|Main setting of the story.|
Oh no love! you're not alone
You're watching yourself but you're too unfair
You got your head all tangled up but if I could only make you care
Oh no love! you're not alone
No matter what or who you've been
No matter when or where you've seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I've had my share, I'll help you with the pain
You're not alone
- From Rock and Roll Suicide by David Bowie
I am a tortured genius who suffers for his art.
Sometimes the torture is sublime. A masochistic orgy of painful rumination and all I’ve come to understand all I’ve felt and all that remains beyond my grasp. I reach, reach, reach and exert my brain and slump. Lost among the turgid thoughts of daily trivia.
Or so it seems.
Recently I mentioned to someone that I have never suffered either a major illness nor major injury. (I have more than made up for this with enough mental and emotional woes enough to satisfy a small city.) So anyway this chap says that I had better knock on wood. I refused pointing out that knocking on wood will have no influence on my future health. He suggested that I was tempting fate and indeed seemed somewhat agitated with me for not following the rules. This just served to make me more adamant. I was not going to give in to any silly superstition.
A co- worker was recently talking about liking to cook and said it was typical of Cancers, referring to people born under a particular astrological sign and not sufferers of the disease. I asked, “what’s the science behind that?” He did not answer but another co-worker, a learned man who has studied the great philosophers of history suggested that there “seems to be a lot there.” Yes, a lot of hokum.
I believe that whenever someone mentions astrology in a way that suggests that it has any basis in reality, a scientist somewhere sheds a tear.
All this serves as an introduction to a story I wrote a few years ago that has never before seen the light of day, or the internet anyway. Every word of if it is true. I didn't even change the girl's name, she's dead now anyway.
MALEDICTIONS AND MALAPROPS
The world, my existence felt as if I was viewing and experiencing from the depths of the ocean. Water. Lies. Perception thrown off, depressing like a bad day following another bad one with another one coming and for all time. No escaping. Was it the drugs I’d taken? Was it adolescence. Was this real life and all before had been fantasy? Had I been drugged? Surreptitiously. I stood suddenly quite alone and confused trying to recall what existence felt like from the inside. I was all out of whack.
Teenage wasteland. With or without the drugs. Mind zapping itself and here comes Danza. A mad crush. Spring day junior year high school. I don’t know who I am or what I’m doing. I just play along. I do know how I feel most of the time and I know that I’m mad for Danza. “Hi, Richard,” she offered with a beaming smile. For me? This happy smile this warm greeting as she walked right towards me. Her long dark hair swayed. Her breasts poked against a light white sweater. Danza’s face was just this side of perfection. Just.
I was scared. Scared of a girl. Not because she was so beautiful, not because I loved her from afar, but because she was being so friendly. This could be a devastating experience. I could find out once and for all the awful truth that no male ever wants to know of an object of lust -- that she wanted to be friends. And friends only. Or not. Consider if she liked me. I mean LIKED me, even half as much as I liked her. The pressure would be enormous, the potential for a disastrous fall was incalculable.
“Hi,” was all I could muster. Saying her name felt dangerously personal, like we were old buddies, neighborhood pals who’d grown up together and knew each other’s families, like we were practically cousins and romance was an impossibility.
Then she did it. She stopped right there in front of me and started to chat. This had never happened before. We’d been classmates several times thus far in high school and had exchanged friendly glances in the hallways and at our lockers. But now Danza was stepping outside of the role of acquaintance and being friendly.
My palms were wet. I rubbed a thumb and index finger together nervously. “How’s it goin'?” she wanted to know. She. Danza wanted to know how I was doing. Me.
“Pretty good, how are you?” it was too formal sounding, but worse I wanted to add: so why the hell are you talking to me. You’ve got all the power here, you initiated this and I’m scared and confused and every second is like a minute and what the hell are you going to say next quick say it before I spontaneously combust which would be just my luck.
“I’m doin’ great” she said as if truly touched that I would take the time to ask. How do girls do this? How do they make us feel so special, so wonderful, so very happy just through the inflection of their voice and how they tilt their head and look at us. Then she added a question that I shall ever forget: “So is this your lunch or do you have second lunch?”
It was not my lunch I did have second lunch but I suspected that if I told her that this magic would end. “No, I’ve got lunch now,” I said in a voice more squeaky than Mickey Mouse's.
Then she uttered a sentence I shall never forget: “Well maybe we could have lunch together."
I felt a power surge through my body as if I had been granted magic powers and could levitate. “Sure, that would be great.” I suddenly sounded like Cary Grant. I suddenly felt I must be handsome as Danza was beautiful. I felt bullet proof.
Let us now move ahead in the narrative. Danza and I are sitting in the little park across the street from Berkeley High. I am wolfing down my lunch, she nibbling at hers in the way women mysteriously do. We had chatted about teachers, music, movies, classmates and shared vignettes from our home lives (mine were airbrushed to eliminate any ugliness about a wacko mom and ensuing complications). All was going wonderfully and if I had been able to step out of my body for a moment and watch the unfolding scene I would have boldly predicted that the seemingly impossible notion of a romance between Danza and I was on the verge of becoming a reality. I had stepped up in class and was now officially the type of person who is visited by good fortune with the resulting successful career, gorgeous wife, handsome children and bulging bank account, not to mention athletic fame.
I was figuratively not only on top of the world but doing summersaults over it. Then Danza asked me another question that I shall never forget: “What’s your sign?” To this point in my life the whole nonsense of astrology was a harmless matter that neither interested nor bothered me. That was all about to change. I said with confidence: “Pisces.”
“Oh,” said Danza first as if receiving disappointing news. Then she poured it on with a soft but audible “ewww.” The sad “oh” had been bad enough. Now this, an actual “ewww” from the woman who I was falling in love with. Danza looked down at the grass, picking softly at a few blades. I experienced a sensation that would be repeated when not getting a job I wanted, or being fired from one or when an expected letter didn't arrive or when a woman tore my heart out.
Danza suddenly realized the time and that she had to get something from the school library before her next class. I let her return to school alone.
It was all over just like that. Because of when I was born. The disappointment I had feared cloaked me. Snugly. I got up and headed to the campus. But as I crossed the street I started to feel relief. It was over before it really started between Danza and I had done nothing to cause this abrupt end. It was her, her and an idiotic, superstitious belief that a person’s personality was shaped by the stars. I could now dismiss Danza as a "bitch" (a term I no longer use about women). Not because she had rejected me. But why she had cast me aside. From that point on when I saw Danza she looked anything but beautiful. Instead I saw only ignorance. She wasn’t even a “bitch” just a pathetic creature. And from that day on I have hated any reference to astrology wether playful or serious.