Underground man

Across the alley, twenty stories up, the orange blinking Christmas lights have finally gone out.

It signals me to move on…enter this year already…take a moment to lift the hem and let some February light in.

But hanging on is what I do best. I can live with all kinds of demons just because I know them. I dare say (archaic Jane-Austiny phrase) I’ve lived with a couple of them for a score of years or more. And why? Just because I fear their their replacements more than their residence. They are nauseating tenants; and I’m an unhappy landlord. But if I kick them out, let myself stand empty for awhile–what in this economy?–I may end up begging them to come back and be okay when they bring a bunch more of their nutcase friends with them.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m not the tenant inside my own inside. I have about as much control. My hand is forced. I keep lowering their rent every time I’m threatened. It’s crazy.

Control over my life is what I want but it’s also something I dread more than identity theft. (‘Course without any control I have no identity worth stealing.) And when I say control over my life I’m not talking about the grand Enlightenment notion of the autonomous agent dictating his way through life like Alexander the  Great charioting his way across the psychological plain in full command. I’m taking about making up my mind to be honest, even if it hurts me and others. I’m haystacketalking about recognizing that I have a choice in how I respond to fear. I’m talking about overturning some old hay bales to clear out the nests of mice. Even now, I’m scared the mice have already been taken over by large rats.

All those rats may have a place but not inside me where they just rummage and rub their backs on my diseased skeleton. And then, like they’re on some ravenous vacation, head for my liver.

Yeah, I’m Dostoevski’s Underground man.

Okay, I’ll start with that. There was at least honesty there. And even in his contorted psyche, the possibility of a healthy self-ownership always played at the horizon. Even if the gloaming always looked like it was coming in at him from a hole in the ground.

The bizarre thing is, I end up grasping for control anyway. But it’s in all kinds of pathetic ways. Most of them are superstitions. Like the order of washing myself in the shower. Or whether to wear a watch, or whatever. Keep the order, and the day has a better chance of working out. Miss my table at Starbucks and I’m screwed.

And then there’s resentment. Curiously, it too is a form of control–well, not really of course–but I use it, unconsciously, as a hideout, a shield, and finally, won’t it become sword?

Well, you might be reading this and say to yourself, get this man a shrink (another archaic nomenclature–nomenclature, a neat change-up for name) and you’d be right. For we all need counselors. Geez, I have them in my family–I live with a very good one, and I have a brother who moulds and shapes people into becoming them. And yet, too close, right? We need an array of counselors, from friends to people who are shaped for it, and you pay some hard earned cash to, and tremble in front of.

You also might be reading this and say to yourself, "I have no idea what he’s on, but I must remember to always cover my drink." If so, I genuinely commend you, and freely drink to your health…from a broad-brimmed martini glass.

For me, I have to say, I’m sad and a bit scared that the orange blinking Christmas lights have gone out. But it did signal something. Could be my harbinger? Okay, I’ll use it. But I swear, this is the last time. From now on, I’m off Christmas lights.


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