During those seven years that I lived in the hole under my parents’ house, I had three sort of metaphors for my existence. First, I called myself a “walking abortion.” Maybe I felt, having been graduated from college and then having a “nervous breakdown” that the arch of my life had been aborted. Like sort of when they shot up a rocket and it starts to go crazy and they abort it. Or maybe like I had been aborted, thrown into a trashcan, not yet dead and somehow I had crawled out and lived. Which may have come from the sense that I wasn’t really wanted.
But I also thought of myself as a rocket that had not been aborted. I had been launched off, out of control, and souring into the void. The void is a particular place. You can visit it though why the hell anybody would want to go there, I don’t know. Artaud went there and did some good writing about the void—especially when he was in the lunatic asylum. The void is beyond emptiness; rather it is the perpetual ache of emptiness or emptiness aware of itself as such. The void is like a vortex that draws you more and more deeply in. Or maybe like Nietzsche said, when you stare into the abyss, it stares into you. But the void is hard to put into words.
I met a cook who had been raised in South Carolina and had done some heavy duty drugs in the 60s. We were talking about something, and she said, “You know about the void?” Which she said—“void”—dragging it out with a soft southern drawl. Sure, I said. She had been to the void too. Whenever we bumped into each other, we asked how the “void” was that day because once you step into the void you can’t ever get rid of it completely.
Artaud said, “Where there is a stink of shit there is a smell of being.” My kind of guy.
But he’s right of course. Because my other metaphor was that I was a walking “biochemical experiment.” The more I read about brain science and the more drugs I took of both the under and over kind, the more I felt I was a body and no more than that at all. Just a bunch of biochemicals, an interweaving of genetics, aging, and whatever the hell was going on in the immediate environment. If I wasn’t dead yet or hadn’t committed suicide, that had nothing to do with me—my body just wanted to live was all, and I was along for the ride.
So one day you feel better and you want to take credit for that, like you had done something to make yourself feel better, so you think maybe it was a movie you saw or doing yoga or something, and you try to repeat it but nothing happens. Because what you felt had nothing at all to do with the puny conscious mind but was he result of some weird-assed shift in your biochemical being—some sort of interconnection between the cells of the brain and the particular light of the sun, on that particular evening, as it arrived at a precise and unrepeatable angle.