Thursday, March 17, 2157
So what sent me over the edge over a week ago? I have it on my lap: a book called Titans.
That Saturday I remember getting up early and going outside for a walk. It was already hot, so I didn’t stay outside for long. I’ve spent so little time outside since arriving at the desal plant that I forgot what reality felt like. The building is well air-conditioned. Back inside, I drifted as I often did to the library.
That’s where I found Titans.
I had heard about the book about when it first came out, about 30 years ago. It was published in Europe. Copies made it stateside after a fashion. Most things get here only after a fashion. No one concerns themselves about the fate of also-rans. I knew what it was about, and just avoided it. Others denounced it as garbage. I laughed at that shit. I did not engage, but I laughed hard at their defensiveness.
Titans. Giants. Larger than life demigods. Every era has had them. Carnegie and Rockefeller. Ford and Edison. Gates and Jobs. Bezos and Zuckerman. Every era.
The titans of this book were singled out as the main perpetrators of The Change. They made water a sacred word and scarce commodity. They made the oceans rise. They made the world get hotter. They made the plants die. They made the storms stronger and more violent. They did it by doing what they had always done: build their businesses bigger and better and faster and richer than any business ever in the history of mankind. They made those latter-day demigods I mentioned earlier look like nothing.
They destroyed everything, so the story goes.
In time I got defensive about it, too, even as I laughed at those who protested the book’s publication. I wanted it both ways. Yes, I admit that a class of people existed who fomented The Change. I just disagreed that my great-granddad was one of them.
Whenever I’m confronted with reality – like seeing how the Bay swallowed up most of Berkeley and Oakland – my love/hate relationship with him festers. That’s when the voices occur. The more I rationalize his actions, the worse the voices get. I get apologetic. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. But I can never say it enough.
So I was in the library, looking at this book, not reading it, not even touching it, just looking at it. Its mere presence triggered the voices. Murderer. Killer. Assassin. Hitler. Hitler. Hitler. You’re worse than Hitler.
No, I said, not me. I’m not part of that world. I divorced myself from that world.
They don’t believe me and scream louder. Murder. Killer. Assassin. Hitler.
I lapsed into the I’m sorrys, tearfully pleading with them to leave me alone. But I can’t say it enough to appease them. I never can.
Sans pills, I found no other defense than taking my own life. And that’s what I tried. It wasn’t the first time. To understand this, you need a lesson on bogo.
Many fanciful theories exist to explain the word’s origin. I subscribe to this one:
Bogo is a corruption of pogo, as in pogo stick. When you dance bogo, you jump up and down in one place, as if on a pogo stick, so it fits.
An extension of this theory claims that the bogo dance actually came from the Pago Pago Islands. The natives from that island devised the dance as a street theater protest against The Change. You see, they would jump up and down to get above the rising waters and gasp for air, so the story goes.
It was all probably an urban legend. I never wanted to believe it, though in my heart I probably did.
Whether it was true or not, us dryfoots on the mainland adopted the dance as a nihilist battle cry. In clubs that played bogo, they constructed a false ceiling that was maybe a bit over six feet off the floor. If you jumped hard enough, you’d smash your head through it. Kids would go all night, smashing their heads through the plaster and light timber, until they passed out. Even the Catholic Church never came up with a self-flagellation that severe.
My folks did not allow me to go to bogo clubs. That’s why I ended up trashing my room. I didn’t hit my head through the high ceilings. I hit it against the wall a few times instead.
That was my first attempt. I didn’t get very far. I felt so stupid that I just ended up trashing my room. This time, though, I felt more determined. Instead of smashing my head through the wall or against the bookcases of the library, I hit it against the floor, repeatedly.
Walter found me before I did any real damage, though I’m sure I became mildly concussed.
When I came to a couple of days later, I told him about my great-granddad, about the voices. He said that he had a great-granddad, too, that we all did.
I told him that he didn’t understand. I came from money. Lots and lots of money. I could have lived my life up in Toronto or on the Great Slave Lake or any of the other A zoned areas in the north, in complete luxury. I chose not to, I said.
Don’t forget, he said, I chose to live here. I’ve also heard voices.
That’s when I cried. I had never met any other person who heard voices like I had. I swear, all these years that I was the only one. I’m 57, and I thought I was the only one.
No, he said, you are not.
I told him about my fascination with postwar Germany. I wanted to learn how they dealt with guilt.
It took time, he said. They didn’t deal with it right away, he said. They had folks that held up mirrors, like Fassbinder, who forced the issue. Today, he said, we are all isolated, even those in the A-zones. Our culture is too fragmented, detached from itself.
I don’t want to live in that fantasyland, he said. It’s better to know the voices, recognize them for what they are.
He still wanted to show me what he wanted to show me. It would put everything into perspective, he said.
But only, he added, when you are ready.
© 2015, gar. All rights reserved.