Friday, June 7, 2013

I Am Constant Reader

     This was supposed to be a different post.  I'm working on a discussion of father's rights, or lack thereof, in this country and that post is still coming.  It would have been finished by now but a new Stephen King book got in the way and those that know me know that's a significant impediment to me doing anything.  I'm sure there are some who say a reading a book is a sorry excuse to not do something, and they might be right, but if they are then a lot of my life has been a sorry excuse. Stephen King calls those that read most of his books the constant reader and I suppose that's about as good of a description of me as any.
     I don't believe the right book comes into your life at the right time just as I don't believe that about people or jobs or weather or any of that happy horseshit.  Life is mostly just just random shit that happens as we stumble from day to day.  I do believe, though, that if you're in need of something you'll find it if it's there and if you look in a good book it's almost always there.  So I read Joyland by Stephen King at the right time for me.  It's about a young man getting over his first love who befriends a special young boy with muscular dystrophy and if you know me you know that spoke to me.  I'm missing two Brads right now but that's another post for another time.
     Anyway, enough of my words.  They are so often inadequate.  Here are the quotes from Joyland that seemed to be talking about my life in one way or another.
     People think first love is sweet, and never sweeter than when that first bond snaps. You've heard a thousand pop and country songs that prove the point; some fool got his heart broke.  Yet, that first broken heart is always the most painful, the slowest to mend, and leaves the most visible scar.  What's so sweet about that?

     What I know now is that gallant young men rarely get pussy.  Put in on a sampler and hang it in your kitchen.

     When you're twenty-one life is a roadmap.  It's only when you get to twenty-five or so that you begin to suspect you've been looking at the map upside down, and not until you're forty or you entirely sure.  By the time you're sixty, take it from me, you're fucking lost.

     When it comes to the past everyone writes fiction.

     She's nothing to me these days but a scar and a memory, someone who hurt me as young women will hurt young men from time to time.

     It was never a constant thing, but did I think of her with certain malevolence in the aftermath of the breakup?  Yes.  There were long and sleepless nights when I thought she deserved something bad - maybe really bad - to happen to her for the way she hurt me.  It dismayed me to think that way but sometimes I did.

     Fifty yards ahead of us a doe came out of the woods.  She stepped back over one rusty GS@WM track and onto the railbed where the weeds and goldenrod were so high they brushed against her sides.  She paused there, looking at us calmly, ears cocked forward. What I remember about that moment is the silence.  No bird sang, no plane went overhead. If my mother had been with us, she'd have had her camera and would've been taking pictures like mad.  Thinking of that made me miss her in a way I hadn't in years.
     I gave my father a quick, fierce hug.  "I love you, Dad."
     "I know," he said, "I know."
     When I looked back, the deer was gone.  A day later so was I.

     This is a badly broken world, full of wars and cruelty and senseless tragedy.  Every human being who inhabits it is served his or her portion of unhappiness and wakeful nights.  Those of you who don't already know that will come to know it.

     History is the collective and ancestral shit of the human race, a great big and ever-growin pile of crap.  Right now we're standin at the top of it but pretty soon we'll be buried under the doodoo of generations yet to come.  That's why your folks' clothes look so funny in old photographs, to name but a single example.  And as someone who is destined to be buried beneath the shit of your children and grandchildren, I think you should be just a leetle more forgiving.

     You think Okay I got it, I'm  prepared for the worst but you hold out that small hope, see, and that's what fucks you up.  That's what kills you.

     I don't think either of them realized, then or all the rest of the summer, how fundamentally the ground under my feet had shifted.  How lost I felt.  I didn't want them to know.  It was more than embarrassing; it seemed shameful.

     Such fires are probably illegal in the twenty-first century; the powers that be have a way of outlawing many beautiful things made by ordinary people.  I don't know why that should be, I only know it is.

     I had already made up my mind about some things, it seemed, and all that remained was for my conscious mind to get the news.

     I would argue that-fantasies aside-the majority of men are monogamous from the chin up.  Below the belt-buckle, however, there' a wahoo stampeder who just doesn't give a shit.

     "That girl," he said in tones of infinite disgust, and then we moved on to other topics.

     "You'll get over her."  Her eyes were on mine.  She wasn't wearing makeup that night, and didn't need any.  The moonlight was her makeup.
     "Yes," I said.  I knew it was true, and part of me was sorry.  It's hard to let go.  Even when what you're holding onto is full of thorns, it's hard to let go.  Maybe especially then.

     He shrugged.  "I've got muscular dystrophy, that's all. That's why I'm in the wheelchair.  I can walk, you know, but the braces and the crutches are a pain in the butt,"
     "I'm sorry," I said, "That stinks, Mike."
     "I guess, but I can't remember not having it, so what the hell.  Only it's a special kind of MD.  Duchenne's muscular dystrophy, it's called.  Most kids who have it croak in their teens or early twenties."
     So, you tell me--what do you say to a ten-year-old kid who's just told you he's living under a death sentence?

     Let them go, I thought, but I was tired of letting women go.  I was tired of just letting things happen to me and then feeling bad about them.

     Life isn't always a butcher's game.  Sometimes the prizes are real.  Sometimes they're precious.

     She took my right hand and put it on the silky cup covering her left breast.  I could feel the soft, steady beat of her heart.  "I must not have let go of all my daddy issues yet, because I feel delightfully wicked."

     "I tried my ass off to believe that when I was a little girl, and I couldn't.  God and heaven lasted about four years longer than the Tooth Fairy, but in the end I couldn't.  I think there's just darkness.  No thought, no memory, no love.  Just darkness.  Oblivion.  That's why I find what's happening to him so hard to accept."

     The world has given me a good life since then, I won't deny it, but sometimes I hate the world, anyway.  Dick Cheney, that apologist for waterboarding and for too long chief preacher in the Holy Church of Whatever It Takes, got a brand-new heart while I was writing this-how about that?  He lives on; other people have died.  Talented ones like Clarence Clemons.  Smart ones like Steve Jobs.  Decent ones like my old friend Tom Kennedy.  Mostly you get used to it.  You pretty much have to.  As W.H. Auden pointed out, the Reaper takes the rolling in money, the screamingly funny, and those who are very well hung.  But that isn't where Auden starts his list.  He starts with the innocent young.
     And so those are the words I've been swimming in the last two evenings while I should've been doing other things.  I was doing what I needed to be doing, though.  That's what I do most of the time.  Most of those words, most of the book, hit close to home, cut to the bone, pick a pretty cliche just for today, and I'm not ashamed to say I cried.  I'm proud to say I cried because the tears were for a man who deserved them.  Those that know will know and those that don't will just have to trust me.  I know about words and tears after all.  I am Constant Reader.


  1. AWESOME!! I will order the book Paul. ;-) ♥ Stephen King RULES!!

  2. This ones great even by his standards.