There’s scene in On the Road where Dean Moriarty abandons Sal Paradise in San Francisco, and Sal is left standing all alone on a street corner where he achieved a state of ecstasy, momentarily realizing the freedom that he so idolized in Dean and which he had chased relentlessly back and forth across the continent.
I had a Zen moment like that one foggy November night coming out of a Save Mart in Belle Vista about ten o’clock. I had gone to see a movie and stopped to shop. I was scurrying to my car in an almost empty parking lot, clutching a plastic bag full of stuff to make my lunches for the week when it dawned on me that not a single person who I loved or cared about knew where I was. It was complete freedom of a sort, but I was nowhere near ecstatic as Sal. I felt the icy fingers of loneliness grip my heart; I felt a cold, empty universe whisper in my ear.
I missed my wife. I would have paid a thousand dollars to hear her voice on the other end of a phone call asking where the fuck I was.
I can’t wrap my mind around why any sane person would identify with atheism. It is one thing to purse your lips and imitate a prudish, middle-aged, spinster schoolteacher and point out all the misery poured out on the human race in the name of the religion. Any sanctimonious jackass with a halfway decent grasp of history could do that to their heart’s content.
History is a virtual smorgasbord of man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man. Not just any smorgasbord either but the one at Caesar’s in Vegas. There is something very perverse in taking such great pride in the ability to point just how more perverse and venal everybody else is.
I can not imagine anything more horrible than the idea that the universe has no purpose, or in the belief that I brought my two beautiful daughters into existence in such a universe where the sole point of their being was to create a few isolated moments of happiness sandwiched into the pages of a larger book documenting their slow and painful march to the grave.
I feel the same about Buddhism, too. I wish that I could have been there when Prince Gautama had been sitting under that tree for about thirty-seven days. I would have got together with one of his uncles and a couple of his cousins and held him down, twisted his nipples, poured him a glass of good scotch, tickled his ribs, and slapped some headphones on him with Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Trane, and Cannonball playing Kind of Blue.
Maybe then he would have been able to distinguish the difference between non attachment and actually understanding that some things in life are actually very pleasant and that there is a world of difference in being miserable for not getting what you desire and being pretty happy because you have obtained some of what you wanted.
The Buddhist goal of a state of non-being would be wonderful if the purpose of life was to live through several lifetimes of pain and suffering, climbing ever upward on the ladder of spiritual evolution only to become into a weathered fencepost on a farm outside of Topeka, Kansas, or worse than that, a whole big fucking bunch of nothing.
Hell, if I have to climb back on the wheel, miserable life after miserable life, I would want to evolve into something more substantial than a bunch of nothing, or even a fencepost. I would want to become something more like Kublai Kahn with some bits of Goethe, Einstein, Gandhi, and Tolstoy and all thrown in, maybe some Miles Davis too, so when things got real stressful, I could blow that horn and chill myself out. Or, I could jam with Trane and the angel Gabriel and chill the whole universe out.
I made the mistake of relating all my feelings on that evening to my secretary Jonesy the next day. We call Jonesy the Concierge because there’s nothing that the bitch can’t do. She was handier to have around than a Swiss army knife with a corkscrew.
“Don’t do that that,” she emphatically stated.
“Do what?” thinking that she was going to give me one of her weekly pep talks.
“Go to the movies by yourself. Don’t be that guy. If want to go to a movie, call me, and I’ll go with you. Mike can watch the kids, and I get a night off.”
“What the hell? I can’t go to a movie by myself.”
“Hell, no, people will think you’re weird.”
“I write obituaries for a living. They already think I’m weird.”
“Weirder. They will either think you are a pervert or antisocial misfit like that Kaczynski guy.”
I thought about it, and she was right as usual. Being single at my age in America does mean you are some sort of anti-social misfit. You can see it inside the eyes of people who seat you at restaurants who seem to take some sort of strange glee in asking “How many?” when you are standing there alone, or hear it in the rumors that start to fly when you are seen once too often in the company of a male friend, even your own brother, or notice it in the look of pity you get when you take your mom out for dinner on a weekly basis.
Frankly, I didn’t give a shit. I wouldn’t put up with all this bullshit; you could have emptied out the whole stockyard of this bullshit on my front door because I didn’t care one flying fuck about what those people thought.
Where were they when I needed saving, when I needed CPR because my heart had stopped beating, and I couldn’t breathe because the thousands of words I had never spoke were clogging up my throat?
For years, my marriage was a tragedy waiting to be written about and deserving of the same treatment that Shakespeare gave Hamlet, and these same blind assed assholes would smile and giggle all night in the presence of our madness without saying a single fucking word, not noticing the slightest thing being amiss.
When I needed someone to pass a note to, where were they then? When my eyes conveyed sadness as deep as an ocean canyon, where were they then? How many people like me passed through their lives everyday without them spotting the drops of blood they left behind, blood that flowed from gashes made by axes wielded by psychotic spouses.
Better yet, how many of them who, passing judgment on the all the social hunchbacks they encountered in their day, were already suffering in the silence of the cancerous pus of their own tumor, or just beginning to take their first tentative steps into the lemming march walking hand in hand into restaurants with a moon-eyed Dr. Jekyll at their side?
I decided to embrace my deformity. I even came up with an idea to create a line of T-shirts for people like me. They could say something like, “I’m with Stupid,” with an arrow pointing up, or “Divorced and Happy” with a smiley face with one black eye.
I say screw all those who judge. If I wanted to come off gayer than Robin Williams in the Birdcage, it was none of their business. If I wanted to read Tropic of Cancer in the middle of crowded fancy restaurant, it was nobody’s business if I did. Those people needed to stick to picking their own scabs and licking their own wounds and just leave the rest of us the hell alone.
If I was pretending to be happy all alone in my glorious deformity, it was nobody’s business but my own.