Human Soul,” by Dr. S. Chapman, 1998.”
I fear . . . I fear to create, I fear to stand still, like the manager who buried his coins in the ground out of fear of losing them. I fear to tread the ground of disease and filth and vermin. But here I am.
My life takes place in the middle ground, between resistance and compliance, between reality and otherness, between disbelief and ever-generating faith. It is true, my doubt is in a neverending courtship with that I hold most dear, where the Concept becomes sharper and sharper with each cerebral, soul-shaking crash–masculine/feminine, feminine/masculine, the fruit of my turmoil a permanent residence in the peaks of androgyny, heaven glowing in the fires hell, joy white-capping the waves of misery.
Weariness has overtaken me, yet I cannot sleep. The question of how to transform an abstraction into a mode of existence has made my heart so very heavy. Many a night a sit at my table, and try define the elusive faith that lights my will to survive another day. How does one live by faith, oh Habakkuk?
Faith, I’ve reasoned, cannot be a passive response to an excessively demanding deity. That I’ve determined. It could be a willful state of optimism, but one cannot deceive one’s self. So what, I ask myself, is faith? Arriving at this depot in the neutral tones of existence immobilized me. Things were simpler when I was young. I now feared to create, I feared to stand still, I feared to believe in God as much as not to. Thrust before the pliable earth, I worked the plough and sweat and ground and strove . . . but for nothing. There was no bounty, only a scorched sky and a will drained of fuel.
But I offered myself to the next day and the next, sweating, bleeding, puking in the face of vertigo and dehydration and the shadow of vultures. I cast myself before the elements, adamant about transforming . . . about transforming a scorched field into a bountiful autumn harvest. The decorations of festival were to one day grace my weathered face, and people would come together over my victorious body, and struggle would have evolved–indeed evolved–into the worthwhile.
The ailments of the human soul have been well documented. The disease has been loosely and tightly described, reinterpreted, reapplied, and addressed, but none has equaled the glowing discernment of Soren Kierkegaard.
“Is the inability to just have faith the ailment of the human soul,” I ask? What say you, Dr. Kierkegaard? “Indeed it is,” you posit. The Concept appeared in the world to create the possibility of faith, and in turn we must create the possibility of response and not be frightened away by the cure that promises infinitely more suffering than the illness.
How can embracing absurdity be the cure?
Oh, God, hear me, my attraction to you is proportionate to my resistance, so may my resistance be so powerful as to propel my attraction to lunar heights, and may my toiling in the hot, earthly fields of uncertainty not breed the offense that so desires to contaminate my life irretrievably black.
* * * *
I spent the entire night with the dissertation in a twenty-four hour diner, mesmerized, drinking coffee, shoveling down pancakes, bacon and eggs. In the early hours, I transported it to my studio, an observer to the roseate smile of yet another birth, only to fall asleep on the couch in merciful exhaustion. That night, as I was leafing through page after insightful page, the static and hum of a radio in the background, it was becoming clear to me that Chapman related to my struggles more than I ever could have imagined.
In one evening, I became the winner of a cosmic game of chance. Who would have thought that I’d even be a contestant? Chapman’s work on the ailments of the human soul invited Project Grey-Eyed to swell up in me, now a three dimensional possibility, rising from the plunging, swirling, frothing river of abstraction into a capturable, demonstrative piece of writing.
The inspiration behind my inspiration, I figured, would end up being triggered by something outside of me, I was sure of it, but I had no clue it would turn out to be a comical figure notorious in town for his comical green beret with a clumsy wooden cross dangling from a string, whose confidence in the resolution of the November mentality was contagious, while his demeanor dispelled the darkness like a vampire-hunter’s cross.
For whatever reason . . . I felt this penetrating sense of being commissioned come over me, this need to take Chapman’s conclusions and reintegrate them into a carefully tailored piece, honest and forthright. At this point in my life, though, I was only half-way there, only conscious of my sobriety–my clarity–and didn’t know that this seeming lucidity would need to crystallize further if it was to be mercifully shattered.
Later that morning, I woke up after a long, peaceful, dreamless sleep and made some instant coffee cooled with milk. I sat back on my couch and pondered what I had read throughout the night, and enjoyed the feeling of normalcy that Chapman had provided. The sun shone in from the window, and I felt all warm, and couldn’t resist stretching out on the couch and taking it all in.
Maybe I fell asleep in that comfort, or maybe I was just so resolved on finishing my Oresteia adaptation that I fell into a thoughtless daze, but regardless, I awoke startled by the noise of loud knocking.
I wondered who it could be as I got up, stretched, and went to answer the door.
I found Mr. Paul McRose standing there in a grey suit glistening like morning dew in an effusion of sunlight. Always the splendid figure, that one.
“You’re the last person I expected,” I said. “But you’re wasting your time. I’m not going to change my mind.”
“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” McRose asked in his confident, effeminate voice.
“Let me get dressed and we’ll go to the cafe.”
“No, I prefer we talk here.”
Begrudgingly, I allowed him to enter, but I didn’t offer him any hospitality beyond a chair.
“So what do you need from me now?” I demanded.
“I had a meeting with the town council and thought I’d drop in to see if you changed your mind,” McRose replied. He paused and inspected me. “You’re a mess.”
“I’ve already made myself clear,” I said flatly.
“It’s interesting how domain reversal changes the score. What happened to the kid who stormed into mine like the mongoose before the cobra? Who’s the cobra?”
“My feelings are clouded today,” I explained.
McRose looked sympathetic. “Obviously, you’ve had a long night. Too many drinks, I imagine.”
I shook my head. “No drinks, I just woke up feeling cloudy.”
McRose looked at me closely. “I suppose you’re in a good state of mind to write. Creation, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, is a mystical enterprise. Some of the best ideas come when your mind is receptive.”
“That’s something I struggle with,” I admitted. “I like to be in control.”
“I noticed that you don’t have a dog,” McRose observed.
“Do you find this strange?”
“I have four Neapolitan mastiffs at home, straight from Italy. They’re sleek and powerful, worthy of their master.”
“Good for you,” I said sarcastically.
“I can’t believe how angry you are,” McRose said. “I could tell a lot about you from our first meeting. You’re seething inside, a walking cauldron.”
McRose read my baffled face.
“I know you, Shannon. I’ve met many like you and it doesn’t get any better until you deal with your fury. But I’m not here as much for you as I am here for myself.”
“Don’t tell me, you finally got your neolithic hands around the necks of the Charsmiths, didn’t you?” I said dismissively. “I really don’t see what this has to do with me.”
“No, I refused their offer . . .”
I was amused by this admission and suspected being played for the sucker. McRose never hid the fact that he wanted to be White Sands’ greatest product.
“Why?” I asked, suspicious.
“Why?” he said rhetorically, pulling out a cigar and lighting up without my permission. “Well, let’s see . . . you’re familiar with my life story, right?”
“There’s always a transition point, you know, where the hero becomes mortalized so to speak, providing him with the opportunity for him to become an even greater hero.”
“I’ll have to take your word for it.”
“So what would be my mortalization?”
“I’ve never paid much attention to your legacy.”
“Hmmm . . . you know what I’m talking about, though, right?”
I told him that legend has his it that a knee injury ended his career in hockey.
McRose laughed a cloud of smoke.
“So they say, but that knee injury thing was just an excuse you realize. No, I was never about playing hockey. I had a single vision in this world, and that was to make money, to dominate all of life, to become like the Charsmiths.”
“The way I see it, if you absorb the Charsmiths you become the Charsmiths, right?”
“I’ve superseded that family a hundred-fold. I don’t need them. No, after I became powerful enough I wanted something substantial, something to erect in this world to honor my achievements. I figured there was only one way to do that, and it wasn’t to be done on our soil. No, I decided to conquer companies residing in our sister to the south, Judah in the stars and stripes–brushing up on my bible, ha, ha–and be the touchstone of Canadian companies trying to gain footholds in America.”
His laugh, so nasal, disgusted me.
“The south has been investing on our soil for years.”
“Remember, Israel was dispersed throughout Samaria, while Judah was carried off to Babylon; Judah reclaimed its glory. I think history has warned us to be careful . . . that’s why I consider my actions almost saintly.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Shannon . . .” he said, pausing for a second, before breaking into a grin that quickly grew serious. He set his cigar in the ashtray. “I’m going to suffer the ignominy of, hmmm, of prison . . . for questionable business practices I guess you, hmmm . . . could describe it . . . and I can’t elaborate much more. This hasn’t been released to the public, my lawyers are working on it, but I’m going to jail.”
I couldn’t figure out why he was telling me this.
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, you know? My family lives here, my wife and son and, you know, this town, especially now, it needs a Charsmith, but it doesn’t need a McRose.”
“I don’t understand . . .” I said in disbelief. “It almost sounds like you care about White Sands?”
“Yes, I don’t carry the same chip on my shoulder as you do.”
I was confused again as to how he knew me well enough to make this judgment.
So we sat there uncomfortably, or at least I was, while the air around us grew dense with tension, like water vapor gathering in the sky.
“I love my dogs,” McRose stated, ending the silence. “I used to watch this little boy walk his dog by the house all the time. I’ve never seen a boy love his dog more.”
I looked at McRose suspiciously.
“Does the name Drew Khaki ring a bell?” McRose asked point blank, willing condensation, looking me square in the eyes.
“What about him?” I asked cautiously, but refused to allow my apprehensiveness to make me be the first to avert my gaze.
“He’s my half-brother.”
“So,” I replied.
“I saw something happen from my window . . . something I can never forget.”
“You should leave, Paul,” I said.
“Are you uncomfortable?”
“I tell you, I’m damned uncomfortable. But, you know, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about what happened. I’ve never forgotten.”
“No, I have to continue . . .” replied the undeterred hunter to his troublesome prey, now standing up and looking down on my miserable self.
“I’m not going down this road,” I declared, rising to my feet, walking across the room and opening the door for him to leave.
When McRose didn’t budge, I attempted decided abandon him in the studio, but the bigger man blocked my exit.
“You’re going to listen to this!” he said coldly.
“Please don’t make me?” I begged.
“You’re going to listen to this,” he repeated.
Cornered, I had little choice but to endure.
“When I was twenty, my half-brother, Drew Khaki, admitted to me that he wanted to wipe the smile off the face of the happy kid who always walked his dog past the house.”
“I don’t want to talk about it . . .” I whispered through gritted teeth.
“I know what he did. I didn’t know who you were at the time, but I’ve known your name for fifteen years and have suffered with you for the whole duration, I assure you.”
“This isn’t helping me . . .” I said, feeling tears come to my eyes.
“Enough is enough. Do you know how much I’ve suffered? God, I have suffered in that knowledge. I’ve tried for years and years to make it up to you, even going so far as to invent that meeting last month. Don’t you remember? I couldn’t even speak to you I was so overcome by guilt when you walked in my office.
“But you wouldn’t hear me out, Shannon, not that I blame you, and this guilt goes on and on. Forget going to prison, that’s a light yoke . . . I need you . . . to relieve me of my burden, just as I need to relieve you of yours.”
I said nothing, but I felt a hot tear trickle down my face.
“Are you alright?” he asked in concern, wiping sweat from his brow with a handkerchief.
“He used to accuse my dog of shitting on his lawn,” I choked, clenching my stomach and trying to retain my composure. “I told him it wasn’t my dog, that I always cleaned up after him.”
“What happened?” McRose asked.
“When I was walking my chocolate lab, Vaive, one day, Drew backed the car out of the driveway and struck and killed him before I had a chance to react. He said it was a horrible accident and they believed him. But I knew it was intentional and nobody believed me.”
“I knew it was intentional,” McRose said. “I saw it happen from the window . . . which is why I beat the living hell out of him. By the time I was done with him, he couldn’t have regretted more his decision to make you cry.
“You made him regret it?”
McRose nodded. “From the depths of his soul.”
I couldn’t say anything, but McRose had time, so I sat there against my couch, continuing to try and suppress the tears–I don’t know where they came from–and dissolve this lump in my throat with a glass of water McRose had given me. Never was I more embarrassed or ashamed.
Then I thought about it. Why was I so broken when the event was nothing more than the work of a jaded, sociopathic teenager? To hell with White Sands! I was too young to experience such cruelty and injustice–such evil. It was such a beautiful day, with such catastrophic consequences. If only I had walked Vaive on a different route that day and didn’t give him so much leash . . .
And as I sat there drinking my water, I began to feel better, I suppose, and I began to understand the philosophical significance of catharsis. The lump began to go away and I found that gradually my body was re-energizing itself, enough that I was able to stow the flow of tears. The Concept’s soul descended to Hades to open its gates, while his spirit was deposited in heaven, while his body lay in a tomb. And then they reemerged in the world as one.
“I’m alright . . . Please go,” I asked.
“Are you sure?” asked McRose, playing the part of the hunter looking his prey over and perhaps feeling a sharp twinge of remorse.
All hunters experience a moment when the victim’s ghost impresses an identity, like the wind whispering a beyond-human name in the forest.
“There’s nothing you could have done . . .”
“Fifteen years, I’ve known you for fifteen years. And I couldn’t–God, there had to be some measure I could have taken.”
“There was no way . . .” I replied, feeling my eyes well up with tears again.
“Shannon, if I could have found you earlier . . . I could have assured you that justice was swift.”
“I was too cloudy,” I said.
“You were too young for such an experience,” McRose said.
“I misjudged you, Paul. You’re always welcome at any place I call home.”