December, 2019. Another roadside motel. Instead of somewhere in Maryland, I look out the window to a snow-filled parking lot in Niagara Falls, New York.
The nightmares have started to come back since I started writing. For the first 16 months, there were scarecrow nightmares nearly every night. I would dream of his horrible life and wake up devastated remembering that his life is mine; I would dream of my wonderful life and wake up devastated remembering that my life was not mine. Terrible days, often started with a good cry.
Last night it was a Christmas sale at an art gallery that looked like a JCPenney. Robin was sitting naked on a glass display case, wearing a blank yellow mask like in a photoshoot we once took in her room. From the side of the mask I saw massive scarring, very Friday the 13th. This is why she is wearing the mask (hockey mask now) I realized. She had been hurt, she was covering it. Did someone do this to her or did she do this to herself, I wondered. I had to get out of there before she saw me and caused a scene, I was panicking. She glanced over at me slowly, as though she had always known I would be standing there. I froze in fear, but instead of sounding an alarm, she slowly slid her ass off the back end of the glass counter as if to show it off, her asshole was bright purple.
Same night different dream, I looked at an apartment with my girlfriend, Miriam, and learned that Dana had previously lived there. I looked in the bedroom that used to be hers, there was an unfinished scarf hanging on the wall. I look closer - it is made of hair. I followed it as it extended into rooms within rooms, then down to the basement where a Mexican family was living under the stairs. I couldn’t find my way back, I wanted Miriam. The house caught on fire and I knew I would be blamed for it. I fled the city, alone, now an arsonist as well.
The night before, a dream of a woman I know named “Peppers” coming into my ambiguous place of employment and saying to me very loudly, “Should we tell your boss who you really are?”
I told her she looked old.
“What if I told you I was sick and dying? Would that make you happy?”, she said. I shot back, “No, dying wouldn’t make you a better person.”
Good response for a dream. I don’t hate Peppers, or anyone else who hates me for that matter. She’s just a grump in the universe. I worked with her for a couple years. She was a tough lesbian who always seemed to have a cold. I wasn’t the type of person she liked, I didn’t have much use to her until my skeleton was re-assembled from the ashes and covered in shame gold.
The canceled are not actually worthless. When I was made a nobody, I was suddenly useful to a whole crew to whom I was never useful to before: Abuser Bling for the victim set, a bourgeois gem worn by those too fortunate to have been really abused. Your Lil Abuser(™). From flesh and blood, to a soft target of bones in a hard, unbreathable shell of gold, metamorphosis: Abuser Superstar.
Soon, the Superstar was abusing everyone, including Peppers, because she said so. The abuse: I sent her an aggressive work-related email. I don’t remember such an email, but if I did send it, I would love to read it. I would love everyone to read it. I would love everyone to see the abuses I've been accused of, watch them as a live audience seated in front of my alleged tyrannies as they happened or didn't happen, and tell me whether I am so terrible that I should be writing desperately in a motel in Niagara Falls that won’t get warm enough, dead of winter, dying to make it all better; searching for a way to be reunited with my body and name again.
Too late. I am the solid gold Scarecrow Superstar, I have ALS and Parkinson’s and AIDS, I’m the worst and that’s the only way I’ll be useful to anyone now. I am worthless to myself, only valuable to those who call me worthless. Am I supposed to say "I'm sorry", or “you’re welcome”?
Earlier tonight I woke up to a woman screaming from outside the motel. It was a genuine horror scream, “Somebody help me, help me!” It didn’t sound like it was coming from the grounds of the motel, but somewhere out in the street. I turned off the lights to open the curtain and didn’t see anything. I went outside, absolute silence.
I wondered if I could have dreamed it. Niagara Falls is a post-apocalyptic toxic frightscape, but I don’t think terrible murders happen right here on the empty boulevard. Then I remembered the girl who got her face set on fire at a nearby Tim Hortons. Her ex-boyfriend threw gasoline over her head and lit a match to it. During the trial she said that she stood there drenched in gasoline as he lit a match, she didn’t run because she didn’t think he was really going to do it. But he did, and now he’s spending his life behind bars, as she lives her life behind a face that bears the reminder of a single, violent moment so extreme she couldn’t imagine it could really happen. This is horror, the sounds of a woman screaming, a scream that says “nothing will be the same”, these are the sounds made beyond a feeling of hurt, an alarm sounding, the sacred sounds and words only to be used when in great danger. Run. Horror does worse than hurt. Help. It’s not horror if you still have as much or as little of yourself as you’ve always had. Hurt is not horror, conflict not abuse. Yet here I am holding the match as the house burns down, Gold Bones on the run. All I want is Miriam, but I had to leave her behind because I knew they would blame me for it. Once you are accused, you are guilty of everything.
Alone I walk frozen sidewalk-less streets for food, towards the nearby KFC. Among the darkness and the cold, I have never felt so much salvation for reaching the doors of a KFC, but this door was being held shut by a homeless man, grasping the handles and leaning his weight back to keep me out in the cold. Is he trying to tell me they are closed? No, the employees start yelling at him from behind the counter to get away from the door. I can’t hear them, I only stare at his face through the glass, I look into his eyes. If I am being wronged by these eyes, I cannot blame the person behind them, because there is none. Where can we say: this person isn’t responsible because something is wrong here, when does responsibility begin, and excuses end? Maybe he grew up in a violent household, maybe he was abused as a child, his mother dressed him in mini-skirts and made him watch her fuck men for money, made him cross-eyed. If I think about it too much, I start believing that nobody is ever responsible for any crime (but that's what the guilty say). The person didn’t do it, it was the lack of person. Punish the lack of person by putting the person back in the eyes.
The employees start angrily toward the door, I don’t want any midnight action at the KFC, so I just turned and walked away. I got dinner fit for a ghost at a gas station instead: hard-boiled eggs in plastic, microwave pot-pie and some other crap. On the way back to the motel, I see the homeless guy walking in my direction - presumably on his way from being kicked out of the KFC. It was as if we were the only two people out in Niagara Falls that night.
“Merry Christmas. Be safe!” He says to me.
“Merry Christmas to you too.”