Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reflex-ions (or: You're Old Enough Boy, Too Many Summers You've Enjoyed)

I loathe money, not the actual thing of it, but how much I love having it. I love having money--the luxury it affords, the ease of life it enables, and the authority it bestows--so very much that I quickly get rid of all it as decadently as possible. Vestiges of bourgeois guilt, no doubt. This simply means that I am often broke. (Or a compulsive spender... and an alcoholic--drunk just sounds vulgar, like when people say I am "addicted" to cigarettes: hardly: I simply can't live without the sweet pleasure of always having release when I want it.)

This evening I attempted to write my first bad check--that is, a check I know would bounce--and I would have gotten away with it had I been the proud bearer of an Illinois state identification card or drivers license. But, I refuse to let go of my status as a New York citizen; I simply live in Chicago: when it comes to it, my body was formed in NY. Livid, and now panicked, I decided to recall some old tricks from my youth, from days when, broke but desperate to get to NYC, I would hop trains and hide in the bathroom while the conductors made their rounds. The thrill of hiding from these men in a cell reeking of piss, floors matted with moist and shit-smeared toilet paper--the pleasure of evading their gaze, the joy of stealing into the city to lead a deviant life: the beauty of a criminal at the apex of his anxiety.

But I've changed since, I suppose. Those furtive glances necessary for a petty crook to ply his trade, to dodge the call of Law, they do not come so easily any more. No doubt, the abjected life of a highschool kid terrorized by juiced-up goons equips one with the needed tension in the jaw, the constant to the point of soothing ache in hunched shoulders, the quickness of stride to adopt a criminal life. But, until recently, I haven't been called a faggot; I don't seek out in faces the momentary glimmer of violence that allowed me to survive. Now, should I even deign to look at anyone's face as I walk down a street, it is with a sneer or an indifferent contempt. Unless, of course, I'm in Boystown, in which case I also can conjure a seductive smile, but nothing permanent.

I made my way to work, though I didn't hide in bathroom stalls. Rather, by some small, quotidian moment of charity (more on that in a moment) the conductor ignored the fact that my 10 ride ticket was extinguished and clipped away at it anyway, adding as he slid the rumpled card into its slot, "This is used up now." His charity and my ticket. Punctured, shot-through: dead-now. The shame of poverty lies in its reliance on charity. Nietzsche writes, "The magnanimous person... strikes me as a person with a most extreme thirst for vengeance, who sees satisfaction nearby and drinks it down already in imagination...." In accepting charity one becomes a body to be drained by the vampiric desire for revenge. One must suffer the haughtiness of one's "benefactor"-- drink his "gift" (in German "gift" is "poison"--a transliteration that sustains the nobility of those people, and the feeble-mindedness of ours).

I lashed out--I was bold, reckless, daring: dangerous. As I boarded the train to come home I walked by a coterie of teenagers and snagged one of their tickets, like it was a low-hanging apple and I was bandit enjoying the redeeming shadows of twilight, skipping through an orchard outside the town where my victim would soon be discovered. The boy whose ticket it was saw my theft and just as I sat confronted me, but my pride repelled him, like heat casts away a moth from the glimmer of a flame. "You don't need it any more," I snapped matter of factly and he said something about knowing where I was at if he did. The conductor came round as I was fumbling to slide the stolen ride home into its catch and helped me get it in before continuing down the aisle of the train car. I bounded up, very nearly pranced down the stairs and into the adjacent car where this gaggle of children were sitting, and with a flippant "thanks for the loan" restored his ticket to its rightful place. As I made my way back to my own seat my fellow passengers lavished me with grimaces, sneers, and whispered condemnations.

The life of poverty, like the life of criminality, needs its poetry, it's particular poetics of style, an aesthetic jarring and horrific, and undeniably seductive. A life that learns to bare its teeth in a snarl when it smiles. The criminal, the poor man, is the last living Romantic--he has only the majesty of his imagination to robe his otherwise exposed body. His vices are his charms, his indifference is his futurity, his desperation solidifies his pride around him like a thick, leathery a(r)mo(u)r. 

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