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Turning in the Direction of "Better" | 2016 | The Birds and the Bees


Sitting peacefully on a cushion day and night seeking to attain Buddhahood, rejecting life and death in hopes of realizing enlightenment, is all like a monkey grasping at the moon reflected in the water.  


Taming the Wild Beast

Haunted dolls are just like monkeys...

"I'm hungry," whines the monkey.

I keep driving. "I am sure you are. It has been hours since lunch."

"Feed me."

"We can have a snack when we get home," I assure him. "In, like, nine minutes."

"Cake?" he asks. "Or barbecue potato chips?"

"Of course not. We don't even have cake. I'm not sure you even like barbecue potato chips and we certainly don't have them. You can have a tablespoon of hummus and nine pretzels."

"And a frozen peanut butter cup?" He is a bit bigger than a spider monkey, the better to dart around my head I'm sure, his fur a sterling gray. He is not a specific monkey, simply the idea of monkey made form.


"But I am hungry now," he seems to say with his sullen posture. "Can you imagine how much hungrier I will be in nine minutes? I will need the peanut butter cup or I might absolutely waste away."

"It's more like eight minutes now," I tell him. "And also, shut up."

He is quiet a moment, then says, "I'm hungry."

The monkey is simply some aspect of my id to which I have had the poor taste to give an imagined shape. I hear his little interruptions throughout the day. He might have an Asian tinge to him because the concept of him came from some half-remembered Buddhist philosophy as to the insistence of the mind in meditation. Sometimes, I answer him back aloud, usually when I am alone. "No, you are not hungry. You are just bored and think food will resolve that. Long term, you don't want pointless calories."

The monkey tends to yield to logic (and the fact that I log my food), though he is not averse to pouting because his sudden need, loudly and childishly stated, is not instantly met. He didn't used to be so accommodating-more than once, he tricked me into believing he was me-but he has long understood that he is usually fighting a losing battle when it comes to appetitive desires. I can superego with the best of them.

The monkey used to be fixated on sex, as is easily imaginable if one has ever spent time around our simian cousins. He couldn't be within the company of comely women for long without mentally rehearsing what it might be like to go to bed with them. My prior partners would no doubt note his interjections.

Now, I barely feel that impulse. I still understand and enjoy sex within the bounds of my marital bed, but I am not hungry for it. It is something I can do, but not something for which I feel much need. I certainly cannot imagine sex with anyone else, even for the purposes of fantasy. I still wonder if this isn't symptomatic of something, having gone so far as to visit doctors to check into my testosterone level to be sure. Sex is an exceedingly human impulses and its absence is a curiosity.

(I am not asexual. I am do not think I have a low libido when it comes to Amber. I simply lack the wanderlust than seems to mark most men, an impulse I know I had to some degree even three years ago, though I can in retrospect see its tapering off.)

However, this idle lust is a distraction and time-waster. I have other things I would rather be doing than clawing at the walls of my mind because a small percentage of the populace has the right secondary sexual characteristics.

The monkey is a master of the obvious still. "My foot hurts."

"Yes, because you stubbed your toe hard enough to lose skin and you are limping to compensate, hurting it further."

"Yes, but it hurts now," he says, a creature of the moment. Nothing that happened yesterday can have any bearing on his present wants.

"It just has to heal," I tell him. "It has a bandage. Nothing else can be done."

The monkey demands comfort and will make me irritable and distracted if not given what he wants. He has often held me hostage as I tend to his desires at the expense of my needs.

The monkey wants me to scarf food down and never savor the experience of eating. He won this battle until recently, when my mother chided my nieces to chew their food a dozen times before swallowing and I took it as a minor revelation. I wonder how many meals I swallowed and barely tasted.

One can generalize this consumption without enjoyment outward. I believe, if I let myself have an addiction, the monkey would climb on my back and ride me to my death.

The monkey never wants me to work out because that is too much effort after a long day (fortunately, he is distracted by the offer of podcasts). The monkey is the part that wants to sulk in my bedroom and have Amber notice. He wants to have written, but he doesn't want to sit down to write. He sees tiny obstacles as insurmountable-even though he is the one with finger-toes and a prehensile tail, so you would imagine he would be used to climbing.

The monkey wants anything but a peaceful state of mind and tells me that writers don't get peace, only more manageable anxiety.

The past few months have given me better control of the monkey, possibly because of my medication that makes his worst chitterings quiet background noise. I still need to eat, for instance, but I am more aware of what is going on in my head when I go too long between meals and can articulate that. Instead of screeching at me about my varied neuroses, he tends to relax in his mental branches (dendrites?) until he decides I need to know again that he wants something. Since he isn't growling out my inadequacies, I can focus more on what I need to be thinking about rather than my thoughts revving over nothing. I can start to fix what needs repair in my mind.

Soon in Xenology: Art.

last watched: Heroes: Season 1
reading: The Miserable Mill
listening: Regina Spektor

Turning in the Direction of "Better" | 2016 | The Birds and the Bees

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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