“Fun” & Loathing

15-July-2011 00:05~00:55. Fifteen days prior was 18, so this must be 16, as it follows every year, as it has since 18 was two and 16 was the Elevens and the clock struck midnight, then 12:05, and then I finally fell unconscious, dozed off after several hours—was it really almost 6 hours, or has remembering rewritten that into a much larger number?—6 hours hitting the button every 15 minutes on the home pump to deliver that extra bolus of morphine.

Schedule 3 Narcotics are a Very Important Thing in the eyes of the law, puritanical tight asses that who want us to Just Say No to anything that might bring pleasure or even relief (which really, is just an edge-case form of pleasure, if you consider it when measured against Hell Fire), unless you get off on violence. Violence is great. Violence is purifying. Ask the Crusades. Just don’t ask any non-Christians. Their violence might as well be pleasure.

Or a Schedule 3 Narcotic.

Because way back, all the way back in 1995, there existed the technology to codify and thus enforce the prescriptions of an MD into the electronics of the home pump mechanism itself: it was Allen’s home pump carrying morphine to the already-non-responsive corpus that had used to be the seat and center of the soul of the man I’d loved, but he was no longer in it, and by a day at least: that would be 24 hours on the devices which measured such things dutifully even after I had already long since lost the knack for quotidian anythings.

Death makes everything mundane, and It makes nothing else unimportant. It makes everything besides the upcoming End quaint, and does nothing but lay bare Its Own Essence: that Death Itself deserves no capitalization after all for its own event, because death is nothing.

And by that I do not mean to walk you down a primrose path only to push you off a cliff where the path abruptly ends: the Void.

Unlike so many self important (and yet shockingly simultaneously self loathing) men I have known, I am never cruel.

I have let others see my frustration in the repeated aloneness I feel when I invite potential mates up to the curtain of mystery/knowledge/intimacy/thing-requiring-attention-span-longer-than-required-for-what-passes-for-“fun”, but that’s my trip, not a full spread of transitive verbs intended for the ones who disappointed me.

This is not to say that there aren’t those who come gunning for me, the ones who may find this very marking of the 16 year interval between now and the death of Allen Howland to be morbid or obsessive or any of those words that people bandy about when they’re actually out of their depth so they just throw sheets of meaning down over a concept and hope they get full coverage and prevent daylight from getting through. No-daylight is tantamount to Rightness.

Yeah, right.

Fun is a good thing, but only when it spoils nothing better.
—The Sense of Beauty, MIT Press, 1988, p. 155

All this is also not to say that those who have heard this quote from Santayana (and apologies to the memory of the man for the long shadow that bumper sticker aphorism has cast over his far more nuanced, involved works) and scoff at it don’t stop at the scoffing, but expend energy in order to justify “fun” as the storied Better Thing. And then go ahead and resent me for tacitly having required that expenditure.

This is how voluntary ghettoes are formed and maintained: Shut out dissent first, then watch as your ability to cope with conflict atrophies considerably—and swiftly. But then you then have to also shut out heterogeneity of thought and opinion, not because they cause conflict (they don’t), but rather because heterogeneity/variety is a potential, indirect source of conflict.

Eventually you have to pare vocabulary, too, because words require judgment even in speaking them, and having already judged, you put something out there subject to interpretation of meaning, because words are blunt, barely-aimable objects after all. So in paring vocabulary, but still needing to communicate, you go for proto-linguistic vocalizations and dress them up as “fun” or “identifying traits”.

A “woof” here, and a “grrr” there and you’re off to the races, meeting someone new, taking him home or back to your tent, “funning” the “fun” out out of him. Or letting him “fun” the living “fun” out of you. Consequence-, meaning- and chance-of-conflict- free.

Chock full of “fun” and absolutely no opportunity for a shot at anything better.

And so, while deaths themselves truly are nothing, their effects on those who remain to mourn and to remember and to continue are truly profound, and what people forget is that those ripples caused by a given event are not restricted to surface phenomena: the waves radiate in all directions, and travel to depths unseen even more swiftly than they disrupt calm surfaces in that beautiful concentric imagery we all know so well.

Here I am 16 years later, and of course it’s not to say that there haven’t been my own something-wonderfuls. And it’s not to say, again, of course that there haven’t been horrors in my life as well. But the horrors were nearly all a result of the wonderfuls having been suborned by “fun” at the near total expense of all of the Somethings Better that we had going on.

And in the worst times, unsurprisingly, there were plenty of people gunning for me, plenty of less-than-people avoiding conflicts by explaining things away, paring vocabularies, reducing conflict by avoiding conflict by avoiding confrontation by avoiding truths by avoiding conversation by avoiding one of us, all on the descent vector towards woofs and grrs, and all along the way, “fun” was on the ascent towards the top of the priorities list.

For everyone else.

As for my priorities, in health and then in sickness, priorities remained intact: love, intimacy, care, sharing, fun, respect. All in proper order, all withstood it all.

Before and, even for a short while after, the non-event of his death 16 years ago today.

When It’s a Curse

I sat there in their dining room up at the top of the world.

It’s funny, you know? Now they live at the top of the world and twenty years ago they lived at the center of the universe: I’m just realizing this. I’m also dithering, playing at a dilly-dally shilly-shally.

Never be near me when I fuck with words. A mood most foul is afoot.

Fifteen years ago this was a Wednesday and he was just over my right shoulder from where I’m sitting right now and the home pump was near his feet on my side of the bed and the lighting was different and there was no desk here and Jesus Christ on a fucking cracker could I be any more maudlin and mawkish.

I am not irresolute about the past: it’s not his death I’m reliving, not less than two hours from now fifteen years ago that he’s about to die all over again, that the dull rusty saw of his muscle-toneless respiring will have ended when sleep finally came down for me for just a little while after days of nearly none. It’s not the every fifteen minutes of hitting the button on the home pump to drive another bolus of morphine into what was left of him to send him to his fate: his fate had been sealed sometime in the prior 36 hours or so.

It’s not about fifteen years ago.

It’s merely a play of thoughts, a trick of the light, a “Twinge in [The] Heart Far More Powerful Than Memory Alone”. It’s the mind serving up imagery from its own past as a coping mechanism for the present.

There’s fear here, you see. Fear in the now. Fear and shadow, and the re-minding of events is the way the brain shines a warm light on the heart, a returning of the favor for all those times when the heart was just doing its job.

That long-ago death of my long-ago love is an ache that’s deeper than hell itself. I can throw a million words down its maw and never fill it up. Notice that hasn’t stopped me from trying all these years.

But this re-minding of the events informs the tenderer parts that aches are things you can live with, even when you can’t measure them!

It makes no sense whatsoever, which is the thing you cannot bear, the thing you cannot live with. Senseless thing, death. Senseless things I’m saying: Living with something immeasurably awful!

Of course you can’t live with it and you’re inconsolable and forever has collapsed into your next breath and you don’t even care if you take another one because it’s so heavy, the air, so heavy. But somehow you do, and you resent the hell out of your own body for betraying your wishes because you’re still here and that’s a perfect impossibility if he’s not. Or she’s not. Or they’re not. Or he might not be. Or they might not be.

But yes, you do—I have—learned to live with the ache, have escaped the inescapable despair cleanly while gaining purchase and distance from it.

It comes back to me now because of a date on a calendar and the very recent death of a friend and other things so profound that the subconscious bids up what it will in order to frame the gravity and import and keep me grounded in the Now.

And there’s the beautiful irony of living with the Immeasurably Ache: there may be no way to plumb its depths, but you gauge your own distance from it in whatever terms or units are the most valuable to you at any given moment.

Am I fifteen years from it? Three heartbreaks? 100,000 gray hairs? Ten orders of magnitude in wisdom? Double in my appreciation of his sense of humor such as it was? Less abiding of fuckheads who take anonymous potshots at me? More open to new love?

There is no right answer, there are manifold. Wrong answers are only waypoints before arriving at a right answer if you know how to work them.

I miss you, Yog. I always will. I remember everything. Every last fucking thing. But there’s room for plenty more memories in this giant round Charlie Brown head of mine. That’s the magnificence of being alive.

Where’d that Curse go? Even Curses don’t like my mood when I get like this.

A Dozeneuphemisms In The Family

I am here to bury Rex Sforza, to eulogize him, to finalize his life—he can’t do it because he’s dead. Suddenly, shockingly dead.

Not to “send him on his way”, not to “lose him”, not to “wish him sleep or rest” and heaven forbid, not to tell the world he’s “gone from us”.

There are precious few topics in my life where I have precious little patience for others, where I find their speech to be the ugly blathering of ugly mouths, and death is one of those times.

Lest you, Gentle Reader, think I am merely experiencing the anger phase of grief over the death of my good friend, the wonderful man Rex Sforza, I assure you that I am “merely” nothing and my brain can be in two (or many, many more) places at once.

It’s a multithreaded world and I had to find out about Rex’s death through the ridiculously indirect rubric of Facebook friend comment status update statuses which themselves contained the ridiculously indirect and abstract rubric of those who shrink back into euphemism when faced with the only absolute most gay men will ever face: death.

The only other absolute as human beings that exists is realization of a child, and only very very recently have I had the chance to see that reality on the face of a gay man I can truly relate to; that’s how I know it’s an absolute: by giving empathetic attention to a wonderful father.

My cousin Carol—though “cousin” hardly does justice to the familial closeness of the relationship—was online and listened. She’s awfully good at that. She’s awfully good at a lot of things that world seems to have lost the knack of. She and my other cousins, her sisters, all are, as are my two parents, three brothers and two sisters-in-law.

It’s a family of listeners and perhaps that’s why I have no patience for the masturbatory periphrasis of all these euphemisms. It’s fear that drives them, or a crowding of personalities to try to best each other, trying to “get all of the misery right”.

Literally, a crowdsourced effort to kill the notion of our Death in the Family.

But Rex was a man. A gorgeous, beautiful, brilliant, artistic man’s man. He was as flawed as me or you or any of us, as all of us, because he was one of us. That’s what made him so easy to touch and be touched by.

In fact, he always led with that. Rex and I weren’t ever “officially” in each other’s company until—it’s a good thing I can touch type because my eyes are closed and my head is back, face upturned towards the ceiling as I type this—until we’d reach out as men and grab one another’s hand in greed, as close friends pull each other into a hug, as gay men kiss each other on the mouth and as gay men who simply adored each other, lingered in the hug, fuzzy cheek against fuzzy cheek.

I’ll always remember those moments carved out of time with Rex—not so much the moments themselves because I would be completely given over to them, but rather the guardpages of time before and after. Especially after: the smile on his face just for me, and certainly there was a smile on my face that was just for him.

And then we just were there, with everyone else. It was both good and bad that we could be like that because I think both he and I took advantage of the fact that no matter how many months passed without checking in with each other, we could close the gap in a matter of moments as if no time at all had passed. So we let months at a time pass.

And now he’s not asleep, not gone, not lost. Not sent away.

He’s dead and there’s no lesson in that. There’s no hope in that. There’s no wishing for it to be anything other than so. There’s nothing good about it. There’s nothing noble in it. There’s nothing grand or splendid or propitious about it. There’s no reason to be sanguine about it now or ever.

I will miss him terribly, do miss him terribly. I know what it is to live with death and there’s no feeling better about it. There’s only distracting yourself from your disconsolation if you can’t live in your own skin, and only you can decide for yourself if that’s an offense to the memory of the dead or not.

There is no judgment from the outside in the matter of the death of a loved one, and if someone tries to tell you that—including me, and if you think that’s what this entry has been about, you’re one of the people for whom the redundancy “reading for content” was invented—pity them.

And kindly tell them to stop interfering with your shit.

I loved you a lot, Rex, and I’m glad I always made sure you knew it. And selfishly, I’m even happier you always let me know you loved me, too.

My friend is dead and the world is short one short, beefy giant of a man.