Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Century Smell

The Twin Towers branded the Twin Zeros. As those buildings collapsed, America's bent mind twisted further, allowing the Bush/Cheney gang to go wild. Those early days now seem like fever dreams, no scream of vengeance too violent, no theory about lessers too extreme. It was a happy time for sadists; lucrative too, if played right. Many did and still do, though the 9/11 war dance lost its prime heat years ago.

Not that war dances are passé. As our empire fades, the steps get increasingly frantic, a mosh pit of imperial frenzy and confusion. The steady beat is gone. It may return should some lunatic action occur. But it won't boast the same clarity of 9/11. That cherry's been popped. From here on, we're used terror whores.

If we'd been attacked by a civilized resistance, one not invested in chaos and mass suffering, we might have learned something about our murderous conduct and how it affected those on the receiving end. Unlikely given our arrogance, but possible. Instead, we were attacked by those as venal and superstitious as a great number of us, fanatics devoted to violence and control. They spoke a kindred tongue, saw nothing wrong with slaughtering civilians. We called their predecessors freedom fighters, back when their cruelty drew Beltway applause. To say the irony was lost on most Americans is obvious, but nonetheless true.

It certainly was lost on me early on. After the initial shock subsided, the vengeful Hoosier within took shape. All the violence I'd witnessed, all the beatings I'd endured did little to stop this crazy rube from eating fire. I've written before of my mental and emotional breakdown. It remains a truly frightening period of my life. For the better part of a year, I howled with the pack, lusted for death. I hadn't felt such ferocity since boot camp, shooting targets with an M-16, blasting open tanks with a LAW. I'd get drunk and feel my spine sizzle as I blew apart jihadists in my head. It was a psychotic release, fueled by despair and anger over my deepening exile.

I had taken a new cleaning job with a small company owned by members of the John Birch Society. The owners were friendly enough, keeping to business and not politics. The office walls, lined with posters calling for a Christian nation, said plenty. After a month of kicking ass part-time, they gave me several commercial buildings to tend. I embraced my emerging status as cleaner extraordinaire -- not hard to do, since most cleaners do a really shitty job. If I couldn't get a writing gig or book deal, I'd make money with the Birchers. So began several lost years, every day the same, at the bottom of society's heap.

I connected with a few guys who knew nothing of my recent past. I kept it that way. What was there to say? My publishing access was dead. So I worked at first with Dontrell, whose story I shared over a year ago. Then I was paired with Will, a fiftysomething ex-Marine who had operated a field radio in Vietnam. Will was a first-rate cleaner, someone I didn't need to correct or clean after. He loved to talk. He'd tell strange war stories, like strangling a large swamp rat that attacked him on patrol. Will acted out the narrative with crazed expressions, laughing hysterically, punching my arm. Other times he'd be depressed, recounting personal failures in his life. We rarely talked about the present war, assumed each shared the other's view.

Will was also a serious boozer. He occasionally showed up buzzed, but the effects of his drinking were usually seen the night after. Once he came in with a splint taped across his nose.

"What the fuck happened?"

"I got really fucking lit last night and fell on my face."

"You trip?"

"Naw. I was standing in my living room and fell down. Took awhile to get the blood out of the carpet."

Will passed out and SPLAT broke his nose. He thought it was funny. His bruised, swollen face smiled. He didn't call in sick, did his standard fine job. Later, he popped two beers as we leaned against his pick up. We guzzled them down as if dying of thirst.

"Ah man," Will said, smacking his lips. "That tastes sweeter than pussy right now."

I didn't know about that. But the beer made standing in an empty rural parking lot more bearable. Two raccoons jumped from a dumpster as I looked to the clear night sky. I was uncomfortable being comfortable with this dismal existence. As far as I was concerned, the 21st century could fuck off and die.

NEXT: War fever breaks; life amid the lazy daft.