Me and My World of One
Burned out to the max, I lashed out in a fit of rage. It wasn’t enough that I’d fallen, ‘they’ had to rub salt in my wounds as well, but then again what was I expecting from hell? Exhaustion came to my rescue and prevented further investigation. A ‘deserted’ underground parking lot behind Burnaby Street offered an unexposed refuge for me to collapse. With my ability to discern undeniably corrupted, the odors of garbage, gas, oil, human excrement and urine nauseatingly amplified how much further I could go if it become irreparable. I didn’t know if I had to hit the proverbial ‘rock bottom’ or not and I didn’t want to know anymore. It hurt too much.
A subterranean graveyard of merciless grays and cold metal carcasses concreted the idea of Hell on earth. With the ground slowly sucking any remaining life force out of me, every cell in my body united in a chorus of desperation for warmth. And it was almost the end of July. Even the bones of my soul felt frozen. Ever vigilant about flailing (never knowing when I’d have to flee at a moment’s notice), I carefully searched bulging backpacks for dry clothing and hungrily put them on. Still the cold persisted defying all logic.
Worse, indescribable pain haunted me, but my inability to pinpoint exactly where it was coming from or what was actually hurting only amplified its horrific nature. Physically, I felt run down, but “somewhere out there” I was battle-weary from countless years, if not lifetimes, of unnamable struggles, conflicts and resistances, which, only now, had amassed to assail me in the moment. Such was the price of paying off my karmic debt.
Rocking back and forth like an unloved child, I sobbed my life mantra – “What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with me? ….”
With surgical precision, I peered deep within myself hoping to confront just what was wrong with me, but all I saw was a void. No, it wasn’t that there was something wrong with me there simply wasn’t anything right with me. Unlike the “seconds” and “thirds” that rolled off assembly lines, I couldn’t even claim defectiveness in my defense. God had designed me simply to not work and who was I to question the mind of God? Confusion became realization became shock became terror became fear became anger became shame became apathy became nothingness….
In the olden days they threw people like me off the mountaintops so as to not be a social strain. Nowadays, I’d be left to rot like old vegetables in a fridge.
The serenity of self-acceptance was interrupted by the stark realization I wasn’t dead yet. As bad as I felt, worse was to come! As if on cue, horrifying visions erupted detailing the scope, magnitude and subtlety in which personal hells manifested in a one-to-one correspondence with each and every personal torment to those who’d dared tread such paths. And I had chosen them both wittingly and unwittingly. Despair, hunger, thirst, blindness and all their minions poisoned the rivers of my existence in the sheer dimensionality of their fear. Possessing nothing but inevitable failure and the propensity for self-sabotage, hope died and my slow demise into Hell began. Now I understood what the phrase ”before the end I would beg for death” meant. I lowered my head and begged for death.
I sat and stared.
Memories of being a ‘normal’ functioning member of society flickered like a candle flame in the wind, then extinguished in mock torment.
I sat and stared.
Desensitized into apathy, my entire life was projected onto a mental screen. Universal themes of fear, guilt, tragedy, failed romance and selfless abandonment threaded life into a fabric of shame and self-loathing. It was an epic tale. Being thirty-nine years old, it was going to be a long movie and popcorn a sarcastic hungry ghost’s dream.
I sat and stared.
All the opportunities I’d let slip through my fingers, all the friendships I’d let fall by the wayside and all the love I’d taken for granted tore strips of flesh from my being in hellish self-revelation. The sharp fangs of reality bit hard and deep injecting burning paralytic venom into the toxic waste known as my life. Shocked and breathless, hopelessness evidenced magnificently how denial had finally failed me. I wasn’t surprised: success had only been a pit stop between inevitable failures so expectant even trying had faded into apathy.
I sat and stared.
To The Rolling Stone’s, 19th Nervous Breakdown, my 19000th breakdown ravaged any sanity not sane enough to leave beforehand, with the effectiveness of a wrecking ball. I’d dared to play dice with God and lost. Even worse, life had been a game I’d been too afraid to learn how to play. Even now, with the end in sight, I dared not make a sound. COWARD. A lifetime of tiptoeing on eggshells to impress others had left me totally unimpressed. Wanting to vomit up a scream, only a gagged silence lurked in the dry heaves of my existence. I was dying with no voice. COWARD.
Startled into the present by oncoming headlights, the car parked abruptly. Fearing I’d be asked to leave, motionlessness a sign of defiance. Kicking a person when they were down was the rule of the game, wasn’t it? And I was trespassing, wasn’t I? The two passengers smiled, locked their doors and made their way to their own confines of comfort and security. Before my very eyes, friendly smiles became twisted sneers of sarcastic retribution for my happy-go-lucky lifestyle and for not playing the game of life by the rules. Demons! They were all demons! “Life is not a game,” I mentally screamed, but none were mental enough to hear me. Sad and jealous, I feigned a smile in return.
How dare they judge me! I was an equal and wanted to be treated like one. But equals didn’t parade as lost souls on parking lot floors begging for their very life. I didn’t need their pity or judgments – I had enough of my own! Why couldn’t they see that every look of condemnation and word of disgrace only reinforced the pain? Why couldn’t they just leave me alone? An eerie silence, so deep and foreboding forced me to cower on the ground: eyes closed; silent, shallow breathing; waiting…. “Just kill me and get it over with or leave me alone… Please leave me alone, please…” I pleaded silently, but nothing happened – or so it seemed.
After what seemed like eternity, deafening silence arose. It had a familiar yet eerie quality about it. I rafted down its unknown white waters experiencing the indescribable depth of both loneliness and aloneness combined. Alone because of my inability to relate to anyone or anything in the known and unknown universe; yet, also lonely because I ached to belong. Too frightened and distraught to reach out for help I never knew or learned was there.
I dove deeper into the cesspool pool of emotional ‘ecstasy’, swimming in nuance of feeling until my heart pounded to near bursting. Hot and breathless, I’d reached Hell’s core!
“Resistance is futile.” Every particle of my being began assimilation for life in Borg Hell. “Never,” I screamed, “never,” but my idle threats fell to the ground with little weight or conviction behind them. Expecting Hell and its minions to believe what I no longer could, I resigned to a life of being kicked, hissed, spat, laughed and talked about despisingly behind my back – worse, in front of my face, And there’d be nothing I could do about it – nothing! Worse than a slave, or the Untouchables of India who, at least, had a defined place and purpose in life, I had no one. No family; no friends; no God; no one.
Funny, how I held what I thought I wanted like a hot potato. “Fear needs an object; love needs nothing.” I searched frantically for the object Krishnamurti said I was running to and from in order to belong. But why was I trying to belong at all? I didn’t know. I wanted to, but now my time had run out.
“I hate my life!” ‘What did you say,’ a surprised deep voice queried. “I hate my life, I hate my life,” I shot back, unafraid of my truthfulness. With so many ways to lie, how ironic there was only one for truth. Truth: I hated what life had made me do in the name of living; the things I’d done to others knowingly and unknowingly, intentionally and unintentionally in the name of so-called living; and even the things I’d still do if allowed to live! Every bad thing I’d ever done shot through my brain in a fraction of a second; judgment day had arrived.
Before an endless list of ignorance, stupidity, lying, denial, guilt, shame and fears, I wanted to get it over with and find out what part of Hell I was destined for. Looking at my life, I saw no good in anything I’d ever done. How could there when its very foundations were corrupt? I shuddered to think of how many people had suffered at my hands: every breath poisoned; every word lied; every feeling bloated; every thought condemned and every behavior violated. It was all a lie, and at its black core laid the biggest lie of all – I was not I! I had faked everything about who, what where, why and how I was. Nothing about me was real and I knew why.
In a flashback, I was eight years old, cutting weeds in our back garden. Not because I had to but because I wanted to. At the kitchen window were my mom and dad. She recognized my initiative, but my dad only the wrong way I was using the scythe. “Not like that!” “Leave him alone” “But he’s doing it wrong.” “It doesn’t matter.” But the damage had already been done. With true childlike insight I saw that to stop being criticized I wouldn’t do anything without first being told. Little did I know its implications? By extending this to other physical world aspects, I closed myself off from the world. Intellectually I blossomed, but without a physical core I became impotent. The wounds of regret stung deep.
School and television became the parents I listened to the most. Social interaction was reduced to mimicking the media in a monkey see, monkey do manner: comedy shows (look how funny I was), science/science-fiction (look how intellectual and open-minded I was) and tragedy/horror (look how frightening life was). After high school, life and poor social skills, sexual experimentation and first tastes of unsupervised freedom led to typical drugs and alcohol as new ways to cope. In reality, I’d died a long time ago when I’d chosen not to participate in the physical world.
Cowering on the ground, I couldn’t believe I’d had a brutally honest moment to myself without permission. Half expecting retaliation, my heart bled as unbelievable remorse surged within for my blindness at throwing away my life for something as simple as being a coward. “If only I could take it all back I would do things differently. If only…” My words trailed off into the night. My soul puked; body spasmed. Laughter arose in a cacophony of loud jeering voices. ‘You only just figured that out, stupid,’ a screeching voice laughingly condemned. ‘You fucked up and now you gotta pay the price,’ berated another. ‘You got what you asked for.’ Laughter, screaming laughter reverberated all around. My heart split in two. Why did I only understand things when it was too late? The chorus of jeering voices mocked in finger-licking approval. I’d pushed the boundaries of everything in life too far, way too far, and now I had my just rewards. I wanted out; I wanted to go home; I wanted my mommy.
Fearing the demons would scold me for being so pathetic, I looked around for a way out, but there was no escape for the apathetic. Paranoia echoed the lonely emptiness of existence. Demonic understudies re-enacted my failed life dramas medically labeled as schizophrenia. I’d unleashed forces I’d ignorantly failed to respect and disrespected those I never took the time to understand. But where had heaven gone? Surprised by such a question, I looked around with eyes barely able to function. It had to be somewhere nearby; they were, after all, so closely connected. But heaven would either have to come to me or remain forever out of reach.
God had given up on me. Everyone, including my friends had given up on me. Why had I given up on me? Had I? Stunned by my directness, I saw my truth: I was trying to find a place to sleep in an underground parking lot! With no food or blankets, I wasn’t on a camping trip. Nor had I organized, looked forward to or was enjoying it, no matter what I tried to believe otherwise.
Consumed in a fit of rage, I despised my friends for their lack of “true” friendship conveniently defined by their having and my wanting. “Who’d want me for a friend,” I said, “I’m such high maintenance?” But it couldn’t all be my fault; it had to be at least one other person’s fault, didn’t it? Then it all became crystal clear: they weren’t my friends – they were my enemies! ‘They’ formed the basis of comparison upon which my life, or lack thereof, was judged. ‘They‘ were to blame, not me. Without them I’d be fine, judge-less – me and my world of one.
Constant questioning became constant doubt. What exactly did something mean? What did my shoe mean, if anything at all? What did my life have to do with anything or anyone else? Bowing my head, I knew why. By constantly questioning and doubting everything became dismantled to a state of no meaning. It wasn’t meaninglessness, it was convenient “non-meaning,” enabling me to pick and choose meaning as deemed fit. I’d mastered it down to an art form enabling me to escape from personal accountability and responsibility. Unfortunately, I’d dismantled myself in the process!
In a sudden twist of events, mythology, religion and spirituality competed for credence with mathematical, scientific and logic based thought systems in a battle fought on non-physical planes. The sound of snakes hissing and spitting sent shivers down my spine. My mind and emotions scurried for refuge behind slamming doors: Medusa reared her ugly head. Every thought, possibility and feeling birthed writhing snakes in a game of survival of the fittest. Suddenly, I was trapped in an event horizon where no light or time escaped, encapsulating my eternal descent into the wormhole of Hell. With paralysis the only movement possible, I slowly turned to stone.
‘Use a weapon,’ a voice said. ‘Use a weapon,’ they repeated, but unlike the polished shield of Perseus, I had no mirror. Of all the things I’d painstakingly saved from dumpster death, the irony of what I didn’t have stabbed deep. “Why do I need a mirror, anyway?” I asked, questioning the outcome of thousands of years of mythological truth. ‘To reflect the dark, and let it see itself,’ a strong voice boomed. A bright light appeared to my left temporarily blinding me with its brilliance. I paid no attention. ‘Look closer,’ a soft nurturing voice said. With nothing left to do, I looked. Light emanated from a source, in this case the surface of a mirror.
My heart soared at the discovery, then instantly faded with renewed suspicions of entrapment, being charged with breaking and entering or auto theft. Someone would see, police would be called and I’d be locked away for a very long time. I did, after all, look the part, didn’t I? Sure I’d stolen before, but I wouldn’t be blamed for something I didn’t do, not again – that had happened too many times in the past. Yet, I had to try; I had to do something; I had no other choice. With several deep breaths, I summoned up the courage and ran over to the car, slowly bringing my face up to the mirror. The snakes were silent. Afraid she was sneaking up behind me, I listened intently. Refocusing my eyes, what I saw took my breath away. In the mirror was a pale, scared and shivering face of a child. It belonged to me!
How could that have happened? What could I have done so wrong that I barely recognized myself? I wept on levels unrecognized by my scientific mind. The mirror of self-awareness had revealed her, Medusa, for the nothingness she truly was. And I saw myself as I truly was in that moment in time – a hurting mess.
A spiritual wind arose and blew away any straggling madness into the silence.
Salty, viscous tears welled up from my gut and fell heavily from my shell-shocked eyes. No-one would pay for my sins except me, that much of a commitment I could make – while I still lived. ‘I’d made my bed, now I had to lie in it’, humbly cursing myself for not listening to my dad’s pearls of wisdom when I’d had the chance.
Reliving yesterday’s pain like a modern-day Prometheus, I looked to the heavens for guidance. Yet my God had long since deserted me. I hung my head low and peered into the ground. If Hell was my final resting place then I vowed to give the devil a run for his money, but even I knew better than to listen to me anymore. Voices roared and groaned in demonic laughter feasting on my agony. Softer voices expressed mild shocks of disbelief. “Shut up, shut up”, I screamed, “leave me alone! Leave me alone all of you!” Laughter reverberated to a crescendo, and I caved into a sobbing heap on my concrete gravestone.
“No future, no future for me….” So Johnny had been right all along: I had no future, none. “Oh well, one last toke before the end.” Nervous, I smoked my way to manageable mania and onwards, but now I saw how even near the end I was still playing Hide and Seek to a non-existent audience. Faster and faster, devoid of physical, emotional and mental tethers, beautiful and free; I passed out.
Awakening to not knowing if I was alive or dead, I packed up and left.
© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –
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