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I wanted to be invisible. Out of nowhere, with, I swear, nothing in my
history to predict it, I'd done something people regard as sick and
disgusting and I wanted to disappear.
I should say that at first I wasn't so sure what I'd done was all that
awful, and I certainly didn't concur with the character judgment implicit in
such a definition. It didn't seem in my case to be fair. I felt this way
because I'd always had an exceptionally inquisitive mind, a mind that,
forever in search of the deepest truths, often compelled me to challenge
things (the assumption that boundary lines in nature are fixed and
inviolable for example) that others never questioned. And that was a good
thing, right? What's more - and who would argue with this? - when you call your
dog "Maureen" you're clearly asking for trouble. And not only that, hadn't
Larry Flynt confessed to the SERIAL RAPING OF CHICKENS without suffering one
iota of damage to his reputation?
But I stopped protesting pretty quickly. It was impossible for me to deflect
for long the look on the face of Maureen's owner (and my now erstwhile
girlfriend) when, on the evening in question, she came home unexpectedly
Preoccupied, and with the stereo at full volume, I didn't pick up on the
fact that Annie was home until she was suddenly big in the room. Maureen, I
realized afterwards, was aware of Annie's untimely return before I was. I
saw one of her ears rise and I saw what I also understood later to be a look
of apprehensiveness on her face as she turned it towards me. But, her
countenance being open to several interpretations at that moment, her heads
up went right by me.
In any event, I hadn't seen the expression on Annie's face since my mother
caught me barfing into the family "Important Documents" chest when I was
five. The horror it conveyed seemed, in its breathtaking proportions, to
have issued from the gods themselves. No, try as I might I couldn't deny it.
Diddling Maureen had been an egregious crime that was in no way mitigated by
the fact that it was unpremeditated and, for me, unprecedented.
And in the following months (and along with a discombobulated Annie's
exclamation: "My God, she's just a puppy!" echoing in my head) I was seeing
similar expressions everywhere. Were guilt and shame working their poisons
on my psyche or was no one liking me anymore? I mean no one SEEMED to be
liking me anymore for shit. Total strangers I passed on the street all but
recoiled at the sight of me. And dogs too. Dogs had always been as
indifferent to me as I was to them. But now, straining at their leashes,
they growled deep guttural growls when I walked by. Were dogs - in ways we've
yet to appreciate - able to communicate with one another, and over great
distances, the indignities humans perpetrated on them?
In all manner of torment and confusion, I spent my days scouring my brain in
a frantic effort to uncover the reason for my... well... BESTIAL behavior.
What could possibly have dispatched me to such a forsaken place?
Had the philosopher in me simply chosen a less than auspicious moment to
take the leap from rumination to hands-on investigation?
Had I been trying to tell Annie something? Our relationship not going so
well, had I been saying to her, "See? This is what happens when you deprive
a person of sex."
Had the fact that Maureen had been bathed that morning and that her
shimmering coat smelled a lot like Rive Gauche - a fragrance widely known to
be irresistibly seductive - been at the bottom of it?
Was it conceivable that the extra tablespoon of Nyquil I'd taken for a
vicious post-nasal drip had caused me to lose my species bearings for a
But nothing I came up with rang true for me. All I knew for sure was that
I'd become, say it, the definition of a "pervert." I could not have descended
to a much lower depth if I'd done so deliberately.
As you can see, I very much needed to get out of this dreadful situation and
the first exit I thought of was suicide. But while destroying my body, which
was making me much too noticeable, was certainly an attractive idea, a large
problem that I have with dying discouraged me from acting on it. I'm not
trying to be funny. Transforming into something comparable to what Maureen
might leave on a curbside is a prospect that weighs very heavily on me - much
more heavily than it seems to on others. In fact, to make it hard for the
gods to find me when my time comes, I've endeavored even in normal
circumstances to not stand out too much, to be, you know, as anonymous as
possible. (This explains the "C" average that I've steadfastly maintained
throughout my life.)
And if there's any substance to the reincarnation thing and the immortality
it promises, suicide posed a very serious risk. The gods, everyone knows,
tend to frown on people who take their own lives, no matter how wretched
their conditions may be. That made it unlikely - especially after the way I'd
comported myself this time around - that they'd send me back as anything
better than a water bug or dental plaque.
Passing on suicide, I contemplated surgically altering my appearance or
moving to another city. But these choices were cost prohibitive and the
latter would also have involved a lot of heavy lifting, which I really hate.
Finally I considered going insane. Well within my budget, what this option
offered was the opportunity to stay alive AND lose my body (my unrelenting
self-consciousness anyway) at the same time. But to achieve a genuine
psychosis - to, that is, retreat into the bowels of your brain, live in a
world of your own invention and become completely oblivious to what's going
on outside of it - isn't so easy.
I know because I really tried. Thinking that I could maybe connect to
madness by faking some emblematic symptoms (and sufficiently desperate by
now to chance still more humiliation) I ran a serious experiment. It was the
middle of August and, wearing a tattered overcoat, and with a week's growth of
beard and my hair wild, I stood on a street corner and commenced to babble
unintelligibly at various decibel levels. After a few minutes of that I
shouted, "Fucking motherfuckers, I'm gonna break your fucking hearts and
shove the fucking bits and pieces up your hungry assholes." Then I babbled
some more and then, kicking and swiping at the air, I snarled, "PILLOWS?
What else you asswipes got in store? The meerkats shat in your cereal shit?
THAT crapola again? That - ha ha - GRANOLA crapola?"
But my face crimson with embarrassment all the while, my act (with its
admittedly lame material) never stopped being just that and my
self-consciousness was only heightened. (If I needed confirmation of my
failure to accomplish my objective it was more than adequately furnished by
a woman who remarked to her companion, "Must be some kind of fraternity
So it was evident that I was even more screwed up than I thought, and I knew
I was screwed up anyway. But I wasn't insane. However odd the angle at which
I protruded from reality may have been, I was as mired in it as anyone else. I
mean, despite my preoccupation, I still worried a lot about real world things.
I worried about losing my job. I worried about getting to the laundry in time
to collect my shirts. I worried that I might have picked up a dose of heartworm
from Maureen. And if that wasn't enough, I couldn't stop caring about what
people thought. It was possible, in fact, that I'd come to care more about
what people thought than Louis Harris and George Gallup put together.
So I could do no more than envy the real thing - those guys who've established
permanent residence in a fissure between their cerebellums and their medulla
oblongata. Yes, I know THEIR weird and terrible utterances can be, in their
obvious authenticity, very scary and lead you to conclude that even in the
worst of times only a schmuck would want to take refuge in the kinds of
worlds they inhabit. But long before my interest in the subject would become
personal I discovered that if you were willing to pay close attention you
could sometimes pick up indications that where they live is not without a
recreational dimension. On one occasion I was actually able to make out, in
the background of a nasty mix of epithets, cacophonous outbursts and sundry
other emissions, the strains of a tinkling piano and the clinking of glass
and ice cubes - persuasive evidence, you'll agree, of a party in progress.
I wanted to find that party guy and see if I could get him to show me the
ropes. But I knew that I had as much chance of prying instructions out of
him as I did of getting the name of his caterer.
So what did I do?
Well, standing as I was on the corner of "Terror Street and Agony Way" (as
the poet described it), what I did then was what you have no choice but to
do in this circumstance.
I resolved to redeem myself.
I would try to get the gods to FORGIVE me!
Now I recognized, of course, that the level of depravity to which I'd sunk
made redemption a tall order. The gods would hardly respond to a less than
stellar effort. But after thinking long and hard about it, I finally came up
with something I thought was near to perfect in its symmetry. Something that
they'd just have to applaud.
With the help of donations I opened an animal shelter.
Forget what you're thinking. Okay? I never went into the kennels. I
functioned - it's the truth - in a strictly administrative capacity.
Anyway, it turned out that I was nothing short of brilliant in this role.
Under my supervision the shelter quickly became a huge success, and, sure
enough - it could not have worked out better - with each rescue and adoption of
a mangy dog or one-eyed cat my Maureen burden grew lighter until, just like
that, it was gone.
With that monstrous problem behind me I felt, as you can imagine, more than
very good. But this wasn't the only reason for my high spirits. They derived
as well from the even greater reward that my act of redemption yielded. In
the delirium that develops from the certainty that you're pleasing the gods
and earning their approval, you get to feel that you're atoning not only for
the crime at hand but also for whatever you did to warrant the death
sentence you were handed at birth. In turn you can believe that your
atonement actually makes you eligible to survive your death - that it's your
ticket to heaven!
This, you'll have to concede, is some spectacular shit and it occurred to me
one night that it was right here that the answer to the question that had
been eating at me might be found.
Was it possible that I'd subconsciously set the whole thing up: that in my fear
of death, maybe even more consuming than I realized, I'd seized on the
happenstance of a random hard-on and a bitch in heat to fashion an
opportunity for my ultimate redemption?
That I'd FUCKED A DOG TO GET INTO HEAVEN?
(I should note that I flashed on that after an evening of heavy drinking
with a bunch of veterinarians. It came to me while I was crawling on my
hands and knees up three flights of stairs, just moments before I puked on
my welcome mat.)
Now I don't want to leave the impression that I was entirely free of issues.
Although my guilt and shame had evaporated there was still something
pertaining to Maureen that bothered me a little. Whenever I thought of her,
I would find myself wondering how she'd, you know, rated me. If, you know,
she wanted to see me again.
But male ego aside, I felt in all other ways terrific. And, indeed, when I
was interviewed on Animal Planet on the occasion of my shelter's first
anniversary, I was fully at ease with being visible, more at ease with it
than I'd ever been before.
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