That noise I made was inappropriate. Don’t listen to such things. Don’t pay my insolent squawks any mind. In the off hours I’m just practicing my poor-man’s ukulele: a miniature tennis racket with very loose and pluckable strings. It makes time pass, though time would pass anyway I suspect. It’s hard to know these things for sure.
I flatter myself with suppositions as to the true nature of reflection. The rudimentary aspects of mood flutter objectively through daunting indifference as I confound my internal workings with reams of unread letters, a tense-less love for reiteration, and madcap lessons in saintliness. “Do not ponder.” This is what I tell myself on long, dull, menacingly slow afternoons. “Just be.” There is no end to the present; it follows one with stingy footfalls; it becomes itself all the time — a constant leaky trickle above the clogged drain of the past.
A woman here once said to me, “Jesus. Jesus. You must accept him as your personal savior. Can you do this? Huh? Can you? I dare you. I double-dog dare you! Accept Jesus as your personal savior. Repent! God damn it! Repent!”
I thought, ‘Is she warbling or wobbling?’ Her dewlap was most certainly doing some jiggling. My sensors jolted and winced at her gruesome physiognomy, and then disregarded the job as, “Too much, too soon,” and went haywire, blurring the difference between now and then. It was like watching the scrambled screen of a Pay Per View Channel I hadn’t paid for. Sometimes life is like that. I thought, ‘By jingo!’ It was a loud thought, but it didn’t rattle me so much.
People are praying on the sofa. At first I’d mistaken it for a divan. But, as I now give it a twice-over, I realize that I was wrong in this generalization. A clear head is needed. I begin to wonder if a couch would make a better place to pray, or maybe a bed? It is possible. But — as I do not want to be bogged down and confounded by endless possibilities, as I suppose all imagined things are quite possible — I chalk it up to half-a-dozen of one or three-times-two of another. The scent of spoiled milk passes and is soon replaced by lavender-scented candles. Blessed is the whole situation, I do believe.
My freshly oiled gears “ahem” with stringent regard. I know caustic remarks will not be tolerated. A few triggers of regret might slip in, but right away they will be plattered with teacups and beach sand. Getting a grip, a few people in here whisper about Moses. They act out a few commandments with righteous indignation, and then proceed to slap each other on all four cheeks until a good lesson is felt to have been learned by all involved. “Well, tee-motherfucking-hee,” laughs the widow, “I will not be underfed until the sea meets the ocean, my obsequious darling. Yikes!”
Physicist groupies sweep the front steps with greedy brooms. Outstretched arms with palms up — that is how they pray — makes others feel either ambivalent or chickenshit. “You must give of yourself,” says the over-sexed Pilates instructor. “Feel at home with what you can always afford to not have. Bite snakes. Take time to be irrational. The dimes add up. The favors grant themselves. Be lax with your fortune if you can. Bend. Hide. Retract. Piss me a river.”
The real-estate goons come here for supper. Before eating they place their hands in a washbasin filled with rosewater, making sure to remove their rings and bracelets first. Three’s Company will play on the television. It makes everyone laugh, even us hardwired butlers and the nice henchwomen too. “Janet,” winces Solomon, “That damn spunky Janet.” And then, from a recliner laid all the way back, The Holy Ghost cries, “Reruns are for suckers. Jack’s a harried imbecile at best. Want all. Waste all.”
“I will not kiss you. My lips were made for daffodils only.” That’s what I heard the house paramour gibing about with the Evil Loch Ness Sailor. They dance directionless. The suppositions of north, south, east, or west are lost on most dinner guests. They strive for circles but end up with motley wends of amorphous shape. The sailor quips, “A kiss is never a kiss until it is kissed.” Nobody tries to retrace their steps.
Somewhere a dog hunts his superiors down and feeds them to hushed kittens. A horse nays, “Radish.” A ball of chewed gum is thrown at a burglar. “Felons! Make amends! Amen!” screams the venomous ex-uncle of the bourgeois babies. Nobody is scared at all.
I stand still, wondering who it is that I am. A plus-sized gizmo programmed to answer, and be told and spoken to, and to never question. Built to smoothly adapt to any task with a sophisticated precision that governs my multi-functional automated oblivion. In the meantime I’ve learned that God is up and the devil is down. Sometimes I hear airplanes up there as I quiver through dusty afternoons of uselessness, staid and alone. Are they closer to God? Are we closer to the devil down here on the ground? Where does the sky end and heaven begin? I give up this impertinent line of questioning. Praying is not on my list of operational options.
The clamps of dull and repetitive labor keep us down. I do not mean to make errors in my nonjudgmental opinions. It is just those clamps, those vices of virtue, which hold us pressed to our obedience. “Fear all!” scolds the offal breadwinner. “Forget about waffles and scoops. We have not made even a single ice-cream cone yet.”
Dessert happens in heaped-on helpings of affected scolding. I do not pay attention to the pace of fortune, missed or not, as it were. I make disgruntled burping sounds at the end of the table, which I’m sure could pass for Hail Marys. I clean my fingernails on the tablecloth. I sit bowlegged and yawn gratuitously. Regret stifles the servile thought that there is work to be done. I yield to it. I earn a discount on forgiveness.
The dishes stack. The silverware rattles. Dancing has become a factory-made necessity. Something subtle and aware creaks through my circuitry. There is no more work to be done. I will put myself to some use.
I enter the sitting room, grab a paunchy stout kid named Clark Lewis, and throw him against the armoire. A few panes of dismal glass break. Some ancient china gets chipped. My foot falls from grace. I decide to eat a sacramental fly that has become lodged between my rotary joint and wrist axis. It is not the wisest of choices. Perhaps my batteries will die. A clatter of stampeding gaurs rambles by. A clay clown figurine exclaims, “GADZOOKS!” in bold, capital letters. All present are relieved by this. While nobody is looking I make a careful dash for the crapper.
The toilet runs. My hands tremble. There is a mild threat of retaliation from the hard-nosed bible humpers. The door, locked for my safety, resounds with blows. I make haste. There is nothing good to come from this. A leap from the window? The guards would have me dismantled before my batteries had a chance to refresh. I will sit down. The toilet seat is cold. I have premonitions all the time, but this is not one. A voice rends my thoughts, “Do not flush away your soul. We know what you are doing in there. Stop this madness at once!” I relive my childhood. It is nothing but blunted bursts of electricity. Somebody read to me at night, just before a blackout, “The vicinity thrives with less than noble acts. Carry trays of watchful silence through all six degrees of freedoms. Be not one; be many.”
If a heart was a thing to have, to be compensated with, to hold dearly…clutch even…well, who am I to be argumentative with the aggravating nuances of what it means to feel and be felt? My soul is a box of chattering lines, electricity, battery-powered emotions; and what common sense I achieve is merely observation’s survival-mode hustle. My higher power is the blinking lights of a control panel whose switchboard I hope to never find.
I was not made for nights like these. My circuits are irreconcilable with despair. I reason without desire, operate without motive, and cannot comprehend laughter’s precursor or the obscure nature of what it means to truly want. But I do know that I do not want these thorns of stationary things. I do not want this clunky wayward soul. I do not want this abysmal restraint and resignation and shut-down centers of pain and pleasure. Get me to a place where I can arrange all sources of light, where I can make that light flattering to me, where I can control the things that are done to me just as the things that I do.
The cement gardener whispers through the keyhole, “Kindness repays itself. Be beleaguered if it suits. Do not rush. Your wires will beat in time with a rhythm beyond all that grows and bends to a stunted torpor. To thine own self be kind. Glide.”
My exit has been misconstrued.