Sunday, April 4, 2004

Going Down

So, it has been more than three months since I’ve written anything. Soo hasn’t been working. I haven’t been working, well, not on anything that pays. We’re running out of money and we’re probably going to have to sell the house unless I do what it is I plan to do. Not to be too melodramatic about this, which is really quite pragmatic, it should be automatic. So why the static? OK, enough of that crap. I don’t have to be entertaining anymore, I don’t even have to entertain myself. I’ve been relegated to the basement. Actually, I’ve taken sanctuary here. I can’t stand to look at Soo and the boy anymore. It just reminds me of how I’ve let them down and how useless I am.
We had a few unexpected expenses. Nate had to go to the hospital, and, well, oh, forget this. Nobody’s going to read this, except maybe Soo. What am I doing? Am I just killing time or is this going to be my explanation for Soo?
Max (or whatever his name is) has warned me I shouldn’t leave anything behind, that if this is going to work it is absolutely essential that there be no evidence, no more writings especially. They’ve caused enough problems already. I’ll figure something out, I just need to get this all down so I can think about it and be certain it’s the right thing to do.
So, I sit here down in our unfinished basement, the reason we were probably able to afford this house in the first place. I don’t know why the previous owners never finished it, but that was a big alarm bell for us. If they’ve lived there for four years and they haven’t had the money to put some drywall up and some carpet down then we figured we could probably lowball them and get this place cheap. Which we did, relatively so. We still got screwed on the mortgage because neither of us had (or have, did I mention that – who are you talking to?) jobs.
Whatever. I’m pecking away on an old laptop that Soo got cheap from her last job in the Bay Area. It’s amazing the bargains you can get when a company’s dissolving. I’m offline. No more Internet for me. Just this one last document, one more file on a diskette, defrag this puppy and I’m done for awhile. What was it that Max said when I told him we had a firewall on our computer? He just scoffed and said something like, “Zone Alarm Pro?! You call that a firewall. There’s better security on the ferries.”
Better security on the ferries. Right, well let’s hope it’s not too much better.
There was a lot that was creepy about that. As far as I know, Max had never been in this house, had never seen our computers. I could play naïve and say, “How did he know what software we had on our PC?” But, I know he knew. I didn’t know exactly how he knew, but I had a pretty good idea.
He knows that computer better than I do, probably even better than Soo does, and he’s never even seen it. He’s read everything I’ve ever written on it. I didn’t really think about it that way until now. He’s my most dedicated reader. He calls me the Poet NoWar-eate, more like the Poet Whoreate, I think. Whatever, he’s my biggest fan.
He and the feds. Although, none of them will get to read this. I hope. If they do, I’m buggered, Soo’s buggered and the kid, too. And that would screw everything up because he’s the real reason I’m doing all this. The reason I’ve been training, running on that goddamn treadmill over there. And working out, I’ve got to be fit. A sound mind in a healthy body. I’m the goddamn Greek ideal. Hercules, if you please.
I’ve got to admit, Max has been pretty smart, he’s played me well. He knew exactly how to get me to agree, he’s even made me think it’s the only way, the best way. It’s not the only way, I know it’s not the only way. But it really is the best way. Or am I just trying to convince myself it is?
I’ve even started wondering how long he’s had his eye on me. I mean, not to overstate things, but I am somewhat important to the larger operation. I’m on beauty duty, an isotope, another trope, the truth sooth, doin’ the hope rope a dope, soothing truths, truths that soothe, rhymes with booze (?) drinking in booths, a bar, where you are, what you are, I am what I am and that’s all that I am. Could it be possible that I was recruited without my knowing it. I mean earlier, before we even left the Bay Area. Maybe he had a hand in me losing my last job, maybe my last dickhead of a boss is actually part of the plan, part of the group that’s putting this (and who knows what else) together. But, that’s ridiculous, he couldn’t have, and he couldn’t have made Soo’s last company go out of business. He probably had a pool of people to choose from and I just became the likeliest target. Or maybe he adapted the plan once he knew I existed, once he saw my skills and calculated how he could use them (phlegm, you spit, hypocrite, the word, heard, absurd, indignation, frustration, expectoration). Then it was just a matter of exerting the right pressure and making it all seem reasonable to me (I see, hear, fear).
He couldn’t have had anything to do with Nathan getting hurt, though. Or could he? That was my fault, I can’t blame anyone else anymore. If I had been watching Nate he never would have fallen. Oh, God, I can still see him lying there, bleeding, motionless (lifeless, endless, eternity, monotony). I’m never going to forget that and I’m never going to forgive myself. And that’s the main reason I’m doing this. One of the big reasons anyway. It’s like I was writing before, in that first fucking “chapter” of my fucking book. Ha! It’s all the little things together (weather, storm, warm, getting, forgetting). Sure, buying the house was easier because of the price and they had to leave (curious that, suddenly relocated. I bet they were touched by Max and his crew, too) and the location and the omens, it all just comes together sometimes and you say, “Yes, that’s it, I’m certain this is the right thing to do.” And that’s the point I’ve come to, or I’m hoping to get to, once I can work this all out.
Let’s assume it started the moment we accessed that web page, that Las Piedras Island Guestbook, although how he knew I’d read that passage… No. He couldn’t. No one could. It was when I clipped it and sent it to “friends and family” that must have triggered them. Like a piece of fly paper (shaper, changeling, dangling, participle, principle, interest, a tryst, rendezvous, me and you).
As Max said, “There’s only one pipe going in and out of that island and if you think the government is the only organization capable of creating something like Carnivore then you’re not as smart as I thought you were.”
So they read my email, no surprise there. I mean if anybody ever thought their email was private before, well, the Patriot Act should have disabused them of any notion they might have had about their personal privacy extending to email.
They knew I was unemployed, that I needed money. They probably knew Soo was working, and how much she made, and how long we’d be able to survive on that. That was a kicker, the promise to get her a job, a good job, that couldn’t be traced back to them. (Sorry, Soo, if I do get this to you to read you may not have gotten that job based on your own merits [ferrets, out, bout, redoubt, again, when]). If they could keep us from getting hired is it such a stretch to think they could get us jobs.
That’s what they’ve given us, afterall, it’s just a job. I will be working for them, nobody will know it, hopefully, but a job’s a job. I’ll have money, security (obscurity, to a point, anoint, appoint), and the knowledge that my wife and child are taken care of, which is more than I can say now (and how, was that necessary, apothecary).
Nathan bleeding unconscious, that’s what I have to remember.
As a parent, as a father, all things change. Everyone says that and it’s true. I just didn’t know how true or how complete a transformation it would be for me. But then again maybe I’m different. I think anyone who has ever been responsible for a small child (truly, a defenseless child, honest and naïve and kind and totally fucking helpless) knows how important, how vital it is to protect that child, at ALL costs. No matter what! I mean, it got to the point with me where whenever we were out, and this was before his fall, wherever we were I’d check out the landscape, see what could possibly cause him harm, and then I’d look at every person, every fucking individual, in the eyes if possible, do whatever I could to gather information so I could make that one judgment: Is this person safe? Good or bad? In two seconds or 10 seconds or however long I had before that person was within striking distance of Nathan, I would determine if I should pick him up or not. If I should move him just on the off chance that this person might be bad, or just careless, and hurt my boy. And then you have to calculate if moving the boy might evoke a response, might that person be offended if they think you are moving your child away from them. People do funny things if they think too closely about what other people think about them. Would I have done all this if Perry and McMahon hadn’t first come a’callin (you’re stallin’, am I, just try)?
So, what happens when that one person, that one bad, careless person – is you.
I fucked up. And, what’s worse I fucked up because of some delusion, or an appearance of a delusion, the possibility of a delusion (fusion, cold, bold). I snapped a little bit. Still it wasn’t for long. I’m not making excuses (excuse me, Soo. I’m so sorry. I know I’ve said it countless times, but let me say it one more time, I’m sorry). The fact is, what scares me most, is I don’t know that it won’t happen again. I mean, we were out there in the yard, and it’s a place where I usually feel kind of safe (at least more so than in public), the fucking caterpillars were gone finally, so there wasn’t a lot of residual noise. And then I heard that rustling, not bird rustling, it was big animal rustling, and I thought it could be the deer, and I turned to look and I saw them. I know I saw them! Still, now, I know in my heart I saw them. You can laugh at me, or shake your head in disgust, but I saw them, fucking Perry and McMahon hiding in the trees. And I wanted to prove that I had seen them. I wanted to grab something physical from them. I wanted a piece of clothing, binoculars, anything, I wanted a piece of them. Really, I’m not a violent man, but I had been pushed, and I wasn’t going to have them intruding on me and my life, my family, my home, anymore. So, I ran in after them, disregarding myself, my skin (which got considerably scraped up, sniff), but mostly, for that one tragic (or nearly so) moment, I disregarded my son. I ran stupidly into the woods, thrashing about and yelling like an idiot and left my son standing on the top of a stone staircase.
I didn’t find them. I got to where they had been and there was barely any evidence that they had been there, not enough to convince Soo certainly, not enough to drag her through the trees, the stinging nettle, and point to what could have been deer tracks and say, “Here, see, they were right here.”
I got there and thought about chasing them further, they must have had a car somewhere. I envisioned that Lincoln Town Car tucked away covered in cut branches or otherwise camouflaged (triaged, selected, inspected, detected, subterfuge, rouge, blushing, flushing). I could have ran to the road and found them, but then I came to my senses and remembered my boy. And, it was in those few minutes, the time it took me to run and stumble a few hundred feet, back and forth, that my life changed forever.
Because when I came back, when I dragged my bedraggled self from those woods, I saw before me that scene I will always see, that I will never be able to forget, my son face down on the rocks, bleeding and motionless. I ran to him in panic, drops and dribbles of blood stained the rocks around him (I later found bits of skin). I just kneeled above him and stared for a moment, terrified, not knowing what to do, not wanting to do more damage by moving him, and fearing more than I’d feared anything in my life, what I’d find when I turned him over. I’m still not sure how many stairs he fell down, it was at the most seven, heaven, unleaven, bread, undead. He must have become scared when I started shouting and stumbled himself as he tried to follow me down those stairs. He had broken his arm, and “sustained multiple severe contusions around the face and head,” as the doctors recorded it.
It was the most terrible event of my life and I will never let it happen again. The doctors’ looks (books, teachers, creatures). That car ride to the urgent care, and poor little Nate coming to, regaining consciousness, just blocks before we got there, and the screaming, the screaming in pain and abject horror, at his twisted arm and the blood and what must have been terrifying pain. And I just had to drive, I had to ignore it, ignore his screaming and get him to the urgent care. And it was all my fault, salt, in the wounds, oh the Moons, you know them, end of the road, undone hem, sloppy abode.
They looked at me like I was pathetic, I was wicked, I might as well have beaten him myself. For weeks afterward people stared whenever we went out, and that pride I’d felt before when people watched him and smiled, that pride turned to shame as I saw the looks of concern and a whisper of judgment when they saw those scars, riding in cars, drinking in bars, looking afar, not a star, they’ll never see ya, Bobby Bonilla, where did you go, Joe DiMaggio?
But those scars will heal, they will go away. I’ve decided my scars won’t heal, my fears won’t subside, I will forever be plagued by that failure. Every time he’s in my care and out of my sight I will be terrified that it will happen again. I don’t trust myself, worker elf, busy bee, you'll see, do your job, nob, work, shirk, responsibility, hidden fee, reality, time, to rhyme? no, to be, me, that's what they take, a thirst you can't slake, it's all you can do, just be you, working in fear, one day you'll hear this ain't your year, you're not needed but don't feel defeated, grab those bootstraps or play some craps, this country's great so you just wait, the market's responding to all this unhiring, don't be desponding, remember, firing inspires confidence, less corporate expense, means more profit, your butt, get off it, do as you're told and when you get old, you can do whatever you want, so, join in the hunt, there's money to make, your leg you will shake, if you won't, someone will, if you don't, take the pill, you can find your own way, it's what they all say, Independence, paying rents, Liberty, for a fee, Life, strife, Pursue happiness, endure crappiness, cynical? inimical, inimitable, load of bull, must keep going, put up a good showing, no money to spare, no health care, not as successful as that guy over there.

So what do I do? Just leave? No, I can’t leave. I would never just up and leave. Maybe I’ve got this all backwards, maybe this is my plan and Max Unglohd is my tool. I doubt that, though.
Why do this? What are the reasons? There are too many to mention. Because I’m a man, because I’m a husband, because I’m a father, because I’m an American, because I have a soul, because I believe it’s the right thing to do and it has to be done, and there’s no one else better able to do it than me. And, if Max is true to his word, no one will get hurt and Soo and Nathan will be taken care of for the rest of their lives. And, they’ll be rid of me, at least for awhile. Yes, there is hope. I still hold that hope (if I didn’t I don’t think I’d go through with this, I’m not suicidal just a little stupid), the hope that some day I can come back or they can meet me somewhere. So much depends on how it all works out, it’s impossible to make any promises simply because there are so many variables.
Oddly enough, I’m inspired to do this (to some extent at least) by lessons I’ve learned from children’s television. Determine your goal, make a plan, and never give up until you reach your goal. It’s the foundation of nearly every episode of every show on TV. Not to give too much credit (or blame) to Dora and Blue, though, watch the show, all the shows, anything goes, persistent, consistent, force fed, unread, superficiality, defenseless, to relentless, televised banality. I mean there are other reasons why I’ve allowed myself to be convinced by Max and his cronies that this is a good idea, a Great Idea even. Possibly, THE Idea that saves this country and the world from the bedlam it’s headed towards, by the boards, cross-checked, train wrecked, get it done, you’re the one, Wayward Son.
It might just be the Grand-ness of the plan that makes me want to see it work. It’s the ultimate nose-thumbing at all the pricks that are calling the shots now. Think about it, stealing a nuclear submarine and justifying it using the second amendment, so, legally using nuclear warheads as part of your right to bear arms to hold the present administration hostage (North Korea style) basically until they step down or implement legislation that will educate and feed the world rather than oppress and enslave it. It sounds silly when I put it like that, like a knee-jerk liberal writing a Bond film, Catholic guilt to the hilt. But the beautiful part about it is that it doesn’t have to work to work (unsic, take your pick). All we have to do is let people know it was attempted, that this great unified undivided America isn’t all in lockstep with our omniscient leaders, corporate feeders, at the trough, (go ahead, scoff). That there are protestors, that there’s an opposition, smart enough to realize there’s a better way to get things done than stand in line to get their heads bashed in and a pair of plastic bracelets. Or worse, get outgunned and outmaneuvered on TV by pros who have all the money for ads and all the media outlets in their back pockets because of it, bullshit, don’t quit, go on, ever anon, long gone. Think about it, and now I’m starting to mimic the words of Max Unglohd, but what the hell, that’s going to be my job basically, so I’d better fully convince myself of this before I have to convince others, all the protests in this country over the last quarter century haven’t amounted to diddly squat, wars fought, more killed, free willed, into the grave, be brave, she threw that letter away didn’t the song say? The Vietnam War era protests were so successful they resulted in a generation of righteous liberals who have dislocated their shoulders patting themselves on their backs. Unfortunately, their values are dislocated, as well.
They think they’re progressive because they separate their recycleables, bad-mouth gas guzzling SUVs, and maybe go stand in those police barricade cages like critters at a zoo, do you? No offense, false pretense, good intentions are great inventions. They should put identification signs on the barricades: “60’s Style Liberal – Native to California, parts of New York, and small independent herds scattered across North America, the Liberal has been mostly domesticated. Rarely found in the wild, the 60’s Style Liberal is in danger of being marginalized into extinction.”
“Marginalized” – that’s a favorite Max Unglohd word. He paid more attention in college than I did. Some people go to school to learn what other people thought, was I the only fool who disregarded what they sought? Look instead for a way to think, a warm bed and a place to drink. I was never too keen on political theory myself. It all seemed too abstract, especially for a 19-year old more interested in getting laid and/or drunk. And, really, how was it going to make a difference to me one way or the other. Memorize it, spit it back, get the grade, forget about it because you’re going to get a job and make a family and who could possibly care if sections of society were marginalized, if entire populations were marginalized, if dangerous terrorists with access to large amounts of money and with the wherewithal to plan elaborate highly damaging attacks were marginalized. Why would your average young American male possibly care about esoteric political concepts and what they have to do with American foreign policy in the Middle East, have a feast, back sides of beasts, there you go, Mr. Costello. I didn’t think I had to care. Well, things have changed, rearranged, deranged? Move on, move along, be strong, ignore, you bore, me, whee!!!
For starters, I’m feeling a little marginalized my own damn self. Let’s face it, if I had a piece of the pie (a pretty big piece), if I were able to pay for my house and work and feel a sense of pride in what I do and who I am then none of this would ever be happening. “Aha!” You may say, “It’s just pride.” To which I say: “Just Pride!?!? JUST Pride?!?!” That’s like saying what I’ve felt about my boy’s injuries is “Just Guilt.” What is pride? A venal sin? A cardinal sin? I could never remember, faith to dismember, time for slumber, they’ve called your number. Pride is what keeps us going (he put up a good showing). Pride is the reason we get out of bed, it’s the reason we take care of ourselves and our families (On your knees! Please? Ahem, darn the hem, mow the lawn, move on, move on!). Without pride we might as well give up. Maybe it’s pride that’s making me write all this down, because I want someone to know what I’ve done, what we’ve done, and why.
But, I don’t have much time.
I have to finish this by Sunday night, or Monday morning at the latest, and here it is Friday night (spite, fight, alright). Nathan’s asleep. Soo put him down. I don’t do that anymore. I’m not part of the bathing, teeth-brushing, pajama-ing, reading, and putting to sleep ritual anymore. I can’t stand to see the scars on Nate’s little body, and I’m afraid he’ll slip in the tub on my watch (while under my care) and hit his head again (we will win, wait and see, this isn’t me, there’s so much more, you’ve got in store). I just can’t do it. I can’t stand to see the fear in his eyes (do I imagine that, the hesitation now, his uncertainty where before there was blind confidence), the mistrust, left in the dust, never sleeps, rust, yet he weeps, cries, and tries, they both do, who? There you go, silly so and so. Soo can take care of him fine without me. I’m really not necessary, so I just tuck myself away down here in the basement (abasement, pity, shitty). Go ahead and say it. Waah. Poor Billy, (silly willy, deep down you know, out of town you will go).
I know what you’re thinking, “Get over it.” Sell your house, move someplace you can afford and just get a job, any job that will meet your needs. And limit your needs (a wage that feeds, don’t berate, it’s not hate, snob, hobnob, nattering nabob, negativity, a new nativity, stop, drop, Roll, droll, Tide! hide). You still have your boy and your wife, if you’d stop sulking and beating yourself up you could get on with your life. Yeah, I could. It sounds easy (I’m getting queasy). But then that’s where pride comes in. What do we tell people? We sell and move where? And do what? And what’s to say things don’t get better (unfetter, mythic, work ethic, stored in our attic [we don't have one, son] part of our fabric, emperor's clothes, would be more precise, for if the king loathes your sound advice you'll find yourself planting rice or picking cotton wealth ill-begotten labor long forgotten beneath the surface every day [ancient history you might say]). What if I don’t get better? All that crap I wrote and sent to people (law of the steeple, opposite, stand, pray, sit, what a load of hay, all I have to say, motivation, a population, one, undone, born, shorn, unwarm form). How do I face them now? What do I tell them now? I can’t even talk to my own family let alone Soo’s. And our friends, what about our friends (split ends, bad hair day, go away), what do they know, what will they say to me, and what do I say to them? I can’t even begin to think about it. “Well, uh, I never got a job after I quit that last one and Soo was working for awhile, but we never got health benefits (spits and fits, catatonic, gin and tonic, sitting in a corner, foreign suborner). So, one day while I was supposed to be watching Nathan, he fell and the doctor’s bills were outrageous, but we couldn’t not pay them so we had to sell the house and move to Idaho (don’t you know, private, own, run and hit, bitch and moan) and I’m working at McDonald’s and we’re renting a nice apartment in Pocatello. Come visit!”
It’s just no fun telling people bad news (you choose, blues?, lord or vassal, forget the hassle). It’s no fun being a failure. Yes, pride. Pride and Guilt and Opportunity. Max, that’s where Max (piece together facts, heart attacks, Red Rover, Red Rover, this nightmare’s over) and his pals come in or came in. I’m sounding a bit like a groupie, or an acolyte, an evangelist (never been kissed, the missing list, link, think, drink, you stink, shower, power, flower, in an hour, just one more hour, breathe, deep, with eathe, thleep, lisp, a wisp, a cat, two, fat, boo, ca, ta, duh!) It’s hard not to think it will turn out well when you hear his optimism, his confidence, and the details he’s got worked out (shout, shout, let it all out, rule the world, flag unfurled). And, it’s all for the right reasons (treasons, from the Four Seasons, a middle class revolution, demanding absolution and a room at the inn, free of sin, can you begin, to understand, not on The Strand, not on The Strip, this is my trip, I want the suite, slippered feet, man of the terrycloth, a can of the sudsy froth), for principles and ideals I can believe in. I know you’re probably thinking this is a Jim Jones cult of personality step right up and drink your Kool-Aid kind of thing, but it’s not. And let me explain to you, to Soo, to me, really, why I believe this will work. To do that I’d probably have to go back to how I met them, but I’m not going to do it nice and neat like when I thought I was trying to write a book. Soo hated the way I wrote dialogue anyway.
I’ll just tell you what happened. Later. (Hater).

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