Thursday, May 13, 2004

A Chorus of Complexes: It was the morning after one of the nights from which you get awoken by your own self-loathing. I was passed-out in my living room, experimenting with the adhesive properties of vomit on hardwood flooring, when my self-loathing found me. Only it wasn’t really vomit since the only thing I ate the day before was an entire bottle of scotch and about forty ice-cubes. Two per glass you see.

Self-loathing kicked me in the head to wake me up, and then shoved a dead cat in my mouth to make me remember what it tastes like when you have no soul. Everything I was wearing was going to have to be burnt.

What happened next was surprising. Self-loathing looked down upon my increasingly mortal coil and took pity. She began to sing to me. The tune was that one you remember from when you were a little child. I’m talking, of course, about the ice-cream truck song.

It turns out that there are words to that song, and Self-loathing knows the words. It is a song about the wine-dark sea, the unforgetting mountains, the rosy-fingered dawn and, mostly, about how I have more issues than Maccers has shoes. More issues than D-Nasty has Latina lovers. More issues than Eurotrash has, well, issues.

Each verse named a different psychological complex that was ruining my life. Some were familiar, others were not so familiar.
My Oedipal Complex. Not really interested in fucking my mother, thank you. Let's talk about my father. Those nights he’d stumble home an hour before dawn and then my mother shouting and crying and wondering how her life had come to this. Oh, Helen, there are no Argives coming to your rescue! And those nights he would rouse me from bed to sing Kevin Barry. Or end up in a screaming match with my mother. Or, if the bottle had been deep enough, tell me again about the night he went out on a boat with his brother Dennis and a cousin into the Long Island Sound, and how they were swimming and how Dennis never surfaced, and how they never found him. Those are pearls that were his eyes, and telling your eight year old son that story in a scotch soaked slur is just about like exposing the little lad in hopes that with his death you will avert the prophecy that he will one day destroy you. This first verse of the ice-cream song reminded me that I am waiting at the cross-roads and my father rides with the caravan that is approaching.

My Ajax Complex. No. Sorry. Not out to kill my cleaning lady. This one is all about the clouds about the fallen sun--watching others rise to glory while sinking into inner darkness. Congratulations on becoming a Managing Director. What wonderful children you have. I love your new column in the New York Times. That piece you did for the New Yorker was hilarious. In a fit of madness, Ajax the warrior destroys his final enemy. It’s either himself or me. I forget.

My Odysseus Complex. You know this one, right? I’m not coming home on time, the ice-cream song chants. I’ll be out all night with Circe. She’s a doll, and she has her own island. We sail there four sheets to the wind, and I’m the captain aboard the SS Blackout. She’s smells of scotch because, actually, she is scotch. With two ice cubes in a tall glass because our hand trembles. Just like it did with you, Dad. Is this the underworld? Is that Dennis I see there? After awhile, Dennis, we had to stop looking. It was dark out by then. I had to row the boat ashore, to go into the house and tell everyone I’d lost you. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. And beneath this gashed and puckered mirror a dark body was slowly borne by one of the backward currents.

My Paris Complex. Think Trojan War, not dog-shitted streets. She’s not mine but I love her, and I’ve made her love me but I do not deserve her. I won her with tricks and flattery. And because of this I’m afraid that I will bring pain and ruin to everyone I know. You fight, my brother. I want to drink to forget but self-loathing keeps singing along to the tune of the ice-cream song.

My Agamemnon Complex. In the end I will be destroyed by the woman I love. Self-loathing is my Casandra, and I can see the daggers in my love's eyes. They were forged in the fire where I burnt our daughter, little Effie. Which is to say that I will deserve it when I am destroyed. But isn’t there a chance at forgiveness? Perhaps borne of admiration for all I have accomplished? No, no. You wouldn’t forgive him, would you? You had to shout, and scream, and destroy him for his vice. You couldn’t just let him be drunk and tired and pass out. And let us sleep. Your sons, living in the next room of the apartment. Alone, despite the fact that there are four of them in the room, because they are too scared to talk and it is too dark to see. Please, please, Mom, just let us all sleep tonight, the little ones and Dad too. Let him dream that Dennis did not hear the Siren’s call.
Then Self-Loathing ended her song, and told me I was late for work. My insides felt like they’d been dragged through the sewers of NYC. And since I could not remember anything from the night before, I was in no position to argue that they hadn’t. But somewhere, deep in my gut, I knew that I needed a frozen explosion of cherry, lemon and raspberry flavored ice in a rocket shaped pop.