Author’s Note

Trigger warning: Topics include abuse, ableism, mental illness, homophobia, dissociation/unreality, suicide, drug (ab)use.

Originally published on Patreon.

“Author’s Note” by Lauren Ashley

Hi. I want to introduce myself first because the person I am is incredibly relevant to this work, however it turns out.

You see, I don’t exactly know what this book is yet. I’m sure that by setting this down right now, I am assuming I will want it to eventually go in the book. I’m already getting distracted again.

***

I am a lot of things. When people label your things, it just sounds like a lot, inevitably. I am a 24-year-old person, who was born in Maryland, in the United States; spent my childhood moving between Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and North Yorkshire, England; and now resides in Towson, Maryland, with my queerplatonic partner. I was presumed to be female at birth. I don’t know if that was right or not but it seems like it’s probably not. I describe myself as nonbinary, an androgyne, possibly genderfluid, trans.

I am mentally ill. I am pretty mentally ill. And autistic. That might seem like an odd thing to lead with, but bear with me, I’ll explain why that matters. Here it is: everything matters. Okay. Whenever you wonder why I’m talking about something, it’s because everything matters, and everything is always relevant. Try to think about connections.

Here are some things I think this book might be, or have to do with, or possibly just a sample of the book itself. I do not currently plan to write this whole book as some kind of weird stream-of-consciousness manifesto, but if it turns out to be like that, I wouldn’t be inordinately shocked.

***

This was the result of a brainstorming session today, October 18, 2016. I edited slightly, but some of the ideas are probably a bit imprecise (hoping not offensively so) at this juncture:

  • A gay reading of NBC’s Hannibal
  • An academic criticism of “shipping goggles”
  • A study of a show that had a strong feedback relationship with its fanbase
  • The “porcupine’s dilemma,” the appeal of philosophical explorations of the nature of relationships to Tumblr (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji/Kaworu)
  • Intimate friendships in our generation and the exploration of sexuality and gender currently taking place among younger kids online
  • The history of fandom/self published illicit content, for example, in the Victorian era (The Pearl), the history of erotica in general
  • Fight Club, I guess as another film widely read as a gay male seduction that heavily implies it’s an acceptable reading, what specifically makes people see Fight Club as gay
  • The way people seem to be reacting in the same way to sad/upsetting/violent scenes in my writing as to the sex scenes, different forms of intimacy, the asexual community on Tumblr, asexual and aromantic readings of Hannibal, lists of nonsexual forms of intimacy
  • Trigger warnings, the view of Tumblr as a safe space, romanticization of abuse
  • The politics of straight people shipping gay men, and whether people who ship them are actually as majority straight white women as assumed, are there a lot of lesbians? Why? Do other gay men have an interest in Hannibal? Survey questions
  • American Psycho, mental illness in horror, Patrick Bateman’s wardrobe and murder suit
  • David Cronenberg and references to Dead Ringers, conjoinment, separation, sex and sexual trading of places/voyeurism/vicarious sexual pleasure
  • The feminine sexual gaze, is it a thing, straight women? Gay women? Laura Mulvey
  • The openness of sex and sex positivity on Tumblr, the movement to “desexualize” gay relationships
  • I don’t think it’s a coincidence that “Hannigram” (if you don’t know what shipping or a ship name is yet, hold on to something) is very popular specifically on Tumblr
  • The idea of having an online second life as regards fanfic, choosing it over “real life” interaction and why, the poverty of millennials and the popularity of escapism, roleplay, discussing sex with strangers on the internet and becoming friends through fanfic
  • The way that fanfic is not considered literature because it deals with queerness and sexuality, the “female” side of nerdiness
  • The connection between female sexuality and violence
  • Fetishizing gay relationships in fantasy
  • The significance attached to the top and bottoming positions, why a particular person is read as a top or bottom, whether it truly “doesn’t matter,” how the gay community sees topping, bottoming, switching, if there is a political nature to the decision or if it’s about what each person likes in real life
  • Psychedelics and surrealism
  • The “Tumblr aesthetic”
  • The online sexualization/fetishization of gore, guro, whether American society is beginning to strongly resemble Japanese society, maid/bara cafes, gender, specifically…
  • Feminine men, yaoi, the move from shipping animated characters to shipping people on TV, real person fic
  • The movement of previously hidden areas of fandom into the public consciousness
  • Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire, her lawsuits over fanfiction
  • Improvisation
  • The rise of the golden age of television, fandom in Hollywood’s golden age, fan magazines
  • Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan, the early X Files fandom online, Star Trek ‘zines, intertextuality, semiotics, winking at fans, fan service, the attitude towards the audience taken in anime
  • Porn that satisfies a need for intimacy as well as sex
  • Mary Sue and Gary Sue, LiveJournal
  • I guess I’m going to have to talk about ABO kink, kink in general, the rise of scenes of safewording and contracts, 50 Shades of Gray, Twilight
  • The sexuality of cannibalism, Ravenous, the cultural ties of the Wendigo, the sexuality of vampirism, in horror especially in film
  • Gay readings of Frankenstein, Andy Warhol
  • Some Like It Hot, queerness in old Hollywood
  • Workaholics, Broad City, male intimacy in friendship, closeness due to poverty (roommates into traditional “family” age), nonsexual intimacy, poly relationships and the idea of filling different needs with different people, queerplatonic/ace spectrum relationships
  • American Horror Story (particularly Asylum and Hotel)
  • Slapstick
  • Pre-Code
  • Different styles of lesbian relationship, butch/femme as it relates to bottom/top, “topping from the bottom,” power bottoms, the exposé of Grindr in the Olympic Village and the conversation about the “sideshow” aspects of gay public/anonymous/casual sex
  • The perception that gay men are both more feminine and more masculine, the expectations of femininity and masculinity
  • The kind of instant sexual gratification seen in many shorter/older pieces of fanfiction where two people, often men, would suddenly be struck by the attractiveness of each other and feel an overwhelming need to have sex immediately and embark on a relationship, the incredibly gay gayness of that idea

So that’s a lot of things. And looking at this list, some of them are more free-association than idea. I think that in the case of this book, the problem is not going to be ideas but organization. That’s why I told you, in this introduction, that I’m mentally ill and autistic. Because it’s going to matter, and if people truly want to hear what livers of other lives are saying, they are going to have to make some room for some new ways to receiving their information.

***

Technology is God’s gift to the disabled, at least in my opinion. Do you think I could sit down and write a whole book on a typewriter? Maybe eventually. But I need the option to do things right now. I need to fix or add things immediately, or I will forget. Autism, ADHD (which I have, inattentive type), and honestly most other mental illnesses involve varying degrees of something called executive dysfunction. If you don’t know what executive functioning is, it’s basically air traffic control in your brain. It’s crucial. It’s what takes stimulus from the outside world, combines it with what you’re trying to do, and comes up with something for you to try.

I have depression. Actually, it may be dysthymia (a chronic state of low-grade depression). Actually, it may be bipolar disorder, because I had a manic episode a few months ago for the first time in my life. Actually, I have no idea what it is, or too many. I have borderline personality disorder, or possibly complex PTSD, or both, or neither. I have no official diagnoses but I have been on Paxil for five or six years and Buspar and Adderall for a year or so. I also take a multivitamin and an iron and Vitamin C supplement every day, and melatonin at night (I also have a rare and disabling sleep disorder).

If you are not mentally ill, or disabled in any way, I want you to think about this for a second. Not because I want you to pity me, or because I want you to feel sad. I just want you to imagine how this would shape your life. I want you to get used to it. Because eventually, you do have to get used to it, or you will kill yourself. Mental illness is life and death, and therefore, it is present in your mind at almost all times.

There are many mentally ill people in the world. I think it’s somewhere between one in three and one in five? Not all of those people are disabled by their illness…right now. I am not always disabled. So I’m always disabled, because I always have the potential to be disabled, and I often am disabled all at once, suddenly, out of the blue.

This is a very difficult, confusing, upsetting state to grow up in. In this book I will talk about abuse. Abuse and mental illness are intimately related. Abuse and disability are intimately related. Sexuality is intimately related to abuse, mental illness, and disability. All of these things are related by a common thread of otherness, the taboo, the uncanny. In a way. I’ll show you.

I took an assortment of critical analysis classes in college. I majored in film studies (the study and criticism of the history, social culture, creation, and “meaning” of films). Think literary criticism. Think essays about Freudian symbolism in early horror. Think Men, Women, and Chainsaws, which by the way is an incredible book that you should read and that I’m sure I will be rereading for this book.

Hannibal, whether through coincidence or otherwise (you decide!), is a media…thing (I hate to call a multi-media series a franchise) which happens to draw in nearly every one of my serious interests. I’m autistic too, and being autistic generally involves having something called your special interest. A special interest is an obsessive, all-consuming interest that blots out everything else you once cared about, or maybe it’s the only thing you’ve ever cared about. For instance, think of the stereotypical autistic special interest of trains. I’m sure you know, just think about it, some little white boy who’s obsessed with trains or airplanes or vacuums. When you get a profitable special interest, they call you a savant, but please don’t say that, we don’t like that word. Let us talk about ourselves.

***

Here is what I’m currently thinking. I think this book will be a series of personal essays. I think its specific subject matter and style will vary by chapter, and probably follow the course of the series, roughly, to look at Hannibal through a queer analytical lens, with digressions relating Hannibal to media I want to look for connections with. There are things I will want to discuss in film studies jargon. There are things I will want to write like a blog post. I’m sure there are more things than that, even.

But I want to tell you why Hannibal is scary first. The TV series, but also the guy.

***

Horror movies are one of my particular passions. I like the goriest ones possible. The Silence of the Lambs and probably the film versions of Hannibal and Hannibal Rising are generally regarded to be horror movies (Manhunter we’ll get to). I have heard people describe them as scary, but they never did much for me (I mean obviously they do, but as far as scaring me, not really).

I think that when Bryan Fuller decided to explore Hannibal Lecter’s life as a free man and a practicing psychiatrist, he accidentally tapped into a rich, somewhat unexplored vein of psychological horror.

There are people who have touched it, but to this point it’s been relegated to trash. Horror doesn’t win Oscars. However, horror is about fear. Even gory horror. It’s about the fear of something like that happening to your very own body where you reside and it can’t be undone and then probably you suffer and die. It’s about looking at guts and thinking, I have those. Someone could rip them out, just like that. Oh my God, I’m mortal.

This type of horror, the fear of your body betraying you, the fear caused by the realization that you exist inside a very delicate meat vessel that could change or be destroyed at any time, is called body horror. It is a field explored masterfully in the filmography of David Cronenberg. It’s possible you might have seen The Fly, with Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis.

Jeff Goldblum has built a machine that will transport, he hopes, living things through space and “reassemble” them to be the same as they were previously, sort of like Wonkavision but regular size. He tests the machine on himself, and as you might know, accidentally combines his DNA with that of a housefly.

The rest of the film depicts—in grotesque glorious practical-effects detail, the height of the craft, the Eighties—the gradual deterioration of Goldblum’s body as he slowly becomes a fly-man hybrid: his teeth fall out, his ears and nails fall off, he eats nothing but sugar which he is forced to consume by vomiting acid on it and sucking it back up, as a fly does. The horror in this scenario comes from how that must feel.

Geena Davis becomes pregnant with Goldblum’s baby, conceived after the transportation but before the transformation. Inside her body is something unknown, something other, something is alive inside her body, feeding on her.

Think about that.

***

Psychological horror is also a thing. Medical horror might be something closer. But I think this is…emotional horror, psychiatric horror. Mental horror. Empathy horror.

Can you imagine feeling it? Being aware of it, like Flowers for Algernon? The slow disintegration of your mind? The realization that you may have been doing things that you don’t remember, possibly terrible, nightmarish things you would never dream of doing in your right mind? That your mind, like Jeff Goldblum’s piteous transfigured body, is betraying you when you’re not looking?

Now think about this: you’ve never been quite sure where those boundaries lie, anyway. Things have never quite made sense to you. Life has never really been very linear anyway. Maybe you’ve seen some things, felt some things, thought some things that don’t seem quite right, all your life. And someone sees that in you, sees that vulnerability, and they make themselves right at home in your emptiness and confusion. And you fall in love with them.

To be mentally ill is to be uniquely vulnerable. It’s to have a version of reality that you live in but that other people insist is not real. It’s to be told your thoughts are not to be trusted, that you are upset for no reason, that you’re too sensitive. In a way, it does bring me back to Men, Women, and Chainsaws.

If I recall correctly, Clover conjectures that women are frequently the center of the male-driven genre of horror not because of sadism, but masochism. Men want to feel it. They want to know what the vulnerability of being female feels like. They allow themselves to fulfill their masochistic desire for fear and vulnerability by pretending they’re just in it for the tits. Please forgive me if that’s not quite right, I need to reread still before I can speak with total confidence on it.

Psychiatric abuse is the ableist abuse of power held by a mental health professional in a doctor-patient relationship. I’m sure it does not only happen to those who are actually mentally ill (for instance, “undesirables” of all stripes used to get thrown away in institutions). Abuse of power is the fundamental base of all abuse. But it is a very unique, very particular type of fear.

It can only be felt, I think, by someone who has been told their whole life that they cannot trust themselves. That they must rely on others to essentially “be their eyes” and tell them what reality is really like, because they are “blinded” by mental illness. I use this metaphor not because physical disabilities are interchangeable with psychiatric ones, but because those with any type of disability know this “mother knows best” attitude, this insidious facet of ableism, often found in doctors and other authority figures who have power over the disabled.

To be a good mentally ill person, you are expected to be doing everything you can at all times to always be approaching mental health. You are not allowed to give up, or feel bitter. Many well-meaning people in your life, often family members, will tell you that you just need to see someone. That there are people who want to help you. You just have to trust them. With your reality.

If the doctor can’t help you, you need to keep making doctor’s appointments. If you can’t constantly go through the strain of making doctor’s appointments, because you are incredibly mentally ill, disabled, then that is your decision to stop trying not to be disabled, and just know that we believe (it does not matter what you believe) that you are choosing to give up.

In other words, I think people tend to believe mental illness is just some kind of weird delusion that you’re not normal. I think people think mental illness itself is a delusion, like some people seem to think poverty is a delusion.

The difference between can and will or should is theoretical to people without disabilities. They believe you must have been tricked, somehow, into believing that you cannot do things, and therefore probably your entire perspective is warped. You cannot be trusted. Your thoughts and opinions on your own care have about as much weight as declaring that you have evidence the moon is made of cheese. This is a root cause of ableism against the mentally ill.

Imagine that you see someone, as an unofficial prerequisite to a job that you are reluctant to take but probably really need, because you used to be a cop, and then a gifted forensic profiler, but now your trauma is fucking you so bad that all you can do is occasionally lecture at Quantico. You know you can’t do this job. Or rather, you know you will do it, but that you can’t, that there is a good chance the strain will get you again. You are incapable of both taking care of yourself and performing additional emotional labor, but the person making you the offer does not believe you. He thinks you are underestimating yourself.

So you see someone, a doctor who might have the magical steps you need to take to feel better. To feel real. To stop crying in your sleep. To hold down a job. To more than scrape by. You’re desperate. You just want people to stop worrying about you so you can focus on trying to survive. He understands. He jokes with you about how people treat you (i.e. the mentally ill) like fragile china. He seems to get it. So maybe you think you can stand this person telling you why your entire approach to life is wrong.

You tell your new therapist everything. You don’t like to talk about these things, but it feels good to be allowed to talk about them. It feels good to not be afraid to worry or upset someone when you tell them things that happen in your head that scare you. In fact, he doesn’t react at all, or he waits for you to tell him what you think it means, maybe with a little nudging. It makes you feel normal. You tell him you’re worried because you keep losing track of things, as in large chunks of time. He assures you there’s nothing to worry about, and even helps your dysfunctional ass get to a doctor to prove it. The other doctor, the neurologist who is an old friend of your new therapist, says nothing is wrong.

You’re worried. You don’t think this is normal. You’re scared, because doctors have been wrong before, or have not tried very hard to care before. They always calmly tell you that you’re going to get this sorted out, and whatever they give you works and then stops working but you’re scared to go back because you want them to think you’re trying to get better. You’re afraid to tell them you know more about what’s happening in your head than they do, because they’re the ones who are allowed to label the thing and tell you what’s wrong, and all you’re allowed to do is tell them what it feels like. Like a cold, you know, do you have a fever, does your chest hurt, voila, you have bronchitis.

So now two doctors appear to agree that you’re fine, and they don’t believe you when you say you’re not fine, because you’re crazy. And you know therapy has a tendency to make you feel artificially close to your therapist, who is not really your friend but just wants to make you feel comfortable enough to talk so they can get you out of their office. You’ve definitely heard of that.

But somehow he seems to be everywhere you go, and he’s in your life at work too, and he knows everything about you, because you told him everything. It crosses your mind that if you got too close and he felt like it, he could ruin your life. But he wouldn’t do that.

And also maybe he’s pretty attractive and he stares into your eyes when you tell him about the things that scare you and he doesn’t tell you how weird they are, instead he recasts them into beautiful, eerie metaphors and he makes things seem so simple (just do exactly what he says and he’ll take care of the rest) and it’s addictive.

To be understood. And to have someone give you the answers. And you think maybe this might be a weird relationship to have to your therapist, to have to anyone, but it feels…so…good and you can’t be sure (because you’re crazy) but you think he might be…interested. In you. Romantically. Like in kissing you. And making everything better. And helping you get your shit together.

You can rest. You can be yourself. You can stop thinking so hard about whether things are about to cave in on your head, and you use the time to remember what you used to like to do during the periods of time that you were of late devoting to anxiety, because you were constantly driving yourself overtime to keep up with the non-mentally-ill people.

You don’t talk about it, but your life revolves around him, and in fact your lives revolve around each other, and other people start noticing that you’re spending an awful lot of time with that guy and maybe he should stop stringing you along.

And you say haha of course not we’re just friends and you continue to feed on his attention, because it feels so good to hear someone say how beautiful and unique your pain makes you. And it impresses you…just a little bit…when he starts to do things for your attention that go too far. You say, what is too far, really?

And your friends say stuff like “I don’t think he’s good for you,” and you tell them that they’re being silly, or worse, that they’re jealous, because people are always telling you how to run your fucking life and you don’t want to let go of this good thing just because something could go wrong. Something is already wrong! Something is always wrong!

Mental illness makes you a little fatalistic, really. Thing are going to be difficult, even when they’re not bad. Why not take a chance when you’re already at rock bottom? Furthermore, you’re sick and fucking tired of being disbelieved about your own experiences and feelings and decisions and you will do what you want from now on because someone is listening to you.

And then all at once you’re literally in prison.

You sit there in prison and say, don’t you remember how weird I was acting? Didn’t you think maybe something was wrong? I know you didn’t know me that well, and there’s no one to vouch for how I normally am because I have no friends. But didn’t it seem odd, that you all noticed me and this man becoming close and me becoming more and more detached from reality?

He’s a doctor. He would never hurt you. We know him. We don’t know you. We thought you seemed nice, but you’ve been here for x months and we know nothing about you except that you are crazy, because we have to handle you with kid gloves to solve cases so you don’t explode, we were being nice but everyone knew you were nuts.

You were Old Yeller, Will. We knew this would happen. We were waiting. Alana got too attached to you, but she knew too. She didn’t want to get you involved because she sensed you were on track to a spectacular meltdown, and she knew it would break her heart when it happened. That’s why she couldn’t be around you.

Because you’re nuts. You are crazy. No one cares what you think or even believe or witnessed or have proof happened. As a matter of fact, even the confirmation that you did have encephalitis, Will, does not matter one bit. You are the disposable one here. Hannibal Lecter is a functioning member of society, and a doctor, sworn to do no harm, and we may in a sense be your friends, but…your word is worthless compared to his. He’s very upset about the whole thing, you should send him a card and apologize.

Now, I could go on. In fact, I sort of intend to. But just try to imagine that scenario.

Now imagine that you live in fear of your own mind. Here, in real life. Imagine that there’s a possibility, a real possibility, that someday something will happen, something terrible like a murder, and you will have done it without ever wanting to or thinking about it. And imagine that maybe you don’t even get to have this realization, because the police come and shoot you to death because you are a crazy murderer.

That’s what psychological horror is about, or whatever we decide to call it. It’s about the fear that someday, you will be executed or imprisoned permanently in a hospital or prison because of something someone else did. But the name of the someone else won’t be Hannibal Lecter. It will be Will Graham. It will be Mental Illness.

Do you have any idea what that’s like? That’s fear. The fear that you won’t be able to help yourself.

Here’s another aspect of this: you don’t trust your mind, and neither does anyone else. Therefore, you are very, very vulnerable to abuse, and particularly emotional abuse and gaslighting. Because if you’re worried about something, you’re always worried about something just relax it’s probably fine. If you’re happy about something, it seems like you’re really happy lately, are you feeling okay? Are you sure you’re really happy? I know you say you’re happy with this situation, but I don’t believe you. If you enjoy something, are you sure this is really good for you, sweetie? Honey?

And furthermore, you are plain fucking exhausted and you don’t want to deal with anything more than immediate survival, and you don’t want to question this good thing, but you know it’s got five thousand red flags plastered all over it, but you’re just grateful for something, anything, and it’s not that you believe you deserve the worst (or maybe you do) but you don’t ask for the best because you never seem to get it, because you’re always running behind, running yourself to death to try and keep up, and you just want some fucking attention and understanding instead of pity for a while.

***

Now here’s what I mean, I think. Speaking of Season One (S1) alone, Will Graham’s experience is incredibly, terrifyingly plausible to me.

I fear being taken advantage of, and letting it happen, and maybe enjoying it, because of my mental illness. I fear being disbelieved—about my own feelings, external events, my needs, my ability to run my own life. I fear being forcibly institutionalized, because of my mental illness. Or killed in public or my own home, because of something I can’t control, because of my mental illness.

I fear that people, like Dr. Bloom, will reject and infantilize me because of my mental illness. I fear that people will treat me like the finest china. I fear that people will use me for their entertainment, use their authority to hurt me, and then say I have no idea what she’s talking about, she’s nuts, you know. I fear that I may do something illegal or unethical without knowing or meaning to.

Will Graham’s fears are the mentally ill’s fears. Powerlessness, paternalistic “concern trolls,” manipulation, abuse, voicelessness, loss of control over your body and your life and what goes on in it. Constant advice from the peanut gallery, who have no conception of the kind of party you’re carrying around in your head, but somehow have a lot to say about who you should be seeing and what you should be doing to fix it and whether it’s fixable (“I’m not a doctor but—”) and who think they get to decide when you’re trying and when you’re not.

I almost think you could say Dr. Lecter represents the fear that your abuser will come not as an enemy, but as a friend. Mental illness is a constant state of self-doubt, of self-advocacy, of trying to convince yourself you deserve to be comfortable and functional just like everyone else, always having to push.

Can you imagine, if you’re not mentally ill, what it feels like when it seems like you can trust someone to give you the answers? Someone who wants to take care of you? You don’t want to want to be taken care of, but you do, also. It’s only natural. You’re so tired. It’s so much work, the work of at least two people, and you want to believe this person can share the load, carry the Ring for a while.

And they can. They do. But they want something in return.

Can you imagine that? The deal with the Devil you’re tempted to make? Abusers can be very seductive to the mentally ill, the disabled, the traumatized. If I was Will Graham, and I saw the one chance of happiness in my bleak life full of drinking alone and hideously mutilated corpses, waking up so soaked in sweat that you have to get a towel to lay down…don’t you see why maybe you’d say, this is setting off all my sirens but I’m so  tired of being unhappy and of carrying this load myself? Long enough for Lecter to get his teeth in, so to speak?

I think this is an angle that needs to be explored when we look at this. That these things are real, and even likely, for some people. I think Will Graham’s voice is going unheard, in fandom, in media criticism. I think he speaks for many people with his fundamental goodness and his fundamental instability. And I think we should talk about that, and a lot of other things.

***

THE FEELING OF MEETING A TYPE OF PERSON YOU’VE NEVER KNOWN, MEETING ANOTHER PERSON LIKE YOU FOR THE FIRST TIME AND BEING OVERCOME WITH LUST/LOVE MIXED WITH CONFUSING FEELINGS OF HORROR IS A DISTINCTLY GAY FEELING, FIRST GAY RELATIONSHIPS/EXPERIENCES/COMING OUTS OFTEN COME LATER IN LIFE WHEN A PERSON ALREADY HAS A SET PERSONALITY AND CHANGE IS MORE DIFFICULT, AS A GAY/TRANS PERSON I EXPERIENCED WHAT FELT LIKE A SECOND PUBERTY WHEN I BEGAN TO SERIOUSLY QUESTION MY GENDER AND TAKE MYSELF SERIOUSLY AS A TRANS PERSON ESPECIALLY, AND AS A LESBIAN, OR I REMEMBER HOW DIFFICULT IT WAS TO ACCEPT THAT AFTER TEN YEARS I MIGHT NOT BE BISEXUAL AFTER ALL, AND THEN TO ACCEPT MYSELF AS A LESBIAN, AND THEN TO REALIZE I WAS MORE MALE THAN I THOUGHT, AND THEN TO THINK ABOUT WHAT THAT MEANS FOR ME, A NONBINARY MAN, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A GAY NONBINARY WOMAN? WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A GAY NONBINARY MAN? WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SUDDENLY WANT SOMETHING THAT SEEMS COMPLETELY OUT OF CHARACTER FOR YOU TO RELATIVES AND FRIENDS AND HAVE TO TRY TO DECIDE WHAT TO DO BECAUSE YOU CAN’T DENY THIS THING INSIDE YOU IT’S TORTURING YOU AND THE THING AND THE PERSON CANNOT BE SEPARATED, THE FIRST GAY EXPERIENCE IS AS IMPORTANT AS THE FIRST STRAIGHT EXPERIENCE, OFTEN MUCH, MUCH MORE SO BECAUSE BY THE TIME A PERSON IS AN ADULT THEY HAVE THINGS TO LOSE, IT BECOMES MUCH MORE DIFFICULT TO JUST “CUT TIES” AND ONLY DEAL WITH PEOPLE WHO ACCEPT YOU, THE OLDER GENERATION WERE JUST AS ISOLATED AS US, BUT IN DIFFERENT WAYS, THE WORLD IS AWARE OF GAYNESS AND TRANSNESS NOW AND THERE ARE MANY “TYPES” OF STORIES THAT HAVE NOT YET BEEN WRITTEN, I KNEW ABOUT AND DEALT WITH SEXUAL ASPECTS OF OTHER GAY PEOPLE’S LIVES, I AM FULLY MAN AND FULLY WOMAN, I AM LIMINAL. MENTAL ILLNESS AND GAYNESS. MENTAL ILLNESS AND GROWING UP POOR AND YES, MAYBE ROOTLESS, MAYBE AUTISTIC TOO, MAYBE MASCULINE AND FEMININE AT THE SAME TIME, POVERTY AND MENTAL ILLNESS ARE FEMINIZING BECAUSE THEY CONNOTE WEAKNESS, I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A BOY TREATED AS A GIRL AND A GIRL TREATED AS A BOY, THE CONFUSION IS PART OF THE DEAL, IT’S NOT JUST A STEREOTYPE, YOU LIKE IT A LITTLE BIT, IT SOMETIMES MAKES THINGS FUN TO CONFUSE PEOPLE AND FUN IS SEXY, COMFORTABLE EXPLORATION OF THAT CONFUSION IS SEXUAL SOMETIMES IN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS, EXPLORING GENDER AND SEXUALITY IS NECESSARILY A MATTER OF INTIMACY AND EXPLORING THESE THINGS WITH FRIENDS THAT ARE POTENTIAL SEXUAL PARTNERS AND POSSIBLY FORMER LOVERS IS A VERY TEENAGE EXPERIENCE, COMING OUT AS AN ADULT HAS A KIND OF SURREALISM AND IT DOES FEEL A LOT LIKE DISSOCIATION, TUMBLR POETRY AND JENNY HOLZER, TRUISMS ARE GAY BECAUSE BEING GAY FEELS LIKE LEARNING OBVIOUS THINGS AGAIN FROM A NEW ANGLE, SOMETHING SURPRISINGLY SIMPLE AND EASY ONCE YOU SEE IT YOU CAN’T UNSEE IT, LEARNING SOMETHING NEW ABOUT YOURSELF, SOMETHING SO FUNDAMENTAL, AS AN ADULT IS VERY STRANGE, VERY QUEER, AS A MATTER OF FACT. I FIRST LEARNED THE WORD QUEER WITH THE MEANING “STRANGE” NOT “GAY” AND IT WAS A WHILE BEFORE I KNEW IT MEANT GAY TOO, I HAVE ALWAYS LIKED THE IMPLIED WHIMSICAL SOUND OF IT, LIKE “OH! HOW QUEER! IN THE MIRROR-HOUSE THERE ARE CHESSMEN PLAYING IN THE ASHES OF THE FIREPLACE, BELOW THE MIRROR WHERE YOU CAN’T SEE IT IN OUR HOUSE, DINA, DEAR.” I LIKED FEELING STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL BECAUSE I WAS GAY. I HAD POSITIVE GAY ROLE MODELS. I WORSHIPPED JOHN WATERS AND DIVINE AND I WORSHIPPED THE TRASH AESTHETIC. I CAME FROM BALTIMORE AND I DREAMED ABOUT GOING BACK THERE AND BEING GAY, UNILABEL GAY IN THE OLD MEANING OF “NOT RIGHT, NOT STRAIGHT, NOT THE RIGHT GENDER, NOT THE RIGHT SEXUAL DRIVE,” QUEER, IF THE UMBRELLA TERM ISN’T QUEER WE NEED TO FIND SOMETHING ELSE THAT’S NOT AN ACRONYM FOR US, FOR OTHERS, FOR DISPOSABLES AND TRASH. MAYBE IT CAN JUST BE TRASH. EVERYTHING IS GAY BECAUSE GAY PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS EXISTED. IF A GAY PERSON LOOKS AT SOMETHING IT BECOMES GAY. IS THERE A GAY GAZE? DO I HAVE TO REREAD MY LAURA MULVEY? DO I NEED TO STEAL A PDF OF “VISUAL PLEASURE AND NARRATIVE CINEMA”? DO I NEED TO EXPLAIN WHY IN THE 60s EVERYTHING CHANGED AND IN THE 70s WE HAD TO SIT DOWN AND FIGURE OUT WHAT IT ALL MEANT? WHERE THE RULES HAD CHANGED? UPHEAVAL IS CONFUSING AND THERE WILL BE MORE AND MORE UPHEAVAL AS WE GO BECAUSE TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE IS INCREASING EXPONENTIALLY BECAUSE THERE ARE MORE THINGS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT ALL THE TIME AND EVERY PERSON IS LOOKING AT EVERYTHING FROM EVERY ANGLE THEY CAN THINK OF AND WE ARE APPROACHING CHILDHOOD’S END, IT’S ALL COMING TOGETHER, EVERY PIECE OF INFORMATION HAS INFINITE IMPLICATIONS THAT CHANGE EVERYTHING ELSE YOU HAVE, IN THE BONE ARENA OF YOUR SKULL THERE ARE NO FORTS FOR THE THINGS YOU LOVE, I ONCE ACCIDENTALLY TOOK A “SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY” CULTURE STUDIES CLASS THAT I SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ADD TO MY SCHEDULE AND IT WAS THE ONLY CLASS I DROPPED THAT I MIGHT HAVE ACTUALLY PASSED, IT WAS LIKE A STRANGE HALF-EXPERIENCE BECAUSE I CONSTANTLY FELL ASLEEP IN CLASS AND THE BOOK WE WERE READING WAS GRAVITY’S RAINBOW AND WE WERE TALKING ABOUT POSTMODERNISM AND LOOKING AT SLIDESHOWS OF THE VIETNAM WAR ON TV, HE SAID IF WAR WAS STILL SO GORY IN THE EYES OF PUBLIC WE WOULD NOT HAVE HAD THE WARS WE’VE HAD SINCE VIETNAM, HE SAID THE GULF CONFLICT WAS A VIDEOGAME WAR ABOUT KILLING PEOPLE FROM A DISTANCE, THAT WAS A STRANGELY QUIET DAY, ROOM FULL OF 18- AND 19-YEAR-OLD FRESHMEN LOOKING AT THE POWERPOINT SLIDE OF THE HIDEOUSLY BURNED LITTLE NAKED VIETNAMESE GIRL CRYING IN THE STREET, IT FELT LIKE IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL OR MAYBE MIDDLE SCHOOL WHEN YOU HAD LECTURES ON THE HOLOCAUST, NERVOUS GIGGLES BECAUSE THINGS ARE REALLY REAL OUT THERE APPARENTLY AND YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO HOPE IT DOESN’T HAPPEN IN YOUR LIFETIME, YOU CAN’T QUITE TELL IF IT IS OR NOT BUT YOU’RE PRETTY SURE IT MIGHT BE. ON TUMBLR YOU SEARCH FOR PICTURES TAGGED “GORE TW” AND STARE AT THE RESULTS OF A PERSON BEING RUN OVER BY A CAR IN THE PHILIPPINES, YOU CAN SEE THEIR FACE FROM SEVERAL ANGLES AT ONCE AND THEY LOOK LIKE A PICASSO, CUBIST, THEIR JAW AND TEETH ARE IN SEVERAL PLACES AT ONCE, SO IT IS POSSIBLE, YOU KNOW, JUST NOT UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES BUT EVERYTHING MUST HAPPEN IF IT CAN HAPPEN, I DON’T REMEMBER WHERE I HEARD THAT FOR ALL I KNOW IT MIGHT ALSO BE HANNIBAL-RELATED, THE CONNECTIONS ARE THERE I JUST DON’T KNOW HOW TO MAKE THEM BECAUSE THERE’S NO SINGLE EPIPHANY TO HAVE, THERE’S NO SIMPLE EXPLANATION FOR WHY THESE THINGS ALL SEEM TO CONNECTED TO ME, HAVING BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER IS LIKE LIVING IN AN ANCHORLESS, TIMELESS VOID, EXPERIENCING RANDOM FEELINGS AND MOODS AT RANDOM INTENSITIES AT RANDOM TIMES, TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT’S HAPPENING AND HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT IT, SOMETHING I WONDER ABOUT A LOT IS WHETHER AND WHO AMONG THE CREATORS OF HANNIBAL ARE GAY AND DISSOCIATIVE AND WHETHER THOMAS HARRIS HAS ANY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF THESE THINGS BECAUSE HIS WRITING REMINDS ME SO MUCH OF DISSOCIATION, HE SAID THAT HE EXPERIENCES HIS NOVELS AS INVISIBLY OBSERVING EVENTS IN THE SCENE, HE WROTE THAT HE HAD TO LISTEN TO WILL AND HANNIBAL’S FIRST CONVERSATION MANY TIMES BEFORE HE COULD ACCURATELY SET IT DOWN FOR RED DRAGON (NO, WITH CLARICE, MAYBE), BECAUSE HE HAD TO FILTER OUT THE SCREAMS OF THE INSTITUTION. I KNOW THAT THIS MAY BE A METAPHOR, BUT THE FACT THAT I HAVE TO SAY THAT MEANS YOU PROBABLY DON’T EVEN WONDER IF IT’S A METAPHOR OR NOT, I AM VERY LITERAL AND WRITING FOR ME IS LIKE WATCHING A FILM UNFOLD BUT IN A DREAM, SOMETIMES YOU THINK “NO THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT” AND IT’S NOT, IT ISN’T SOMETHING THAT REALLY HAPPENED, YOU JUST DIDN’T LISTEN CLOSE ENOUGH, EVERYTHING IS FLOATING FREELY IN YOUR HEAD AND TRAUMA MAKES LINEAR THINKING IMPOSSIBLE, I SAW A LAW AND ORDER EPISODE ABOUT A BOY WHO CLAIMED TO HAVE PTSD FROM SEEING 9/11 ON TELEVISION, PTSD IS DEFINED AS STEMMING FROM A TRAUMATIC EVENT IN WHICH EITHER YOURSELF OR A LOVED ONE IS IN MORTAL DANGER, I USED TO THINK MY TRAUMA REACTION WAS A RESULT OF THE ABUSE BUT I THINK THE ABUSE JUST SET ME UP TO GET KNOCKED OVER WHEN MY FRIEND BLACKED OUT ON ACID IN MY OTHER FRIENDS’ APARTMENT AND EVERYTHING STOPPED AND WENT AWAY FOR A MINUTE, WHEN I CAME BACK I WAS CLUTCHING HER ARM SO TIGHT I PROBABLY LEFT BRUISES, AND I WAS CRYING, THERE’S JUST NOTHING THERE FOR A MINUTE IT’S JUST BLANK, [FOOTAGE NOT FOUND], I SAW HER BENDING OVER THE SINK AND I THOUGHT SHE WAS LOOKING AT SOMETHING IN THE SOAP HOLDER SPOT, I TAPPED HER ON THE BACK AND SHE DIDN’T RESPOND, I PULLED HER BACK FROM THE SINK AND SHE WAS LIMP AND HEAVY, IMMEDIATELY SHE VOMITED ON THE FLOOR AND I HAD TO TRY NOT TO STEP IN IT, THEN NOTHING, THEN I WAS CLUTCHING HER ARM AND CRYING AND THERE WERE PEOPLE SHOVED INTO THE NARROW HALLWAY, I WAS VERY ANXIOUS ABOUT DOING DRUGS OF ANY KIND THEN AND I WAS TRIPPING TOO AND WE HAD BEEN SMOKING SYNTHETIC WEED ALL DAY, I KNOW NOW THAT SOME PEOPLE DIED BECAUSE OF SPICE, WHEN I READ PHILIP K. DICK’S EPILOGUE TO A SCANNER DARKLY I CRIED BECAUSE I WAS AFRAID I WOULD BE PUNISHED TOO, I WAS NOT CATHOLIC BUT MY GRANDMOTHER WAS BUT I AM OBSESSED WITH IT AND MY MOTHER THOUGHT IT WAS TOO COLD AND FORMAL AND RITUALISTIC, BUT AT A PROTESTANT CHURCH SHE CRIED WHEN THE PASTOR TURNED AWAY A MAN WHO HAD COME IN AND TAKEN A COAT BECAUSE HE WAS SO COLD, MY MOTHER GAVE THE MAN HER COAT AND SOME FOOD, I DON’T REMEMBER IF WE EVER WENT BACK AFTER THAT. WHAT KIND OF PERSON COULD DO THAT? WHO COULD TURN AWAY A MAN WHO DIDN’T EVEN STEAL A COAT, IN A CHURCH, BUT ONLY CAME IN, PUT ONE ON FROM THE COAT RACK, AND SAT DOWN IN THE INDOOR HEAT OF THE CHURCH FOYER? BUT WHAT IF I’M WRONG? THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS I DON’T REMEMBER. MY MOTHER SAID I WENT TO THERAPY THE FIRST TIME BECAUSE I WAS UPSET THAT A GIRL WAS BULLYING ME IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. I PRETENDED TO REMEMBER, AND AS IT CAME BACK I FELT LIKE IT WOULD BE LYING TO SAY I DIDN’T REMEMBER, BECAUSE HOW CAN YOU KNOW YOU FORGOT SOMETHING YOU DON’T REMEMBER? MAYBE SHE’S WRONG. I THINK THAT I WENT BECAUSE I WAS SO DEEPLY UPSET BY MY MALADAPTIVE DAYDREAMING. MAYBE WE’RE BOTH RIGHT. I REMEMBER TAKING MY NOTEBOOK AND SHOWING MY THERAPIST THE WAY MY WRITING LOOKED BECAUSE I THOUGHT IT WAS PRETTY, BUT I WOULDN’T LET HER READ IT. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT TRAUMA’S LIKE IT’S LIKE ENDLESSLY QUESTIONING YOURSELF, REMINDING YOURSELF WHO YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE, AND C-PTSD IS LITERALLY COMPLEX PTSD, WITH MORE THAN ONE TRAUMATIC EVENT, SEVERE ONGOING CHILDHOOD TRAUMA, SADLY EVERYTHING WAS WRONG WITH ME AND I COULDN’T UNDERSTAND IT, I NEVER FELT ACCEPTED EVEN WHEN I WAS, I DID SOME RESEARCH AND READ THAT AS I PREDICTED AUTISM IS CORRELATED WITH C-PTSD, ONE REASON MAY BE EXTREME SENSITIVITY, AN INABILITY TO EASILY INTEGRATE CHANGES IN ROUTINE, A BILLION THINGS THAT MAKE YOU EVEN MORE VULNERABLE. ONCE I READ AN ARTICLE THAT SAID BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER WAS THE “EXTREME FEMALE BRAIN” TO AUTISM’S “EXTREME MALE BRAIN.” ISN’T THAT HILARIOUS? THAT’S SO FUCKED UP BUT I CAN’T EVEN BE OFFENDED BECAUSE I AM NONBINARY AND IT JUST SEEMS TOO FITTING THAT I WOULD BE LIKE THIS. I FEEL LIKE THERE ARE TOO MANY DUALITIES JUST IN ME, AND THAT’S GAY TOO, AND THAT’S MENTAL ILLNESS TOO. PEOPLE SAY STUFF TO MULTIPLY-DISABLED PEOPLE LIKE “THAT’S A LOT OF THINGS” OR LIKE “HOW DO YOU LIVE IF YOU NEED ALL THIS SPECIAL TREATMENT” LIKE I DON’T! OKAY! I DON’T LIVE I JUST THINK LIKE A BRAIN IN A VAT, A “WILLIAM AND MARY” OR DONOVAN’S BRAIN KIND OF SITUATION, BECAUSE MY BODY DOESN’T WORK AND MY BRAIN DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK EITHER BUT I COULD PASS OUT AND SLEEP FOR FIVE HOURS AT ANY MINUTE SO I GUESS I’LL SIT HERE AND THINK AND TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHY THIS HAPPENED TO ME, NOT TO PITY MYSELF ALTHOUGH I DO THAT, BUT BECAUSE IT SEEMS SO STRANGE THAT ONE PERSON’S LIFE CAN BE SO INFINITELY DIFFERENT FROM ANOTHER’S, BECAUSE THERE’S SO MUCH SYNCHRONICITY AND THAT’S EVEN SYNCHRONOUS NOW, BECAUSE I ALWAYS THINK OF REPO MAN AND EVERYTHING TOUCHES EVERY OTHER THING AND THAT COMES BACK HERE TOO AND IT ALL LEADS BACK TO ONE PLACE BUT I CAN’T QUITE FIGURE OUT WHERE IT IS OR WHAT IT IS OR IF IT’S REALLY A PLACE OR MORE OF JUST LIKE A DIRECTION, IF IT’S A DIRECTION YOU MIGHT THINK IT NEEDS TO LEAD SOMEWHERE BUT I’M NOT SURE IF IT DOES, MAYBE IT JUST KEEPS GOING, I’VE SEEN GAY ART FOR TRUE DETECTIVE TOO: TIME IS A FLAT CIRCLE. I’D LIKE TO WRITE SOME OF THAT, AND MAD MEN. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WOULD WRITE. I WOULD HAVE TO WATCH IT AGAIN, AND THAT WOULD ADD ANOTHER CONNECTION TO EVERY PIECE OF INFORMATION IN MY HEAD, THERE ARE SO MANY BILLIONS OF COMBINATIONS, I FORGET WHAT YOU CALL THAT, PROBABILITY AND CHANCE AND STATISTICS, I JUST WISH SOMETIMES I COULD HAVE BEEN BORN FOR THAT INSTEAD OF JUST WRITING ABOUT SEEING THIS SIGNPOST OR WHATEVER I’M TALKING ABOUT. EVERYTHING IS SO CONFUSING THIS WAY. I HAVE SEEN SO MANY PEOPLE, TWO PEOPLE IN THE PAST DAY HAVE FOLLOWED ME ON TUMBLR WHO ARE FICTIONKIN WITH WILL GRAHAM, WHEN I HEARD ABOUT STUFF LIKE THAT I FEEL LIKE IT’S JUST A DIFFERENT RELIGION, SOME OF THEM LOOK AT IT THAT WAY TOO BUT I FEEL LIKE, EVERYTHING TO SOMEONE IS THEIR RELIGION, THEIR FAVORITE THING, THE THING THAT PLEASES THEM TO JUST THINK ABOUT AND KNOW THEY CAN ALWAYS PRETEND THAT’S WHAT’S GOING ON, I DON’T MEAN NONE OF IT IS GOING ON, I JUST MEAN THERE’S NO SINGLE REAL THING THAT’S GOING ON SO YOU CAN CHOOSE ANY WAY TO INTERPRET IT THAT YOU LIKE BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER KNOW WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING ANYWAY. YOU MAY AS WELL BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE SO SIMILAR TO WILL GRAHAM BECAUSE IN ANOTHER ONE OF THE INFINITE UNIVERSES, YOU ARE/WERE/WILL BE BUT ONLY IN THIS ONE CANON. HOW IS THAT DIFFERENT FROM ME IMAGINING THAT I’M HIM TO WRITE HOW I THINK HE WOULD AUTHENTICALLY FEEL IN A PARTICULAR SITUATION, KEEPING HIS WHOLE LIFE IN MIND, KEEPING IN MIND HOW HE MIGHT HAVE REACTED TO SIMILAR THINGS IN THE PAST, THE THINGS THAT HE WOULD THINK ABOUT IN THE SITUATION, WHAT IT REMINDS HIM OF, HOW THAT MAKES HIM FEEL ABOUT IT, HIS CURRENT PHYSICAL STATUS, WHETHER HE’S EATEN OR SLEPT OR TAKEN MEDICATION LATELY, HIS CURRENT ATTITUDE TOWARDS HIS PARTNER, WHETHER HE’S ANNOYED OR FEELING AFFECTIONATE AND WHY AND WHAT HAS HAPPENED LATELY AND HOW THAT IS GOING TO INFLUENCE WHAT HE DOES IN THIS SITUATION? WHAT CHOICES HE WILL EVENTUALLY MAKE? HOW IS THAT DIFFERENT FROM BELIEVING I CAN DO THESE THINGS BECAUSE I WAS OR AM OR COULD BE WILL GRAHAM? WHAT IS THAT CREEPYPASTA THING WHERE YOU CREATE A SENTIENT SELF-AWARE THOUGHTFORM WITH YOUR WILLPOWER? A TULPA. SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE YOU CAN REALLY DO THAT. REMEMBER THAT GIRL WHO PUT TUMBLR IN THE NEWS BECAUSE SHE WAS STEALING BONES FROM GRAVEYARDS AFTER FLOODS FOR USE IN HER “TUMBLR” WITCHCRAFT? CAN YOU PROVE SHE WOULDN’T HAVE GOTTEN BETTER RESULTS WITH HUMAN BONES THAN ANIMAL BONES? CAN YOU PROVE SHE WOULDN’T HAVE GOTTEN ANY RESULTS WITH HER SPELL? PANTHEISM IS THE BELIEF THAT THE UNIVERSE ITSELF IS GOD. THIS IS WHAT I BELIEVE. I BELIEVE IN THE WICCAN GOD AND GODDESS AS THE TWO OPPOSING THINGS AT THE CORE OF THE UNIVERSE, THE BINARY, WHICH IS BOTH A BINARY AND NOT A BINARY AT THE SAME TIME, YIN-YANG, DEISM, ETC. ISN’T IT ODD THAT IF YOU KNOW WHAT THOSE THINGS ARE, I WON’T HAVE TO EXPLAIN THEM? ISN’T IT STRANGE THAT IF YOU DO KNOW WHAT THOSE THINGS ARE, YOU ALMOST CERTAINLY DISCOVERED THEM IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WAY AND CAME TO THEM FOR COMPLETELY DIFFERENT REASONS THAT I DID? FURTHERMORE, I DON’T EVEN REMEMBER WHERE I FIRST HEARD ABOUT THEM, SO MAYBE WE DID COME ACROSS THEM THE SAME WAY, WE’LL JUST NEVER KNOW SO…I DON’T KNOW. I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY I’M SAYING HERE, EXACTLY. BUT I FEEL LIKE HANNIBAL IS SOMEHOW THE PERFECT LENS, THE PERFECT KEY FOR THE LOCK, MAYBE I REACHED THE REQUISITE AMOUNT OF TIME TO BECOME AN EXPERT AT SOMETHING, MAYBE IT’S NOTHING TO DO WITH HANNIBAL AT ALL BUT I REACHED SOME INTERNAL TIMER, MAYBE IT’S JUST ANOTHER COMPLETE COINCIDENCE (BUT ALSO MAYBE SYNCHRONICITY). SOMEONE DID TOO MANY HARD RESETS ON MY BRAIN BUT FOR SOME REASONS WE WILL NEVER KNOW I DON’T HAVE ALTERS I JUST HAVE EVERYONE I’VE EVER BEEN LAYERED ON TOP OF EACH OTHER. i feel all of their feelings at once but they are also all me so you could also say that i, singular, experience every feeling at once sometimes because of borderline personality disorder. you could say it’s complex post traumatic stress disorder. you could say it’s both. you could say it’s neither. i don’t know. do you think there’s any aspect of philosophy or poetry to mental illness? do you think a mental illness is affected by being observed? labeled? explain your answer please. no really i want to know. i am sort of addicted to other people’s opinions. i just look at things and think, have you seen this shit? what the hell do you make of this? isn’t humanity weird? do you think drugs cause mental illness? do you think they CAN? do you think having trauma from a drug-related accident while on drugs is drugs causing mental illness? am i splitting hairs? does that mean you should never do drugs? does it mean you should do drugs carefully? it means that nothing is predictable and nothing is safe. i had experience, she had experience, we were with friends, we were acting on the information available to us, i was trying to repeat a pleasurable experience and so was she. we had one. the first half of the trip consisted of laughing so hard with our friends that we cried. we just played with each other. anxiety and depression are impossible to explain away because it’s impossible to prove a negative. you can’t prove to me that i won’t die in the next sixty seconds. i probably won’t but you can’t prove anxiety wrong. and people who can’t accept that will never understand mental illness. you can’t prove to me that when i smell vomit where there is none that’s not a flashback. you can’t prove it’s not a hallucination from bpd psychosis. there is no objective standard for categorizing a symptom. you can’t look at the light spectrum of a symptom and see what it’s made of. you can’t prove that just because your mental illness has a theme, it means that this theme in your life caused the mental illness. you can’t prove i’m not a victim soul. you can’t prove that god didn’t choose me to suffer more in order to emulate the suffering of christ and bring more people to god. people believe that. how can you possibly prove that belief wrong? what is the difference between a religious belief that god has chosen you for extra suffering and a psychotic delusion of the same? only other people. a delusion is a belief that is not supported in your culture. if you believe in god, that is not a delusion to most people. if you lived in a completely godless society, you would be medically classified as a psychotic. a delusion is one person. folie à deux is two people, or a group of people, like a cult. a mass delusion is something like mass hysteria, mob behavior, those laughing and dancing fits that used to happen where they thought people were being tortured by the devil to laugh for dance for days on end. the salem witch trials. so as you can see, delusions spread outward until they become reality. there is no border line. jesus christ was a man—whether or not he was also god is debatable. he may not have ever truly told anyone that he believed himself to be the son of god—scholars believe he was certainly an apocalyptic, but he might not have been picturing himself as warning about something that he himself was bringing on. in fact he might not have been kidding around with metaphors when he said you should be ready all the time. there is evidence that jesus probably thought that the kingdom of god WAS right around the corner, in our lifetimes. but he died, and left, and someone either thought, or wanted someone else to think, at least a century later when the gospels were written, that he meant: live as if it’s coming. you can’t prove he did or didn’t say it. you can’t prove he did or didn’t mean that by it. anything out of your sight is schrodinger’s cat: prove to me right now that completely unobserved (yes even by cameras of any kind), a kid’s toys don’t get up and act out toy story. prove it. go on. i’m waiting. you can’t prove anything, no one can prove jack shit.

***

“Author’s Note” by Philip K. Dick1

excerpt from A Scanner Darkly (1977)

This has been a novel about some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did. They wanted to have a good time, but they were like children playing in the street; they could see one after another of them being killed—run over, maimed, destroyed—but they continued to play anyhow. We really all were very happy for a while, sitting around not toiling but just bullshitting and playing, but it was for such a terrible brief time, and then the punishment was beyond belief: even when we could see it, we could not believe it… For a while I myself was one of these children playing in the street; I was, like the rest of them, trying to play instead of being grown up, and I was punished. I am on the list below, which is a list of those to whom this novel is dedicated, and what became of each.

Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error in judgment. When a bunch of people begin to do it, it is a social error, a life-style. In this particular life-style the motto is “Be happy now because tomorrow you are dying.” But the dying begins almost at once, and the happiness is a memory. It is, then, only a speeding up, an intensifying, of the ordinary human existence. It is not different from your life-style, it is only faster. It all takes place in days or weeks or months instead of years. “Take the cash and let the credit go,” as Villon said in 1460. But that is a mistake if the cash is a penny and the credit a whole lifetime.

There is no moral in this novel; it is not bourgeois; it does not say they were wrong to play when they should have toiled; it just tells what the consequences were. In Greek drama they were beginning, as a society, to discover science, which means causal law. Here in this novel there is Nemesis: not fate, because any one of us could have chosen to stop playing in the street, but, as I narrate from the deepest part of my life and heart, a dreadful Nemesis for those who kept on playing. So, though, was our entire nation at this time. This novel is about more people than I knew personally. Some we all read about in the newspapers. It was, this sitting around with our buddies and bullshitting while making tape-recordings, the bad decision of the decade, the sixties, both in and out of the establishment. And nature cracked down on us. We were forced to stop by things dreadful.

If there was any “sin,” it was that these people wanted to keep on having a good time forever, and were punished for that, but, as I say, I feel that, if so, the punishment was far too great, and I prefer to think of it only in a Greek or morally neutral way, as mere science, as deterministic impartial cause-and-effect. I loved them all. Here is the list, to whom I dedicate my love:

To Gaylene, deceased
To Ray, deceased
To Francy, permanent psychosis
To Kathy, permanent brain damage
To Jim, deceased
To Val, massive permanent brain damage
To Nancy, permanent psychosis
To Joanne, permanent brain damage
To Maren, deceased
To Nick, deceased
To Terry, deceased
To Dennis, deceased
To Phil, permanent pancreatic damage
To Sue, permanent vascular damage
To Jerri, permanent psychosis and vascular damage

…and so forth.

In Memoriam. These were comrades whom I had; there are no better. They remain in my mind, and the enemy will never be forgiven. The “enemy” was their mistake in playing. Let them all play again, in some other way, and let them be happy.

***

An Open Letter to Philip K. Dick

Lauren Ashley
XXX Pennsylvania Avenue
Towson, Maryland 21286

“October 18, 2016”

Philip K. Dick
This Exact Actual Instant
But in 1 AD
When Jesus is on his way back, 2-3-74

Re: Your Exegesis

Dear Phil,

You don’t know me, because you are dead (you died in 1982). But if I recall correctly, you believed that all time since the first century, Anno Domini, had occurred and is occurring in one eternal instant. Didn’t you say that? I want to get this right.

Yes. You wrote about it, apparently, in your journals, portions published as The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, not published until 2011. So you wouldn’t know about that. You wrote about it elsewhere, though. I seem to remember that you sounded happy about it. Peaceful.

I think you would want people to know your good news. But I can’t tell from this Wikipedia page if you approved their future publishing. I think I could stand to have some of my journals published after I was dead, honestly. Especially now that my grandparents are dead and I don’t live at home. But a lot of them I’ve burned because they hurt to look at.

Exegesis: ex·e·ge·sis, eksiˈjēsis/, noun, critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture. I’ve heard that defining words in writing is boring but I don’t care. I didn’t know what it meant, and I wanted to know. I think you would understand that too. Maybe? I don’t want to project onto you. I know a little bit about you, I don’t remember, I’d need to go back.

I remembered why I wanted to write to you. I read your description of the vision you experienced, and number one, it sounds to me like if I write to you, there’s a chance you could somehow receive the message, I think. If I’m existing in the same moment as you, maybe I’m a secret Christian in Roman times too. It’s a nice thing to think about, I think.

So I just wanted to say hi, fellow secret Christian, because I honestly think maybe you could hear me somehow, and if so that would be incredibly cool, so hi. (No one can prove you can’t hear me, by the way.) Also, if you are the Prophet Elijah, either in addition to or instead of Thomas, that is extremely cool and I am honored, sir. I congratulate you heartily on your  anamnesis—a Greek word meaning, literally, “loss of forgetfulness,” according to, again, your Wikipedia article, which you may not be aware of either, but basically, it’s your encyclopedia entry. Cool, right? I hope I have one sometime. I think if you got one, I could get one for sure.

Anyway, what do you think, if you can hear me? I heard that salvation gets boring (voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while). I think the eternal hope of Jesus is probably salvation. So yes, anyway, here’s one question: is this a thought experiment, or is it a delusion? Does it depend on why I’m testing it? If I was testing it as a display of my faith, would that be a delusion? If I did it because I wanted to see if anything happened, I think that would just be an experiment.

I like it, it makes me feel like a Lovecraft protagonist. Those super queer mad young scientists, desperate to know even if it destroys them, played by Jeffrey Combs up here in the pretend future, Herbert Wests, clutching their Dan Canes, their only confidantes, to their chests, like toilet paper screeds pushed through a hole from another cell in the asylum (or delivered in your mail, maybe!). It’s almost, you know, like this thing we have “now” where the pairing is whoever and YOU!!! the reader!!! and the story is about how Legolas is in love with you and you fuck ten times a day and have beautiful elf babies and you’re the Queen of the Woodland Realm and you sleep on those platform things, but the fanciest one, and Legolas just fucking loves the shit out of you and you’re perfect.

I actually love it, now that I think about it. When he writes to whoever in the various letters and “if you’re reading this, I’ve already gone mad with the forbidden knowledge of the vastness of the universe, and also I’m already dead because this knowledge is driving me to kill myself in horror so goodbye please burn that weird book it’s not interesting don’t read it” suicide notes, it’s like Lovecraft whispering these horrible slimy fantasies in your ear while you’re fucking (just kidding I think Lovecraft was probably a virgin like Tesla) and you’re just like “JESUS CHRIST what is wrong with you??” and that’s like, his fantasy. That’s what he got off on. And racism. What I’m saying is Lovecraft would have been into tentacle rape.

Anyway (again), excuse me, I don’t know how you felt about this. Did people in your “time” have such a concept as “romanticizing mental illness”? You were born in…1928 (jeez) and you died in 1982, as I mentioned. So you were 20 years old in…1948?! God. Thirty in 1958, forty in 1968, fifty in 1978, sixty in 19—well, you know. But does that matter at all? I don’t know. Presumably if you’re reading this you probably have perfect knowledge of all time and space because you’re like, one with God. So I’ll stop trying to explain things.

Here’s what I wanted to say. I read about your vision, your 2-3-74 thing, and I definitely want to read all your writing about it. You really wrote a lot though, so it may “take me a while.”

I heard you were also into Adderall. Nice.

So like is this romanticizing you? Is it humoring you? You’re “dead,” so I can’t really do you any harm by “humoring” you. But the truth is, I am allowed to write this letter, however I damn well please, because I’m crazy too, and I really wish I could talk to you about your vision, or delusion, or whatever you want to call it, I don’t care. It’s so beautiful.

What a beautiful vision of the world! The eternal happy knowledge that Jesus is not only unquestionably a real guy, but you are part of his inner circle (were/are/will you be the Disciple Thomas? I’m not sure), you get to bring love and beauty to the entire world, you get to be right, and furthermore when Jesus comes back he’s probably going to say something about good and faithful servants, and then you’ll go to fucking Heaven.

Maybe Heaven is like (again) Lovecraft, or looking in the Ark of the Covenant, or seeing God’s uncovered glory: we can’t actually experience it, because it would just like obliterate our tiny minds. Angels can hang out in Heaven, but we can’t actually go there, it’s just like, where God lives. So instead, God created a slightly gentler heaven, with a lowercase H, for us, which is where you/we are. Or maybe…you were having visions of Purgatory. I forget, is Purgatory supposed to be good or bad? Like is it Heaven Lite or Hell Lite? And what’s the other one called, for the unborn souls?

Let’s see, Saint Catherine said: “Tongue cannot express nor heart understand the full meaning of purgatory, which the soul willingly accepts as a mercy the realization that that suffering is of no importance compared to the removal of the impediment of sin.” So it’s just kind of like a “hey you could be in here and you should work towards that or you’ll go to Hell” sort of thing, although it looks like it does involve fire. Oh well.

I remembered Jesus, who had just recently been with us, and had gone temporarily away, and would very soon return. My emotion was one of joy. We were secretly preparing to welcome Him back. It would not be long. And the Romans did not know. They thought He was dead, forever dead. That was our great secret, our joyous knowledge. Despite all appearances, Christ was going to return, and our delight and anticipation were boundless.2

I’m going to be straight up with you and say this is the most beautiful thing I ever heard and I 100%, very very much hope that you were right. For you, and for me.

Because when I read this, and probably every other time I read it, and when I read your “Author’s Note,” my heart breaks for you. It’s so beautiful, Phil. Like I don’t know you at all, but what a beautiful vision of eternal happiness and the knowledge of being loved and justified. And I think “delight and anticipation” is the perfect dream of Heaven. Heaven is supposed to be the eternal, perfect presence of God. I think maybe that’s the only way the human brain can interpret it, as happiness that Jesus is not only out there, but coming back, and specifically for you, to take you somewhere you’ll be happy forever, which I guess in this situation would be right now.

I just really, really want it to be true, Phil. I didn’t like letting go of Christianity. I think it was the only way, and now I have pantheism, which in a way means that it is true (as Jesus is/was part of the universe and therefore, part of God), but I think part of the special happiness of truly believing in a Christian God is the sense of rightness. The sense of justification. Like if you were ever a devout Christian, and you strived to live your life in that way, and you woke up in Heaven, you would be like “I was RIGHT! I was right!” and then you’d probably cry and go look for your dead relatives and such.

So for that reason, I hope that you can hear me say I believe you, Phil, or Thomas, however you would like to be addressed (I want to stress again that I am being completely sincere).

I think there’s a thing to mental illness and religion. I think religious delusions are common because it’s so…beautiful to imagine yourself wanted and uniquely, unconditionally loved. When I was a young kid (I was a weird kid and for quite a while I was very obsessed with religion and the Bible), when I tried to imagine Heaven, I sometimes cried, because to me it seemed that Heaven would be an eternal sense of relief, which is both a very nice and very melancholy feeling, and I kind of like the joyousness of yours better.

Actually, does that mean we’re both in Heaven right now? That doesn’t seem right.

Anyway, I hope that you tell Jesus hello when he gets there, and that I miss him. I may think of something else to write you later.

Sincerely,

Lauren Ashley

1. Dick, Philip K. A Scanner Darkly. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977. Print.
2. “The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Oct. 2016. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

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