A House of Raindrops
rating: +15+x

Is it right?

Is it right to live with one eye blue and the other green? Is it right to live as I do, with one hand on the keyboard and the other on the quillpen? Is it right to burn in fever in one mind while your other half wallows in the cool, rank waters of a dying bog?

Perhaps you do not understand. I see it in your face, the question in your eyes, the downturn in your lips. Let me explain.

Sometimes, I binge. I do not binge on food or drink as others do, nor do I extol my faith in sleep or sloth. I do enjoy these things, and I am known to glut myself on them when the occasion arises, but not to the point of a binge. I enjoy, and when I am done, I let down. I do not engage restlessly, ceaselessly, furiously, voraciously, as others do when they succumb to faith in these things. I believe that I am, in fact, incapable of feeling anything but calm companionship with these frail things, as I have been claimed, wedded, and banded by a power, a virtue far stranger than those. What binges I partake are those exclusively given, for I am wedded evermore to unroutine honeymoons to my sole partner-in-mind.

When I binge, it is not on substances, labor, or love. When I binge, I binge on stories.

It is the middle of the night. My partaking may be for just one night, or it might last for several. Only the Maniae1 may know. I do not describe any night in particular, but rather a collection, a library, a vast array of variations and deviations, all described at once with all strange occurrences and one-offs smoothed away by the statistics of a large sample size for your benefit. Today, I will tell a clean, understandable story, and this is how the night goes.

It starts with a book. The book in question does not matter. It can be short, long, easy, hard, understandable, complicated beyond belief. It does not matter. Or, no, rather, it does not start with a book. The night starts with an impulse, a dragging feeling in my belly like I swallowed a fishing hook and line, a tangling tug in my belly with all the hold in my skin and none of the hurt, with just the tug and insatiable need to swallow left behind.

Or no, it does not start with this. I am sorry, I was wrong. My mind goes many places these days, unharnessed and running wild and free as it does in the late night when I am not reading and not dreaming. Let me restart.

It starts with me. It is the evening – dark or light it does not matter, as the seasons have little impact on my habits. I sit in my chair, invariably at my computer, whiling away my hours and my motivation with games; with writing nonsense words to fast-made friends I won’t remember in three days; with speaking garbage, words slewed straight from my basal ganglia, reactionary feelings spoken rashly, soothing and washing over me like the tide, and I receive reactionary garbage back, and I comprehend it all and understand none of it because it has no deeper meaning. I while away my hours like this, and I am satisfied, for a time.

But sometimes, the feeling of satisfaction fades. I sit in my chair, watery dreams sliding off my back to wallow on the floor, and I feel the tug.

Do not be mistaken. This tug is not the urge of creativity, nor is it a beholding of a stronger feeling of moral conviction hiding somewhere in my mind. It has no representative thoughts or feelings, and it is not a symbol of my worth – quite the opposite, in my opinion, as I have to be pushed by this external force to make any sense of movement in my life. Let me put this plainly: I am just as good or bad as anyone else, and perhaps a little shallower, slower, and dumber than the average given my attitudes, and this tug does not change that.

That aside, let me continue, now that we have it clear that this is no revelation, no matter of consequence, and no supernatural occurrence. This is but the sad old tug of a man wasting away his life and feeling like something is wrong because it is.

Now. The tug is voracious, and it Wants.

I, on all these nights, start out with my usual items of interest. I try to sate this feeling, this stirring restlessness, this boredom gurgling up from the shower drain despite the feet stomping to squish it back down, with games, videos, conversations with friends. I try to sate this boredom, this questing energy inside me that seeks something stronger and more worthwhile, this energy seeking knowledge, and I feed it with the mental equivalent of pastries on a buffet of desserts.

And, invariably, undoubtably, unsurprisingly, the feeling is not sated. Instead of becoming slow and bloated by my limp excuses of stimulation, the feeling becomes stronger. And somehow, invariably, I know what to do. Perhaps it is because I have known it all along, but from what I remember of the most recent times, it is that I look for something, anything, to shut down this feeling, and I stumble across some old file, some old book, something kept on my hard drive because I wanted to be a better person once, got distracted, and forgot it existed.

However it happens, I open a story. Any story, it does not matter, and I find two, three, five books.

I open them all.

And I binge.

My eyes zip across the pages like starving wolves over a shot elk. My mind rumbles, a belly filled at last not with garbage but with sustenance. My face is drawn, my fingers stiff, my back aches, and I feel none of it. I read on, ears deaf to the ceaseless music I have playing in my ears at all times now – just another thing to stave off the boredom, but boredom comes with habituation, and now I need the music to feel normal at all – and I binge, binge on the stories: fantasy, urban mystery, history, encyclopedia entries, world geography, chemistry – you name it, I will read it, devour it, ravenous, insatiable, unstoppable, unquenchable in my starvation, my deprivation, for knowledge and stories.

I while the hours away, not with things I will forget, but things I will remember. My chores are left unattended: the garbage is not taken out, the cats are not fed – they meow at the closed door, but I do not hear them over the music playing on my deafened ears – the plants wither in their pots.

Sometimes – and this is a standard deviation away from the mean, mind you, perhaps one to the left, if we count it with bidirectional tails – I will go on like this for days, muscles wasting, joints locking, back aching, curled forward in my cheap little office chair that leaves grooves in the hardwood floor where the too-small desk mat does not cover my range and where I was not careful enough before I bought it has gone. I will sit there, eyes turning red and prickly with hot dry air blown at me from my portable heater, and I devour, mouth dry from lack of water, stomach cramping from lack of food – isn’t it funny, now, how that happens? I consume so much, swallowing eagerly book after book, reading a hundred, a hundred fifty, two hundred pages in an hour, understanding it all and comprehending it too, but I fail to eat even the slightest morsel, starve my body as I had wasted my mind. It’s almost ironic, isn’t it? This see-saw balance I keep with myself is long-standing, tracing back to even when I was a child dosed on medical amphetamines that cleared my flighty mind but kept me grounded in false satiety while my body wasted away around me. But that’s a different story, one I will tell another day, and not important now.

What’s important now is the book. It storms through my mind, my aching head, collected in spools of gold and silver thread and engraved – no, what’s the word? Embossed? No—

Ah. I remember now. The book – and all the ones that come after, spurred through my mind with the bludgeon of a frantic scroll wheel and eyes that see not the late hour of the night, forget water, forget food because they have not eaten real food in what feels like years and are sickly thin and wearing thinner by the days bereft of knowledge – the book is embroidered into my grey matter, through my prefrontal cortex and my thalamus and my lateral hippocampus, across my anterior cingulate cortex and through my hypothalamus. These stories weave my broken, bleeding, weeping pieces of a mind back together, silken thread binding tight my memories so I don’t have to until I am whole again. And as the night draws lean on the horizon, purple and glowing wet like teardrops sliding down a window frame during a rainstorm, invisible but still somehow tangible in a way that the rest of reality isn’t, I rest my weary head against the keyboard, eyes strained and barely focusing, reading the books still — despite the lack of focus — with dogged rapidity, unquenchable desire, incredible lust.

And the sunrise draws hot on the horizon, and after some time, on this night, I finally head to bed, words in my chest and exhausted, unable to speak or think. The moment my frail, hot, paper-thin body hits the mattress, I am asleep.

Let me tell you of my dreams. They are oily things, strange and immaterial. When I was a child, I wanted to fly like a bird, to soar without anything necessary to glide on the wind, to dance through the clouds without catch or consequence. I wanted to be wild and free, to be able to leave my life and live in solitary joy. But now, my dreams are more nightmares than anything else, all full of torture, of death, of drugs and pain and deep, deep sorrow, and more than anything, of mistakes.

I dream of mistakes. Of failure. I dream of getting lost in a maze where the floor is made of thorns so I can’t sit down. I dream of being strapped to a chair and having living copper wires inserted into my lungs because I am the last living thing in a copper city of animatronics and they want to make me like them. I dream of a playground game turned deadly, where a good friend dies and everyone thinks that it is my fault and nobody believes me when I tell them otherwise. I dream of pitiful anguish, of writhing sorrow, of bleak madness.

I dream of consequence.

But when I binge on stories, none of that happens. I am too full, too bloated, with other people’s words and stories for my mind to produce any of its own. I suppose that might be one of the reasons why I do this, really: I cannot stand the onslaught of bad dreams, strong as my will may be. Being broken down every night, waking to tearstains on my cheeks and sheets, walking to the bus station in the morning shuddering, sobbing for reasons I can scarcely remember – it all takes a toll. Perhaps it just becomes too much, over time, and I have to compensate with the stories of others to make it all go away so I can recover. So maybe it isn’t binging after all. Maybe it’s analgesia.

One time, I cried all day after waking. My breath came in hitches and sobs all day, and in the evening I could scarcely remember what had happened in my dream. Thankfully – or not thankfully, really. I am only thankful, grateful, because I know now why I hurt, like when you get a diagnosis for something horrible at the doctor’s office, “at least I know what is happening to me.” I am not glad to recall it now, but recall it I do anyway. – I had written it down, as I do all my most significant dreams.

The time of which I speak was a day when I could not stop crying. I had been forced at gunpoint, in my dream, to murder a beloved friend and lover with a knife. I had speared the cold, sharp metal straight through my beloved’s fragile temporal bone like I was gutting a fish or a crab, felt a sliding, squeezing, squelching crunch like cartilage beneath my hands. I cried thick, salty tears and my dearest wailed in pain, clutched my arms and curled their fingers like they were going to fight back, even when they wept against my chest. They did not fight back, in the end – they held themselves back, even as I twisted the knife deeper, turned it about, lesioned and lobotomized their beautiful mind with my unsavoury, unskilled hands. How can anyone be truly skilled at the brutal butchery of a lobotomy? It is horrific, a destructive bulldozing of the delicate flowering circuitry that makes a person a person in the hopes that what dirt remains will be better than the flowers. I felt this, and into my hands and across my chest my friend wept a hot, salty, soupy muck of dura and blood and grey matter. The remains of what made them them splattered red on my hands, over my chest, over my knees where they crumpled – so heavy – and as their head lolled and their eyes rolled up to meet the sky, I cried for the loss of heat in their cooling body. And all through this, they whispered “I love you” over and over, and when they stopped I heard a tinnitus-ringing and squeezing deep in my chest, and I felt the click of the gun against my head because I had not been fast enough in my butchery.

I am sorry if that is upsetting to read. It was upsetting to experience firsthand – or is it secondhand, or perhaps dream-hand, to feel it in the most lifelike interpretation you can make of something you have never truly felt? I know how it feels to fly in a jet, to float on a hang glider, to hover in the wind on a parasail, but can I say with certainty that, because I have dreamt it with clarity, I know how it feels to fly as an eagle? Maybe I am being melodramatic, when it comes to the murder of those I hold dear. My mind has melded these experiences together in a dream, and my life has not been all too much hardship. Who would I be, an innocent who balks at stealing from a wealthy corporate-owned store, to say I know how it feels to murder your best friend? Can I truthfully say that I know how it feels to soar on the wind?

I may never know.

Let me wrap this up, for I am tired and I wish to take a reprieve from the world into the other world, horrid as it may be, of dreams.

The binge always ends. This is not a surprising statement, really, but it feels like one. An end to something we love comes a shock, like that a high will fade or that a child’s endurance in a race will not last a lifetime. We want to believe that we are eternal, that we are unmovable and untouchable. That is why we make stories, I suppose – to better pretend at something we are not. We can see our disbelief at our own reality, at our own mortality, as short eclipses in rationality: a man in his thirties is surprised at a paunch in his belly when he eats too much; a woman in her twenties expresses disbelief at her impaired reasoning and intolerable exhaustion after staying up late watching movies; an elderly man, frail but still sharp, bemoans his plans to travel the world in retirement, for now that he is old he cannot endure all the strange places, sights, smells that he once longed to experience. This old retired man sits back and weeps quiet tears, brushes away the nurses when they ask him if he is all right, because his body needs this – needs to cry, for he can no longer take the hikes through jungles as he had always dreamed, go on SCUBA dives as he always planned, climb the mountains as he always wished, and he curses himself – his young, stable self, hell-bent on making a career in a world that really cared nothing for him after all – for being scared, for not taking the initiative, for worrying about his standing among his coworkers and letting that cloud his dreams of the stars. He groans and stands, this old man, wavers in his balance, thumps back to his chair, and he wishes that his grandchildren would visit him, at least once, because he cannot reach the phone and will soon forget what he has always meant to tell them.

We are always so surprised at our own fragility.

And so: the nights always end. They end in desperation, in fevered gasps of dreams unbidden drifting through my mind as tangible fragments of sensation and perception as I make valiant efforts to stay awake, abusing wakefulness with stretches, with artificial lights, with mugs of oversteeped black tea brewed the day before. It is technically the day before, as it is after midnight – I would never make tea after midnight, after all: what if the kettle started whistling? How rude that would be, to my roommate, to my cats, to the elderly tenants down the hall. No, I would much rather live with oversteeped tea, cold and wet and slightly slimy, sliding down my throat like mucousy sludge, than to make a mark on the world, however brief it may be.

I find myself drifting, at that time of night. Dreams, little tatters of memories lost, come in flashes of inspiration, my mind taking over in maintenance even as I read, memories of the day before locking into place, knowledge sifting and filtering to form coherent pictures where there were once scribbled sketches of the imaginary. Do you know our current hypothesis for the purpose of dreams? Our best guesses – because that’s all they are, really just very good, evidence-backed guesses – describe the purpose of dreams as that they mean nothing at all: that they are background noise as our brains filter out and process the day’s information. It is random synaptic activity, just fuzz, a view of the RAM of our squishy brains being utilized properly. We watch, and we see through strange stories as our own memories are cemented, our learning embossed, our figures and people welded and banded together with other synapses. Memories come and dreams form, connecting information anew with knowledge, with action, with other old information all at once like a great big web formed nightly by a hundred thousand spiders. The mind breaks these memories down, makes them work not just independently but with the other memories and cognitions in the mind of the holder of those dreams, and that is why we work so much better and faster after learning and getting a good night’s sleep. And for some reason unexplained by this theory, we still have nightmares.

I don’t know why I dream of torment. Perhaps the gods are just unkind to me, or perhaps I just have a particularly messed-up head. Whatever the reason, the case stays: stories of others dull the effects of my dreams on my waking and sleeping mind. And so when I binge, numbing the pain and boredom that comes from the weight of the world on my shoulders (who doesn’t have the weight of the world on their shoulders, really? it seems universal, at least to me), when I devour like a starving pack of wolves that old run-over elk carcass left on the side of the road because my belly has shriveled to the size of a raisin—

no. When you see me wandering listless, eyes glazed with dreams dreary and nightmares weary, feeling the agonies of a thousand smoldering cast-off dreams left adrift in the oasis of my waking memory—

no. When you see me,

wave. And smile. And perhaps in turn, I will not need the opiates of other people’s words to dream the good dreams tonight. And perhaps I will not meet the sunrise head-on in the morning, but lazily, sleepily,

as a cat awakening from a long nap,

or a tiger content in his knowledge of the woods,

or a tree, leaves unfurling, branches uncurling, bromeliads opening their water-holes to let the frogs inside croak and hop about in search of sunlight—

no. When you see me, wave. I will wave back.

Whoever you are, hello. I am of two minds today; perhaps you can set me right. Who should I be today? The academic, stressed and overworked by his problems? The journalist, documenting the troubles of the world? The writer, frustrated and tired by his own perturbed – but ultimately mundane – ideas, expressing himself with prose like matchsticks representing the whole of the woods they mean to display?

Am I to be the sloth, the artist, the dreamer? The friend, the foe, the sterling nickel found and kept as a lucky charm but ultimately never needed, forgotten the moment it was lost, all those months ago in the washing machine? Will I be a story to you, an archetype? Maybe I will be a Knight, or maybe a Mage, or perhaps, if I am lucky that day, you will take pity, call me a Damsel (how gendered!) or an Innocent. Will you tell me who I am, when you see me? I wander in a dream, days ever-changing and shifting. Will you retrieve me from the metal-trap in the bottom of my mind? I have seen your viscera, felt it sliding over my hands. Why am I at once compelled and repulsed by the memory? Why can I not pick one and live with it? Why am I this see-saw of rebellion and peacekeeping?

Who will I be today? Who?

Maybe you can tell me. It is nice to talk to old friends.

Oh good, Wikidot is back up.

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