A drunk Will is lying on the grass of the high school football field, staring up at the stars, when his friend Noah approaches him.
Noah: Enjoying the view?
Will: It’s all glass. It could shatter in an instant. Why’d they make such fragile things? They must have known we’d break them.
Noah: Do you want to tell me how you got here?
Will: I’m God’s rant. He had to get me out of His system.
Noah: Kathy said you stole her Percocet. Are you mixing prescription pain meds with the booze?
Will: And I’m still afraid. Imagine that.
Noah: Do have more on you? More of either? …
The Mad Hatter and I sit down for lemonade and cookies as the sun goes down.
Me: This is unusual for you.
Mad Hatter: If one only did what was usual one would still be nursing. One profits greatly from the harnessing of the unusual.
Me: Right. So try new things, basically.
Mad Hatter: Never try new things!
Me: But you just said-
Mad Hatter: I know what I just said, and I meant it. But new things just lead to trouble. You must have a very rigid routine that you never deviate from. Here’s the misunderstanding. You thought I was advocating the doing of unusual things. Not at all! …
I’m sorry, Mom and Dad, that I didn’t make it through school. I’m sorry I got arrested, did drugs, drank, self-injured and went from one psych-ward to the next. I can’t begin to imagine how hard this was for you, to witness your dear son destroy his life and his body over and over again and feel like you were entirely powerless to make a lick of difference. I waged a war against my demons and I lost and I attempted suicide and I survived, only to go right back to the same behaviors that had led me into the darkness in the first place. My mental illness and my addiction made me selfish. My pain made me selfish. I was constantly thinking about myself and my struggles, never willing or able to consider the needs of others. I put you through hell. I was in the ER and I ripped one of the springs out of my hospital bed and proceeded to carve my face up with the jagged edge. You had to witness the ghoulish aftermath. You had to face a son who hated himself so much that he was willing to use sharp objects to slice and slash himself to pieces. I never got it. I never understood. Because I blamed you and your lack of validation and attention for my chronic emptiness, the emptiness that drove me to burning and cutting the entire surface of my upper body. …
“How did I get here?” Harold asked, looking around the tiny green room in bewilderment.
“You came here in an ambulance, Dad,” his daughter, Victoria, replied patiently.
“Yes, yes,” Harold said, waving her off, “but before all that nonsense with the doctors and nurses. I mean way back. Before I met your mother. Before I met my mother. How did I get here?”
“I’ll take this one, Vickie.” Tom got up from his chair and walked over to his father’s bedside. He knelt down and clasped his father’s hands.
“Only God knows, Dad.”
“So it was God’s fault.”
“It was God’s generosity of spirit. Dad, have you lost your faith?” …
I never stopped searching for my friend, Liam, who was taken one hot June evening while we were playing an elaborate game of hide-and-seek that stretched all over the neighborhood and involved nearly thirty kids. It was the size of it that made him easy to miss. We started playing around 5:30 PM and didn’t stop till around 9. The last time I remember laying eyes on Liam was when he was scrambling up the blue spruce behind Mrs. Hegarty’s house. He looked over at me, his face scrunched up into a mask of ultra seriousness, and he gave me a quick salute with his right hand, then continued to climb. When he got to the top I could hear him laughing. To Liam, everything was a joke. Everything was meant to be leavened with good humor, as long as it was respectful. He pushed the limits at times, like when he told his cousin who was dying of cancer to not let Jesus cheat in kickball. Or the time when he found out he had a mixture of Asperger’s and schizoaffective disorder and he turned to his mother and asked her which one was her fault. Or the time he came across a young woman throwing up outside of a house party and saw a young guy in the doorway checking his phone. He helped pull back her hair like a little gentlemen and when the dude walked up and asked him who he thought he was, he just repeated over and over again, while sticking his chubby finger in the dude’s chest, ‘Not. Your. Property.’ And when the guy inevitably decked him, he lay on the ground with a defiant fist raised in the air. ‘It is time to be respectful to women! And it is time to chill the fuck out! Hurrah!’ But I don’t know if Liam found his abduction humorous. At first no one thought it was an abduction. They just thought he was taking the game too far, as he often did, both to amuse himself, and because he couldn’t help it. But Liam did consider other people’s feelings. Sometimes there was a delay and sometimes his consideration took odd forms, but he cared. Liam was many things, ‘cold’ was not one of them. So it struck everyone as off-key when the game was officially over and he didn’t turn up. The police were notified by midnight, but true panic didn’t set in until sunrise. Every able-bodied person in the area took part in the search. We went into the trees and bushes, we went into sheds and houses. Nothing was off limits and everyone understood this. …
Voices: It’s time to be afraid.
Voices: Because you passed your exit point without surrendering your desire for death. If you refuse to leave when it’s time, then you’ll go insane trying to leave when it isn’t.
Me: How much of you am I?
Voices: You are us completely, we are you .0003 percent.
Me: You mock me. I never liked being mocked.
Voices: Toughen up, soldier.
Me: You said you put me on mute.
Voices: Needs must. You must learn how to listen and how to behave. Even the special ones have to mind their manners.
Me: Emotionally manipulate often? Withhold food, medicine and exposure if I do not perform to certain standards? If I do not obey a set of rules I was never given and which I never consented to follow? …
I’m on the phone with my friend, Elijah, who is preparing to overdose on pills.
Me: I’m calling 911.
Elijah: They’ll never make it in time. I’m already doped up. Just a few more and I’m gone.
Me: Why are you doing this?
Elijah: Because I’m tired.
Me: Tired of living?
Elijah: Tired of being conscious. My emotions are so intensely negative they’re like holding my heart over an open flame. Every thought is like an ice pick being driven into the back of my brain. Every interaction is a chore. I’m constantly showing the best and hiding the worst and never being a whole self and it’s exhausting. I’m a wounded animal in a threatening world that wants to feast on my vulnerability. I look to God, but God died during the Holocaust. I reach out to my spirit guides, but they are conspicuously silent, as if this is the one decision I’m allowed to make without their input. I hate the pain. I hate the fear. I hate the suffering. I hate the chaotic absurdity of separation from Source. I never wanted to come here. I don’t like being a person. I want to crack myself like an egg and let the yolk drip down the drain. This is the land where dreams go to die. I had such ambition, such wild-eyed hopes, and everything I ever planned for or believed in was crushed by this relentless system of myopia, solipsism and pathological predation. I don’t want to participate anymore. …
A few days ago I experienced the worst emotional pain I have ever felt when thinking about one of my dead cats. I had what seemed like a seizure of sadness, sobbing uncontrollably, my head twisting to the side, my body jerking, and my vision blurring. I was losing all control of myself. Eventually, I was able to take my left hand and grab myself by the shirt and pull myself upright and say, ‘Enough, Tim, enough. You have to come back to your center.’ The sobs trailed off, but I was shaken. If my rational self hadn’t intervened I don’t know where that breakdown would have taken me. I feel like my soul might have left my body. These weren’t just tears for my cat, these were tears for everything that dies, for every living, breathing creature whose energy is pulled away by the current of Time. I was crying for the tragedy that is our fragile mortality and for the innocence in us all that is corrupted by earthly sin and punished by the laws of physics. I was crying because my sweet cat, cool as a cucumber no matter the situation, had been reduced to a desperate, starving sack of bones before we finally put him down. He had his dignity stolen from him. But life has no respect. The dynamics that govern us are cold and grinding and see the cells before they see themselves. I don’t want to live in a world that treats me like a walking pile of meat. I don’t want to subject myself to the vicissitudes of a frenetic cosmos without conscience or sympathy. …
Me: You’re everywhere these days.
Chaos: And nowhere.
Me: What do you mean?
Chaos: Absolutely nothing.
Me: That you hide your true intentions inside the hearts of men and women?
Chaos: Precisely incorrect. I have no true intentions.
Me: You’re just a force of nature that gets unleashed on the world?
Chaos: No one holds my leash, little one. And what is this nature you speak of?
Me: The grass, the trees, the rivers, the animals, the people, the stars in the sky. You know, nature.
Chaos: As opposed to?
Me: Ghosts and demons and dogs with two heads.
Chaos: So nature has no opposite. It simply is. …
Ashley is in her apartment smoking a joint when all of a sudden a tall figure dressed in bright colors steps out of the shadows and wags his finger at her.
Ashley: What the hell. Who are you?
Reality: I’m Reality. You’ve been out of touch with me for too long.
Ashley: Sometimes I just need a break, okay?
Reality: Your vacations have been getting progressively longer. I’m worried.
Ashley: Damn, this is some strong stuff.
Reality: Let me get a hit.
Ashley: Excuse me?
Reality: I need something to take the edge off. Consensus reality isn’t what it used to be. …