illustrated by Hedi Peters
We were in the room he called the Domino Room with the large windows whose thin frames lined the scaling turquoise glass, letting in the sky and the sea. My legs were draped as they were every day, slung under the railing of the second-floor mezzanine that overlooked the domino chamber. Writing from behind the metal bars that were shaped like a chain link fence, I sat glumly on my bony ass, drinking a gin martini out of one of Gabriel’s eccentric mugs on which was painted tiny little rainbow-colored dominos toppling in the shape of a mandala. I sit here every day watching Gabriel work. I think he secretly enjoys the company, even if he rarely, if ever, admits it. The sun was at its morning height, beaming through the windows, and I watched as Gabriel leaned over a spire in the corner of the black and white rotunda, carefully navigating his pavilion of small pieces, agonizing over the exact emplacement of the next domino. I imagined him how he must see himself, with his demur expression, as somehow humble and self-effacing, the way a woman who does not like the look of herself lifts her hand to block her face in a family photo, except that in Gabriel’s case, he blocks his face with his face itself, contorting it like a suffering saint, and perhaps thinking that in keeping silent he could evade the hard truth about our relationship, which is of course that I’m a piece of shit and will always be a piece of shit and that his roundabout way of telling me that I’m a piece of shit—in a panoply of indirect phrases and noncommittal gestures and passive shrugs—could not go on forever. I said to Gabriel, swaying my suspended feet above him in his colossal globular dome, that it is obvious to me and everyone else what I am: something traumatized, unfixable, an estranged fuck up, a sexually repressed freak, incapable of being in a normal loving relationship like the rest of the world. And this is what I always do. I blow up on Gabriel, after days of silence and beating around the bush I blow up, triggered by how quickly he shuns my attempt to belittle myself for his sake. I’m a piece of shit, how hard can that be to swallow (not the shit, but the metaphor)? Don’t speak so lowly of yourself, he replied, it’s unattractive.
I have been calculating how many nights have passed that Gabriel has been seeing another man. No, I do not know anything for sure. He likely is not. I don’t know. I would not be able to come up with a number. I hate thinking about things this way because the thought revolves around how far we have gone without addressing the issue of my revulsion. I see him in my mind’s eye, stroking another man, energized by a sensual masculine body. The image is horrible, but I know that if it were true, I would be to blame.
My therapist has prescribed writing as a tool to cure my anxiety.
Presto, cured as pickled fish on a South African holiday.
Monday Morning. In the Domino Room.
Gabriel has chosen to arrange his domino masterpiece in the shape of a Muslim Mosque—the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque to be exact—the reason being that it is a white structure with small black arches, whose concave alcoves could be imitated perfectly by the inclusion of black colored dominos with white dots instead of black. Not being a Muslim himself, Gabriel’s Mosque represents nothing of the institutionally religious sort, and yet, watching him from my upraised mezzanine, I can’t help but see this process of stationing things for the sole purpose of an ultimate collapse as ominous, like an ancient prophet demonstrating through tiny clay figures an impending apocalypse, a divination of patience ending in a tumbling toward nothing. There he stands, guarded, a kneeling sultan under the carapace of pale skin.
It’s nothing of the sort, Gabriel grunted to me, saying not everything has to mean something y’know, the mosque fit the black-and-white medium and nothing more. Could be just the therapy cranking me up, convincing me that meaning must hide under every nook and cranny.
Tuesday. Dawn Under Covers.
For the past two months, Gabriel has been preparing day and night for the unveiling of his masterwork. In fact, in exactly one fortnight from now, the World Records crew are coming to set up a studio in the Domino Room for a live stream of the topple. Underground internet threads are blowing up about it, theories on how he will construct the higher portions of the domino mosque, how he will stage the large melon-like domes and the thin octagonal minarets. Just yesterday, as I was getting out of the shower, I overheard Gabriel in an interview with a journalist in the vestibule outside of the Domino Room (as I am the only one allowed access to it) and eavesdropped a strange statement uttered as the journalist was about to leave. To the question concerning why build something so temporary that will end up being destroyed—why not something permanent like a model to be set up in a gallery or museum—Gabriel replied with: Peace is often something that comes once something else has been destroyed. Art and politics share this in common. Take the Berlin Wall for example, or fireworks.
Wednesday. On the Shitter.
Sometimes I am ashamed to say that I pay no rent living with Gabriel. It is shameful really, where I’ve come from. Certain smells bring me back to that time. I’ll be walking into town to get a slice of pizza and something in the air, something almost metallic on my tongue, something like the smell of a museum, whatever that is, maybe carpet sanitizer or something, and it just hits me like a ton of bricks. Presto, I’m back in that old musty apartment with the mold rotting the corners of the shower, the mold that looked like slimy lizard prints on the ceiling, that mold that you attributed all the coughing to, the mold on the caulking, the mold on the drywall, the mold on the fucking mold, and then I see a younger version of me shaving over a clogged sink full of soapy foam and toothpaste spit, finding pimples on my chin—little diamonds in the scruff—and am brought back to the mice that stopped giving a damn about my attempts to ward them off, clapping like a clown at their slow scurrying—slow enough to shit on the floor and steal a crumb on their way back to their silent stampedes through the baseboards.
Fact: In Berlin on 9 November 2009, giant domino tiles were toppled in a 20th-anniversary commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall. So says Wikipedia.
Thursday. Late Morning on the Patio.
At night Gabriel falls asleep to videos of dominoes toppling: award winning collapses, international collapses, concentric collapses, spiral collapses, mosaic collapses, climb collapses, pattern collapses, field collapses, collapses that create illusions, collapses that mimic film, collapses of ingenious strategy and originality. On one occasion I had woken at nearly three to a blue moon on my face and the muffled tick-tick-tick sound of Gabriel’s domino videos playing on repeat from an open laptop on the bedside table. I had just dreamed that I was standing in an icy field somewhere at night, caped in my black duvet that I always sleep in, flicking a lighter over and over in the wind (the same tick-tick-tick timekeeping noise of Gabriel’s toppling dominoes), frantically battling against the wet wind that bit into my frosted membrane, trying with all my will to create a flame to warm myself before…
Now that I write this down, I don’t actually recall hearing my own shrieking voice, but whose would it have been? Gabriel was asleep next me, unruffled. It was like waking up to a silence recently filled by someone else’s shriek, a vulture’s shriek, which lent the room an animal hollowness, a muted dream roar discontinued by waking life, and I got all the shivers down my back while thinking about this. I decided to go take a piss in the dark, a dark whose recently vacated shriek still rang in the silent walls. Whenever I piss in the dark, as a rule I don’t look at myself in the mirror. It’s bad enough imagining my pale body hovering over a black hole pissing into warbling porcelain. I don’t need a mirror duplicating the image for me. And plus, the thought of my pale backside staring at its blank copy also gives me shivers, like a large blowup of one of Gabriel’s dominoes just mocking me, and by the time I get back in bed I’m hopelessly at a loss for sleep and so stare at my phone in hopes of total desensitization until the first crack of dawn arrives to finally let me fall asleep in peace.
Friday. On the Mezzanine.
I slept late this morning, so late that the coffee Gabriel made was cold and I had to make another batch. I hate cold coffee.
Whenever we have sex, Gabriel wants me to let him do it from behind, which I don’t like. When he does it, all I can hear is the thwapping noise of our flapping parts which reminds me of his dominoes collapsing. I said this to him once and he told me that dominoes are the most accurate symbolization of entropy a person can conceptualize besides cellular degeneration and that copulation is part and parcel of the same process. It’s only natural, he had said. He said it so scientifically, as if he wasn’t talking about tongues and dicks. It seems to me that everything that lives on earth is staged carefully, as if designed by a Divine Domino Toppler, to be pummeled into the ground one by one. I don’t know if that is a fact or not, but when I’m hunched over the sheets, with Gabriel inside me, I could not agree more with the strength of his argument.
Saturday. On the Mezzanine.
The Domino Room itself is a tall open space the size of two windmills and has a pole running down its center which is encircled by two large locking staircases. Yes, locking. The staircases loop around one another like a cyclone, no not like a cyclone, more like a threaded bracelet, or like an infinity loop that never closes. Above the vestibule is the floating mezzanine where I spend all my somnolent days watching Gabriel, daydreaming, and writing in this journal. When I first met Gabriel, he spent all of his time here, setting up what at the time he called his Domino Dive, a line that toppled up each set of stairs and, reaching the top, triggered a spring in both directions that shot out two individual dominoes, dressed in a tiny bikini on the top of the east stair and trunks on the west stair, each of which plunged, in graceful dives, into a pool of bluecolored dominoes, the contact creating waves of topples that recreated the mirage of a liquid-like splash. Gabriel always said he was interested in domino toppling proper. It’s no games, no lines of play, no blocking, no scores, just toppling proper, a real mind and eye skill, a patient simplicity of muscle and motion, all run and no rally.
And it’s true. There is no game involved in Gabriel’s dominoes. Gabriel built the locking stairs for the sheer purpose of that singular collapse. I could hardly believe something like it was possible. After that, he won recognition in all the domino magazines and online threads. Overnight fame to become an Instagram influencer. Months of construction, an upward spiral envisioned to perform a beautiful blue mess, little waves of resin, all for what? Instragram?
Ever since then, it’s as if the stairs have ceased to exist.
Sunday. In the Bath at Dusk.
There are certain places where I feel near the edge of the world. Places where I sense the immediate prohibition: thus and no further! Where even if all that surrounds me is land, I feel at the shore of some unsurpassable sea. Gabriel’s estate is one such place.
Gabriel and I live in a mansion by the sea. The home is his, and he affords it because he’s a billionaire pharmaceutical entrepreneur, but he doesn’t come off that way, which is what I first liked about him. He’s got the attitude of a philanthropist without actually being one, which basically means he’s modest, I guess. But the house is anything but modest: surrounded by the Pacific on the one end and lush verdant forests on the other, everything luxe, astonishingly luxe, castellated in uninhibited sumptuosity, but Gabriel would never know it because he never leaves the Domino Room. The only time he does is when I beg him to, and then he’ll sip coffee on the sea-facing patio out of his rainbow mandala mug while I watch the mosquito-sized reflections of seagulls in the black surface of my own, neither of us saying anything for a quarter of an hour. Such moments of quiet tend to range from strangled resentment to snug familiarity, always depending on the proceedings of the night before. Last time this happened, I stared at my coffee for so long that I forgot I had asked Gabriel to come out and sit with me. I noticed my coffee was developing a shadow and that the large black ring of the handle was lassoing Gabriel’s mug’s handle, the handles interlocking in shadow, an observation that brought on an inexplicable and untraceable sensation. How to describe it? I asked myself a series of unrelated questions: what is dusk? Does it have a smell? An image? A sound? Why do sunsets feel different than sunrises? I’m not even sure what I meant by it. I began to stumble at scattered possible quests for the meaning of the word evening. Asphalt. Weeds. Petrol. Acrid lawn fertilizer. That won’t do, I thought. And then I remembered some smells from my early boyhood. Barbecues and wood smoke. Hot rhubarb pie and curdled coffee. Trails of orange peel and dark chocolate. All these and more did I begin to think about when my mind wandered over that melancholic evening coffee on the patio with Gabriel. He seemed to notice too, as he grinned at me with a mocking grin that suggested he found my musings entertaining at best, a waste of time at worst. The same process would occur watching him in the Domino Room, all these sad memories, so distant and unlike my present life, so not me but part of me, all of them somehow ripped out from the content of my former self like paint off an old storefront. And to think, what am I to do once all the paint wears off and I have no name? Without thinking these aimless thoughts, without these dotted memories, who am I?
As I thought of how our shadowed mugs interlaced, I was reminded of Gabriel’s locking staircases, the ones that no longer exist for him in his world. I wondered if, once he has climbed me whole and toppled me over like his precious dominoes, will I too cease to exist?
Monday. After Nightfall on the Patio.
I think of the word loss in the phrase I’m sorry for your loss as a bit of a misnomer. Something lost is something misplaced, and something misplaced is something that could—with enough time and effort—be found. How unsympathetic to console with false comforts, as if death is something like a phone mistakenly tucked inside the cushions of a couch, as uncomplicated and painless as a stroll to the lost-and-found bin at a hotel reception desk.
Tuesday. On the Staircase Outside the House.
I went for a sprint today. To the train tracks and back. It took less than five minutes, and it is wonderful how quickly my body aches with tender reward. Totally unlike the aching I have in my thighs and ass after being fucked by Gabriel. The body remembers not only the tensions but the intentions as well, and in those moments my body does not ache lovingly, but it falters and collapses on top of me.
Wednesday. On the Shitter.
Under two weeks now until the reveal and Gabriel senses my anxiety. It’s hard to know where my anxiety comes from, but I suppose if I could figure that out it would cease to be anxiety. Fear perhaps, but not anxiety. Gabriel says he wished I actually talked to him about it, not whatever the croaking sound is that comes out my mouth when we are together. It’s true, talking about it does not help, which is something my therapist has not figured out yet, the talking cure stick it up your ass. Sometimes it’s like a hand is being held over my mouth and I have to push out my voice from my gut just to get the hand to release me, just to get one incipient word out. It feels like shouting just to whisper. And just when a new word or sentence is about to burst, I can sense it coming by the tick-tick-tick that comes from the back of my throat, all that saliva beating against my undulating tonsils. According to Gabriel, this only causes our arguments to self destruct. I am all shut up and silent, he says, for days, weeks, months even, and then one day I just won’t close my mouth, going off about everything I’d thought about quietly for months on end, like an annoying run-on sentence: about how I resent him for making me a shadow of himself, for his false humility and how it changes at night into a kind of cruel dominance, how he cannot possibly understand what it feels like to depend on the capricious will of someone else, someone who you feel will never understand you, who can’t know what it feels like to say yes to acts so loathsome, so vile, so painstakingly nauseating and repellent, only because if you refuse him this one act of “love” you may be kicked back out to that old moldy apartment, to worrying about rent payments, extortions, the incessant coughing, the volatile haranguing of landlords and employers, the night shifts, the reckless nocturnal knocking of the addicts on the same floor, the same ones that shoot up in the cemetery behind your bedroom window, and how you could hear them howling like wolves, and then them picking the lock and creeping down my hall, shouting and knocking over lamps and dishes, looking for petty cash, scratching at my door on which I couldn’t afford to install a lock…
Gabriel says that watching dominoes topple is only a guise of entertainment, that below the passive viewing of it, when you really begin to see the topple for what it is—as a metaphor of sorts—that it has the ability to cause deep unrest in his audiences. At first, what one sees is the flick of a finger and the first domino collapsing. Then, as their pupils dilate in concentration, their eyes follow the quick ticking progression, that sound of a frantic card shuffling, a sound like something spilling over, like grain poured out from a vat or mice stampeding through baseboards, and they begin to notice something alive in it, something primeval, that has always been there, from somewhere deep within them, a shark advancing in a large tide that moves with more and more rapidity by the force of an invisible current, or a snake sliding out of a thin husk that never stops shedding.
Thursday. On the Patio.
My therapist and I have been discussing what Gabriel refers to as my “aversion.” Usually, when it comes down to it, my therapist says that I’m too “embroiled in my direct experience with Gabriel and need to step back in order to see things clearly.” She always talks like that, using words that nobody else uses, like “embroiled.” And she does not tell me what to do. I can see it on her face, in the shape of her fucking silver fox hair and glasses, in her unremitting scholarly stare, that she has no idea what I should do, and so she keeps proffering the same jargon over and over again, telling me that I am too “enmeshed” in my relationship with Gabriel, that I need to “differentiate myself from himself,” that I need to “symbolize my internal meaning” in order to “alter my conditions of worth into an actualizing self-concept.” For what it’s worth, I do feel these words might mean something important for me. Too bad that, being a piece of shit, I haven’t the faintest clue what they refer to or how to apply them to my life with Gabriel.
She then asks me to say what I am feeling, to conjure an image of my aversion, to feel it with my “felt-sense.” Okay, I say, here goes nothing. And there it is, I can see it. It’s disgusting, so revolting that I could puke at a mere sketching of it on a bathroom stall, not to mention touching and playing with one, moving one around with my hands and lips and tongue. The soft cartilage on the mushrooming tip, the veined pulsating stump, the buoyant spring, the shriveled and stretchy sacs of skin. How does my felt-sense sound to you, I want to ask my therapist. Nothing in the world disturbs me more than that swinging appendage. Can my felt-sense make me feel less like a piece of shit because I don’t want to suck on one those pumping wooden wizard wands of evil white magic?
Friday. From the Bedroom Window.
Going out for a walk during a warm sunset always reminds me of childhood, playgrounds with wood chips and staring at the clouds passing on, when both the moon and sun are raised on each end of the sky. No matter how old I get it’s always the same feeling. A feeling of nostalgia but also a feeling of the end, that on that hot summer sunset we sit watching the end.
Gabriel is always eclipsing the things I say. Without looking at me—his eyes glued to what he once so wittingly called his black-dotted pieces of sheep bone, quoting Madame Bovary—he said to me, you’re always living like it’s the end of your life, like nothing more can be done and like the place you are now is all that is left for you. I said that some people live lives like that Gabriel, like it’s the end. Some people don’t get to choose whether they get to move away and start new, it’s always just the way things have always been, and the way things will be, which is all the same anyway. Gabriel shakes his head at this, in doing so looking like a frustrated child, you’re living in a shell he says.
Saturday. On the Shitter.
In my shampoo is a sticker of two standing rabbits clasping hands in an arch with a sign saying, Fight Animal Testing, which I also just realized spells the acronym FAT. Gabriel bought it for me because I am vegan, and he thought it would cheer me up a bit. It doesn’t. It just reminds me of us, two animals wrestling in the dark.
Come to think of it, that’s an apt image of our relationship, always clasping for dear life to each other’s exploding tendons, stretching each other until our skin is thin as age would eventually have it. Sometimes I love him so much I’d like to fucking tear his throat open.
That’s a type of love. Just take my word for it.
Sunday Morning. At the Kitchen Table.
People seem to never stop existing. You think you have hit an end with them, that they could not possibly keep waltzing about, that their torpid whingeing and blathering mouths will eventually zip tight and be smothered in what’s coming to them—a mouthful of shoveled dirt—but they don’t budge, they just keep on enduring in a world without end, in a continuous prayer of recycled breath to an unknown God who has been directing this sitcom of a planet to its umpteenth season. There he is with his head heaving over the toilet again, and there he goes with a navel full of lint again, and here I am draped over the fucking mezzanine again, watching Gabriel build his fucking mosque out of his fucking dominoes again and again and again.
A train track runs through the forest extending out from the back ends of Gabriel’s garden. Heard but not seen, just beyond the first grove of trees. I can hear it from the patio at night. I don’t know where it comes from or where it goes, just that it motors through the forest for the span of minutes, leaving a quiet echo of ticking in its wake, an invisible trace of the industrial ripping through the archaic night. Tonight, after Gabriel fell asleep, I crawled out of bed and quietly hiked to the tracks. I laid there for what must have been an hour waiting for a train to come, waiting for the tick-tick-tick sound of the dominoes, enlarged by the journeying force of the metal and steel and the grinding wheels. Only when the sound of a sudden crack of a branch nearby paused the shrill droning of the cicadas that had amassed around me—like a visitation of shrieking angels in a suffering sky—did I waken from this abstraction and stumble back, like some legless drunk, to bed.
Monday. In the Domino Room.
The topple is scheduled to happen tomorrow at noon. Noon because the saffron hues of our
Californian summer will bestow the illusion of a mosque aflame, “sunkissed by heaven.” In Gabriel’s mind, this performance is as close to a holy rite as dominoes can get. The vapidity of it all! “Ego Sum Gabriel. Asto Coram Domino.” Luke 1:19. “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of the Lord.” The film crew have arrived with their boom mics, cameras, panels, lights, and chords that run off the mezzanine and snake eagerly across the domino room floor toward that holy center, toward the presence of the Domino, the Lord of Gabriel. I study him, familiar with his unrelenting focus in these last hours, his meditations on the imminent intrepid trailing of the colliding spindles, caught up in fantasies of adoration from his beloved fans. Looking down on the wingless angel, I observe him kneeling, perspiring with a sweat close to blood, like Christ on the eve of his death. And here too, the film crew stand motionless, loosening knots of chords, unbuttoning the top buttons of their shirts due to the heat the large windows have drawn in, filling their fingers with mundane errands as they watch how Gabriel prepares the dominoes with such reverence, such care, such anxiety, as if he were brandishing the nails that would one day skewer Christ’s hands.
I sit, writing in this journal, unnoticed by the buzzing crew that transform this strange chamber of childish games into a kind of rarefied temple of worship.
Tuesday. On the Piano Bench.
Exclusion manipulates my pen as I write, but what my writing includes reveals something to me of what is at stake in my relationship with Gabriel. Some things must be left out, like Gabriel’s windowless walk-in closet that always reminds me of those holocaust photos of the concentration camp bunks, with the Jews mounded on one another in their striped gowns, so shriveled and tiny they look like Gabriel’s heaped laundry on his dimly-lit wooden shelves, and how it gives me shivers whenever I pass by it, or his terrapin turtle tank that sits phosphorescent on sunny afternoons above the kitchen sink, and sometimes that I talk to them about the life I used to live and how everything has changed and not changed at all, and how lines of indigo bleed to turquoise and run down the pages of my book like a chopped up rainbow whenever I sit beneath the neon green palm branches in Gabriel’s glass-paneled chaise lounge, and this piano bench that I am currently seated on which always reminds me of something out of The Great Gatsby.
But not all things can be written about. Otherwise, literature would be full of false idols, and what else is the aim of literature than to encounter God? I don’t mean that. I don’t even know if I believe in God.
All this to say, I know I should be writing about Gabriel’s big performance and that everything in this diary has been leading to something. I feel forced to keep one eye open and one eye shut, and to see only what I think Gabriel would want me to see, and to only write about the things that my therapist might want me to write about, what she might find symbolic. What does that say about me?
They have arrived, the film crew, and I can hear Gabriel introducing his masterpiece to them. He must have noticed my absence. Unquestionably. But maybe he hasn’t. Maybe I have been diminished to an assumption, which is to say that I am nothing more than a hypothetical, a would-be in the mind of Gabriel, nothing more than a projection in his head of the admiration he requires to continue living. The film crew know nothing of Gabriel’s real nature. They think him a record breaker. Ironically, he thinks me a broken record. And I am. Broken, that is, a piece of shit, that is. And I suppose I am recording this too so, presto, Gabriel wins again.
I will write this quickly, not only because I can hear the hush in the Domino Room but also to be done with this ridiculous diary once and for all and to chase away the demons that shriek in the night, casting hexes over my spineless and cowardly body, leaving me spellbound by the shadows that climb the walls and lurch over me, watching me like upright snakes, black and still and unbearable to look at.
The demons were there last night as I laid motionless beside Gabriel in bed, the blue light of his laptop (from which I could hear that insufferable tick-tick-tick) casting a cruel light on them, bestowing on them a reality one might at first be inclined to doubt. I stood to piss, not daring to return the gaze of the dark mirror as I did. I hurried back to bed, passing Gabriel’s walk-in closet on my way. As I hopped under the duvet, I thought for a half-second that I saw one of the striped sheets from the dark closet jolt up in shock like an epileptic, but before I could register the image it was no longer there.
Gabriel, I whispered. Gabriel, I said again, a little louder this time. He lay curled on his side away from me. I don’t want to be alone, I said. He turned to me. Please, I don’t want to be alone I said again. His eyes were shut, but he drew me close, and I felt my cheeks rub against his chest. My heart galloped unevenly. He stroked my back, and I could feel his hot breath on my ear and his sweat which always smelled of laundry detergent and salt. Need a bit of comfort hm? Nightmares hm, he said. Just don’t leave me alone, I replied. I can’t be alone, I repeated. We laid like that for a while, him stroking my back like a horse, taming me, talking me down in faint whispers. I could feel his fingers trace their way down my side, down my waist, slipping in and out of the waistline of my underwear. I whispered, please, I just want to be held. I don’t want that. But the fingers kept sliding down and I felt him grab me forcefully up and grind up against me. I began to squirm. Don’t, I said. You said you don’t want to be alone, he countered hypnotically, as if he were dreaming and speaking to someone else. Do you want me to leave you alone? he asked. I stiffened. I could feel him work his hands around me, removing his underwear from under the duvet. I could feel him against me, throbbing, I felt so sick I couldn’t speak. He kissed my neck and kept kissing me all over. His face grew into a cold determination. I could only muster to say don’t don’t don’t. He tossed me over and I could feel him in me, sticky with cold sweat. I began to hiss at him DON’T DON’T DON’T! And before he had finished, he tossed me away, flinging me off the side of the bed, wrenching the duvet over himself like the cape of some defeated vampire, saying you fucking wanted it you were fucking asking for it piece of shit.
I remained there for the rest of the night, like slop on the floor, toppled upon.
They are applauding for Gabriel now; it sounds like a standing ovation.
Wednesday Morning. On the Patio.
My life is an endlessly collapsing domino, one long row of destruction. From the outside it certainly must be a spectacle, like one of those large domino trains people spend their lives staging in order to showcase its collapse to a few close admirers. Perhaps I will die, and my life will be recorded in the annals of history, or perhaps the memory of my miserable thoughts will be as short-lived as Gabriel’s domino line, the existence of a life continued for a few extended seconds after rigor mortis, in the deep sigh or singular tear drop before my tomb. Except for me there is no marvel, there is no spectacle, no consolation of grief or remorse over the sadness of my life, it is just the constant feeling of being pushed over by the force of millions of adversaries and ancestors preceding me, all of which are me and all of which quicken the speed with which I hasten, ash in my eyes, towards a flat plop in a pallid and crusty earth.
Once you hit rock bottom, there will you find the center of the universe. So says my therapist. Life, she teaches, functions like a winding circle, a convex of habits that spawn the same experiences over and over—bus routes, coffee orders, the same hyperlinks, the same search engines, everything a mindless click-click-click, a series of algorithms and hashtags that keep us like bees in a hive, moving cheerfully from cell to cell—a spinning machine of similarities whose sole purpose is warding off the threat of ascent or descent. Rather than ascending or descending out of the confines of the outer circle (as one would when meditating on the many layers of a mandala, for example) we tend to coast its smooth circumference, never attempting a full descent into the center of the circle, into the core of our Life. What must lie there? What feelings dark as pitch, searing as blue flame, what embers of feelings, what smoke that burns my stinging nostrils, produced by the sobbing of my inner child, sob-smoked logs of feelings, my inner child locked up in a circular prison, a cloudy sky unable to sate my insensate heart, a queen bee abandoned by its court. What else other than terrible thoughts must lie at the rock bottom of my life? I cannot go there I say to my therapist. It’s too hard. I don’t want to think about those things, about why I can’t feel loved, why I can’t just like what everyone else likes, why I can’t reciprocate Gabriel’s seductions in the night. If I begin to wonder about what happened to me, about why I am a freak, then I really will collapse into the soft back of my therapists IKEA chair, and I’ll have to release my standing, stiffened, tired joints, that stand like the rest of the world, stationary, in a large meaningless round circle, perambulating in a makeshift temple of stasis, unmoving, in crumbling mosque of melancholy, and cry so much that it will make me want to die.
Thursday. At the Tracks.
Will I survive these feelings?
Braden Matthew holds a BA in Religious Studies and a MA in Philosophy at McMaster University and is currently completing a degree in Psychotherapy at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where he lives with his partner and child. A Canadian-born writer living in Edinburgh, the fiction he writes is often set within cold and wet climates. He has worked as a journalistic writer for two universities in Canada. He has published two short stories in The Nassau Literary Review and Quibble Literary Journal.