One of the many reasons why Bukie would hate me
is because my existence is
so comfortably dull
so predictably long
so well-fed & kempt &
so coated in
that I can hardly comprehend
what a truly human privilege it is
bored & idle
just because I can—
For I’ll still find reasons to complain about
any goddamned thing:
“School isn’t challenging enough…”
“The AC in this house never quite hits 65˚…”
“My dog won’t walk nice on a leash…”
"They took Hey Arnold off Netflix…"
I have so much free time that
I’m actually permitted to brood—
what a liberty;
what a pain.
…I just need to come right out and say it, type it, scream it all out without this pedantic need to always look back and double-check myself. Let’s go.
What I’m feeling right now is like a goddamned hypocrite, the worst of them all… Years of friends coming to me for advice concerning relationships, emotions, sex, all that other nonsense, and me waving them off with a declaration that we’re too young to properly care for anyone else, and thus for anyone else to properly care for us. There’s too much co-dependence between folks with feelings. We as humans are just better off alone. Independent. Self-assured and self-reliant. That way, you only have to depend on yourself to feel good, or bad, or erotic…
It seemed like sound advice, and I stand by it even now—yes, even as I let this pour out of me in a sleepless daze of an empty stomach and equally empty head. However, although I may still stand by these statements, I can no longer take my own advice, for it’s become so plainly horrible—I am so goddamned co-dependent on this other human being that I can no longer seem to function without them. It’s pathetic.
I didn’t intend for any of this, and I sure as hell didn’t wish for it. Sure, there we’re lonely moments these past three years, but they could easily be compensated with a few dozen cookies and a quick masturbation session. That was all it took to move on. But now I may still compulsively eat cookies, and I may still resolve to jerk-off to relieve some of the stress of daily life—but now none of it works. Or, at least not as well as just a few microseconds spent in your presence… The smell of your hair, the tones of your voice. The slants of your eyebrows as you mouth “I’m going to murder you” as your pupils dilate wide enough to bury my decapitated body in… oh yes, then followed with a simultaneous wink and puckered lips. It’s enough to keep me going, despite a drained brain and lack of motivation to do anything other than make you smile, or laugh, or say “hmmm…” as I attempt to spark a train of thought with my stupid rants on neurochemistry, or ideas for short stories, or the ambiguous genitalia of the Guevedoces in the Dominican Republic.
Hashing out that horrible report last night just couldn’t have been done without those intermediate doses of you—you, you, you lying there in my periphery, just watching a movie or blowing kisses at my dog. Candid. Flawless. More than I could’ve asked for, since I never asked for any of this. I never would’ve if I knew it’d become so bad. The symptoms are all present of an addict. Too long without you and my mind utterly falls to shit. I get depressed, I get nervous, I get sick and shaky. I become equally suicidal and at the same time manic, so fervently willing to end it all… And then there’s a chance whiff of your skin stuck between my pillows, or I read the letters that make up your name from a text, or I find some strands of your hair across my desk, and it bubbles through my veins. I get a little better. I’m once again able to eat.
There I was today, stumbling home from class—it’s been two hours without you, and though I knew you had already left for school, for some reason I kept this faint hope that your car would still be there when I got back.
When I arrive, you are gone, as should’ve been expected, and the pangs of addiction begin kicking at my head. I walk into my room to a perfectly made bed, just the stupid way I like it with the three blankets layered on top of one another going all the way to the top. I turn around to Alex who asks, “so how was last night?” and with my cheekbones ripping across my face, all I can say is this: “It’s official. I’m obsessed.”
And when I turn around to look past the bed, there it is on my desk: a letter from you to me. A love letter, perhaps? No, but rather something better. A forewarning:
“Pixie and I have fallen in love, meaning this relationship will no longer work. I’ll be kidnapping her in the middle of the night. We plan to murder you. It’ll be cold-blooded and messy, so you may want to advise your roommates to buy some extra paper towels. Sorry it couldn’t work out, but I guess goat-dogs are more my type. I look forward to murdering you. - </3, Candy Bear Chandelier”
And there it is at the bottom, mimicking my words:
“P.S. I can’t even joke about this. We both know I’m obsessed with you.”
And for the time being, I get a little better.
…Some days I will wake up, and all I want for breakfast is the metallic taste of a shotgun on my tongue, or the sweet relief of cyanide in my coffee. Today just happens to be one of those days.
The thought isn’t so terrifying anymore. When I was young, I used to want to get sick enough to puke, if only to prove to my mom that I shouldn’t have to attend church or school. It’s the same story today, but I’m just sick in the head—puking up vile thoughts and impulses onto everyone I know.
I’m a contagious little fucker, momma, I can’t do a god-damned thing.
I haven’t cared for my brain or body in quite a long time. I wouldn’t mind seeing them shrivel and fade just so I could avoid doing things I don’t want to do… things I’m too lazy to do. Feed myself. Feed my dog. Maintain social appearances, physical appearances. Keep up with this piling-up of schoolwork when all I really want to do is wander into the woods and drown in a shallow creek.
Evolution would’ve kicked me out long ago. At least the scientific field is attempting to weed me out early. It’s doing a great job of showing me that I’m not as smart as I’ve been led to believe. I blame it on all this illusory reinforcement from my parents and friends.
You, motherfuckers… there’s a fine line between being supportive and just feeding into delusion.
Ironically enough, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that intelligence isn’t found in reciting research you’ve read in some outside reading. Intelligence isn’t found between big words. Not in memorization nor regurgitation of big concepts. Intelligence isn’t based on a simple comparison between you and the low-life’s around you, no. Rather, intelligence is intuition, originality, it’s painstaking effort, dedication… But most of all: Intelligence is fucking hard.
Where the hell are you, Joe? Where the hell are you going, Joe?
Let me tell you where he’s going: Nowhere. He’s already planning on how to off himself before graduate school. He’s figuring out how to time it to make the whole thing less inconvenient for others. He’s considering the funeral and expenses… how to not make an equally disgusting mess of his life once he finally goes through and puts it to rest. There aren’t enough towels to lay down to soak up all his boiling blood.
What a shame. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to the neglect the future: because there is no future. Rather, let this existence become a waiting game because you’re too damn afraid to kill yourself. Walk around with fingers crossed, just hoping there’s some drunk driver to do you the favor of ending your own life. Indeed, some equally deranged and benevolent college shooter. If there ever existed a button to press that would end it all right then and there, you would’ve pressed it long ago. An easy way out to nothingness—no responsibilities, no disappointment, no feeling like this ever again.
An easy way out to nothingness. That’s all you wanted today. But the world was good, and people kept their cool, and you’re still a little coward, and so here you still persist.
Keep your head up, Joe. Tomorrow’s another day.
…Sometimes I find myself in a hole. Sometimes you’ll find me in a hole, too. Sometimes my existence feels like one big void that drags all those close to me down. I can be such an emotionally draining whirlpool, and I’ve been meaning to figure out how to hell to stop.
It’s been years since I’ve managed to peek my head out of this pit and catch a glimpse of the realness of things—beauty, positivity, a genuine appreciation for things and for what’s to come. It’s been difficult, to say the least. When you exist in an abyss, everyday is the same. Life is one continuous flash of darkness, one big blink, and acknowledging the days don’t even matter—unless it’s a holiday, since then you have to be on your guard and best behavior because people like to show they care about other folks on holidays, and so the void grows wide and it becomes inevitable: people get too close, and I drag them down.
But sometimes I don’t find myself in a hole. And it just so happens that when I came up and poked my head out last week for a brief glimpse of social interaction, I was fortunate enough to have found you. Call it fate, coincidence, an accident—I don’t even care. There you were: loud and drunk and underage, the most lovely thing I’d ever seen. So much so that I gathered up whatever inspiration I could to hash out a writing so shocking that you’d have to speak to me; or, at least give me some time to explain myself. Why? Because I immediately wanted us to be more.
And would you believe it? It fucking worked. By God, I would’ve never imagined such an oddly successful ploy… It’s almost as if my entire practice of writing poetry and prose over these past four years has been with the sole endgame of attracting someone equally damaged.
Hook, line, and sinker.
All last week was spent in a strange daze of human emotion that I thought I’d lost for good. As the south froze over, I was overcome with love and warmth for the first time in years. I began compiling a list of things you said that made me smile, or cry, or die, in a Microsoft Word document titled, “Because You Want to Remember Everything You Can.” It begins with an explanation:
…I like to imagine that in some future time, I’ll look back on these past three days and find them to be some of the most significant days of my life… for better or for worse, something is happening. (2/9/14)
For something was, indeed, happening. That something was a feeling that I was being physically pulled from out this perpetual void by some likewise sweaty hands, with painted black fingernails and the softest skin I’d ever touched. And on the worst of all holidays, there I sat with you, perched on the periphery of this bottomless void, playing footsies as we discussed how many appendages we could each lose before the other would leave out of selfishness. You joked about getting into a horrible car crash, and my first reaction was to kiss you hard on the lips between telling you how much I loved you, for I was having those exact thoughts just that morning (but with my teeth sprawled out across the dashboard, never yours never yours.)
This was added to the document two day earlier:
Only five days in and I already know I’m in love with Abbey. I would tell her, too, but I think she already knows it. (2/12/14)
Which was squeezed in between other quotes from you:
This morning I woke up and literally just laid on the kitchen floor because I couldn’t focus on food when I was too busy thinking about you. (2/10/14)
Just imagined losing my virginity to Freud. (2/12/14)
There’s plenty more I’ve saved, but my favorite so far:
“I love you.” (2/14/14, in the parking lot of Pinnacle Bank.)
Yes… both so overcome with confused notions, I pulled the car over at once and explained to you all that I felt—pleaded all that I couldn’t imagine not feeling. We kissed and exchanged those sour words of both life and death: “I love you.”
It’s only been a week and you’re already the most important person in my life, and I don’t want to lose you due to my erratic emotions. Indeed, sometimes I find myself in a hole. Sometimes you’ll find me in there, too. Sometimes I’ll wake up and be there to support you no matter what the circumstance. Sometimes I’ll wake up and won’t even be there to support myself. But that is just me, and since you’ve come into my life this void seems so much less dense and likely to consume the world.
So please, let this note of mine provide reassurance to how much I feel for you: too much. Even on the days that I feel nothing at all, I still can’t rid you from my head. Like today—it’s a phase, it’s the void. It’s this damn quadriplegic ego. But I’m doing all that I can, and so rest assured: I love you, Abbey, even when I don’t love anything else.
I feel, look, smell terrible. I haven’t comprehended a sentence in days. Tests are moved back, priorities are lost. Pictures can’t satiate this sensation of withdrawal. I have more tabs open of your face than I care to admit, and yet I haven’t lusted over you naked since that drunken night. It just seems in bad taste. But I think of your hands, your hair, your wink, your monkey feet, your scent pressed in my sheets. I can’t wait to eat cereal with you. I can’t wait to see you without make-up. I can’t wait to cook/burn/buy you a meal, you delicious, wannabe vegan. I can’t wait to spend this horrible Hallmark holiday with you. I can’t wait to go against every god-damned thing I’ve ever proclaimed about relationships. About co-dependence. About love. All that mushy-gushy shit, I want it all. I want to meet your dog. I want to meet your parents. I want to give praise to your dad’s balls and your mother’s ovaries, thank you for her, thank you, thank you… I want to scare you off. I want you to ruin my life. I want to stop talking like a baby-boy fucktard. I wanted to write something better than this but it’s all I’ve got.
It was about eight seconds into hearing Angel Olsen’s heart-wrenching croon before I completely lost it all. Yes, with crocodile tears streaming all down my face, pooling in the erratic crooks of my cheeks as I smiled, smiled, smiled…
The feeling was brought on by something like mourning… as if lamenting for the death of some other Stephen, far off in some parallel universe who, too stubborn and lazy to up and leave the house last Thursday night, had simply refused to part ways with his schoolbooks and sweatpants.
“No, I’m quite content with where I am, thank you.”
What a goddamned mistake that would’ve been… and I can’t even fathom—
Having met up with a few friends tonight—if only to escape the inevitable swell of manic thoughts that accompany any moments left alone—I was asked about you. So I talked all about you. About us. I giggled like an idiot and once again, people felt the need to cheer me on. I thanked the hell out of my friends for all that’s occurred these past five days, since none of it would’ve even been possible if they hadn’t felt compelled to bum rush my home and change my mind.
So I caved in and went along, expecting a night like any other night: a mediocre affair. But would you believe it? Going downtown to get drunk on a Thursday night would turn out to be the best decision I’ve made in years. For it was you who I would meet that night. You, glorious you. You who would stick in my head for the rest of the week alike some haunting, hideous love song, a tune as catchy as HIV.
Ugh… And the sheer thought that there is some Stephen out there in some parallel universe who is completely unaware that he’s missed the boat—that he may never touch on any of this utterly unimaginable bliss that I currently possess—my god, it’s nearly ruining me… Indeed, that there is some parallel universe out there where you and he (I) have yet to meet, and that he (I) still remains clueless to your existence… and I can’t even fathom—
This is ridiculous and we know it. Sure, we may joke about playing this game of “who-can-scare-off-the-other-first-by-saying-the-most-terrifyingly-clingy-shit,” but I’m telling you right now: I could win in an instant if I really felt like losing you was worth it. For there are three words I’ve been meaning to say to you ever since Violet’s grave, and I’m telling you right now: I nearly spat out those three words today, but then stopped myself short. Why? Because I already don’t think they’re necessary for me to say. Why? Because I’m convinced you already know it’s true, and you can’t even fathom—
Make me sick to my stomach with how much
I hate your guts.
Make me drunk enough to question
whether or not these gut feelings
that we just might, in fact,
Prove me right.
Meet me for coffee and show up on time.
Look so stunning in the early morning,
so pretty that I’m wishing I’d at least
put on a clean shirt.
Mouth inappropriate things every time
a little child walk by.
Tell me stories of wanting to murder people &
say it all with a smile.
Everyone loves your blinding hair,
which sheds wisps & falls
to my hands and boots.
Feed into the delusions of a toothless
who’s dressed in all black with
gold marti-gras beads—
who’s still in mourning
5 years later
over the death of his beloved grandmother:
Let him/her break our hearts.
Let him/her give us directions to
Heck, maybe being alive today
ain’t so bad…
Come into my house &
don’t hate my dog, despite her being an erratic little
Trade books & songs & movies with me
about horrible things—
serial killers & patricide & dismembered veterans.
Starve to death on a pure diet of energy.
Order vegetarian &
watch me scarf down pork & beer like
a gruesome beast.
Propose a plan to go find the grave of Miss
Pal around with me in a cemetery.
Share ideas for short stories
(…still waiting to read that one about a world
but only a sea of Hitler’s cum & menstrual blood).
Make a personal vow:
"If you find this grave,
tell her all this hideous nonsense that you feel…”
Find the needle in a haystack of
buried flesh & neglect.
Hold back the tears when there’s
fresh flowers on the grave
from where our transsexual has just been…
Hold back the temptation to kiss you
right then & there.
Vibes, vibes, so attuned to vibes…
Go back on your personal vow:
"Don’t say a goddamned thing.
It’ll ruin everything.”
Lay amongst the tombstones & hallucinate
birds of death.
Reach out to grab them
but they’re flying too fast.
Talk of middle-school hand jobs in movie theaters &
fingerings on a bus.
The good ol’ days of skirts &
Walk along the train tracks that jut out into
Suicides happen here all the time;
a nice day like today might just be enough to convince
Watch the sunset, perched up high.
Pick at the wooden tracks until
they cave beneath our weight.
Ponder the gray areas of
Resist the urge again to tell her how you feel:
"Resist, resist, resist, you idiot.
It’ll ruin it all!
Don’t be so transparent…
Girls hate that shit.”
Give in & tell her how you feel—
"To exist right here with you is a beautiful thing to do."
Nothing is ruined.
Retreat back to the house &
take note of how bad I am at instigating
Walk you to your car:
It’s now or never.
Kiss you once.
Kiss you again.
Invite you back inside to kiss some more.
Kiss some more.
Hold you close.
Feel sick to my stomach for all the right reasons.
Feel sick in my head from this chemical leak.
Feel lame as fuck for feeling anything at all—
for feeling so much—
feeling too much—
feeling too fast
It’s time for us to part ways &
I can’t wait to see you again.
Maybe Valentine’s day..?
But we both hate that shit…
But hell, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.
Kiss you goodbye.
Kiss you some more.
Walk inside to anxious faces & the question of:
“…Sooooooo, how was it?”
Respond with the only words you have left:
Listen to the room burst with sound—
a round of applause for Mr. Ego,
Try to fall asleep to no avail.
Try to study to no avail.
Walk around outside
to try to clear your head.
Write her a poem
to let her know how you feel.
Take the risk of scaring her off.
Title this poem,
“How To Make Me Love You Dearly.”
If I’m to be completely honest with myself, everything I’m about to write regarding our brief interaction last night may only come to be half true… if not just one big, fucking lie. Either way, I’d like to write it anyways.
To start: I did not find this talk of ours last night to be cute, original, or flattering. Rather, I found myself clenching my fists around multiple bottlenecks for the remainder of the night, hearty with disapproval for how artificial it all seemed. I couldn’t believe it. I ended up drinking way more than I anticipated, dancing way more like an asshole, shouting way louder than necessary, and not falling asleep until I only had four more hours before waking up for my cell biology lecture. And I blame you and your friend for riling me up so.
Indeed, I found myself somewhat hateful of you both when I got home and began settling my thoughts. I let you know it, too, by writing a message to you at roughly 3:30 AM. It said this:
As of right now, I hate you dearly.
And then I attached my phone number, because I thought it’d be clever to send such mixed signals—
Nope, nope. That’s not true at all. Since what really happened was, I included my phone number because when I began late-night lurking your Tumblr, I almost immediately found nude pictures of you, posted for the entire goddamned world to see, and my first thought was this:
Damn, those are nice…
And just like that my opinion had changed—these inherent, carnal urges getting the best of me. So I left my number with the drunken idea in mind that, yes, a potential roll-around in the sheets might do my brain some good—(or, at least it couldn’t hurt…)
The ambiance of your naked body screamed of something easy to become attached to, or buried in. Attraction to degenerates and those just as dysfunctional as myself. Hell, or maybe you’re just vain. Minimal effort, and my slushy brain was pulsing yes… Likewise, I imagine it’s pretty easy to fall in love with, let’s say, a particular piece of artwork when all the layers and ambiguity and mystery bullshit is put away with. Where the artist just simply spoon-feeds you its creative worth.
And so that was your naked body: effortless. So yes, it was merely my hormones and a lacking inhibition that prompted me to give you my number, if only for a potential fuck and to never speak to each other ever again. Because let’s face it… for all my years of abstinence from physical intimacy, it’s simply inherent for me to marvel at a nice pair of tits and a vigorous ass.
…Back to last night.
The first thing you said (shouted) to me was this:
“HEY! ARE YOU THE GUY ON TUMBLR WHO WRITES EROTIC FAN TICTION ABOUT SNIFFING GIRLS THAT ARE IN HEAT?”
To which I replied, “Err, um, yes… Yes, that’s me.” And that right there is what I would ponder drunkenly for the remainder of the night—whether that’s what my readers truly thought of my writing: erotic fan fiction.
I repeat: Erotic. Fan. Fiction.
I felt disgustingly offended, and yet I did not correct you. Why? Because if I did correct you, I would’ve started shouting aloud that I was not, in fact, an erotic fan fiction writer, but only a low-life pervert with a knack for the pen. Nothing more than a self-aware rat, scurrying beneath skirts. Don’t you see? These are the pieces of work that will one day be the nails in my coffin as evidence for my disturbed mind and inevitable future crimes. The whole kit and caboodle: Countless stories and poems of masturbating to mommy, poisoning the retarded kid down the street, smashing in the skulls of birds, pulling the legs off roaches one-by-one, my intentions to set fire to Dr. Mercyhurst’s office, my intention to set fire to Dr. Mercyhurst, the psychotic daydreams played out in my head over and over and over again for any stranger who cares enough to pay me any attention…
(What is this writing all about again?)
And so, just to clear things up: what I write here is not fiction. Truth. Hand to the gods I don’t believe in. Not fiction.
(I can hear my future attorney now: YOU’RE FUCKING BURYING US!)
Aside from a few change of names—or not, in this particular case of mentioning your name, Allie—these stories are not only based in fact, but are quite often even cited via dated journal entries, write-ups from my therapist(s). By clinician’s diagnoses, I swear: I’m fucking Looney tunes!
Another thing: If any of my work has elicited any sort of excited, sexual nature in you, my readers, then I apologize, as well as suggest that you check yourself into a clinic now. For there is nothing sexy about what I write. Nothing sexy about a 12-year old girl getting her bloody, cherry blossom stripped of her by mommy’s new boyfriend who’s only come over to babysit for an hour. Nothing sexy about the girl then finding herself with little kicks in her stomach a few months later, overcome by this strong emotional bond felt for her rapist—but, at least those feelings fade with time, as her abysmal hatred for men eventually leads her to become a lesbian.
(Okay, okay, maybe it’s a little sexy…)
Speaking of lesbians: your request last night, of which might be even more offensive than your initial call to my potential genre. Can’t even imagine? You said this:
“I NEED YOU TO DO ME A FAVOR—YOU SEE, MY FRIEND IS A HUGE FAN OF YOUR STUFF, AND SO I NEED YOU TO WRITE AN EROTIC LESBIAN STORY ABOUT US.”
And once again I was polite, making no such fuss. Why? Because you were attractive-looking and I’m an idiot. Because no attractive women ever approach me, which may just be for the best since, typically after an attractive girl opens her mouth, the attraction vanishes alike some hot, desert mirage that only just had me salivating with thirst but, after having come closer, has now just left me with a sour, pissed taste in my mouth.
The reason why this sucked to hear was that it meant that all my writings that this friend supposedly adored had been instantly reduced to the pathetic art of some poor, washed-up soul—the art of sketching caricatures of folks for coin outside of a place like Times Square, with people pleading, Ooh, do one of me next! Me next! Make me look like THIS!—
And no matter how much I enjoyed pondering the idea of writing you into some character (you as a pre-teen having a sleepover with your friend, both bent on figuring out what the hell sexuality is all about… stimulating cervixes with shared objects of Chiquita bananas and #2 pencils while your parents argue, fuck, and make up in the room next door…)
You know, something like that.
But I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t get past the idea that it felt like a goddamned gimmick taking on requests (even from someone with as delicious jambas as yourself).
What made matters worse—yes, what truly made me feel so disappointed by this whole damn fan-girl experience—was a couple of instances that I must bring to light:
1) This friend of yours who, again, supposedly enjoyed my work so very much hid from me for the entire, albeit brief, conversation passed between us. Why? I have no clue. Maybe embarrassment, I’m not sure. But I felt very inhuman right then, and what a bummer that was.
2) After we parted on an amicable note, I ascended the stairs of the bar only a few minutes later to find you and her and that guy standing there in a group. A possibility to have a real conversation with these folks rather than the bullshit that just surpassed downstairs? No. Because you know what you all did? You fucking scattered like flies, and I can’t imagine it being for any other reason than out of a fear to speak to me after our initial encounter.
God damnit. So we’re equally embarrassed.
And so I came home drunker than I planned to be, and wrote you that message:
I hate you dearly.
What a shame. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to talk to women, but for now, I’m still stuck in that childlike mentality of pushing faces down in the sandbox and bitching about cooties. So I just thought I’d let you know that I didn’t dream much last night, but you still managed to infiltrate my head—enough so that I felt compelled to write this all out as soon as possible, since I wouldn’t be able to relax until I got this off my chest. Since, in truth… I might just love you dearly.
(Cue underage, lesbian sex scene.)
…The notion was introduced rather abruptly, having only been mentioned briefly right in the midst of discussing the origin of fetishes. I read the lines over a few times, wanting to bury the words deep in my brain. I wanted to remember an explanation for things. I read them over, all while subconsciously repeating: It’s not your fault, Joe, it’s not your fault. It’s still just a faulty chemistry, and rest assured: the chemistry can still be changed.
Before I mention the quote at hand, I have a couple memories floating about my head that I’d like to put to paper. I don’t think I can make much sense of them, but they’re entertaining nonetheless.
This book I’ve been reading mentions multiple studies conducted by Dr. Jim Pfaus on the neurochemical events of many human phenomena: sexual gratification, an evolutionary basis for love (procreation), parallels drawn between achieving orgasm and the result of injecting heroin… The man is an inspiration, truly. But what really was intriguing to me (and hopefully to those who care to read) was a cited study of his where Dr. Pfaus conditioned rats to develop a fetish—not just any fetish, but a fetish for the smell of dead bodies.
Indeed, he essentially created “necrophilirats” (this pun just crossed my mind and I found it disturbingly humorous). The way he did this was simple: presenting a fellow female rat in estrous that had been scented with “cadaverine,” an odor that resembles the smell of decaying flesh. Humans, rats, and other mammals alike have a natural aversion to the stench of death. So much so that if a rat is exposed to such a scent, it will make an active effort to escape the unsettling smell, insofar as crossing over an electrified grid-floor.
So, what happens when a female that smells of death is introduced to the horny rat? Does he turn up his nose and refuse to mate? No, of course not. That is not encoded in the male’s brain. Rather, he sucks it up, plugs his nose, mounts the pungent female and goes to town.
This continues on for multiple trials, and each time the rat is willing to overcome the horrid odor and succumb to his inherent biology (different females are used in order to avoid conflicts with any possible attachment to the partner rather than the variable).
What makes the study fascinating is when the rat is given a choice of litter mates. The conditioned rat is then dropped into a cage of multiple females in estrous, all willing to take on his specimen; however, only a select rat is still bathed in cadaverine. And would you believe it? Over multiple trials, this male will only mate with the one rat that smells of death. Why? Because his brain’s reward system associates the smell of decay with achieving pleasure. It’s now ingrained within his brain. He is nearly incapable of reaching sexual gratification unless it is with a mate who reeks like a cadaver. And so is born a fetish.
Now, memory that came to mind: Before my mother married my father, she married a man with the last name “Taylor.” I know this because my sister’s birth certificate says, “Stephanie Taylor.” When this was brought up years later to my mother, my sister and I had unraveled some crass skeletons from her past that she would’ve otherwise been happy to have erased from her memory entirely. Yes, to have never been married to that man… of whom, only a year into the marriage, she’d found pictures of him masturbating in her own clothes. When she brought it up to him, he described the experiment as, “only happening because he was lonely at the house and bored—nothing more.” So she continued on with the marriage, only to find more of those same pictures a few months later. It’d gotten too weird, and so she left him.
As it would turn out, he would end up getting engaged to someone else somewhere in her lineage, and she’ll still see him every now and again at a family funeral. He has a wife and three kids, and there’s no way of telling whether this man still jerks off in woman’s attire.
“But he seems to be happy, at least, so who are we to judge?”
Another memory that maybe I should think twice about sharing: Sneaking over the fence of my neighborhood pool after it closed. Diving in to the cool water on a summer night, swimming about for a while before growing, yes, somewhat lonely and bored. I found myself there with a teenage erection, and after emptying all the air from out my lungs I sank to the pool bottom and masturbated (I don’t remember whether or not I was old enough to come just yet…) But either way, it was erotic and entertaining, and though I have no recollection of ever having developed a fetish for asphyxiation, it sure would be intriguing to see if that ever came to fruition. (Though, maybe intriguing isn’t the right word…) On the brighter side of things, at least I could elucidate on its possible childhood origin. Isn’t that what this whole studying of brain science is all about? Figuring out why I am so fucked?
Eh… maybe. That’s certainly part of it. But, speaking of eroticism and strange life experience, I believe that aforementioned quote is relevant to mention:
“…defects in the reward system can be pathologically inhibiting. Some may find it extremely difficult to act at all because they’re immune to reward, obsessively analyzing every possible consequence of a behavior instead. People taking a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, can suffer with diminished libido. The drug keeps serotonin available to neurons, which eases the sense of despair common to depression but also quashes sex drive, just as it does in the moments after orgasm.”
That year on antidepressants really did a number, I tell you.
It’s not your fault, Joe, it’s not your fault.
The pieces are coming together, slowly but surely. As I read this book detailing the neurological and chemical basis for the many phenomena surrounding love and attraction, I find myself understanding you more—or, perhaps, understanding why I was so drawn to an otherwise empty persona. Over and over and over again.
The devil’s in the details: I remember a conversation of ours two years ago, when you confided in me that you were done taking birth control. You didn’t like the way the pills made you feel. It was a matter of hormones, a debilitated sex drive, an abandoned womb, an inflated chest. You didn’t like the idea of what you were doing to your body.
“It all feels so unnatural, and so I’m going to stop.”
And so you did, because you always did what you said you were going to do. And I told myself I wouldn’t go crazy for the second time in two years—but I’m bad at following through. So I went crazy, and you being off birth control for the first time in a very long time didn’t help at all.
You see… when you got yourself off those pills and back into the natural swing of things, you allowed your body to throw its delicious scent of ovulation back in my face. It brought blood to my cheeks, to my heart, and testosterone coerced throughout my body for the first time in a very long time. There was chemistry between us. There were pheromones dancing. I never wished, never dreamed! of having children at such a young age, if ever at all. And yet, with you standing there smoking your cigarette—womb bursting with egg and skin radiating with fertility—I wanted nothing more than for you to bear my children. Right then and there. I wanted to become a father.
If I ever fantasized about us having sex, it quickly became a scene of us both performing as born-again virgins. Indeed, clumsy and clueless as to where what-which-piece comes and goes. But we did still go, and we did still come, as we breathed out childish words of “love” amid a fleshy eclipse of chemical climax.
It makes sense, too, that following your dismissal from birth control and a return to the natural flow of womanhood—that you would allow me to fall to the back of your mind, so you could give and receive oral sex with a friend of mine. (No shame on him, he had no idea we were trying to make things work.)
Why does this make sense? Is it because you’re a sociopath with no concern for any human being outside yourself? Someone who targets, manipulates, and utilizes others that are weaker than you to do your dirty favors? Who could crash a car head-on into another’s car, drunk and drugged at 3 AM in the morning, and who could walk away from the scene of the crime to place the burden of life and a pile of scrap metal for your parents to pick up in the morning?
…Yes, somewhat. But the real chemical basis of it might just be the estrogen rushing throughout your body at the time of ovulation: that which lowers your risk-assessment, relaxes your anxieties, rises your impulse-decision making—yes, whatever it takes to get you in bed with a potential mate to fertilize that egg lingering in your uterus.
Fuck fuck fuck you, fuck him, it should’ve been me…
Yikes. I haven’t thought about sex in quite a long time. I can’t put myself in that situation in my head. It’s equivalent to me daydreaming of guiding a fighter-jet over a war zone with one blown-out wing in a heavy fog. The act just doesn’t make sense. I can’t even imagine a particular girl naked, just for the fun. Something about it makes me feel eerie… such a perverted infringement on someone quite capable of wearing clothes. The imagined girl deserves more than that, even if she doesn’t.
Interesting truth: following the birth of a man’s child, his testosterone levels deplete dramatically. This is almost a safety mechanism of the brain that tells him to, “Stay…. stay. Be a good boy. No chasing another’s tail, not even your own. There’s no need. Stay, stay… good boy.”
And so here I’ve been: a good boy, and I don’t think my testosterone levels have spiked in over two years. And yet, all I can think about now is whether you’re still existing off birth control, how that is all working out for you and whoever else… and if so, what it might do to me to get a whiff of you ovulating again.
It is a lack of awareness that prompts me to lose my car keys. It is a total awareness that prompts me to lose my mind.
She came to me in a dream last night. It was a joy to see her symmetrical face. We were guided into what appeared to be a hotel room we’d booked, though it was the size of a fully functioning lobby. The lights were dim, the room mostly illuminated by the glass windows that made up the north wall. Like most dreams, there wasn’t anything strange about being with this particular girl in this particular place. Just a feeling of relief to be in her company again.
Happiness. No questions asked.
But I was set to ruin our time together. Indeed, by such strange things as taking a stand right in the middle of our dinner, refusing to eat any of my food until she admitted that she was in love with me still, and not at all with her girlfriend. Admit it: This whole lesbian-phase of yours is a fluke.
All she had to do was fess up and I would eat. We would live. But no, for even in a dream I still felt compelled to ruin the whole ambiance by making my feelings apparent. So I found excuses to touch her. I maintained eye contact with her so she would know that she had my full attention, forever and always. I made unwarranted compliments about her jacket. Unwarranted because it was the same exact jacket she wore almost everyday that I saw her: the most disgusting tinge of yellow, like sweet and sour mustard.
Somewhere in-between these failed attempts to make another human being love me, the dream scene ends. I find myself awake in bed, motionless, thoughts of another full day ahead of me occupied by so many others on this crowded earth… the prospect of getting up makes me feel sick. I shove food down my gullet for breakfast to satiate the boiling in my abdomen of discomfort in my own skin. I haven’t bathed in days. I am acidic. I am mucus membrane. I am salty and pink. I reduce myself to a pale, spoiled fillet of occupational meat, because I smell and act just the same: rotten in stench, in attitude—rotting from the inside out.
There’s a sickness within me. I lose my mind. And it isn’t the same clumsiness that prompts me to lose my balance or wallet, no. Rather, I lose my mind like a delicate child who clings to my hand as we walk through a crowded marketplace at Christmas, and there are things my mind would like to do—he pulls at me and I must say, “No, please no, you must stay here with me. Stay here where it is safe.”
Always the world grows evermore crowded. Everyday there’s twenty screaming babies for every one dead body. The claustrophobia induced by the crowd feels very real. I squeeze my hand to make sure I still feel my delicate mind there with me. For there are things happening all around us, things much more interesting and dangerous and fun, and my mind is pulling harder and harder away, so I’m trying with all my might not to lose its grip. But as my palms grow sweaty and my heart feels as heavy as a warhead and reality is slipping, it’s slipping right from my grip—
It’s gone. I’ve lost my mind. I’ve spotted a face in class… a beautiful face, sure. An illuminated angel, yes. My eyes have fallen upon this one individual soul, out of this three hundred-person lecture hall, and there she is: she looks just like you. Her head has the same egg-shape as yours from the dream. No matter how hard I try to press you from my memory, my dreams are relentless, and your face is persistent.
My eyes can’t seem to lay off. My focus won’t dissolve from her. She appears to have glassy eyes and greasy hair, from what I can tell. Maybe we have that in common: a total lack of hygiene. She presses herself into a seat on the farthest left of lecture hall. Even though she’s not left-handed, she succumbs to a left-handed desk. There are other seats available: Why? Why?
I resolve: It’s her wanting to be as far from people as is possible in such a crowded world. We have that in common—and yet, not at all. For there’s an immediate distinction between her and me: that she is genuinely not looking to sit by any company. Indeed, she’s content to just be alone. Whereas I will sit and sulk and argue with myself about how much I hate everyone else’s simultaneous existence, how much I wish to occupy a world completely alone… and yet I still find myself purposely squishing myself in-between others (it’s merely for the sensation of warmth). Yes, squeezed between these two sorority whores who feel compelled to talk over me about expensive clothes and succulent food and “guess who’s sleeping over at Adam’s tonight.” And now I know full and well whom this Adam is fucking, and so I hate Adam’s guts at the moment more than anyone else’s in the world. I’ll be thinking of what he’s doing tonight all day.
Still examining the girl, I make some keen observations about our life together:
We both appear to be biology majors, that’s always a plus. We have more in common than I originally thought. Her genetics appear to be good—wide-set shoulders paralleling her birthing hips. I remember you talking on your birthing hips, and how I was nearly drooling at the prospect of ever being the one to fertilize your womb… Good genetics, certainly. Very pretty in the face, dimples in the cheeks and just the right height. And yet, she appears rather tan for the winter… Not the coldest winter there’s ever been, but surely a tan so dark is not the result of merely enjoying the outdoors, no. It looks as if she’s… been to a tanning bed exposing herself to all kinds of UV rays, that stupid bitch! Goddamnit, doesn’t she understand the risk of mutation she’s now imposing on our future children? All these horrible alterations to her DNA taking place beneath the surface? A very shallow surface of hers, certainly! A fried, empty brain beneath that oily mop on her scalp. What a horrible woman. Probably a whore. Yes, definitely a whore. I wonder how many men have been inside of her?
I start to imagine what she looks like giving oral to many, many men. The madness within is now at large. She’s just the same as everyone else. Let her procreate and make awful fish monsters with some other horrible person, I want nothing to do with her. I hate her more than anyone I’ve ever known. I hate her more than Adam. I hate her more than the sorority cunts yapping nonsense into all this empty space. I hate her more than you—you, yes you. You who has created this perpetual emotion machine that is me, where I feel worse and worse every single day and every single day grows longer and longer until the only way I can escape it is to fall asleep in bed where I dream of you and your brilliant existence that I no longer get to experience and I find myself—for a briefest point in time as my pupils flutter wildly behind my eyelids—I find myself happy, in my head with you, making the whole torture that is living feel worth it.
Indeed… happiness. No questions asked.
..You can convince yourself, buddy, that there’s someone out there for you. All that you want. One lone person. There’s just got to be.
There’s just got to be someone out there—just for you—out there in this incredibly vast existence. Never-mind all that empty space. There’s someone out there also waiting, and this someone will surely be just the catalyst you need to make that change.
Indeed, that change you’ve been speaking on and thinking of for so, so long. You’ll break a habit. You’ll exercise twice a week. You’ll teach yourself to cook. You’ll read a chapter of that philosophy book every night before you fall asleep. You’ll give friendly waves to strangers you pass by, since there is no reason that should feel so impossible. You’ll do all these things once you find that special someone. Yes, uh-huh, yes you will.
Once you find that someone: what a day, what a day. A boy or girl that’ll be just the someone you’ve been waiting to work for. Someone to give you a new goal to work towards. Someone to make you look forward to a future, blindingly bright. And you’ll feel so grateful… so god-damned eager to just approach that light with that someone that you’ll start to, yes, you’re beginning to feel light-headed—
‘Whoa… is that what love is?’ you’ll ask yourself. ‘Really?’
It’ll be less than you’ve imagined, but that’s only to be expected. You’ve only been dreaming of its manifest for every goddamned day of your forsaken life. Nonetheless, it’s still something—still someone, indeed.
‘There’s always been something missing…’ you’ll feel it. ‘I’ve always been incomplete,’ you’ve always been convinced. ‘That’s why I’ve felt this way, so disheartened, so stagnant… But now that I feel love, now that I feel what it’s like to be truly alive! Oh, how just merely living for the sake of another—it gives life such meaning! And I may only hope it’s reciprocated… Yes, of course it is! That way, my love and I can live forever. For love has never meant to be a means to end, nor to be the meaning of life, but rather meant to function as the fuel for life’s continuation. For eternity! We’ve found the fountain of youth!—
'And maybe that’s why people die: because we're so stubborn that we persist to live long enough to watch the strongest of feelings fade from our eyes, our hearts, until we’re right back to the start—finding ourselves cold and alone and ungrateful, amid a vague memory of something extraordinary and a sour taste on our tongues… The excitement of living may be rightly summed as akin to the car-ride home from the movie theaters: the circle of life.’
A piece of advice, buddy: Kill yourself now while you’re ahead.
I’m an awfully cheap date. I took myself out tonight to Chili’s. I’ve had gift-cards piling up in my wallet for the past three years. Not one female in all that time to spend some money on, to make conversation with beneath glass-blown lamps and walls of sports memorabilia. Not one.
Well, goodie. More for me.
The tacos were terrible. Horrible sauce and I can’t believe I haven’t gotten sick. Nonetheless, I imagined this dinner as a reward for all my hard work. Only one week in and this year seems like it’ll be so different… No longer possessing that Bukowski-esque mindset of yesteryear—that alcoholic slacker mentality of allowing life to drift by, permitting it to catch me occasionally in its arbitrary wake. Float on.
I’ve awoken this year with a new snap in my fingers, a hot spark in my brain. A rekindled love for the subject of neuroscience. I bought my first book on brain chemistry last year, after being put on anti-depressants. The book didn’t teach me a damned thing, but here I am: suddenly I know. I’ve studied hours upon hours every day since the start of this semester. It’s only been a week and I’m in love with it all: Membrane potentials. Concentration gradients. Neurotransmitters and oligodendrocytes and gray matter. Big words, big concepts—all this nonsense happening within our brains of billions of neural circuits.
Oh, how I love it so…. So much so that I haven’t felt the need to leave this house for any other reason than for school, and the crazy part is: I’m happy. Yes, I’m content to be alone in my studies, with my nose buried so deep in a book that I find it difficult to breathe. No such desires to drown my sorrows with drink, no sir.
It came to me:
I realized that I’m an incredibly intelligent individual who will go places if I merely permit myself to, and don’t allow my own psychosis to get in the way. So what if I won’t ever touch another female again? So what if I never have another best friend? Who’s to care if I grow chubby on this couch from snacks and idleness as I study, study, study?
I’ve been dreaming of traveling along axons, jumping between synaptic clepts. I’ve got something to say. I wake up with the excitement of Christmas morning. I want nothing more than to begin my trek on this route of cognitive neuroscience, studying to crack the codes on what the hell is going on—all this over-consciousness flooding my head.
Indeed, I recognize it to be “over-conscious” due to an inability to lose focus for even a split second. Walking to class, I memorize license plates of cars driving by. I acknowledge balls of spit and recently deceased cigarettes butts on the sidewalk: a confirmation that others exist without me. I analyze and breakdown the lives, trials and tribulations of the strangers I pass along the way. We don’t need to make eye-contact, that’s A-Okay. I will just ponder your body from afar: what you sound like when you climax with me dug inside of you, stranger, it’s A-Okay…
Life is so beautiful when you find yourself lost in the details. Stare long enough at a portrait, you lose the big picture. If you look long enough, it all fades to nonsense. You realize that the girl you’re in love with can be reduced to anatomical data—seen as nothing but an assortment of cells, all re-writing the arbitrary genetic code that makes her, her.
She’s the reason you didn’t leave the house the other night: a fear of seeing her again, hearing her cynical comments. Feeling things all over again. I told myself I felt too sick, even though I know perfectly well it was all in my head.
You’re over her… right? Aren’t you, Joe?
Yes, indeed, I tell everyone. I don’t want her, I tell everyone. I’m too busy for all that romantic bullshit, I plead to everyone. I don’t have time for anyone else anymore, I convince myself.
And I’m right. The busier I am, the happier I feel, because the busier you are, the less you pay attention to the horrors happening around you, and so the happier you are, living in ignorant bliss.
Indeed, things are A-Okay, as long as I keep drowning myself in these books. Keep it up, keep it up, keep it up. For the moment I come up for even one breath of air, I’ll realize how little I’ve truly been living, and that might just be enough to convince me to—
Cut it out, Joe… Cut it out. You’re okay.
I was an evil little bugger. Memories, relentless memories…
A crunch of bone was Weston’s nose. The cause was my tiny, concentrated fist. It was the first fight of my life. I hurt my thumb, keeping it tucked in while I pounded on his face. For what? I don’t remember at all. It really might be as simple as the levy of fury breaking, spilling out my anger in a manifest of his bloody face. He deserved it, I suppose. A year younger and he used to pound on me just the same. I once watched him jerk off his dog. His dad was a police officer. His mother was beautiful. I didn’t see him for a few years, until high school. His parents divorced, he became religious. He never grew taller than 5’6. I watched him get his backpack stolen the first week of school. I watched him cry and try to fight back to no avail. I just walked on…
I was evil, so evil. Thomas What’s-His-Face. A memory, an apology, for Thomas:
I don’t know what made me do it. That little moon-faced bugger never did a thing to harm me, and yet I hated his guts. I wanted to hurt him for the sake of feeling tough. I’d aged a little by then, and it was no longer a matter of meeting flesh and making red to hurt—there was a mind in others begging to be twisted. That’s how you really hurt someone. You manipulated, deceived, noted insecurities. You made tears.
There was a creek behind my house—and by creek I mean sewage reservoir. It was where all the shit of our suburbia floated and mutated the fish and ate away at the rocks. It’s where we kids used to hang around. I once found a wallet with three hypodermic needles in it, each with an orange plunger and a very sharp point. I gave two to my friends and kept one for myself.
Once when I was playing surgeon with a worm that I’d found crawling along my driveway, I injected that little bug with fluids over and over again—bloating its skin until its head and anus became little nipples on each end. Then its body exploded. I pulled back, and found myself stuck with the creek needle in my little finger. I didn’t know about HIV then, but today it’s a possibility. (Apologies to women I accidentally came inside of.)
Sometimes there would be this brownish foam that would float above the creek water, the color of shit. I thought it’d be funny. I took a cup back to that creek and scooped up a good bit of water, a layer of foam for the top. I brought it out front to Thomas, playing in my front yard. A friend. All the other kids knew.
“This is a milkshake my mom made. Do you want it?” I asked him.
“You have to drink it all or else I’ll tell her you don’t like it.” He began to sip. A creek-milk mustache formed above his lips. I asked him how it tasted.
“Mmm, real good. Thanks.”
My sister and I had a joke. It was that Thomas’ mother had slept with her father, got pregnant with Thomas, and that’s why he turned out so stupid and dull. His mother used to drive through the neighborhood like a madman, intentionally trying to run us kids over. She hated us fervidly, and we all deserved it. It would later be revealed that Thomas had Down syndrome. I was too young to know about Down syndrome. Too young to know about HIV. I never forgave myself. Not then, not now. Apologies to Thomas: adorable, gracious, little moonfaced bugger.