May 23, 2013
Mr. Fish’s New Year’s Dissolution
Posted on Jan 7, 2011
By Mr. Fish
I was 14 years old and it was just after dinner on the last day of summer vacation in the Alabama portion of Southern Jersey, where the only black people I ever saw were sunburned Italians. This was in 1980, just a few months before the gruesome murder of John Lennon and the even more gruesome election of Ronald Raygun into the White House, neither tragedy I’ve ever completely recovered from, and my mood was rapidly filling with a dread like wet cement as I looked to the horizon, which was just beginning to blaze with the electric sherbet of an early September sunset.
With the first day of school sitting like a thug on the other side of sundown, thumping its great club of institutionalized disapproval of all that I ever hoped to become against its very dull palm, I was determined to yank my bike from the loud gewgaws crammed inside the garage for one last ride through the woods to the Ocean Acres Lake. There I planned on stripping down to my underwear and, for one last time before homework and curfew turned me into something so much less spectacular, to catapult myself from my bicycle seat and charge through the mosquitoes and the weeds and plunge myself into the piss-brown water and press myself down into the cool slime of the lake bed, one of the larger rocks rolled over onto my belly, and to lay there in my diving mask and snorkel and watch the nighttime come from three feet underwater. The snorkel had been made using three separate snorkels, one roll of black electrical tape and a small piece of dirty Styrofoam that acted as the cartilage that kept the nostril of the whole contraption set firmly against the breeze above the water. Sucking on the sky as if it were an impossibly huge bong containing all the magnificent lies that made a 14-year-old boy feel as if he were no more accountable to the treachery of things than a piece of cherry smoke, I would lounge beneath the water near enough to napping to savor complete relaxation without sleeping through it, a living angel hovering weightless inside an atmosphere of water and peering down upon heaven, pitying the souls there for not knowing the bliss of living inside meat so moved by both the buoyancy and confinement of flesh.
The best afternoons contained thunderstorms. Tucked safely enough below the horizon of the lake for the lightning to require hours of digging with a bucket to find me, I’d experience what every great composer must’ve been searching for in the composition of his symphonies yet was never able to capture, largely because of the crappy visuals that polite society demanded that he use when communicating his music—namely, the image of one man waving a stick around above the heads of a large group of other men, and eventually some women, all of them dressed as an immense waitstaff. Occasionally there was permitted the added visual of actors behaving flamboyantly inside the magnification of jewel-encrusted opera glasses; however, small improvement, particularly when the actors seldom even sang, much less spoke, in the language or century of their audience.
My symphonies, on the other hand, were automatically relevant and always began with a sky swelling dramatically into a fantastic bruise, heavy with the telepathy of a God weary of his own sweet understanding of everything and wishing that he could know less and explode into sand like a mountain aching to be touched by the bare feet of his own estranged children. This effect was followed by dainty water rings piccoloing in a flurry of O’s as lightly as tiny bells and leading ultimately to the sort of crescendo that one might imagine the conception of the universe must’ve looked like: static full of flashes of fire, physics in the throes of intercourse, nudity capable of no further lewdness, a nakedness stripped to the atomic level. It was a violence that poked such excitement into my soul that once it ended there was always the sensation that I’d been emptied, that my spirit had been pulled out of me, leaving me to gather, like collecting coins from a dark theater’s floor, memories of what my prior spirituality must’ve been, its value invisible to me. Twenty minutes after every storm I would emerge from the water feeling incomplete, like a loose confederacy of dishonest recollections, or at least a ghost that had been stitched together so weakly that my very will to be seemed in danger of fragmenting inside the vibration of my own footfalls as I pushed my bike through the steamy air back to the garage, the chemistry of my insides stirred hard into a swirling cloud of undrinkable water.
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