In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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Back in the 1970s, David Searls’s thoughtful essays shone regularly in The Sun until he drifted out of orbit for assignments bigger if not better. Now, blazing like a comet, son Peter shows up. He was nineteen when he wrote “The Map.”
The more people I talk to, the more I am alone. The closer my friends, the farther away I am. This loneliness is my only virtue, my identity. I have nothing in common with anyone. What I want to learn is not taught in school. The phone is ringing; I can’t answer it. It’s one of my friends, and I have nothing to say.
When I was a little kid I was fearless. I ran around naked in the supermarket, I hugged everyone, and I had no pretensions. I asked questions that made people blush. When I got my first hard-on, I showed it to everyone. I was alive, truly alive.
The scholars think they’ve got it figured out, or at least that one day they will. What a laugh! I feel like grabbing them all by their collars and shaking them, until they realize there’s nothing mathematical about the moon, nothing psychological about sex, nothing atomic about flesh. Look into a girl’s eyes and tell me she is just atoms.
There is an intensity to being alive that I’ve only brushed against. Beyond perception there is something unimaginable, and to get there, I must shatter everything I know.
Give me something I can’t name, and I will fall in love with it.
Right now, there is a man dying somewhere, there is a woman dying somewhere. With their last breath, they are falling in love with air.
Somewhere, just at this moment, a baby is screaming in shock, gasping for the air we’ve grown bored with. Its world has dissolved, and through a small crack it has arrived in this frightening wonderland. The universe is flooding its eyes. The baby has no thoughts — it is alive.
I have not forgotten that shock. It waits for me everywhere. It is in every girl’s eyes.
And when there is no shock, no threat, I’m bored. So I’ve begun to play with it. I’ll glance at a girl’s eyes, but never stare into them. I’ll think and fantasize, but never act. Action leads straight into the hurricane, and I’m afraid I’ll get blown over and torn to bits.
If I knew this was a dream, I could do it. I could just walk up behind any girl I see, even a haughty, untouchable beauty, sweep her up, and kiss her. I could be a fool and who would care, if this were a dream.
But this is a dream. This piece of paper, everyone I see, every girl I’m afraid to approach, all the acts I’ve pulled back from — just dreams. We are all living, breathing dreams. And we’re all dreaming each other.
Once I know it — not just think it, not just write about it, but feel it like I feel this warm desert air — then my fear will fall away in a laugh, leaving only action.
As I was riding the upper deck of the train, two girls climbed up and sat a few seats behind me. They were exotic, blonde French girls. I heard them laughing and saying funny things in French. I wanted more than anything to join them; I’ve never felt so awkward. I sat there in my seat and thought of what I might say to them: “You girls are going to be in my book. Come up to my house on the hill. We’ll listen to Beethoven in the dark and have sex. I will read you poetry, and you can laugh at me in French. You will become immortal in my book; you will be the two French girls on the train. What do you want to do more than anything? What is something you’ve never told anyone but you’re just dying to tell? Tell it to me in French, I don’t care.”
I sat there thinking, “A few more stops and I’ll never see these girls again.” I wanted to write, but I had nothing to write with. “I’ll ask them for pen and paper,” I thought. “I’ll write about them, right there between their bodies. I’ll write about them as they sit on my lap. What intensity! What true writing! If only I could experience these girls.” I had a painful hard-on pressing against my jeans. I banged my head against the headrest.
I looked at the people below me, reading newspapers, asleep, looking out the window. I felt like we were all in a horrific whirlpool; everyone else was asleep as they were swiftly sucked down, but I was awake. What a miserable feeling it was. And I knew it would all fall away if only I could jump into the lives of those French girls. If I could do something daring and make their eyes flash and their mouths open and smile in French and their faces flush and their hearts boom. Then I would be alive.
One stop left. “I can’t do it,” I said under my breath. I heard them still laughing. The train stopped. I couldn’t even look back at them as I got up to leave. “Every moment makes me a different person,” I thought. I stepped out onto the sidewalk and looked back at the train. I tried to see the girls through the windows, but they were sitting on the other side and the windows were foggy. I imagined them running out of the train and kissing me, saying, “We want to be with you,” and laughing. Then the train rolled away.
Out here in the desert, past midnight, it looks like someone threw a blanket over the world and left me down here in darkness, then felt sorry for me and poked holes in the blanket.
I’m sitting on the bumper of my car with my feet on the sidewalk, on the corner of two nameless streets. I just came from a guru’s teaching, a woman named Ma. Ma told me I was a cocky brat with no respect for her or what she was doing. Everyone there looked as if they’d sold their souls for a smile. I have no friends, no guru, and I sit here with my freedom.
I kissed a girl tonight. The scene was fantastic. We were in a pitch-dark empty theater, and she was lying on top of me right there on stage. I couldn’t get over what a fantastic place it was to be with a girl. So I kissed her.
But it was the shortest kiss of my life. I felt nothing — just our lips pushing together. I kissed her again — nothing. I thought about the act of kissing: what a stupid thing to do.
I let my head fall back and looked up at the ceiling. What had happened to me? There was a young girl lying on top of me, and I felt nothing. No curiosity, no desire. My dick just lay there like a bored dog. Staring up at the ceiling I thought, “Feeling nothing is worse than feeling pain.”
I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I’m alone, I’m in Albuquerque. And if you could become me for this moment, you would know a feeling that is not sadness or regret or hate or pity or exhilaration or elation or anger. All I feel is alive.
I sit here in a friendless town, on the outskirts of the world. I see a half-lit neon sign, telephone poles and lines, a darkening sky with just one star piercing the clouds.
A woman is walking by with her thumb out, anxiously waving it as cars fly by, ignoring her. She doesn’t see me. And this moment is gone.