Fucking scientists! First they’re showing me these really great pictures of naked ladies, I mean totally naked, nipples and everything, and just when I’m getting in the groove, I’m picturing Debbie Lowenstein’s face instead of the model’s, and she’s whispering that it’s okay for me to do what I want to do to her, finally after all these years and Dave doing his best to stop it from happening, and they sneak up behind me and pop a paper bag next to my ear. Fuckers. I tried my best to hold on to that picture in my head, Debbie all naked and ready and shit, I mean you have no idea how hard it is to stay focused under those circumstances, especially when I’m still recovering from those damn kids he insisted on having, kept me up all night, plus all those years the wife was totally unavailable, years of either riding the hump or listening to her bitch about how she’s all tired and crabby from the kid being at her tits all day, and I’m just beginning to get my mojo back, Debbie’s right there, I’m feeling the old tickle in my balls, and POP!
The next thing you know, the scientists are nodding to each other about how I’ve become less alert to danger. But did they ask me? No, they did not. So I couldn’t tell them that I was fully aware of the noise, my prefrontal cortex was actually screaming in my ear, but I was just telling it to shut the fuck up before Debbie abandoned me. Which she did, of course. And then, the next next thing you know, Dave is going on about how this proves something about something about love.
Oh, well. I guess I should be used to it. He may not hear me, but I can hear him just fine. Dave doesn’t think so, of course. He probably doesn’t even think I’ve learned English, or that I’m there every minute of every day—when he tears up listening to Kate say to Bogie, “Nature, Mr. Allnutt, is what we are put in this world to rise above,” or when he writes in his diary that night, “Good thing for Charlie that Rose was on the African Queen long enough to ovulate. But too bad for her. She should have stuck to her guns rather than turn into just another slightly higher animal. But at least she got Charlie to sacrifice himself in the end.” Or when he reads about some fancy theologian who says that suffering is a good thing because it scours away the floors and gets you deeper and deeper, like life is a housekeeping Olympics, and the winner is the one who scours not just the dirt but the tile itself, like I’m just scum to be scrubbed away by the steel wool of Dave’s higher self. I feel so misunderstood, and I’m really getting tired of it.
See, I know you don’t believe this, Dave, but I am as deep as it gets. And I’m smart enough to know what you think of me, that I’m just some sort of Caliban to your Ariel, natural selection infused into dopamine and testosterone, and then distilled into impulses and predispositions that need to be transformed into something spiritual and permanent like dying for my religion, or working for NPR. Whether either of us likes it, I’m along for the ride. I am right there in your tongue as it clucks at the scientists who insist that human nature is no more or less than Plato’s chariot, executive function struggling to rein in both reason and impulse for no higher purpose than the preservation of the species. I am in your brain as you insist that there must be more to it than this animal imperative, that true depth is achieved only when you choose to suffer, that the good society is the one that affords ample opportunities to make that choice, maybe even insists upon it. And I’m in your eyes when you read your own newspaper, the one that chronicles the suffering that people don’t choose, all those poor benighted people who can only flail in the shallows of their own squalid origins, whose suffering has no depth and can only be relieved by following their animal impulses.
I’m dying in here, Dave. And not only because you dismiss me as fragmented and swinish, or think that your life is meaningful only to the extent that you can turn me into something I’m not. Religious people have been doing that for thousands of years. It’s because you don’t seem to understand how much you need me. Who do you think created you or drove you to your lofty newsprint perch? Where do you think the idea that the world needs more suffering comes from, or the belief that words like “web of unconditional loves” or “permanent commitments to transcendent projects” actually mean something, or the conviction that there isn’t enough suffering the world? Where do you think you get the capacity to overlook the hubris of your pronouncements, the superficiality of your grasp of science, the vapidity of a notion like “core wounds and core loves”? From me. You get all this from me, from this dirty-minded, low-rent, hedonistic, power hungry animal who lives deep inside you. Add it up, Dave. You owe me. Big time.
Actually, when the scientists showed up with the pictures, I thought you were paying me back. I actually believed for a moment you were finally recognizing that we’re in this thing together, Rose and Charlie fighting and fucking our way onto Lake Victoria, blowing up the Louisa, just letting it rip. And I thought I was repaying your gratitude with that photoshop job, Debbie L. so perfectly rendered, ready for our mutual delectation. I thought we were going to get closer to even. And then POP!