E.C.T. # 7
What bubble is this? What world? What mansion? What body?
They’ve done something to me. I can’t remember what; it might have been last week, last month or last year. I was wheeled into a narrow room with a tall ceiling. The Cyclops appeared just as the pads were put to my temples. He promised to take the pain and preserve me body and soul. Yet I have no memory of what transpired. The past comes in flashes but everything is out of sequence and upside down. I can’t recall waking up. It is now 10 p.m. and Dobbs is pacing the corridor. The page before me is a mystery:
I must kill myself.
I must not hesitate.
I must do it now.
Strange words indeed – but I can’t remember writing them down. What other memories have I lost? Yet how shall I know if I can’t recall the loosing? Pontius has stolen my psyche. I stand at the edge of oblivion, peering into a bottomless abyss. I have lost many vital things of the mind. Essential things. The secrets of Time and Space; the equations of relativity; poetry; music; miraculous inventions that shall never see the light of day. Yet more important things than these. Holy things. For worldly knowledge is naught compared to the joys of love. What was my mother’s name? Let me think a while. It sounds like Willow… minnow, marrow, yarrow, nympho, chateau, l’escargo… Margo! Yes! How she loved snails! I remember a trip to the zoo when I was twelve. Feeding the elephants with iced buns. She cleansed my wounds so tenderly when I was bullied in school. Christ! How shall I ever know the depths of this hideous erosion? Where am I from? You came down with the rain. That’s what she used to say. Margot was my foster mother. But who was my birth mother? What was her name? I can’t remember, God damn it. Did I ever know? Was I ever told? It’s a complete blank.
I fight myself in my sleep. I don’t know who I’m fighting. Myself or the Devil. It seems this cell is all I’ve ever known.
A shadow creeps across the floor: a lobster with snapping claws; a praying mantis; Vishnu in flames; a black Buddha in a sooty lotus. Why is the Buddha so fat? It seems utterly perverse, that one who was enlightened by the starving masses would let himself become obese. The wordling seeks pleasures, fattening himself like a caged foul; yet the Buddhist saint flies up to the sun like wild crane. But not you Buddha. You’re too fat chum. Too fat. He’s grinning like a simpleton. Wipe that smile off your face Buddha. I see nothing to be happy about. Where does the wind dwell, oh wise one? Is wisdom a locality? Is Nirvana a place? When the mind is destroyed, will thoughts persist? Answer me that! You, who sought to escape this world with non-attachment! Chance would be a fine thing! I do not cleave to myself, so what is my error? Will you not speak? Oh most venerable Lord, is a woman still a woman when she dwells in the body of a man? I am anxious to exhibit my true form and shape, whether walking, standing, sitting or sleeping. But you only care to make yourself fat. What’s the matter with you Buddha? Don’t you do any exercise? Oh! Do not answer me, lest I contaminate your holiness. Good thoughts produce good actions. Bad thoughts produce bad actions. Hatred ceases not by hatred: this is an old rule. Can you not see that I’m surrounded by enemies? Hemmed in on all sides? Understand? One thug transforms into another: Pontius, Matron, Dobbs, Wilkes, and a hundred other devils with keys, batons, syringes, pads and paddles, pills, strait-jackets and hoses. Who is doing what to whom? A gang of howling children with dirty faces. Why won’t they let me play cowboys and Indians?
I recall a green door on a cobbled street by the river. Wet afternoons with crayons and paper, colouring Jesus, Joseph and Mary. The Nativity. The musty spice of old hymn books and pencil shavings. Sunday School…
Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean,
And the pleasant land.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small;
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
Christ didn’t escape the world by non-attachment. No, no, no, Christ dived right into it – head first into a manger of dung. He was persecuted, smitten, beaten and crucified. He was well attached to the world. Nailed to it. But not you Buddha. Can you offer any words of religious comfort? Something to alleviate my suffering? There are five things which make a man fat: opulent dinners, love of sleep, hankering after pleasure, thoughtlessness, and lack of occupation. The Tathagata said that. I love you Buddha. Will you say nothing?
Only through ignorance and delusion do men indulge in the dream that their souls are separate and self-existent entities.(i)
But that’s not true Buddha. It’s not true! We are all unique, priceless and irreplaceable!
Who hung that ghastly painting above my bed? I must have torn it down a thousand times. Every night, before I go to sleep, I screw it up and throw it in the bin; yet each dawn it reappears, good as new. What are you trying to tell me, mysterious master? That I’m nothing but canvas and oil? One of your infernal visions? I’m stuck in a triptych: The Garden of Earthly Delights. I inhabit the diabolic panel on the right. What is this madhouse but Uruvela – the place of mortification? Nightmares teem through my brain like fish. Glimpses of hell unbound: the mutilation of Man; a dying sun in tarry flames; a falling comet; the city ablaze amid hordes of walking dead; the apocalypse of Revelation. The bombed streets of my youth. People disintegrate and transmogrify into demons and ravenous dogs. Behold a pig-nun: she croons and pulls me to her nipple; her milk is thin and watery and tastes of gin, yet I suckle hard in anguish. Beside me is a man farting through a flute; another vomits gold into a bottomless well. A maddening music fills the air with horns, whistles, harps and droning hurdy-gurdies. A throng of naked gamblers cower behind an upturned table, their bodies skewered by swords, arrows and knives, thrust by hares, frogs and infernal chimeras.
Little do they know, I’m going to escape this pit of Pandemonium. I will pass through the wall like a vapour and enter the female wards. I’m in need of new clothes. A girdle would be nice, with nylons and heels. But heels are as rare as hens’ teeth in this place. I spotted a blonde wig in the salon last week, last month, last lifetime… who knows? And there was a polka-dot dress hanging in the laundry room. Size sixteen at least. I could fit into that—if it’s still there.
Why do they entrust the care of the insane to thugs and butchers? I have fewer rights than a murderer; I’m assaulted daily: sat upon, cuffed, gagged, kicked and medicated against my consent. My cruel treatment infuriates and terrifies me. There’s no end to the beatings and humiliations. I hate the restraints they thrust upon me when I sleep. Is it any wonder that I’m frightened, suspicious and angry? Doctor Pontius thinks himself a god, but he doesn’t know one form of madness from another, nor indeed a healthy mind from a sick one.
The Cyclops said that every individual must attain perfection in the end, but some take longer than others. Indeed, it can take many centuries to become sufficiently enlightened. For how is it possible to attain perfection if the span of our spiritual growth is restricted to a single lifetime? Whist in this terrene body of clay, I remain in a fallen condition—an exile from the illimitable Orb of Light. The transmigration of souls is a very contradictory business. For salvation can only come whilst living in the body; and only after Death will I ascend to the heavenly world. Yet I fear that I might never return to Paradise. I must prevail, in spite of the insurmountable odds stacked against me. I’m sure there was a time when I was young, vivacious, and formidable to my enemies. But now I am old, hoary and feeble minded.
I have forgotten to remember what I told myself not to forget. What was it? Something about the corridor… Of course, Dobbs! How could I forget something so terrible? Dobbs called me his little bitch, so I bit off his ear and flushed it down the toilet. That’s why he’s pacing the corridor. He can’t wait to give me good kicking. I know what’s coming. Any time after midnight that door will fling open and all hell will break loose. But I have a plan. I’ll pretend I’m sleeping and take him by surprise. Then I’ll club him with a chair leg, straight across his skull. Thwack! And when his soul vacates his body, I’ll trap it in a box. Then Dobbs will be damned forever. Trapped in a little box, forever and ever. I know what you’re thinking: you do not imagine that a such thing is possible. But I did it to Raymond, didn’t I?
Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2014.
i. The Buddha on Identity and non-identity. LIII:10.
Image credit: Detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.