What follows is an excerpt from the other new book I have coming out tomorrow, A Caustic Summer.
“Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.”
These gods of mine have brought forth a season that brings madness with every sunrise. They have brought forth a season that will ruin my mind, before tossing me aside to a place where my own mind is an enemy, where my own thoughts are a disease that courses through my veins and cannot be plucked out on a whim. These gods of mine have used all the sickening colours of their palettes to craft a season of insanity and drought, a season that burns away all refuge, makes the prayers of the scorched useless, and leaves the strongest questioning. I am not at my strongest, and I am not ready for the season of madness.
Summer is a motherfucker.
The resident of apartment 208 is sober.
The inhabitant of apartment 208 passes through the circles of hell, or swims through the slippery images of dreams as if he were part Dante part Virgil
Frames of one man multiplied by thousands of images from one vast photo album, a flipping stack of live drawings that plays through a hazy, hallucinogenic repeat. The inhabitant of these images is the constant. The only change is his different placement in the cycle. In this dream, this vision, he is in every state, in every frame of light. We see inside his soul at all moments, we are his thoughts, we are his miseries and we know how sick he gets when morning rolls around and he feels no better. A viciously enhanced and gargantuan scale triple exposure, a thousand films layered over one another.
We see him flip records, we see him drink glass after glass of water, we see him with different women, going through the same positions and the same tired lines, we see him eat the same breakfast every morning. He smokes. He reads. His routines are the same every single day. Sometimes, in fits of violence, he punches a filing cabinet; sometimes opting for a haymaker leveled at the top drawer, and sometimes a gut punch to the middle drawer that holds his old tax forms and all of the important business forms they can’t be bothered to go through and deal with.
So cue up. Tap the stick against the bandstand and wait
A musician picks up his instrument and begins to noodle around in a minor key. Mournful long notes drift through the air. If you stop and listen, you can hear the background soundtrack to a special kind of hell; Loneliness as a sound, not just a word.
There’s been no rain for months. There’s a drought in California that’s plastered all over the newspaper headlines, and a drought here in Victoria that’s advertised on every water rationing pamphlet that’s shoved under apartment doors and stapled to telephone poles. For me, it has been a season of drought in more ways than one; There has been a drought on liquor (self-inflicted),A drought on love (self-inflicted),a drought on decent sex despite all my efforts pursuing it. I sit around waiting for the smallest scraps of each of these things I lack to trickle through the breakers and through smog and heat down to me. I read about the fires in the hills of the interior, and look out the window to watch ash drift down onto the street from an orange sky that blots out the sun. I walk past smoking garbage cans that line the avenues of this city, set alight by a flicked cigarette ash or spent butt that I hope wasn’t one of mine.
There is heartache and heat, no drought on either, and both are so bad that you can’t sleep, and stand in front of your freezer running ice cubes over your forehead for relief. Everywhere I look are indicators of a special kind of hot Hell dreamt up by cruel gods drunk on causing madness. Everywhere I look are signposts that let me know where I am, but offering no direction out.
I am going against my gods. I am changing myself, and to change oneself is to go against one’s own personal gods. Zeus didn’t make the list, but Jameson Irish Whiskey did. You’ll find no Christ or Mohammad on my list, but you will find Johnny Walker Black and Lord Heineken. These were my gods for years, and I was a devout follower, who prowled temples with carpet flooring and neon signs, and who gave communion every morning and worshipped until sick every night. Now I have run screaming from those sticky temples where the bad country music gospel plays like a siren song, I have run away from the followers with hands full of damp change looking to buy one more round for the road, I have left a discipline I have peeked behind the curtain of to see only death, disease, and cirrhosis.
Yet, I miss it.
I want whiskey
I want gin
I want screwdrivers
and a good screw
I want mini liquor bottles
I want bottles of beer
growlers of high proof rum
rum and cokes
heavy on the liquor
cans of cheap beer
cans of good beer
towers of empties to litter my desk
mickeys for my jacket pockets
two ice cubes in a glass of good scotch
one ice cube in a large glass of Irish
bottles of wine
straight from the bottle
here comes a regular
an old skilled pro at this kind of thing
martinis ordered and consumed
the rule is to chug the first two and savor the third
I want a Heineken
and champagne if it’s New Years Eve.
That was the night I quit.
June 1st/ 28 degrees / Cloudy
June starts with a cloudy day this year. I don’t remember what the weather was like on this day last year, not that I usually have a glorious memory for such things. I am sober today, going on six months, and I know undisputedly that I wasn’t sober on this day last year. It’s not difficult to have a good memory about the days I was drunk, as I was drunk every goddamn day.
A fan turns in the corner of the room. It is the only thing moving in this heat, and it pushes about the room a mix of hot air and a stick of mint incense I lit earlier to drown out the smells of sweat, a one-night stand that still clings to the sheets somehow, and illicit bathtub cigarettes.
On top of my filing cabinet is a vinyl record with all of the corners curled up from being left out in the sun too long. The heat outside is more powerful than rock and roll.
I examine my warped copy of Who’s Next and consider using it as an ashtray, except there’s a hole in the middle, and I feel that the Pete Townsend would be mad at me for dropping ash into all of his carefully manicured record grooves. We’ve never met, but on the off chance it happens, I play it safe and return the useless record to the top of the filing cabinet.
I make a mental note that when I go out I have to remember to close the blinds, otherwise whatever record I left on the turntable will be a ruined by the time I return home.
I empathize with my copy of Who’s Next, for I know what it’s like to be molded into a distorted version of my previous self: to not play like I used to, to send the needle skipping back to the cradle. My sobriety is now six-months-old, and I don’t know yet if it is something to celebrate, or something I have forced myself to endure like a march of attrition. To celebrate the day, I go outside and light a cigarette.
I’ve been smoking too much and I know it; there’s that constant feeling in my mouth of my tongue being turned into steel wool and my fingers stained a sickening yellow. Yet, none of those wonderful beautifications of my oral health and digits stops me from plugging a filter between my lips before breakfast and lighting one up to greet the day. I have my reasons, I tell myself. I have an excuse, and I pardon myself, as I take a long drag and exhale.
I smoke because it’s the only thing that keeps my mind off drinking in the mornings; a quick trick played on the vice offices of my brain, to make the staff feel like I’m giving it what they want.
Never mind that I’ve now switched out the fear of liver failure for the much healthier inevitability of lung cancer. Whatever, I say as I glance into the orange forest fire sky of late afternoon, the whole province is smoking and alight, so I fit in just fine.
It has been summer for a month and I’ve been hiding indoors trying to write poems and not drink.
The poems are about the same cyclic misery that I’ve written of before, and it seems that it’s still impossible to escape from a certain way of personal thinking when writing, even in the aftermath of the quitting drinking and coming to terms with the frayed and scorched ends of most of my major relationships. Strangely enough, the sober poems have seemed to be more of a downer than the drunk ones, as if the cold light of a reality free of substance and boozy haze was harder to describe and endure than one drowning in screwdrivers.
I drink glass after glass of water out of a glass milk bottle. I eat nothing but fruit and stay up for 24 hours as sanity slips, then reason, and after that a decent night’s sleep.
I miss drinking. It’s like they tell you about people who have had a limb cut off; they still feel the twitch.