Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Invisible Man Has No Shame

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Riding the bike down to the library, pass a cop car going the other way. He slows and pulls a u. Comes back up behind me. I do the invisible thing. He drives on by. And I laugh in a way that I haven't in a long time. Juxtaposition of Burroughs and Kafka. The Invisible Man has no shame.

Was a time, traveling to Morocco on the ferry from Spain, you'd get off in Tangiers. Walk down the plank, just outside of customs, see them waiting: guides, touts, taxi drivers, hustlers, money changers, thieves, pick-pockets, scam artists. They see you coming from a long way off. Got you marked down to your shoelaces. Everyone, even the Arabs, has to deal with them. Story goes that when Burroughs was living in Tangiers, he got so he could walk right past them. No problems. Cause of this, they called him, The Invisible Man.

Down on The Corner, 12th and Chicon, I used to think about this a lot. Waiting on 13th in front of a house, cop rolls by on Chicon. Thinking: be motherfucking cool. Saying: you got no guilt, no shame. Car rolls upside of you: you are just looking around. Nod. Fuck it: smile. You got to sell this: you are innocent. Pure as snow, Dumbfuck Whitey on the Eastside, waiting for a friend, no crack, no jack. Whatever. They have to feel that you have no guilt. But what you got: a handful of Rock. Inside, you are black neon burning. You make all of this invisible. You become an Invisible Man. I know this sounds like a crock. Hard to explain unless you've been in it, day after day. Becomes a reflex, survival instinct, a chameleon changing color. You feel it kick in.

I'd sit there, cops down the street, red and blue lights turning, unmarkeds circling like sharks. Should've been blood in the water. And I'd sit there smiling, immaculate, thinking about William Burroughs walking down the street in Tangiers.

Thing is: there is this huge shame connected with it all. When you are not invisible, you are a character straight out of a Kafka novel. Walking down the street, not holding a thing, Law Abiding Joe, and you feel guilty as hell. Just a matter of time. They are going to get you. No matter what you do. So you walk around like a beat down dog, carrying the weight of the guilt, hollowed out by the shame, resigned to go down at any moment.

You can get used to anything. Even this shame. Even this guilt. Like I said: the invisible thing got to be a reaction. The downside of transparency: it goes both ways. When it'd fade, the blackness would be darker than ever. After a time, it would get so that nothing mattered. In your head, you've been caught, tried, judged and convicted. Done deal.

How many times down in a House, watching the Fear creep around everyone's skull? Paranoia striking deep deep deep. Every hit it's getting stronger. White eyeballs showing. Behind the curtain. Under the door. For hours. Siege mentality starts to take hold. Constant gallows humor. Thinking: they are right outside with the dogs and the battering rams. Me loading up the stem, thinking: since I am going down anyway, I might was well finish off this shit before they knock down the door.

I lived like that for almost two years.

So I am riding the bike down to the Bellingham library. Cop car passes. The invisible thing kicks in. Automatic. Cop rolls by. And the laugh that burst out of me was so goddamned beautiful. I laughed because, first time in a long time, there was no shame. No guilt. Been a while since I have felt such... such.... freedom (almost forgot the word). A bone way down in the cold ashes of the burnt out fire: still warm.