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There is no point to this. The point is that I’m getting sick. I just noticed it an hour ago. Suddenly I am blowing my nose. Out of nowhere. And now feeling a little wonky. So I took some vitamin C and ate about 14 pounds of sautéed spinach and now I am sitting here waiting to die. If the pig flu gets me tell them I was an okay guy. Kind of quiet and not very good at tennis, but basically decent.

Things in my house: a TV. It’s sitting right there. It doesn’t work. Or, it works, but there are no channels because I don’t have cable and I ripped off the antenna and threw it away years ago. So it is only for watching movies. But I don’t watch movies anymore because when I watch movies now all I do is sit here and count the seconds of my life as they tick away while some retard pretends to experience something on my little glowing square of glass. So that’s it for the TV. Then, on top of the TV, there’s a fan. I bought that the day I moved in here four years ago. Why? Because it was ten thousand degrees that day. Mainly now the fan collects dust. Which is good, otherwise it would all blow away and then who knows what would happen. This way it is all centralized. And that is what the world needs, dust centralization.

The TV and the fan have cords and those cords are plugged into the wall.

Also plugged into the wall: my internet modem router box electro-device-icle thing. This is used for making the internet come to my house. It comes all the way to my house from Spain and into that little box. Then it stays there because I am stealing wireless from my neighbor anyway.

****DON’T TELL MY NEIGHBOR I AM STEALING HIS WIRELESS!!!****

Or her wireless. I think it’s a him, though. It has a certain masculine quality.

Why Spain? Who knows. Never been there. Maybe they’re more technically inclined than the running frantically through the streets with the angry cows would have you believe.

So then, what? A bunch of CDs stacked there on top of the TV, those are the ones I am currently listening to. I’m not going to get up to look at them, because if I die I want to die sitting down like a decent human being, not running all over Hell’s creation to look at my Judas Priest and Stevie Wonder CDs. So fuck that. But, I think they are probably Judas Priest and Stevie Wonder CDs. Maybe also some Yardbirds and Jeff Beck shit. Fuck, I hope there’s nothing too embarrassing there. I don’t want the coroner’s office to laugh at me when I’m dead. But I think I hid my Green Day CD. So I should be safe.

Right. CDs, gigantic stack of DVDs that I can’t watch because of the fear of death, no use even mentioning what they are because one death is as good as the next (except sitting down is better).

Then there’s a chair, another chair, an air purifier which I got out the other week when my city suddenly went up in smoke and tried to sneak into my liver and gall bladder to impregnate me with the cancer. Portfolio of Melvins concert posters that I never get to put up anywhere because my house is like seven feet wide and six feet long and two feet high. But some of those are really cool. There’s a pretty great one of Joan of Arc burning at the stake, and the flames spell Melvins. Pretty rad. Yes, I’m fifteen. Deal with it. Fifteen and dying in my chair of the pig apparatus. I don’t know why I called it an apparatus. It’s a viral construct. Are viruses alive? I mean, more than us? I think they must be, because they kill us. In a similar manner, if I kill you I am more alive than you. Yes, it all makes sense. All makes sense. Hmm. There’s my belt.

Oh, over there is my book. I finished it three months ago and now it is covered front to back in red ink. A lot of shit is crossed out and there are some more words written on it than were written in it before. That sentence was wrong but it’s not my fault. No going back. There is no going back. Have to get it all down before the pigness.

There’s a thing on the door. How descriptive!!! Good thing I got all those degrees and everything. What I meant to say was, there’s a string of beads wrapped around and hanging from the doorknob. It kinda looks like a rosary, which the papists use for the furtherment of their evil designs, only this one’s from Tibet. Tibet is a place in France where people make muffins out of brass bowls that chime nicely when you hit them with Lily Tomlin. Whoa. Hello Delirium. But no, really, Tibet is in the Oriental Area of our Esteemed Planet. They have mountains and robes and I think some kind of system of government. Called “China.” Ha! A political joke! I’m a humorist! Shit now I just got really sad. I don’t want to be a humorist. Okay Ben, don’t! Be something else! Like a fireman! Okay, I’m a fireman.

As I was saying, there are these Tibetan prayer beads there. My friend Ashley brought them back for me when she went to Tibet. I think she thought I needed some help with the praying. Because also she brought me this thing… this thing… how to explain this???? I have no idea. Okay, so I think it’s called a prayer wheel. It’s got this, like, stick thing. And you hold it in your hand. And then on the top of the stick thing there’s this little silver round-ish thing with a thing of beads hanging off to one side. Man I wish I was a writer so I could write something really expensive and sell it so I could hire someone to explain what this looks like. Anyway, you kinda move it with your hand and the circle thing spins around. And this is important because INSIDE the circle thing there’s a little prayer written on a piece of paper (in some funny language decent folk don’t understand), and every time it spins around somehow it counts as you reciting that prayer. So basically it’s a time-saving device for soliciting divine intervention. Which, when you think about it, is actually a pretty good idea. Only problem is I don’t know what the prayer actually is because of that language problem. So, it could be, like, please God-of-the-Foreign-People, let me find a fish in my Volkswagen. Although probably not that because I think it’s too hilly in Tibet to drive. Especially if you have a stick! So it’s probably something else.

Hmm. It just occurred to me that I could write my own little prayer and stick it in there and then that might be more helpful. But what would my prayer say? I’d have to think about it, and as soon as you stop to think, you’re screwed, is what I’ve learned about life and everything. Everything! Everything-that-is-more-than-life! That’s a lot.

A lot.

Sneakers. I wear those when I go for walks. I feel weird in sneakers. I feel kind of embarrassed to be wearing them. Like, what if someone sees me? What would I tell them? Oh, these? These aren’t mine. I’m holding them for a friend. On my feet. Yes. I have to walk them a little every day so they don’t seize up. Seize up? Yes! That’s exactly what I meant.

My nose feels a little better by the way. But that might just be because I’ve been holding my breath this whole time. I need to stop doing that. It’s not healthy.

Sneakers, hmm. I’m kinda tired of this. There’s nothing interesting in here.

Sometimes I go outside at night, I mean at like 3, 4 in the morning. It’s very quiet around here. There’s basically nothing here other than these old Victorian houses with people who stop existing at 10pm in them. I always feel weird and guilty when I come home late, like I have to sneak in or I’ll get grounded and have to take out the trash or shine the silverware. I read this interesting thing in this book the other day about how in Japan they never shine the silverware (this was written in 1920) and actually prize the tarnish. So if you ever go visit a Japanese family in 1920, make sure you don’t accidentally polish the silverware to be nice while they’re out at a movie (waiting to die). They’d be upset. Instead, find all the tarnishment you can find and rub it all over everything in their home. Like a John Waters movie, but with Tarnishment instead of bodily secretions. Then they will love you forever and let you sit in their chairs when you are dying.

I don’t think I’m dying anymore.

It’s weird. I actually feel much better.

Maybe I was just hungry? But I ate a huge burrito earlier today. From Alegria on Sunset. Man, that place is good! I went there the day before yesterday with this girl I know and it was so good I went back again today, but with a different girl, and had the same waitress and ordered the exact same thing, and all the waitress did was grin at me the whole time in a leering way like I was fucking Don Juan or something, but without actually saying anything. So then my plan immediately was, I have to go back Every Day From Now On, at least for a week, with a different girl every time, and order the same thing every time, until that waitress finally stops grinning and actually fucking says something. Only thing is I don’t really want to do that because I would get tired of eating the same thing every day. Also, I only know two girls. Well, I know more but they all have boyfriends so I’m not allowed to ask them out. Unless I invite their boyfriends too, but then that spoils the whole thing. Why am I telling you about this? This is how my mind works. I spend all my time dreaming up ways to waste my time dreaming.

Have you ever read Beckett? He’s a genius. It’s like Oscar Wilde, but for gleefully depressed nihilists who don’t believe in wit. His books take place in this kind of netherworld where no objects or places really exist and it’s just this voice sort of talking to itself and wondering what the hell is happening and whether or not it’s worth wondering about what the hell is happening or indeed anything at all. Basically the feeling is, either you’re sitting there wondering and talking to yourself about, let’s face it, nothing, or essentially you cease to exist. Of course, this is just in Beckett’s books, because as everyone knows in the real world the real world actually exists and you can go outside and look at the empty houses and maybe walk around a little bit in your embarrassing sneakers or listen to Judas Priest or go to Alegria with some girl or some other girl or nobody. Man, Alegria is good! They have what I really believe to be the best guacamole in the world. It’s so solid and filled with stuff, when it comes to you it looks like a tremendous scoop of ice cream. I couldn’t even believe it the first time I went. I mean really, it was something else. And the second time I went I had the special coffee, it had some kind of weird Spanish name, and it was flavored with cinnamon and other spices and I think filled with about forty scoops of brown sugar. I really can’t say enough about Alegria. Really. If you live in LA, go there, and if you don’t, then move here immediately.

And… so, what? I don’t know. I was talking about stuff in my house, and then some other stuff. I don’t know. I wonder what I will do tomorrow. Hopefully I won’t be sick anymore. Or at all, if I’m not sick now. I think maybe I just have a cold. What my mom would call “a twenty-four hour bug.” I don’t like it when people talk about viruses as bugs. I don’t like to think of little beetles in my body. Little spiders or silverfish or moths. That’s just gross. So, you know what? I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to call it a bug.

I think maybe this whole thing is drawing to a close. I wish something interesting would happen. Maybe I’ll start another band, start playing music again. That would be nice. Or I’ll buy an elephant. That would probably be fun. I’d ride up and down the 101. In the fast lane, to piss people off. Then I’d go down the Sunset strip to where Hamburger Hamlet used to be, and stage a one-person demonstration to bring it back just for me.

Nope, that didn’t do it. How the fuck do I find closure here? I’m trying to apply story math but I can’t get the desires right. There’s the desire to root myself in my physical surroundings to ward off the disease, but what’s the opposite of that? The desire to stop observing, to give in? Yeah, which happened after the sneakers. So now we got to reverse that, which means I have to want to live, be well. Or talk about abstractions or memories or something? And that the part about Alegria, but how do I synthesize that with (A)? Maybe it’s just a matter of stopping talking. Or of deciding on an action of some kind. But I did that with the band and the elephant jazz. So what’s missing? What’s wrong?

Maybe I should talk about my bed. Where I’m going to go in a minute. Lie down there with my head on the pillow and turn out the light. There’s something about being in bed which is nice, but something else I don’t like. I don’t like missing out on anything.

I feel like I’m wasting my life.

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Ben Loory BEN LOORY's fables and tales have appeared in The New Yorker, on This American Life, at Word Theatre, and on Selected Shorts. His book Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day (Penguin, 2011) was a selection of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

4 Responses to “Tarnishment of the Living Apparatus”

  1. Tom Hansen says:

    Dude that was brilliant. It appears you have had your mind sufficiently bent by Beckett. It’s good, no?

  2. Ben Loory says:

    yep, he’s a winner. and that andre the giant story is pretty awesome.

  3. Aaron Dietz says:

    Ben, I love that you’re on the main page and I can just peruse some “back issues” of yours with absolutely no effort. This is what life should be like at least two minutes of every day. That’s what I’m asking for.

  4. [...] his own death (let us remember him fondly as a guy who was OK at [...]

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