I walked in the room and it was grey, the walls and the floor, and there was no window, but there was cherry-white paint splattered on the light bulb attached to the grey ceiling over the metal table. I shut the door behind me and nodded to the three people behind the table. They did not nod back. I just stood there, a little too close to the door, and afraid to go any further until I was told doing so was acceptable.
With a curt drop of his head the man in the middle, too short with blistered skin and sun-bleached hair, motioned toward the single wooden chair in front of me. I sat down, my hands pushed together in my lap as if they carried heavy metal cuffs. I was not entirely sure if they did or not.
On his left was an overweight black woman, with thick thick glasses and a permanently disgusted look on her face.
On his right was a razor thin person (I could not discern a sex) wearing all black over paper-weak skin. The face was a skeleton.
“Tell me where it all went wrong. Tell me about ( he checked his notes) Peter” the man said, his two associates picking up their pens in unison, as if every word I would say mattered.
Peter was my terrible friend. Me= too impressionable in my teenage days, him= older and a dropout with a pocketful of money, since his dad made him work and he still lived at home and drove his dad’s car. He lied to women in the worst ways, dangerous, anti-social untruths to get what he wanted. Drugs and alcohol for barely-teen teenage girls, exaggerated borderline cartoon tales of his life and all the things he’s never really done and…
“Stop. Tell me about you. Tell me things you’ve seen.”
This year? Or Ever? Or today?
A rotten, rat-chewed mattress in a house of garbage hoarders, a 30- year-old man rolling over just often enough to not become entwined with the springs cutting his back and shoulders. And he doesn’t get off that mattress, ever, for any reason. You want to hear things like that?
“What? No, Lord no. I want to know… when did you become this way?”
Maybe 3am in the desert, 1995? And the desert was a sand-awful place to break down. But the Van picked it for us, a busted transmission and not enough oil. We were literally camped out on the border of Utah and Nevada, two throwaway states, at least for Southern punk rawk trash, nothing more than means to an end land on the way to the waves of California, the guitars of Seattle. We’d spent a hard 10 hours in Las Vegas ogling the strippers smoking cigarettes on the sidewalk between shifts, and stepping over the pornography crowding up the gutters. Bet it all on black. Bet it all on the dark side.
“That’s too long ago… more recent?”
Wasserman and I stumbled through a freezing cold New York City, the inside of our bottom lips freshly tattooed. We walked Greenwich Village looking for nothing to do, our mouths all bloody and swollen. Being straightedge never felt so good…
“Even more recent?”
I did a week on my head in a closed down hospital. My hand was all sorts of burned in a house fire and it was no big deal and it got infected and they said the poison had poured into my bloodstream and it became a very big deal. But me? I’m fine, I’ll be fine. On Night One at Hotel Carraway I snuck past the nurses/doctors/ valets and ran through downtown, onwards to Speakeasy. I was drugged up so bad from… the drugs that I don’t even remember being there, or running back. I do remember that I was going through a real phase of surfer-acid reverb tunes and The Raveonettes were my soundtrack of escape.
A friend snuck me in contraband, that being a red bandanna, and I stood in the doorway of my room with it tied backwards on my head, scaring visitors of the terminally ill that adorned every other room on the floor. My incarceration that week pumped my blood so hard; I could feel the veins contracting. Or maybe it was just the dark side taking over, who knows, and more importantly, who really cares?
“Excuse me, but did you just say ‘who cares’? As in you go over to the dark side? And what does that even mean?”
Sitting there I realized I had come up with two great book ideas, a cool poster, and a new game to teach Janey. I looked around at the grey, I felt the veins, my veins, contract. This hearing needed to end.
I blurted out, without meaning to be so rude, “Are we almost done?”
The three faces of judgment looked stunned, looked at each other, looked back at me. “Do you want to add anything else before we make our decision?”
And I have so much more to add.
“Yes,” I said, “you know what else?”
They didn’t answer. They just waited.
Writing these one and two thousand word pieces is masturbation. They fill this untitled, dark-abyss, void I have to do something bigger with my days. They are hit and run, small-time skirmishes, militant-enforced guerilla tactics.
I’m going to fight my war.
I’m going to fight my war on my terms. I’m going to put down 90,000 words this year on notebooks, my computer and on the back of receipts and napkins. And…
I’m never going to dress like anybody else, or look like anybody else, or think like anybody else ever again. Or write or react or speak like anybody else either. I am now my own celebrity.
Passion, inspiration… those words are for posters, laminated pictures of cats and mountaintops. Books with how-to titles, cheap poetry and late night commercials on the off-channels.
So let’s get homeless, lets get abused, lets get sick, and lets get dying. If that’s what it takes to war the good war.
Call it what it is. Say it. Say the word out loud.
The word is possessed.
Say it and swallow the red pill boy.
Their faces mirrored equal parts shock, disdain and disgust. The silence in the room seemed eternal, but was probably closer to 30 seconds. “Uhhh” the man in the middle of the table uttered, “that was more than enough of what we wanted to hear. Mr. Cowgill we have decided that you are to be given…”
“Wait” I yelled, a last ditch effort on my part, “just wait! I can be good. I can learn to smile and laugh politely. Wear suits, drive in rush hour traffic and drink wine socially. I can. I can belong.”
They smiled back at me, their smiles were sad. “No, no you can’t sir. I’m afraid what you are, what you have done to yourself, with yourself, the direction you are going… only warrants one thing.”
I took a deep breath and stood up, no longer feeling the nonexistent shackles on my wrists, my back already turned before… the condemnation.
“Life Sentence, Mr. Cowgill, I’m sorry. But you’re already well aware I’m sure.”
I nodded yes. I turned and thanked the three of them- the man with the blistered skin, the heavyset woman, and the skeleton. All three of them were so so sorry. I opened the door and walked away, far away, from the grey of the room, not at all surprised with the decision.
“We seek only reprieve and welcome the darkness. The myth of a meaning, so lost and forgotten.” – Lamb of God