Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Roomful of Teeth (What Happened to Me)

"Here.  Here.  Here.  Here."
The cricket under my bed is keeping time with my heartbeat.  Laying on my back in the darkness, alone, looking up, little warm flashes of heat lightning in the clouds light up the ceiling overhead through the opened window. I wonder if my heart is beating too hard and if I’m about to have another panic attack at two in the morning for no goddamn reason at all.  It’s hard getting by on two or three hours of sleep every night.
"Late.  Late.  Late.  Late."
I have never been alone in my life.
Because of my odd religious background, as a young man I grew up communally, always surrounded by people.  I lived communally with men and women from all over the world, sharing various houses and various responsibilities together as a group, as a tribe.  Afterwards I was married and had a family.  There was never a break in between where there was no one around me.

Laying still; hoping for sleep or less woeful dreams, and watching the little puffs of light come and go against the white ceiling.  Thunder would be comforting.  Or maybe a train going by, that high lonesome sound, followed by that hysterical shriek of power. 

An interviewer asked Keith Richard what went wrong with the Rolling Stones first lead guitar, Brian Jones.  Why did he come to such a bad end?  Richard said "His problem was he loved being a rock star more than he loved being a musician."

"There.  There.  There.  There."

Something happened to me that made me love being a writer more than I loved writing.  I’ve been blocked since. The cellar door I open to go down where the stories come from, I can’t get to it.  The story fairy locked it.

Things seemed to converge all at the same conjuncture.  My mother in law in Panama needed eye surgery.  She had health problems that threatened to end her at any moment.  But her strong heart drove on heedlessly like an engine even as she dwindled.  My wife, close to her mother, has gone to Panama on an open ended visit that will certainly cause her to lose her job as well as maybe changing her as a person.  My son has just moved out to embark on life on his own as a young man must.  And I am alone.
But there was another thing as well.  I had been discovered.

For many years I had no friends and didn't actually know how to make friends because, living communally, I had never needed to learn.  I was a mentally solitary person, living high in my head where the stories and the fantasies and the voices were and happy to go on living in that world, though I felt my loneliness always.  I think this is a common thing for writers and poets.  I was adapted to an interior solitude while still being a person who needed people.  Writing was my way out of that solitude.  Black ink looping from my fountain pen like dark silk spinning webs of fantasy and desire.
I discovered and joined the Unitarian Universalist church in my town and the effect was life changing.  I had found my natural tribe, my natural beliefs and with it a ravenous desire for friendship and people.  Gradually I began to come out of my shell.  I didn't keep my writing life hidden because these were also creative people, many of them far more accomplished than me. 
A small group of strong natured, well educated women discovered my writing and loved it.  And loved me.  It was as though a unicorn had wandered into their midst.  We loved each other's company and for a time I was a phenomenon.  And then my star fell.  There was no reason and no explanation.  But the damage had been done.  I had briefly been a rock star instead of a musician.  And how I loved it.  And how I longed to get it back.

The panic attacks began first in church.  Panic attacks are the evil cousins of religious ecstasy.  They boil up from inside and take you in their undertow and you wave your hands for help and people think you’re just being friendly.
With these experiences I began to discover my own insecurities, my insatiable addiction for approval, adoration if possible.  When my play "Fidelis" debuted in the Le Chat Noir theater downtown I walked into the theater bar on opening night and someone said "That's the writer! Sanchez-Garcia! He's the one who wrote that play!"   Everyone in the bar turned to me and applauded - me - the solitary one, who had never been applauded for anything in his life.  There he is!  There goes the writer.  Everyone smiled filling the bar’s dimness with Cheshire teeth.  Oh, how I smiled back in my little moment in the sun.

Understand, my loving tribe was unchanged.  Most people who knew me and had made up their minds about me liked me fine, except those who had dumped me altogether.  But my vanity had been awakened and with it a terrible neediness that plagued me like a drug. 
Then came the masks.

In the novel Moby Dick, there is a scene in which Ahab has a huge argument with his first mate Starbuck.  Starbuck is worried that they are committing blasphemy in Ahab's monomaniacal pursuit of the white whale ("It's just a whale!", but Ahab cuts him off saying –
“ . . . All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks.
But in each event in the living act, the undoubted deed there, unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings
of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man
will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner
reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To
me, the White Whale is that wall, shoved near to me. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the White Whale agent, or be the White Whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. . . ”

 Moby Dick is God almighty wearing the mask of a whale, the world is a facade of paste board masks and, Ahab, that embittered mystic, will penetrate this mask and strike at God by killing His whale.  In Freudian psychology this is called "transference" when a neurosis is projected from the patient onto another person, often the therapist, as a way of avoiding confronting their issues. My experience is that this can occur in a kind of interior mythology, where an actual person can become associated in your thoughts obsessively with a specific fear inside of you, even though that person has nothing actually to do with that fear.  But in your mind, in your emotions, that person acquires the representative mask of that fear.  Some of the women who had been my admirers and then pushed me away acquired this mask in my thoughts until I could hardly think of them without fear.  One, a fear of disapproval.  Another, a fear that I would never have social standing or acceptance.  That I would always be kind of poor and beat down, a nobody in the eyes of sophisticated people, the people I longed to be most accepted by.  I became afraid of these women who had once been admirers.  These masks stayed with me constantly and with the falling of my star my emotional turmoil boiled into panic.

As my vanity fermented to sourness I alienated the one goddess left in my life - the muse.  She ultimately fled from me and I couldn't write anymore.  The magic was just gone.  That was when I bailed out on OGG.  I think this is the kind of thing that gets famous people killed.  I was never famous, but I had a taste of what it would feel like to have fans.  It wrecked me. 

A writer writes.  That's what makes a writer.  Not publication, nice if you can get it, not money, nice if you can get it, not even readers, nice if you can get them.  A writer writes.  That's the part you get to keep. You can't be a rock star.  You have to be a musician.  The act of creation never ends.  Everything else is extra.


  1. "Writing was my way out of that solitude. Black ink looping from my fountain pen like dark silk spinning webs of fantasy and desire."

    When you can pen something like this, how can you believe that your muse has fled?

    You are and always will be a writer, Garce. And it sounds as though this painful, angst-full interlude has taught you some things about yourself.

    Hugs to you.

    1. Hi Lisabet!

      It taught me a lot about myself and the story goes on still. There is so much about people and about myself and how people behave that I don;t understand. Good and bad. Its still very difficult for me to come up with original material but I feel myself coming back as though i were healing from some wound. I'll be interested to see if it changes my writing.

      And you Lisabet - you are a good friend. Thank you for your wisdom and support at a time when I needed a friend.


    2. Garce, I'm honored to know you.

      And I can completely understand how you attracted a set of fans, the way you describe. I think your work may particularly speak to women, even though you often profess not to understand how they think.

  2. Sounds, from the flow of this, that you have righteously summoned your muse back, my friend. Gonna have to tell Momma X about it. I usually let her know when something spectacular gets posted.

    Good to have you back, dude.

    1. Hi daddy X!

      I've learned a lot about the muse in these last few weeks. The care and feeding of a muse is a full time thing. Glad to be back!


  3. I agree with Lisabet and Daddy X, Garce. You have unique phrasing and word choices that make your stuff instantly identifiable. And your description of the inner life of an author is spot-on. We look like "normal" people, but there is always the noise of characters talking in our minds. What a relief it is to write "the end" after each of their stories, and those voices are stilled. Then another voice speaks up, and we're at the mercy of ethereal people again, those who need our labor to be born into the hearts and minds of others.

    I don't do well being alone either. I tried it for a couple of years, but even with my dog to keep me company, I'd rack up huge phone bills calling everyone I knew when I got home from work, just to have someone to talk to. I like solitude to write, but the cacophony of human interactions otherwise.

    1. Hi Fiona!

      So good to see you here again! Some of us really need people, whether we know it or not. It would be wonderful to meet you in real life and buy you a cup of coffee or something stronger and just talk and talk together. Maybe someday.


  4. Fucking BRILLIANT. Fuck. I have to follow this. Fuck.

    1. Hi Giselle!

      Yes you do! Fuckfuckfuckfuck say the crickets under my bed


  5. I think your love of writing has surpassed your love of being a writer.

    1. Hi JP!

      gawd I hope you;re right . . . . we'll see.


  6. I lose words, individual words. Sometimes names I knew perfectly well two minutes ago. Not many, and I know how to look them up or get them back some other way, It's a Senior thing. It does worry me, but not all that much. Yet. Because I have plenty of words left, and so far I haven't lost the Word, the Muse, whatever it can be called. Now and then I think that I have, but some spark ignites the imagination, some story demands to be told. You have plenty of words, Garce, and a way of making them dance that I could never match. It's good to see your words again. Don't worry, they were just resting.

  7. Hi Sacchi!

    Hope you're right, and thank you for your encouragement. I think I'm back now.


  8. "That's the part you get to keep."

    Your last paragraph is awesome, and I sort of want to make a tattoo or permanent reminder of some kind out of this particular sentence. You're so right. It's all we've really got.

    Good to have you back, friend!

  9. Hi annabeth!

    it is what we keep. And the music of prosody and words is endless. And I think of all the art forms the language arts are the ones that demand the artist expose the most of themselves. Aren't we lucky?

    Good to be back.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.