His embarrassment faded. (Pages 148-164)
Victor was in the bookstore, just scribbling, scribbling, scribbling. He had dinner plans with his aging mother, and he was about to be late, but he just kept on scribbling, ignoring time as if it had ceased to exist.
Marlene Connelly, his mother, was sixty-three years old and dying, again. She was a widow and listlessly bored.
Boredom was a major problem for humans.
They just couldn’t seem to find a cure for it. No matter what they did, or where they went, or what they invented, or filled their homes with, they stayed perpetually bored. It was a human disease.
They couldn’t cure themselves.
They were a lot like me.
I’m still searching for a cure: a sunrise, a sunset, a phantom. I am eternally bored and alone, maybe that’s the only human part left of me. Maybe it’s the strongest part of me and it’s not willing to let go.
Maybe I’m the cure for humanity.
Victor had blown his mother off three times within the last month due to overworking himself and erasing time with his scribbling hand. He could feel death coming, swerving in and out of the bitter marrow of his sweating bones. His bones were telling him that he needn’t keep his mother waiting long.
She didn’t have long.
She had the cancer.
It, the cancer, had come once before, tried to eat Marlene alive and failed. She had beaten it while in her 40’s, but now it was back and more pissed off than ever. Now, it was back to finish the job.
This horrifying fact made Victor’s gut burn with sorrow and guilt. His mother was all he had left in his ever-shrinking world. Without her, he would have no one else, beside himself.
He would have me.
But, he didn’t know that then.
Victor felt rushed and impatient, ignoring time, but that was nothing new. When he was late, his gut would just burn a bit brighter and a bit hotter, especially when plans were made, especially when it came to plans with his cancerous mother.
Victor had his cellular phone set to silent as he scribbled, scribbled, scribbled. He expected for it to ring any second, and it would be his mother, triple checking that he was going to make it to dinner on time.
This is what she did.
She would call, and call, and call.
Mothers loved to call their kids.
By the way, Cellular Phones were a new and fancy technology back in the 1990’s. They were these portable tiny bits of microchips and metal soldered together, and housed in a plastic shell that would allow people to make calls from anywhere in the world to anywhere else in the world.
If you don’t know what a microchip is, don’t worry.
You’ll never need to know, oh dear and sweet future phantom reader, ever again.
Look, Listen: Victor recalled a voicemail message he listened to earlier that morning while he was sipping coffee with milk. Voicemail was the cellular phones memory that would listen to the sender then could speak and mimic that sender’s tone and dialect without a flaw. Victor pressed a few buttons and put the phone to his ear. This is what he heard.
“Hello pumpkin,” crackled the voicemail. The voicemail’s tone sounded just like his mother’s. “I wanted to make sure our plans were still on for tonight. You know how much I love our visits.” Her aging voice was teensy-weensy and as smoothly sweet as an orange creamsicle.
“I’ve made reservations at Cassis,” she paused, “your favorite. I know how much you love your French food. Is 7 o’clock okay?” She said this through shown teeth. Victor could tell she was smiling.
Somehow, she was always smiling.
Even when the Doctors told her the cancer was back and more pissed off than ever, she was smiling.
They, the humans, used to say that laughter is the best medicine, so I suppose smiling would be the next best.
Me, and my tangents…
“I’m so excited,” she said. “I just can’t wait to see my sweet, sweet boy and to talk all about your column, which I’ve been reading. I actually went and picked up a Kurt Vonnegut novel because of an article you wrote, you know. It’s called Timequake.” She took in a deep breath and licked her dry lips then said, “But, more importantly, I want to know how your novel is coming along. I know you said you thought you may be nearing the end.”
This embarrassed Victor. He loathed speaking about his work and himself. He wasn’t fond on being the center of attention.
Never had been.
At his birthday parties as a child, with all his family and friends gathered around wearing silly and colorful dunce-caps, blowing noise makers made of growing paper tubes and plastic lungs, smiling like fools, Victor would cry and cry as they would sing happy birthday in his honor.
“Happy Birthday to you…” they would sing in different keys.
Cue the waterworks.
Victor was fine with speaking about his job, about the column, but when it came to his artwork, he didn’t care to talk about it. Victor’s cheeks and neck wore patches of flush red continents, the skin of his globe. He grew warm and clammy just thinking about going over the book. Listening to the voicemail speak and mimic his mother so well, he began to sweat.
“You know,” she said, “your father would be so proud of you. I know he’s up in Heaven, just so proud of his one and only son.” She was smiling. “He always told me that: how proud he was of you and your art.” There was a pause. “He told me before he died that he should have told you that more often. He hoped you would have become a military man, an engineer like him, but he sure was proud of your artwork.” Then she said, “I know he is looking down on you, just smiling and as proud as could be.” She got stuck in a memory as a tear rolled down her cheek, but Victor didn’t know that. He just knew that she was perpetually smiling.
Marlene rambled on for a moment as Victor got stuck in a daydream. He pictured his father in Heaven, a floating, wavy mass.
Victor had a realization. For years now, he had been trying to make a dead man proud, more so than himself. That’s what this was all about. As he sipped his morning coffee, he thought abut all the years his father scoffed at his artwork and job choices, all of them in the arts: culinary, visual, back to culinary, literary. Victor thought it was strictly impossible for a military engineer father to have been proud of his son’s art. They had that part of their brain ripped out by drill sergeants and platoon leaders. It was embedded in his military mind; he couldn’t like art, couldn’t have a son in the arts, the boy might as well be a faggot! Victor’s thoughts ran wild with visions of his military father.
“And, is mom telling the truth: that in his dying days he told her how proud he was of my art?” he said in the monologue of his mind. “Was he really proud of me?” Victor mumbled out loud this time. That’s when the daydream shattered into a billion sleepy particles, and Victor’s attention leapt back to his rambling mother.
“Okay,” she said, “call me and let me know.” She was so excited. “I’m so excited. See you soon and I love you, my talented novelist!” she said. “Mwauh!” smooched the recorder. She had sent him a kiss. Victor grinned.
“I love you too, mom,” he said to the thin air and one nosy ghost.
The first worst day of his life.
If you didn’t know already, every thought that passed through the sponge in Victor’s think-tank would be excreted through his fingertips that controlled a pen housing ink and would etch its way into the microscopic fibers of the blank page.
To him, the words weren’t just words.
To him, this was a spiritual occurrence.
To him, it was the voice of his soul, singing angelic notes that only he could transpose. At times, somewhere in his dark-side, he considered the paper to be Satan and the ink to be his soul, and they were dancing.
They were making a deal.
So, the day Victor left the cafe without his beat-to-hell journal, his masterpiece, his soul, would be the beginning of the end with no more angels singing lulling songs that only he could transpose. It was the beginning of a sort of death inside of him, so he reverted to the dark-side of thinking.
In those dark ways of thought, Victor felt as if the deal had gone wrong, and Satan had pulled a fast one on him, had danced with another; Satan left him with a soiled diaper instead of a promised masterpiece and that’s exactly how Victor felt in his churning gut; queasy and foul like a swollen, flabby, shit-filled diaper.
Call it distraction, but Victor had let his guard down. The guard in his mind was like an impenetrable force of barbed wire and castle walls, complete will a monster filled mote, and protecting his masterpiece was their only goal.
Well, all of those barriers count for nothing if the guard on duty is snoozing or is seduced away by some pretty little thing. And, basically, that’s what happened: it was a failure to protect his greatest investment that created a shit storm in his mind and life that made Hurricane Andrew look like a calm breeze.
Hurricane Andrew was a massive and perfect storm that came through Florida in the early 1990’s, and destroyed the lower tip of that narrow, muggy state with one great huff and puff. It blew thousands of houses down, destroyed businesses, and took the lives of sixty-five poor souls. The penis of America had just received a botched circumcision.
So, Here’s how it happened: the first worst day of Victor’s life.
Victor was already late for dinner with his mother. He was late because he ignored time as he scribbled words vehemently. He made time go poof. He knew that time would inevitably come back, and would bite him in the ass. It did so just as he realized where time had gone since he ignored its invisible existence. It had gone to 10 minutes after 6 o’clock. It was time to get up and go.
In Victor’s frantic haste, he began to slide his books off of the petite circular table and into his arms when an accident occurred just outside the bookstore with a thunderous clashing of metal. The sound of collision broke the airwaves with a screech and crash. Victor couldn’t help but watch the twisted scene outside as his mind kept racing to get his shit together and go.
A whirlwind of clumsiness…
As Victor curiously watched the people get out from their cars, rubbing their heads and necks, he placed his books in his bag, not noticing his beat-to-hell journal lying there on the table, screaming, begging and pleading to be picked up like a babe wanting its mother.
We can blame his terrible peripheral vision, or his thick, black frame glasses for hiding his journal from sigh, or his stubby fingers, or we can blame the real cause, the real culprit.
And the culprit was fate.
You can’t fuck with fate.
What will be will be.
Still staring at the crash, Victor threw his brown leather bag over his shoulder, and frantically glanced at his wristwatch as his baby was silently screaming from the circular table, desperate for attention. He still didn’t notice it their.
“Damn!” he said out loud, disturbing a few readers reading and students studying as they sneered in his direction. “Really?” Victor booed. “I’m really the distraction here?” he said quizzically as he pointed outside to the fender bender. They scoffed and went back to burying their noses in their paper and ink.
Victor looked at the crash as the people involved began to bicker and blame one another for the wreck. Victor looked again at his watch. He mumbled softly, to himself this time, “Ah,” he sighed, “I’m supposed to be there already.” His cancerous mother was waiting, and time wasn’t waiting or her.
Victor loathed being rushed.
And Marlene didn’t have much time.
This was a bad combination for Victor’s racing brain.
Victor, frantically thinking he had everything in place and still unwillingly staring at the mangled scene outside, moved clumsily toward the front of the store, still staring at the crash with every step, and tripped over his own two feet as he fell hard into the chest of a man who was slithering through the doors of the bookstore.
“So sorry!” Victor said nervously through the thumping sound of collision. “Pardon me!”
“No worries,” grinned the man.
Why was he grinning?
And, like a flash, Victor was gone: dissolved into a speck in a crowd of other dissolving specks, all in a race to nowhere. He had made an orphan of his soul, abandoned it there on that cafe table.
In this story of mine, mistakes will be made and Victor had just made a dozy.
To make the best of things.
I’ve made many a dozy in my day.
It’s part of life… and death.
Here is a poem I wrote on the subject of folly:
Wet from birth, you came to life, bound by your construction.
All your ways and characters traits were babies, too, in function.
You grew so tall and then evolved into a wondrous creature.
You couldn’t help but fuck it up. This, too: a built in feature.
You could not run, could not hide this clumsy part inside you.
You tried to make the best of things, cause that’s all you could do.
The world is over and there is no one to blame, really.
You could blame God, but I wouldn’t advise.
He made you to make mistakes.
And, you made them.