Wednesday, December 27, 2006
There is a spookiness in the night as the earth seems in mid-turn, not knowing for sure whether its axis is punched in properly.
Seems I made the mistake of not keeping on drinking this evening. As I awake this odd hour ,and am spooked a bit by some things that go bump in the night.
I have certainly been here before, many times.
Is it the moon or is it the balloon?
The balloon has always been a sign of love and romance to me. But the moon, as it waxes, brings thoughts of something else, another time which I tried to capture, long ago in a novel where a mad professor went over the hill.
What were the forces that blated him into "outer space"?
None of my readers could divine it.
So I'll offer you Chapter One of my old novel, LIGHT OVER NEWMARKET.
Best I can do on a spooky night. Hoo dat callin'?
The first hint of the change came in the form of a presence just behind my writing desk, where I was marking some student essays. I didn't believe in ghosts, and in any event, if this was a ghost it was hardly an original one: probably nothing more than a projection of my tired self, a doublegoer or doppelganger, as the Germans called such things (the Germans have a word for everything): a negative self image documented at least once by Percy Bysshe Shelley who saw one in his window one night and emptied two pistols into it. Then there was the fictional horror, the "Horla" of Guy de Maupassant, whose victim, terrified, tried to destroy by fire in a room room full of screaming servants. "Ghost, you are a cliché," I said out loud. "You have been identified, named and categorized. You should be ashamed of yourself." I turned around to face the thing that wasn't there only to see my wife standing before me, her face unusually sharp this evening and the curlers in her hair slicing into the light like surreal knives sticking out of a painting, hellish and disturbing and I screamed out loud seeing before me the image of Medusa.
Married to me for ten years, she was used to my fits and starts, the products of overstrain, and she was not upset by my startle and my scream. She merely smiled, and the face was again that of my wife, my pretty round-faced little girl, my comfort, hearth, home. I reached for her and drew her to me, happy for the hundreth time to be a professor of physics risen up from the slums, my father poor but never broken and my mother preoccupied with dirt and grime to the point where it finally engulfed her. I had, in my own quiet way, made it, though something seemed forever to be gaining on me. What? My children were sleeping soundly downstairs; my rambling Victorian house was making all those familiar house noises...And yet I knew that something alien, invisible and threatening lived in this house too, and the intimation was enough to convince me that I would never be the same comfortable side street citizen again.
For suddenly in my wife's face I saw an accomplice's face and in that accomplice's face the calm witness to a suicide, mine, a spiritual suicide she was helpless to prevent. If the devil did work in mysterious ways he was telling me in supernatural terms hard things I already knew and suppressed: there was the doctor's testimony to my enlarged liver; a mysterious growth where a man should have no growth at all; lungs packed full of cigarette smoke and the first sign of diabetes. At thirty-nine, I could not pass inspection as a suitable carcass in a Chicago packing house. "Your reflexes are good though," the doctor had breezed. How does it come to a man at the height of his success that death seems to gain on him more or less naturally, that the certainties and clear thoughts of young adulthood are mere illusions and that we are all bound for that great slaughterhouse in the sky?
Ragged Dick the Match Boy. Boy Wonder. The high school dropout, Dale Carnegie follower, correspondence school grinder moving from factory to university to airline piloting and finally a professorship...now a drip to my whistle, a liverish feeling from the gin, a shortness of breath and hallucinations at night, my wife a Medusa, for God's sake, and those endless dreams, rooms with fiery curtains, rooms within rooms where entire families of gorgons waited to stare me into dry ice.
Professor's got a busted prick and spotty lungs. Something equally invisible and equally powerful was gaining on the doppelganger himself. Still, no joke when the head of the household is going mad.
A hero, a fucking classical hero. Same pattern. We keep playing ourselves back. Yet it is too presumptuous to call oneself a hero. Too derivative, too Canadian for that.
Prometheus? Rebellious scientist, fire stealer? Hardly. All of my physics was second hand a priori knowledge that any Sicilian high rise construction worker of Mexican stone mason possessed--notions as ancient as the arch, as old as the intuitive knowledge that the whole is greater than the part, stuff that philosophers belaboured and a child can explain.
No, there was no fire from the gods that I could be accused of stealing, just a squirrel-like gathering of knowledge. Publish your thesis, the professors had said, and I had refused. I knew how to write a razor-edged thesis. The sane and the sensible is good for a C. You have to go beyond mere common sense, you have to couple your mind with others to undertake that grand plagiarism which is knowledge. To undertake my thesis would have been to crib again the writings of Niels Bohr and Einstein and all the others who were so instrumental at building up the artificial intelligence rising about me, under my very hands as I worked the computers and chanced upon the ghost of George Boole who so long ago had divined all the possible ways a human being could think. And quantum mechanics, the real mechanics of the universe...the vast balling up of energy, of process, of purpose before the great quantum leap.
Whatever that meant. Was there really such a thing? I was certainly in love with it. Energy. Yes. They asked for mathematics and I gave them poetry. Yet my energy is balling up. Where is it going to blast me?
I am a man, an ordinary man, not noble, not brilliant, simply a man suddenly going mad in a world that has obviously become a madhouse. Note the workings of the spy agencies, their always getting things backwards, with horrible results on countries and populations. Imagine you are a god. Is it any wonder that after creating the world that you had disappeared?
Would it not have been best for you to disappear?
What can I tell my wife, here in front of me, bringing me a drink, touching my face, telling me that it's all right, that I have been working too hard--how can I tell her that this is already the end?
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