Happy Friday, reader. If it is, in fact, Friday where you are. It’s Friday in Thailand at the moment. I’m not in Thailand, and it’s not Friday where I am, and I’m not happy. But Happy Friday to you, anyway.
Below is the final segment of Chapter 4 (titled ‘Home’ and referring specifically to Los Angeles, California) of my semi-fictional self-published meh-moir, “The Suburbs of Babylon.” If you haven’t read parts 1 through 4, it won’t make much sense, and even if you have it probably still won’t make much sense. Consider yourself warned…
“The greatest lie mankind has ever tried to pass off on itself is the idea that any one of us has by any stretch of the imagination the slightest bit of control over our lives. Humans are so pompous they think they are as good as it gets, that we are the highest form of life. The only reason they can’t see what a horrifying thought that truly is is because the alternative is so much worse for them. That there might be a God to answer to one day. That is why I like earthquakes. It does my heart good to see people crumble, be reduced to shaking, drooling children when the earth moves. The thought that they are not in control is just too much to bear. And since I am in an eternal state of chaos, it doesn’t affect me at all. I know there is a God. This tragedy—or comedy (depending on how you see it)—is too contrived to be an accident. I’m just unsure whether He’s a Master at work or a Madman playing fast and loose with all of creation. Then again, perhaps He is both. But back to this idea of mortal fear.
Having been born here, I’ve been used to earthquakes for years, so when they happen, I am cool as a cucumber. But 99 percent of the people in this town came from somewhere else—mostly the Midwest—and are not at all accustomed to the earth shaking. So when it happens, and they fall to pieces, I laugh quietly to myself. Some moral voice within me tells me that is wrong, but I can’t help it. People are just such asses, I can’t stop myself from taking pleasure in their pain.
It’s an interesting irony, considering the number of stuck-up people in this city. It’s got a large population of actors and movie folk. I’ve been around many, in acting classes, and around town. I can’t stand them. Always looking around and talking loud so everyone is sure to notice, then performing their habits as if anyone is interested, as if even in life they are in front of a camera. They can never get offstage. Always preening and bellowing and strutting in blind circles like retarded peacocks prancing around and shitting uncontrollably all over everything. This town is infested with people who think too highly of themselves for no good reason.
* * *
Today I am in the mall again, sitting at a bench outside bebe. There is a woman inside who could be my love goddess from the famous fiasco, but it’s hard for me to tell. Her image has kind of melted, leaving only vague impressions. Like everything else in my world. Fading, dulling, becoming a dream. I long for a woman who will accept the role of lover and loved in my life. Someone who won’t fade to a dream because she is always there, with me. I thought Jane was that person, mostly because she reassured me so much that she was. Until suddenly she wasn’t. People tell me to be patient. Welcome goodness and be positive, and sooner or later Ms. Right will come along. But it’s hard to be patient when you’re staring at a blank wall in a lonely room, while she is out there, in the world, perhaps far out of mind of me and happier for it. The imagination staggers. I’m beginning to believe that the elusive “love” does not exist. I could write a pop song about it, if a million other people hadn’t done it first.
An old lady has grounded herself next to me. She smells of garlic, lemons, and old-lady perfume, something like soap and potpourri. Suddenly I realize that six or seven old people have sat down, surrounding me. They are speaking Yiddish, I think. They sit too close, oblivious to the modern rule of personal space, making me increasingly uncomfortable. I am choking on the stench of mustard. Earlier, as I passed through Macy’s, an attractive young lass sprayed an odd cologne on my arm. I don’t like it, but I’m pushing it up to my nose now, eager to accept it in place of the odoriferous old folks.
The place is starting to fill up with girls. They pass in ones and twos, each affording a glance, which I meet with unabashed expectancy. They inevitably turn away. They bring fleeting pleasure, though clouded by the equally consistent geriatrics—who remind me how many years of sorrow I have yet to endure—and children, who conjure up feelings of disgust, despair, desire, and detachment as my idea of family fluctuates from the impossible to the imperative to the innocuous.
I can’t help wondering what all these people have found that they live for. Or maybe they don’t need anything. Like how a dog simply eats, sleeps, plays, and excretes, finding happiness in a full stomach and a spot in the sun. While I am tortured by things like eternity, the ties between human souls and the intangibles, emotion and reason. And further plagued by the very frivolity of such pursuits. Morality, intelligence, existence. Camus was close but too narcissistic. Darwin had a notion but missed the whole truth. Humans do not invent, they make knowledge foggier. Every new bit of information is a step backward. Buddha was right, but he left too much out of the ideal. People are idiots. They construct little concepts and institutions out of toothpicks and are content to merely sit in the dirt and stare at what they’ve made. Once in a while one will glance at the sky or discover his own nose, and the world will hiccup with anticipation, give him the Nobel Prize. The only great thing left to discover is how to make people into dogs. But now I’ve got to get out of the mall. It’s making me crazy.
On my way home, I saw Lu—the Swede. She was serving drinks on the patio of a local restaurant. I stopped in for a coffee and chatted her up a bit. Her dreams of winning an Oscar were on hold, several potential roles had fallen through, her sister was coming out in a couple weeks. She gave me her new number, said we should all get together. I never called. I can’t fit her into my schedule.
I’ve resolved, at least for the time being, to put Jane out of my mind and make an effort to regain my appetite for other women again. I don’t know how well this will work, since my heart is with her, but maybe heartless encounters are exactly what I need. A little hedonism. A bit of self-defilement at the hands of beautiful, carnal vixens. No ties, no feelings. Yeah, nothing better, nothing I’d rather have, nothing I’d kill to have in my arms right now. (Insert pathetic sigh here.)
I’ll let you know how it turns out.”
Having been stuck back here in L.A. the last three months due to Covid-19, I’ve begun to revert back to my old ways–even going so far as to frequent the restaurant where Lu used to work. I’ve no idea what happened to her, and in her place now is a positively gorgeous goddess with blonde hair and blue eyes. I’m too old for her, of course, and she barely acknowledges me when I’m there. And while I was there yesterday, one of my Thai harem–an 18 year old–texted to say she misses me. And there in a nutshell is the foundation for everything I am and do, and everything I left behind, and am waiting to leave behind again.
Must. Get back. To Thailand.