Skinship: That Which Binds Us

Mickie

Eventually you come to a point in life where the number of people you know—-them what breathes—-are equally balanced with the people you knew—-them what don’t. This happens to be a them what don’t post about a woman named Mickie.

If you’ve ever had the occasion to fill out an online profile designed for folks who hate filling out online profiles, you inevitably came across the incomplete statement, “The first thing people usually notice about me is”. With Mickie, it was her voice. Spoken, it was smooth enough to polish silver. Singing? It was cool and blue and crystalline and bright enough to transport you to better times, despite whatever kind of mood you were in.

Her hope was to pursue a singing career, and every summer she would trudge down to Washington Square Park, guitar in tow, and sing to anyone who would listen to her. Even though she was an atheist, she hoped the god of dumb luck would smile down upon her and help her get discovered. And even though that never happened, it didn’t stop her from trying.

I have no pictures of her and only the vaguest of images linger in my mind of the petite woman, barely bigger than her guitar, who belted out folk tunes that resonated from Greenwich Village all the way up to Carnegie Hall.

But, singing aside, she wasn’t a well woman. She had her first psychotic break when she was eleven. Moody and tearful one moment and positively beaming the next. Then she began disappearing for days at a stretch, only to reappear battered with what appeared to be self-inflicted wounds and no memory of what happened or where she had been. But her condition isn’t the real reason for the post.

Mickie was big on physical contact. She was always so overly affectionate and was one of those people that simply had to touch you if she was talking to you. I can’t lie, it used to bug me. I loved her like bacon, but I’m an elbow room kind of guy. I brought it up in conversation one day when she was super touchy-feely, and this was her reply:

It’s skinship. I share it with you, you share it me, shit, we all share it with everybody we come in contact with. It’s an important part of communication. The kind we forget about because we’re all so wrapped up in words, which is stupid because I can touch you right now and convey more meaning than if I spoke to you for four days straight. My hand on yours binds us in a way that nothing else on this earth can.

At the time we debated this for perhaps an hour or so and I walked away unconvinced that she has any special insight regarding the communication of touch.

Now I just realize what an idiot I was for not spending the time to try to understand what she was trying to tell me. And she was right, of course, because now I’m sitting here wishing I could touch her. There are so many things I want to communicate to her.

Sally forth and be skinshippingly writeful.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Cult of Subtextuality

cult

I have a friend —

What? Yes, I’m antisocial to a fault, but there are an intrepid few who won’t take “No, we’re not friends” for an answer and so I allow them a temporary parking pass in designated areas within the friend zone. Now, may I continue with my post, please? Thank you.

Anyhoo, I have a friend — quiet, you! — who’s in a cult. She doesn’t see it as a cult, doesn’t acknowledge it as a cult, and hates when I bring the group’s cultish ways to her attention.

She was recruited into it by a coworker via a book club. While I’m deeply concerned for her, I’m not sure there’s anything I can do to help. Any concerns I express about the club and her involvement with it are dismissed as naïve and misinformed, and are taken as evidence of my pessimistic outlook on life, which is a flaw my friend thinks her cult can help me fix.

Nothing I say will change her mind. She has been properly programmed to resist and/or deflect any criticism of the book cabal. Her conversation has become unbearable, as most of what she now speaks about centers around how brilliant and compassionate the book group and the coworker who runs it are, and how much I could benefit from joining.

What follows is my first conversation with Linda after she joined the not-a-cult-book-club. These aren’t actual spoken words, mind, but the words behind the words. Or at least my interpretation of them, bearing in mind that I’m pretty much shit at deciphering subtext.

You should further note that the interaction may be laced with doses of sarcasm not present in the original conversation. I am forever the unreliable narrator.

Me: Hey, Lin.

Linda: Hi, Rhy. You know what? You’re amazing.

Me: Okay, that’s a bit random but I have to admit I felt validated when you called me amazing.

Linda: I feel your validation and I’m warmed in the soothing heat of your positive karma.

Me: Uh, karmic warmth makes me feel a little uneasy.

Linda: I feel your apprehension and I’m suddenly angry.

Me: Your anger is just a reaction towards my judgmental standpoint on your new age mumbo-jumbo.

Linda: Congratulations, now I’m angrier by your ignorant labeling of my new doctrine and guiding philosophy. I bought a cool new prism for only $150 because it blinds the souls of unbelievers so that they will walk into doors and we can laugh at their misfortune. We, my group that I refuse to acknowledge as a cult and I, believe the night time is the right time. The night time is the right time. The night time…

Me: Curious about this cult. Is it exclusionary? If so, do I fit into the negative stereotyping of the masses or would I be permitted to join such a worthy cause for a small fee to the great one?

Linda: Your first-born. And, I almost forgot, they’re entitled to 51% of your soul. It’s a pretty good deal when they throw in the Apple shares as well.

Me: Hmm… sounds good enough. But I still have a nagging question. Will joining this cult fill me with a false sense of superiority to the non-believers or will I be conditioned to happily go about my business which will soon become proselytizing to others?

Linda: Look. Stop with the questions, just go and kill your family. It’s for the best, okay?

Me: Unanswered questions and hostile commands to boot! Wow, you guys really are legit. Alright, before I sign up, let’s say I slaughtered my family, whose only crime was being related to a man with a lunatic for a friend, what then? How do I advance to the next level of cultiness?

Linda: Give us your first born, and tattoo your whole body. And if you do a good job on the family killing front, my superiors would be impressed. They like feeble-minded allegiance to any pretension of authority.

Me: Tattoo? Tattoo? Hold on a second. No one ever said anything about tattoos. That’s it, I want out. I’ve had enough of your “tattoo your body to show your inferiority to the high sacred master overlord” gobbledygook.

Linda: That’s it. You’re cut. No everlasting peace and tranquility and blissful happiness, bounding through the fields of heaven. You can just sit outside St. Peters gates forever, disbeliever.

Me: Cool beans. I’m done with your pseudo-utopic hallucinogenic-induced dream. I don’t need your deranged, fragmented view of paradise. I have television to fill that gaping whole in my immortal soul. Just wait until I blog about this on the Huffington Post!

Linda: Huff Post? What an excellently composed news authority. It’s insight and credibility never fail to expand my perspective on the intricate workings of our world. Truly a fine journalistic institution. My mind just turns to a viscous jelly-like substance when I look at their headlines and a conspicuous pool of frothy drool begins to accumulate at the sides of my mouth when I have the long-anticipated opportunity to peruse their pages.

Me: Sweet mother of all that is sacred! What have they done to you? Can’t you see that the cult has been warping your mind to the point where you’d be happy endorsing nearly anything? Well, with the exception of Francois Hollande.

Linda: Francois Hollande, don’t get me started. A fine politician. A beacon of our times. Socialism is what we need. We need strong leadership, for a strong future. Damned immigrants.  We need a common sense revolution,  oh wait… Silvio Berlusconi, don’t get me started. A fine politician, a beacon our times…

Me: Oh no! they’ve taken you. You’re too far gone. Just know as I grab this pillow and press it firmly against the sleeping face of our friendship that this is for the best.

Linda: Don’t forget to break out of the institution by throwing large objects into steel re-enforced windows. It will make the dramatic effect of your selfless act even more poignant and meaningful.

Me: Damn. I forgot to stare longingly at the flock of birds earlier on. I hope that this will still be considered effective cinematography since there’s been no foreshadowing.

Linda: Milos Forman would not be impressed by your lack of effective symbolic imagery.

Me: Ah-hah! So that’s who’s behind this cult. I knew you’d slip up sooner or later.

Linda: He’s not alone. You have no idea how far it goes. You’re trifling with powers that you can’t possibly comprehend.

Me: Not Paula and Carole!

Linda: They’re minor pawns. Their Magic Garden sinister talents are well applied to young children, teaching them to be inherently distrustful of hand puppets who live in trees, as well as chortling  flower beds in general. They were more of a test project, a prototype, a foreshadowing of things to come. much like the Terminator who came back in T2 but as a good Terminator—well, sort of at least—you know what, screw Paula and Carole, they’ll just get evil and kill us all.

Me: How could they? They were trusted by all, loved by many, stalked by a few. How can I go on with my life now that I know The Story Box was a sham? I even sent money to PBS, for goodness sake.

Linda: Public Broadcasting, don’t get me started. Fine family viewing. We’ll return to our program, but first, why not give? Become a monthly donor. For your contribution you’ll receive a worthless gift and the illusion of supporting the arts and educational programming. It’s all informative, no commercials to warp your mind…

Me: Damn cult. Glad I never joined in the first place.

Linda: Or, so you think. Ha. Ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha.

Me: I never signed a contract or made a blood transaction of any sort.

Linda: You’re not supposed to remember.

Me: Ugh, this is tiresome. I’m going to bed.

Linda: Goodnight. Don’t forget: the night time is the right time. The night time is the right time. The night time is the right time. The night time is the right time. The night time is the right time. The night time is the right time…

Me: Amazing. my ass.

I take that back. I think I nailed the underlying meaning of that conversation.

Sally forth and be patiently-awaiting-a-signal-that-the-brainwashing-is-starting-to-wear-offingly writeful.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

PS. Don’t join cults. You’re intelligent, I realize this, but consider it a PSA in case you happen to stumble upon this post on a low-gamma day when the world has seemingly left you no other options than to sign up with a small group that has religious veneration and devotion regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous. Unless, of course, you wish to join The Everlasting Dream Church of Rhyan, for my words are magical and my genius must be preserved! Besides, I’m sick of eating ramen and chili, so step into the warmth of my positive karma and PayPal-tithe me a dollar towards some healthier eating.

*Cue Sarah McLachlan song*

Remember, the Rhyan you save may be your own.

The Tam Commandments

10crack-commandments

My past often crosses paths with my present, but never with the people I desire to see again. Because of this, I’m always filled with an odd mix of embarrassing nostalgia and unwanted reflection, followed by the inevitable introspection. I see where old acquaintances are in their lives and I can’t help but look at where I am in relation to my dreams and aspirations.

No matter if you’re the outgrower (the disinterested party) or the outgrown (the rejected party), neither are comfortable during a random meeting. Also, dealing with people from my past has had the effect of feeling like I was moving backwards. As if all the growth I’d experienced after being separated from that person vanished because they’re present in my life again.

And these chance encounters happen in the damnedest places. Here I am tucked away in a small town in a new state on the opposite coast when I run into a childhood friend. Well, friend might be a bit of a stretch. She wasn’t really friends with anyone. Truer to say we ran in the same circles. Even truer than that, we ran in different circles that sometimes overlapped like a Venn diagram of societal misfit kids.

Rough and rugged, tough as nails, she took no shit off anyone, not even her parents. She went her own way, did her own thing, and everyone in the neighborhood, kid and adult alike knew she’d most likely end up either dead or in prison. Some people only open their future up for those two options.

Anyway, I was at the local thrift store when I heard someone calling my name. I assumed it couldn’t be me since I know exactly zero people here, but as this person kept calling, my curiosity got the better of me and turned to see her: Tamika.

It took me a moment to work out who she was. Not that the years hadn’t been kind to her, just that she wasn’t a person I had ever thought about remembering.

She, on the other hand, treated me like we were lifelong buddies. Big hugs and kisses and a smile that could light the Hollywood Bowl. Time has a funny way of altering the past. She remembered our relationship very differently than I had.

So, we did what people who haven’t seen one another in ages do. We shared past stories, gave abridged accounts of our lives since then, and painted the brightest possible picture for our futures. And me being me, I remarked on how I never thought I’d see her ever again. Of all the people, not including those that have passed, she was easily the last person I ever expected to clap eyes on.

She didn’t take offense. She knew better than anyone the type of person she was back then and she said she probably would have fulfilled everyone’s prophesy of jail or death if not for Chickie.

Chickie was the only other person who could’ve matched Tammy pound for pound. Cut from the same cloth, sisters from a different mister, they were thick as thieves. And probably would have been for life, had Chickie not met her maker at the claw end of a hammer in a drug deal gone horribly wrong.

That’s when Tam found the way.

My internal groan was so loud I feared she might’ve heard it. I myself am irreligious, and though I don’t begrudge anyone their spiritual beliefs, I have a hard time listening to the sanctimony of proselytizing born-agains.

But she hadn’t found Jesus, at least not in that way. Nor had she joined a cult. She claimed she simply hit rock bottom and having no one to turn to, sat down and wrote out a list of commandments for herself. A self-imposed list of rules in which she would like to live by.

And while I wish I could remember the list verbatim, my memory unfortunately has a mind of its own, I instead offer up a similar list that contains many of Tamika’s instructions for living a good life:

The 82 Commandments of Alejandro Jodorowsky

659077-jodorowsky

1. Ground your attention on yourself. Be conscious at every moment of what you are thinking, sensing, feeling, desiring, and doing.

2. Always finish what you have begun.

3. Whatever you are doing, do it as well as possible.

4. Do not become attached to anything that can destroy you in the course of time.

5. Develop your generosity – but secretly.

6. Treat everyone as if he or she was a close relative.

7. Organize what you have disorganized.

8. Learn to receive and give thanks for every gift.

9. Stop defining yourself.

10. Do not lie or steal, for you lie to yourself and steal from yourself.

11. Help your neighbor, but do not make him dependent.

12. Do not encourage others to imitate you.

13. Make work plans and accomplish them.

14. Do not take up too much space.

15. Make no useless movements or sounds.

16. If you lack faith, pretend to have it.

17. Do not allow yourself to be impressed by strong personalities.

18. Do not regard anyone or anything as your possession.

19. Share fairly.

20. Do not seduce.

21. Sleep and eat only as much as necessary.

22. Do not speak of your personal problems.

23. Do not express judgment or criticism when you are ignorant of most of the factors involved.

24. Do not establish useless friendships.

25. Do not follow fashions.

26. Do not sell yourself.

27. Respect contracts you have signed.

28. Be on time.

29. Never envy the luck or success of anyone.

30. Say no more than necessary.

31. Do not think of the profits your work will engender.

32. Never threaten anyone.

33. Keep your promises.

34. In any discussion, put yourself in the other person’s place.

35. Admit that someone else may be superior to you.

36. Do not eliminate, but transmute.

37. Conquer your fears, for each of them represents a camouflaged desire.

38. Help others to help themselves.

39. Conquer your aversions and come closer to those who inspire rejection in you.

40. Do not react to what others say about you, whether praise or blame.

41. Transform your pride into dignity.

42. Transform your anger into creativity.

43. Transform your greed into respect for beauty.

44. Transform your envy into admiration for the values of the other.

45. Transform your hate into charity.

46. Neither praise nor insult yourself.

47. Regard what does not belong to you as if it did belong to you.

48. Do not complain.

49. Develop your imagination.

50. Never give orders to gain the satisfaction of being obeyed.

51. Pay for services performed for you.

52. Do not proselytize your work or ideas.

53. Do not try to make others feel for you emotions such as pity, admiration, sympathy, or complicity.

54. Do not try to distinguish yourself by your appearance.

55. Never contradict; instead, be silent.

56. Do not contract debts; acquire and pay immediately.

57. If you offend someone, ask his or her pardon; if you have offended a person publicly, apologize publicly.

58. When you realize you have said something that is mistaken, do not persist in error through pride; instead, immediately retract it.

59. Never defend your old ideas simply because you are the one who expressed them.

60. Do not keep useless objects.

61. Do not adorn yourself with exotic ideas.

62. Do not have your photograph taken with famous people.

63. Justify yourself to no one, and keep your own counsel.

64. Never define yourself by what you possess.

65. Never speak of yourself without considering that you might change.

66. Accept that nothing belongs to you.

67. When someone asks your opinion about something or someone, speak only of his or her qualities.

68. When you become ill, regard your illness as your teacher, not as something to be hated.

69. Look directly, and do not hide yourself.

70. Do not forget your dead, but accord them a limited place and do not allow them to invade your life.

71. Wherever you live, always find a space that you devote to the sacred.

72. When you perform a service, make your effort inconspicuous.

73. If you decide to work to help others, do it with pleasure.

74. If you are hesitating between doing and not doing, take the risk of doing.

75. Do not try to be everything to your spouse; accept that there are things that you cannot give him or her but which others can.

76. When someone is speaking to an interested audience, do not contradict that person and steal his or her audience.

77. Live on money you have earned.

78. Never brag about amorous adventures.

79. Never glorify your weaknesses.

80. Never visit someone only to pass the time.

81. Obtain things in order to share them.

82. If you are meditating and a devil appears, make the devil meditate too.

Not being a fan of dogma, creed, or commandments in general, I admit I can find merit in many items on this list as suggestions for people to find their own path in life. Hell, if it worked for Tamika, it damn sure couldn’t hurt giving it a go.

So, sally forth, true believers and blasts from the past, and be making your own commandments and living by themingly writeful.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Vacancies, Vacancies Everywhere, Yet None of Them For Me

no-vacancies

My secret selves have been wandering my memory palace of late, searching for an empty room in which to steal a bit of solitude for I sometimes need to swaddle my internal dialogue in silence when even the quietest place on earth can offer me no rest.

You might have surmised correctly that I’ve been met with very little success.

Oh, there are rooms aplenty in which I enjoy the occasional lounge about, each filled with bric-à-brac I’ve accumulated along the way. Items or concepts or vagueries that may or may not find their way into a story, plot germs that piqued my interest for one reason or another, displayed neatly on shelves beside those things kept precious, but each of these pieces of me give off unique vibrations that assault my mind’s ear like anamnestic tinnitus.

A few of my unused characters who can afford the steep rent have made the suggestions that I either choose my favorite among them to room with, or take turns bunking with each for short periods as not to overstay my welcome.

But that really isn’t my style. I like the idea of knowing where characters are so that I might visit them and engage in brief social interactions when I’m in the mood, and leave them to their own devices when I’ve had my fill. And although I am quite capable of being alone in a crowded room, I cannot find solitude with people around, even ones I have breathed life into.

My irritation at not being able to claim residence within a place that I have been constructing since childhood is beginning to infect other areas of my life. My current location annoys me. My inability to write annoys me. The presence of other people annoys me. The sameness of the day annoys me. Even my annoyance at everything annoys me.

And so Wednesday comes round and I am attempting to build a new foundation for the memory palace extension on the lone and level sands of ground down ideas, in a new territory where the old housing rules may not apply. Eventually, when my hoarder nature reveals itself and this section of the palace becomes filled with miscellanea most likely better left forgotten…

I’ll repeat the process. Search for my own patch of solitude. Light a candle and still curse the darkness. Build another room. And fill it with possessions that squeeze me to the point of eviction.

But until then, sally forth and be buying me a nice room-warming giftingly writeful.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License