Monday, February 18, 2008

ephemera

Ephemera, n.
1. A fever of one day's continuance only.
[1913 Webster]


Self Loathing and Salvation at the Seventies' End, on Acid

I am transfixed by the excessive make-up on the homely girl sitting next to me. Color has taken on a familiar and peculiar quality; things are sharpened and outlined with a current of acidic light about the edges, as if superimposed on film. Everything has a blood-filled look. The physical world is flattened out before me, I’m viewing it on a screen in my mind, and all is roiling beneath this surface, masking some teeming atomic boil. I have developed novel abilities; my focus is now superhuman. I can see the molecules binding things together; I can see the space in between.

My new screen-vision is faulty; an area of distortion moves about it, a ball rolling about on a suspended sheet of plastic. For a moment I understand, perfectly, the space-time continuum. Just as quickly it is lost to the ether. The girl’s face won’t stay still, swelling outward here and there momentarily. The ungainly contours of her face are shifting endlessly. All of this as she sits perfectly still. Later I realize it. She's terrified too!

The two of us make up the back row of the sparsely peopled classroom, where we take cover from humiliation. We never spoke; we never made eye contact. We studiously avoided giving any hint of recognition of each other. We are cowering through high school, developing strategies to avoid being caught out in the open. We fear even the sympathy of kindred souls.

I am overwhelmed by empathy for the homely girl, for the pain of humiliation that has nowhere to go and must continually consume our rapidly diminishing innocence like an electrochemical reaction. Our batteries are already low. But I haven’t named these things yet; inside it can only resolve in self-loathing and a heightened sense of this vague, maddeningly pervasive fear.

Now the walls are breathing, like we’re inside a great bellows. I can hear it; nobody else can. They don’t have my heightened senses. My hair is straw; my skin is cardboard. I marvel at their touch. I want to flee. I need to get out of the constricting room, away from the bughouse that is our school, out of these filthy clothes. I want to shed my skin. I feel filthy, right down to my core. But there is no escape because everything is implicated in the fraud. Everything and everybody is newly exposed; ugly, mean, common, false. None of us are real; we are mere representations and facsimiles. Just like the false plastic veneers all about us. We are projecting these images like holograms; they shimmy and stutter occasionally. This too I now see clearly.
The interior of the room, dusted with a film of harrowing school-room light, is a deliberate, menacing kitsch. Everything looks ugly and cheap, second-rate. It all looks as if it’s about to fall apart, to burst at the seams. Everything is about to melt into one formless, indistinguishable mass.
I'm not sure how I will be able to continue, having seen this. I'm beginning to worry. I need to move, to shake this presence somehow. I can't escape but I can keep moving. It seems like I've been sitting in class for hours, yet only five minutes have passed. And I'm starting to peak.

Mr. Hino, the Born-Again history teacher, is oblivious to my condition. Every Pearl Harbor Day Mr. Wong--being Chinese, and therefore duty-bound--recruits a class to launch a paper-airplane surprise attack on the Japanese Hino, assailing and pelting him in mid-period. He takes this like he takes most minor indignities, with slightly annoyed, patient grace.
Mr. Hino is rightfully appalled at the condition of the youth he tends, and still he has no idea how degenerate we are, the ignorant, oblivious contempt we have for decency. He has no idea how far the rot has progressed, because no one does yet; it is overtaking even itself. He doesn’t know the levee has already been breached, and it is only now a case of water finding its level. He will not be here to see its later stages; he will not suffer the realization that it has no end, no breaking point, just an infinite, endless degradation. I do hope Mr. Hino never looked down to find there is no bottom.

But, God bless him, he is forever looking upward. He occasionally tries to better us, railing, gently, against decadence. Today he announces a special guest. An alumnus from a few years prior has come to give us a talk. An eminence of a sort, he is a local legend; a gang-banger known for his oversized arms ("Chops" was his nickname) and his bravery. He is regarded, in the highest praise granted one of his milieu, as being "crazy." Chops is impressive too; squat and powerfully built, with a jet black pork chop moustache and heavy lidded eyes giving him a look of latent ferocity. He wears the basic cholo uniform of the time: khaki pants, plain white t-shirt. He’s here to tell us the tale of his redemption. In the throes of my chemically-induced paranoia, I’m about to be scared straight. I‘m panicked anew.

Apparently Chops laid waste to the dowdy suburbs of Norwalk with no lasting consequences, and it would take a purely accidental brush with death in the army to open his eyes. Something about a failing tank turret threatening to decapitate him and a prayer answered. Chops finishes his testimony by asking for volunteers to rise and pledge themselves to Jesus. A whole new dilemma! Rise and risk being torn to shreds by your fellows; remain seated and renounce God. For all but two of us, God proved less fearsome than the mob. The bell rang.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dennis,

I went to school with a homely girl that I always secretely felt very sorry for. Nobody talked to her. She had no friends. She was ridiculed into high school by a few of the less-than-alpha males who just had to taunt 'somebody' to show that they were cooler than someone.

She was so ugly, it kind of made you hate God. God deserved a fist in the face for making someone look like that, losing alot of his teeth, and the nausea of really taking a good direct hit. She had a face that came to a point at the end of her nose. A receeded chin, very receeded. She had a small mouth with a protruding upper lip in repose. She had those ugly brown freckles that nobody on earth likes, and alot of them on her upper cheeks which were unnaturally protruding and small at the same time. She had the deadest shit-brown eyes and mouse-colored-grey/brown lifeless hair. Her nose was a beak, with a big protrusion half way down like an inbred Arab, but her's came to an absolute point at the end.

She kind of looked, I swear to fucking God, like the Martian Birds created by pixie dust by Marvin the Martian in the Bugs Bunny Cartoons. She was underbodied with an unnaturally large ass and thick legs. She waddled like a penguin when she walked. She wore boys blue jeans and white tennis shoes and sweatshirts, and never wore any make up (which would have earned her some serious scorn from others I assure you).


One day, in an art class, I noticed a very good drawing of Rock-n-Roll star Paul Stanley of Kiss hanging on the wall. It had her name, Loanna (even had an ugly name) on it. His eyes were a tad overemphasized for dramatic effect, but it was shaded and drawn astonishingly well, and it made him look "pretty". It was artistically well done. It struck me as exceptionally cruel that this lonely, homely, ----hell butt-ugly girl actually had an eye for beauty and appreciated it, and had a crush on a then-nice-looking man who she made look cover-of-a-romance-novel-beautiful.


I remember her actually "acting" once and once only. A couple of ugly (my opinion) losers were taunting her about "having a dick" (she didn't look feminine at all), and she actually got up and hit one of them, pretty hard. I felt good for her and terribly embarrased for her at the same time. The class laughed and a few folks called out "get it Loanna". It was one of the few times I'd ever head her name actually pronounced by anyone. Everybody knew her name from roll call, but none of us actually said it outloud. She was beyond a nobody.


To make matters worse for her, she had a brother who was actually a pretty nice looking guy. He was tall and 'athletically thin'. Lean would have been a description of him. He had a few cute "rocker" girlfriends. Im almost certain this woman went on to be an unsuccessful lesbian who really wanted to be heterosexual. If she is still alive (hasn't committed suicide), she is probably all alone, in a dead-end job. Her looks probably destroyed any desire for personal achievement (college, vocational training). I wouldn't be suprised if she just stayed with her parents.


I was quite religious back in the day, and I literally wondered how the big guy upstairs, if he loved all of us, could make someone who wasn't deformed, but was so damned intentionally ugly (I tell you the truth, she was kinda hard to take in the morning as her visage would put a damper on your day) that you made you think the creator was heartlessly cruel and just a plain asshole.



But it did make me thankful that I looked 'normal', so maybe making everyone grateful was his intent. I'll never forget that poor girl.

Lloyd Mintern said...

Do you also feel guilty? (For being so anonymous, then and now?)

Anonymous said...

Lloyd,

The best attribute of having socio-political discourse on the net is the fact that it can be done anonymously. My job, with a large multinational corporation, has to come first. If a few of my higher-ups (one in particular) knew of a few opinions that I held and have expressed in public forum, they literally would invent some way to sack me, a good nose-to-the-grindstone-soldier for "the company" if there ever was one. But its a PeeCee environment that Im in, and Im an insomniac who enjoys reading others posted thoughts late at night when I cant sleep.

But there is another advantage to being anonymous or making up a faux-moniker to go by.........you can really state your convictions, as if you were a space alien or talking frog with no social reprecussions even subconciously interefering at all. I have a few very politically incorrect opinions about history and culture and politics. I dont have -that- many of them, but a few I really do and they would effectively leave me marginalized by name in debate on other topics.

On Loanna..........I didn't risk "social capital" for her or anything, but I did speak on her behalf once, basically telling another guy that it was "uncool" to mock her---and that she knew how homely she was and couldn't help it, and how it was much more satisfying to antagonize worthier targets for amusement. Im not kidding you when I say this.........Lurch on the Munsters would have had 10 times the pussy interested in him than this young female would have men even willing to take a blow job from her. I hope advances in plastic surgery can do something for people like her (and hope it has and she is alive and well-adjusted married to some plain man and they have a couple of nice kids...........but I doubt it). Come to think of it, doing a "Michael Jackson" on her nose, some hair color, a big chin (and jaw augmentation) implant, some reduction on her cheeks, alot of make-up to cover the grey/brown freckles, alot of make-up, and perhpas some tinted blue or green contact lenses, and a daily jogging regimine, and she'd probably be run-of-the-mill-bad acid trip looking. If there was ever a case for cosmetic surgery being covered in a national health insuracne plan, she would be it.


But to man up and answer your insinuation very directly.................I didnt stand up for her. There would not have been an easy way to do so without humiliating her further. I mean W-T-F, could someone stand up and say "hey y'all, stop picking on the ugly chick, she cant help it that she fell out of a ugly tree and uprooted that mother" or something............wouldn't have worked man. Girls, I learned through her, could be particularily cruel, eager to snip at someone beneath them. I imagine apes do the same thing in their own way, perhaps Dianne Fossey noted it..................

Lloyd Mintern said...

I am sure your pity is misplaced, and that this "homely" girl turned out just fine. At least she probably doesn't work somewhere where she can't even show her face, or talk openly. Man, are you in a bind! How is it you function with a high school mentality still? It's pitiable, to be sure. You are right that my insinuation was precisely that you did nothing to help her; now I can see by your follow up that you lacked, then and now, the imagination to think of how you could. And for you to think that even still this girl needs help, and has had a terrible time since because she was "homely" (strictly on YOUR terms) is pretty juvenile. Some judge!-- when you are so restricted yourself that your life as "anonymous" and your life in your job are in dire conflict. Good luck to you, is all I can. In my experience, it is the homely high school girls who turn out happiest, and often the most beautiful. You must have been quite the caddish jock.

And note to Dennis, my harshness on this Anonymous fellow does not reflect on your excellent piece, in which I note none of HIS falsely superior attitude.

Anonymous said...

Lloyd,

I can see you are a pathetic, snivelling, dishonest man, unworthy of dialogue.

I hope you are right about Loanna being happy these days (which I also stated and you ignored).


As for your assertions that I function with a "high school" mentality, Ive not thought about Loanna or high school in eons. I have a job in a very PC environment, but am otherwise a healthy, happy professional lugging it out in corpratopia like many others.

I do have a sleeping problem though..............and yes, I was a big, musclebound (still am) jock when I was a kid, the kind you apparently resented the hell out of. If it makes you feel better though.........I wasn't one of "those" jocks that picked on or made fun of others. I was too into church and all that back in the day, and had that "do unto others" stuff way to ingrained in my being (still do to be honest). I wouldn't have picked on you like others apparently did. In fact, I'd have been the one behind the scenes who said to the other guys "c'mon man, leave L alone, he isn't messing with you". Im sorry you are still resentful of some of "them" though. Perhaps you have reason. I played football with some guys who were plain assholes to the rest of humanity, and I can think of three of them who are now police officers and are still being assholes to the rest of humanity as a vocational perk for them but I digress.

Your dimestore psychoananlysis was pathetic. I was, and hell---still am, well-liked, even by some of the diversicrats who are as humorless as Richard Perle that I work with think "he's one of the nice ones".



..........I do hope you are right about Loanna though. I, unlike you, actually want everyone to be happy and mean it when I say it.

Lloyd Mintern said...

Anon, accept for the opening, you do an excellent job defending yourself. Hope you get a good night's sleep, really I do. You should probably get your own blog, since you are such a wordy fellow and have so much to say at the drop of a hat. I do have to wonder what kind of people you work for--would they even let you have a blog? I was not persecuted in high school, or any other time--so do not feel sorry for me.

Lloyd Mintern said...

But what really provoked me to even Commment was your irrational comparison of your "homely" girl with the person Dennis describes in his piece. They are not the same, or in some sociological group, and Dennis doesn't evince the disgust you apparently had, the disdain for her future you still have, and the cowardly behavior you confess to, as if out of pure peer pressure. Which makes this whole comment thread itself of ultimate irrelevance and a distraction to Dennis'continuing memoir. So hold your peace.

Rexus said...

Don't worry about Dennis's memoir. The only question is whether he'll lose interest before we do.

Dennis Dale said...

Alright, break it up, break it up now! Or I'll throw you both right out of here! Look at that! You guys knocked over the buffet! And who's going to pay for this, huh? Someone want to tell me that? Oh hell, we can't have nice things. Alright shake hands now, come on.

Rexus,
"we" lost interest long ago. "I", however, am condemned to gaze at this homely navel in perpetuity.