Freudian Jazz

This is a picture of abstract art. I've used it because it complements my surreal story.

Sometimes I wonder if I live in an apartment or an oubliette. I mean, there’s a cushy couch, rose-colored chintz curtains, a PS4 with myriad games I haven’t played yet, cigarettes and wine, but there’s this sense of feeling imprisoned. Maybe it has to do with a non-existent purpose. There’s jazz playing in the background. Benny Goodman or Art Blakey or somebody great. I think it’s Goodman’s ‘Sing Sing Sing.’ I hear the beat leading up to the feet tapping Big Band sound, and then the clarinet kicking in and then the drums again. The music plays like a movie – scene after scene. Characters in the form of bars of music or minims or crotchets dance, but I’m not dancing with them. I’m drinking again. It’s been a while since I was sober. The wine’s a cheap Indian one. I can taste the sediment in it and maybe that’s all I taste. The sediment of losing my freedom, the sediment of myriad crushed paper hopes. The sediment of dreams finally meeting hard, stony earth and I, bruised with flayed skin scuttling on roads of fire, howling like a rib-cage showing, wounded mongrel. I think I’m asking the famous existential question but without any panache – Why am I here in this place and space, slowly and steadily slipping into oblivion?

It’s Art Blakey and his quintet playing Wee-Dot. Not Benny Goodman. Or maybe it’s Benny Goodman. Jazz is like Casu Marzu: Maggots crawling all over the rotten cheese, but a delicacy, nonetheless. But lately, the wallpaper looks like moldy cheese and spiders flit around. I can see their eyes watching me: Little brothers monitoring my every movement. I’m in a dystopian, postmodern 1984. And why do I have this postcard saying, “I had a great time yesterday.” I don’t have friends or lovers. I open the refrigerator and find a severed hand! Fuck! It has beady-eyed spiders all over it, and it’s made of skin and cheese. And there’s this ringing in my ear. Make it stop! Please! Is this real? Is anything real?

The wallpaper envelops me, and I become larva in a cheese and spider cocoon. I eat my way out; biting through both the cheese and the spiders. It tastes like a corpse. But how do I know what a corpse tastes like? I escape, but the ringing in my ear is fucking killing me! The shadows look like severed arms now. I pick up the postcard. It says something else now: “You know that man isn’t free. Sartre was a liar. Dostoevsky spoke the truth. The truth will haunt you forever.” What does that mean? I start weeping, but tears don’t fall, spiders do. I crush them, and they become cheese. I put it in my mouth, and they become spiders again. They taste ugly and sore. There are spiders all over my hands with little beady eyes. The ringing becomes classical music, and then it goes back to jazz. I smell cigarettes and piss and shit. My apartment suddenly looks like a smoky jazz bar. What is going on? Why is life so complicated? Why did Adam fall? Why did Lucifer fall? Weren’t all things considered good? Then how could Lucifer deflect unless creation and God were always flawed? Or did God withdraw grace and is cruel but justifies things by using the term ‘greater good’. Damn the Elect and the reprobate! Damn Calvinism and free will! Damn the Cheese and the severed hand!

I decide to sleep, but rest isn’t forthcoming, and so, I pop a few Valiums and soon, I’m sleeping on my sofa. I wake up, and it’s morning. I snip the edge of a carton of milk and drink it straight from the packet, the white liquid drenching my shirt. I go outside and find the newspaper lying on the ground.

‘Archaeologist killed in Cheese Factory,’ the headline screams. I read on: “An Archaeologist was found dead in a cheese factory. His arms were severed.” I’ve read enough. What the fuck is going on! I feel a rush of vertigo and collapse. I dream of my mother and how I was sexually attracted to her. My father collected spiders and loved cheese. I hated the man though he was good to me. Nausea overwhelms me. I run to the bathroom and puke. I then don’t wash the stains away because of an image of a psychoanalyst that floats in my consciousness. I call my mother.

“Did you read the news lover?” She says.

“What the hell is going on!” I shout into the phone, “I’m hallucinating, and I’m terrified!”

“I’ll be right over sweetie. I’m bringing Dr. Hansen,” she says, in a voice riddled with mad ecstasy.

Why would my mother be excited? Here I am, standing on the shore, preparing for the waves of insanity to sweep over me and drown me, and she’s thrilled! I feel disgusted but then think of the things my mother did for me. But what has she done?

The doorbell rings, and I see my mother standing with Dr. Hansen. Who’s Dr. Hansen by the way? He looks familiar, but I can’t place him.

He smiles, and says, “We’re here to help you, son. Don’t worry.”

“Mom, I’m scared. Help me!”

“Quick! Don’t waste time, doctor! He finally admitted that he was hallucinating today! We need to act! Now!” My mother yells.

The doctor and my mother lead me to my bedroom.

“So, you finally have insight into your condition. Now’s probably the best time to tell you the truth, but before that, I need to ask you how you feel about your mother,” Hansen says.

“I felt sexually attracted to my mother. It led to nausea and vomiting. I’m unwell. Just tell me what the fuck is going on!” I say and look at my mother who’s in tears.

“My sweet darling. My honeysuckle. Oh, how I’ve waited for this!” My mother squeals.

“You were always sexually attracted to your mother from the time you were three. It’s called the Oedipus complex. You hated your father and wanted to replace him as your mother’s lover. As you grew older, those feelings never subsided, but luckily for you, your mother reciprocated your feelings. She initiated a sexual encounter with you when you were fourteen, and then the two of you regularly had sex. One day, however, your father walked in on the two of you, and beat you badly, before leaving your mother shortly afterwards. He never spoke about what he saw to anyone, but your hatred towards him grew with each year, and you needed a way to escape, and so you envisioned a world that revolved around the objects your father adored like cheese and spiders so that you could destroy it repeatedly. You’d return to sanity without insight now and then, but when wounded, you’d go back to this world. During periods of hypnosis, you’d claim to see a severed hand too, but I never understood the significance of it, until you blurted out – during a period of regression when we monitored you – that you’d like to see your father’s hands chopped off because he beat you with them.

“Your love for Jazz and classical music comes from your mother playing it when you made love to her. She did it initially to make it look like she wasn’t home, and you were in your room alone listening to music. But after the divorce, she continued playing it during the lovemaking sessions because it symbolized that something special existed between you two – a connection beyond an ordinary mother-son relationship. You also reported hearing a ringing sound. That’s common in mental illness sufferers. Now, I’m not a conventional Freudian therapist, and so, I encouraged your sexual relationship with your mother because stripping you off it would have robbed you of identity altogether.

“Recently, you surprisingly regained sanity immediately after you heard that your father met with an accident. But you relapsed when you heard that he recovered fully. So, that gave me an idea. Now, I don’t care about ethics. I’m a man of pure, unadulterated science. I wanted to help you heal completely. You were my most fascinating patient, and I wanted to make a breakthrough. And so, I asked your mother to kill your father. But to do it in a unique way that involved cheese, spiders, and severed hands.

“And so, your mother and I managed to lure your father to a cheese factory on the pretext of her suffering from severe mental illness, and how it would be beneficial for her prognosis. Your father was reluctant and angry at first, but I convinced him by saying that she was always mentally unstable, and he’d only failed to recognize this. I told him to meet us at a cheese factory. The mob – with whom I have deep ties with – introduced me to the owner. The owner knew that someone was going to die in his factory, and so, he fled. He’s currently the prime suspect.

“While your mother, I and your father explored the place, your mother showed your father a spider and told him that she’d started collecting them. Your old man was still angry but calmed down a little when he heard this. He then took the spider in his hands. Your mother then grabbed a machete we’d already hidden on one of the shelves and hacked your father’s arms off with it. She then proceeded to shove a lot of cheese into his mouth to muffle his screams.

“Now, please register what we did and the way we did it carefully. Process and think. And also, recollect.”

Tears run down my eyes now. My past is lucid. The cheese and the arm and the spiders will never haunt me again. “Oh, mother! Oh, mother!” I sob in joy. She holds me. The doctor plays some jazz and leaves us. We sigh, and we moan, and we finally find closure.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Skunk Weed

Jimmy bought a new moped. “I’mma ride it to the hills, brah!” He squealed, the effects of the skunk weed which landed him in an institution where he spent hours talking to the ceiling fan and calling it his ‘Big Momma’ still affecting him. He reverted to his Indian accent now and then, but I always kept my fingers crossed, scared he’d go crazy on me.

“What do you plan to do in the hills?” I asked Jimmy, but deep inside I already knew the answer. “I’mma find a bootleg pill man. They sell some fine quality hashish,” he whispered, bending low on his moped and there was something terrifyingly odd about the way he did that, but then again this was Jimmy. Everything was odd about him. He slept with his feet on the pillows and his head where his feet should be, he drank scotch with mixed fruit juice, he managed to get some old cuckold to film while he fucked the man’s wife, he joined a book club and turned it into a Wednesday swingers party. I don’t how he did it. I think he had this weird cult of personality. It never worked on me, but it certainly did charm a lot of others into giving into his twisted fetishes.

I always wondered if Jimmy made up his exploits until he introduced me to the old cuckold and his wife at a cafe. The old sleazebag asked me if I wanted to join Jimmy and plough his wife. I politely declined. The last thing I needed was an amateur porn video starring me, some older woman and Jimmy of all people, while a cuckold, jacking off shouted, “C’mon son. Fuck her harder!” I guess I’ve seen enough amateur porn to know how it worked. I’ve decided to stick to watching it; the monitor separating me from the actuality.

I also walked into the swinger party by accident. Jimmy’s mother asked me to fetch him one Wednesday and I said, “Yeah, he’s probably at the book club. I’ll fetch him.” I then called Jimmy and asked him where he was, and he gave me directions to some apartment complex. I could hear loud music in the background but didn’t make much of it. He couldn’t have possibly converted a book club into a swinger party, could he? I wondered. I finally found the place in some cul-de-sac and asked the watchman for directions to Room 125. He looked at me with disgust and spat: the red, betel leaf juice tainting the parking lot. I wondered what I’d done wrong.

I knocked on the door and Jimmy opened, clad only in his pajamas. I went in and the stench of weed overwhelmed me. I then heard loud music and ferocious moaning from the rooms.

“What the fuck’s happening here?” I yelled at Jimmy and he said, “Peace fam. Lighten up. We just havin a good time, that’s all.”

I needed to get the fuck out because nothing good happened when Jimmy started speaking thoroughly in his Indo-African American accent. But I’d promised Jimmy’s mom that I’d bring him back and so, I grabbed him by the wrist and started pulling him out of the door.

“Nigga, you need to lighten up,” Jimmy barked before screaming, “Help! Terrorist!”

And some butt-naked girl ran out of one of the rooms and screamed at me.

“Leave Jimmy alone! Leave him alone terrorist!” She shrieked, her tits bouncing while she hysterically jumped up and down.

“Calm down,” I said, “His mother needs him.”

“Jimmy’s got no momma,” she said in some bizarre Indo-Chinese-British- African American accent.

“No, he does, and I’ll call the police if you don’t go back to whatever you’re doing.”

“I’m doing Jimmy you fat tit! And I’m not letting him go until I’m done!” she yelled and slapped me, and Jimmy started crying.

“I’mma lose it brah!” He whined and I had a panic attack.

“C’mon Jimmy,” Big breasts said softly, “I’ll fuck yer brains out until you’re happy again.”

“For real! Bitch please! You don’t know what I’mma lose.”

The girl then started crying and I took the opportunity to cart Jimmy away.

We raced past houses and ramshackle huts, Ganesha processions and Hindu activists and gay parades and livestock and restaurants and finally reached Jimmy’s house.

“I’mma lose it,” Jimmy squealed as I bodily lifted him and carried him home.

“You’ll be fine Jimmy. Just think of the bootleg pill men and the hills,” I said, dropped him on his bed and went out and smoked a cigarette.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Caged

This is a picture of a tiger in a cage. I've used it to depict animalistic lust which is a prominent theme in my story.

The day we broke up, the dying Sun was a blackish crimson like the color of menstrual blood. The only sounds heard were the incessant cawing of crows that sounded like the noises a lunatic in unendurable emotional throes makes. There was a slight drizzle, but it wasn’t like the soft healing rain that people enjoy. It felt acidic and bitter; sharp like little tungsten needles piercing flesh; grim and nihilistic.

She said, ‘I never loved you, and I don’t know why I put up for four years,’ and though that statement echoed my own feelings, I was bitter, and I felt it – some green, thorny reed pulsing in my chest, urging me to lash out at her. Anger gripped me like caffeine intoxicates you when you’ve had too much coffee. A manic thrill flitted around each thought of mine, scratching at their surfaces and creating a terrible itch like an allergic rash – red scales imprinted on chest and stomach. I wanted to wound her emotionally. I wanted to crush her with words like a rattlesnake’s bite. But I bottled up my rage and just walked away with seething hatred in my eyes.

Ours was a slipshod romance based on ideas of who we were and who we’ll become. The problem with such romances is that when they hit hard ground, the idealism quickly evaporates like nail polish remover or acetone, leaving a pungent stench. Then a bleakness sets in and the lush grandiosity is replaced by a wasteland, littered with scraps of ‘what should have been.’

We made the mistake of staying together despite the staleness and the acrid stench. We were far past even a hint of recovery, but we pushed on, though we secretly despised each other. I guess the need for companionship even if it’s toxic and volatile makes people do stupid things. We complimented each other, but there wasn’t any depth to anything we said. Everything became an ostentatious façade of the clichéd three words said, or pure lust gripping us like myriad demons and making us devour each other – possessed, insatiable and hedonistic.

‘I love you,’ she’d say after semen like little glaciers coated her breasts and stomach.

‘I love you too,’ I’d say, cleverly masking my nonchalance.

‘Where do you think we’ll be five years from now?’

‘I don’t know; possibly married with a child and a dog.’

‘Yeah, and we’ll be successful writers too.’

This trite, mundane small talk enveloped every conversation we had like smog enveloping a footpath. And strangely, it was only after sex that we’d even bother to engage in longer conversations.

There’s a difference between lust and love, and lust can often imitate love like Satan masquerading as an angel of light as the good apostle put it. Lust is an impatient, reckless muse. She gives you half an hour of pleasure and then dumps you, making you fall into an intense pattern of introspection as complicated as the designs you see in a kaleidoscope.

Love, however, is patient and soft and selfless (or so they say). I’ve never known her though I’ve romanticized her using sonnets and lyrical passages in my prose.

‘Do you want to get a cup of coffee?’

‘Sure.’

‘How about we go to this new café on Church street? I’ve heard the ambiance there is terrific.’

‘Yeah, why not?’

This sort of conversation marked our relationship like a birthmark marks a finger when boredom seized us, and we felt sorry for ourselves. It’s tragic that you see something in a person that was never there and cling to the chimera like you’re clinging to a branch you somehow caught when you fell from a cliff.

Sleazy sex and cigarettes; squalid thoughts and booze; dirty lifestyles and cock and cunt; thinking in shades of black and white. All this slowly creeps into the archetypal deluded relationship like the serpent in Eden who destroyed Adam and his progeny.

In the end, I was living with her in a sordid apartment, squandering my time, while self-loathing and hatred for her was the bile I was holding back using all my effort. Eventually, it reached a stage where I had to puke. I had to relieve myself of the artificiality and inanity. But she took the first step.

We had a fight, and it was only the second fight we’d ever had, but the redundancy of our relationship like a classic Macintosh computer broke our wills.

‘Is all this only about sex?’ She asked me with a look of disgust after we’d had an intense session that lasted nearly an hour.

‘What if it is?’ I said, and I knew I’d said something I could never take back.

‘I’m not a whore, you bastard! I need something more than just physical satisfaction, and I can’t believe you just said that!’

‘I didn’t mean it that way. I don’t even know why I said that.’

‘Yeah, but you did. What’s deeply rooted in the heart always untangles itself and becomes an utterance.’

‘Look, I’m sorry,’ I said halfheartedly, ‘I never meant to hurt you.’

‘Then why did you say what you said?’

‘I don’t know. All I know is that there was something else on my mind, and I just said something stupid,’ I lied.

‘Stop lying. Maybe you’re right though. Maybe these four years have only been about sex. I’ve longed for intimacy, but I’ve never found it with you, and I don’t think I ever will.’

‘What do you mean? Do you want to find it with someone else? I’ve tried hard to make this work, you know, but you’re always so distant and preoccupied,’ I said with a hint of insecurity.

‘I’m preoccupied! You’re the one who’s never there. All you do is mumble now and then, and honestly, I’m sick of it. ‘

‘Do you want to break up? Is this what this is all about?’

‘No.’

We avoided each other for the next few days, but we did eventually break up. Thinking back, I didn’t want her to find someone else, even though I was relieved that we weren’t together.

Freedom at last! It took a few days processing it. No more pretentious conversations, no more hypocrisy, no more sacrifices to altars of nothingness, no more suppressed hate like a pustule festering inside, no more us.

She soon found another lover, and that strangely felt like someone had clamped my heart with crocodile shears. I felt like someone boxed me in an iron maiden of emotion and slammed the door shut. But what fascinated me was me getting aroused thinking of her and her new lover in bed. It was an ugly mix of bitterness, turmoil, and libido. I spent days masturbating to the thought of them having sex and writhing in self-pity at the same time. I’d then think that I was a sick freak and masturbate to that thought too.

I stopped caring about personal hygiene; walked to the liquor store in the pants I’d shagged in and years passed as I watched my life ebb away. Was there a part of me that loved her? Did I miss the sex? Do deluded romances also have an aspect of actual, tangible, beautiful emotion that we suppress? I couldn’t get over her, and I still haven’t. I guess things will never be the same, but what’s ironic is that they were shitty to start with.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)