Solitary Christmas #7. It was difficult to make it through last night. Grip the sheets and hold on. I don't have a sheet, in truth. But very difficult. A train day on Christmas Eve is not what we are looking for. This needs to change. I don't know how many more years I can do this. There are days when I don't feel I have hours left in me to do this, and I know no one else could have done ten seconds' of this.
I awoke late today--after eight. I knew yesterday evening, as I was just holding on, that I would need to compose today, in order to keep going. I thought I would write the first section or two of "Dunedin," which is mostly all worked out in my head, but instead I composed the first 2500 words of "The Indigo Arms." It is a story about a fellow who ends up in a helicopter, on his own, in the middle of the night. And he ends up going somewhere else. Some time else. I don't know, when you die, if you actually die where you die. Like, I'm going on a run in a bit, and if I get hit by a car on my run and die, I don't know that that's really dying. Why does it have to be like we just assume it is? Maybe you died seventeen years ago--if there are even years--and your world is your death, which is also life, and the people in it exist just in relation to you as you in that place. We don't know that anything is "real." Or what even is real. And maybe there are other versions of you out there on different planes, at the same time, and maybe one version of you on one plane--as in my story--comes to you on your given plane, and takes something to improve the quality of life of their plane. Maybe that version of you just needs it more right then and there. Or maybe that's a more selfish version. Maybe it's a more selfish version that does something wrong and then tries to make things right by another version. I think that's how things might be. I think it's probably a hell of a lot closer to it than just a notion of an on switch and an off switch.
This is an excerpt from the new story:
The helicopter trips started around this time. They went beyond the walls of the city, so to speak, eventually. They had a drop-off point, a whole new town. This town was from a different time. It was from before his time. It seemed like it was before the time of electricity. But the helicopter still dropped him off here, in this place where it was never dark. Sun rays always raftered in the air. They broke through the branch-tangles of trees and lit up even the ground. He was on a tight schedule, he knew, if he wanted to grab a helicopter ride back in time to start his day, get his kids up, make their breakfast, so he limited himself to a visit at his favorite alehouse here, The Indigo Arms. This was the one spot, the inside of which, where there were no bright rays of light. The walls were dark—black and purple—like they were made from sheaves of coal and strips of amethyst.
But he liked the people who were in here. There was, for instance, Hattie. This was Sally Hatheson, first love of his life, aged sixteen. There was Ted Williams, whom he regarded as the best all-time hitter, and his hero for most of his life. There was his mother, not sick, as people advised him not to remember her at the end, but as he recalled her on that day he had never told anyone about, when he both thought that he was loved and had much to learn about love.
He must have been in first or second grade. He had a new Pez dispenser with a purple base and a glowing skeleton’s head. It was October. It was wet. It poured. He had been off on some mission—he called them missions—over at his best friend’s yard, across the street, though this friend was inside and was not interested in coming out in the rain to play. They might not have been actual best friends. He dashed around the house of his friend, or whatever he was, keeping close to its edges, as if he were on a recon mission, and not a lonely boy.
Somehow, he lost his Pez dispenser in his friend’s yard, despite, for the purpose’s of this game, it being deemed a vital investigative tool. He knew his parents had not been getting along. He was not old, smart, or wise enough to understand that they would be okay, that they had hit a tricky patch. His father was a strong man, and when his father’s father died, that undercut him, this man he had known as infallibly outwardly strong, at the knees. At the knees of his life, in a way. And he drank, became distant, struggled. It was only a couple months. The normal time. When one feels the blow that renders them this way, before they are themselves again, or something better. But as a boy he did not know that his mother was sad not for what was going to happen—some grand parting—as for what she could not do to help in the meanwhile, though she kept trying.
“Why so down? Don’t you feel better being all dry now that we got you nice and warmed up?”
It did feel better to be dry. And the episode of Casper the Friendly Ghost had been pretty good, too, ditto the hot chocolate, but he felt very bad about his Pez dispenser, which could be like a friend, in his view, on days like this, when he was left to play on his own, and the last thing he wanted to do was bother his mother, for fear of making her look even more sad.
She got the info out of him, though. And five minutes later, with her raincoat on and a flashlight in hand, she took him by her other hand and walked with him across the street in what was now close to a gale, to find a Pez dispenser, which she did, in a window well, after a half hour of looking. It was on that day that decided he would have to learn a lot about what love was.
Now his mother would sit in pleasant conversation with Ted Williams, who seemed to be as kind a man as he was feared a hitter, and Hattie, the woman he saw in just about every woman he imagined as that one who would be the one for him. He knew her for most of his teen years, all of his time in college, a few years after. He lived for winter break because that was when he would come home and see her and they would watch bad holiday slasher flicks on a couch in her parents’ basement. She’d describe to him what her life at school was like, joking about the casual sex she had, how some guy had named his cock Vlad, as in, Vlad the Impaler, and this TA who had made her cum more than once for the first time. “Sometimes I don’t even manage on my own.”
And he really didn’t know what to do, because that didn’t seem to be how you’d speak to someone you might have romantic interest in. He’d pretend to laugh, and make sarcastic remarks. “Well, if his cock was Vlad the Impaler, you could call your mouth Hattie’s Inhaler.”
His soul would wince over what a jackass he was. Fool. And when they turned twenty-five, she married his best friend Jack, who never even really seemed to like her, nor she him. They danced near the end of that wedding party. He had been putting it off. He blamed a bum ankle from a weekend game of beer league men’s hockey. She was drunk by then. They probably danced too close. People weren’t looking. It was late. The band had left. Someone had found a tape deck. “Did you ever think, there but for the grace of Vlad…” she said. He had thought many things, and this time his soul sighed, as he said, “I think Jack is luckier than most of us will ever deserve to be.” And he didn’t talk to either of them for a couple of years, because he could not.
- - -
Well, my friend, if you are hit by a car today, let it never be said that man, woman, or holy ghost wrote like you could write.
Yesterday I went to Medford. The Admiral and the Captain have their annual Christmas party. They are like a second set of parents to me. If you have read my essay, "A Midshipman Lights Out," which was in Salmagundi and is in Glue God: Essays (and tips) for Repairing a Broken Self (which would be nice if someone would put it out into the world) you will know of them. As a rule, the fiction I write does not come from my life. In terms of the events. Something that happens as an event in a story did not happen to me. I write from inside of various emotional chambers, like the compartments of a nautilus, and when I write from the inside out--this is what I call this--that emotional truth I have known can come to inhabit an event I have not undergone.
Certainly that's what Dark March and Anglerfish are, and because it is Christmas and I also do not give a fuck anymore and no one will see this anyway--and again, I don't really care, and I feel no need to lie--I'll say that I don't think anyone else has ever written a book as good as those two, nor will they, and I could not be more literal in saying this. I don't see how you could. Life is, in many ways, a process of loss, and the challenge during that ceaseless process to discover and subsequently build; sometimes, the greater the loss, the harder it is to build, but the greater the need; no two books have ever, or will ever capture, loss and the pain of loss like those two, and no books build in the process of losing like those two books, in their humanity, in their wisdom, in what I will call their love. They are the purest works of art on loss, and they codify pain in two places--that is, between four covers--as pain has not been codified before. Your pain, whatever it has been, is in there. No one who has lived cannot but relate to those books. They are the purest books on love. And they pound and surge and keep coming at you with power and a level of creativity--just sheer virtuosic, but emotionally-delved, creativity--that I just don't know how the hell you could ever think up what happens in those books, how you could think up those characters and stories. For sheer power and invention, I don't see how you could really get close. But the events weren't actually from my life and what I was going through at that time. I didn't actually have a house, for instance, that got shorter on the outside as I discovered more levels to the basement. I didn't stand by a window and watch an airborne parade of the people I had known float by in some horrible ritual of the night. I didn't know any wiseass rock crabs. I didn't watch old home movies and see that a wife was moving ever close to the edge of the frame with each screening, and I didn't turn them on one day to no longer see her at all and hear her footsteps instead racing through the next room.
But I wrote from a place that I daresay--fuck that, I know, I don't daresay--no one has ever gone to. That wouldn't have been enough. But it was part of it. I also had abilities that people didn't have. And I could invent on the spot, for the first time in my life. What I did today, what I do when I go like I do, when I create at this rate and depth, it all began back then, when I wrote those two books. It was the perfect storm. You could only produce those two books from that perfect storm. You needed the mind, the ability, the level of invention, the rate of invention, you needed someone to have gone through something that would kill someone else, you needed that strength, and, what's more, while they were going through it, you needed to have them not only be productive, but more productive than an artist has been, as their soul was daily raped, and raped is not nearly strong enough a word here. And that changed me. It changed me as person, a human, an artist. And it made my life worse, even from that hell at the time; and that was a hell what Molly did and put in motion. Because I was so far past the levels I had been on, when I was already like an alien in this world, with no commonality with anyone. No mind that could give me succor. I became such a different artist. That began the journey of producing years like this year, which made an industry hate me more by the year, the better I got, the greater I got at what I did, the more I expanded, grew, exploded, the easier it became for me to create art at this level, which required no communing with the Muses, no waiting upon their visits, as I had become them. And as people in the world got ever weaker during this fucked up time, there became fewer and fewer people for me to respect, let alone wish to be with, given the strength I had, given what I had not only lived through, but evolved via.
I had evolved too far, it felt like. It really does seem to be the case. I have nothing in common with anyone at this point. I go to things like this Christmas party and I feel so alone there. And a friend said, "Just be with people who love you, let it just be that, but I know how hard it is for you, I know it's like taking it on the chin." And I think, what the fuck, God, why are you giving me more ability and strength than anyone else, for it just to be like this, for it to get worse and worse every year as I get better and better? Is this some joke? Some bet with Moses? Do you want to see what you can put one person through which is more than you can put someone else through because they won't fight back, eventually you'll end them or they'll kill themselves? I'm here to do so much for humanity. When the fuck can we start?
Anyway. Like I said. I need to go for a run. I may go over to the Brattle later for a screening of Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill, Jr., Seven Chances, or Sherlock, Jr. Maybe all three. I actually came home last night and wrote letters to just complete fucking assholes. There is no one for whom doing so would not be degrading and beneath them, no matter how much they suck.
This is a photo from last night of me, the Captain, and the Admiral, that I requested we take. The Captain is under the impression that I am 6'3", but I am 6'1". I see this photo and I don't know how I look younger than I did seven Christmases ago, but I do. Maybe it's the non-drinking thing. Okay, Gabriel Grub, time to hit the streets. Keep going. This cannot be all it is. The world will thank you some day that you kept going, and maybe even we will thank us, too. Keep going.