Nate’s Pain Is Now


Nobody wanted my woe anymore. Nobody craved my disease. The smack, the crack, the punch-outs and lock-downs, all that gunpoint whimpering about my dead mother and my sad cat, nobody gave a damn. The world had more authentic victims. Slavers pimped-out war orphans in hovels hung with rat-chewed velveteen. Babies starved, flyblown, on the desert floor.

Once, my gigs at the leading bookshops were thronged with the angry and ex-decadent—loading-bay anarchists, hackers on parole, meth mules, psych majors. Goth girls, coke-ghosted, rehabbed at twelve and stripping sober, begged for my sagas of degradation, epiphany. They pressed in with their inks, their dyes, their labial metals and scarified montes, cheered their favorite passages, the famous ones, where I ate some sadistic dealer’s turd on a Portuguese sweet roll for the promise of a bindle, or broke into a funeral parlor and slit a corpse open for the formaldehyde. My fans would stomp and holler for my sorrows, my sins, sway in stony reverence as I mapped my steps back to sanity (the stint on a garbage truck, the first clean screw), or whatever semblance of sanity was possible in a world gone berserk with misery, plague, affinity marketing.

I had what some guy at a New Paltz book cafe called arc. You can’t teach arc, he told me. Nobody’s born with it, either.

Thing was, I stood for something, had my finger on the somehow still lingering pulse. Journalists argued about what I stood for, but they all described me as ruggedly handsome. It made me think of carpets for some reason, or at least the crap-smeared carpet in the basement of my childhood home. It’s why I stopped reading all those clips Jenkins, my agent, sent.

I had a good run. Bang the Dope Slowly and its follow-up, I Shoot Horse, Don’t I?, sold big. I bought a loft, married Diana, my lovely Diana, who’d stood by in the darkness, my “research” years. My old man, the feckless prick, even he broke down and vowed his love. But as a lady at a coffee bar in Phoenix put it, what goes up can’t stay up indefinitely because what’s under it, supporting it, anyway?

There are wise women in Arizona.