Tuscaloosa

“Quote me as saying I was misquoted.”

 

Will you marry me? Do you have any money? Answer the second question first.

 

I’ve just found out, from the internet, that a friend of mine has gotten divorced. Is getting divorced. I’m not sure. When I say a friend of mine, I mean a woman I have been in love with for the past fifteen years. When I say, is getting divorced, I mean has moved back from Cambridge.

When I say in love with, I mean that I do not know what love means, and probably never have. I mean that love is when you take the picture of someone, as that person appears in your head, or maybe as that person once appeared in real life, and make it into a kind of a gesture, that you can repeat over and over, like a Tourettic, like the scene of a crime.

 

Die, my dear? Why that would be the last thing I’d do!

 

Somewhere around the seventeenth century, things changed. For most of western history, death was the great adventure. A good life was a life lived for the sake of a good death. This had many advantages. For one, it meant that one’s entire life was an adventure. It meant that narratives never left you unsure.

The great adventure now, they tell us, is love. Redemption is also popular. These have the advantage that you can tell a story without all or most of your characters dying at the end. These have the disadvantage, that once you have successfully fallen in love or been redeemed, your life can have no further meaning. You are forced to live the remainder of your life as a nothingness, as a narrative lacuna.

It is embarrassing to live one’s life outside of a plot.

 

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

 

This is why we love to fall from grace. This is why so many of us spend our lives falling in and out of love. We need the narrative. We need to feel that we still count for something, that something is still at stake in our lives.

 

Outside a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.

 

That whole year I woke up each morning to violent fantasies, vivid, horrifying, intensely and almost painfully sexual. I never remembered the dreams that preceded them.

I was used to waking up beside someone else, someone that I want right now to address as you, as if said person were listening to this. Said person is not listening to this. I could tell you in detail about said person, about said person’s own sexual proclivities, the things that you could do to said person in bed that would make said person come pretty much immediately or the things that you could do that would make said person immediately stop, say stop in a certain voice that made it clear that stop was not part of the fantasy. We had a safe word but we never used it. Said person just said stop.

 

I married your mother because I wanted children. Imagine my disappointment when you came along.

 

My fantasies when I woke up each morning were not about said person but about men and women said person was close to.

I spent that winter heating up knives, like regular kitchen knives, I would count, one Mississippi, two Mississippi, holding the knife over one of the gas burners, trying to reach one hundred before I held the side of the knife to my shoulder. This was usually late at night, when I was so full of desire that burning myself was the only thing that made sense, when even an orgasm seemed murky and indistinct.

I did not chose the fantasies I had each morning, or if I did, I have no memory of it—it was as if I only became conscious in the middle of a fantasy that had already begun. I chose to continue them, out of a sort of rage that consumed me that year, a rage that filled up more of myself than any other part of me.

 

He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot.

 

It was a dull ritual, the burning, but I already knew that I didn’t like blood. It was always my left shoulder. It didn’t matter if I said the words aloud as I counted, only that my lips moved. Occasionally blisters would have already formed by the time I went to sleep, or else they would appear by the next morning.

 

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.

 

At this same time I became obsessed with angels, the way they were described in the writings of the early church, or in the medieval works on the angelic hierarchies.

The Cherubim with four faces, the face of a man, the face of an ox, the face of a lion, the face of a vulture.

Those known as Thrones, composed of two interlocking wheels each covered in hundreds of eyes.

Those known as the Powers or Authorities, who served as the Bearers of Conscience and Keepers of History.

I pictured angels with wings covering their faces and wings covering their genitals or feet and two wings with which they flew, and I came to understand that these were the Seraphim or Burning Ones, who continually shout: HOLY HOLY HOLY HOLY HOLY. Not even other angelic beings can look upon them.

Satanas, in the Book of Job, is not Satan, this was before Satan existed as a concept in Judeo-Christian theology, Satan came later. The word Satanas refers to “an office,” “something like a CIA agent.” Satanas is “therefore in the Lord’s imperial service…the Lord’s master spy.”[1]

In the first version of the Book of Job, at the end there is no redemption. There is only the whirlwind, and the voice of God.

 


[1] The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version, with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, Wayne A. Meeks, general ed.

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James Tadd Adcox’s work has appeared in PANK, Requited, Another Chicago Magazine, and Barrelhouse, among other places. His first book, The Map of the System of Human Knowledge, is forthcoming in 2012 from Tiny Hardcore Press.