Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Noble, Part I

It seems like another time, another life almost, and yet I can see details as clear as though it's the present, now, in this life, this life that, although has changed in a great many ways, remains anchored in a moment that will remain with me forever.

There was another time, another life, other dreams and other perceptions. In that, I figured I would become an academic and spend the rest of my life dealing with lofty theories of Artificial Intelligence. My plans at that time included applying to schools to start my Ph.D. work in Cognitive Science, my degrees in Psychology and Philosophy taken to another level. My intellect was, I reckoned, formidible enough to skirt the unknown and provide me with certainty, a fortress against fear and low self-esteem. My arrogance was not that I would achieve the Ph.D. (I was extremely qualified) but that I could navigate this life without soul or love but only with facts - and declare my victory of reason over emotion.

There was no shortage of arrogance in my life at that time and yet all my dreams meant nothing. And as little regard I had for myself and my plans, I had even less regard for everyone else, the whole of humanity, the human race beneath contempt in my eyes. Although I worked in customer service, tending bar with a smile on my face and pride in my ability to give my customers the finest service available, I looked on them, all of them, with an unequivocal and unqualified hatred. At the end of the night I would crawl to another bar to wash away the filth and hipocracy. And to sustain that cycle, working and drinking all night and then returning to face my hatred with a smile and then drinking to forget it, I propped myself up with crystal meth, loads of it.

Meth had its fingers gripped around my heart; booze, partying, meaningless sex, and utter hedonism had me so wrapped in myself and oblivious to the universe, that I was absolutely lost, adrift, mean and worthless and ugly and there were many times I thought sucking on the barrel of a gun was a perfect existentialist answer to my malais. Meth is insidious in that it plays on the ego, doesn't just give the user a false sense of well-being but omnipotence, that there is nothing in the universe as magnificent or imposing as the greasy zero on tweek. If there were 15 women in my bar (or any bar) while I was geeking, I knew - just KNEW - that all of them would not fail to notice how glib and articulate and sexy and handsome and dangerous and suave and slick and together and intelligent and incredibly irresistible I was and that my only problem was deciding which one of the 15 would be sharing my bed. And once I made my choice, if she was really good at giving me pleasure, she could hang around, keep me entertained, share my insanity, give me one other drug to abuse.

So there was X, my choice and oh, so much fun, smart, sexy, willing to take the wheel when I was crosseyed. A doormat, certainly (they all were doormats) but better than most and worth the hassle of shaking loose, REALLY shaking loose when the inevitable boredom set in and my eyes settled elsewhere. It was just fun, I thought and she seemed fun enough to understand that I could not be taken seriously.

But she did take me seriously and in the midst of this, X and I took each other hostage. We had no idea what our demands would be, what we wanted, or what the result would be, we were just flying without controls. Bad plan but a tweeker has no plans, just desires and needs.

A pregnancy was the last thing I desired or needed (or so I thought); my life obviously had no room for a child, much less a pregnant woman, and my initial reaction to the news was one of nausea and disgust. My dissolute existence was being whacked by forces out of my control, it was not just inconsiderate, it was a violation of my principles as an avowed misanthropist. The image I had created for myself, the edgy intellectual roaring towards certain self-destruction was being given a governor, an extreme make over, a kick towards respectability that I neither desired nor even entertained as an option.

During the following months, my life disintegrated with haste. Lost jobs, jail sentences, evictions, the specter of the impending birth of my son and yet, even as the threads unravelled and the fabric of my illusion of being negligibly human quickly dissipated, I continued on my path, uncaring, unconcerned, spinning out of control and watching the world blur by wondering when it would finally collide and shatter.

And then, suddenly, it stopped. Or rather, I stopped. I remember X miserable on the bed of our junkie-hotel room, miserable from her pregnancy and the shabbiness of our existence, furious at me and my self-centered lifestyle, saying she could not go on with me, as I was. Walking out of the room, I looked into a clear blue sky and it struck me that my life was not what I had thought it would be. At 36 years old, I was a punk, an emotional retard, a loser, incapable of providing for myself much less my unborn son and his mother.

I cried, for the first time in countless years. Sobbing uncontrollably, emotion finally shook forth from my cold and hardened heart. Crying not for X and the baby she held in her belly but for me and the realization of the pathetic being I had become. Crying because for once my arrogance could not hide the real and abiding fear that had been hidden for so long. Crying because I was not what I was supposed to be - brilliant, successful, and capable of doing anything I wanted - but unable to do anything, paralyzed and confused. Crying because I was not a man and a boy was on the way.

It would not be the last time I cried. It would be too soon that I would cry again and the next time, the tears would burn like the coals of hell.

Click here to read Noble, Part II


sarah irene said...

Yes, I *did* come for "lite posts" but am glad I didn't take your suggestion ... Wow.

lu said...

Jim, this piece touched me no less (in fact, more so) than when I first read it months ago.

Painfully honest and beautiful....