pint of my favorite: Haagen Daaz Vanilla Swiss Almond! That was so sweet of her, always thinking of me.

She took the ice cream back to the couch with two spoons and we ate right out of the carton. I was impressed she didn’t seem worried about catching anything, but that also made me realize that she probably thought I was imagining the whole scrapies thing. She told me that if I went back to the Free Clinic and got the name of that neurologist at PHSU, she’d go with me. The way she said it, I felt like she wanted to go to make sure I went.

After eating all that food we were both so drowsy that we decided to call it a night and turn in. This time, I took off my clothes and only left on my T-shirt and undies. Ruth went into the bathroom to get ready and came back in a cute little nightie. I put on this dreamy CD by Hooverphonic that I’d given her for her birthday and she turned off the light and got in bed next to me.

We started talking girl talk. I told her that I really liked the way she was growing her hair out. Eventually, it would look so killer: Long, black and sleek. Another two or three months and that blonde raccoon stripe along her bangs would be history.

Ruth said thanks and switched the conversation, wanting to know how much weight I’d lost over the past couple of months. I said beats the hell out of me, I’d thrown away the scale Jeff bought. She said she thought I looked good with the weight off. But some of the girls at school had been gossiping, saying I must be anorexic or something. She said she could never make herself throw up, could I? I said no way, that was totally wrong. In the silence of the room, I sensed her listening carefully to my answer, gauging it to see if I was telling the truth.

For the second time in one evening, I felt a twinge of irritation but I knew Ruth was only worried about me, it was friendly concern, so I let it slide again without calling her on it. She put her arms around me and gave me a nice hug: “I’m so glad that we’re best buds.”

I asked her about Chuck, this guy she’d been seeing lately. She said, oh Chucky, that loser, she was going to break up with him next week. He was way too immature, never listened to a word she was saying. All he cared about was sex, and even that wasn’t so hot. She asked if I’d ever get back together with Jeff, and I turned to face her. No need to even dignify that with a response. As I propped myself up on one elbow, my night shirt slipped down and my left tit kind of popped out.

I looked down, back up at Ruth. She giggled. There was enough light in the room coming in through the window to see the look on her face. I knew right then that she was attracted to me, but maybe she wasn’t quite aware of this fact. It was more of an impulse. All I had to do was lean over and kiss her. But I couldn’t do it. Not tonight.

Instead, I just lay there next to my love, her long brown legs rubbing against mine under the sheets, and I felt my skin prickle in that familiar way up and down the inside of my thighs right before my little girl starts to get wet.

 

In the middle of the night, I woke up plagued with a terrible thirst. Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink! I got up, stumbled into the kitchen. As I was standing there at the sink, I could have sworn I heard a creaking upstairs in Bill’s room. The floor boards. Then I heard a sound that was too soft to really hear, but I recognized it anyway, kind of a whisper.

A big shadow was there in the room with me. I could see it out of the corner of my eye. Just one. Better to pretend it wasn’t there. Sometimes when I did that, they went away. Acknowledging their presence seemed to encourage them.

I didn’t feel hungry, but I looked in the fridge anyway. There was the tofu pad Thai, wrapped neatly in Saran Wrap. No, that wouldn’t do. I needed something more substantial. Protein, a quick fix. I poked around. Ruth was a vegaquarian but alas alack, no fish. Then I noticed the shelves in the door. Sure enough, there was this jar with a picture of a fish and the word “Gefelte” written on the label. I couldn’t find an expiration date, but when I unscrewed the lid, this vile smell came out. Yuck!

Right as I was putting the jar back in the door, I caught a glimpse of something moving closer to me, out in the dining room. Looking directly at the spot, I could see the carpet was shaded different like there was a huge invisible form standing there casting a shadow.

Whatever it was moved toward me again and I screamed. The jar fell out of my hands, shattering on the floor. Shadows popped up everywhere, and I saw something else, something horrible that I’d never seen before: It was like this little vortex had opened up right in front of my eyes and all these squirming beings were moving around inside.

I fell down to my knees without taking my eyes off the vortex and started feeling around blindly on the floor for a piece of that rotten fish. My fingers wrapped around a soft, fleshy chunk. As soon as I got it down and swallowed, the whispering in my ears began to fade away, and the vortex closed up like it had never been there. I looked down, grabbed another piece of fish, stuffed it in my mouth, chewing mechanically.

Now that I was a little more relaxed, I noticed how awful the Gefelte tasted. Bleh! Gross! And then it came bubbling up out of me, not the fish, but these giggles of relief. So what if my knees were bleeding with shards of glass in them? I sat back against the fridge to catch my breath.

And that’s when I heard the new sound: it came from the living room—a sniffing gurgle. Every muscle and tendon in my body went tight again. The first thing that came to mind was the sound that demon had made in Powell’s. If the Shadow People could follow me here then why not the demon?

I looked over at the knife drawer on the other side of the kitchen. Two, maybe three steps. They would take me into plain view of the living room, but if the demon hadn’t come in the kitchen yet, then maybe it didn’t know I was in here. I remembered the way it had followed my scent in Powell’s, sniffing around the place where I’d been standing when I’d read from The Poisonwood Bible. My scent had been weak then because I was still alive with a soul insulated tight inside my body. But if I’d fainted in the cafe and my soul had slipped out, like what might happen now . . . .

OK, this is it, baby. Don’t give a fuck. One fast, fluid motion and the knife will be in your hand.

I rose up slowly, cautiously, bracing myself against the bar like a sprinter getting ready to explode off the starting block. And that’s when I recognized another sound, this little gasp, the familiar tone of a throat being cleared.

I peeped over the bar. There was Ruth. Her eyes were all red and her face looked strange—puffy and distorted. I wondered if maybe one of the Shadow People had done something to her, hurt her in some way, because if they had . . . and then I realized she was only crying.

“Oh, Jules,” she said in a shaky voice. “Please. Don’t.” I looked down. My hand was clenching the handle of a big steak knife.

 

ENTRY THIRTY-SIX

I’ve been thinking a lot about light. Where it comes from: both here and beyond. When that vortex opened up in Ruth’s kitchen it glowed pinkish-red like the inside of a womb, flickering or pulsing to the beat of some colossal heart.

Who knows? Maybe I was so scared at the time that I immediately assumed the worst. Maybe the squirming beings were really angels!

Yeah, right. Guess again. Even as I typed those words, I knew that I was only kidding myself. There’s no way those grody ucky things were angels. They seemed more like human maggots, unhatched embryos—souls that hadn’t ripened yet into fetuses made of real flesh and blood.

I think maybe what I saw was a cosmic rip. Instead of seeing forward into the future, I was seeing backwards. When the changes happen, it’s like that: I slip out of time. My soul’s no longer held in check; it starts to drift, a boat cut loose from its moorings. The Shadow People are attracted to me because I have the light of being alive, my soul gives off some kind of energy they lack. They want something from me, but I’m not sure what.

 

OK, enough! Change the subject: Christmas, the Easter Bunny, shiny happy people holding hands. No more demonology. Your heart’s pounding like a drum inside that bony chest of yours, girlfriend.

Today, I started packing up my things when Deeksha wasn’t home. I’m not sure if Ruth still wants to room with me after what happened the other night at her house, but I can’t live here anymore. Deeksha is driving me insane. Partly, it’s my fault. If I’d been honest with her that time in the garden and just said I wasn’t attracted to her, maybe she would have left me alone. Yeah, and maybe she would have made me pay the rest of the rent money that I don’t have. Business has been really slow at Rose City. I haven’t sold a guitar in weeks. This commission thing is starting to backfire. I’m not positive, but I think it’s illegal in the state of Oregon to pay commission without a base salary. I’m going to call up the Better Business Bureau to ask.

It didn’t take long for me to get tired of packing my stuff this afternoon, so I poured myself a cold glass of water and went outside to sit in the garden. I’m going to miss that beautiful place, a little corner of paradise on earth.

After I finished meditating and doing some Yoga, I just lay back and soaked up the warmth. Oregon has the most beautiful skies when the weather is good. A deep robin’s egg blue. The sun was shining from behind a tree and I could see its corona peeking through the leaves. It was so warm, nourishing. I had to fight off the urge to look at it.

When I was little, one time my mom had told me never to look directly at the sun. I asked her why and she said it could make me blind. The warning scared me quite a bit, but, I’d had to fight the urge to look at it.

Later that night, I’d looked at a light bulb in my room—really stared at it. After a while it made this black splotch on my irises that followed me everywhere. I screamed and ran into to my parent’s room, confessing what I’d done. Mom chuckled and said it would go away, don’t worry. A light bulb isn’t as powerful as the sun. But if I’d kept on staring, who knows, it could do permanent damage. Never stare at anything that’s really bright.

 

I think I’m attracted to the sun these days because it symbolizes divine illumination. Here on earth, it’s the closest thing we have to heaven. No one shall look on my face and live. That’s what God said to Moses. My Sunday school teacher showed us that passage one time and it immediately reminded me of the sun, how my mom had told me never to look directly at it.

I wish I were an angel, so I could fly into the sun, live in its warmth, a heavenly womb. I wish God would talk to me like one of the prophets. Because if there’s really such a thing as heaven, I want to go there more than anything else now. I want to see the true light that comes directly from God.

Part of me feels like I’ve been there before, in heaven. It’s sort of like how you feel when you’re far away from home and you think about it and your heart grows fond, longing to return. Deja-vu of the soul.