Sunday, June 06, 2004

Wayward Devotional for a Sunday Afternoon

"I can prove co-existence to you." Uncle Mike says, behind the steering wheel of his burgundy-flavored Lincoln as he combs the gravel swoops of I-74, the hilly patch of road that buckles Bloomington into Peoria.

"How," I ask, of course, incredulously.

"Take a deep breath." Uncle Mike asserts. Notice the world around you. What do you see?"

I tuck my chin in typical doubting Thomas skepticism. My lips contort. A distilling silence foams.

"Notice the world around you as you see it. Note the green pastures outside. Note the sound of my voice. Here the rattle of the air-conditioner. The cars positioned around us."

"Check, check check." I metally demarcate those items in my mind. Mike always pulls this shit. One second I'm a human being, sentient, easily awed by the rapid accleration of life in a dot-com and disparate culture, the next second I feel like I'm a grasshopper and Mike is telling me to have patience. "Patience Grasshopper." I hear him almost humming, informing me that life is not what I have always perceived it to be.

"Patience grasshopper."


Think I've milked my mystic udder dry this past week. Everyone I meet online is a purported mystic. It almost reminds me of that old Dr. Pepper commercial: "I'm a Mystic, Your a Mystic, He's a Mystic, She's a Mystic, wouldn't you like to be a Mystic, too?" I think about reading an old interview with publisher James McClaughlin, who published Hesse's Siddhartha and how he was kinda disgusted by the initial manuscript.

"True Buddhism is tough," he said, in between drag of his cigar. "Hesse made Buddhism sound like some cool-slap hippie past time and Buddhism is nothing like that. True Buddhism means giving up everything in order to gain everything.

"...wouldn't you like to be a Buddhist, too?"


My boy Nick is the writer who lives upstairs, works upstairs, dishes out sentences upstairs, stomps downstairs to my desk, gives me a long handshake. Inquires how my own writing's going. Nick used to work for a swanky East coast magazine where he was paid a dollar a word.

"No shit brother, a dollar a word." I ranted, the first time we met.

"David man its considerably low by industry standards."

"Still, man, a dollar a word." I stop, thinking that the last sentence I just said to Nick equated my hourly wage. Prior to deductions, of course.

Nick's been assiduously hammering out his novel for the last four years. He's older than I am and if you'd look at us from a distance you'd think he was a solid sentence shooting Dirk Nowitski to my long-haired loopy-dribbling Steve Nash. Last semester I went back to school full time for the first time since autumn 2000. I dropped (drank) out of school that semester. My rationale was that simply there'd be more sentences in my novels than there would be calligraphed on my diploma. And of course, I was right.

Not to mention that my "Christian" parents seemed to have borrowed a bar of soap from Pontious Pilate and washed their hands from their heathen son's literary proclivities very early in my academic trudge. Perhaps human beings wouldn't feel so compelled to plant psychedelic substances down their own throats or water their earthly vessels with bottles of non-mathmatical proofs if they could feel a sense of eternal bondage, a modicum of love, and overall feeling of purpose in the world.

Nick tells me he's a dry fountain. He's written the first two pages of his novel three-hundred times.

"David, bro, I've lost everything man. Everything."

I tell him he's my hero. I tell him how much I value seeing him tow his laptop into the library every day and sit on his ass with his literary bib on. I tell him to keep on chiseling away...that somewhere in the soil of those rocky pages is a newfound fossil unearthing a beautiful tale.

"David man, I'm 32. I need to have my shit together." I look at him. He looks back at me like I don'thave a clue about the vagaries of adulthood.

"Me being a writer has ruined ties with my family." Nick says. "I've lost girls becasue they can't stand that I write for a living."

I tell him the advice that Miss Mack used to tell me. I tell him to keep on keeping on. I tell him to have fun with it. I tell him to put the ball in the hoop. When I see him ambling across campus, I say out loud, "There's a writer!"

"Just finish the book." I tell him. "We just need to finish the book. We can't let this thing that was once our life preserver sink us like an anchor."

He looks back at me and adjusts his glasses.

"...wouldn't you like to be a writer, too?"


"Look around," Uncle Mike insists. "Absorb everything that is around you. Look at the windshield wipers. Hear the motorized hum of the engine. Notice the position of the sun overhead. Look at the digitalized numbers on the clock."

I comply.

"Ready," Uncle Mike says. "I'm going to prove to you that co-existence exists after all."


It was exactly a week before 9-11 and Kinkos wanted eighty dollars just to print off the third draft of my novel.

"Eighty bucks." I say, groping multiple zip drives.

"It's a big document. Plus it has illustrations." The dweeb employee says.

"But still, it should only be ten cents a page."

"You have alotta pages."

Later on that day I went down to the pay phone in front of the abandoned liquer store. I hadn't paid my cell phone bill in months and I needed to call home. In front of me walked a beautiful girl, dirty-diaphonous blonde hair and a tight black skirt that rose just above the tropic of Cancer if her thighs and legs were represntative of the globe . Her Make-up was late 80's sloppy and she wore thick trussed boots skimming past her knees.

Her entire body I swear, was made of porcelain.

"Give me ten dollars." She said, soliciting me.

"Honey I don't have ten dollars." I said. She walked closer.

"If you give me ten dollars I'll give you a blowjob." She said, very straight-forwardly. There was a hush of traffic. I fondled the stem of the phone. It was out of order. She was in close proximity. Her lips were smeared with something that smelled like raspberries.

"Do you give hugs?" I inquired, still tapping the silver squares on the phone, hoping that the din of the dial tone would somehow make her petitions dissipate.

"What," She looked at me. Her entire body was shaped like an exclamatory mark. Either in shock or perhaps disgust."

"Do you give hugs?" I asked again, allowing gravity's tug to deal with the phone I just dropped."

"Well...." She says, still looking at me. There was a gold-toothed black man across the street. She kept averting her vision into his.

"I'll give you everything that's in my wallet if you give me a hug."

She paused. When she said the word blowjob she looked behind a dumpster. Now she just looked at me like I was crazy.

"Here?" She says looking at me. Her eyes once again volleyed across the street.

"Why not," I said.

"Because," She said. She was taller than me. Her breasts were lower case a. From what I can surmise she was probably between seventeen and twenty-two years of age.

The next thing I know her arms were wreathed around me. It was almost like she was placing an invisible medallion around my neck. The embrace was terse, but there was a squeeze and for a moment, both of our eyelids zipped closed at the same time.

"Here," I say to her. I don't remember how much currency I had in my pocket. It wasn't much. It was green and crinkly. It was all I had left til' Monday. She took it and then turned her back, clacking the thick soles of her boots across the abandoned parking, yelling out the name of her pimp across the street.

"Shit." I said, looking at her back, tilling my fingers trhough my hair, wondering where the hell I am suppsoed to go after this.

"...wouldn't you like to sell your body, too?"


"I don't think I've really ever been in love before." Swissy-Missy tells me, inside the student Center. We are eating lunch.

"Yeah," I say

"Really," She says. Before grabbing my hand and pulling me down into her scent as if her own hand were made of plastic gym weights.


I ran home after I encountered the prostitute. I hurtled up into my apartment and dump over a box of moldy books. I immediately open my cupboard. Everything that had a shelf life was hers. There were packages of roman noodles. There was little boxes of tofu. There was pasturized milk. There was sugar and instant coffee. There was rice-a-roni and mac-n-cheese. Everything that had a shelf life I had decided was hers. Cans of soup and tomato paste. Long elongated boxes of pasta and fettuccini. All hers. I ran into my room, diving into my book shelves, looking for my old comfirmation bible. My name and the Date APRIL 12 1992, initialed in silver cursive in the lower right-hand corner.

I was going to save her.

With the heap of goods boxed into my chest I ran. I didn't care who she had slept with. I didn't care if she was HIV +. I was going to save her. She could sleep in my room. She could take care of the house while I was at work. I'm sure I could bullshit with a fellow failed academic and get her into a community college.

I ran.

By the time I arrived at the parking lot it was vacant. The wood covering the gunshot gutted windows of the liquer store looked like patches, thwarting universal vision from myopic sight. I stood beneath the early September sun looking for her. I crossed the street. I went behind the Thrift store. I tried shouting out her name but then remember that I never asked for it. She asked me for a blowjob. I demanded only a hug. Currency was exchanged, names weren't.

I still had the box of food and my comfirmation bible in my hands. She was nowhere to be seen. It had been only fifteen minutes since our embraced. Our city wasn't that big.

"Hey kid," A Mexican head jutted out from the side of the liquer store. He was smoking a cigarette.

"What," I asked him, pissed off. I wanted to hit him.

"You lookin' for someone, yo?" He asked. He was in his undershirt.

"No," I said. "I'm not at all. Not at all."

As I turned around I noticed that the phone was still off the hook. It swayed in the manner of a pendulum; in the manner of a suicide, back and forth. For some reason though, I could swear I could hear the dial tone emitting a din warble.

I set the box of food down at the corner, next to a gray fire hydrant. I fished out my bible I hadn't cracked open in over five years.

I walked home alone.

"...wouldn't you like to be a savior, too?"


"Are you ready now?" Uncle Mike says. We are still in his Lincoln. "Okay, wait a minute, I'm going to show you that co-existence is valid."


With my bible tucked under my paw I began to fucking cry. Everything that was fueled up above my cheekbones suddenly broke into millions of shattered stain glass tears. I cried becasue of the direction my life was headed. I cried because I lost Vanessa two years prior. I cried because it seemed like my parents wanted shit to do with me outside of Chruch on Sunday. Cried because it seemed like I was always trying to go somewhere; trying to push my dreams out from the port inside of me; push off into the sea of reality only to watch the ship sink in shallow water.

I cried. And then I cried some more. I couldn't even save a prostitute who had her arms bobbling around my neck, momentarily, as if for support.


"No," Swissy-Missy says, biting into her sandwhich on wheat bread. "I've never been in love. Have you?" She says, her eyes bat. Her skin is silk. Once again she grabs my hand.

"Yes," I tell her. " Yes I have."

"...wouldn't you like to fall in love, too?"


I am blogging an entry titled WAYARD DEVOTIONAL FOR A SUNDAY AFTERNOON. I am writing about a prostitute. I am writing about Swissy-Missy and Co-existence. I have been writing for a couple hours. I decide to go outside for a walk.

I walk the path I always walk. It is freshman orientation here on campus. The student center is fraught with girls wearing tanktops and low jean-shorts and name tags. I walk out past the Student Center. I make a V-cut across the quad, alter my gait and head towards the tinted shadow of the library.

There are three people walking around. The females are older, they wear chic librarian spectacles. One is the color of lipton tea with a shock of straight black hair. She is syringe skinny and she reminds me of my mom.

In a weird way I want to give her a hug

The guys name is Matt. He is wearing khakis and a polo shirt. His hair is cut very short and is spiked with gel. He has a smile that looks like a roast beef sandwhich. I wave at them. The Sun is pushing heavy shafts of translucent light over the top of Bradley Hall casting circus tent shadows across the quad. The sky is so blue is could be mistaken for certain vectors of the Carribean.

"Do you mind if we ask you a couple of questions." Matt says, offering his feigned smile. The woman who reminds me of my mom opens up a notebook and starts chronicling my responses down. At first I think they want to ask for directions. But no, they ask me if I were to die today and God were to ask me "Why should I let you in?" what would I say.

I look back at them and smile.

"...wouldn't you like to get into heaven, too?"


I am holding my confirmation bible across my chest and I am crying. I curse God for not allowing me the chance to save her. I curse God because I'm always poor and seem to try so hard. I curse God because my parents don't even give a fuck about me.

I hear two beeps from across the street. It is Mike. The crazy psychic from down the street.

"What are you doing?" He says. I suck up my tears. I try to pawn off the color of my face on allergies. He smiles.

"Well, get in." He says.

I don't want to but I do.

As we drive around downtown P-town I look for the flock of prostitutes. He circles around SWINGERS WORLD I wonder if she is inside.

"Who are you looking for." Mike asks me.

"I don't know." I tell him. "I don't know where she's at."

"Well she has to be somewhere." Mike says, a flecked look of eternity cached in his logic. "Everyone has to be somewhere."

"True," I nod, still dubious of his purported psychic abilities even though he tells great stories. Last week he told me that he first realized that he had a gift when he was eight years old. He was living with his grandparents and he had a dream that his Grandfather ahd died. This dream freightened him so much he ran into his grandparents bedroom and slinked between their bodies. Two hours later, he was awakened to his grandmothers voice shrilling in his ears.

His grandfather was dead.


The trio of Baptists apporve of the answers I am giving so far. I have told them that yes, sure, I agree that Jesus was the son of God. I believe he was a dispensation of the light. They smile. I smile. We seem to be getting along fine. Matt has already made an analogy comparing the free-gift of eternal life to that of a Sports car.

"Say it was your Birthday tomorrow, David." He says, his pawned jerkey smile a stye in my sight.

"And say I gave you a free sports car and then you gave me say, three dollars for it...was the gift really free then?" His voice sounds friendly and fake. Almost like he is talking to me about morality behind the wooden bars of crib.

I smile. My mother is Baptist. My father was on the Lutheran Evangelical board growing up, He loved to tell people about Jesus.

"Or lets say there's two boats. There's the David boat with a hole in the bottom of it from earthly sin and then there's a Jesus boat that's golden and without flaw..."

I make a concious effort to smile. We seemed to be getting along just fine until they asked me what Chruch, Synagogue or Parish I attend and my answer was an unlisted "Baha'i Center". They keep talk about sin like I have just given the pastor's daughter chlamydia.

The woman who looks like my mom holds up a wad of jingling keys and begins to play "this-little-piggy" with them.

"Now I have lots of keys on my keycain but only one of them is the key that lets me into my Fathers house." She says with an aura of superficiality.

I am lost. I smile. In my mind there is a picture of a dervish. Too much mysticism in the past week. I think of the friends I have made online and I think of their own sentences. I try to picture them smiling behind their sentences. I try to picture them smiling while they pelt out sentences into their own blogs.

Then I say the greatest name inside my head. I say it over and over again. Like the plastic weathervane on top of a beanie; the name spins and spins as I say it to myself. I look at my mother, telling me that only a personal-relationship with Jesus is the key to Heaven. I say the greatest name in my head. I say it so loud that I say it with cymbals and timpani. I say it until I am dizzy, the three-idividuals looking at me, talking about grace and assurance and I am smiling, looking past them, looking at the hard slices of light ferrying down to where I am standing.

"So, again, david, can you say with certainity that if you were to die to toady God would hand you the Key to eternal life?" My mom says, holding up a rugged silver tooth in front of me.

I think about the greatest name. I think about the prostitute whose name I never learned. I wonder if the Baptist Canvassers would see her on the street, I wonder if they would walk up to her and ask her for a hug. If they would try to give her food and offer her one of their own bibles. I wonder if she would listen to them or be put off because they look like they have just stepped out of a Land's End catalougue.

I think about my dad. How some of the best times of his life were sharing the gospel.

"Yes," I say, smiling. "I think I found the key."


Mike drops me off in front of my apartment. For most of our drive I was silent. I told him that I tried to help someone out today and yet I failed. I mentioned only in passing that I had wanted to print out the third draft of my year old novel but that Kinkos wanted eighty dollars for it.

"Here," Mike says, his right hand pushing into his back pocket. He takes out two green bills.

"Why don't you go to the library and print your book out. It should't be more than forty dollars."

Mike, this is way too much. I say, not wanting burden anyone else financially.

"Well if you don't use it, who else am I going to give it to?" He says rhetorically before I give him a hug, the second hug I'd given in as many hours.


Last time I saw Jasna I took her out for a date to an Indian restaurant and then out for a concert at Weslyan. We spent the whole day relaxing, sleeping, lounging around her apartment. I had not seen her previously in almost eight months.

"We need to get ready, Daveeeeed." Jasna says. I am tired. I am sleepy. I am content just milling around her place. But, yes, we need to get ready.

"Here, I am going to change." She said. There was no door that seperated the guest bedroom from the hallway so she folded the doors of the hallway closet and bathroom into a wooden V, occluding my sight.

"What are you doing?" I said, almost offended. Although we were not lovers we were used to each others body.

"You are so silly, Daveeeeed!" Jasna says, smiling adjusting the doors.

"Why don't you just change out here." I say, walking towards the bathroom, splashing water on my face, trying to wake up.

"You are so silly Daveeeeed." She laughs, her face beaming from behind the V-cusped doors. I hear her voice and try to squint through the wooden fissure, her body pulling itself into a string of shadows.

"Stop, Daveeeeed." She says. "You think about sex too much. That all you ever think about!"

"I don't," I say, feeling seminally rejected. I wander back into the living room. I yell at Jasna to hurry up. I put a Tom Petty CD on. I start pantomiming the words to "Learning To Fly." I frisk the lower shelf of the refrigerator for libations. I toss punches at my own shadow, deeply elongated under the lights of her apartment. I think about how Tom Petty always reminds me of Martina Navratilova in his face.

There is a shuffle and the the sound of wood being closed. And there is Jasna, radiant, dressed all in black, her hair pinched back in twin diminutive red braids.

She looked stunning.

"Ok, Daveeeeed." Jasna says, groping my arm. "We can go now, Daveeeed."

And so we left as one unit.

"....don't you wish that life could be so new?"


"You ready?" Mike asks, awaiting to affirm his co-existence opus. I have already closed my eyes. I have soaked up my ambiance as if my entire anatomy were a sponge. I am waiting for Mike to verify co-existence to me.

"Now listen," Mike says "Are you ready. Co-existence." I nod, try to tell him to get on with it by orchestrating my chin. The next thing I know Mike is adjusting the plastic nubs on the radio. There is the crackle static representative of AM radio.

"See," Mike says, a flash of laughter jets across his face. He is freely pressing nubs like a switchboard operator at happy hour.

"Co-existance!" He says, laughing, looking at the chagrined look tatooed on my own face. He is still laughing and pressing buttons. The static AM warble is starting to get to me.

"And look," Mike says, still laughing. "There's even FM." He says, with almost a metaphysical snort of realization.

"Yes," I say, looking out into the window shield at the invisble outline of my own whirred reflection. "There's even FM," I say to myself before smiling.


"I'm a Pepper, Your a Pepper, He's a Pepper, She's a Pepper, wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?"


daku said...

David David David this is work of genius! Wow, man, send it somewhere to publish, seriously. Beautiful images - it could be a great movie too. This is real, this really touched my heart. I love how you are just absolutely honest and real, no snobbism there whatsoever, just very brilliant writing.

David Von Behren said...

Wow! Thanks. That means alot, Daniela (b-day, July 9th.) Thanks for taking the time to read the story!!! I'm very sad this morning (see pending blog)--the publishing bussiness isn't what it use to be, but I promise if the story does "get out there" it will, of course, be dedicated to the likes of beautiful Daniela and graceful Arya---the yin and yang of my blogging heart.

I'll try to write another story about Pearl tonight. all best. Interent hugs. Courtney Love rules.