Singing the Blues
Exposed on all levels, fears ran rampant in joyous mockery of what I’d become. Subject to forces beyond understanding, the only glimmer of light was to one day tell my story and prevent the same thing from happening to others.
At first I only went into alleys in the daytime, but I wasn’t trying to hide back then. People and garbage coursed through alleys like veins and arteries of a concrete body. In the dark, unknown dangers, smells and noises lurked behind every tree, dumpster and fence. Peering into the void, I envisioned burning pits of hell so devilishly crafted and subjectively suited to the collective forces of every resident that bordered them. Some were so thick, dark and menacing that death was almost certain. Some were clean, light and well lit, but that took exposure to whole new levels. But eh streets had apartments and so many windows and so many eyes that could look down upon me and laugh. Choosing between hell and the highway, hell seemed much kinder by comparison.
Soon hell cross-contaminated the daylight hours making nowhere safe from prying eyes. Mind splintered and shattered lacerating every fiber of my being. Caring for Tom, a white man, went against Aryan scripture. Part of me knew being on the run from Nazi’s wasn’t real, yet wanted it to be at the same time. As each part vied for dominance, a unified front of villagers sporting black fisherman’s toques shadowed possible events of a more recent lifetime. War criminals being brought to justice years after their alleged crimes served as a reminder of no escape. Not knowing if it extended to crimes committed in past lives as well, I tricked them by playing possum until they vanished into the nether regions from whence they came.
Closer to home, Tom kept disappearing with the daily profits from our work together. Angry and frustrated beyond belief I imploded behind a dumpster and cried my eyes out for what seemed like hours. Through the sobs, gentle angelic voices kept saying: ‘let him cry.’ ‘Let him get it out.’ Sure I felt weak – after all big boys didn’t cry. They kept it locked away deep inside, hidden from public scrutiny. Why did sticking up for myself always hurt and feel like I was jeopardizing love? Wasn’t love supposed to be beautiful, friendly and loving? Confronting him was like pulling teeth, but I didn’t deserve to be treated like nothing, even if that was how I felt. Talking it over revealed how he thought the profits of our combined work was just for him and him alone. In a way he was right: I hadn’t made or signed a contract so I was to blame – but only for my part. The rest he was responsible for. He didn’t like that, but then again he wasn’t supposed to.
Now alone, music became my sanctuary. Drawing songs from my karaoke days, I sang my blues away like a slave. ‘Nobody knows the trouble I feel, nobody knows but Jesus….‘ U2‘s: So Cruel, Love Is Blindness and Elvis’ ‘In the Ghetto and Love Me were token testaments to my loveless existence. Yet in singing, I knew exactly what I was doing: releasing lifetimes of sorrow, hurt, desire and loss. And the best thing about it all was I didn’t give a damn if anyone thought I was mad because I was. Besides, with a fairly decent singing voice, people couldn’t really complain for getting free concerts.
An older respected street person, a street father to some, asked if I’d figured out what the gong show was. Too proud to say no, I said nothing. Then he told me it was about being the best of the worst just like the old TV show. I wanted to laugh, but was too stunned. He laughed, pointing out that everyone was playing it – they just didn’t know. Sickened, I threw it back in his face and asked if profiting from others weaknesses was his own act. Eyes down, he said no. The truth was when new to the scene, I thought destroying property would make me look big in their eyes. There were always a few bad apples in every crate, but they thought senseless destruction was stupid and hurt people and property unnecessarily. Still, I could see how easy homelessness, addiction and madness could turn into murdering, raping and robbing if I didn’t keep my eye on the ball.
On the flip side of the coin, trying to be the best of the best in games, education and work made me feel bad because someone always had to lose. There had to be another way or what was the use in even trying?
I left and went to smoke some dope in Zack’s apartment building – illegally of course. In the quiet of night, mind went on a rampage conjuring up voices and noises out of every creak, groan and environ. Knowing my mind’s capacity to play tricks on me, footsteps on the floors below turned me into stalked prey. I crept like the thief in the night I was from end to end, back and forth countless times, head on the verge of exploding. Clamping down on my mind brought short relief. The three F’s: fight, flight and freezing amplified fears of entrapment and punishment. As reality took a back seat to madness, I faced futility in the eye, stopped and rethought my strategy. If creeping around was expected, then doing the opposite might give the element of surprise. Pretending to be a visitor, I marshaled my energetic forces and exited through the front doors.
Across the street two people stood talking to one other. As I approached, voices chuckled and said “he doesn’t know it’s all a game.” Unsure of where the voices were coming from, I felt like such a fool for being played. Nervous laughter did little to hide feelings of stupidity. Ego burned in an all-consuming fire. Out of sight, I unfolded two pen knives. I knew I’d already passed my test, but others didn’t! Amazingly, anger kept lesser emotions in check.
At home, behind closed doors, I let out a huge sigh. I may not have been a firm believer in God, but boy was I thankful for wherever He/She/It might be.
Alone in my hotel room, I tried on disguises, but felt foolish if not absurd. Why did I have to go out? Did I always have to push the envelope? Couldn’t I just relax and leave whatever I wanted to do until tomorrow? Then it hit me! I was running from something, but I had no idea what?! I closed the curtains – still someone was watching me! I hid on the floor – still someone was watching me! I got under the covers – still someone was watching me! It didn’t make sense. But what if I was watching myself!? As crazy as it sounded, it almost felt like a huge eye looking down at me. Whether I’d tuned into my own conscience, or was this the birth of conscience? How could I or anyone run from that? As I surrendered to being in tune with and/or seeing myself from a different level or dimension the angst subsided. Now there really was no escaping myself!
© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –
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