Page 13 Cartoons

Make it New

December 2, 2010

You open the cabinet, take a mug from the shelf, fill it with tap water and set the microwave to two minutes. Another cup of tea, another late night. You’re one of those insomniacs who turn into insomniacs because you like the idea of it. You light a cigarette. You wonder how you became one of the smokers who turn into smokers because you like justifying a self-created masochism to the others who look down on you for it. A cold weather cigarette, a stressed out cigarette, a last cigarette even—none of them taste as delicious as the image you see in the mirror—choking another one down, irritating your already swollen throat.
Self-reflection is a funny thing when you first start playing that silly mind game, then become aware of its absurdity, and then keep on playing anyway. It’s like buying a vowel when there’s only one letter of the word left. But you just need to make sure.
I tell you all of this knowing that you know full well that this you is not really you, though it very well could be. But that’s beside the point, isn’t it?
Throw on your favorite record and let’s sit down and talk for a while over a cup of tea.
• • •
When you’re old and grown, please come home.
When your friends are gone, please come home.
When your head is gone, please come home.
Dear mom, when your boyfriend’s gone, please come home.
• • •
A lot of my friends have said that they couldn’t live without music. “Could you imagine? What if…” But it’s really just like anything else. Everything is Life, Death, Love, Loneliness. We have all these special capitalized words to signify that we’re talking about something important. A philosopher spends his whole life trying to define these meaningless words. He dies a failure. Just as much a failure as that engaged woman yesterday, the one who flipped her car and killed her fiancée as she walks away from the wreckage, bloodied delirious, not yet registering that the hand she saw dangling out the shattered window won’t ever hold hers again.
• • •
He lay down on a greased towel, his feet jutting out from under the truck and started examining the truck’s steel intestines. He was always doing housework—waking up at seven on a Sunday morning, just three hours after falling asleep in his tuxedo, bowtie undone across his chest, pants unzipped, shoes to the side of the bed, wife asleep. He was in the city last night, like most weekends. He was the “help,” to use his word—to play jazz—hired to be the background of a night corporate consorting and back-patting at the NBC building, or to create a more Western elegance during the reception of some Turkish marriage at the Pierre, where the bride and groom had fallen in love for their families and not for themselves.
Muttered cursing. He kept tooling with something under there while haranguing about what he was doing, as if self-aware that he was performing the duty to fix things, to teach his son things, and in the process, to do the things grandpa had never done for him. All I could think about was if he looked me in the eyes, would the Visine save me?
I sighed. “Can I help you somehow?”
“Well, it’s a tricky thing here, I—” And that was the end of it. He began muttering to himself again, moaning with melodramatic strain, as he did whatever he was doing under the car.
The humidity of the garage made a pool of sweat across his chest. He outstretched his hand toward me. I looked at it and was completely lost as to what he could possibly want. As I turned to grab the pliers, I almost said, “Here,” when I realized he wanted me to help me him up. I took his hand like I would take a woman’s, with only our palms touching. A little bile came up in my mouth when I saw the whole thing as some mawkish attempt to say—see, I’m the not such the bad guy, I’m trying to be better.
He was a martyr who died for pity rather than God. I didn’t care that mom thinks that it could be from some nerve damage, some neurological disease caused by a parasite eating the nerve endings of his brain. The same parasite that drained his mother of all semblance of life, save for her immortal nicotine addiction. But Mom never looks at him in the eyes. She doesn’t stare at those brown balls of helplessness, neglect, and Kronite-paranoia, like I do.
Then I was immediately conscious of how I was thinking like one of those artsy types—the ones who abstract their feelings from a contrived intellectualizing of emotional events—who’d rather foot their lives in languages of others, languages in which they’d would never become fluent: their favorite authors, in science, their friends. They veil this as necessary for ‘work,’ but really are just trying hide pain and regret, to fend worthy adversaries, like themselves.
• • •
A guard idles at the top of a watchtower. But that’s just it. A guard, not the guard. There’s no specificity here because his place has been determined by exactly what’s behind this passive voice—an invisible entity that structures experience, that structures his role to the point where the image of his face: the pimple on the bridge of his nose, the scruff on his chin and neck, his shimmering green eyes are lost in the desert.
There’s no one out there. There’s no enemy coming looming just on the other side of the horizon. His rifle will always remain at his side. But this is real— in the desert where a kernel of reality patiently resisting illusion. Sooner or later it will emerge stumble upon illusion and bring the foundations of the watchtower, of the office, of the school, of the home, crumbling to the ground. From the inside out. I salute to this and to you. I bid you welcome. This is what you’ve been waiting for.
• • •
This whole thing is hollow. An artifice of pretension. An example of an apprehension in the face of a call to action. A paralysis where you can’t objectify anything. Taking a breath is unjustified. Loving is unjustified. Who are you and what do you stand for?
• • •
So? We’re all guilty. We all take for granted. We all don’t know. But we’re people and that’s what we do. We senselessly try to make sense of everything that can’t possibly be understood. Patterns, numbers, words, signs, all don’t mean much in the end. In the end, all that matters is what we’ve done passing the time until our last breath makes a smile light up our death-pallored faces that last night we lose consciousness. We all die alone together.


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