costume and dance around to a Kenny Loggins song. He was known as "The Beast" (the guy in the costume, not Kenny Loggins).
You know damn well that if anyone in that school ever went on a shooting spree that the national media would focus immediately on all that Satanic imagery, and public outrage would force the school to change its mascot to something pleasant and innocuous, toot-sweet. A bird or something.
As it happened, though, nobody paid much attention, and among the student body while I was there, there was only one minor stabbing incident, and only a small handful of Satanists. And, to be honest, they only called themselves "Satanists" in order to have an excuse to go out to the woods, drink cheap beer, torture small animals and gobble various hallucinogens.
Every time I think back on that place, though, back on all those pictures of the devil staring at me all day, I can't help but think that maybe it goes some distance in explaining a few things.
For the past few weeks, I've been waking up filled with a warm, glowing, all-encompassing hatred for the world around me. It passes with the hours, usually to be replaced with boredom, but in the mornings, it's pretty fierce.
I don't know why this is. At least not now. At first I was certain that it was another depressive tide moving in. It'd been a while, and I was due, in the cyclic nature of these things. But after a few weeks of morose drudgery, I went over to the stereo and replaced the Swans with Foetus and Black Flag. Soon as I did that, everything clicked. What I'd been feeling wasn't so much a profound sadness as it was a rage born of frustration.
One thing I think I was right about, though, was that "tide" business. Folks always chuckle politely when I tell them that my apartment is an eternal battleground between the forces of Good and Evil, but it's true. And while good has held the fort for some time now, it was doomed to weaken eventually.
For the past few years, I've been a kind and gentle soul. Cranky, sure, but pleasant enough. The wild anger of my youth had faded. It got tiresome and burned itself out. Now I was, if not satisfied, exactly, at least comfortable. I had steady work I was happy with, and a girlfriend I loved dearly. I was almost serene in an uncharacteristic way. And while both those things are still present, I began to wonder. Life was good, yes-but maybe it was too good. Too good for me at least. I began to understand, accept, even respect in many cases, my fellow man. While I used to hate humanity across the board, I began looking around the crowded subway cars in the morning, thinking, "Each one of these people has a story to tell, and each one of those stories has value." It was kind of sickening.
Then I began to wonder if maybe, perhaps, the drugs I was on had something to do with it. Maybe by calming the seizures so effectively, the Tegretol was cooling and calming the rest of the brain as well. The crises I was facing nowadays were tiny and insignificant-like not being able to find a replacement soapdish (which has been plaguing me for three weeks now). It was almost suburban.
Not too long ago, my friend Grinch told me, "The less life gives you, the more you denigrate the mundane." I wasn't sure what he meant at the time (we were both pretty drunk, and it was late), but I think I'm starting to understand now.
Anyway, as soon as I thought more about the Tegretol smoothing everything out too much, the seizures started coming back, popping up at the most inappropriate times, grabbing hold of me in public, even striking while I slept, waking me with sore muscles and the taste of copper in my mouth.
Part of the seizurely resurgence may be due to years of calm, pleasant silence in the face of ugliness. It just made things easier. I buried everything under a smile, but it didn't go away. It festered and boiled down there. It had to find a way out sometime. I had been a good man on the surface, but I could feel it slipping. Instead of smiling and burying any ill will under a mountain of silence, I was starting to bite back again. It was only then that I thought back a ways, remembering my high school mascot.
Fact is, too, that most everyone I respect-either artistically, on a personal level or both-are people filled with hatred and contempt. I felt kind of bad not being able to work it up in myself anymore.
I'm not a big fan of the species by a long shot. I may not see too well, but I must say-most of those few things I can see look pretty ugly. Despite that, though, I don't go out of my way to be rude anymore, and always feel pangs of harsh, sharp Protestant guilt when I am. I don't try to hurt people anymore, either. Now I just try to avoid them, and hope that they'll do the same for me. They usually don't.
To be honest, feeling the evil creep back in worries me a little bit now, since, once again, I've been having long fantasies while riding the subway of taking a ball-peen hammer to every exposed skull in the vicinity. You expect that sort of thing from a 22-year-old; in a 34-year-old, it's just unseemly and creepy.
It's a quandary, too-being filled with murderous and self-destructive rage-because people are being rude, resulting in me being rude myself. It's an ugly circle of doom. Here's a tiny and pointless example:
I'm a none-too-sly creature of habit when it comes to my daily routine. Every day as I'm leaving the subway, as I'm walking down that long, crooked hallway toward the steps that will lead me to the street above, I shake a smoke out of my pocket. Then, as I'm pulling myself slowly up the steps, I reach for my lighter and light it.
Do it every day.
But yesterday, for the first time, as I was sucking in that first, desperate, long-needed lungful, I felt a tap on my shoulder.
I paused and looked around blankly, to find a youngster-well, a kid in his late-20s-his beady little eyes staring back at me through horn-rimmed glasses.
"You're supposed to wait until you're out of the subway," he said.
At the time, I was much closer to the street than I was to the subway. Any smoke I exhaled would be free and public smoke. So I replied with a simple, muttered, "Yeah, bite me."
It was a quick, unremarkable encounter, no big deal, but I found it gnawing at me all the rest of the way home. Probably just because it had been a rough subway ride, getting bounced around by various lumpen smellies. I was in a bad mood to begin with, and had a few in me.
As I was walking home, feeling the nest of worms begin to boil in my gut, I started to wonder: Who was the rude one in that encounter? Was it me, for lighting up too soon next to a sensitive type, maybe one with emphysema, and then suggesting that this fellow bite me, or was he the culprit, for being a whiny do-gooder pantywaist, out to make the rest of us bend to his feeble and cowardly will? Myself, I've always thought that there was a very fine line between "a man who speaks his mind" and "an asshole."
I fully recognize and admit my contradictions. I'm a far cry from being psychologically coherent. I want to be nice, I want to be pleasant, but at the same time I'm filled with hatred and I want to destroy most everything around. I'm not sure there's any resolving the conflict-and who knows? Maybe I don't want to resolve it. Life is more interesting when it's full of contradictions.
I have no idea what'll happen with this new rage of mine. Maybe it'll fade again. I see my neurologist in a few weeks-perhaps he'll put me on some new drug that will return the smile to my face and the calm to my heart, something that will soothe the hot storms in my unbalanced brain. Or maybe it will return to its former state, the way it was when I was living on speed and whiskey, assaulting strangers and simply taking whatever I wanted from this rotten world of ours. And if that does happen, who will be the better for it?