Beautiful Boy ★★★★★

"Either peace or happiness, let it enfold you.

When I was a young man, I felt these things were dumb, unsophisticated. I had bad blood, a twisted mind, a precarious upbringing.

I was hard as granite, I leered at the sun. I trusted no man and especially no woman.

I was living a hell in small rooms, I broke things, smashed things, walked through glass, cursed. I challenged everything, was continually being evicted, jailed, in and out of fights, in and out of my mind. women were something to screw and rail at, I had no male friends.

I changed jobs and cities, I hated holidays, babies, history, newspapers, museums, grandmothers, marriage, movies, spiders, garbagemen, english accents, Spain, France, Italy, walnuts and the color orange. algebra angered me, opera sickened me, Charlie Chaplin was a fake and flowers were for pansies.

Peace and happiness were, to me, signs of inferiority, tenants of the weak an addled mind.

But as I went on with my alley fights, my suicidal years, my passage through any number of women- it gradually began to occur to me that I wasn't different from the others, I was the same.

They were all fulsome with hatred, glossed over with petty grievances, the men I fought in alleys had hearts of stone. everybody was nudging, inching, cheating for some insignificant advantage, the lie was the weapon and the plot was empty, darkness was the dictator.

Cautiously, I allowed myself to feel good at times. I found moments of peace in cheap rooms just staring at the knobs of some dresser or listening to the rain in the dark. the less I needed, the better I felt.

Maybe the other life had worn me down. I no longer found glamour in topping somebody in conversation. or in mounting the body of some poor drunken female whose life had slipped away into sorrow.

I could never accept life as it was, I could never gobble down all its poisons but there were parts, tenuous magic parts open for the asking.

I reformulated. I don't know when, date, time, all that but the change occurred. something in me relaxed, smoothed out. I no longer had to prove that I was a man, I didn't have to prove anything.

I began to see things: coffee cups lined up behind a counter in a cafe. or a dog walking along a sidewalk. or the way the mouse on my dresser top stopped there with its body, its ears, its nose, it was fixed, a bit of life caught within itself and its eyes looked at me and they were beautiful. then- it was gone.

I began to feel good, I began to feel good in the worst situations and there were plenty of those. like say, the boss behind his desk, he is going to have to fire me.

I've missed too many days. he is dressed in a suit, necktie, glasses, he says, 'I am going to have to let you go.'

'It's all right,' I tell him.

He must do what he must do, he has a wife, a house, children. expenses, most probably a girlfriend.

I am sorry for him, he is caught.

I walk onto the blazing sunshine. the whole day is mine, temporarily anyhow.

(The whole world is at the throat of the world, everybody feels angry, short-changed, cheated, everybody is despondent, disillusioned)

I welcomed shots of peace, tattered shards of happiness.

I embraced that stuff like the hottest number, like high heels, breasts, singing, the works.

(Don't get me wrong, there is such a thing as cockeyed optimism that overlooks all basic problems just for the sake of itself- this is a shield and a sickness.)

The knife got near my throat again, I almost turned on the gas again but when the good moments arrived again, I didn't fight them off like an alley adversary. I let them take me, I luxuriated in them, I bade them welcome home. I even looked into the mirror once having thought myself to be ugly. I now liked what I saw, almost handsome, yes, a bit ripped and ragged, scars, lumps, odd turns, but all in all, not too bad, almost handsome, better at least than some of those movie star faces like the cheeks of a baby's butt.

And finally I discovered real feelings of others, unheralded, like lately, like this morning, as I was leaving for the track, I saw my wife in bed, just the shape of her head there (not forgetting centuries of the living and the dead and the dying, the pyramids, Mozart dead but his music still there in the room, weeds growing, the earth turning, the tote board waiting for me). I saw the shape of my wife's head, she so still, I ached for her life, just being there under the covers.

I kissed her on the forehead, got down the stairway, got outside, got into my marvelous car, fixed the seatbelt, backed out the drive. feeling warm to the fingertips, down to my foot on the gas pedal, I entered the world once more, drove down the hill past the houses full and empty of people, I saw the mailman, honked, he waved back at me."

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