There wasn’t much time to reflect on the accident. The casualty was taken away in the hot daylight. There was an awkward group moment following. The instructor said a few words of encouragement and caution to the assembled and then chuckled a little to himself like he know what that was like, or like he had almost lost some fingers, too, at some moment in time. He then shook his head and said, Well…. But he said nothing further for a moment as he glanced around the little blood-spattered scene.
For an instant, Dean made the sickening association with the Reservoir Dogs warehouse. He couldn’t help looking at the machine with the slippery fluid on it’s clean steel. They didn’t belong together. That was one of the secrets to Reservoir Dogs and the whole Tarantino oeuvre, he thought. It wasn’t a new thing, but it was something familiar taken for a spin in a twisted way. Something irreconcilable. A little manipulative, he thought. But, he couldn’t stop the gaze. The scene in the car. Black suit, white seat, red blood. It had the effect of making the person disappear, turn into a stand-in. The kid with the paddle for a hand would now march through life with a deformity. His fingers would be found in the sawdust but it would be too late for them. The girl who found the one finger was endlessly rubbing her hands with anti-bacterial hand-gel. Everybody was fucked mentally. Just like Paul Auster had surmised the Greatest Generation was actually insane because of all the killing and destruction and broken homes from WW II. Their kids were the ones who launched the sixties. Most of Dean’s peers were born out of the sixties to seventies, which meant that all their parents were fucked up by their parents who were fucked up by the war in one way or another. Seems like there is always a war to fuck up a whole generation or a good group of them, anyway. Dean was pissed that he had to witness that and keep that awful paddle image in his mind. He wasn’t pissed at Tarantino, but he was pissed at the stupid kid for making him more fucked up than he already was.
They returned to the trailer and with no desks yet sat upon the rich-smelling indoor-outdoor carpeting with notebooks. They sat like a class of little children. Where had the other desks gone? There were actually a few, but they were a little wrecked from previous abuse or in various states of dismantlement. It was impossible to concentrate and the instructor suggested they adjourn for the day, but somebody had to say, No, no. It’s OK. Really and then others piled in and agreed it was OK. So they commenced with the assignment that didn’t require a desk: they were going to walk around the neighborhood. To Dean, this seemed like a bad idea. Some of the others seemed excited at the prospect of discovery in this other ecology.
They walked out to the lot and put things in cars and got things out of cars and smoked and threw things in trunks or pulled things out. They zipped and unzipped backpacks. Jesus, these people were using backpacks. In the seat of his dad’s car, the car he inherited, the mini-van, was the little 8.5×11 portfolio that got him into the program. Inkjet printed on the printer in the empty house and assembled in a very un-clever stationary store way, it was a compilation of various explosive moments of creative energy over the last few years. None of it remotely had anything to do with architecture, he thought. But there you go. It worked anyway and they were looking for signs, signals, indications that one had a potential for designing buildings.
The entire process was completed while still angry and agonizing about…. About what, exactly. So many things. His dad was dying, his mom was crazy, they were old. His first marriage had fallen apart. Though it didn’t fall apart so much as come crashing to the ground when he finally went crazy and simply blurted out that he wanted a divorce and then ran away from the little apartment to his childhood room and slept of half-slept fitful anxiety-ridden nights in his too-small childhood single bed. It felt like the dorms but smaller and his feet had to hang off of the corners and his neck was always scrunched up and aching in the morning. It took him forever to wake up. When he woke up he had no idea what to do. At least it wasn’t the stupid futon he dragged from apartment to apartment in his undergraduate years. No matter where he went he seemed to have just awful beds and was always tired and aching from them.
Some of the images had come from the period leading up to this return to the childhood room. The marriage, his desperate attachment to something while on the road in the developing world, was just starting to consciously crack. He thinks he was intentionally doing things to make it impossible to stay in the marriage. Becoming a poet seemed like a good start. There were other things, but becoming a poet wouldn’t put him in jail and just might make him…happy. Content, at least. Perhaps a little office at a nice university someplace. Or perhaps a hovel with discarded bottles of port and flies buzzing about his bent, un-showered, suffering artist self. He likes to call this his poet phase. That is what he was trying to do then. Job description: poet.
In the spirit of pursing this ambition he set about to write and once it had been decided he put all his energy and consciousness into it–to the exclusion of just about everything else. He had stopped keeping in touch with friends. Stopped going out. His then wife from a foreign country, who could barely speak English, tolerated all of this and simply gave him the space to obsess about little literary journals who rejected his efforts soundly.
At night he would travel all the way up to the writers group and each time read a poem, no matter how bad or how long. He knew the poems were good, even if people didn’t understand them. He was becoming eccentric. He was not spending enough time with people. He was taking on strange hand gestures and facial expressions. His hair was wild and his eyes were constantly bloodshot.
He once had the opportunity to meet Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate under Clinton (Clinton is another story). After the Poet Laureate had read from his new book and opened the floor to questions, Dean, feeling compelled to stand out and somehow validate his desire to be like him, asked the most stupid question he could think of: “What sustains you as a poet?” Yes. That is bad, isn’t it. A complete blunder the moment it came out of his mouth. The audience sighed collectively and many turned and gave him nasty looks of derision and contempt. Even the security guard hated him and wanted to throw him out of the Barnes & Noble. He was sub-consciously asking the PL how he made enough money to be a poet so he could plan his own career trajectory. The PL took it another way…or maybe he didn’t. His answer went on for a full ten minutes and ate up the entire time for questions–much to the annoyance of the already angry mob. His answer was a litany of poet’s names, one after the other in no particular order. Dean stood the entire time while he patiently pelted him with Keats, Dickinson, et al, et al, et al. Not being satisfied, he replied, “Yes, but you can’t eat them.”