After my wife’s erratic snoring wakes me up from a deep sleep I go down stairs and watch my guilty pleasures. I scroll from either sports compendiums to nature videos, as I am nearly sixty now. Maybe when I was forty I’d watch a little porn, under the guise of helping me sleep after I came, but these days there are other concerns.
In a nature video about lions I watched as males set about marking their territory with a spray that fountains behind them to the tops of nearby bushes. Then they trot off with seeming satisfaction while their balls bustle behind them. After securing their territory from intruders—mostly younger males, they’d come back to the pride and sire more cute lion babies. Their lovemaking was predictably fierce and surprisingly short.
Yes, I’m competitive even with the King of the Jungle. After business time the lion would take a good long nap. The females’ role was to care for the kids and hunt. Each gender seemed content in their specialties. All in all for the males, aside from having to scrapple with a 400-pound horn-dog younger lion, it looked like a pretty good life.
I dated a woman in my thirties. We were in the feeling each other out stage of a relationship and she asked me once to tell her some of my sexual history. I told her truthfully I’d been in three long-term monogamous relationships and in between acted like a lion, at times.
Here may be the right time to cop to a few things. When I came into puberty a fever battered me and never truly left. In the beginning it gave me the sweats and made the roof of my mouth feel like the Sahara. I was proud of my boners and felt a strange Hulk-like power in them to shred my jeans. It was my first taste of anything like power. As I aged it felt like the entire life force of human civilization could shoot out of my dick and onto a Kleenex. Sometimes I discovered myself beating off in a closet or car, two or even three times a day.
As I aged the hangover from these fevers could be abysmal, as shame would infiltrate my mind courtesy of some effective Catholic upbringing. For twenty-four hours after the fever broke I’d turn every woman into a potential partner or object. I’m not proud of this and only recently feel as if I have finally broken the cycle, or rather the cycle has run out of gas, not from any great effort, new found wisdom or sobriety, again I’m about to turn sixty.
Since turning forty the aging process only seems to matter or bring up any anxiety during the changeover to a new decade. All those other years are mere afterthoughts or short pauses of reflection. Yes, it’s nice to get a home-made cake and feel special, maybe even slightly embarrassed once a year but it’s the first digit in the number that carries the weight of mortality.
When I was nineteen and in my cups one night I told my younger brother I sincerely doubted I’d ever make it past twenty-five. Part of that was just going with the odds. I was a prolific drunk driver. Another part was the romantic notion of telling him that so that he might share it at my funeral. I was planting the seed of prescience. The fact of the matter is though that I am quite surprised that I made it this far and that I have any degree of happiness. I’ve always been a kind of glass-is-half-empty man so as to protect myself from when the glass was entirely empty. But I guess it is also kind of corny or old fashioned to think I may be happy, happier than I’ve ever been.
Do you ever wonder why at this particular time in our culture we seem to be saturated with stories of zombies? I have. My office is on a street where I come into daily contact with junkies. I see them twitching their way around corners, wearing oversized hoodies to warm their concave chests, fast stepping to score. Sometimes they are trailed ten feet back by a skinny woman, old before her time, with bad skin, heavy make-up and hollow eyes. The original un-dead. They don’t take any where near as much notice of me as I do of them. The rhythm of their walk is so urgently staccato and yet I see them traverse the same few blocks like tiny tropical fish stuck in a giant tank. I wonder if there can be any salve for the depth of their emptiness.
I’m an alcoholic myself so I guess I see a part of me in them. Maybe a there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-kind of thing although I tell myself I was never that bad, never as bad as that, them. Sometimes though, I envy their kind of single-minded focus. Just imagine what they have given up or neglected. Now try to equate it with what they are seeking. It’s a hell of a calculus problem. Just think about how good that junk must be if all the other experiences or complexity of your one precious life can be sacrificed on the altar of heroin. In some way seeking that form oblivion takes courage. Here’s to them, they are far stronger than I ever was. I got sober when I was 20. I hit the “bottom” that a TV movie of the week warned us about. It wasn’t pretty but compared to what these cats are going through on the sidewalks I was strictly amatuer.
A long time ago Nietzche proclaimed God was dead, Beckett suggested that we wait for him, junkies fool themselves into thinking they’ve found him.
What would you give up to experience God if only for a moment?