Battle without Honor or Humanity #4

Glands

I go to a boycott with my sponsor. He insists that I “inject” myself into the “public institute” on a regular basis. It’s not raining, but I see storm clouds rolling in, and I hear thunder like arthritic moans.

I am in Fort Wayne, IN now; Colorado belongs to my fever dreams.

I run a finger across a brick wall. Ceramic flakes fall onto my knuckles and into my palm.

It is 2011 again.

I don’t know what’s being boycotted. An angry crowd has gathered in front of a medical textbook store. My sponsor and I get close to the crowd so that we can hear what everybody’s talking about.

They’re talking about glands.

Glands, in fact, is what they are boycotting, staging the affair outside of a place that sells books about glands, among other superfluities. Glands are overrated, they say. Glands are myths, they say. We as a society have been trained to think that glands are indispensable for human existence when the truth of the matter is they are largely unnecessary and in many cases inimical. This veil of illusions must be lifted. Somebody must pay.

The one gland they make an exception for is the breast. Or rather the many glands that constitute the breast. They serve a very real purpose, actually and figuratively. The latter in particular. Several participants tote signs with crudely illustrated pictures of single breasts on them. Chickenscratch solar coronas encircle the breasts, and arching above them is the acronym ADNI (Artifacts of Desire Not Included). I realize that the participants are all bald men who look like they have spent too much time in backyard ponds.

It starts to rain.

My sponsor walks me through the five stages of grief, otherwise known as the Kübler-Ross model: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—in that order. I explain that I have been experiencing the stages backwards. I accepted Darla Shine’s death immediately; it was very much a relief, since I often obsessed about death, especially the death of loved ones, how much it would hurt when it happened, when it would happen, then the loneliness, the self-pity, the fear of consciousness being turned out forever, shattered like a Tiffany lamp, etc., so when that helicopter killed Darla, who I had loved more than any other woman, and I had loved many other women, I was almost happy—I accepted it like an envelope of crisp, untraceable $100 bills. Then I slipped into a deep depression because I realized I shouldn’t have accepted her death so willfully, so comfortably. I started to bargain with myself. If you get a little sadder about Darla, I told myself, you won’t be so depressed, not about not being depressed about Darla anyway. I countered the offering with a general truth: Depression is a phantasmagoria made flesh by ways of seeing. I went back and forth with myself. This made me angry after awhile. And deranged. I told myself that I wasn’t angry and deranged, even though I clearly was. Hence denial. Then I felt calm. Hence the end of the five stages of grief—backwards.

My sponsor squeezes my elbow and says, “It’s all right to cry.” I tell him I know that but I don’t feel like crying. He tries to kiss me on the lips. I cock my head like the hammer of a six-shooter.

“Glands,” whispers a stranger. He raises a sleep-jagged brow ... and his face derails, sliding into collisions of meaning.