September 30, 2007

Paragon’s People (4 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

Crossing the Green Lawn was not the quickest way from dorm to the Second Building, but it was nicer than following the concreted route through the centre of the campus. Arts students seemed to have drawn the short straw in a way.

The university was originally a place for the arts, a college founded in the early 1900s by a few literary dreamers with too much spare cash but not a single published book to their names. The place couldn’t survive on the children of the upper class and their parents’ charitable contributions alone so, as sciences tended to attract a lot more investment – particularly as America descended into the atomic age – the college expanded its horizons. The later buildings, Eighth and beyond, had to be built beyond the original campus and now lay outside the ocean of green that was originally the campus boundary. Arts were hemmed in, trapped around the Hub.

The student envied the science gimp and his cohorts, walking everyday along fern-lined paths under the comforting shelter of a green canopy. He’d heard some of them complain that the route was muddy when the rains come around but, well, the grass is always greener on the other side.

He came upon his girlfriend on the periphery of the Lawn.

Perhaps he was still dosed up with remnants of Bliss but her clothes seemed to hug her body a little more, and was that a hint of cleavage? He took another look and clocked that it was all imagination; she was wearing just the usual, a staid, approved uniform for the modern student. So managed and planned. Nothing revealed. Pathetic, try again.

‘Oh, hi,’ she said, with a nervous smile. ‘I’ve been trying to call you, you know.’

‘Are you following me?’ he bellowed at her.

She recoiled as if hit. ‘What are you talking about? Don’t be like that, I was just going this way.’

‘You’re off to Fifth, I’m not an idiot. This is completely the wrong direction for you. Are you following me?’

‘I’m not following, don’t be so melo.’ She reached out to touch his arm as if it was the most natural thing to do, but he pulled away. Her face changed, exposing vulnerability, her skin now tired and sagging. The student realised: she’d been crying. ‘Why are you making a scene? Why-’

‘I told you I need space. Are you following me?’ He wanted to see if she’d cry again. Could he break down her control? Free her, just for a one fleeting moment?

She held still for a moment, battling her emotions. Her eyes wandered away, relaxed, and then came back. ‘Alright, I’m sorry, I was following you, but you wouldn’t answer my calls, you wouldn’t answer me and I called and I called but you-’

The student walked away, shouting behind him, ‘Leave me alone.’

‘We need to talk, please, we gotta talk about what’s going on here, I need to know.’

He stopped. Others continued to walk around them, carefully avoiding their poisonous bubble of reality yet taking the opportunity to observe troubled lovers fighting in public.

The student turned around to face his girlfriend and said, ‘Don’t ask me questions before I’m ready. You’ll get the wrong answers right now, because that’s all I have.’

She tensed, asking, ‘Are you seeing… someone else?’

‘Look, alright… lunch,’ he answered. ‘Meet me for lunch today and we’ll talk, over at Fifth Column.’ He could foresee himself suddenly becoming too busy to make the appointment.

He turned and left her again, heading deeper into the Lawn. She didn’t call out to him this time. The student was unsure whether this was because she had won a concession, or fearful that she had almost realised the worst-case scenario with her unanswered question. The scenario that she had hoped and prayed was not true.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2001

September 23, 2007

Paragon’s People (3 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

The student smelt like shit and looked like it too. He knelt down a bit too quickly and had to put his hand out to stop himself from keeling over and making a scene.

All of the others up and down the corridor were already in prayer position, but also dressed, showered and deodorised for a day of lectures. Considering this moment was supposed to be more about keeping a healthy, personal relationship with God, he found it bizarre that a couple of the girls were dressed to impress in their prayer poses, as if this was the right place to hook up with a guy. Such are the belittled contradictions of human nature, he thought. The student’s girlfriend didn’t indulge in that sort of contradiction, of course, which is what had attracted him to her. But Bliss had broken that; now when he imagined his girlfriend, the words frigid and tiresome would bubble up from the abyss.

The student bowed his forwards and closed his eyes as the morningten jingle played over the dorm speakers. The recorded message began, ‘And now it is time to spend ten minutes thinking about your relationship with God. Remember, this is about you and Him. We all have doubts and fears and worries. This is your chance to keep things on an even keel, unburden yourself , avoid feeling ashamed of secrets that you’re not open with Him about. This is your morning ten. He is listening.’

The morningten was a waste of his time. He already had a personal, physical relationship with God.

The science gimp from 10C started mumbling a prayer under his breath and the student exhaled noisily in retaliation. He found it strange that even though morningten was no longer important to him, he was still bothered by the ramblings of the idiot from 10C. They were like familiar yet indecipherable music from the earphones of a bad mannered neighbour on the bus. Only freak phrases would occasionally escape from the gimp’s vocal prayer like ‘hollowed night’ or ‘the page of fifty question-marks.’

Even though his god Bliss visited him personally from time to time, the student wondered whether Bliss was listening to his prayers during morningten. He did have doubts and worries, things he wanted to share. But Bliss never seemed to hang around long enough to listen.

So he screened out the gimp and his encroaching hangover and prayed to Bliss.

I am confused. I was brought up to understand that sex is always one misstep away from being a dirty, tawdry thing and should be saved for your wife. Many of my childhood friends feel the same. It is almost as if we hate the skin on our own bodies, fear what it is to give openly to another. I remember fearing it.

But after experiencing your lessons in love and sensation, I now look back at my past and see that I had been contaminated. Contaminated with the idea that body upon body is sin itself, no matter what the circumstances. I no longer want to turn the lights off when I shed my second skin, the clothes that cage us. And now I understand.

Clothing is how we are disciplined to understand that there are rules we should obey. From day one, we are told that being ourselves, is wrong. We are raised to order ourselves, to self-lobotomise. Fashion is our drug of choice, pretending that what we wear reveals our inner personality, when it is simply camouflage. Now you see me, now you don’t. Our true character is smudged, erased. And that’s why we hate sex, because we forget about the cage, becoming ourselves for a moment of passion. And we don’t like it anymore, we can’t even fuck, disgusted with the idea of releasing our emotions and ideas from their prisons so they can fly like a swarm of butterflies painting the air with colour and shadow.

I want everyone to wake up and see how close we could be. We are built for freedom. I don’t trust this missing-in-action God we worship every day. I think I even resent him.

So I have a strange urge… like I should be doing something about this… but I have no direction. I’ve started to hang out with a new crowd, people with noisy emotions, care-free, buzzing with ideas. Is this right? Is it enough? I’m putting my old friends behind me, maybe my parents too.

And there’s something else. Our relationship with God is meant to complement not supplant a relationship with a woman. But your love is so compulsive and engrossing, I find the thought of being with a woman… underwhelming. Your beautiful, elusive body dominates my mind. It seems wrong, somehow, to devote myself sexually to you Bliss, but I can’t help how I feel, you know? What should I do? Should I surrender to this desire or keep trying with my girlfriend? Or someone else? A… a guy? What?

Please, I beg you, I need help here. Tell me. Direct me. Guide me. Am I doing the right thing? Is this what you want me to do? Is it?

‘Thank you all for spending ten minutes with God. We’re all a little stronger for it. Lectures start in two hours, have a healthy breakfast and have a great day.’

The student heard the feet of his neighbours shuffle off the floor and retreat into their rooms. Doors slammed, locks turned. Bliss did not answer him.

Is it?

There was a tap on his shoulder. The student jerked his head upward to see the science gimp leaning over him.

‘Prayer’s done, dude, didn’t you catch?’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1958

September 11, 2007

Paragon’s People (2 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

The cell poured into his dim awareness, dragging eddies of reality with it. It played the same banal tones over and over, begging him to pick up the call. Without opening his eyes, he stretched an arm towards its chimes and his fingers coalesced around its cool but greasy, used surface. Its buttons impressed themselves into his skin and he gripped it harder, almost in retaliation at its existence, its challenge to bring him back to consciousness.

He chased after the lingering afterglow of divine sex, to resurrect the erotic impulses that had drowned his veins and nerves the night before. The same charge and excitement pulsed within him and didn’t want to move for fear of spoiling it with the knowledge that the room was empty and that he was alone. He tightened his hold on the cell and its weak vibrations shuddered along his arm; he wanted to kill it, to come in it, he wanted to fill, he wanted to be filled, he wanted–

Futile. Not enough. It wouldn’t work. An ingredient was missing. Mornings after a visit from Bliss were full of potential that went unrealised. He relaxed his grip on the cell and it stopped whining at him.

He strained his eyes to peer at the phone and grimaced, sighing. It carried the picture of the student’s girlfriend with George Washington leering over her shoulder from Mt. Rushmore, like a flirtatious suitor sniffing her shoulder, ready to take his place if he decided to stand down and resign. Underneath her image, words stated: 3 missed calls. He didn’t know if he could go on seeing her, not with Bliss teaching him so much about the importance of sex. Sex was key, key to everything.

Turning towards the wall next to the bed, he threw the cell away. It clattered against something before falling onto the floor. The cold, simple noises of the collision reverberated around his head, shaking dust out of synapses and blowing cobwebs from neurons. The student moaned with the discovery that he had a hangover.

He glanced up at the clock on the wall.

Look at the time!

He leapt off the bed and regretted it instantly – his head was in no mood for sudden movements. It felt bloated and infected, like he needed to pop the pressure out of it. Never again. No more alcohol. He meant it this time.

He staggered towards the door, desperate to make it out before the clock’s hands swept out 7 o’clock. He knew he’d be the last out to prepare for the morningten prayer, but at least he’d be present.

The student tore the door open, snapping the chain he’d forgotten to unhook first. The harsh, electric light of the corridor drowned out his vision and filled his head with hangover love.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2152