We sit at the edge of the bed for some time without either of us saying a thing. I can tell there’s something else he wants to say but he’s not saying it. Or he hasn’t quite figured out what he needs to say, if he needs to say anything at all.
I’m still naked. Nothing on but a towel.
“Are you going to open the letter?” I ask him.
“I don’t know. Yes, eventually.”
“What do you think it says?”
“You know what I think it says.”
“Is it helping, what he sends you?”
“A little,” he says. “But mostly, no.”
“Will you tell me what this one says?”
“It depends on what it says. Do you want to know?”
“I don’t know. I won’t know till I know what it says.”
“I know what you mean.”
He gets up.
“You will tell me though, won’t you?” I ask.
“I’m glad to see you’re doing better.”
“Am I better?” I ask him. “I really can’t tell.”
“You’re different, that’s for sure.”
“Where are you going?”
“Will you be back?”
“Yes. I’ll be back.”
And he does come back. Often. Over the coming days, and weeks, he stops by to check up on me, to see how I’m doing. Neither of us seems to know if I’m getting better or if I’m getting worse, we only know that I’m changing. I definitely feel different — sedated, in the moment, but only because I have no hope for better moments. I take every day, day by day, and I’m in the moment because I’m terrified to look at my future, even more ashamed to look at my past. Brian will sometimes bring over a movie, this is when I can tell he doesn’t want to talk, and usually I’m okay with that. One morning he brings Scarface and we watch that. After the movie he asks me, “You like that movie?”
We stare at the credits and then the DVD menu when the credits are done. And then he leaves.
Sometimes he doesn’t bring a movie over, and I’m okay with that too, because it means we get to talk, even if all the talks are the same, even though I can tell he’s just trying to confirm that I’m really okay so he can leave for good and wipe his conscience clean of me.
“My parents suggested I see someone,” I tell him.
“Do you want to see someone?”
“But do you think it would help?”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t know what I’d say,” I go on. “Also, I’m embarrassed.”
“About the person I thought I was.”
“So you don’t think you’re that anymore.”
“Yes? I don’t know. No. It’s not that though.”
“So what is it?”
“I know who I am, I know who I was, but I’m not sure it means anything anymore. Or I wasn’t Him at all. I don’t know. If I’m Him or I’m not Him, it doesn’t matter because I’m just me, and I’m outdated — He is outdated. I have nothing to say, nothing to do. If there is a God, he’s abandoned me. If I am God, I’ve abandoned myself. Does that make sense?”
“Anyway, I’m not sure telling anyone this would make any difference. Crazy or not, I know what I saw, I’ve seen the interconnectedness of meaningless things, and I can’t unsee that. The feeling will always stick with me. They can put me on medication, they can try to rewire my mind, correct incorrect imbalances, but no amount of dopamine or serotonin, or whatever they deem as the culprit, can make me forget that I’ve seen the interconnectedness of meaningless things. When you’re there, when you feel yourself at your very center, you see it all spreading out and colliding away from you, everything you do affecting everything else and it never ends, nothing ever ends, meaning it goes on forever in an endless cycle, on and on and back around again, every possibility playing itself out, so — mathematically — nothing you do matters. You will always end up where you are. Both of us will always end up here.”
“You’re so close though,” Brian says.
“Close to what?”
“I don’t know,” he says. “I never got there.”
“I was hoping you could tell me when you got there.”
“And then you took me here.”
“And then I took you here.”
A couple of blocks away from my house — there’s no question now this’ll always be my house, there’s no escaping it — there’s a church. In front of this church there’s a statue of Jesus, arms outspread like most statues of Jesus, only here his left arm is silver while the rest of the statue is bronze. This is because, back when I was in middle school, some of the kids had stolen the left arm as a prank. Nobody knew who had done it or why, but the result was that the statue became known as the “Hitler Jesus,” because with only one arm raised, it looked as if he was saluting, palm out, much like Hitler.
At the time, this meant nothing to me — it was just a stupid joke, calling this Jesus the “Hitler Jesus.” It wasn’t until years later, long after the arm was finally replaced with the silver one, that I saw the meaning in it, its careful foreshadowing of my own life. Because late in the first madness, I became convinced that in my cycle of death and rebirth, that every nine lives I was reborn as the antichrist. This came out of necessity, because the only way to create something was to destroy something. Not only was I the reincarnation of Jesus, I was the reincarnation of Hitler.
I had to come to terms with that. I was God. I was a mass murderer. Creating life necessitated killing it.
When, because of these thoughts, I dropped out of college and moved back in with my parents the first time, I had to wonder if the subconscious memory of the “Hitler Jesus” was the root of these delusions, if they were delusions, or instead confirmation of my enlightenment. Whatever the connection, there was a connection between Jesus, Hitler, the statue, and me — that I knew.
When I now talk about the interconnectedness of meaningless things, this is what I’m talking about.
All things are connected and none of it means anything.
Though everything changes, nothing changes at all.
Brian starts showing up less and less and I feel the time approaching when he’ll show up no more. California is not home to him, neither is Washington for that matter, and I’m surprised he’s lasted in either place for so long. Though he doesn’t say anything, I know one of these visits will be his last and I won’t have it in me to follow him.
I can’t forgive him for bringing me here because I forgave him a long time ago. I almost wonder if I knew this was where the road would end. My road is straight. My road has always been straight. Yet home was always where the straight road ends.
On Brian’s last visit — I know it’s his last visit because in his silence I know he’s trying to tell me something, and whether I’m better or worse than before, we both know I’ve reached the end of the road where better or worse ends — I suggest we go for a walk. He looked uncomfortable sitting there on the couch and maybe I was uncomfortable too. We walk along the perfectly white sidewalk squares and, before long, come across the statue once known as the “Hitler Jesus.” I have to wonder if this was the plan all along, to take him here. We sit on the stone bench beneath the statue.
“Why did you take me here?” he asks me.
I don’t have an answer to that.
He looks around and, confirming nobody is around, lights a cigarette. Even Brian must feel it, a devout atheist like him, he feels the sacredness of this place. He takes a drag from the cigarette and blows a plume up toward the statue.
“Why is his arm a different color?”
I tell him.
I tell him in all seriousness what I’ve told you.
When I’m done telling him, all he says is—
And then he bursts out laughing. He laughs and coughs and laughs some more. He wipes a tear from his cheek, pinches the rest from his eyes. “Oh god,” he says and takes a quick drag from his cigarette to steady himself. Once steady, he looks up, almost in awe at the statue, as if he’s been converted into something other than what he is.
“So somewhere out there, he has a third arm, just lying around?”
“Yeah? I guess so.”
“Shit,” he says, though I’m not sure why. “A third arm. Shit.”
He gets up from the bench, stares a long time into the bronze eyes of the statue, and then walks away. I follow him.
When we reach my house, though he still says nothing, I know this is goodbye. You don’t have to be omniscient to know I’m never going to see Brian again.
He says goodbye like all the other times, but this goodbye feels different. The breath in my own goodbye tastes different.
“We’ll always have San Francisco,” he says.
“What happened in San Francisco?”
“You don’t remember?”
“No,” I say.
“Oh. Nothing happened in San Francisco.”
Then he walks away, his duffle slung over his shoulder. He leaves me the keys to the minivan, which at first I find to be a touching parting gesture until I remember it was my minivan all along.
I watch him disappear around the street corner. I thought maybe he’d turn and wave when he got there, but he didn’t. He just vanished without so much as a glance back.
Nothing else moves on the street. The trees are still. The air is stagnant.
I go back inside.
join man next week for journal #39 (in which said man retreats further into himself)