|A Cut-up Life |
By Patrick McDermid
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I awake from a dream of crunching metal and wailing sirens. My
head throbs and I am soaked in sweat. The digital clock on the floor beside me
reads 2:23 P.M. That means at least 12 hours of unconsciousness. Not good.
Emerging from my closet-sized bedroom, I am not particularly
surprised to note that I am the first one up. Don, for one, is notorious for
sleeping as much as 14 hours at a time. I start the coffee machine into motion
and stagger down a narrow hallway into the front room. I slowly manoeuvre myself
into a chair and stare through heavy lidded eyes at the wall across from me. My
attention is drawn to a portrait of an Indian demigod. He/She is poised on one
foot, precariously balanced with arms outstretched and fingers pointing daintily
at various angles. Beside this painting hangs a scene from the Norman Rockwell
school of counterfeit reality, in which an old man stands aiming his gun
at a rabbit while a young boy, presumably his grandson, looks on in awe.
I scan the rest of the room, orienting myself to my waking
environment. A long couch, it's cheap foam bursting through the seams of a
genuine imitation leather covering, describes the general tone of the decor. A
coffee table serves as the rooms' focal point, displaying a collage of coffee
cups, beer bottles, assorted kitchen utensils, two overflowing ashtrays and an
electric typewriter. Sunlight streams in through the window, illuminating a
section of brick wall.
Coffee fumes begin to waft through the stale air. I hear the first
stirring of movement from sleeping bodies crashed out in various locations
throughout The Space. I stretch my head back to get rid of the stiffness in my
neck and notice a pair of eyes staring back at me from the ceiling. In my pre-coffee daze I have momentarily forgotten about Grimm's industrious cut and paste
project and am a bit unnerved.
For the past few days, Grimm, a friend who visits The Space quite often has been cutting the eyes out of photographs of people in magazines and pasting them up all over the place. God knows how many sets of eyeballs now look back at me from the walls and ceiling.
A body, which I have barely noticed sleeping on the couch opposite me suddenly jerks awake and rises to a sitting position. It is Michael. He's been crashing here for the last couple of days after being thrown out of his apartment by his girlfriend. He immediately begins to scan the coffee table for cigarettes: "Is this real, or Memorex?" he croaks.
"I'm still working on that one." I respond, still blinking the sleep out of my eyes. "Best to use the Leap of Faith Manoeuvre." I conclude, warming up to the topic.
"The Leap of What?" mumbles Mike, his brain now occupied with the task of lighting a cigarette.
"The Leap of Faith: Just a little bit of mental acrobatics. You
can trace it back to Descartes... He was trying to set down some foundation for
a method of enquiring into the True Nature of Reality. Like how do we
know that what we perceive while we are awake is REAL? Maybe, instead, what we
perceive while we are dreaming is REAL. There's no logical way of proving it
either way. So Descartes INVOKES GOD and says: Whatever perceptions are the most
Clear and Distinct are Real because God wouldn't want to confuse us."
At this point Ronald emerges from behind the Bookshelf, a small alcove that serves as his bedroom, and remarks on the conversation:
"Colin, your motorhome is double parked." He stumbles off into the kitchen.
Your motor home is double parked is an expression that has come to mean, among the members of our little social group, something along the lines of the more standard cliche: Your porch light is on but there is no-one home.
After a few coffees and a smattering of conversation with my roommates and our guests, I sit down at the typewriter, dutifully committing my first thoughts of the day to paper:
As I finish typing, I notice that Don has emerged from his bedroom dressed in his terrycloth robe and ridiculous oversized Fuzzy Slippers. He is always talking about his Fuzzy Slippers. How they manage to fit in as a topic of conversation I will never know. As I get up to take a pee Don takes my place at the typewriter, reading over what I have written, then adding something of his own:
After finishing my toilet duties my mind turns to the subject of
food. I am possessed by the image of Chinese egg roles: golden brown and crispy,
bubbles of hot fat still flickering over the surface. I dash down to the Chinese
grocery on the corner and buy tofu, shoots, onions, green peppers and preformed
dough wraps: all the ingredients necessary to make egg roles. Minutes later I am
cooking the "egg roles" in semi-hot oil, observing their progress. While stewing
they take on a distinct greenish hue and wrinkle up. The folds that begin to
cover the doughy surface area look like convolutions of brain tissue. With a
little imagination I begin to see them as life forms, as fetal
I scoop up the finished products out of the pan and offer them around to those lingering around The Space. Today's visitors include Michael, Grimm (being very grim) and Blurry (indistinct as ever). Don and Ronald, my roommates, are also hanging around...
Blurry is about the only person who eats the "egg roles" with any degree of enthusiasm. The others mutter and push the things around on their plates examining them with a removed, almost scientific curiosity. Grimm is too busy to eat and continues cutting the eyeballs out of pictures of people in magazines. Occasionally he gets up and glues a pair to the wall.
After finishing off all the remaining scraps of "egg rolls"
(including everybody else's leftovers) Blurry begins to narrate a rambling
impromptu story to us:
"Will somebody get him out of here!" says Grimm, gluing a set of
eyeballs to the wall. He has little tolerance for Blurry's rambling, and makes
a pastime out of elucidating his distaste for the poor guy.
We get a very strange mixture of people visiting The Space.
Sometimes I see this warehouse as sort of a scientific testing grounds... This
is the experimenter's cage where different species of personality are thrown
together in order that WE might observe their interactions... Or maybe it's a
giant petri dish and these people are like bacterial cultures... hmmmmm.
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