Chapter One: The Hard Love

Genesis of Another American God

The waves are lapping

The thunder clapping

The ship is leaving in port

The end is near

The start I fear

Of the same shit another sort.

 

And the waves the waves

All that they gave

Are directing me

It’s a little lost

Little lost

Holocaust

Another loss you see

 

And it’s a little lost little lost little lost cause

Your black boots in the evening

Sends the sky ever realing

You and I so revealing

Strip our minds away

As we in bed lay

Wondering at the day

What can we ever say but

It’s a little lost little lost little lost cause

 

The waves are lapping

The thunder clapping

The ship is leaving in port

The end is near

The start I fear

Of the same shit another sort.

 

The storm is a rising

I am a writhing

Trying to get through

I’m looking for me

I’m staring at the sea

Will the Gods ever get through?

Form me to you

Will the gods ever get through?

To me from you, yeah

Will the gods ever get through?

 

And it’s a little

Little lost

Little lost cause, cause.

 

And it’s a little

Little lost

Little lost cause.

 

 

*     *     *

 

            It’s a lost little cause. She’s stomping on the ground, boots kicked up through everything. Those black boots from Germany, and she’s dancing in the rain, glorious. It’s a fleeting memory, going awkward now. Backwards, and I’m crawling over all these emotions and all the ruination I brought on myself.

            It’s easy to look back. Easy to drown in possibility.

            And who doesn’t dwell in possibility: I should have done this, I should have done that, we always think. Our whole life is spent reliving the past over and over. We think of it selfishly. If only I’d spoken to that girl, asked her to dance, then she and I would live together now. If only I acted completely different than my nature, everything would work out.

            If only I could change.

            There’s never change. No one can change: you find yourself stuck in cycle after cycle and there’s never growth.

            The more you try for growth, the less you achieve.

 

*     *    *

 

            This is the story of my last two years in high school. This is the story of the first relationship, the one that primed the others. It’s also the story of a sick boy who heard the words a raging torrent of cruel voices and laughter not like a schizophrenic but like a martyr plagued by angels driving towards death.

            To understand the story, you must understand the principal scenery. The most important is the school. Built in the early seventies, the place is like grayness, a square prison sprawling over ex-farmland, cut in half by a floating quad. Not floating, exactly. But built right over a river, right on top of the fault line.

            The original idea of the school—in the seventies—was an open area for humanities. The students would simply sit down and let their teacher do the talking. They could choose which teacher on any particular day. This did not work. Consequently, paper thin walls divided the classrooms. A gloom of a place not helped by the saddest of painted mural rainbows, or even the best teachers.

            I started that year a bright lad, a sarcastic wit, a sad man. I thought of myself as above everyone and everything. I’m the intellectual. Not anyone else. I’d started reading Watership Down. The teacher liked this. I soon discovered, however, the teacher belonged in the camp that promoted Whitman and his ilk, and magical realism. I wrote surrealism. This became painfully clear when I used Dali’s paranoiac-critical theory in an essay about a place.

            The idea of the essay came from the transcendentalists. I objected, however. Find a peaceful place in nature, and write your observations, the teacher demanded. I thought it made no sense to force people to right about nature, because transcendentalism is about deep thinking and not just reflection on nature. It’s the opposite: where do you feel safe and comfortable? Where do you think best?

            The answer for me is inside, alone. Nature doesn’t inspire me much.

            I soon made my way to the top of the world and down again. It’s like a sandcastle at high tide. You build one wall, as the other crashes down. Each hope you dig fills up again. You end where you start. Neutral. Ups and downs don’t matter in the long run. We always end the same.

            A patch of light hit a bare patch on a hill. It looked like a sprawling giant woman. A vagina, particularly. I wrote my essay on the edibility of the woman hill, as “beauty must be edible or not at all” according to Salvador Dali.

            I should stop, for a moment, and describe the paranoiac-critical technique of Dali. It’s actually a simple view of the world, and why so many people find it troubling is a problem that often ways on my minds.

Imagine a child.

            The child is playing the game of clouds. As each cloud passes, he says the multiple shapes he derives from those great moisture wisps. It looks like a dragon, a mother, a snake, an army of horses rushing forward at a ford.  The paranoiac-critical theory is a simple extension of this. It is a process of understanding not only the world, but oneself as well.

            Simply put, the paranoiac-critical technique is the ability to see everything as a double image. The traditional example is a cracked sidewalk: there’s a crack down the side with ants marching along. The ant’s are simply a rive flowing out into the sea, and obviously the crack shows the ocean boundary. The sidewalk is a sidewalk representing Mexico. It is Mexico, for all intent and purpose. Neither simile nor metaphor, it is both things. Everything is everything else.

            I turned in my essay, and in the next few days, things started moving. Those forces, circles around us, people who know other people you meet later, the great plate tectonics of society—they began to move. About this time, a friend named Matthew started posting odd ramblings on his web log. Yes, we both fell into that scourge of the interconnected community.

            Another friend, who called himself Firth, attempted to train Matthew and me in the arts of seduction. Single out a girl, and start a conversation. Take an interest in something you observe of her, and exploit that. I questioned the use of this, the morality. Back then I thought myself at least half-Christian. I still even semi-believed a destiny waited for me in the priesthood, Methodist, as if pre-ordained by that fictional imaginary friend. I went along only half-heartedly. I bought a book because it looked the girl I fancied read much.

            Matthew gave up sooner than I did, and the benefits began. This was the content of his blog’s post:

 

            “It’s getting rather confusing. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going these days. Life seems not dull, but rather fast paced. I wonder what I’m trying to get out of life. Must be all these freshman.”

 

            It so transpired that one freshman, worried at her friend’s lust for a boyfriend, asked Firth who would make a nice, sweet (and implied naïve) boyfriend. He suggested Matthew and me. I met them a few days before, and made an astonishing fool of myself. In a circle of friends, talking, I interrupted with a non sequitur. I referenced the popular internet comic Megatokyo.

            “I have a vibrating sheep of doom.” I said it as a joke, really, to one friend, but a cute Goth girl with long brunette hair, and dark clothes with multicolored bands around the wrists. Safety pins held her clothes together, and you could see the marks in her skin where she cut herself. I never believed my Myers-Briggs and Keirsey test results until I fell in the hard love with this cute girl.

            What is hard love? Is it a dreadful infatuation? Just a crush? Is it real love, the whole emotions and ups and downs that go with it? I’m not entirely sure, but it’s not such a fleeting thing. For good or bad, you want the person with you and by your side every possible moment. It’s all very neurotic, an obsession if you will. At times it’s the scariest thing in the world, and at times the one thing everyone looks for. Security—knowing that whatever you do will not stop the love in the eyes of a chosen mate. That’s hard love, best I can define.

            The hard love didn’t come right away, but from the very first kiss on the cheek, from the very first promise of a relationship, the eventuality became clear. Like a dog trying to warn of a coming storm, the weary feeling in my stomach like a herd of breeding cats showed the happy direction.

            The next day, the Goth girl’s best friend approached me. The dream began, th3e foundations started to build. I composed poems, odes, symphonies all joyously announcing my arrival from the asocial nature I nurtured so long into society.

 

            Here they herald me

            And I am the king and the queen

            Is waiting and she’s coming soon

            So long have I raged

            So long have I trapped

            So long stuck in this monsoon

            And it’s the storm of always

            The storm of all days

            The storm that we call life

            And I’m emerging to scratch

            Myself on the rocks

            Outside the hurricane’s eye

 

            And this storm is approaching me

            She’s moving on up

            I take up the mouth harp

            And this storm is approaching me

            I sit alone shyly

            From everyone I’m apart

 

            Here they herald me

            And I am the king and the queen

            Is waiting and she’s coming soon

            So long have I raged

            So long have I trapped

            So long stuck in this monsoon

            And it’s the storm of always

            The storm of all days

            The storm that we call life

            And I’m emerging to scratch

            Myself on the rocks

            Outside the hurricane’s eye

 

            I put on the court

            And my fancy headdress

            I always stick myself

            In some kind of mess

            Invite me to your heart

            Make me your guest

            I think I’ve overstayed

            But the stay was so blessed

 

            And it’s the storm of always

            The storm of all days

            The storm that we call life

            And I’m emerging to scratch

            Myself on the rocks

            Outside the hurricane’s eye

 

            Here they herald me

            Angels trumpet and speak

            Here they herald me

            I flow to the peak

 

            Here I sit

            I watch the storm

            I see it rolling in

            I can read the clouds you know

            What builds good

            Falls bad again

 

            Here they herald me

            Angels trumpet and speak

            Here they herald me

            I flow from the peak

 

            Here they herald me

            And I am the king and the queen

            Is waiting and she’s coming soon

            So long have I raged

            So long have I trapped

            So long stuck in this monsoon

            And it’s the storm of always

            The storm of all days

            The storm that we call life

            And I’m emerging to scratch

            Myself on the rocks

            Outside the hurricane’s eye

 

            Thrilled to receive any attention, I placed my foot firmly in my mouth and misstepped all over the place. Apparently it charms some.

            I noticed the girl’s long hair and Aryan features. Mostly Germanic, I guessed. (I learned later the truth of my assumption.) She wore jeans, and very conservative sweaters. They seemed the stuff that would cause Bill Cosby to shake at their poor design. If I reach back correctly into my memory, she wore a snowflake line red white and black sweater when she approached me. Bluish eyes interrupted my reverie, tore the headphones away from my ears.

I was drowning myself in prog rock. I’d discovered my love of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer only a month or so before. I started to dig them heavily, and even purchased the classic live album—simply titled ELP. The drums of Carl Palmer mixed with a grooving bass line and vocals by Greg Lake, topped off with eccentric eclectic piano and synthesizer riffs brought me out of myself and into the air. It made me feel lost, just floating above everything. I felt an observer, rather than an actor.

“See that girl over there,” my interrupter said.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Careen. Do you think you’d be a good boyfriend… are you cuddly?”

“I could wear polar fleece.” Why did I say that? I almost spat up on the ground at the idiocy of my attempted joke. The girl laughed, and told me she would contact me about getting her friend and me together. She took down my instant messaging name, a combination of two characters in my favorite Manga. KyokoGodai—a mixture of the leading male and female from Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku. Takahashi is better known for Ranma ½ and Inu-Yasha, but I liked the feel of the boarding house romance story better.

She messaged me later, after reading my internet journal. Matthew, that sneaky bastard, leaked her that information. I forgave him though, because life became the sweetest ever, like nectar dripping a tangerine.

 

<<Hey, is this… Derrick?>>

<<Uh, Yeah…who are you?>>

<<The girl you talked to earlier. My names Careen. …I read your blog.>>

 

The blog in question went something like this:

“My motive in life is gold. I like money. I want money. I also want romantic love. I want to have a girl by me and tell me I’m okay, and I want to tell her she’s okay. I want a partner, a lover. And I want money.”

 

<<You should,>> said Careen,  <<not show my friend, Makayla, the part about money. But you seem like a good guy. I’m going to give her your instant messaging address.>>

<<Um, okay.>>

 

A few moments later, another message popped up. I’d dashed off a few lines to Matthew, asking him what he intended to get me into. He only gave me that graphic equivalent of a saucy smile, the sarcastic little yellow bugger emoticon.

<<Hi, Careen told me to talk to you.>>

<<You are… Makayla?>>

<<Yes.>>

<<Careen says you’d be a good choice. You want to meet before school tomorrow, to, uh, check each other out.>>

<<Um, I guess so.>>

<<Cool… what do you like to do?>>

<<Not much.>>

<<Ha ha.>>

<<Hold on, let me think.>>

<<Okay.>>

I listed what I liked, and she listed her likes. Hers included role-playing, writing, and horseback riding, and watching movies. I liked music more, and I agreed with her about the fun of writing and role-playing. We got along rather well, and the beating of my heart thumped over and over.

I prayed that night, thanking the Gods.

 

I’ve been waiting so long

For this chance

To prove myself in love

I thank you gods

I thank you angels

I thank you all above

 

I’ve been waiting long

I’ve been spurned before

But I kept struggling

I needed to know

Whether my life I should throw

But you got me back in the door

 

I went to bed at around three o’clock, after asking the girl to go steady. I slept barely; tossed and turned about like a boat breaking through rough waves on the ocean. Excitement enveloped me. I felt awash in good feelings. But I felt some dread. Good happens, and I asked karma, when the bad would show.

Waking up, I rushed to the bus. It looked like a camel (paranoiac-critically). I hummed to myself happy tunes, and listened to my cd player. I picked a cheerful jazzy cd of progression jazz from New Orleans. The band Galactic with their album Late for Future. Sun rose around me, around the bus speeding through the valley to the school. (My house, you see, far back from the rest of the town, is on a large hill full of other upper-middle class people.)

We met early in the morning. She let me hug her, touch her beautiful and scented brown hair running down along her back. We joked, played. We kept up with each other all day, generally enjoying our time together.

And the next night, we spent time talking once more. As I settled down to my bed, I heard an owl. I knew the superstitions, the title of that book. I believed it, spiritually. Someone I knew died. It came as no surprise when little more than two hours later, the phone rang through a dead quiet house. My grandfather died.

On reflection, the death was foreshadowed, a long time coming. After several near-fatal car crashes, and refusing to give up the keys, my mother’s family forced their clan-head—my grandfather—into a home for old people with mental diseases. We believed Alzheimer’s as his condition, but the autopsy revealed the mind-problems as some yet unknown affliction.

So we went, quickly, off to the funeral. I bade my goodbyes to the girl I felt so strongly for in such a short time. I promised her a date when I returned. We would go out to dairy queen, with some friends along, and hang out. I composed more in my head, devotional prayers to this Madonna life thrust into me.

The hard love began to form.