I’ve begun work on an autobiography on my twenty years in teaching. Here’s a rough version of the opening:
I spend a lot of time trying to figure out who I am. I smoke out of boredom. I don’t want to do anything. I get excited about the dumbest of things. I seek revenge. My first thought after learning someone died, anyone, is that it was good that it wasn’t me. I digitize old pictures. I search through old letters. I reflect. I remember. I think about who I was as a kid. I sure as hell didn’t know who I was then, but I was certain that I would know when I was 19 or 20. And, it’s true, I thought I knew what I was about then, or I certainly acted like I did. The thing is I was just a dumb ass kid who wanted to fuck and be recognized as a great writer.
I’m no more than that now. I separate myself from everyone because I don’t like people. But what do I do when I’m on my own? I think of who I can talk to on the phone. I like being alone but I hate being alone. I’m afraid of nothing, and I’m afraid of everything. I wish this was just clever stuff. But it isn’t. It isn’t clever at all. It’s a spew. I mean, I hate acronyms. They are lazy and dumb – 911, Fidi – I hate them, and then I finally give up and use them and don’t question it anymore. It’s true that I have principles. Or I think that I do. I have a moral code. I just don’t know what that is. I’m not what I want to be. I’m still that stupid kid, thinking I will grow up soon. Even now, I think I know everything. I actually know that I know nothing. But knowing that is knowing everything. I think that I could hold up under torture and know that I wouldn’t last a second.
I really am stupid like that. I judge everyone. I objectify women, young and old. It doesn’t matter. I think that I am better than everyone, and I know I am not. I know that admitting all of this is good but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like I’ve wasted my life trying to be something I never was. I never could be myself. That’s the thing. I want to find that guy, figure out who the hell he is. One thing I know for sure: I’m no teacher.
I was in a game of cruel tag where you were stabbed with a pen. That made you it. Bryce was far too aggressive and broke the tip of the pen off in my arm. I looked at the ink spreading through my veins and told him that he was way too violent. He just smirked at me before racing off up the stairs. “Beware the Values and Beliefs Committee!”
Bryce’s friends said that he went to get his gun and that I had better leave. It was an odd space, wide open in the center and then winding corridors with doors and passageways off to the side. I needed to go to the bathroom, but they were all closed or occupied. I finally found what looked like a bathroom in the corner, which had a view down the valley, but it was full of people, some my former students, all of them chanting, “Beware the Value and Beliefs committee! Beware the Value and Beliefs committee!”
I pleaded with everyone to leave, but it was a big joke, especially for Tom Hanks. He was photographing everything and mocked me for wanting privacy. The sound of gunfire was everywhere, and everyone ducked and scattered, except for Tom Hanks who continued to mock me. He made it impossible for me to go to the bathroom and so I offered him my camera, complete with zoom lens. Before leaving, he delivered the line perfectly, “The Values and Beliefs Committee, you know, it might sound like a good thing, but it’s just another cloaking device to maintain status quo. Think about that.”
I am now six weeks out of a double knee replacement which was made sless (slightly less) arduous because of the Oxycontin. It’s a very fine drug for many obvious reasons but mainly because it made me realize the silliness of thinking rational or, more to the point, the importance of slurtionality. That’s a word. I know it.
Anyway, what I want to say is that I came to understand things with my newfound thinking patterns, some very important things such as why Amy Klobuchar and Lois Griffin (the Family Guy wife) have the exact same voice. To understand the importance of understanding this, you only need to superimpose the voice on the girl from the Best Buy computer ads and see how many products would then be moved.
Oxy knowledge is also visual, surrendering such sparks as a metallic box of oily relics, a gurney that drifts to the left and the distinct memory of writing these things down, which means that the essential difference between spiritual and intellectual nausea is laid bare in Rachel Maddow’s speech patterns. (I know what you’re thinking.)
The point is that I’ve lost it. It’s all gone from my brain because I have weaned myself clean. All right, just one a day. Just the one! The point is that I see things right and true now. I believe in the Values and Beliefs committee even if they did find me guilty of things the chairwoman is guilty of (and not me). I’m good. She’s good too. All of them. And who really cares about any of that? We’ve all got other things on our minds.
I’ve arrived in Ohio for a writing conference or, as my niece calls it, ‘camp’. This is actually – her favorite word – a more accurate description given not so much the bucolic atmosphere as the bleak accommodations. It’s the sort of place – despite the well-placed trees and 200-year history – that does not inspire as much as subdue. My best work from the day: The fucking earnestness of discussing the horrors of the world when they are so far away – that deeper feeling of humanity, the western mind – is what is wrong with this fucking world, pretending to care, to love, to be willing to die for, when the truth is, the time will come – it’s called 5pm – when they don’t care because the children have come home and a favorite show is on. And that is all.
Being at a writing nadir, more interested in my video poker than figuring out what I should be writing next, I need more than new writers who think they might be interested in writing but aren’t quite sure.I know I am being judgmental, but I really have to get out of my sci-fi quagmire!