13% [chapter 14]


And so it was that your love affair with crystal meth was rekindled like a house of cards on fire and smoldered until it was just a carbon fluke. It became a saving grace because you no longer cared. You could be spun up and in league with projects, theories and ideas for days, weeks, always. You never succumbed to bouts of loneliness because you were too busy cleaning, repairing or organizing some minute shit into the tiniest of enclaves. You bonded with meth, paint brushes and power tools instead of most women and men, on and off, for like, the next fucking decade.

But you don't demonize the drug for being there when you weren't there for yourself. It filled in a space. It occupied a time when you felt empty and heavy and gross and lost. Like good ideas unrealized. Like decent jobs laid off. Like old people crying because they can't remember their children's names. Like analog synths and tube amps trending on ebay. Original movies that need not be remade. Black mayonnaise. Kodachrome color. Super 8. Gone off. Long gone. Then insultingly regurgitated. Retro. Chic. Limp. Stripmined. Razed. It sucked to see history being co-opted by those who could afford to jack up your rent and take take take with an air of careless ease and entitlement. But nowhere near as painful as it was for more than 50 million Native Americans.

Ever so conveniently, your drug supply was now showing up in the form of giant fist sized boulders via your new boyfriend, Evan. Again, you were so low you would have done anyone that night you met him while getting drunk at Zeitgeist. Well, that is to say, you would have done anyone that Actually Managed To Turn You On, which was a complete rarity. Certainly, you never would have guessed that he'd still be hanging out with you the next day. But you also don't blame him for finding such melodramatic humor in watching the sharp arc of your orbit toward this fiendishly pathological habit you both shared over the next few years in close proximity.

Not the healthiest relationship ever, but at least you did feel some flashes of gushy love and deep compassion for him on more than one occassion. So much so, it still surprises you to think on all those amber impacted memories. Which is why you prefer To Not Think About Them. It's easier to concentrate on, and not cry about, what went wrong.

Evan was quirky and pretty fucking hot in his own weird way. Politically aware and musically inclined, he had a curious enthusiasm that was inspiring. Shaved blond head. Bright blue eyes. Hairless bulldog chest. Could keep it up for as long as it was required. Not afraid to go down on a woman. And not totally clueless once he arrived. Which must be honorably mentioned, for that rare oral sex equality that his willingness never belied.
Think: Giovanni Ribisi, tweaked. Uhhhmmgrrrr...right?

Initially, Evan said he loved that you made comix, music and art. But the second he had to take a back seat to the pencil and the Sharpie marker or the Korg Monotribe and the mixing board for a full afternoon or two, he felt neglected sexually. Only 6 weeks into your relationship, he cheated on you. Good to get that outta the way so quick, your favorite dog trick. But you saw it coming BEFORE it happened this time.

The moment you laid eyes on his sunglassed face that morning at your door, your head clearly said knowingly, "the next time you see him, everything is going to be different." He didn't show up that night like he said he would. Hours stewed slowly by. You sat at your drawing board but drew nothing. Just sat there. Randomly, you dug out an old copy of Nirvana's acoustic Lead Belly cover "In the Pines" and listened to it. Over and over and over. Doing line after line after line. Getting progressively angrier, more depressed and crying onto the sketchbook pages that remained mockingly unmarked and white. He finally showed up the next day all teary-eyed, telling you he got really drunk, fucked another woman, and spent the night. Yup. You already knew that. Then you turned around and started drawing again finally.

Sloppily, he offered to bring you some more drugs. He only spoke to your shrugging back. Yeah, ok. You thought this is the best kind of crack whore you could ever hope to be. "Alright, bitch. Bring it!" you snapped as he departed sheepishly. The truer gift was this voice of warning in your head because it was, once again, correct. And you had to celebrate the fact that you could still hear it under so much drug addled sleepless duress.

You soon forgave Evan for fucking someone else. So he cheated on you some more over the years. You knew it every time, yet let it go unconfronted as you had ceased caring what he did with his own dick by then. At least he was still talking to you like a human being, and that was of the utmost importance. You could accept all kinds of sexual deviance up the yin yang, so long as you weren't being spoken to like a dumbass.

He once said, "Every man has a stable. Every Single One."

How can any one woman believe that she means anything substantial to a man, when she's up against the bottomless sexual questing of one entire objectified and furthermore, self-objectifying gender? Unless he sees her as an equal human being, treats her the way he treats his best bro friends and not as a conquest or a trophy to make other men jealous, then it is impossible to ever be anything other than eventual sworn enemies. And Evan agreed. He was understanding, thoughtful and decent. Yet his dick still wandered from one "willing slit" (his definition) to his ex's address constantly. It didn't seem to matter how honest or in love or open you were with him. You would never be enough. So yes, caring became a commodity. Every year, you had a little less and less trust in love's truthfulness left.

Evan called himself a writer but the only writing of his that you ever read were the letters he prolifically wrote to you during those years. Then you read all the letters from his former girlfriends that he wanted to share with you for some strange tweaked out reason. This only made you realize the total futility of your presence in his life. Here were their similar reactions to all the same stories he told them just as he had told you. All the same songs on a mix tape sent to someone else. You saw yourself as simply another name that would be said to the next woman down the line. Erased was any sense of being different from any other interesting cunt he had loved fucking previously. It lost all it's uniqueness, the biological him combined with you; as if on some molecular level, the mixture of 2 specific people could create a sort of atom bomb of social change that found its genesis inside an explosive relationship, affecting all else around it. Like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, like Yoko Ono and John Lennon, like Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, like Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, like Mileva Maric and Alfred Einstein. That looks great written on paper to you for Valentine's Day in his blood, but loses all it's meaning when repeated like spam to every woman who ever bared her breasts to him.

Yes, you were a sucker for that soulmate myth. What woman isn't during a large portion of her child bearing years? It feeds into the operatic fantasies while trapped in that ongoing battle with your own hormonal body; that fight to the death between the womb's attempt to breed and the brain's raging need for independence, respect and liberty.

So how the hell would you know How To Have a Good Healthy Relationship? Your success to failure ratio is a solid 0:100%! Good job! By Jove! But you do know that being in a relationship IS A Job. So get yer head outta the stove and go make me some turkey pot pie, Ho!

Oh, and let's not forget to mention that ravenous animal living between your legs whose impetus to eat fuck and kill only increases exponentially when on amphetamines. Isn't it nice to think that a soulmate would still be there after the 8 ball is all done? Not leave you to wipe up the mess of those liquidy communal expressions of lust that are stuck and crusting over as you come down on your own? Better not come down then. Perhaps the destruction of monogymy's soulmate myth really was for the level best.

It is what it is.

Adopted as a toddler, Evan had managed to locate his biological mother after years of searching for her. You felt it neccessary to warn him that she might not be happy to hear from him. But he waved your pragmatic suggestion aside, and beamed with excitement. Their relationship was initially rebuked by his mother who had never informed her husband
or children of Evan's existence. Evan was crushed. His mother eventually came around, but their relationship remained tentative and strained. He probably felt it was easier to place that disappointment on you, instead of facing the truth of this difficult situation that fell so horrifically short of his long held fantasy filled expectations. You didn't blame him for being upset, but many pointless arguments ensued. You stuck to your guns, saying he was lucky to be raised by people that did love him instead of being treated like shit by his own flesh and blood.

You know someone is not listening to a single word you say when they tell you, "I am so sick of listening to you." No longer could you stand the feel of his skin against you in bed; all gropey, moist, disconnected, overfriendly and available to so many other women and men --yet so unjustifiably mad at you for fucking someone other than him once. Once.

You wanted to take a breather from "the stuff", as Evan so deftly called it. But he just kept bringing it over anyway and chopping that shit up right in front of your face. And when that voice in your head came back and said, "don't ever have children with this man because he will molest them," you were pretty much done. What a horribly cruel joke your life might have become -- it's likely you would've ended up in prison because if anyone, including your husband, ever raped your daughter or son, you would have castrated them.

Evan professed so strongly to be against the antiquated idea of marriage, yet he so quickly married the last woman he was cheating on you with. His opinion must have been as solid as catsick. Oh well. To each his own bowl of hell.

In fact, all of your former boyfriends got married almost immediately after the disaster of you occurred in their lives. Is that a compliment or an insult? Who gives a fuck. Probably had absolutely nothing to do with your narcissistic butt. But, like clockwork, they all contacted you down the road, having contracted that 7 year itch, post wife and kids. They wanted to relive the sexual exploits of their younger days with that crazy bitch that was into sucking dick, anal sex, other women, yadda yadda yadda, it was all ok, except putting them in diapers and playing with their poo. There was a reason you didn't want children. And you certainly did not get off on a man who fantasized about being a baby. More often than not, you'd end up being the man in every situation anyway and you hated that. But hearing from your ex-boyfriends again under this topic of discussion did nothing except depress the fuck outta you. These existential trainwrecks are neither here nor there, ultimately. So why go there? It was for these kinds of thoughts, specifically, that you turned to drugs to annihilate. Into ridiculousness. Black and white. Hard shorts cuts. Like a French movie. Absurd. The choices you made in life were yours to make. No regrets. Only pinched off torpid turds.

You still wanted to be good for something other than just sex. Other than just a jerk.

Long after the end of Evan, you kept his letters bound by a string. A more definitive fate would later bind them together forever better. Along with all the other remnants of all the men, all the women, all the leftover shrouds of hope, of fear, of failed careers, of love rage sex and dope -- Fire.

Disappearred. Up in smoke.

All those years of us being close for nothing but a ghost.

*u can call me ph!*

13% [chapter 13]


2004. Your friend crystal meth showed up to even the score.

You were at such a desperate low point, you would have done just about anything to avoid the monotony of failure. This time with speed, you thought it best to avoid people and parties like the plague. Not hard to do. Invites were not exactly pouring in aplenty.

The sudden deaths of 3 of your most kindred spirited aunts had already buried you in compounded grief that year. And a maddening attempt to escape California by relocating to New York City pummeled your rising humility into some of that class-conscious poverty you'd grown so accustomed to. But it's one thing to be broke and eating cheap oranges and avocado filled tacos and quite another to live on pizza slices and coke. So you crawled back to San Francisco with $10 left to your name and your tail firmly tucked between your toes. Lame. It was difficult to forgive yourself for going back. So you made some more epic faceplants. Fucking up. You were getting good at that.

Broken-hearted because for years, you believed the easily forgotten non-slurring words of a blackout drunk whom you thought you were in love with. Those lovely intimate moments that you obsessively replayed in your head whenever you felt too depressed to deal with people, they meant Absolutely Nothing. It turned out you were having an imaginary relationship with yourself. He was not there. With you. At all. Even when he was in the same room fucking you. What? Who? He could not recall. The sober version of him that you hardly ever saw was cold, kind of an asshole. But the drunk version acted like being with you was always new and exciting. In his mind, It Was Always The First Time. And you stupidly rearranged all sorts of important things in your life around this flying circus illusion that was just ding-a-ling tinkerbells toy pianos and moth eaten tutus, but you kept heading head strong for that fall. So we fall. And that's all.

There'd be other imaginary loves as well. But you pursued these individuals because you felt Psychically Pushed to. You were so confused as to the meaninglessness of this -- Why Be Shoved Toward Someone Who Had No Love For You? It was a crack in the glassy-eyed delusions of youth. Trying to find meaning or draw patterns in the chicken soup of life when it does not need to prove anything to you. It's just soup.

Much later, it came into view, the obligatory shattering of a crappy midlife crisis averting truth. The Real Reason Was This: You were pushed toward them so that you would become vulnerable, get rejected, feel abandoned, be miserable and then learn -- because if it didn't fucking hurt, you'd Never Learn -- that you must stop looking for someone to be there for you, stop looking for someone to love you, stop looking for someone to save you, stop looking for someone to kill you, validate you, make you feel less ghost-like and drifting. Stop looking for someone to entertain that static fear, to avoid that infinite loneliness, to distract you from that prison you put yourself in with constant aggressive self-defeating judgements. Stop looking for someone. Look for yourself. Look At Your Self. Eew. That's something no one really wants to do.

Next, you received a nice friendly eviction notice from the big cheap black mold and music infected warehouse where you loved living with members of some now-famous bands like CrackWAR, RubberOCement, Erase Errata and Thee Oh Sees. When you moved into the huge commercial space, it was decked out with empty server racks, miles of ethernet cable, dimpled nerf footballs and a white board hanging all askew. These words were scrawled across it in dry erase marker: THINGS TO DO: Claim Bankruptcy, Get Drunk, Look For A New Job. Mistakenly, you thought the dot com bubble had burst. But no. It grew back. And worse. So much worse. So so so much worse.

All this, on the heels of having just crawled out from under the fallout of a disasterous, yet memorable, European tour that effectively disbanded 7 years of collaborative work and
hard won efforts. ALL FOR NOTHING. You helped create the anarchic electronic record label from the ground up, but after the big tour, all of your work had been whitewashed out of existence. Mere moments after you left the collective, the label received a worldwide distribution deal with Revolver and AK Press. It included the entire catalog except, of course, they had already erased everything made under your Deletist namesake. The humor in this is not lost on you, even if all else was: the vinyl test pressings and master recordings, scores of 45s, stacks of cds, piles of videos and films. A veritable ton of hard work, all tossed onto the book burning pyre, as it were. And we all know what happens to a dream differed.

It didn't help that you were initially fucking the anarcho motor mouth that was Marco from Glasgow. It was his idea to start this record label slash collective that other people often ignorantly called a cult. Marco would never admit to having fucked you though. He always covered your face with his hands to muffle your moans so that no one else in your crowded flop house would hear him humping you. Immediately upon zipping up his Ben Davies pants, he would sing a line from that Ultravox song, "This means nothing to me...Oh Vienna!" and laugh.

But if it weren't for your resulting disgust, you never would have been outraged enough to write record and put out your first song, "I Feel Weird." It went on a loop like this:
we laugh / have sex / he disappears / i feel weird / cut him off / dye my hair / i don't care / attitude / he responds / i abuse / we laugh / have sex / he disappears / i feel weird. etc.

For the next few years, he sometimes fucked you on the side. You let yourself think that meant something. But now you were just like Zack from the other side of that uselessly
cruel but opportunistic Luv Stick. Marco actually despised you for putting up with his domineering bullshit. He later married one of the other 2 females in the collective and moved to Italy. C'est la vie. C'est la fin. It was good that your eyes were gradually being torn open. So you chose to stay focused on all that you had learned about recording, mixing, performing, touring and releasing music -- that's what Really Mattered to you, more than getting screwed.

In those years prior to youtube's existence, so much of your hands on learning had to come from being with men in person. Which undoubtedly led to someone else getting head in exchange for the knowledge shared with yours. Visual-centric learning disabilities and confused sexual worth is probably what blocked your painfully obvious free access to Library Books.

Whoa, hey, on second thought, maybe the collective could have been called a cult since the women were the ones doing all the heavy lifting and dirty work. Though, by that definition, it could be called Any Job. But no one would have paid any attention to the label at all if it weren't for the intimidating Scottish front man talking it up. Ye Olde Patriarchal Stamp of Approval makes a woman's efforts fruitful. Admittedly, you went all pear shaped because lopsided shit like this Will Drive Anyone Crazy.

But what did you learn while wading through all this stoopid gut wrenching interpersonal gobbledeegook?

3 things:
It's a Man's World.
You Get What You Settle For.
And Living Well is most assuredly, The Best Revenge.

So it was death with braised death on it, smothered in death sauce, on a bed of death flakes with a light dusting of powdered death on top. It doesn't just come in 3's, it also comes in 6's and 9's.

It was actually easier dealing with the cancer caused finalities of your favorite family members dying than to grieve over petty creative severings and abandonment by those still living, by those whom you thought were your friends. Far more damaging to realize you were just a joke to everyone than to deal with cleansweeping death. It's all the living remnants left.

It's all that trying. Trying to be loyal to a group, to something bigger than only you. Trying to bite your tongue and accept others as they are, even though they won't do the same for you. Trying to make something that's worthwhile, or good, something that moves others to mutter the simple phrase "thank you." But it's also the fact that after all that trying, you'll still only come to being a small box of gray dirt whose songs and stories went unheard. Doesn't it make sense that this is why it became so important that your efforts mattered to those around you? That you listened to them? That they'd listen to you?

...insert cricket chirps...

Yeah, it hurt. Most deaths do.

Every single time you picked up the full roll of toilet paper that sat on top of the empty cardboard tube still wiggling in the holder, you'd push the roll onto the wooden dowel and say to yourself aloud, "Everything you do in life is completely meaningless, but it is very important that you keep doing it."

*u can call me ph!*


13% [chapter 12]


As soon as you arrived in San Francisco, you didn't like it.

You were lonely. People were fake. They never did the things they said they would do. "No" was a word that had been removed from the Californian vocabulary. Instead, the red
herring "yes" would repeatedly waste an unprecedented amount of your time. "Flake" was a new word that took you only a week to learn, but much longer to assimilate. And everyone was so afraid of confrontation, you found yourself angrily walking straight through busy intersections, wishing someone would just have the moxie filled balls to yell "Fuck You!" instead of whimpering, "I'm sorry," when they were clearly not at fault.

Socially, this place confused you to no end, turning you into a tediously befuddled dingleberry. At every party you went to, you'd open your mouth and succeed in clearing the room. Dejected, the rest of the evening would be spent on the stairs or at the outer edges, smoking, being lurid and uncool.

However, alone at night, when the jasmine bloomed and the eucalyptis trees near the sea breezed through, it was a beautiful refuge for someone who not only loves, but needs lots of unpopulated solitude. It was a gift in disguise that no one was ever there for you.

People said, "Don't go to the Lower Haight because it's dangerous." So you went straight there, only to discover this neighborhood was not filled with danger, just non-white folks. Obviously, that river of racism that runs underground throughout America, even this far away from the other regions in which you had already witnessed it's ignorant shame was still firmly held in place. But what did you expect?Equality? Justice? Such fabulous notions that have yet to actually surface. Seems it would be easier to raise the dead. Or see white cops getting convicted for killing black kids. Or experience corporations being held accountable for crimes against humanity. Or accept generally that the protection of bees, coral reefs, forests, oceans, rivers and streams is more neccessary for long term survival than money. Or even just receive equal pay without having your body parts felt up every other fucking day.

Isn't it obvious why you cleared every party?
So anyway...

Renting the cheapest room you could find for $230 a month in an old run down but rent controlled victorian at 2429 Mission and 20th Street, you discovered you had become broke ass, so it was too late to bail. You got a minimum wage job at the Lumiere Theater on Polk Street. Now all you had to do was deal. Deal with every mistake you had already made, and look forward to all the bigger and better mistakes in which you would soon wholeheartedly engage. Whoopee!

The first friend you met was a guy from D.C. named Josh. He was beautifully gaunt, like an Egon Schiele drawing. Also into industrial and goth. Having sex with him was like admiring exotic tropical fish in an aquarium -- always just out of reach emotionally as if he didn't need to breathe the same air. But he did share with you what he was breathing, and you leapt right into that enticing pool without holding your breath.

Crystal meth was an entirely new drug to you. Nothing like the white cross kinds of pre-teen speed you did back in New Jersey. These virginal pink batches were particularly pure, if you can call battery acid, paint thinner, anti-freeze and psuedoephadrine pure. But one thing was for sure - it made vapid people a lot easier to deal with.

You were quite content to see life through planet sized eyes. Greeting strangers on the street, your head focused on what was in front of you, not cast down beneath everyone's feet. This action itself was formerly utterly foreign to you. Released from oppressive self-doubt, speed punched you in the face repeatedly. Like doing shots of whiskey or absinthe
or everclear - it's a good painful kiss. Like a natural disaster forcing you to face your own insignificant mortality. Every line that pummeled your crusty nasal causeway seemed to balance out your downer brain. Everyone said it would make you go all paranoid but you became Less Paranoid. This drug made you feel like A Normal Person somehow. As if your life was not a series of Total Shits. But it is still a drug. Not authentic joy. Meh...who fucking cares? It was the best you could do back in '93 thru '94.

At one particularly memorable all night party in a sparsely furnished living room overlooking the corner of Haight and Fillmore, every glistening skinned, green and purple haired tweaker was there. All talking nonstop simultaneously about their childhood traumas. But no one was listening. No one.

Uncomfortably fidgeting in the corner of the room, fighting off nausea and the taste of tin foil on your tongue, you began to wonder if there was some kind of connection between addiction and child abuse. All of them barely older than you. All of them fucked since day one. All of them hating life since day two.

In addition to that non-shocking theory: On a road trip to a book convention with the SF Homeless Coalition some years later, the passengers that filled the 12 seat van all shared their own stories of being unloved before they became unsheltered. Fueled by a steady stream of brown bagged beers, it became apparent on that 6 hour drive that every single person in that vehicle -- the homeless men and women, the coalition volunteers, the legal advocates and the driver of the van -- had all been abused as children. Coincidence? You wish.

But back at that tweaker party on Haight Street, you left the loud chaotic chatter behind and sat alone on the stairway, as usual, feeling doomed. That was the first time you decided to quit your infatuation with crystal meth. Even though it felt so good, not being constantly filled with the dreaded depression of fear. It felt so good to have the energy to Do Shit instead of just lying in bed, crying for no good goddamn reason, feeling sorry for yourself, wasting another year. This drug got you to Work On Time! Your customer service skills went through the roof! But meth's effects were socially futile if they only resulted in verbal avalanches onto those who would never listen or come through for you in tense real life situations. The shit Real Friends do. Even though, in truth, drugs were better friends than people were to you.

There was also that hope you were still holding onto. Hope that there was Someone Out There For You. Still young and stargazing across that superfluous indoctrinated bromantic notion that obscures the reality of most women's lives; lives that are actually filled with fateful losses, repeated betrayals and discriminated subversions. But it's all roses and sunshine after finding That Man That's Right For You. Sure it is.

Before quitting meth, however, you managed to bust your new boyfriend's cherry with it. Josh didn't love you so you fucked Zack. You thought it was only going to be a one night stand. But Zack kept coming back. He did love you. And you hated him for that. Doing speed with him only once, you became even more annoyed with his clinging and wished you could be less of a mouse trap.

So you quit meth. Just like that. No severe aftermath. No zombie fried brain damage, at least not more than you already had. You forgot all about it. And instead, returned to drinking booze regularly and smoking chronic amounts of weed daily. That seemed to hold the reality, nihilism and psychic visions at bay for a full foggy decade.

You couldn't afford the colossal tuition at the Art Institute, so you took lots of $13 classes at City College and spent all of your free time falling into the colorful spreads of Sandman and Tank Girl instead. Art was not dead.

Eventually, you were offered a painting scholarship that partially paid your way into the Art Institute regardless of your pennilessness and general negativity. Student loans that grew like gall stones covered the rest. After 3 years of taking a range of interdisciplinary courses while holding down 2 part time jobs, you graduated with honors and awards. This was your one true success. Memorably short. Still unpaid for.

During that entire time, you kept trying to get rid of Zack. But if Zack was so irritating, one might ask, why did you stay with him for so long? Because nobody else was calling you. Yup. It was as shallow and pathetic as that. That one-sided relationship in which you became the domineering dickhead tyrant. A horrible example of how not to behave toward someone who did nothing to deserve such abusive treatment, except put up with it year after year.

Constantly, Zack was trying to thaw your frozen disposition. You were repulsed by how joyous he always was. Like a puppy. It made you sad that you couldn't get Psyched or Stoked about stupid things like sitting in hammocks or flying kites. He'd have to rouse up your downer ass to go skydiving or go for motorcycle rides at night. You did feel all of the awesomeness in all of these awesome things eventually, but your happiness never seemed to last quite as long as his. And this was the "healthiest" relationship you ever thought you had. HA HA! It turned out to all be bullcrap. Many years later, you found out that Zack was slamming meth the whole time you were together. He kept his shit well concealed under his chess set from the self-obsessed mess that was his wacko art school girlfriend. Not actually a difficult task.

For some reason though, finding out about his hidden addiction made you like him slightly more than you ever did before. All sorts of things made sense in this new context. But you still would have treated him like doggy doo doo, doing whatever was necessary to stop his spazzy ass from putting you on a pedestal. You hated that he allowed you treat him like crap, wishing he'd get some self-respect and give up on you so that you could appreciate his kindness after it had been removed. But no. Meth or no meth, this nice boy was never going to Deliver You. And that's what you were really looking for. Although this unconscious drive went unrealized until after reaching the age of 42.

Except for that one night in the summer of '95 when you got shit faced drunk in front of all of Zack's high school buddies in Bend, Oregon. You did a terribly awkward stripperish performance at his friend's bachelor party. It made some of the guys in the room leave for the tranquility of the back porch, perhaps out of pity for your sorry unskilled act. Zack, however, couldn't be happier that his girlfriend was getting naked in front of all of his friends as they hollered obnoxious platitudes at your ass. Looking over at him, shining the spotlight on all of your exposed damage, he just sat there smiling. You started to feel weird, but kept on stripping. Nothing was sexy. Becomming more and more freaked out at this bizarre scene that you had entered into voluntarily, the only thing you could do to stop from either laughing or crying hysterically, was to turn around and focus on me. I took you away instantly. An insulin reaction whited you out, and you fell into a petit seizure. Show's over, choads.

Afterward, in the middle of a sleepy provincial street, at the top of your lungs, you shrieked, "Why Can't You Just Fucking Kill Me!?" Zack cried, "cuz I love you...why would I want to kill you?" This embarrassing little onslaught had slipped your mind until recently when it came back to haunt you like a spiteful giggling wraith.

Courtney Love life stinks. Fuck that donkey headed sociopathic attention seeking bray that jealously punched Kathleen Hanna in the face. It killed Kurt Cobain whose death you celebrated because he was lucky to have escaped the corporate commoditizing music machine before more of his sexually abused yet self-realizing spirit could be winnowed away.

There should be some remorse for having turned out Zack to a life of drug abuse, but there isn't. Perhaps because no blame was ever placed on those who brought it to you. The choice to snort that shit rests firmly on your own slouching shoulders, so you don't see the point of feeling guilt over the choices other people are capable of making for themselves. Or if they choose to squarely place that blame on someone else. But if you must blame anyone, blame Del. And by Blame, I mean, Feel Undying Gratitude Toward.

Sometimes when an experience begins to happen that will later become a much revisited memory, a subtle but noticeable shift occurs. It's as if regular life turns into a cheesy sci fi movie and you are witnessing a portal in time being unearthed. A thick silence echoes at the start. Then colors saturate as if all the things you see are layers upon layers of the same image on a transparency. Sounds knell like you're at the bottom of a well. It feels as if all of your future selves are psychically crowding around, one for each time you will remember this particular hell that you are about to enter into. Remember to breathe and pay close
attention to everything, for here comes a memory forming that you may or may not live to tell. One such event occured at a party in the spring of '96 on the corner of Oak and Fell.

Wandering around outside the house since you were too stoned to deal with people, you gazed up at the sullen moon and took a photo. The scent of something dreadful about to happen wouldn't quit stalking you. The air held a trace of blood. Iron. Water and rust. Death.

Inside the party, Del had arrived to a loud round of approving yells. He was a local fixture. Always drunk. Always fucked up. Always decked out in leathers and a frayed Einsturzende Neubauten tshirt. Black hair greased back. Reeking of sexuality and a healthy portion of isolated emotional torment. Hung like a centaur, he could charm the pants off both women and men, in numbers that would rival a rebel army. And everyone loved him. Despite all the fucked up shit he pulled, all the wobblies he threw. Crazy only looks good on someone beautiful.

Staggering outside to his motorcycle, clearly beyond being able to ride in a straight line, you jumped in front of his bike. Straddling the front tire, you yelled that he could not leave yet because if he did, he would get into a horrible accident. You felt so strongly compelled to help him avoid this awful thing that was about to befall him that it wasn't even You being compelled. No part of your own ego or personality was involved. You had long since gotten out of the way. This pulsating wave of words came barrelling down through the top of your skull and out your mouth with such determined ferocity, all you could do was let it ride. It was uncontrollable, like vomiting profusely. Del practically ran you over, vehemently bellowing, "Outta my way, you crazy bitch!" And sped off, up the hill.

People had come outside from the party because of the commotion. You started to walk home down the hill. 7 seconds later came the squeal thump crash and crunch that was Del getting hit by a car that ran the red light. It ruptured his spleen, fractured an arm and a leg, broke his ribs and collarbone, collapsed a lung and concussioned his head. His favorite tshirt was torn for good as the paramedics cut through his clothes. Shivering straight up through the middle, they revived his blood soaked body in the bright strobing ambulance, then went screeching and wailing away.

He spent 3 weeks in and out of the Intensive Care Unit at SF General. You went there nearly every day to make sure he was going to be ok. You told the hospital staff you were family, but everyone knew Del didn't have any. This wasn't his first, nor his last visit to SF General. Each time he came to, he'd angrily yank out all of his tubes. When his eyes focused, he was fucking pissed. "Death was so beautiful...I don't wanna still be alive," he cried. The nurses told you his lung had collapsed again during the night. You wiped off his sweaty forehead as they routinely reinserted his tubes. He fell back asleep and did some more healing while also detoxing from the massive amounts of amphetamines that flooded his veins for most of his high velocity life. Despite his best efforts, Del survived.

As you stood over his bed with that sweaty cloth in your hand, it came as a complete surprise to realize that you DO have a single nurturing bone in your body. It was not broken.

This attention you were spending on Del infuriated Zack to no end. He accused you of having feelings for his drug dealer and likely secretly gay lover. And maybe you did, who can tell? You thought yourself lucky to feel anything at all, no matter upon whom the target of your affections fell. But Zack had no clue as to all the spookiness that had precluded this accident. And that trying to grasp the meaning behind all of this weirdness was really what was propelling you. Yet nothing was discovered.

Some years after that, Zack left SF for Canada and got married to someone else. After being discharged from the hospital, Del got engaged and moved to the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge with his new fiancee. You would not run into him again for another 15 years. He was still not dead.

It snidely besotted you on the odd occassion, however, that if you hadn't tried to stop Del from riding off that night, if you hadn't caused all those moments of obstruction with your Kiss of Death Premonition, he might not have gotten into that accident at all.

"Everything's my fault."

Being a control-freak to the Nth degree, years of failed attempts to formulate trusting friendships with people forced you to gradually calm that compulsion to hound others unneccessarily. It focused you on controlling only those things you Actually Have any loose cannon control over: You yourself, that dissociative low self esteeming twat of yours, and that black cloud following you around that had, by now, begun turning blue.

*u can call me ph!*


13% [chapter 11]


Thirdly, gone to seed, those petals that fell were from a flower that is as old as life itself.

Your parents had already gone to bed. It was late, nearly midnight by the time you got home from your shift at the asylum. A hard rain was barrelling down in sheets, limiting visibility, making the commute home a struggle through the squall. Standing at last over the bathroom sink, you routinely brushed your tired teeth.

In an instant, the air shifted. Gripped in a hot prickling stillness. Time melted and slowed to a drone. You felt an immense dread. A primordial alarm. Pierced with it's immediacy, this huge unavoidable presence was looming right behind you. It felt older, more permanent than earth. Intrinsically, you knew, with all your synapses boiling, not to raise your eyes from the dripping faucet to the mirror that stood facing you. In a flash, you shot off like a hunted rabbit for the safety of your little room. Everything left strewn on the sink. Ribbons of flouride ran out your mouth and down your chin.

The abject heat of fear distorted and stretched this short distance, pulling the modest hallway like soft taffy into a foreboding tunnel, draped in the faint scent of a long forgotten tomb. A sepulchral blast shoved you forward in that last gasping sprint for your door. Swirls of ether turned oily, a viscous sparkling purple darkness. The gust then rushed up beneath what sounded like a monolithic pair of wings. You saw nothing. Nor did you want to see anything, beyond the back of your slamming door. And it was gone. As suddenly as it had come. Crumbling onto the floor, you sobbed helplessly, overwhelmed with frightful grief.

A couple days later, the youngest son of the family living downstairs told you that his older brother had been killed on his motorcycle in a head on collision with a semi at 12:00 on that same rainy night.

The news both shook and scared the shit outta you. It took a long time to grapple with the thought, much less the belief, that the presence you felt that night might have been The Angel of Death.

But I have always believed it, with every knowing fibre of my being. Beyond the shadow of a doubt.

*u can call me ph!*

13% [chapter 10]


The 2nd blossom to burst open in '89 was that of Suicide.

When you were still a kid, sitting in your favorite hiding place next to a tiny window at the back of a hall closet upstairs, you considered throwing yourself out onto the ground. But you knew this short fall would not kill you. So you pet the kitty instead, crawled across furniture on your hands and knees, ate some cat food with her and meowed. You wondered if being a feline was any less depressing than being a 10 year old girl, stuck living in a brown house with a brown car under a brown cloud. The brown kitty meowed.

Once, your mother abruptly grabbed the car keys just before dawn. All bleary-eyed and hurriedly shoved into coats, she hurled your brother and you into the back seat and threw some crap in the trunk. It seemed as though she had finally come to her senses and decided to leave her abusive husband. Both of you kids beamed with the excitement of being removed from those corrosive strokes that haunted your small darkened days. Feeling this short warm blast of your mother's love, such heavenly protection that you had for so long craved, you couldn't wait to go anywhere she decided to take you. At last, you've been saved!

But less than a mile went by before she pulled into a Burger King parking lot and started to cry. You sat silently staring out of the window at 2 tiny broken twigs in the drifting early morning mist. Then she started the car, pulled out of the parking lot and sat with the engine running at the empty crossroads of Black River Boulevard and North 46. Watching the light change from green to red to green to red and green again. "Go straight", you howled in your head, "please just go straight ahead!" She turned left. Back to the house.

You sank, gutted. In a flash of panic, you and your brother looked at each other. Reaching out, you clasped hands. Both of you knew there would be hell to pay for this. And you knew it would be years before either of you would be big enough to protect yourselves from those hard impatient fists that your mother, sadly, had neither the strength nor the will to resist. She would never know how much this seemingly insignificant event completely crushed her children's spirits.

Only once did you ever witness your father physically attack your mother. Screaming that she was a stupid bitch, he kicked the back of the chair she was sitting in. When she fell, he pushed her face down into the carpet, as if he were potty training a dog. But far more frequently, she'd put up with a formidable browbeating every 20 minutes or so for 50+ years of marital bliss. Still, she stayed with him. And to this day, still is. "I promised Til Death Do Us Part," she quivered. Then voiced that she regretted everything she ever did, "including giving birth to you kids." Stick it in. Then twist.

So your family remained immobile for a short while beneath the woeful skies of Mohawk territory, under the deafening noise of a military base runway in Rome, New York. It's surprising how quickly the brain can become accustomed to such an intrusive sound, strangely missing the thunderous roar of fighter jets when they were no longer there to drown out the yelling rounds. But the beatings and gropings only seemed to increase with each drop of degree in the weather, which, in upstate, brings new meaning to the word freeze.

More than twice, in Roosevelt, New Jersey, you held razor blades to your flesh. Sitting in the bathtub, you tried to scrub yourself clean with steel wool to remove the vilified stains of semen and sweat. But that filth had seeped in too far below the skin. So you dug into your budded breasts in a listless attempt to cut them off. Though you only drew inch long openings before pulling out. The beauty of trickling blood instantly severed your brain from that hot buzzing claustrophobic cage of hatred. Like a cool breeze, in rivulets of relief, you hovered above your head, pulsating with endorphins and a breathless benevolent peace. This discovery stuck. So a cutter you would come to be. Fascinated, you watched the body's unstoppable healing process as it did its best to remind you that there are other emotions you can feel besides loneliness, abandonment and melancholy.

That was the year you testified in court against your dad. He was sentenced to 5 years probation. It could have been significantly worse for him had you told the truth on the stand. But your non-communicative mother was obviously not on your side. And in this meantime, you still had to live with these people, with their dagger filled eyes stabbing you for dinner every night.

You began to wonder if it was a mistake to bring the abuse to light at all. Or to tone down its severity to the Family Services authorities. But you told yourself you were doing it for this dysfunctional family's sake; to keep you all together. Right after dropping the bomb that laid bare this disgrace.

So you lied.

You lied so that your dad wouldn't get sent to prison where he'd be killed by inmates. You lied so that your jobless mom wouldn't be deported back to England, leaving your brother and you to be thrown into foster care - a decidedly worse fate. You lied so that you wouldn't be mechanically separated inside the system of trafficked child care; where you may be free from the torture of a known biological devil, but now, you'd be thrown into a deeper hell, being owned by the satanic red tape of the state. At least, that's what you had pictured in your 13 year old brain. "You're crazy," they'd say. You're welcome, fuckfaces.

Many long disaffected Wednesday nights were spent driving to Trenton for the group therapy sessions you were now required to take. It already felt as if you were being punished for having brought this matter of sexual abuse to society's attention, but now you were being punished again, stuck in the car alone with your father. Therapists told him to be open with his feelings, so he openly shared all of the gory details of his ongoing wet dreams that always featured you. You said nothing. Just turned your head and stared out the window at the waning moon, drooping through a blur of passing trees in deep set indigo fields of gloom.

In Trenton's huge civic meeting rooms, tinted lemon yellow cement bricks and cracking tan linoleum tiles were lit in spastic flourescent twitches. A welcoming circle of cushy orange vinyl loveseats and low oval tables crowned in thin metal ashtrays did their best to comfort the embedded stresses heard at Group. Spurts of muffled laughter and boisterous yells would waft up the hall from the gathering Men's Group.

One evening, all of the other sexually abused girls passionately declared, "Yes!" They would love to kill their perpetrators. Even sweet doe-eyed Latisha who was 7 months pregnant and excited about giving birth to her own father's baby. But you said no to this question. Everyone, including the social worker, demanded to know, "Why the hell not?!" The only answer you could verbalize was that no matter what damage you could do to him, there'd be no escaping the fact that this fucking man is still your fucking dad. Dead or alive, you're forced to live with that.

Then you'd eat as many of the free crackers and cheese they put in front of you, getting fatter and sadder and more withdrawn in little increments, week after week. And every time, 15 year old Sandra would tsk tsk tsk, clucking disapprovingly while you stuffed your face. "I gotta stay skinny for my men," she'd proclaim, "cuz that's how they like me." Her impeccably manicured hands gliding down her sheer lavendar blouse, from her ribcage to her tiny waist. But you remained fairly certain that, fat or thin, it made no difference. Old men would just as soon grope you as stick it to an anthill or a warm sack of poo.

These days, even your beloved brother had ceased speaking to you due to his own complete teenage withdrawl. He had his own issues to deal with. One of his 2 best friends had just attempted suicide, and later succeeded, after the 3 of them went on a summer vacation to Israel under the watchful eye of a local rabbi-turned-priest, the late Reverend John Gruel. They returned from that trip severly damaged after the holy pedophile's yearly retreat. He had raped well over 150 young boys, maybe more, during his highly praised life. Almost the same number of people that he'd bravely led to safety, helping them escape certain death in the Nazi concentration camps of WWII on a ship known as Exodus. Only to destroy the lives of their grandsons. Is there enough forgiveness in God's hands for this?

Listening to Pink Floyd and Kate Bush tapes on your headphones, or riding your yellow 10 speed bike for miles, or practicing Beethoven on the piano at school, or typing RUN to play the 'E.T.' theme song you programmed on a Commodore 64, or hiding up in the big old elm tree at bedtime, or taking square pictures with your 135mm camera, or swimming down to the drain grate at the deep end of the public pool were the cherished bright spots of solace still left open to you. But then you had to Get Out Of The Water. And walk to your towel. With all those incriminating small town eyes either judging or pitying or rubbing up against the not so private parts of you.

Suicide started to look real good after such vulgar demolition took what was left of your tattered cellulite squeezing self esteem. Enter the emancipation of razor blades --so many years prior to their reappearance in your life as a tool for rendering snortable all those thick crunchy rails of crystal meth up into yer sunken ol' reject face.

Just writing that made you crave it's rapturous pain again.

Cringe. Wash it off. Breathe. Deeper. Sit with it. Don't avoid the grief. Breathe it in. And breathe out relief. Not just for yourself, but for every single person on the planet that is, at this very moment, struggling with the same weakness, the same need to feel free from society's sickness. Sing something. Breathe. Then turn the page.

At 19, you experienced a small bout of freedom, of what life might be like outside the parental penitentiary where all of your belongings were routinely inspected and sometimes confiscated. Things like your Dayglo Abortions record and your favorite pair of Converse hightops. Your father had retired from The Air Force as an electrical engineer and was
now a proud card carrying member of the Reagan/Bush Task Force, helping to develop America's first spy satellites. So it's no wonder he continued to invade your privacy daily.

After graduating from high school in Huntsville, Alabama, you accepted a scholarship that granted you a semester at Montevallo University in Birmingham. For a few months, you breathed more easily. The following winter, your parents told you they were moving back up to the east coast for a job promotion. You wanted to go with them because the South was a place where rocks were often thrown at you with taunts of Witch! Dyke! Satan Worshipper! Freak!

On the flip side, the South was also a place where you knew who your friends were. These were the sweetheart punks that you were tripping on acid with in basements, in cars, in forests and on mountains. Drawing geometric patterns in the stars to an impressively diverse soundtrack that ranged from Big Black to Bessie Smith, from Agnostic Front to Arvo Paart, from Minor Threat to Bob Marley, from Cro-Mags to This Mortal Coil, from Saccharine Trust to The Sugarcubes, from Metallica to REM, from Bad Brains to Brian Eno, from Janis Joplin to Fishbone, from Agent Orange to Edith Piaf, from Jane's Addiction to Nina Simone, from The Specials to Killing Joke, from Lighetti to Love and Rockets, from Bach to Nico.
Sometimes you had to gently remind your peaking friends that it was not a good idea to lick the church or prostrate themselves in the middle of the highway if they wanted to avoid jail time.These were also the honorable hard core skins that you defended, slipping a steel pole out from the sleeve of your leather jacket during the violent attacks from gangs of jocks and sons of the cops. Their dads, sitting in their patrol cars watching, laughing and egging on their kids, "Git tha nigger boy! Git 'im!"

One summer, your friend Dee was beaten half to death with baseball bats because she was riding a pink bicycle in a pink dress, her pink hair blowing wildly in the wind. Yes, in this place, you knew who your friends were. Moreso than other places that don't pose the same kind of day to day threats to people whose mere existence in a public space is offensive to others. An anathema. As if you had kicked their dog. Or slapped their baby. Or spat in their stink-eyed puckered up squishy pig face. That's Life In The Big City, but what really scared you was the open obvious and proud possession of guns always within reach. It wasn't long before you found it in your best interest to learn how to use a 9mm, a 12 guage, an AR15.

By January, your parents reluctantly agreed to take you north with them. Charging you rent to live in their house was meant to teach you a lesson. You learned that they didn't want you around. Fair enough. Not long after the move to Massachusetts, you took half a bottle of sleeping pills. This was your first somewhat serious attempt to commit suicide. Clearly it wasn't serious enough since you didn't take the whole bottle. But you would not call what happened next a dream. It was a vision.

Descending upon a landscape, circling down to a flat barren plain somewhere in the midwestern states, you see a deteriorating white wooden farmhouse. The year is circa 1888. A woman, weathered with fortitude, wears a heavy gray woolen dress. She is frantically gathering her children together to send them into the root cellar for shelter. A tornado is rapidly approaching. You can see it hurling up debris from the empty acres of fields gone fallow. Clouds beckoning ever blacker with each surge of the winds as they strain and funnel down, rumbling and devouring everything on the ground. Pushing, the solitary tree trunk groans and lurches. The woman's gutteral screams can barely be heard. "HURRY!" Pulling at the irritating weight of her dress, it drags at her with it's unnecessary girth, but she must hurry to keep the children safe. She must hurry! The tornado is whipping in closer, spitting up earth.

You are so close to her now that you become her. The gravity of her terror is suffocating. All you kids get in! Bolt the cellar door! The twister is coming, coming straight for us! Everything I have worked so hard for is going to disappear in this horrid wind. Is there nothing I can do? What can I do?! I must DO something! I have to...sacrifice something. Sacrifice myself. Give myself to the storm. If I give my life to it, to God's mercy, my children will live! Yes, I must do that. Run! It's coming - RUN! I will I will I will! I love them, God I love them! I must do it for them! I must die for them! I MUST!

Across the stabs of broken dry corn stalks, we run. Across the lonesome years of ache and toil that barely kept the little ones going, we run. Across the losses, the regrets, the beloved husband we long since put down in the soil beneath that tree that will soon uproot, we now run to our own illusory deaths. Edges catch and tear, ripping off dirty mended and remended ends of our heavy woolen dress, yet we run. We run faster and harder, losing everything, we've lost it all, gone is our last breath.

At the cusp of the tornado's upward strength, we don't need to run anymore. It picks us up from 7 or so rows away. We are sacrificed. But this deed does no good. A storm holds no tally. Souls are not scores. There is no game. A tornado does not care what people believe. The children may or may not survive. Nature's indifference thrives. And all we feel inside the spiraling eye is unending human suffering. A seething sense of regret that can never be corrected. And we are trapped in this torrential swirling fugue, this mass of countless souls in desperate misery, suspended and wailing with such unfathomable sorrows.

You rose from your bed and gently went outside into the snow and silence. Wandering along dark suburban roads in a daze at 3am, you came to a wooded field at a dead end. Silky black ash branches glittered like wet ink against the city-lit orange clouds that scudded across a low lying sky. After the owl cries fell mute, all things hushed. In this diffused place, a promise was made that you have managed to keep, still to this day.

Then, you realized you were only wearing pajamas. It was about 23 degrees. And you were not asleep.

*u can call me ph!*

13% [chapter 9]


Before moving to Boston and California, that small rented room at the back of your parents house in Burlington, Massachusetts was the site of hard dark harvest. A reaping time that would inform so many of the decisions you made later in life. 3 seeds had been planted in the mud of your distorted psyche. By 1989, they came to fruition.

The first flower to break ground was that of Insanity.

Intentionally, you got that job at the mental institution in order to get a good insider's look at how your life might be if you were ever committed to such a place. Just in case your parents ever succeeded in putting you away. Just in case you ever completely lost control and let it all go. Just in case you ever surrendered to that black cloud that was always hovering right behind you, patiently waiting every single day.

Like so many patients at the asylum, you were a messy combination of epigentic tendencies, environmental factors and traumatic stories, but had the luck of retaining your highly functioning status. From the point of view of floor staff, you wanted to see the actual differences between this side and the other side of that Insane Line society has drawn in the sand. Many hours were spent scouring the case studies of those committed. This is what you learned of the wartorn people living on the 3rd floor ward:

Of Martha:
It was speculated that she had been raped over 50 times by all of her relatives before the age of 5. She was committed for having multiple personality disorder. She'd explode into a psychotic rage, tearing apart thick denim jeans and leather sneakers with her bare hands if you ever let her see a pile of folded laundry. That's what would set her off. God help you if you were working that shift, the staff warned, so be careful to stay out of her way until at least 4 other staff members were prepared to restrain and sedate her. On the nightly rounds, you'd sometimes pass by her room and hear distinctively different voices conversing with each other behind the door, discussing how good or bad she had been that day. Given the degree of her learning disabilities, it seemed highly unlikely that these voices were being faked for any reason because she had nothing to lose or to gain. Clearly, this was her brain's desperate attempt to keep calm that deadly rage that was always carefully clinging just below the skin, like a thin cotton dress on a frightened little girl running through the pouring rain.

Of Vinnie:
Committed as a child at the same time as his older brother, Danny, he enthusiastically exhibited grandiose manic fantasies. Pretending to be a sports star, movie star, rock star or any other kind of superhero, just like most other kids do, except that he was now in his twenties. His frustration at his arrested capabilities, at his life of captivity, at his folks who never came to visit him or his brother on Family Day, often erupted into violent outbursts. But he was your favorite patient and you were his favorite staff member. One day he asked if he could marry you. You replied that you didn't believe in marriage. He punched you, giving you a black eye, then choked you until some of the other staff members ran over and broke his hold. Like most other men you got close to in regular life, Vinnie begged for forgiveness the next day, crying, saying how sorry he was. Unlike most other men though, his apology was drowning in sincerity. How crazy it is that more respect was shown to you inside an asylum than out here in the normal misogynistic world?

Of Eddie:
He fell silent at a young age after witnessing his older brother commit suicide. A tall skinny man in his mid 30's, ever present at the hourly allotted smoking time with a perma-grin plastered on his face. He had the look of a boxer. Deep scars distorted his brow and broken nose from the time he had successfully put his head through a reinforced glass window. Almost daily, he would mime the act of his brother killing himself. Lifting his head back and looking at the ceiling, pointing with 2 gun-like fingers under his chin, he'd open his mouth like that Munch painting 'The Scream'. Then, he'd resume rocking back and forth in his ill-fitting fire-resistant vest, puffing on his pipe happily. One afternoon, all the other staff members had left the floor for one reason or another. Suddenly, you realized you were alone on the ward with only 3 months experience and 18 energetic basket cases. Some of the patients realized this at the same time, too. Eddie lumbered over and stood there, towering over you. He said, quite clearly with a chuckle, "Hey, why don't you suck my dick?" You could not believe your ears. Another patient, 63 year old Rosie, started laughing hysterically when she heard this. She began skipping around in erratic circles. You sat frozen. Eddie started to fumble with his pajama pants. Rosie laughed louder. Roger, a 70 year old with turrets syndrome cued up his excited screaming loop, "WHOOP! FUCK ME UP THE ASSHOLE!" Like a mating call, this made more patients gather round, expectant of a spectacle. Just then, another staff member returned to the ward. Eddie shuffled off, still grinning, his sly blue eyes staring back at you over his shoulder. Rosie, disappointed, ceased skipping. Roger quit looping. A few giggles drifted off, back into their rooms, and everybody resumed behaving at their normal levels of crazy. Still frozen, you said nothing except that you felt sick, so you went home early that day.

Of Rosie:
Her manic, overt and compulsive interest in any kind of sexual activity, be it with other people or doorknobs or vending machines or lawn furniture or just about anything, made her socially non-viable. She remained committed for a large part of her adult life. Very little was known about her past as she was a voluntary patient. She offered up scarce few details about herself that were serious, preferring to tell sex jokes and make endless innuendos instead. Her speech showed signs of tardive dyskinesia setting in -- a swelling of the tongue and overproduction of saliva from so many years of taking various anti-psychotic medications. She seemed to find great humor living in the institution though, and was fairly entertaining for the first few hours of each night shift. But later, piercing high pitched banshee wails would fill the halls from 3 to 4 AM for no discernable reason. Even she couldn't tell you why she was screaming. She'd just stand there in the moonlight as it shimmered through the long pale blue corridor of the ward. Looking like a lost little kid. This short round aging woman in fuzzy pink slippers and a worn out bleach stained nightie, drooling and clutching hard at her cunt as if it would escape her grasp and go roaming off on its own, out into the woods without her. Never to be seen nor heard from again.

Of Beverly:
She received an unknown number of beatings and sexual assaults growing up, responding to the abuse by becomming completely non-responsive for over 2 decades. She had graduated to vocalizing a long drawn out and heavily accented "ooohh kaaay" to every question or request posed to her. She was non-aggressive, non-violent, submissive to her surroundings and totally immersed in her own internal world. On rare occassions at night, she would repeatedly chant the phrase, "in a graaay corrrnerrr..." and pace at the dark end of the hall. But she spent the bulk of her days sitting quietly in a white plastic chair by the window, staring down at her fingernails. Sometimes she'd rip them completely off but seemed to feel no pain at all when doing so. Nor did it seem to bother her to draw bizarre abstract images all over her bedroom walls with her own feces. Staff would often find her at night, sitting there on the floor of her room, staring up at her work, rocking back and forth, chewing at her fingertips, covered from head to toe in shit.

Of Charles:
Born autistic, he also became severly mentally disabled after contracting scarlet fever as a teenager. He was a good guy who loved to play checkers and go for long walks through the forested grounds. Whenever he spoke, he held up and wiggled his right index finger with each word like a puppet. But sometimes, in his frustation, he'd start punching himself in the face. It instantly brought you to tears whenever you'd witness him hurting himself. Feeling a similar self loathing in your own warring mind, this is what self abuse looked like from outside the narrows of that blinding subjective fight. And you felt helpless to curb the power of that undertow, even from a compassionate distance. Seeing similar images in movies of people on the verge of pulling the trigger on that gun that they've got shoved into their mouths jolted some kind of wakefulness; signaling the birth of understanding what self-compassion feels like because now you could see self-abuse from outside your self. That image of Charles punching himself in the face burned itself into your brain, helping you to ease off with your own episodes of cutting, hitting, gnawing, hair pulling, head banging and other sorts of mutilating. But whenever you did succumb to these mad attacks later in life, you'd more quickly shift to the view from outside. Bawling over the remnants of the whole scene as if you were someone else, or someone else's loving mother, watching all of this unfold on film or tv. Wishing you could reach into the screen and gently hold that person, offer them some slight consolation. Lightly brush their hair with your fingertips. "Everything's gonna be okay," you'd keep whispering. Tragically, Charles died at the age of 29 from drug complications after a nurse mistakenly administered the wrong medications to everyone at the institution. No words can describe what that week at the Rehabilitation Center was like.

Of Alex:
She preffered to stay in her room and write or do word puzzles. When she resisted joining group activities, the staff would jump on her, pin her down and shoot her full of thorazine for her disobedience. You never found it in your heart to be able to participate in this popular activity, especially since you could understand her desire to just be left alone. When Jon and Kevin, always the first two staff members to engage in any kind of physical confrontation, had their knees in her back and her arms pulled nearly to the point of breaking, they yelled at you, "Give her the shot! Why are you just standing there?! Do it! DO IT NOW!" But you refused. You will never forget the look she gave you. The tiniest of smirks flickered across her never-smiling face as it was smashed hard against the concrete floor next to a puddle of apple juice that had spilled during the altercation and was trickling toward her fallen off shoe. Infuriated, Jon and Kevin hauled her down the hall, throwing her body like a bag of cement onto the steel bed with thick leather restraints attached. A single barred window allowed a strip of afternoon light into the pink and padded space known as The Quiet Room. They strapped her face down, shot her up in the ass and left her there for the rest of the night. All because she didn't feel like playing bingo. No recorded history or reasons for her committal could be found. Her case file was filled only with insurance forms, dutifully signed every year by her parents or guardians or whoever gave her away as a ward to the state. On a side note, both Jon and Kevin soon left their staff positions at the asylum to pursue careers as state troopers. Go figure.

And of Carol:
She suffered from a total inability to make simple everyday decisions, thus lending her to become the maleable object of anyone's manipulative suggestions. And get manipulated, she did. Staff would always find her coaxed off into some hidden alcove, having been convinced by an older male patient that giving him a hand job was a good idea. She was the youngest person on the ward, only 19 at the time. You nearly shat yourself with joy seeing her walking down Market Street in San Francisco 8 years later, having been mentally shored up enough that she could now be living out in the world on her own. And so far away from North Reading! A shabby drunk man on the corner asked her something distracting. While stopped at the red light on your bike, you heard her familiar voice as she responded to him, still tinged with a hint of uncertainty. "No...? No. New shoes. I'm going to buy new shoes!" And off she went toward Payless, looking both ways before confidently crossing the street. Transfixed with your mouth agape, your eyes followed her as she walked through a glowing pillar of dusty orange light that peered out between the buildings of downtown. You cried for the rest of the ride home. So overwhelmed and amazed that kismet had crossed your specific paths on this random day. Steeped in a much deeper appreciation for the profoundly overlooked luxury known as personal independent freedom.

Therefore, the resulting conclusion of your private research study on the viability of finding some kind of asylum within an asylum was a vociferous and resounding DON'T LET GO! NEVER GIVE UP ON YOURSELF.

*u can call me ph!*


13% [chapter 8]


Back in LA, it did not take long before that idea of watching the sunset on the ocean was stowed behind the snobbish shoulders of private property holders, over the constant border patrols and beneath the police brutality riots simmering in caustic volitility. It all became too crowded, too cloudless, too crass a concept to bring you any peace of mind. That crap pile that is society kept stealing the spotlight and getting in real beauty's way. So, you soon found yourself back on an eastbound plane.

Adam was persistently urging this return. Apparently, he was not kidding when he said he wanted you to be his wife. But it was difficult to consider his proposal seriously. The moment you were back in his company, he gave you something that would last a lot longer than most marriages do: Herpes. Great. Though you were grateful he didn't give you syphillus or AIDS, you bowed out saying, "Thanks, but no thanks," to the honorary title of being his old maid.

A debilitating fear had formed around this worrisome concept of the wedding dress of chains. Wife just looked like a worse version of the girlfriend role you already so sucked at playing. So again, you failed to achieve any of the love you thought you wanted until it was staring you in the face. But it only resembled death by then. All the joy lightness and vitality of your previous feelings for Adam had dissipated. Now it felt forced obligated and confining, in a really tediously dull and boring way.

Then a distant relative died -- an aunt from your father's obscured family line. She used to call you "devil's spawn" so the thought of her leaving you a parting gift was completely unexpected. She willed you a savings bond that could only be cashed in your name. Therefore you actually received this one and only cash sum of $1200. All other gifts later bestowed upon you from other relatives never made it past your parent's bank account of utter unhidden disdain for the "drifting through life" choices you continually made.

With his head hung low, Adam glared at you resentfully from the station's departure platform. You just giggled, childishly waving Bye Bye from the window of an Amtrak train headed west for San Francisco Bay. You decided you wanted to be a comic book artist and finish college at the Art Institute. This was the new aim in your life spent adrift. At the farthest other end of the country, you felt you'd be safely out of your parent's disapproving reach. "Fuck them," you said, and I agreed.

You had already chosen to live, that much was true. You accepted that there would be a shit ton of work to do, but no fucking clue as to the How To... How to live, how to live with other people, how to live with yourself. So you began with Aldous Huxley's 'The Doors of Perception' in one hand and a bottle of valium, a bag of weed and a bunch of acid hits in the other.

America's various sameness dramatically swayed through the smoking lounge car's window. Night and day cascaded across the hard labored serpentine rails. The lullaby of a rhythmic angelic cradle. Moving from and moving to. In one long continuous 96 hour blur. From black to brown to yellow to green to white to gold and to gray.

*u can call me ph!*

13% [chapter 6]


A couple weeks after arriving in Los Angeles, you went down to San Diego to visit Richard. He was your first love when you were both high school sophomores in Hightstown, New Jersey. The two of you would often hang out together after school, but he asked you not to act like you knew him in the lunchroom. He was worried how it might look to his upper crust preppie clique, if he were seen hanging out with a weirdo druggie band geek chick. This first love, unrequited, kept you chasing it. Just like that legendary virgin dragon crack hit. Ride the snake. It's a long cold class war bitch.

You wrote scores of letters to Richard over the years. He never replied. Still you kept sending them, just to write it out, that shit that life is all about to people like him and you -- grown up kids who grew up under the willows and toadstools of abuse. It didn't matter that he never wrote back. Though, at the time, you hopelessly hoped that he would. He did tell you much later that he finally caved in to feeling something for you while reading all those hand written pages that he had actually kept in a box under his bed. And that meant the world to you.

He now seemed somewhat amused that you'd even bother to come visit him again from so many miles away. Stepping off the Greyhound bus, his first comment to you was, "You looked better when you were fat." How fucking great is that?

Back in Massachusetts, a couple years before this particular visit, you'd be so wound up after your shift at the mental institution that you were crawling up the walls of your small rented room. Silently, you'd slip out of the house around midnight, pop the clutch in your little silver Toyota Tercel until you were safely down the hill before starting the engine. Then you'd be off to see Richard. He was living in Winsted,
Connecticut. A mere 3 hour drive away. You'd hang out for a little while, maybe have a quick fuck around 4am, then drive back to Burlington before your parents woke up at 8.

The impetus to stay up all night driving was, of course, to be with someone whom you loved. But it later became clear that these repeated roadtrips were really all about the drives themselves. About being alone on and off the major highways. About roaming through the dark craggy forests and foggy moonlit fields. About feeling the immense freedom to cry and sing along to Smiths and Cure songs as much and as loud as you liked. It was therapy. And it was on these solitary night drives that you first began to notice you did not need to be on drugs in order to feel good and alive. All you needed was solitude, music and that long road to motor into the truest version of you that could be derived.

The last quick visit to Richard in Winsted gave you your first pregnancy scare. He said he didn't care. So to save yourself the $300 it was going to cost to get an abortion, you decided it would be cheaper to do all the cocaine acid whiskey weed and pills you could get your hands onto and gluttonously shove that shit into yer face instead of eating any healthy food for the next few weeks. 24 hours before your appointment at the clinic, you successfully miscarried. Your nose bled out almost as much as your confused womb. But your rent got paid that month. And no one was there to bitch at you.

This time, in San Diego, visiting Richard only spawned several huge marguaritas, thankfully. But you were totally unsure of yourself, of why you were here, of what you had hoped to gain by revisiting him and this old wound. Nothing had been discussed about the past. And so nothing but unresolved insecurity, commonly the emotional terrain of youth, filled your pudding of proof. Proof of your inherent unloveability. There was a polite but oddly robotic screw that you gave him on his back porch the following morning. Then, perplexed, you left his place with this weird emptiness of having achieved some great reward. The reward of knowing that There Is No Reward. You spent your last day there wandering along the boardwalk alone, cuddling several cheap beers to liquify this pointless game you had just senselessly played and lost again.

A couple sitting on a beach blanket called out for you to join them. Julie was a white hippie chick from Berekeley. Her long haired Mexican boyfriend was named Jose. He never removed his shades. He scared you, but she seemed harmless enough and lulled you into feeling safe with her flowery blousey she-won't-let-anything-bad-happen-to-me gaze. They poured more booze down your gullible gullet and smoked you out. You all sang a Jimi Hendrix song rather flailingly and laughed cuz Jose pronounced "Joe" without the j sound, so he sang it "Hey Yo" instead. They said more music booze and drugs would be on the way if you went with them back to their place. You agreed, assuming it would be a short walk around the corner. But it was a long hour's drive down several unknown freeways.

Their place was a small dank room in a run down long stay motel. It didn't take long for them to propose a threeway but in your lost stoned drunken and paranoid state, you found this idea grossly depraved. Everything below your neck had grown numb to sensation anyway. And you did not find either one of them sexually attractive at all. Oh well. There goes another fantasy that in reality only turned you off with its utter inability to titillate. Perhaps part of porn's success lies in it's absence of odors, those moist reeks that you
cannot psychologically erase. And, right on cue, as always when combining weed with booze, you puked and just wanted to be left alone with your self-deprecating dismay.

Julie kept saying, "Just check out Jose's beautiful cock." But you were stubbornly unamazed. Frustrated after several failed attempts to fuck you, they agreed to give you a ride back to the boardwalk so you'd quit complaining. Jose's last attempt to grope your tits and grind against your ass was met with more struggling, so your body was tossed out of the van's passenger side door as they drove down the freeway on-ramp.

It had grown dark. Wearing only a pair of ratty cut off shorts, combat boots, and a bathing suit under a thin 'Confusion is Sex' Sonic Youth tshirt, you were totally exposed to the sudden desert chill. You checked yourself. No money except for some small change. No ID, just a slip of paper with Richard's phone number on it. No major injuries. Only some minor cuts and roadrash on your hands and knees from making out with asphalt and gravel. You were glad to be free from Jose and Julie, and made your way toward the highway to hitchhike back to Richard's place. Though, in what direction or how far it was, you could not say.

Coming to a 7 foot tall chain link fence, it took forever to scale the thing. Immediately afterward, you promised yourself to set a personal goal of gaining more upper body strength so as to avoid this kind of fat-assed humiliation during any future attempts to escape. Finally on the freeway, you looked down and found 2 dollars crumpled up in the dirt. Things were looking up. Thumbing it down the breakdown lane, you prayed to not fall prey to a rapist or serial killer out on the hunt for young female strays. Such a contradiction to
the deathwish that had purposefully put you here in harm's way.

About 2 hours passed. A Latino man driving a white pick up truck pulled over. He couldn't speak a word of English but he drove you to the nearest gas station so that you could call Richard on the payphone. Richard translated to the man over the phone where you needed to go. The man then silently drove you for over an hour back to where you had originated. You tried to give him the 2 dollars in your pocket that you found in the dirt. But he just smiled, shaking his head no and drove away.

As you turned toward the familiar basketball court near Richard's back porch, you fell to your dried bloody knees in the soft green grass and thanked the heavens above for crossing paths with the kindness of that unknown man. You made sure to mark this moment should you ever feel tempted to judge any one entire race for the despicable dickheaded actions of one person when another person will perform the most selfless and generous of deeds.

That goes for judging Julie too, which is why, when you saw her several years later walking on Cole Street in SF's Upper Haight, you restrained yourself from charging over there and punching her in her super friendly face. Instead, you thought about all this upper body strength you had since gained.

As for Richard, you still keep in touch with him. And you still feel love for him. In the best and only way you know how to love another person -- from a distance that is safe.

*u can call me ph!*

13% [chapter 4]


Nowhere felt as permeated with fake brick wall falsehoods, with the whorrific dull hum of unfulfilled longing, as did LA. Nothing seemed real. And not much was. Except for the people that grew up there. They purely did not give a single solitary fuck about any of that lalaland porniconography bullshit. Mostly because they were too busy working to stay alive. You liked these people because they had real world problems. And they treated you like a real person not an opportunity to get whatever they could get outta you.

But what is there to get from a 23 year old who's already rough trade? From a murky dirty bitch with an unpretty pockmarked face? No money, no honey, and thighs that rub together on most days, even though you were throwing up everything you ate. From some feckless femi-nazi who shoplifts on a regular basis cuz stealing from corporations cheers up that glum, especially when angry and drunk, which is, again, on most days. But you found expensive cheeses much to your taste. That and fruit seemed to be the only foods you could stomach without the constant nauseous pangs of female shame that made you heave into a shape that glamourized near invisibility. Faded, yearning to be erased. Long long before being diagnosed with caeliac's disease --whose symptoms include vomitting, headaches, depression, mood swings, constipation, rashes, dizziness, migraines, diarrhea, seizures, fatigue, distaste. Just from eating wheat. What a fabulously obtuse waste.

This was how you learned how powerful the power of suggestion really was: Keeping steady eye contact and waving a receipt for the one box of tea you had actually purchased in the security officer's face, you held a bag that contained not only the tea, but also blocks of fancy cheese, a carton of orange juice, a box of frozen fried chicken and a fifth of tequilla. You angrily exclaimed with the shrill disgust of a spoiled teenager that he was mistaken for stopping you at the exit. "Look, I have a receipt! GAH!!" And it worked. He cowered without examining the crumpled slip of paper, apologized and let you go.

Decades of poverty induced shoplifting forays keenly attuned you to when you were being watched or suspected. Especially during the holidays, when you'd bring home hauls that surpassed a thousand dollars in worth. You wanted to spread the love and cheer you could not afford, but felt that others deserved.

Those internal signals warned you to stay true to hightened survival intuitions too. "Don't go down that street." "Stay on this side of the door." "Slow down, an animal's going to run into the road at the bottom of this hill." Once, during shop class in New Jersey, it said, "Get up from that stool and come over here to the other side of the room." So you did and stood there fumbling for a second, not sure what to do. A loud snapping sound came from a table saw. Something silvery flew across the room. The sharp circular blade thumped, it's teeth stabbing hard into the wall at chest-level where you sat only moments before. When you were 3, living in Germany, "Setzen, Jetz!" is what that intuitive voice, in German, said. Then something violently shook the chain of the swing you were sitting in. Your father was mowing the lawn behind you when a bolt came loose. The shaking of that chain was the lawnmower blade spinning off and slicing through the air a few inches above you.

If only you would have listened every single time you heard those whispered warnings, then Los Angeles might not represent the City of Utter Failure that it so disasterously means to you these days. But back then, you were still starry-eyed and full of hate. And if a disembodied voice was the only thing that wanted to protect you, you were grateful. It was better than no one. Though you were never sure why you would be worth saving.

Working for minimum wage at the Nuart Theater on Santa Monica Boulevard, you stood in the shadow of a towering Rutger Hauer at the premier of the director's cut of Blade Runner.That did not seem real, but it was Really Fucking Awesome. So was meeting Dennis Hopper as he stared down at some stray drips of red paint below a stairway railing. Rubbing the dried drops with his shoe, he wondered aloud, "Is that blood?" As he would do.

What was not awesome was being completely annoyed by the reoccurring appearance of Christian Slater with his sloppy entourage of rich young white coked up yes-friends. He'd stand there, all fidgety and fuckfaced, demanding free entry to obsessively watch himself on screen and impress everybody. Somehow, even from your lowly position of being a nobody in the box office, this sad arrogance seemed pitifully real. You said no and made him buy tickets at the full price every time. Pffft. Thespians. You saw no skill or craft in his lame imitation of Jack Nicholson.

Who's a critic? Everyone.

You didn't own a car in LA. Back in Boston, walking around with your headphones on was a calming form of exercise, an impoverished necessity to get home from work, but one that you had come to enjoy in some semi-meditative way. However, here in LA, you received much public humiliation for performing this derided activity. People honked, laughed, threw old sneakers at you and screamed, "GET A CAR!" So you turned up the volume on your Loop tape, attempting to drown them out with 'A Gilded Eternity' and just kept walking.

Arriving back at your cousin's apartment on 12th Street in Santa Monica, you tried to eek out some small sense of contentment by smoking a shitload of purple haze. She had agreed to let you stay on her couch until you landed on your feet. But there was no real ground on which to land and you now felt ashamed of using your feet at all.

This feeling of envious disability was exacerbated by the fact that the $200 rent for your cousin's comfortable one bedroom apartment was paid for in full every month by her parents while she was a full time student at UCLA. They also paid her full tuition. Contrast that with this: While staying with your parents in Burlington, Massachusetts, they charged you $200 a month to live in their house while you attended classes at a small art school near Salem and worked at a mental institution near Danvers so that you could afford to pay both the rent and tuition yourself.

Proudly, you brought home one of your first paintings to show your parents, having received an A grade. The assignment was to combine various elements of another artist's work into your own unique vision. You did a variation of Magritte's work and painted a thick colorful cartoonish oil image entitled "A Fish With Toes And Tits Surrounded By Small Multicolored Flying Penises Wearing Bowler Hats." Your father, a frustrated painter himself, was mortified. They had absolutely no intention of ever supporting you in this pursuit of a college education, suggesting you be more like your brother, do something useful and join the military.

This might be why landing on your feet in LA was a bit difficult. You felt legless. And passionately despised every ounce of this demonstrative counter-productive self pity that you were swimming in. So you took to flight instead by getting really fucking high most of the fucking time.

*u can call me ph!*