A Requiem for My Wanton Words

The Purpose of this Delenda: A Limbo Between Digression and Deletion

During my last college semester I studied under a brilliant professor; he taught me to quiet my inner censor and to just write as I wish--despite my post-traumatic-professor-disorder which paralyzes me with self-doubt, these the war-wounds worn by so many students after years of terrible teachers, each either entirely apathetic or deeply entrenched within the utterly rote—their lectures just jaded regurgitations in Power Point, those slides cycling while the students fitfully sleep in-seat.I began writing a memoir for his class and I have yet to finish it; my writing has not been as clear and precise as it was while under my professor’s mentorship and I have more than doubled my original page length, though very little has actually been said therein. I am increasingly lent to my own obsessive compulsive writing tendencies. My prose has of-late been lost in loops and tangles of meaningless tangents—self-indulgent insertions of the beautiful words I love to taste in text.This blog is a collection of passages deleted from my memoir—an attempt to preserve wasted words, which are intrinsically sacred in spite of me. May they have their heaven here; may this final resting place, this Delenda, be better than nothing at all—better than true deletion.

If this unjust medium--this blog--be not the cure for my wild-fire writing, then surely The New School will be.

I was recently accepted to The New School in New York City for their MFA Creative Nonfiction Writing program for Fall 2010. Being accepted into such an esteemed university, being awarded such a coveted spot in their writing MFA program -- it's like winning the academic lottery. I have never been happier than I am in my dreams of a true academic setting. I know this will be the solace I have sought since being under the mentorship of my undergraduate writing professor.

This is me...

This is me...

This is me as well...

This is me as well...
In Death Valley, the Sand Dunes and Solitude Suited me Well.

December 13, 2010

The Lost Coast Calls Me No More

This is an essay I recently had to write for my workshop class at the New School in NYC, where I'm a full-time grad student, working towards my MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing. This is a work of nonfiction, and thus it is based wholly in truth; though my dramatic, flowery description of the true events are just a matter of style and personal narrative voice -- artistic license, if you will. But even the feelings expressed therein are utterly genuine, and try as I may I couldn't find any exaggerative exploits or melodramatic, over-blown aspects. I know that may seem difficult to believe, after reading how dramatically written the overall piece is, but's not that you are necessarily dramatic,sometimes it's just that dramatic things have happened to you, and thus no genuine attempt at honesty could lend a rehashing of these memories to any voice or style other than that of drama. That being said, I hope my latest work meets with the approval of the barren cyber-space voice, my audience of ones and zeros. It is about a road trip I took up the West Coast a few years ago, and while Serendipity slept the Fates of Ill-Will and Misfortune befell me, and alas I left with a devastating illness from which I still have yet to fully recover. Without further ado, here's the silly piece.


The Lost Coast Calls Me No More

The first of the fevers befell me at the Lost Coast. I had found the deplorable leeching fiend nursing from my neck a few nights prior to the first grave symptoms. That diminutive little creature – that tick – that Nosferatu of the forest lands – had imbibed from me more than mere blood from my veins. Years of life I had yet to live, would it too take away from me, feeding until it was so grotesquely engorged it fell from me like plump fruit ripening on the bowing limbs of orchard trees. With foul acicular jowls, the beast imbedded his head into my flesh, and there he sated himself until his glut and bloodlust subsided, and I was left with but a gaping, seething wound in his absence. Soon I would succumb to shakes and tremors, writhing in that internal-chill to which no blanket or camp fire can bring warmth or otherwise subdue. I should have guessed such a fate would betide me, for the Lost Coast is a cursed land, a forested malison, damned and devastating. But it is a place of such intense beauty, easily ensorcelled are those infrequent few who find their way to that coastline, each of them bewitched by a place so untouched by man, unadulterated by our roads and towns and minimarts. I remember when I had decided we should camp there; I had been reading the poetry of Julia Butterfly Hill, and a line she wrote resonated with me like the echoing frequencies of reverberating thunderclaps. She wrote, “The Lost Coast is calling me, The Lost Coast is calling me…” And I had decided that it was calling me, too.

But finding the Lost Coast had been no simple feat; unnamed roads move asea towards jutting cliff sides, and weave wildly across the Kings Range, cars narrowly negotiating the unguarded turns as they ascent in tantivy haste along the mountain spires over cloud and coast below, most to turn around or become hopelessly impeded before reaching the ground. Whispered remarks between waylaid backpackers and the rumored routes taken by passerby travelers is all that one may find as guide to the disparaged land in the feral Redwood forests of Humboldt County. But if one is fortunate enough to find the Lost Coast, he will be greeted with a place where no road has successfully been laid, nor has home or shelter been erected and remained, a tempestuous place where tsunamis thrash the black lava sand shoreline, and wild elk and roaming bear have reclaimed the wilderness for their own.

It is known for its coal black beaches, like a necrosis on the arm of sunny California, where dewy sweeps of ashen fog bathe the spongy blanket of lichens that lay underfoot the giant Redwoods, the forest floor full of succulents and parched saps surviving by the wisps of inky mist, the trees growing in troughs in the shallows beneath the stony foothills; I remember the grim veils of water vapor and the eerie enormity of redwood was disorienting, and you were never anything more than lost in that place. It was a place of sobering beauty – so dismal, god-forgotten. Many a fearsome thing seek refuge in the underbelly of the woods, down along the ground where the insipid sashes of water vapor seethe above the muck and fodder all hours of day, havening the insects that bite and bother – all the wicked creatures of the soil – that feed, fester and writhe together in a marinade of dirt and darkness.
It is a place of stark, startling beauty, and the gravity and danger of it all only adds to its appeal. So we made our way to the abandoned National Park, left decades ago when man lost his battle against nature, and since then, the forest had employed its suckling vine and encroaching weeds, taking back the wooden structures and carefully cleared camping areas until a jungle was it once more. Now wild elk were sleeping near the visitor’s station, bedding in the overgrowth that obscured the small building. A family of eagles had made nests of the old wooden outhouses, as they sat partially overturned and engulfed in tangles of ivy, a wreath of feathers and twigs upon its weathered roof. Bears left ominous footprints in the wake of their walks through the park, and they had taken residence in the old campsite clearings furthest into the redwood forest. They could be seen early in the mornings, prowling pigeon-toed down the dawn-lit shoreline, overturning oyster shells and prying them open between their massive clawed paws. Of all the things that should have frightened me about this place, a tiny tick, so small it siphoned blood from me unnoticed, was the last thing troubling my mind, and of all the things that kept me at night awake, the eerie sounds of a night-fallen forest to which I warily listened from underneath the cover of my tent and sleeping bag, the tick that bit me while I feared a bear was fumbling around outside was something I had not yet even thought to fear. And then, then came the fevers.

I know what to do when life gives you lemons, but what of when it gives you Lyme’s? No saccharine concoction can be made of such an affliction. The cursed coast had spoken, and it would beshrew me with a most foul condemnation, a disease that would ravage my body for years to come. First to afflict me were lengths of feverish unrest, then the wicked slumber that silences the sick with the convulsionary tremors and delusional comatose that keeps them bed-confined, speaking in the nonsense tongue of someone lucid in a death-deep sleep, then becoming wakeful and arrested with pain for days, tossing in fits between cold sweats and blanched heat. My skin adopted a grayish veil – an anemic pallor that betrays one’s illness even when they attempt to appear well and composed. Soon my flesh would ulcer and rot, like the blight that eats at Burdock leaves. Fettered wounds would weep with milky necrosis, and always there lingered that sickly-sweet odor – the smell of death three-days-in. I know this smell well, as when I detect it around my apartment, I know a mouse has died beneath the floorboards, and from the strangely sugar-scented stench of fetid, putrid flesh, I know it’s been about three days deceased. The leprosy of unctuous ulcerations spotted me with a repulsive rash that stank of sweet death, a smell somewhat like a melon over-ripened, combined with the subtle nuances of fecund decomposition and rotting sludge runoff from wet garbage. At first the illness left doctors befuddled, as the red heat that circled the wound were hidden on the base of my skull, under the tumbling tresses that fall around my neck. By the time my affliction was given name, and the villains who had sequestered my flesh for their own had been made known, the spiracle bacteria had already entombed themselves in my nerve cells, fortified in the one structure immunity and antibiotic alike feared to attack. When, like a leper, my flesh wilted and hung from my weary bones, like a wet rain coat absently tossed lazily over a coat rack, when there was nothing left of my skin on which spirochete could feast, it settled in my brain – my precious mind, above all which I prized. Wandering around the City, new to me, and ever more alien given my state, I was perpetually lost and forgetting, never recalling or absorbing what information might come by way of map or memory. What classroom had I been going to all semester long? What was the room number, again? What road was I to turn on? What subway line was I to take? What route had I taken yesterday, and so many days there before? I couldn’t remember. I could never remember.

Always would I succumb to the dizzying disquiet of being alone and anonymous in this huge city; every street daily taken was daily made foreign to me again. Less and less could my hair eclipse my face as it once had; tangled mats of hair were daily found on pillow depressions where my head had rested the night. Plum colored saucers hung beneath my eyes, and tired veins ruptured, leaving fractal blooms of red and purple lines across my skin, mapping the cruel course of illness, a grim cartography of the leeching beasts beneath. Always there was the strange metallic taste of loose change upon my tongue, and the witless screeching frenzy of high frequency white-noise polluted my ears, always with that unnerving tambour, like the sickly-bright pitch of wailing telephone wires wet from a virulent rainstorm. My vision was once perfect, and only now do I know the curiously disconcerting moment felt every waking morning when your eyes open to a hazy, out of focus world, and once with a clarity taken for granted, now only by aid of bifocals are you able to see the sharp lines and true contrast of the world before you; never again will I see the world as it truly is without some lens between my eye and the outside. Even now I feel the effects; my body and mind purloined, peccantly pillaged for its spoils, the sickly sustenance for my depraved disease, my flesh a feast for those spirochete fiends. And still the wretched fevers continue to plague me, cyclically befalling me when most I required my wits and strength.

Years of tender life would it too take away from me, feeding until it was so grotesquely engorged it fell from me like plump fruit ripening on the bowing limbs of orchard trees.It begot in me the leprosy, and I grey ashen in the lapse of seething sore, deformed by the fevered lace of unctuous ulcerations, a wicked rot (and I tried cursing god) but I lived loathsome on, like the lore of those ancient lepers plagued heretofore. The memory of the raw flesh aches; those weeping, repulsive, scarlet wounds and how noxious a robe was my skin to wear. The wounds puckered and teared -- they stank of sweet death three-days-in, the odor of death and disease. Yes, it left me to stew -- to wallow in the filth of my affliction. And it was a debauch change, fit for Kafka's solicitor; a disgraceful transformation wherein a god-forgotten pallor befell my fair unmarred limbs, a few patches of scar-spared skin,but as I cradled infant-health as it nursed feebly in the wakes of illness waning away, the way a sapling struggles to grow in the first snow-blanketed days of spring. From the years of calamity I was changed outwardly -- for I wore, even in health, the anemic countenance of disease. I despised the metamorphisis of restitution almost as much as I did the affliction's initiation. Vain though it was, I saw the years my skin furrows betrayed, lending me this flesh worn out well beyond its age. I was once lovely, my skin once supple and smooth; once pleasingly pallid, like lunar light bleeding through the screen of a foggy sky. Alas I am now left so moddled, gnawed upon like an old bone and nursed for every slight of marrow. Moon glow will I never again show -- for now I shine at best, clammy and ill-colored, a flotsam-white like curdled milk, even through the months and months of reclusive recovery. I have given up on lipsticks, done away with my scented lotions and luminous powders ... for what purpose is there now for such prim pleasures, for the luxuries of lovely things? A fool I would be to wish the appraising gaze of some onlooker should linger on me, so I have exiled to dark drawers all the silk scarves and crystal pins, banished are the bobbins, the broaches, the gems. I have not bothered with bangles or belts or beads, nor with pedicures or pendants, nor with missing buttons or fallen seams. For what purpose could these silly delights ensure for me? What do I require, now, of delicate finery, or stylish accessory? I have sobered myself of the womanly needs for painted eyelids and feathered earrings. And, of course,I will always wear my bruised rind skin, covering the sweet pulp that rots from within. For in the end, nothing adorns quite so saturnine as the ornaments of tick kiss sickness, a masque so unbecoming, sadly grown familiar, as though it were the face you always knew. But I smile, at least, these days, beam through that blistering rouge I will still wear for some time, that sickly color born of Lyme. Oh what a feral heat I have fevered for that forest leeching fiend, what a futile rage I have fostered for that deplorable leech ... that blood-glut Nosferatu ... and his spirochete unseen.

The topography of the Lost Coast all but amputates itself from the rest of the world, but even when you’re far from that black seascape, pangs of the cursed coast still linger in your life long after you’ve left it, like having an unrelenting sensation from some mangled appendage long since surgically-severed from your body. Even now I am marked by the years of sickness – even in fair health. Even in the absence of that ceaseless illness, I am afflicted by it; I will probably always suffer when I take census of those reclusive years lost to my affliction. I will probably always be vaguely aware of gaps and cavities in my life leftover from everything I lost, everything I had and was before. At best, I’ll always be tormented with this incessant throbbing memory of it all – the memories, like stabbing pains in a phantom-limb.

Enfeebled and mind-fogged, physically scarred and mentally branded by the indefatigable gluttons that fed on me from within, it would be years before I’d reclaim some semblance of the life I’d had prior to this infection. Thus, I have become begrudged by the ill-fated place that left me this way, and, deaf-fallen to its craven beseech, the Lost Coast calls me no more.