Memories have shadows. At dusk, right before night, the shadows are longest. So when it’s darkest are when the junk stuffed inside those shadows comes out to play. or not play. I prefer imagination to memory. Well, one of my memories or cluster of them was in graduate school where I majored in statistics. One thing I heard a lot, usually from people who are insecure, was “Oh, can you do my taxes?” That’s like asking a surgeon if he make shoes out of potatoes. One thing I did during those two years was drink, after not drinking for the first twenty two years of my life, an unofficial Amish boy driven by official Catholic guilt and perfection or packed away really. I pictured the pope for years with a holographic projection of my balls next to his throne that he could zap anytime he was too exhausted from eating babies for fuel. At Church on Sunday I would make sure to control my thoughts while praying, staring at the Jesus statue waiting for it to move, feeling like a deep rigid stone. When I was home a few months ago I read to my mother pieces of what the Catholic Church taught me about sexuality at CCD (Cockish- coital disruption) during my 7th grade. It was a book written by a passive aggressive fetally damaged pastor and was titled ‘Reverence for Life.’ In one chapter he says masturbation happens, don’t feel too bad about it and then a couple of chapter later tells you that it’s one of the two worst things that can happen to your soul, outside of being gay. This is in the mid 1980’s when the Chrysler K series and Ronald Reagan were both national epidemics.
Now, in grad school, (I’m sorry if I jump around, I haven’t written in a while and it gets all bunched up inside my soul and it’s projectile rejuvenation vomit), I was drinking, smoking and eating crap, or McDonald’s quarter Pounders and Big Macs cause grad student live on a salary and that’s when they started the Monopoly game so some of us in our department would go there too much because, if we pooled, one of us was bound to get Park Place cause we had Boardwalk. But McDonald’s took my stomach’s mind off hot pockets, which I ate; ham and cheese and then cheesebreads and Icehouse and occasionally if a piece of lettuce flew in my mouth from the Iowa wind outside, I allowed it inside.
Grad school was an awful stretch of two years. Two loves were being built, one where my heart was smoking a pack a dayer somewhere under what I call the Colorform lifestyle above. Colorforms were (are?) these thin boxes with toxic little sticky plastic pieces you could lay on the backdrop inside the box to create a scene. I loved them, probably because the plastic was toxic and sent me places a nine year old shouldn’t go. Doing statistics sometimes twelve and thirteen hours a day in the middle of Iowa for two years sent me on a path straight to a nervous breakdown. I started to make quietly irrational choices and that’s where capitalism comes in handy, because you can buy new cars to distract yourself, like I did. But the first quietly irrational decision, or QID, was choosing a major professor because he looked like Conan O’Brien. He still may. He was young, too, and non threatening and I hadn’t had a scrap with him yet like I had with the older Australian teacher who had a voice like James Mason on his deathbed. He twice chastised me, the first time for reading the paper when he had started teaching, which no one knew he had because if James Mason tried to teach statistics on his deathbed to a roomful of students who the hell is going to hear that? The second was for yawning while he was talking and yelled at me “Didn’t your mother teach you manners?” and I stood up and said “My mother taught me a lot of things” and walked over to the Dean’s office to make stink about it; I should have kept walking, should have packed a bag like Dr. David Banner and hitched a ride out West or up North or wherever Jack Kerouac hadn’t moved yet; inside was this gnawing winding fleshy stained glass of words and sounds and I had no idea, no idea, none of how far I really had to travel. The best I could do was keep shoveling ham and cheese hot pockets into that swindled little hole. I’m still fighting. Once you pull one false thread it leads though time, maybe before birth in some ways and like strange floss what’s dangling off that thread you can’t believe you ate, right through the shadows of memories.