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AMSTERDAM

by

Travis Jeppesen

I just swallowed a bunch of fresh mushrooms we bought at some headshop type place as fast as I possibly could cos I knew if I had to taste them one more time this week, I'd probably puke my guts out.

Now I'm writing this.

I'm hoping to get some work done, whatever 'work' is supposed to mean nowadays, but I wouldn't mind some sort of sensual relief for this stiff neck of mine. I obviously slept the wrong way on this shitty bed in this shitty apartment we're renting in this shitty canal house from that pigcunt American who thinks we're retarded. But instead of going away, the stiffness is spreading throughout my body. It'll eventually take over and I'll be left a board or a corpse, at least. I can't ask Philip for a massage because he's busy staring at something. I'm not sure what. He took twice the dose I did, so I guess he's not in need of any kind of external stimulation.

Suddenly, he sits up with this mischievous smile on his face. He says he was remembering that 80s pop song 'I Want to be Rich'. That's probably because he wants to be rich.

'Do you know who sang that one?' he asks me.

I have no idea. Why would I? I was just a kid in the 80s, so I liked everything I heard, and I've never really wanted to be rich. But sometimes I get sick of being hungry.

'This music is a bit monotonous' is the next thing he says to me, and I think he's right, at least I'm not feeling it at the moment as I start to phase out. We're listening to Add N to X's first album and a lot of it is repetitious sci-fi signaling. The songs drone on forever and yeah, he's right, it may be too much, not now, maybe I can take it later, I don't know what's wrong with me cos it's usually fine.

So he gets up off the bed and puts on a Bobby Conn record. He doesn't wanna go out at night, he just wants to stay at home, do drugs, and listen to great music. I guess that's fine by me. Maybe he's breaking me down, smashing my will to smithereens, leading me down these vegetative corridors to some sort of private oblivion no one else can understand. Or maybe he's just doing it to himself but can't stand the thought of going in there alone. It's better to have someone beside you when you're descending somewhere you probably won't emerge from.

I can't read these scenes when I'm involved, when my presence is polluting the center of the perspective like a fat polka dot. I always try to imagine a third person or a camera there, recording it all. Then I could watch it later to observe what I was unable to do at the time. I think that's why I feel so close to the television, much closer than I've ever felt to another human being. Because it soothes me when I need it to soothe me, when everyone else just ignores me. The one good thing about this overpriced dump is free TV. I keep it on all day, even though I never watch it. Like it's on right now but I'm not paying attention, I'm writing this and listening to Bobby Conn.

The other good thing about it is the view. You look out the window and we're right in front of a canal. There's the street below us, which is usually pretty quiet, then there's the canal, and on the other side of the canal is a highway and some ugly office buildings I try my best to ignore.

I'm looking out the window now and the water is glimmering gold, as though there are lights below the surface, illuminating it from within. I want to believe so badly in the unreality of what I'm seeing that I do believe it, at least for a moment, during the course of which my eyes are opened wider than they've ever been before. I think about inviting Philip to the window to share the view because I kind of want to know if he sees it too or if I've just fallen victim to vision once again, but I decide against it once I finally realize that it's merely the streetlights lingering above reflected in the shimmering surface of the canal. My spirits are momentarily squashed. I think about how artificial light seems to ruin everything, and I damn it to hell in my mind.

I thought I had discovered a new kind of water, untainted by the manmade world, and as I turn my head away from the window with this minor frustration -- already passing -- locked up inside me and direct my gaze across the length of the room, I realize another hour has passed and not much has happened outside of my head. Maybe the music has changed and the TV has made one of its numbing hourly revolutions, or Philip has taken a shower or is writing music in the kitchen. I do not regard my time spent staring out the window as wasteful indulgence. Drugs sharpen your awareness of the present moment while annihilating all the inanities of the past, especially when you feel that much of the past has been one long, extended inanity, one that you cannot otherwise combat, one that cannot be broken. Of course it's not a perfect scenario; there's no such thing.

Sometimes I worry about being too self-involved. Then I worry about Philip being too self-involved. I have to wonder whether or not two people who are as self-involved as we are can truly connect with each other, or with anyone else for that matter. Perhaps everyone, the entire world, is self-involved. Then again, perhaps there's no such thing as a self. I like that idea, as romantic as it may seem, floating about in a selfless world. But I have to get over it, that youthful idealism, and move on because I can't continue to see the world this way. It's not conducive to survival. But do I want to survive? I don't want to think about it. I just want to feel something. But I can't. Not at this point. I'm so overwhelmed by the heightening of every sensation that I am totally numb, can't even move, vegetated.

I look over at Philip and it looks as though he's feeling (not feeling) the same; I can't be bothered to ask him. What if I'm just fooling myself. What if I never finish writing this book? What will I do then? No thoughts. I have to break the silence to tell Philip I think I'm going crazy. Honest panic, I don't really know why. I live in a self-designed maze of contradictions and I need to find a way out. It's all too much, but I'm sitting in this same black chair I've been seated in all evening, totally immobile, staring at the TV screen and I still have no idea what I'm seeing. Then I realize that instead of elevating my sensations to some profoundly unattainable level, the shrooms have dulled, blinded me.

I want it to end, but I'm powerless, no control anymore over my own body, my own life. That's the point, the pleasure is supposed to consist of relinquishing control, but now I want it back.

Hallucinogens have lost their effect, now I'm just affected, affected by my own defects. I worry about this loss I am unable to name.

Where am I?

Why did I come here, leave my country behind to become a permanent tourist, an exile in a life I no longer comprehend?

I have lost the facility of the early years, when everything seemed taken care of, no worries.

Philip says we should smoke some pot, maybe it will calm me down. And it does. Now I am going somewhere else, the waters are less murky. But the locals still hate us. It's like I need to create obstacles in my life because I get nervous when everything seems to be running smoothly. What has gone wrong? We will start an ant colony here, Philip and I, no kings or saviors admitted. Reality has melted away -- it's miles behind us. No fears. No sorrow. By eliminating that type of stultified iconography, our trust will be instilled in more natal forms. We've always lived at night, breathing toward the future, as facile a concept it may seem: writing through the future to avoid living it. There won't be any inhibitions because it will be devoid of any prefabricated ideas re the whole scheme.

In my mind, things play themselves out, every gesture scripted, everything is so preordained it allows for no meaning behind any of it. And so destitute remains. The tender desperation of the present and its wariness to assert itself. Now I'm smoking and blaming all my problems on Beckett. In a few years, I will have nothing to say, just like today -- to think of when I was younger, barely alive and yet so many words brimming forth. Didacticism.

And when I find myself empty, I will do something stupid and extreme like write a novel. Here's where it starts. Here's where it ends. That simple. Tell an interesting story. A story must be rich in flavor, not like flat cola. I wanted, initially, to go barer than bare. I've always seen myself as a visual artist not a writer -- albeit a failed one. The passive assertion is nothing. I think if I was a painter, I'd do absolutely nothing. But that means I am a painter.

Philip brings me a glass of water which I sip, obediently. I'm not thirsty, but I haven't pissed in hours, so I'd better force myself to replete. I'm thinking of taking a shower. I need to think of a way to get out of this town. Stuck in a rut, time to move on. I can't continue lying to myself, pretending to like it here. This place doesn't like us: it rains on us every day and the crazy woman upstairs is spying on us, tape records our conversations.

Philip is reading the new Dylan biography so he slips Blonde on Blonde into the CD player. The blanket that covers me is red. Smoke some pot. The blanket that covers me is red. My last thought before I rise for the first time this evening: Bob Dylan is just some guy. Like you or me. Nothing special. No heroes.

I walk into the kitchen to turn the computer off and look out the window. Day's breaking over the canal, spoiling the safety of my previous illusion (the golden water) with its placid coloring (it makes me sick), the cars darting past on the highway contrasted with the cars parked along the street below me. I pick one out, an ugly navy jeep, and attempt to bend it in half with the power of my mind, but alas, the night has ended and my brain is fatigued after suffering through the torrential storm I've subjected it to.

I draw the blinds over this final landscape. On the back of the curtains, I see a clown jumping over an old friend's head. You're dead, but deep inside you hope for another beginning, one that doesn't take too long, preferably the length of a television commercial.






ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Travis Jeppesen's first novel, Victims, is forthcoming from Akashic Books. Neomania, a screenplay based on Lautreamont's Les Chants de Maldoror, real-life teen murderers and death metal is in preproduction. Jeppesen is a Contributing Editor to Pavement Magazine, and a music columnist for Dorf Disco. So far, he's lived in the southern United States, Seattle, New York, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam. Now he's exiled somewhere in Eastern Europe.








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