June 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
WOLFENSTEIN: THE NEW ORDER
PC, PS4, XB1, PS3, 360
I sat down at the little table at the bar, wiped the extra ink off my pen, and stared down at the blank page in front of me. I didn’t know what I wanted to write. The words I had vaguely felt like starting with were “I feel disappointed.” Why? What disappoints me? It wasn’t because I felt disappointed that I wanted to start that way, but because I thought it could be an entrance to a character wandering a ruptured and dangerous world that didn’t quite resolve: weird mirrors, secret passageways, malacious doubles, that sort of thing. I felt sad, sitting at that little table, like I was carrying something heavy in me I couldn’t let go. Maybe I needed to be social?
“I’m a human being and I feel upset,” I wrote. “And if I wanted to go out yesterday I could have just gone out.”
The night before I dreamt of cables. Locks. Readymade cables used for locking up patio furniture. Why didn’t I know about them? Why hadn’t I had already purchased them to help secure the bike lock on our patio? Cables… my god, what a stupid dream.
An airplane doing slow maneuvers in the sky. An airplane. The weight is in my head and I don’t know what I want or what I’m looking for. I don’t want to make any friends, I swear that’s not it, perhaps I just want to go somewhere regularly and feel involved. I don’t have that in my life or at least I haven’t felt like I’ve had that lately. As soon as something ends or becomes undetermined or indeterminate I feel like it’s out of my life for good, when really it’s only my feeling that it’s out of my life for good that actually causes it to be out of my life for good. When I quit working at the video store that was in my neighbourhood I no longer knew how to maneuver that landscape socially so I just stopped going, or went to the store only with my wife as a way of protecting myself from my ex-co-workers. I felt badly that I had quit, even though it was the responsible thing to do and the best choice I could have made for myself. I should have just owned that but I didn’t know how to do that. Months later, when I saw a friend of mine from the store on the bus, I noticed that he seemed angry at me, and I realized that was because he must have felt I abadoned them. It was the first time I had spoken to him in a while.
I wanted to write certain things, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to write, but now I feel worked up and I don’t want to write anything. Nothing.
My brain is having a lot of difficulty processing basic thoughts right now. Basic feelings. “You write as if you have something to hide.” No, that can’t be true, because I have nothing to hide. Except the basic shame of human existence, possibly.
Write as if you’re a detective, an angry detective. A detective angry that clues have to be gathered and deductions made. Angry that he or she has to add his or her work to the pile of shit that’s already grown too large in the world. When someone dies, can’t that just be the end of it? Can’t we cut back some of the bramble gathering everywhere? “Don’t be heartless.” “You’re right.”
I feel insecure, and when I feel insecure I want the attention of every human being. I want to be consoled by strangers and their interest in me. That’s what I want, but if that happens in reality I feel threatened. “Don’t look at me, don’t touch me, if I don’t know you,” is on repeat in my brain, while my tone of voice and my eyes seem to encourage strangers to come ever closer. It’s selfish, I guess. If I was being truthful I’d say that even though they both make me nervous, I want the attention of women more than men. Sometimes men frighten me.
“I swear to god if anyone tries to talk to me I’ll overturn this table and run like a scared antelope, bounding over hedge after hedge.”
“Oh, jesus christ, fuck off.”
“I couldn’t imagine anything I’d rather do last Canada day than spend my time with her, at the store. I didn’t care one bit about the time-and-a-half. I didn’t do much, generally, so it’s not likely I would have been invited to a party or a barbecue, although I had more friends than I realized. Another reason I wanted to go to the store was that nothing else I’d have done would have included her… Just to stand next to her at the cash registers was enough. It was enough for me at that time. I don’t know if I loved her. But if love at first sight is real, then I felt that when I first looked at her; more than I’ve ever felt for anyone else at any other point in my life, in fact. It seemed impossible that she could exist and share the same physical plane as me. I got to know her with a determination I rarely show. If love isn’t just a sickness, one person’s vulnerability grafted onto another, then perhaps that was love.”
“What? A sickness?”
I’m at Victory Café. I kind of hate it here, irrationally. It’s no place to be alone. But I’ve drunk less than half my beer and already I’m feeling better. The weight is lifting. I’m reading Adrienne Rich’s essay, “Jane Eyre: The Temptations of a Motherless Woman.” At another table a man is talking about (among other things), a way of getting people to talk about themselves by telling simple stories about the houses they grew up in. It’s a way of learning a lot about a person really quickly, what would normally take months.
“D is obsessed with you. After hearing that story about you drinking alone at Fran’s when you were 19. He thinks you’re like Glenn Gould.” Me, like Glenn Gould? Because I’m often alone? I guess it’s true that part of being Glenn Gould is being alone, irreconceivably alone, always. The only way I feel better is if I’m playing my piano. Or thinking about playing my piano.
Okay, I don’t know much about Glenn Gould, truthfully.
“Oh, god, what’s happening here,” he said, looking out the window. “Where has everybody gone?” Just then there was a knock on the door. “Yes? Who is it?” he asked impatiently. “It’s me, sir.” “Malcolm—what do you want?” “Me and some of the others, we got this for you.” He turned around. Malcolm was trembling and holding a silver plate with a silk handkerchief monogrammed in gold thread. “Is that it?” “We don’t have much.” “Please get out. And shut the door behind you.” “Where should I leave this?” “Take it with you,” he said, turning back to the window.
FINAL VERDICT: Three point five out of ten. The action is solid, but it never soars. Like a cement truck. Blastowitz is a human of insane size and I sometimes felt badly about myself in comparison. I understand that for most men he represents a power fantasy and I hated those men while I was playing the game. The narrative is boring, and they burn the most interesting moment about thirty or forty minutes into the game. I’d already watched that moment on a video game website. I never wanted to look for tools or toys or intelligence. I didn’t care about the hideoout or having sex. I felt underestimated and inconsolable. Thankfully, I didn’t finish the game.
June 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’m hungry. I’m drunk. Images that have struck me, the past few days: A highway shut down with police cars, ambulances, their lights blinking silently in the night. A crowd of people gathered by the road, as if to wish someone goodbye. Houses silent, sheer to the road, bricks looming like in a tightly packed Eastern European city. No one around. A spit of land by the lake, grass and sand and paths, dotted with glass condos, spermy scent of dead fish carrying in the air. Tan brick shops, marred with black pollution, criss-crossed by streetcar lines. A beach by the marina, silent, littered with driftwood, cigarette butts, roach clips. Sand the texture of corn meal. Two children playing in the water. Bicycles lying in the sand.
June 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
I ate a ton of bread today. More bread than I have ever eaten in my entire life. An entire loaf in one sitting. Or, to be more accurate, many little sittings. I spent the better part of the afternoon ferrying bread between my unblinking computer screen and the kitchen, where I hurriedly sliced the bread—a nice round loaf of doughy pumpernickel—and slathered on the butter, alternating each slice between just plain butter and butter with peanut butter: sometimes two slices of butter, sometimes two of peanut butter and butter, sometimes one of each, sometimes just a single slice, of just plain butter, with streaks of peanut butter nevertheless because I used only one knife. My roommates weren’t home. They wouldn’t be back for a while. Probably the shame of being caught eating so much bread was the only thing that might have stopped me.
Each slice was more than half-finished by the time I regained my seat. I noticed this with annoyance but crammed the remaining pieces into my mouth without pleasure or joy.
When I finished the loaf I came to my senses. What was I doing, devouring that bread, without any thought whatsoever for my health! I had eaten lunch only an hour or two earlier and the bread was meant just as a snack. Truthfully, I checked the cupboards for nuts or crackers (and found none), before I forced myself to stop. I almost unpeeled a banana—my very last banana!—before I put my plate in the dishwasher and took stock of my stores. I was eating myself out of house and home. Not a full day had passed since my last trip to the grocery store and already my cupboards were almost bare?
I closed my laptop. One day I would throw it into the ocean. I put on my shoes and stood looking in the hallway mirror. Maybe I should brush my teeth first. Maybe I should comb my hair. Maybe I should use the toilet. Maybe I should pop the pimple that had been bothering me all day. All the while I was staring at my reflection in the mirror, my face contorted in doubt. I thought I was a handsome guy, but some days I worried I was dead inside. I opened the front door and locked it behind me.
Outside the sun seemed to bore into my retina, creating a washed-out afterimage of everything I passed. It was like I was walking in the desert—not the real desert but the desert of movies and television, doubled in the illusion of heat, oppressively realized with slow fading cuts. I am in good shape, but my movements were clumsy. I worried that the people I passed on the street would think I was drunk. “WASD,” I repeated to myself, my personal mantra, until I finally calmed down. When I came to I was standing on the verge of the park, staring down the path into a field half in shadow from black clouds rolling in from the distance.
Where was the day going?
“It can’t hurt you,” I mumbled quickly to myself. The day before I had missed the birthday party of a close friend because I didn’t want to go out in the rain.
I walked down the path, humming another mantra: “iddqd.” Over and over again. The truth was, I had nowhere in particular to go, and I should have turned back as soon as I heard the first peal of thunder. As soon as the wind picked up while I was still standing at the edge of the park. Turned back, or ducked into a coffee shop or a bar, even though I couldn’t possibly have consumed anything more. Turned back or stepped into the subway and called a friend.
I was lonely and I didn’t believe at all in my existence. I had spent an entire day proving to myself that I wasn’t real. I realized while looking at the reflection of my face in my iPhone that real tears threatened on my face. The bread was turning in my stomach and I couldn’t decide whether to cry or throw up, as if they were somehow two aspects of the same feeling or body function.
I imagined myself pacing back and forth down a long and empty corridor, pressed against the walls, checking them feverishly for traps and secret passageways. I imagined the sky folding in on itself like it were a lock turning to the right combination. It started raining.
“Ha ha ha ha,” I said, walking back and forth in the park as sheets of water washed over me. As water ran down the paths in rivers.
I was too cold to cry or throw up.
My phone started ringing but when I pulled it out of my pocket I couldn’t read the screen through the water. I wiped it off with my sleeve but that didn’t seem to do any good. I put it back in my pocket and it stopped ringing.
“I’m an incompetent poet,” I yelled into the rain. “An insignificant poet! An inconsistent poet!” Just as the rain was letting up, into the sun that was already coming out. I felt embarrassed speaking into the new emptiness which I knew would carry my voice. “But I have over 200 achievements in ‘Team Fortress 2,’” I mumbled.
I had to go home and get out of my sopping clothes. I had to go home and get out of the sunlight. I had to go home and comb my hair out and brush my teeth. I had to go home and use the toilet.
I burped and a chunk of bread rose up in my throat. A piece of crust I knew wouldn’t go back down again. I spit it out onto the pavement, where it lay flat and brown and pathetic. A woman in a rain-slick jacket with a closely pulled hood said something to me in Catonese and I responded apologetically, even though my Cantonese could be described, at best, as pidgin.
My roommates were home when I got back and I said a brief hello before I mounted the stairs to my room, taking off all my clothes and booting up my computer. As I burned enemies with my giggling pyro I imagined running through a field with tears streaming down my face. After thirty or forty minutes I crouched down to my trash can and threw up.
June 27, 2014 § Leave a comment
“How serious I’ve been! And now I’m learning, again as I’ve always needed to learn, over and over, that life is a joke, that it should be approached lightly—not without gravity but with eagerness, with an open mind.
“It’s likely that my feelings will change, that walls will close in, that I will forget what it’s like to let go, for even just a minute or two. In a week’s or two week’s time I might be, in this sense, another person, reluctant, and needing education. This post will become embarrassing, an example of unfulfilled mania. I hope not. Perhaps this will serve as a reminder.”
June 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
Last night at a party a blonde woman with large breasts brushed up against my arm while we were standing in a crowded living room watching a band from Vancouver perform. I knew it wasn’t an accident because earlier when I was standing outside she put her hand in mine as she walked past and squeezed it. I think the Canailles were on stage. I asked N if she’d seen what just happened. N said yes. She thought her eyes were playing tricks on her. After brushing my arm with her breasts the blonde woman grabbed the crook of my arm with her hand and lightly pulled her hand away. Then she left. I didn’t even get a good look at her face. I found N in line for the bathroom and was about to describe what had just happened, but there were too many people around who I thought wouldn’t understand— maybe they would have understood and it would have been interesting—so I went outside and waited in a chair. Maybe what happened wasn’t interesting and that’s why I didn’t want to say anything. Maybe that would be a weird thing to talk about. Maybe no one would understand. Maybe I didn’t understand myself.
It didn’t matter, anyway. While I was sitting in the chair the woman who had brushed up against me walked past me again. I don’t think she saw me, or if she did see me she had already decided I wasn’t worth the trouble. It’s true that I wasn’t. She was too bold for me. I didn’t even have time to understand what was happening as it was happening, much less respond to her. Not that I would have wanted to.
Now I hear a ringing in my ears. There’s a ringing in my ears and, as always, I ask what that means. As if the gods or a ghost were holding me accountable for what I was writing. As if the pressure change in the atmosphere or in my inner ear that caused the onset of the ringing were orchestrated just for me. To teach me a lesson about writing these things from a position of dominance: ie, writing about the woman as if I had rejected her beforehand. Writing about the woman from my safe vantage. As if I were so secure in my knowledge of myself and my desires to know exactly what I wanted or what I didn’t want. The truth is, I don’t know anything—almost nothing, in fact. Nothing about myself and nothing about others. I had to reach over a chasm just to receive the signals the woman was sending me. I’m not trustworthy reporter of my feelings. If I hadn’t talked to N about it, I might not have even understood the woman’s signals at all. I wish I was exaggerating.
In any case the ringing stopped as soon as I changed direction in this post. That’s the truth, I’m not making it up.
June 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
Anything written is better than nothing written. Maybe I have been acting like a teenager. This morning both of my roommates spent all day recovering from hangovers. Last night I stayed up late and wrote. I also did not write. If I can do more of the former, I will feel better. I have many things waiting to be completed. That could be completed easily. When they are completed I will be able to move on to other things.
June 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
Has anyone ever browsed to the web page that just says “You’re dead”? That’s the page that tells you when it’s time to get off the internet. It can appear at any moment, clothed in the style-sheet of your favourite website. It almost came to me tonight. I felt it coming in the green and yellow of Fangraphs.com. But something must have happened, because when I got to that website it was the same as always–so instead I skimmed an article about possible AL All-Stars created by sorting 2014 performances by WAR. I could have written that in my sleep.
But I didn’t.
The goal of my life is to beat my father in as many ways as possible. I am setting my own arbitrary conditions, but so far I’m winning. First marriage: my father, 28; me, 21. First divorce: he, N/A; me, 24 (in theory). Age at death: he, at least 58; me, just 28 so far. This would have been too dark a status for Facebook.
Yesterday I went to a dinner celebrating a PhD student my father advised. I probably shouldn’t have gone. My dad invited me at the last minute, just as I heard he was in town at the last minute. He told me Thornhill, 5:30, and I drove to Thornhill for 5:30, arriving ten minutes early, and waited until nearly 6:00 for my dad to arrive. The guest of honour came in around 7:30 or 8:00. She was—understandably—annoyed that I was there. I was sitting next to her. It was a small dinner. I was annoyed that I was there, although not smart enough to realize it. The student, who was in her fifties and working on an Applied Mathematics PhD, asked me if I was old enough to drink. I felt like a teenager, completely out of place, extraneous. I should be mad that I was invited, maybe, even though it was otherwise a nice dinner. But I have eaten well before.
Perhaps I presented myself in a way that reinforced or suggested the idea that I was a teenager, or perhaps it was my father’s behaviour towards me. Perhaps it was my mere presence or my relative youth. Perhaps I should have been more forceful when I had something to say or might have had something to say—rather than what I regard as “polite,” and what I’ve realized other people regard as “shy” or maybe even “dull.” The dinner wasn’t about me and I didn’t want to make it about me. But it’s a hurricane or a racetrack inside and if I seem quiet or bored that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. I wasn’t there to talk about applied math or about academic committees. I was there to see my dad. So if I had nothing to say—which only seems natural, because I couldn’t care less about applied math or academic committees—that could be considered, perhaps, an extension of my disappointment… even if I didn’t realize it at the time.