Today is the anniversary of the day Molly first put into practice her exacting, highly detailed, plan of betrayal to do to me what she did. I was in Boston on this morning on that day, when I awoke to an email saying I would hear from her lawyer. As it turns out, this person who had never said a single word of dissatisfaction about me or our marriage, who had already lied about a previous husband--she was in her thirties--and claimed that he tried to murder her several times, doctored her car so the wheel would come of as she drove, would employ multiple lawyers, knowing I could not afford any. Same person who destroyed my copy of a prenuptial agreement.
I immediately took the train up to the house in Rockport, which we had just gotten in November of the year before. The same house I am fighting to get back, which I loved in a place I love. I got to the house, and everything she owned was gone. It had all been done in the night. That was it. No explanation, though as I learned, she was with someone else. But at the time, she counted on me doing what I am prone to do, and that is taking all responsibility, even when very little of it belongs to me. That's my nature. Try harder, work harder, try to be better. Unfortunately, as I have learned, when you do those things--and let's throw in write better, too--life gets much worse, or so that has been the ironclad way of things thus far for me. Because people aren't oriented around growth or trying or being better. They want you on their level. And they reward people on their level. Hence, publishing.
I was alone. I had no support, from friends or family. People assumed it must have all been my fault, because they'd only seen this polite, meek person by my side. It couldn't be her. Plus, as I have also learned, when people view you as stronger than they are and better than they are, when they get a chance, with all of their inner demons and doubts, to kick you when you are doubled over on the ground, they are going to kick you as if their life depended upon it. In some ways, it does. Your parent, your so-called best friend, your oldest friends--they are going to hammer you if you are like that. It's about them, but they are going to do it to you. They don't want you to be in the position you are in, but in the moments of your greatest vulnerability and need--I mean emotionally--they are going to harpoon you through the eye.
This is when I began to realize that there is very little actual love in the world. There is commonality. People comforted by commonality, who in turn are so threatened by the absence of commonality. People who share blood in the veins. There is not a lot of love. There is a not a single human who loves me, there is not a single human I love. I would say that I love humankind, because what I do I do to reach humankind, and that is a sacrifice, a giving of self, a vulnerability, a form of dying and trying to be reborn every day, that I think only comes from love. Well, I might love Emma. I feel protective of her, though she understands not the first thing about friendship or living even a portion of one's life for others. There is a lot of love in my work. That's where you will find love in my life.
Two days after discovering what I did in that house on School Street in Rockport, I sat alone in the church--the so-called seaman's bethel--a block from this horrible apartment into which a lot of the stuff from that house--the thousands of books, DVDs, records--went, making it more unlivable. In this same bethel where Poe once sat, and Dickens, and Thackeray, and Melville came up with the idea for his Father Mapple in Moby-Dick, I wrote a short story in my head. I didn't really write short stories in my head back then. In some ways, my life changed more on that day--though I have only paid a price for this--than on two days before. The story was called "Lobby Lobsterson," which became the first story written for Dark March.
Most of the rest of the book, as well as thousands of letters to Molly (I saw her one time after she left, an occasion in which she boasted to me, about how during that interval she went to parties and double-fisted drinks, took three yoga classes a week, as I was dying, writing letter after letter to this woman, my wife) begging her to tell me what had happened--all ignored--and most of The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe, some of Buried on the Beaches, and many magazine and newspaper pieces were written over the next five weeks, alone in a house I would shortly be evicted from, forced by multiple lawyers off of the deed. Still with no explanation.
This person you read about on these pages? He came into this world with more ability and genius than anyone has ever possessed. I don't think that's particularly disputable, to anyone who knows the work, reads the words, sees the mind. He worked every waking second of his life over many years, decades, to get better, to harness the ability, to learn everything he could about everything. And up until March 19 those now many years ago, he was an artist unlike any that had come before. But then he changed, and he'd change many more times. He'd change on a morning like this, to evolve yet again, different from the artist he was on Sunday.
How many works of art have I produced in these intervening years, how many books, how many stories? I can't rightly answer. That would take a long spell of computing. I thought, on March 19, and would for a while, that what had happened to me with Molly would be the worst thing that would ever happen to me. I didn't know that it wouldn't be close to the worst thing that would happen to me, even as it took everything from me, shattered my health, caused me to have a stroke, took the place I loved from me, the house I loved, any sense of peace, of trust, of safety, taught me that there is nothing more savagely destructive we can do to someone we purport to care about--in my case, courtesy of a woman who encouraged me, to the last, right into March of that selfsame year, to put my entire life in her hands, including my finances--than to betray them. I think it was comparatively minor what Judas did to Christ than what this person did to me, given all of the words she had used prior, given all that she had put in motion, given the reservoirs of trust she had worked to deepen.
Someone else would have died. I wanted to. I nearly did, in San Francisco, while on assignment for ESPN, which was a horrible place to work for, frantic to get money coming in, when I had a stroke and forgot my name. But what I did was I worked harder than ever, I walked thousands of miles a year--actually thousands--alone, because I had no one. And I wrote. And I became someone who could write a novel and four short stories and six magazine pieces in a single week. All real numbers. No exaggeration. And each of those works would be better than anything else a human had ever composed. Time and again. Thousand of times.
And it was as I was doing this that the worst thing that is ever going to happen to me happened to me: the people of publishing, with all of their evil, envy, hate, discrimination, bigotry. Because the better I got, the more productive I became, the more I dominated, the more I achieved, the more they hated me, the more they sought to lock me out. It's with a certain irony that I watch these same people now spend their lives on Facebook whining about being quarantined, trying to inject drama into their lives, saying they are so lonely, after four days of being inside, how hard it is, how they have coronavirus anxiety, the terror, the stress, they can't even eat, these same people who have denied me millions of dollars, any quality of life, any dignity, who seek to end my life with each major thing I achieve against great odds, with so many of them trying to keep me away--it's like one ball carrier lugging the rock down the field as 500 people try to tackle him, and yet he drags the pile, somehow, into the end zone as his face falls off, his knees shatter, his shoulders roll away, his soul gets raped and raped and raped again, but he scores, somehow, he scores. And those would-be tacklers, they want him dead even more now. Because he's better. He's better in every way. As a writer, an artist, a person.
For eight years I have grown as no one else ever has, I have become an artist there never was, and I have had my life get worse by the day as a result. I have become more cut off from humanity in my growth, as a world constantly devolves, when it feels like a minor miracle on a dating site when someone knows the difference between "then" and "than," and that's the best I'm left to work with, it feels. I cannot know anyone, be with anyone, because the gap is so great at this point, and what's more, who could understand this? Who could understand what my life is right now? Who could face this with me? Who is that strong and that smart to be a part of this journey? I have no one I can talk to. I wake up every morning in a total shit hole in which I cannot move. I haven't so much as kissed anyone in four years. I go to no parties, my family in the area will not even invite me to Thanksgiving when they're not shaming me about how I am always going to be doomed to fail. And these people are lonely after four days? These same people who have taken everything from me, denied me everything I have coming to me, impacted my relationships, the ones I have and the ones I cannot have, caused me in the winter of last year to finally crack and have a nervous breakdown with a near complete inability to function--to tie my shoes, brush my teeth, check my email--that continues and worsens to this very day, and I watch these evil demons whine all day long on Facebook, these hypocrites, frauds, people who are cowards, arrogant, pretentious, weak, broken fools who have killed off reading for humanity.
And one person fights to bring it back, or make reading new, better than it ever was. Alone. Against seemingly every odd there has ever been. One person. In the entire world. And that is me. And I am completely alone. I didn't think about any of this on that day in the seaman's bethel, two days after Molly left, and I wrote that first story of so, so, so many stories. I didn't think I would go to the levels I went to, because honestly, I had no idea they existed, and if if I had, I don't think I would have thought they were levels a human, a mortal, could get to. And I wouldn't have thought if they did, one could, and I did, that this would mean life became something more likely to leave me praying for death, wondering if I needed to finally make a move and kill myself, to have faith that this was a necessary gesture to advance me to a better world where I would have a chance, where my art could do what it exists to do, what it must do.
Perspective. These same people who do what they do to me, who can nothing in this life, who tell you they are one of the good ones, who post their Black Lives Matter photos and go on about the Orange Man throughout their days and hook up no one but their talentless friends and people just like them, who vet you based on if you went to Yale, if you have the right agent, if you write like the most boring person who has ever walked this earth, are so weak, so removed from reality, so hypocritical, so base, brutish, evil, that they can do what they do to me, think nothing of it, relish in it, while being unable to handle a few days alone in their nice homes.
Nothing has denied the world more of what the world needs than the current institution that calls itself publishing.
Dark March the book will be as relevant a book as exists so long as their is heartbreak in this world, and, along with heartbreak, a need, a drive, a hope, to carry on. It is, I daresay, the most humanly relevant book in history, and it will always be that way. And yes, it is that good. As a point of clarification--not that anyone has ever asked, because no one really asks me about anything--the title does not refer to what happened to me in March those many years ago, and the book is not about me, insofar as the events of my life went or have gone. But there was an alchemy at play; I had a unique talent, I had a unique talent that was morphing, growing, and I had a set of emotions, feelings, a recalibration of the meaning of pain, and a better understanding of what hopes means, both when it exists, even as a crumb, and when it does not, absorbed as if by a black hole; and from that unique position, with my unique alchemy of who I was and what had occurred, I wrote a unique book. But the March of the title does not refer to the calendar month, though I suppose biographers could read into that what they would and will. It refers to a procession, like a funeral procession, or how life rolls along regardless of anything and everything else, or, in the case of the title story, the floating forms of the past and the dead that proceed in flight over a backyard lawn at night. I gave everything I am to that book. And I had so much more than anyone else to give. Nobody read it, there was no coverage, no citations, no awards, no inclusion on "Books to check out this spring" lists, because I was in the process of being suppressed and blackballed by an industry, which reached its fullest impact several years later, when "Find the Edges" appeared in Harper's and pieces came out more or less the same week in the LA Times, Rolling Stone, Glimmer Train, Sports Illustrated, etc. But the wheels of the machine were turning when this book came out. I hope someday it gets to have an actual chance. I hope I do, too.