Where do stories come from? Where do they go? Can we ever find them again? Depression has been a shadow that has followed me for many years. I was never one to show much emotion, as disappointment has a way … Continue reading
Writing is a struggle. It is a struggle of fighting and letting go, of allowing yourself to fail and not failing. It is a struggle of faith, that what was lost may be found, and that what is known may be forgotten. It is the struggle of man against time, for things cannot be written forever, and yet the worlds we make are as eternal as the one we inhabit. It is a struggle of your soul, and another soul.
And when you find that you know your creations more intimately than your lover, your imaginings more completely then your child, and when you realize you don’t know the damndest thing about who you are, you will know you have made something worthwhile.
And all that you wrote without those struggles was nothing to write at all. Its purpose was only warmth, as the flame takes it from you.
I, like so many others, went to long wars after September 11, 2001. It is so hard to believe that the actions of some can so profoundly change the paths of millions of lives. It is so hard to believe that those we think least of can harm us in such ways.
To those who have served, to those who were wounded inside and out, and for those who did not return I say thank you for being a part of my history. I was there, and I most likely didn’t know your name. But we know each other.
And to those who have yet to serve on our Worst Day, which is still to come, I say, God help you.
“Always be a poet, even in prose.” – Charles Baudelaire
He was young and wealthy. Only 21 and the inheritor of large fortune, the young man lived in opulence on the Isle St. Louis in France. He was ready to find his place in the world and become a proud member of the elite. And then he met a women.
Her name was Jeanne. He was also young, but not nearly so naive. She’d just arrived from Haiti and had started work as a cabaret girl. In a smoke filled club at the seedy end of the Champs Elysees, she sang a song, risque in nature. In the audience sat young Charles. He was smitten with her.
She was nothing like the kind of woman he was supposed to fall in love with. She was not of a landed family, she did not care for equestrian sports. She possibly did not know the proper order of eating utensils on a table setting. But no matter, she was ravishing. The next day, Charles sat in his carriage and watched the delivery boy give her a bouquet of red roses. This was their beginning.
His friends were horrified. Many pleaded with him for reason, no doubt, but he could find nothing better to invest his fortune in than her happiness. He was prepared to give her anything she could ever want, as any love-struck man would do. And so he began to frequent that dark part of the city where brothels and opium dens lined streets filled with scoundrels and harlots.
He stood out like the proverbial sore thumb – a well-dressed and well-heeled man cavorting with patrons of back-street bars. Instead of trying to elevate his dear love’s state, he preferred to meet her down at her own.
His poetry, already sentimentally dark, began to turn like a decaying flower into something much more striking. And like a flower withers and dies, his poetry remained in its decay, its beauty magnified. His were hymns sang to sorrow and death. He once said, “I can barely conceive of a beauty in which there is no melancholy.” That melancholy, that realization that beauty has a darker nature, helped him to pen Les Fleurs du Mal, widely known as one of the greatest works of poetry ever written.
And of Jeanne? She was his constant companion, his ravenous, biting muse. Illiterate though she was, she would sit and listen as he read his poetry for her, then yawn and raise a foot for him to kiss. He would often position her in the sunlight and draw every curve of her body, his pencil practicing in place of his hands. Below one of his most intricate sketchings of her, he wrote the following inscription, “Quaerens quem devouret.” It translates as: “Seeking whom to devour.”
Jeanne introduced him to opium. They tore their lives down together. They fought. She spent his money with abandon. And yet, he needed her. When his money was gone, she sold every last thing he owned. She began having affairs with his friends, and even sold herself on the street. But Charles couldn’t get out of her spell.
At last she left him, a broken, drug afflicted man. He lived out his life in the shadow of her absence. He even paid her expenses as she lay sick and dying. He never got that first taste of bitter, anguishing, delusional love out of his heart.
Some say she introduced Baudelaire to the animistic and pagan religions of her native Haiti. There are rumors that she was some kind of enchantress, casting a spell on the good looking man in the back row, damning him to a life in her hold. But in the end, whether enchanted by spells or by beauty, the addiction is the same, is it not?
”The man who, from the beginning of his life, has been bathed at length in the soft atmosphere of a woman, in the smell of her hands, of her bosom, of her knees, of her hair, of her supple and floating clothes, … has contracted from this contact a tender skin and a distinct accent, a kind of androgyny without which the harshest and most masculine genius remains, as far as perfection in art is concerned, an incomplete being.”
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), French poet, critic. Artificial Paradise, An Opium-eater, VII. Childhood Sorrows (1860). On men who have been raised by women.
The man was born into the palm of luxury – literally. It’s said he once could fit into the palm of his father’s hand. Born prematurely, he suffered through acute illness and complications just to live. But no one could ever say he didn’t appreciate the flavor of life.
Youth brought him the status that rich parents always bring. He was smart and sociable, but a little odd. Perhaps his early birth had caused obstacles that would haunt him for life, his parents wondered. But to their amazement, he was a studious young man, compensating for any setbacks he might have suffered with an uncanny intellect and social affability, even if he had few friends. Their proudest moment was when their son was accepted to a PhD program in France. That year, Issei traveled from his home in Japan, to study literature at the Sorbonne.
Four years of study had made him a favorite of the faculty, and earned him respect among his student acquaintances. One student in particular made his heart flutter. What a beautiful name for such a beautiful face – Renee. Issei asked her if she’d like to have dinner with him. It was a huge risk, one he knew he had no right to take, for whatever benefits money and intelligence had brought him, it’s wasn’t enough to deserve her company. She was beautiful. He still considered himself a weak, ugly, inadequate little man.
But she’d said yes!
Renee arrived at his home that evening for some wine, a good meal, and an evening of poetry translation. The talk was mechanical if not pleasant, and soon Issei had convinced her to do what she most feared to do for him – recite her translations of German poetry. She was timid, blushed, but finally began to speak. Her voice was beautiful, built on many layers of femininity and grace, and her voice continued to echo in his house for a few seconds after he’d shot her in the neck with a rifle.
Issei’s dream for her wasn’t to bed her down, or make her his wife. He wanted to eat her.
Taking a few hours to first have sex with his dead victim, and perhaps build up an appetite, he decided he would begin with her buttocks and thighs. They proved terribly difficult to cut away from the bone, so he left to buy a sharper butcher knife. He was surprised at the way raw human fat looked, and more surprised at the taste. He feasted on Renee for two days until, satiated, he took what remained of her to a local river, to dump her in. But he was weak, and not good at these things. Someone spotted him.
He was arrested by the French police and they quickly began their investigation. How could a man devour another human in just two days, they wondered? There was hardly anything left on the woman’s bones. They found their answer in his refrigerator. He’d packed her up nicely in the finest cuts, and stored her away.
His wealthy father was devastated, but determined neither he nor his son would lose face. He hired the best defense attorneys to defend his son, but they never made it to trial. Issei was held for two years before the authorities finally declared him insane, and sent him to a mental institution.
It was in that institution that Issei really began to become the man he’d always dreamed of being. He was visited by an author from his home country who interviewed him about his account of what had happened. When the story was published, in an odd way that sick stories often do, he became an instant celebrity.
The French authorities didn’t care for the attention, or the scrutiny of their legal system. They ordered Issei be extradited back to Japan. When he arrived, Japanese police immediately took him to Matsuzawa hospital, where the attending psychologists found him sane, determining that his cannibalism was the result of sexual perversion, not some underlying mental illness.
It seemed Issei would be finally tried for his crime. However, the requests by Japanese court official to obtain the original documents from the French were denied, the French citing that the case had already been dropped in France, and therefore, the documents were secret and could not be released. Having nothing with which to prosecute Issei, he was discharged from the hospital, a free man.
Issei became a guest lecturer and commentator, and for a time wrote the most poignant restaurant reviews for a well-known magazine. He even tried his hand as a movie actor. He now lives a quiet life, sometimes starring in documentaries, sometimes earning welfare benefits, and providing constant inspiration for copycat killers and horror writers across the globe.
Read more about Issei Sagawa here.
I hold my son and tell him Don’t be afraid of the universe That stretches on and on for unknowable dark miles And we are but billions of tiny fragments on an unseeable rock Spinning around a dying star swirling … Continue reading
“Forgive me,” the man said as he walked toward her. She felt frightened but didn’t move away, the room crowded and his eyes overwhelming. He stepped close to her, so only she could hear him.
She shuddered and looked around for help. The lights on the dance floor pulsed, turning the writhing bodies beneath them into cartoon images from a five-cent cinema. She could scream, but who would hear? She could ask the man standing behind her to make the one in front go away. Somehow, she thought, if she did the man behind might have the same face as the one who just placed his hand around her waist.
“Don’t worry, I don’t want to hurt you. I know you’re frightened, but I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”
“Why me?” she asked him.
“Why the rain? Why heat? Why breath?” He responded.
“What do you want from me?” She asked. It sounded so cliche to her. She pulled at her red, beaded dress until it rose off of her feet, out of the way if she needed to run.
He caught sight of her foot.
“Because of who you are,” he said. “I didn’t ask for you to love me, but you do. I can tell by your eyes. I always could.”
The man bent low and lifted her foot from the ground. Her heart pulsed faster, the veins in her throat growing larger, making it hard to breath. He slipped her shoe from her foot and stood again.
“This is something you won’t need where we’re going.”
“Where are we going?” she asked, surprised at her voice, a breathy whisper. She raised her other foot up behind her and slid the remaining shoe from her foot herself.
He was handsome, but older. When she looked closer he seemed a thousand years older, although time had only left a little grey in his hair, and worn soft grooves into his smile. She wanted to kiss him.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he said. “We’re already here.”
He lifted her and carried her to the dance floor, out into the crowd, the breath, the smoke, the sweat, and no one saw as he did what he did to her.
The next morning she awoke in her bed not remembering how she had gotten there, only knowing she was in love with a vague image of a man she’d already almost forgotten. She hoped she would see him again but no longer had any way to know if she did, her eyes missing as they were.
The other day while doing research for a novel, I stumbled upon a webpage concerning the Illuminati and the conspiracy of world banking. As I read through I found several of my assumptions and beliefs challenged, some quite strongly. I began to feel as if I was being “brainwashed.” But then I thought, “What is brainwashing, really?”
I hold a certain set of core beliefs, and hundreds of what I’ll call causal beliefs. Core beliefs are only changed by brute mental force, but my casual beliefs can be changed with little argument or effort. I believe rice is hard to eat with chopsticks until someone shows me the correct way. America is the most advanced country in everything until China lands a rover on the moon and Europe builds CERN. I can’t stand Lady Gaga until I buy her latest album. But the core beliefs – political preference, religion, patriotism – these I’ll endure conflict and attacks without changing.
You have your own set of beliefs that, quite possibly, are drastically different than mine.
We all cling to our own favorite arguments, slogans and beliefs – “Tax the rich,” “Trickle-down economics,” “Communism,” “9/11 was an inside job,” “There is a war among civilizations,” “Christianity,” “Judaism,” “Islam.”
The question is, why do we believe them?
If you think back on your youth and your upbringing you’ll see that most everything you believe has been implanted in your head by another sentient being. We share the religion of our parents, or lack thereof. We are loyal to the country we are born into or focus on its flaws, depending on our school district. And we understand great and enormous things about our universe, from mitochondria to dark matter, all of it told to us by professors who might, in fact, be making it up. How could you or I prove them wrong
It all resembles a conspiracy. That conspiracy is the battle to define reality being carried out by each and every human being.
Sometimes we encounter a belief so opposed to our own that we decide we cannot co-exist with it. This is called war. Sometimes we dislike a belief so much that we encourage the government to take action against those who hold it. This is called fascism.
But at the very core, when you look at your own beliefs, whether you believe in heaven, hell, nirvana, Mother Earth or black holes, you believe it because someone told you it was true.
There are, most likely, no pure or original beliefs in your head. You’ve been brainwashed. And if you do have an original belief, you’re probably a writer.
To rest upon a listing sill
To look at me, and I thus watched
My life flickering in its trespass
A single drop of water whence
Did the earth spring forth its glory then
And floods came down to drown it so
As it glistened in a wooden crevasse
All of time and all of me
Suspended in that crystal globe
That burst and ran forth in decay
And then the downpour came to pass
I didn’t think there could be a “worst” thing about this wonderful time of year. But leave it to the Spanish – the same folks that brought us the Inquisition – to once again tarnish the national religion. His name – the Caganer.
I found this tradition hard to believe, after discovering it here. I’ll let you read the link if you are brave enough to encounter a tradition that – if there is anything good and holy in the universe – will never spread to our county.
I feel sick now, and have the urge to wash my hands.