One might also say that an apparition is human vision corrected by divine love.

— Willa Cather


For Kim Hansen


Outside of a psychotic who attacked me a few months ago (I stuck his head into a snowbank until he promised to leave me alone) and a middle-aged fellow who drives around town shouting obscenities from a riding mower, there is not much happening here in Middlebury, Vermont. It’s a handsome town, though: kindly in spirit, smart and well run, home of a fine college with an extraordinary library. My position as cook at the Café Chatillon down along scenic Otter Creek is more than tolerable. So too are my living quarters: Usually I’m stuck in a single room near the railroad tracks. Here I live far from the tracks in a small, clean apartment attached to the comfy house of a middle-class family who spend most of their time watching television. The canned laughter fluting melancholically through the walls has become as familiar to me as the sounds of plumbing or forced air from the vents.

I am, unfortunately, watching a lot of TV myself. The cable is spliced in gratis from the house, and ever since I sobered up, I don’t seem to get out much anymore. Granted, I could screw that teenage girl who’s been coming around, or I could have an affair with that married woman who eyes me at the gym, but that’s all part of the old life. The old life had no meaning. I have learned, through my many years of depraved blundering, that men are not mere flesh, for flesh without spirit cannot move, laugh, drink absinthe, forgive, or consider the end of time. Flesh without spirit (see: meat) simply goes bad, simply stinks.

But enough about my old life. These days I have whittled my welter of vices down to gambling (I do love the horses), two beers in the evening, and an occasional cigarette. I fancy myself an upright figure, a man of honor, a future novelist of minor distinction (even if I can’t give away a story), a weightlifting, monastic hobo of whom people might say a generation or two hence, in the small likelihood I am remembered, “He was honest.”

I don’t recommend the writing life — at least, not the one in which you move around a lot, live alone, and work odd jobs. Swing a gig where you hit the big time quick. Be a prodigy, if your agent can arrange it, and then get yourself banned in Boston. I arrived at the discipline late, at the age of twenty-nine, in part because I needed material, but mostly because I boarded a train called the Romantic Debauchery in the mistaken assumption that it would somehow get me to my destination quicker than the ones marked Hard Work and Paying Attention. Hundreds of wrong trains and many lost years later, I have learned that, despite the jovial public legends, inebriation and lucid expression are at odds with each other. If I am to write with spiritual integrity, I cannot be a drunken butterfly.

All that time I was watching those cocktails and powders glide down my throat or slide up my nose, I did little in the way of maturing as a writer. I’d felt raw-nerved, out of place, and shy all my life. I found achieving worthwhile goals difficult, but talking about them was easy, especially with the help of drink and drugs, and in the company of fellow dreamers. I knew I had to quit the gliding cocktails and the sliding powders, but I did not have the courage or the know-how. Romantic Debauchery kept pulling up to the station, doors open, plenty of seats, magic confetti fluttering gaily down. At thirty-six, my pockets jammed with ripped railway tickets, I’m still scrambling to recover the lost years, still trying to “find my voice.”

But now that I am reformed, a disciplined writer at last, mature at least in accumulation of years and control of appetite, I feel entitled to my modest deserts: a good night’s sleep, esteem from my neighbors, a humble career in letters, a mate, certainly — and not one of those slovenly, voracious creatures who always took the window seat on the train, but a respectful, book-loving brunette who owns cats, enjoys clarinet solos and avocado sandwiches, and has come, like me, the long, hard way to virtue. I’m sure I will meet her soon.

In the meantime, after a few hours of searching for my “voice” and a vigorous workout at the gym, I sit in front of the TV munching on snacks and experiencing great emotions while watching glib characters skillfully solve personal problems with warmth and humor on the half hour. Human intercourse at last! I am interested in politics, sporting events, unsolved mysteries, comedy of all brands, movies, news, documentaries, debates, interviews, biographies of serial killers and stars — anything to keep me distracted from the fact that I have once again backed out of the human arena, afraid of getting stomped or regressing into the old life, and that I should have left Vermont long ago.

One night, without warning, H. Ross Perot’s earnest, nasal rant about the arrogant complacency of the American people triggers the realization of my own arrogant complacency, and self-reproach suddenly gurgles up to my eyelids like storm water in a backed-up sewer. I think to myself: I’m thirty-six years old and rotting in front of a television set. The electrons that bomb that cathode-ray tube are crumbling the cartilage of my soul, eating away my youth and the children in my loins. I don’t need to see another riot, or plane crash, or evil twin, or clever light-beer commercial, or guy pointing a gun at me, or steroid millionaire swatting a home run. I snap off the tube, and all those emotions that have been sluicing into my veins, all the opinions and ideas I have mistaken for my own, zip dizzily up into the atmosphere, and I am suddenly a man alone on a fold-out couch in the empty darkness of an add-on room.

Without the distraction of television, that life-support system for people with no lives, I sit for a long while, steeping in the sudden revelation of my own stagnancy. The family next door is watching Murphy Brown. Why has probity not rewarded me? Why, through the exercise of conscience, am I not a measurably better human? Why, after seven years of dedicated Hard Work and Paying Attention, have I not published a single story or poem? And what will I do, I wonder, to eradicate this monstrous disgust I’ve amassed for myself? March back into the bar? Walk out the door and just keep walking? Commit suicide?

Instead I begin punching myself in the head. Having a palpable outlet for my hatred feels good. I’m slamming away like Marvin Hagler on Thomas Hearns in the first round of that famous three-round championship bout when I hit my nose, and blood drips onto my sweat shirt. Then it begins to pour, and I have to stop punching and cup my hand under it. I cry a bit, but it only makes the loathing worse.

After I’ve cleaned myself up, I take a walk. It’s a spectacularly clear spring night. Vermont is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever lived. I once thought I might stay here. I thought things might be different. I nod at my neighbors, pass my two old friends who always ignore me: the post office and the bookstore. There is still blood on my sweat shirt, which at least is physical proof that I am still alive. When I get home, I feel better. Self-battery has dislodged a few forgotten imperatives. I can’t write anything worthwhile about America or its inhabitants if I have withdrawn from them, and no one really wants to hear another criticism of TV. It’s time to throw myself back into the fire. In the morning I will give notice at work. My employer will be surprised. My employer is always surprised.


Like most people, I detest moving. Once you get started, though, it isn’t so bad. You get into a rhythm, throwing things away. You realize how little you really need, how much of a drain these coffee mugs and dead houseplants and Bic pens and tortilla presses are. It feels good to give away a television set or discard an embarrassing manuscript printed in dot matrix. A day or two before I leave, I usually get sick with diarrhea and worry that I’ll have to cancel the trip. But I know it’s just my craven way of trying to wriggle out of the duty of waking up and being alive. The diarrhea usually dries up a few hours before I leave.

There is inexpressible satisfaction in leaving my stale and cowardly life behind, in saying goodbye to the room of loneliness with its acre of rejection slips, and to the me I despise so much. Yes, I know I will see that self again soon, but for a while I will be lost, scuffling, distracted. Who knows: maybe something will happen. I will rescue children from a house fire, or a tree will fall on my head, or a famous editor will discover me, or (dare I say it?) I will find the dark-headed girl.

I buy a one-way bus ticket for Louisville, Kentucky. I have always wanted to visit Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. They just ran the Derby a couple of weeks ago, so the track should be reasonably quiet, with fewer plastic mint julep cups to wade through.

As the Greyhound leaves from Burlington, a girlish, yellow-haired German woman of about fifty, wearing box spectacles and a backward white painter’s cap, takes the seat next to mine. Her name is Annie, she tells me in a warm cackle of a voice, and she’s going to Chicago.

I’m not much for bus conversation. It’s a bit like talking to yourself. But I nod along as Annie begins to relate to me, with glittering sobriety, a story about the Death Bays of 1954, when the Indian landlords came with their Polish prostitutes and bought all the YMCAs, and for fifty thousand dollars you could sign your own death contract wherein a boy would be assigned to extract the juice from your liver, spleen, and heart, though it usually didn’t work. I try not to laugh. Greyhounds have electromagnets in them that attract the disturbed and the desperate. Manic Annie talks for hours and sits with me at all the food stops, where she never eats anything, only pockets crackers and dressing packets, which she snacks upon fastidiously back on the bus while explaining about the substance called “Senn” (you mean you haven’t heard of it?), which melts women into creatures that resemble sheep, or her brother-in-law who nearly became a world-champion boxer but lost the European title bout because his feet suddenly began to stink.

Two states later, God bless her soul, Annie suddenly decides to change seats, though she keeps waving and whistling for me to join her in the back. I return her waves but don’t get up. I’ve heard enough about the Polish whores who exchange their feet with yours while you sleep.

When the bus pulls into Louisville, I think for a moment that Annie might follow me out the door, as she has faithfully at every stop, but when I look back, she’s jabbering to the man next to her about the ability of Peruvian (or Tibetan?) people to stare at you through their llamas until you are dead. And the man is in stitches, as if she were some sort of highly advanced comedian. Maybe I should have laughed instead of wasting my time being polite. I suddenly realize that if Annie is going to Chicago, she’s on the wrong bus. Oh, well, good luck, Annie. Many laughs to you. I suppose the joy of finding an appreciative audience is better any day than some feeble notion of a destination.

The letters across the depot wall in front of me read, TAXIS GAMES WOMEN — a perfect banner for my entrance into an unknown city. I’ve managed to strip all my possessions down to two bags: One contains my cooking tools, screwdriver, scissors, can opener, and assorted household gear. The other holds mostly clothes, an alarm clock, a Bible, and a notebook. Because bus depots represent a constant supply of temperature-controlled air, cigarettes, spare change, pinball, restrooms, snack machines, little televisions, and places to sit, they will always attract lost and marginal (and sometimes dangerous) souls in temporary need. I adjust my walk and my bearing accordingly. On the street, as it is in nature, 99 percent of all confrontations are settled or avoided by gesture, expression, and appearance, most of it false bluster. To blend in with the hustlers and their prey, I wear my bloodstained sweat shirt and crusty, high top cooking shoes. I am unshaven. I don’t smile or talk casually to people. I don’t think whatever you just said was funny. I don’t respond to finger-crooking or “Hey, c’mere for a minute.” I don’t give money to panhandlers. I have twelve hundred dollars cash in my left front pocket, and if you think you’re getting any part of it, you are sadly mistaken.

Downtown Louisville is a slick-looking city, with green-mirrored buildings, swanky outdoor bistros, the scent of cherry blossoms, and the usual dreary sprinkle of chain outlets. I follow the businesspeople in their suits and wonder how I will find a place to live, how I will get around. And where is that girl? She must be here somewhere, staring into her aquarium, slicing bananas into her Wheat Chex, or studying her ten principal Upanishads. First things first, though. I need a map.

I duck into what appears to be a college bookstore, massive and sterile, without a single customer. “Help you, sir?” says a scholarly looking young man in a beige turtleneck.

“Map of the city?” I say, setting down my bags.

“No map of the city, sir,” the young man says, adjusting his wire rims. “Maybe if you tried the gas station across the street.”

“Is there a motel close by?”

He mentions the Holiday Inn, the Ramada.

“No, a cheap motel,” I say. “Something with weekly rates.”

“You mean the San Antonio,” he says, the hint of a smirk crossing his face. “About a mile,” he says, pointing down the street. “It’ll be on your left.”

A mile later I come upon the San Antonio, a weary-looking motel in a run-down part of town: windows cracked, letters missing on the sign, trash scattered about. Across the street an old phone booth leans in the dogwood shade. If there were another motel within a mile, I might keep walking, but I’m hungry, and my arms are tired from carrying my bags.

In the office, the clerk sits behind bulletproof glass and sips grape pop from a foam cup.

“Hello,” I say.

“Hi,” she replies without a glance.

A yellow sign in the corner of the glass partition reads: Competitive Hourly Rates.

“How much for a week?” I ask.

“A week?” she says, as if I have just offered to buy the place.

“Yes, do you have weekly rentals?”

“Most people only stay for a few hours.”

I feel flattered to get more than two words from her. “I’m traveling,” I say. “I just got into town.”

“A hundred and thirty-five,” she says with a shrug. Throughout the entire wooden-scoop, no-touch transaction, not once does she meet my eyes.

My room is as dark as a cave, with red, rubbery curtains and thin, mud brown carpet. The orange door is constructed of steel. Scrawled in pencil on the smudged walls are the names of prior guests: “Joe + Tanya = Jarrod ’ 92,” “David Ratcilff [sic] was here.” I set my bags on the table and get a glass of water from the sink. A fiendish moaning emanates throughout the building, as if from many rooms. The German cockroaches that hang on the walls seem to be absorbing the vibration, as if deriving nutrition from it. I turn on the television, and a greenish copulating couple swims into focus, twittering tongues entwined.

I sit down on the bed. I really don’t need porno right now. I have wasted too much of my life with it already, whacking off and getting nowhere. I am far from sainthood, you understand. I spent many years indulging the flesh while the spirit languished. The bed of fertilizer from which my virtue has purportedly blossomed is sufficiently deep. I change quickly over to the news and watch a segment about gangs of black Louisville teenagers robbing whites apparently at random and then beating them to death with baseball bats. Louisville Sluggers, I imagine. A coin dealer was killed last night, says the cheerful, smooth-eyed newscaster, the third person murdered in the last month in these “wildings.”

I turn off the television. Like pornography, the news is a lurid concoction that panders to the basest emotions. I won’t watch either of them, I think. I have brought French essays. I am going to study my Racing Form and read my Bible. I need to check out the job market and the rentals. I’ll find the library and continue my investigation into the mysteries of Hinduism. (Note the remarkable similarities between the second members of their trinities: Vishnu and Christ.) The girl is out there too, probably leaning out her garret window at this moment, wondering about my arrival before she returns reluctantly to her tabby cat, her clarinet music, and the painting of her toenails. This time I’m not going to miss her because I’m too busy watching the narcissists preen on a twelve-inch screen or swallowing the myths offered nightly by Ted Koppel. But right now I would like to eat. And because I budget three dollars a day for my meals, I head to the Kroger across the street.

The minute I slip out my door, two hookers with extra-sensitive meat thermometers, parasols tilted daintily on shoulders, whirl about and make their way toward me, their hips wagging. I hurry across the lot like a child playing Red Light, Green Light and land triumphantly on the other side of the street without speaking to them. At Kroger I buy radishes, a box of chocolate doughnuts, four bananas, a loaf of white bread, a can of Allen’s chopped mixed greens, a small jar of Jif peanut butter, two York Peppermint Patties, two cans of Bush’s great northern beans, one can of Goya black beans, one can of Franco-American cheese ravioli on sale, three cans of Brunswick sardines with chilies, and one can of Brunswick sardines in mustard: total, $11.29. Enough for four days.

After successfully running another gauntlet of floozies, I’m back in my motel room, my radishes floating in the sink. I have new neighbors to the east, who shout at each other:





Obviously the week with the marriage counselor was a bust. I tie all my groceries except the canned goods into plastic sacks to keep the roaches out. As I organize my cutlery and prepare my meal, I can’t resist the television. I am too curious to see what the humans are doing. For supper this late afternoon I have canned fish with chilies, a banana-and-peanut-butter sandwich, and a couple of big, musky radishes while a Japanese girl massages herself with a red rubber relay baton. For dessert I eat two chocolate doughnuts and watch a moaning threesome achieve awkward release on a pool table, all still wearing their sneakers. The roaches wheel merrily around the top of the can of Franco-American cheese ravioli. The couple next door have finally stopped trading insults, and their headboard is banging. I turn on the air-conditioner fan to drown them out.

In the evening it begins to rain. I slip out for a couple of beers and a Racing Form and run smack into two streetwalkers cruising the front of the motel under a single gold umbrella. I step off the sidewalk to go around them.

“Excuse me,” says the more attractive of the two, her lips as shiny as a cherry-frosted doughnut, “but are you staying here at this hotel?”

“Yes, ma’am, I am.”

“C’mere for a minute,” she says, crooking her finger at me. “I gotta ask you a question.”

You know, I hate this finger crooking, this “c’mere” stuff. I hold up my hand — perhaps too vigorously, for it seems to startle them both — and say, “Whatever it is, I’m not interested.”

“Like, how do you know what I was going to say?” she replies indignantly, eyelids flapping, hand on hip.

“I’m not trying to be Moses, honey,” I reply. “Just trying to keep my act clean.”

“Shee,” she replies. “Well, you in the wrong part of town for that.”

A few blocks down the street at Dick’s Liquors, the clerk, enclosed in his crime-resistant conservatory with the wooden transaction scoop, nods a friendly hello.

Racing Form?” I say.

“Track is dark today and tomorrow.”

“Dark two days,” I say.

Form in tomorrow about three for Wednesday.”

“Which way is Churchill? I don’t have a car.”

“You can ride the bus for a quarter,” he says. “Get you pretty close.” He draws me a map.

“You play the horses?” I ask him.

“Now and then.”

“Nice track?”

He cocks an eyebrow. “Is there better?”

“Santa Anita?” I suggest. “Saratoga?”

“Never been to those,” he says.

I buy a couple of tall cans of Stroh’s and a newspaper. That’s all the money I can spend today.

That night I watch the porno for about seven hours and beat off like a teenager, my Bible and book of Malraux essays unopened on the nightstand; my newspaper, with two jobs and two rentals circled, folded in the headboard compartment. Man may not be mere meat, but flesh makes its demands. Anyway, the brown-haired girl has already turned off her radio with a sigh and gone to bed.

At midnight a party starts up next door. Perfume seeps through the vents. Ice rattles in plastic cups. Boisterous laughter fades as the porno grows louder. Water rushes through pipes in the walls. Every time a toilet flushes, my television seems to dim. The roaches float gracefully over the penciled graffiti: “ASSHOLE.” “Bridget loves John L. forever.” The murmur of forty televisions tuned to the same channel echoes along the hallways like the groaning of chained demons in an infernal city.

Weak and ashamed from spending my seed, I sleep fitfully while guests bang in and out the steel doors for an hour or two of carnal recreation, lovers scratch the names of conquests on the walls, and roaches skitter through my sheets. I wonder why God doesn’t descend to clear us all out with his staff, or break open the clouds and the dams and wash us away like rats to the sea. I wonder about Annie, who must be crossing Nova Scotia by now, maniacally slapping her thighs, every passenger on the bus roaring in appreciation. About five, I finally fall into a sound slumber and dream of a French knight wearing too much armor who goes crashing through the roof of a mansion shouting something about hors d’oeuvres.

In the morning the maid raps on the metal door with her big key ring. “Housekeeping!” she shouts. Groggily I make my way across the room in my underwear and open the door to a large, pepperoni-smelling woman, who looks me up and down critically. By now I must be known by all who work here as the pitiful pud-puller who has come not just for an evening, but has thrown down money for an entire week. “You need anything?” she drawls, rolling a wad of gum around her mouth. “Towels? Sheets?”

“No thanks,” I say. “Come back on Friday.”

She squints at me, takes out a pad, and makes a note. The next morning, and every morning after that, she will come by, rap on the door with her keys, and shout, “Housekeeping!”


On Wednesday morning I go to the library and sit for a while in the carpet-scented peace, reading sacred Hindu writings and wondering where all this sublime order, this fearlessness of truth, has gone. Then I take the bus to the racetrack. Hallelujah! Let’s have a little fun, boys.

I’ve seen Churchill Downs dozens of times on television, but to view it firsthand — water fountains, banners flapping everywhere, all the decks and finery, like a grand sailing vessel built especially for bored, desperate, sexually frustrated men who’ve come to exercise their futility — is a privilege beyond words. The fresh air feels good. I stand by the rail and watch the horses thunder by, chips flying. Between races, I glance left and right, looking for my imaginary girlfriend.

Though I’ve studied and circled my Form carefully, and though I apply proven methods and empirical principles accumulated over years of experience, I do nothing but lose at Churchill Downs for the next three days. Let’s say it’s the rain, the unfamiliar track, the consistently uninspiring weekday cards (little but two-year-old fillies, four-year-old maidens, and state-bred nonwinners of two). Admittedly, after the track takes its 17 percent, even the most astute horse player has trouble breaking even. Though I’ve known many gamblers who made their living playing cards or betting football, I’ve never been acquainted with one who could consistently beat the horses. I have good days, which I no longer mistake for a change in fortune or proof that I’ve finally struck upon “the system.” But I’ve never actually won, not over a season.

On Friday night, after losing sixteen bucks at the track, I turn in early, feeling desolate, my eyes glazed from staring at blurry images on the television screen. My brain feels physically changed, hissing and saturated with tawdry color. My Bible is a prop. The Vedas are forgotten. Malraux is dead. I can’t even conjure up my nonexistent girlfriend without seeing her in pieces, a doll with detachable arms and stretch-apart lips, her stuffed cats torn to bits on the floor. I lie in bed for a long while listening to the televisions, feeling severed from humanity, wondering how the charm of solitude becomes the curse of isolation. Finally, my self-reproach rising to the Hearns-Hagler line, I lurch up out of bed, pull on my bloody sweat shirt and high top cooking shoes, and stomp out of my groaning, scribbled-on chamber into the night.

Even angry, it isn’t smart to walk in this part of town after dark. There’s glass smashed on the sidewalks, a trash can overturned in the middle of the street, a house entirely covered in graffiti. A streetlight has been extinguished, shot out or shattered with a rock. Across the street a pack of snuffling mutts, noses down, offer me a collective disinterested glance before shuffling past. Antic figures in comic street poses angle toward me out of the darkness:

“You got a cigarette?”

“You got any quarters?”

Old Spooky rides by on his ten-speed, then circles back around like a vulture. “Hey, man, what you doing in this part of town?”

In the distance a shriek rises above a wobbling siren. I hear a gate squeak, then a volley of male laughter and a sound like baseball bats clattering down picket fences. I can’t help but picture Louisville Slugger trademarks embedded in my forehead and the headline in the next day’s paper: “Yankee Pud-Puller Bludgeoned.”

“You lost, man?”

“Hey, gimme a dollar.”

I must not be far from the railroad tracks. Yet within four blocks I pass four churches. Unlike the surrounding bars, liquor stores, massage parlors, crack houses, and porno motels, all crumbling in their definition of man as pork chop, these Roman Catholic, Gothic First Methodist, Byzantine Baptist, and Greek Orthodox structures appear built to last, even if their doors are locked, their mad and destitute turned out into the street. In the doorway of the Greek Orthodox church stands a lone sentry in a filthy robe and a gold Burger King cardboard crown, the smoky stump of a candle burning at his feet. Under his shabbily bearded and thickly lugubrious face he holds a sign that reads, 501 Minutes to Christ.

I’ve seen Christ twice in my life: once while stoned and all alone in a flea-ridden Mission Beach bungalow; the other time, not long ago, while praying out of the depths of my despair. On both occasions the darkness parted, and my heart was lifted with awe. In clear and sane seasons I understand that Christ is merely a refined cultural label for spirit, an archetype who will not return like Superman to save the world in its final chapter of time. But, the smell of my old life still in my nostrils, I also know that spirit (and all its archetypes and guises) is all that I will ever possess of worth.

When I return to my room, exhilarated by my reckless stroll through the ghetto and my encounter with the mystical wisdom of the insane, I smell perfume. It seems there has been a tussle on my bed. One of my bags is unzipped. I can’t tell if anything has been taken. I look in the bathroom. I check behind the shower curtain and under the bed.

Many hours later keys rattle in the door. Must be the maid, I think. Then I glance at the clock: 4:20 A.M. I dredge myself from sleep, heart knocking at the top of my chest. The door creeps open across the carpet. A square of moonlight falls on the foot of the bed. A form moves toward me, then stops suddenly, strands of hair lit by the moon. My bag with the knives sits on the table across the way, open but too far to reach.

“You got the wrong room,” I say, straining to keep my voice calm.

“Oh,” a feminine voice replies. “I didn’t know anyone was here.”

“You got the wrong room, baby,” I repeat, sitting up.

“You sure?” she croons.

“Get out,” I say.

At the depot an hour later, two days still left on the room, I stare at a map a long while before buying a one-way ticket to Waterloo, Iowa. (Strange choice, Waterloo, symbol of a great defeat.) As I stroll about the station, I struggle with the riddle of the madman’s sign. I wonder: Does 501 have some numerological significance, the way 666 does? And does the man ever update his sign? If not, there will always be 501 minutes to salvation and no one left on earth to save our wretched souls but us. For a moment I wonder if the man in the doorway was not some sort of personal apparition. I check the travel time from Louisville to Waterloo, thinking: What if it’s eight hours and twenty-one minutes — 501 minutes — to my own salvation?

Now I’m losing my mind, seeing magic messages planted everywhere. (Travel time between the two cities is fifteen hours and fifty minutes.) No, nothing has changed. Yet I must believe in something more substantial than longevity through vitamins, or protein globules accidentally evolving into Leonardo da Vinci. Whatever I believe must have the depth and power to repel evil, insanity, loneliness, and despair. It must be built on the observation of what is good and true.

I am a shy person who lives in his head. I seek chemical and dramatic escapes from an unspectacular existence. I will likely finish my life alone in a room. Still, I can only do what I know how to do, these crude pilgrimages of moving, searching, and starting over. I am heartened by the cryptic message of the peculiar prophet in the doorway. If I am indeed spirit, eternal and indestructible, I have nothing to fear. The sun is up now, three hours to go before my bus leaves. I buy a Mr. Goodbar from the machine and sit down to wait.