4.10 / October 2009

The Things Which Blind Us

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I hated when they made me wear the bear suit in public and hated it more for how comfortable it was when I was alone: a conundrum. The heat had been turned off in my apartment for almost a week. Wearing the bear suit in public wasn’t making enough money for me to pay the bill. The bear suit, though, kept me pretty warm. If I quit to find another job, I would have to return the bear suit, and then how would I sleep? I avoided making a decision which meant I was deciding to keep the bear suit, and live without heat.

At that point, I’d been confused for days. My vision felt obstructed. I hoped it was just the mescaline wearing off. For several days the whole world had seemed like I was peering through dense foliage. And when that effect faded, suddenly, random birds were falling from the sky every few minutes, but when I looked for them near the ground, they were nowhere. When my co-worker offered me another of the small pills at the drive-in several weeks later, I declined. It was warming up. I was thinking of ditching the bear suit. Not only did I not need it in my apartment, but it was getting miserable to be inside of the suit on the hot sidewalks all day passing out sale fliers.

I lived on the fourth floor of a big semi-converted warehouse and my best friend lived on the fourth floor of the building across the alley. I spent that summer trying to rig passageways between our windows. First, I thought big and worked on designs for a rope bridge. By the end of the summer it was just a tin-can telephone and even that was proving to be tricky.

I was convinced my landlord was stealing from me. My friend and I crowed open the door of the landlord’s storage space downstairs. We navigated the dark basement, through unknown detritus, and then, as we got deeper in, our eyes adjusted and we stopped looking for light. With the blindness arrived a sensation in which everything I touched felt like something I had owned. Then lights seemed to click on in my brain and even though I couldn’t actually see anything with my eyes, everything I touched was bright and clear. And then everything took shape, or real light appeared again and it was fantastic. A whole scene unfolded as if another world existed in that basement: there were tattooed ladies and strongmen slumping in laps around carousels and Ferris wheels, carnival barkers presenting me with fantastic options, everything wound and rotating. I looked at my friend, to share our amazement at what was hidden in this basement, but she was unfazed, unaware of the circus spinning itself behind her. She was still looking with her hands for anything that had once been mine. Suddenly, I felt very alone, sure I was seeing everything which blinded the rest of the world. In the darkness, from the light of the carnival, I looked at my friend, and she held up a set of magnets she’d given me, not even freed of their packaging yet, which had gone missing weeks ago. They were ugly, some bubble sticker of a teen TV movie character pasted onto an over-sized paperclip, some kind of joke I didn’t get.   I hadn’t been upset to lose them specifically, but they were not the landlord’s to take. My mind started wandering to how often he went into my apartment, wondered if he had been hiding behind the shower curtain while I danced in the bear suit to keep warm. “I think I found the birthday gift I gave you,” my friend said. Her hands were running all over the package, figuring it out. She still couldn’t see. We pocketed the clips and lifted our knees high over the stacks of old newspapers, dirty piles of rags, stained fish tanks. I looked back for the fair before we left, but it was just that blank slate of darkness we’d seen when we’d first cracked the door.

Later that night, we terrorized the open galleries down the street. Art had metastasized on walls which had been blank days before. My eyes grew excited and multiple. Photographs of people wearing scrappy helmets that looked like weapons. Sculptures that triggered my gag reflex, a disgusting network of roots and plugs extending from the undersides of everything. Paintings of rockets announcing themselves against absurd skies, and everything reminded me of a time when the world seemed covered in gluey strings of resistance, and life had me convinced I needed a reason to do anything I got it in my brain to do.

On the way home, my friend looked up into the sky and told me about how the planets would dissolve from one side to the other until we could stare straight into their hollow centers. I shoved her and we didn’t bother saying good night before we climbed to our respective towers.

Back in the apartment, alone, unable to sleep, I spent most of my night making myself sick, spinning in a loose office chair. I spent time running my hands over my body looking for that lovable cancer monster. I had convinced myself I was full of cells that were putrid and secretive. I thought about what I knew was true, even if it couldn’t be proven or if I’d never read it in books: that more comets flew than suns rose; that everyone slept on the job, so no one needed to apologize; that someone must have lined those apples up outside the fourth floor bedroom window I couldn’t budge, no matter how impossible it seemed. I had a life which I had chameleoned to, or maybe it was the other way around. I stopped trying to distinguish anything from itself.   I tried not to look at the sun directly. I stared at the bear suit piled in the corner and took off all my clothes.

4.10 / October 2009