Saturday, August 8, 2009

Spotlight on Me?

Angel Zapata wrote an article spotlighting my stories over on his blog, A Rage of Angel. He took excerpts from a few of the Bathroom Monologues that circled the internet to illustrate that I'm apparently a versatile writer. That is a relief, given I just wrote a week of the same stuff. You can check out his blog and the spotlight article here:

Bathroom Monologue: Acedia

Come, shrug off the smoke of that place. Let’s be off to the last sight to see. Nicer in this house. No one smokes. The father fought hard to quit, but we’re not here for him. We’re here for what’s melting over him, and his boy.

Every big economy needs its waste adjustors. The ones who come in and turn useless assets lucrative. Acedia really should be on par with busty Luxuria and pot-bellied Gula, but he doesn’t care for reputation. Too much work. She doesn’t do work, allowing clients to come to her. They always will. They cannot help it. They can diet and exercise, keep their energy up, meditate to focus, but eventually everyone becomes tired. How easy is it for Gula to goad you into eating another a bite or a little dessert? How hard is it to fight Superbia’s fingers around your heart when you’ve done something you know as good? Now triple that feeling, and know how hard it is not to lie a little longer when your muscles ache and your dreams are so much more pleasant than the work that waits in the world of the standing.

Alas, it’s Sunday morning and the vices are melting from our eyes. Their bodies, that is. I cannot show you Acedia: The Woman Incarnate. Already she melts into two. Soon she will be all. What is she this second? Look closer.

See that. A father’s brown eye through a crack in the white-painted door, and the fraction of his smile visible over a boy asleep at noon. How could this be vile? How could this be vice? The old one deeply proud, the young one indulging in long slumber. It’s sweet. It’s love incarnate, which we did not plan her to be a part of the tour. Love could not be a vice. Not one of the seven, at least.

And with the sun, here melts the truth of all vices, dear tourist. That none are pure evil. The boy is earnestly tired from last night’s high school football. That game where adrenaline, colorful sports drinks, the budding chests of cheerleaders and vicarious parents made every vice rich again. Was any of it pure evil? Not a drop of it, for that which is pure evil rots and crumbles from the whole. The vices abandon such investments.

They are humanitarians. You can say they write off some of their crueler work like this. Superbia can invest in parents proud of their children, and Acedia here rewards a child after long work. What romantic story does not dip its brush in Luxuria’s wells? You can say they write off their worst work in accenting the best of yours. You could also say they justify their accounts this way. Perhaps they began as good. Perhaps, frightening as it may be, they are always good, in a little way, somewhere. Humanitarians, insofar as vegetarians love vegetables.

But now Acedia has melted from the father and the son. The boy stirs, face rubbing in his pillow. Somewhere, someone sleeps. Look as we like, though, we cannot see Acedia in any of them. Gone are Luxuria in the low and Gula in the high. Gone are Avaritia, Ira and Superbia. Is that Invidia still in the corner? No, it is a doll with a dumb expression. Art imitates them all, and fools us so often. My mistake, not ours. I apologize. It’s Sunday morning, and a tour guide makes mistakes. But do you still see them? Our eyes diverge, but yours are surely still open.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Invidia

In the corner. When bored, she always drifts into a corner. She’s the one with the flat, amorphous features. Luxuria purposefully switches genders, changing them to hurt. Not this one. Invidia has not the features necessary to attain a gender, and resents all those that do. The more you have, the more she wants them. A flower is more of a woman than she. Her hair can never be too short or long, always cutting it to match someone else’s style, chasing originality by imitation.

The corner is the safe place to find her. When she moves into the room, she’ll disappear into another vice. Can’t actually have anything, that pauper sin. We don’t know why, but the room always seems a little smokier when you notice she’s an occupant. Even now, who has a cigarette lit? Despite No Smoking signs, she touches one man on the shoulder and there’s a haze that burns the nostrils.

A turn of the head later, and she has invested herself in them. That’s why she’s a pauper – she wants not only to be other vices, but to be full people, and she can never be either. She’s constantly watching or giving in – she can be no more. When she gets what she wants, her mortals no longer recognize what they have. When they can no longer recognize it, they search the horizon for another to resent. That toe-headed boy who returns her gaze right now? He’ll leave with nothing, unless…

Oh, she’s ostentatious tonight. Climbing into his lap and blowing on his dice? How cute, already turning her account over to Luxuria. She’s invited a few people to her room tonight, and he’ll think he’ll be the only one to accept. Tomorrow, he’ll stare like she does, staring at everyone who declined.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Superbia

Ira’s fight in the alley was not his idea. Up there, just one flight of stairs instead of a hundred. Near the window and the mirror. Such an immaculate man you would think he was Luxuria. Hair combed, suit pressed, muscles refined. Yet Luxuria doesn’t need so many reflective surfaces around. Even now, as Ira commits violence in this vice’s name, Superbia is watching himself.

That’s him. A little above, always near enough to see the thing done, always readily bored by that which does not reflect himself. You need to be good to be that disinterested and last in their business.

You rut and there’s a baby that grows up to rut. You murder and there will be grievance. Easy turnovers. Yet Superbia? The soundest portfolio, constantly refining self-image. Those who enroll in his plan feel him more and more. When that sense is challenged? Bare-chested Ira is there. A history with Luxuria will validate him. Or he will sidestep, let them blame it all on grubby Avaritia, and in giving up some possessions? In seeming selfless they invest in another of Superbia’s stocks. Righteousness and Avaritia alike can serve the vice in love with his own mirror.

Sunday is nearing, dear tourist. Come quickly. It will banish them from our sight, and we would not have you lose out on the last visions.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Ira

You muttered earlier, asking who Ira was. Perk up your ears, and surely you can hear him bellowing. Let us follow it down the street, and there in the alley beside the homeless shelter. There is Ira. Don’t think he’s always there – he’s worked much finer venues. Burned down churches and art galleries. The last time he was visible to mortal eyes, he was watching people drown from the deck of a yacht.

You’re surprised he’s scrawny? Looks mighty thin when unclothed, we’ll all agree. Shirtless, as usual. Always takes his shirt off, never knows why. You’d think him huge, but he has not the attention span to build himself up. Ira goes from thing to thing, hating whatever he can in the moment. The poor planner, this one. Every vice gets opportunities, yet he sees so little of them coming. He finds them and acts out. An improvisational economist. He lucks into his windfalls, and you can tell by how he wrings every last cent out of his accounts. Not by intelligence, but by sheer tenacity he forces Christians to blame Jews for an execution thousands of years after their man’s demise.

Religion is an easy account, like race and nationality. He needs those, and needs them as dumbed down as possible. If he has to think it through, there’s a good chance he’ll go bankrupt. No, he needs these accounts, the ones that sustain themselves, that turn even geniuses into bickering idiots. Then Ira gathers them up and makes indignation burn as bright and as quickly as possible, caring not when the sun of hate collapses into a cold, black hole.

He can’t handle the more complex accounts, and another vice is happy to pick those from his pockets. They placate him by leaving angry disenfranchised in their wake, and he is so busy jumping on those that he is none the wiser. There are always enough unhappy for him to find clients.

Now you say that shirtless thing can’t be responsible for all the violent evils. Too many are thought out. There are calculative monsters among us, it’s true. Yet those are not his designs. It’s people who shape Ira into lasting grudges and long-term dissent. Even now you can see how blunt is his nature, how ignorant of anything but the man whose hair is in his hands. What good will dashing his head against the floor do? The dead man can yield him no more profit. Ira cares not.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Avaritia

Down. Much further down. Street level and a little lower, Avaritia is shaking hands and swapping grins with his clients. He’s one of the few who will get in with the cattle. Do you see him, fork and knife in hand, offering as he asks if that soul couldn’t use a little more? So plump, pig-nosed and easy to mistake for Gula. Yet pot-bellied Gula loathes him, which is why you’ll never find Avaritia sitting on high. He can’t sit up there and make eye contact with his fellow vice, or he’d have to share.

Avaritia steals, you see. He takes hunger’s work and claims it for his own, and does so with any instinct he can subvert. Arousal. Fatigue. Most often he’ll sneak into Ira’s profession, as that one is the least witted of vices.

Fooling others into handing over their earnings never gets old and never yields enough, as Avaritia is neither envious of their hauls nor proud of his accomplishments. He’s never sated, not with billboards, web ads, radio jingles, television commercials, movie trailers, logos on t-shirts and Buy It Now on eBay. Merchandising is easy and you cannot want enough. That’s why he’s down there, shoving forkfuls of ham at people who are full. He’d take all of the vices into himself, if he could truly have anything to start with.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Gula

See that man up there? No, not in the window. The men in that window are serving Luxuria, even though they think to serve themselves.

No. A hundred flights up, standing in the room with all the windows blown out. Gula doesn’t like windows. Like pants, he finds them constraining. All he wears is that sheer robe, fallen open so you can see whatever disgusts you. Ironic that he’s got only a bit of a pot belly, no? If you’re looking for symbolism in his form, see the wind go through his greasy hair. Though his hair flutters, it’s the wind that leaves moved. Breathe deeply and you can smell him from down here.

Luxuria has it easy, but this one? This one has it like you wouldn’t believe. For while mankind must rut every generation if the game of life is to continue, they have to eat every day. In the worst corners of the world they will mix a little grain with mud merely to have something to fill their bellies. How can one compete with him in such a market?

He began with red berries, so long ago that there wasn’t a word for them yet. Then sweet berries. Tart and tangy berries. Berries with noticeable seeds that crunched, and softer, plump grapes. They stained his lips so deeply those thousands of years ago that you can still see juice at the corners of his mouth. Women invented bags to carry them home. He could take credit for consumer culture, if he cared.

Eat to comfort. Eat to commune. At the very height of blasphemy, he made them eat and drink their savior, though in turn that savior scorned him by making them take it in moderation. Just a sip and a single wafer of salvation per piece. It is one of the few investments Gula lost. Some vices gossip that he’s been compensating ever since, getting people to gorge after bloody battles to celebrate the carnage, and gorge on drive-thru in their cars, not even having to stand up to order sandwiches that come with complimentary fried goods. He’s managed a portfolio of increasing obesity against dozens of diet fads. In an environment where militant vegans measure their vitamin intake and show slaughterhouse photos to children, he’s got the average body fatter than ever. Nor is he threatened by the thin and healthy, for fetishizing diet is as gluttonous as the obese pounding Big Macs. He’s been into alternative forms of worship since people divided into hunters and gatherers. A varied portfolio is tucked under that left arm there, stained with fetid sweat, built on a habit second only to breathing in its popularity.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Luxuria

What a week to visit, good tourist. There are fifty-two weeks in a year, so it’s easy to toss one away for the next as soon as it’s over. But there are fifty-two cards in a deck and we all respect aces. This is a joker of a week, good tourist.

All seven vices are walking the earth for seven days. Not men stuffing their faces and bank accounts. No mere metaphors. The very vices themselves. Touch my shoulder and we will see them, these gods. Be they gods to you? Demons? Leaches on the back of greatness? To my eyes they are investors. Insecurities Brokers, if you will.

Whatever they are, we must not name them directly. Tread lightly and speak them not, for to speak a vice’s trade when beholding her will alert them all. Silence is the wisest course, as the focus of a vice is untenable.

Look now. Grip my shoulder and see her. You would know her in a crowd of a hundred harlots, though she’s the only one at this dinner. Nearest the host’s seat, hoping to occupy it with him. Let not her modern name fly. This week, let her be Luxuria.

Doesn’t it seem to always begin with her? Easiest to spot in a culture of plunging necklines and micro-skirts. Except she’s not a “her.” She comes off that way because most of her artists are men. Her slaves see the master they want, but her practitioners straddle genders. In truth she’s androgynous, slipping into your bed, getting your toes to curl, and only then becoming what you didn’t want. That’s the trick with Luxuria, making you beg for what you’ll regret. She’ll enjoy it enough for the both of you, and make you mistake being enraptured in her for the actual joy of anything.

What is sexy about her bare midriff? No mortal in the parlor can take his eyes from it. Barely any meat on her flank and they’re licking their chops. What would that bank manager do if he got his hands on it? Copulate with her belly button?

This absurdity is nothing new. Before naked bellies, it was fat butts. Before fat butts, flat ones. And always with the tits. What exactly are a pair of milk-secreting glands going to do for you during sex? They don’t serve as useful handholds. They’re erotic garnish she passes off as steak dinners. But fraud has always helped investors. That’s Luxuria’s business, turning a necessary act and a grand pastime into an industry of insecurity and embarrassment. Hers is an insured portfolio, for if the game of life is to continue, everyone must succumb at least once a generation. In the game, Luxuria can safely tithe life itself.
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