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The Fine Art of Being Difficult

Kenneth Wayne Hanis







"insight follows stupidity"





a nonfiction novel





Copyright and Registrations

"The Fine Art of Being Difficult" -eBook

© 2016 Canada Kenneth Wayne Hanis - All Rights Reserved

ISBN: - 978-0-9880773-2-4

® Registered WGC, & WGAE, & WGAW, 2015/2016



*** This Book is written in Canadian and American English.

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License Notes

"The Fine Art of Being Difficult" -'Author's Proof, or "The Fine Art of Being Difficult" (formerly titled in unrevised form "When We Lived in Caves" & "My Life After My Death" & "The Fine Art of a Kiss" & "The Fine Art of Kissing" & "The Art of a Kiss") is protected under Copyright Canada. Hereinafter, the title, titles, and contents of this Novel shall be referred to as the work. No part of this work may be used publicly beyond 'fair use', transferred and/or reproduced, or stored in any form of retrieval system; paper, electronic, digital, or otherwise transmitted in any form, or by any means, without the prior written permission of the author of this work.

*Your support of my rights is greatly appreciated.*

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Disclaimer

Insofar as this metaphorical fictional chronicle is based upon many true to life events, - it is also a memoir. Situations and Names have been changed, and composite situations and characters have been created, (through simply observing and listening to other's voices and behaviors throughout life) to protect the guilty and innocent. Any resemblance to specific situations, or specific persons living or dead, is purely coincidental.

*

*The author of this work, states categorically, that all opinions and views expressed within the content and context of this novel belong to the individual characters within the novel expressing them, and do not necessarily represent the views or beliefs of the author.*

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For

Lavinia Rafaela de la Peña Arroyo Revelles

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Te Amo

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Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction


My Life After My Death

Chapter - 1

Chapter - 2

Chapter - 3

Chapter - 4

Chapter - 5

Chapter - 6

Chapter - 7

Chapter - 8

Chapter - 9

Chapter - 10

Chapter - 11

Chapter - 12

Chapter - 13


Bitching and Complaining

Chapter - 14

Chapter - 15

Chapter - 16

Chapter - 17

Chapter - 18


The Path of Tears

Chapter - 19

Chapter - 20

Chapter - 21

Chapter - 22

Chapter - 23

Chapter - 24

Chapter - 25

Chapter - 26

Chapter - 27


The Fine Art of a Kiss

Chapter - 28

Chapter - 29


'one beautiful moment'


About the Author

Acknowledgements

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*

“Abide with your song

resonating amid the thunder

within the borderless borders

of this one beautiful moment”

*

Preface

'The Fine Art of Being Difficult', is a chronicled memoir of Bill's return from death into life. This memoir is a fabulist slice of his life, marinated in metaphors that attempt to demonstrate that 'Life' as we don't recognize it, is intelligence in action over time, and maintains balance in our shared world at all seeming cost, and in completely unpredictable ways.

Bill suspects he died from an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant, and was reborn somewhere along the mobius loop of time; but he also realizes that he is now a mature man with memories, and therefore he has no point of reference 'outside of himself' to validate his persistent and nagging suspicion.

Memory is a selective thing that advocates for our convictions, obliges our self image, and therefore cements our identity. That said, Bill recounts his story with the fearlessly honest innocence of a child that begs to be believed.

Bill's real story, his reluctant 'Hero's Journey' through life, starts out one frosty Spring night in Cascadia, where we find him fast asleep, curled up like a fetus, in the back of his Jeep Cherokee Laredo, and waking up as a self-exiled, emotionally and cynically haunted, but contentedly homeless man living in his Car.

At the outset, I must describe Bill as both a curious person, and a curiosity in his own right. He's a true, 'dyed-in-the-wool' iconoclast. He's an otherworldly, humorous, mercurial, and unique thinker.

As I started the writing this fabulist memoir, Bill reminded me of what a wise woman once shared with him, 'there are only three fundamental illusions in life; and they are, 'how I see myself'', 'how others see me', and 'how I am'.

Having considered this notion carefully, I'm forced to agree with what Rudyard Kipling wrote, - 'never the twain shall meet'.

But, what if I am wrong in my agreement? No situation in life 'is' what it seems to be. The best any of us can do is, - through our core beliefs, - interpret life's situations for ourselves; and if we are ignorant or arrogant enough, we can interpret them for others.

As the incognito omniscient scribe, for the narrator of this chronicle, who resides as an image on the surface of a mirror, the best I can do is describe the fingertip pointing at me.

More than any other means of conveyance, humour reaches us all the most directly and immediately. .. Just as an AM or FM Radio Wave carries the music you hear by piggyback, from a broadcasting station, over the air, to your radio receiver, and then back on the air to your ears; .. so also is the sub-textual music of 'The Fine Art of Being Difficult' delivered in a comedic way.

Some stories or recounts, require an action hero bordering on the likes of those 20th & 21st century entertainment icons like Willis, Stallone, or Schwarzenegger, carrying a big fucking gun to destroy an implacable enemy and save the world; but in some stories the enemy is bigger and stronger than any action hero can handle, and so requires the natural forces of life itself to intervene, to defeat the implacable enemy, and save the world with nothing more than a microscopic virus. Bill's story leans more to the latter.

I started out believing that my commission was to write a memoir, to chronicle the events of a life lived, but things changed along the way. 'The Fine Art of Being Difficult' evolved into a fabulist yet realistic, literary subtext. It's definitely not a storybook! It's not a novel! The best that I can pitch to the reader is to accept the definition allegedly created by the American writer, Truman Capote, - it is a 'non-fiction novel'. .. It's a memoir of memories.

Using that AM/FM Radio Wave metaphor again, ..'The Fine Art of Being Difficult' is conveyed on the back of the written word through its subtext.

I chronicled Bill's journey starting with the back story of his divorce from marriage, the leukemia treatments that led up to his alleged death and ultimately his rebirth, and then I reported an ample slice of the progression of his living up to the present of that moment in time.

I say that I 'chronicled' his journey, because his beliefs and convictions evolved so much, that to have drawn any premature conclusions would have been tantamount to defining an ending, where there may have only been a beginning; and I don't have the wisdom to recognize an ending from a beginning.

Knowing what I know now, my take on all of this, is that his broken past paralyzed him, leaving him emotionally dead, and spiritually stalled.

For Bill, life was far stranger than fiction! He was mortally allergic to Bee stings; and yet this same homeless man very reluctantly ended up in a new relationship with a pretty pixie-ish muse who managed a Honeybee farm. .. Bill's reluctant Hero's Journey ultimately ended; .. and after having traveled full circle, he was unburdened, and ready and willing to embark on his journey through life.

Bill's story is replete with Gods and Monsters, Virtual Realities, Honey Bees, Misogynists and Misandrists, Women's Power Tools, Drinking Buddies, Dark Irish Beer and Unshelled Peanuts.

The humorous voices of the characters in this chronicle express an often dark, but honest, exploration into the nature of the reality of life, the nature of reality within the relationships we have with ourselves, with our friends, with strangers, and the relationships shared between men and women.

'The Fine Art of Being Difficult' asks us to honestly acknowledge our gut feelings, to honour our curiosity, to question our personal convictions, and to refuse to accept the path of common consensus without question, just because it promises us a better quality of life, and therefore an ease of passage through our ongoing life circumstances.

I must note here, that I took Bill's essays on the 'process of writing' verbatim, and I then introduced fictitious characters into a fictitious environment.

This chronicled memoir is a work of art that speaks to us all, in many ways. We will hear what we hear for ourselves. We will see what we see for ourselves.

Where this story leads you, will depend upon the voices of the characters you hear, and how you feel about what you believe you understood of what you heard, within their words that you read.

That said, I will share what Bill himself has reminded me of on numerous occasions, - 'do not doubt for a moment, that whatever we make a judgement about in our lives, is not also a judgement about ourselves, on some level'.

*

*WARNING WARNING WARNING - If this unfolding chronicle appears to be too vulgar and offensive, or too unvarnished and rough, then I ask for your patience, and that you please continue to read on, suspend your condemnation, and thereby avoid its sin of forgiveness.

Bill won't accept forgiveness for this literary conveyance, because he won't accept condemnation for his self-honesty.

Kenneth W. Hanis
10.2017

*

*

Introduction

For the majority of us, we are born into this world kicking and screaming; and as we move through our lives, we chance upon many situations and come up against many statements made to us, that we are expected to simply accept, yet they 'beg' for the question - 'why?'.

Anyway we look at it, the process of living is also the process of dying. It's said that 'curiosity killed the cat', but it was 'satisfaction' that brought it back to life; and I say, 'be curious about your life and die with contentment'.

Surely, there are born into our world those rare souls that never cried much at birth, and so looked around and smiled at life with fresh, unpolluted wonder. I'm sure the Parents of those rare souls were advised to count their blessings. Perhaps those rare souls never cried much as babies because their life was preordained. .. It's more than an interesting theory to me because preordination suggests a purpose or a plan in advance of action. As children, through our endless curiosity and exploration, we all desire to be, or do, 'something', when we grow up.

20/20 hindsight is its own season in the blink of one beautiful moment. My own life experience has taught me (the hard way) that every situation I have ever encountered in my reckless life is one part of an idea, which is one part of a larger idea that became clearer only through more life experience.

The big picture of my life, beyond my unlabeled desires, and questions such as, 'What am I going to be when I grow up?' always seemed to be out of my reach.

I'm a mature man of solid years now; and finding an identity that I'm comfortable with has always eluded me in my life experience. I still don't know 'what am I going to be when I grow up'. I only know what I've done, and how I have applied, or wasted, my energy.

I've often wondered to myself, 'Who is minding the store' while I was lost in distracting or disconnected thoughts while exploring new ideas, or adventuring in foreign lands, or entertaining the now faded memories of my explorations into the liberating moments provided by the organic and alchemical facilitators of a lost generation.

It's funny how every narrative is a confession on some level; perhaps only a confession only to oneself. The word 'narrative' somehow feels safer because it's easier to defensively assign it to a genre.

A wise woman who I'll call Joan, once told me that there are three illusions in life; - 'how I see myself', 'how others see me', and 'how I am'. .. It sounds profound, and even makes sense: but to know the truth of it would put me outside looking in, and I would therefore cease to be a roll player in this game of life, - I think.

Truth be told, as much as I can appreciate that notion of Joan's three illusions, and see the value of it in my observations of others, I cannot apply it toward myself because I am not outside looking in at myself.

That said, William Blake wrote a profundity that I can, with 20/20 hindsight, absolutely relate to; - he wrote - 'a fool persisting in folly would soon become wise'. My foolish attempt to 'literarily' paint the big picture of my life, through those ponderous three illusions of life, with the colors of my life experience, is an act of foolish honesty.

'The Fine Art of Being Difficult' is my incognito chronicle of a bizarre life, conveyed through the identity of a modern day, battle scarred, urban warrior, whose life is completely rearranged through a terrible series of seemingly tsunami like catastrophes that destroy all of his life as he knew it, and so he suffers a critical state of identity crisis, and his wounded mercurial heart loses its voice.

This chronicle of mine conveys a fabulist account of an emotionally and spiritually stalled, contentedly homeless, modern day errant Knight, who is self exiled from the family of his tribe, and on a reluctant Hero's Journey that portends the discovery of the holy grail of intimacy; .. but at the perilous risk of the loss of all awareness of the infiniteness of the human spirit, through the paralyzing decent into the divisive crisis of human identity.

[For a man, life, as we are born into it, was, is, and (God forbid) will forever be, about protecting the tribe. It is the assignment of our gender identity at birth, pre-packaged with responsibilities. All males learn from their parents, or 'a' parent, and are also 'reminded' in countless ways from their earliest cognitive years, that 'at the very least', they are the protectors of the women and children of the tribe of their birth, and it is always females first because the continuity of the tribe depends upon the production of offspring to ensure a new generation comes into being. .. It appears to be the nature of things.]

The fine print notwithstanding, 'The Nature of Things' is an interesting theory, because it denotes life as action. We are born into life! - From what or from where, who can honestly say? But, until there is a global and unifying shift, in psychological, spiritual, and human awareness, [and not just 'partial' social awareness] - Men will continue to be uniquely the Man they are, and continue the narrative of all past generations, and suffer their stresses like their Fathers and the Fathers before them.

I believe in the broadest sense, that Life is a sentient singular thing; it is our Master and Teacher. - Life is also a funny thing, and yet we seldom hear the laughter, because as we live and breathe, we walk along the path it provides making judgements and choices about any given situation that falls before us.

Speaking as a man, I believe that for any man, the process of living is akin to the game of Backgammon, because it's so often a roll of the dice.

And, life is even more akin to the game of Poker where the first card is usually hidden, and we must play the cards we are dealt.

Ultimately, I believe that for men like myself, life is metaphorically analogous to the 'rite of passage' an Australian Aboriginal would call a 'walkabout'. It's a journey, that by virtue of the station of our birth into life, we all walk willingly, unwillingly, inspired, seemingly predestined, nurtured or starved, or we are dragged along kicking and screaming by the forces of life; .. but walk we must, until by the hand of life or our own hand, we return our last breath.

Life is a bitch, and all life is suffering! Shit happens and Shit helps! There's plenty of hard times and always more to come; and once those rumoured unseen protective Angels of our childhood observe our loss of innocence, they move on and then it's all hard times and the struggles of pre-ordained responsibilities. The honest expression of childlike joy is assigned to yearning memory; and far too often our smile is an act of appeasement, or an exercise in self restraint.

Long past my perceived loss of the virginity of my innocent youth, while suffering some particular aspect of living, and during one of those rare rumoured instances that is metaphorically analogous to that calm center within the all seeing eye of a Hurricane, I experienced a quiet, beautiful, and insightful moment, wherein I belatedly received from those protective, long departed Angels of my being, the postpartum gift of an insight to carry me through the hard times. It became my daily affirmation, my bedside prayer, and it always seemed to help my follow-through:...

"Abide with your song

resonating amid the thunder

within the borderless borders

of this one beautiful moment"

Seems the theme of my whole life has been about learning to abide with my own song amid the perpetual thunder and lightning strikes of my life experience.

I had, for a span of time, become a man that had completely lost all of my faith in those sacred core beliefs that I had always unconsciously held onto so protectively, because they defined my life and therefore my decisions toward action. They served to define my image of myself.

All of that said, the fundamental bedrock of my identity as a man had dis-integrated after suffering a whole lot of mortal shit; and I was awakened from what I can only describe as the dream of a past life, without the recall of it's death, and without feeling the joy of rebirth, but rather, feeling only the seemingly endless labour of birth itself.

Over time I came to recognize, and slowly accept, that I was a man paralyzed from the broken past of my own poor construction; and that I was being chased by my life, and there was nowhere to run and hide from myself. .. I had removed myself from the tribe of my family, my persistent loyal friends, and also my generation. I had become a Hermit. My car was my home, and I was living as a content and uncomplicated homeless man, until I suffered the destruction by fire of my homeless bliss. .. My new world ended in fire!

My dear friend Harvey, who I will very shortly introduce to you, is very important to the telling of 'my' story, because he is literarily my analogous reflection, albeit a mirror image reflection by way of his unique and personal circumstances; because his desperate conscious resolve to heal his fractured marriage, and recapture the intimacies of his life and relationship, that he feared were fast moving beyond his reach, inversely reflected my lethargic unconscious resolve to come-to-terms with my own fractured relationship toward living in the world, and thereby capture some new semblance of the fragile intimacy of actually belonging anywhere.

Some days, a stiff drink or a soft herbal remedy is required to fearlessly view the panorama of 20/20 hindsight.

Earlier, I introduced the curious notion that Life is metaphorically analogous to the 'rite of passage' an Australian Aboriginal would call a 'walkabout'. .. That said, 'my' walkabout, was a 21st century echo of a 20th century cause, where I felt like a solitary expatriate screaming out a declaration at a deaf barren wilderness. I now believe my scream was a living and breathing declaration that was born 'out of' (not with) that first wave of North American Baby-boomers.

I'm talking about that post war afflicted generation, that begot the notorious 20th century renaissance generation, that embodied the ideals of the 1960's decade. .. That particular generation produced more than a few iconoclastic individuals that dared to ask 'Why?'; and also questioned every aspect of their social, spiritual, and personal history and identity, - and in the process planted a few seeds that produced some healthy organic food for thought that actually affected a modicum of genuine social changes within the collective tribes that 'was' the cultural backdrop and landscape that defined my world, at those points in time. .. However, it was also the generation that had to "take-the-rap" for creating the imbalances, that nature would not abide, within that infectious, predominantly North American culture.

From the platform of my mature years, I can say that 'time' moves forward like a hurricane wind that carries along all of the past debris of our lives. .. The shared intimacies, and experimental honesty, of that fearless renaissance counter-culture generation I spoke of, redefined common language, common expression, common sense, and rightly gave full birth to the wider recognition of the equality of spirit and voice between men and women; - but at the cost of the loss of the language to justly define the identity of a new generation of men, and thereby created a vacuum, an imbalance, in the nature of things, that muted the spirit and the voice of common men.

I'm talking about that conflicted 'cusp' generation of males, that New Wave generation defined popularly as Generation 'X', that I choose to call Generation 'Y'.

Why? .. Because I am allegedly of that generation, and throughout my journey through life I am always asking 'why?'.

*Please understand this at the outset; I am speaking as an 'unpolled', solitary voice for men like myself, who have now solidly crossed the cusp of that generation, and still carry that inherited vacuum of the masculine spirit.

*We all now live in a world of infant social media, that is still sharing old ideals and stories, and desperately needs an expanded new narrative.

*

*I feel an imbalance all around myself, and so I am asking you the reader, .. yes, both men and women equally, how can a man express himself in this day and age, uniquely and honestly, where his natural expression is given equal rights and equal weight to that of a woman, and is therefore accepted with complimentary reciprocity?

*Where is the equality between men and women that destroys all presumptions and stereotypes; and how do you define that equality? Can it be defined? - or are Men from Mars and Women from Venus? - I think not!

*What is this bullshit where men and women each have a masculine and feminine side? When and Where, Who and What, created this popular idea and false identity construction, and most importantly, .. Why?

The world desperately needs a new conversation; a new narrative! .. Off-the-cuff comments and notions of a stereotypical woman or a stereotypical man are pure bullshit! There are only unexamined stereotypical opinions that are an embarrassment and an insult to the intelligence of us all! .. Men must be allowed to honestly express themselves as the man they are; and Women must be allowed to honestly express themselves as the woman they are. 'Political Correctness', is just a keyword for censorship!

Human beings do not live and interact in this world as a race of hermaphrodites; and a man does not cry out the way a woman does; .. but I am 'literarily' crying out, "Do I not have a voice!?".. "Where is the language that gives me my voice to speak out honestly from my masculine heart?"

Those three ponderous illusions of life: - 'how I see myself', 'how others see me', and 'how I am', lock us all into the identity of our gender and our self image. Whether Heterosexual, Homosexual, Intersex, or the safe new media and political acronym LGBTQ, we are all human beings first and fundamentally, and to our own selves we must be true and honest.

Beyond my inexplicable literary desire to be an unpolled sub-textual voice for men, human gender equality and respect, and upon much reflection, it seems to me 'now', that all of my decisions and actions on my personal Hero's Journey through 'life as we think we know it', so far, have been metaphors for my self expression today. .. How many insights have I ignored in the past because of my comfort with my arrogant self interest?

So here I am 'now', mature in years but ageless in spirit, with white hair, and a body that can no longer accommodate me with the vitality of my youth.

I see my life journey with different eyes now; and I also recognize that 'if I only knew then what I know now' is the impossible regret of a fool.

Sadly, my personal truths cannot be conveyed, and it's a fool's folly to try; but I will offer this much, 'you must touch the hot stove element, to truly understand and know for yourself the truth of 'hot and burn'.

That said, my fool's folly in this life has served me well. There are no mistakes in life! There are only silly judgements; all of which are reflexive, and most of which are self directed, and they all have consequences in one form or another. We sleep in the bed we make.

This chronicled, fabulist, yet realistic, memoir of my life experiences, is my foolish attempt at a legacy to live on after I'm long dead and gone. What more can I say?

Bill
11.23.2017







The Fine Art of Being Difficult







The fox provides for itself

God provides for the lion.

William Blake (1757-1827)

'Proverbs of Hell'







Blessed is the lion that the human being will devour

so that the lion becomes human.

Cursed is the human being that the lion devours

and the lion will become human.

Gospel of Thomas -7

*

*

PART ONE

My Life After My Death

"And as you take your notes toward writing this chronicle, I pray it reaches and is therefore understood by your readers; .. and if this makes any sense to you at all, may it be understood, where it is believed, and yet where it is unconveyable from one to another."

"You lost me there; where are you taking me Bill?"

He cracked open a can of cold, dark draught Irish beer, and took a long gulp, "I suppose that depends on where you are. I suppose that I am taking you on a journey. .. Truth be told, I'm not sure where I'm taking you, and anyway you asked, so enjoy your beer and listen to my fragments of memory as if you were eavesdropping on my honest confession of the account of my life before god, because today might be the surrender of my last living breath."

That remark concerned me deeply, and so I reminded Bill in no uncertain terms, "I don't write obituaries and I don't do eulogies!" With more than some concern I demanded to know, "You're not entertaining thoughts of suicide are you?"

Bill laughed, but only sadly, "That's a vain idea because they'd only send me back to deal with my shit."

"Who's they?" I asked.

He just looked at me and smiled wearily, "You know something, there is just nowhere to run and hide. .. Well I suppose that's love for you; .. well maybe it's only compassion. .. Maybe it's the same thing."

Bill's eyes suddenly lit up, "Heh, you've read Dante's Divine Comedy poem, maybe that's the place to start .. you know, where he stands at the entrance gate to hell and wonders how in hell he got here in the first place, and he sees the warning written on the top of the gate, '...any who enter abandon hope, and he's advised by a wise guy to abandon his fear, and distrust all, because he's at the place of misery, despair, and confusion...' you know, that place we all find ourselves in at times, where there's nowhere to run and hide, and everybody has advice to give you. Maybe it suggests choices."

I raised my eyebrows and considered his idea while I sipped my beer, and I also observed a thought cross my mind of how Bill was a gulper and I was a sipper; and I suggested, "That might be a bit too dark a place to start from. Maybe we should start with something as a simple as who you are?"

Bill laughed out loud, "Something as simple as who I am; ahahaha, now that's an interesting theory my friend. Let me remind you again what I myself was reminded of many years ago by my good friend Joan when she told me that there are three fundamental illusions in life .. 'how I see myself, .. how others see me, .. and how I am', .. so good luck with that notion."

*

*

Chapter 1

I started out in this life as a bloody, afterbirth stained, blank slate, waiting for an identity; but my good parents, the Murphys, God rest their souls, (of no relation to my crazy friend Murphy) could not come to an agreement on assigning me my first name. An identity to identify is a serious matter; and just like the birth of any given new idea, the birth of a child requires an identity, a name, a first name. The words 'identity' and 'identify' solidify all matter into all matters in the universe.

For more than two weeks, I lay in the craftwork bassinet my Father had lovingly built for my arrival, and I existed without a complete identity. If this was ever to prove to be a blessing, then it was a blessing in disguise.

My father was of British birth and Irish descent, yet he was safely agnostic. He wanted a lofty and responsible name for his only son, so he chose William Alfred.

My Mother was a devout Catholic, of Canadian birth, and she believed I should have a Christian name, a name after a saint, and she insisted on Jonathan or Daniel.

They both agreed that I required a middle name, but alas, they could not agree upon one. My Father really won that battle because he was reading Hemingway at the time, and he insisted that my middle name should be Ernest. My Mother was reading a play by Oscar Wilde at the time and ultimately accepted this name; but she refused to acknowledge that she had caved in to my Father's position, and justified her decision by declaring that it was important for a boy to be earnest.

My name is William Alfred Ernest Jonathan Daniel Murphy. My friends call me Bill.

*

The walls of the conference room were made of glass to promote the illusion of openness and transparency, and yet all of the players, including myself, held our silent thought cards close to our chests; more out of habit than necessity because allegedly this was the last formality.

It wasn't even remotely a peace treaty, but the war was over. Land grabs and penalties had already been assigned, and all that remained was this amicable signing off and sayonara ceremony.

Dolores's pregnant body could not be hidden under the transparent glass top of the long conference table. She sat helplessly next to her Lawyer and never took her eyes off of him. She felt safe. All was understood by all, and no last words were needed, yet there were a few inappropriate words standing at ready on the tip of my loaded tongue.

Her Lawyer had ceremoniously laid out an agreement on the glass conference table in front of her and politely offered his pen. Dolores didn't hesitate or even look up at me as she signed the document. Instead, she offered her nervous sweet smile, along with the signed document, to her attorney, who soberly used both hands to pass it across the table to my attorney, who in turn passed it to me; and I was already armed and ready with my pen.

I scanned the binding legal 'agreement' one last time. I looked at my lawyer. I looked over at Dolores and muttered to myself, "Fuck it!" I signed my name on the bottom line. 'How appropriate', I thought, 'it's always the bottom line.' I picked up the document and lightly blew over the signature as though I was attempting to dry the wet ink delivered from a feather quill pen in days of old; and I wondered if perhaps I'd gone through a similar event in a past life. It was a stupid stressful thought but this was a stressful situation, and I wasn't about to let anyone see me sweat.

'Why was I even born?' I thought, more out of cynical frustration than self pity.

I gave Dolores a dry stoic stare, as I stood up, leaned over the table and defiantly slapped the signed and binding legal agreement onto the transparent glass table in front of her. She jolted slightly, but refused to make eye contact with me. "Here it is at last!" I shouted caustically. "All the veins have been cut! This rock has no more blood to give! You finally got it all!"

Dolores was shocked and reflexively retorted, "Fuck you loser!"

I shot back with the fire in my eyes, "Yes Dolores, I'm a loser; and it's my lucky day because I finally lost you!" I looked down at my low budget lawyer, "and I'm done with you too!" I roughly shoved my chair aside with my thigh and walked out of the transparent conference room. I was in desperate need of some honest daylight.

I exited the icy hostile legal establishment and entered a warm and sunny September morning. The street was awake. The shops and cafes yawned with their inviting open doors. I actually felt fresh and newly unburdened, as though I'd just stepped out of the morning shower; and I exhaled a deep cleansing breath. As I walked toward my Jeep Cherokee Laredo, I smiled to myself because it was the one thing that Dolores unsuccessfully tried to take from me. .. Beyond my clothing, my laptop computer, and any intellectual property I had previously created, or was in the process of creating, or may create in the future, it was my last remaining possession.

I heard my name called out from a short distance off. I stopped and turned to see Murphy approaching with his slightly down-child eyes, and his ever present enlightened smile.

Murphy was my oldest friend; he was an extraordinary man in every way. He was a man that loved everyone and feared no one; but he seemed to be a magnet for snotty nosed, bratty, sinister children. Burdened with schizophrenia and extreme intelligence, Murphy was the sacred village idiot.

"Laddy!" he called out buoyantly in his inherited, lyrically rolling, Irish accent, "How are you?"

I smiled one sided, "Hello-Hello Murphy. .. How am I?" I thought about how to respond, "I'm at the end of a long dark road and I'm never looking back. That's how I am!"

Murphy laughed out loud, "Laddy! At long last, you've reached the point of no return."

I nodded sad agreement, "Yep, and there's no going back!"

The point of no return always has a point of origin; but your gut knows when there's no going back; and anyway, only 'greater minds' could accurately determine the point of origin of all the shit that led to being summoned and foreclosed upon, on this sunny new day.

I needed a distraction. I knew a beer was not going to do it; and I certainly didn't want the unconscious cowering comfort of numbness or any thing for that matter that would prove to be any form of commitment to my psyche; on the contrary, I wanted to explode! This was an ending of cosmic proportion, and nothing short of a big-bang event was going to distract me enough.

I was now a blood stained clean slate, a new beginning, and I needed a new idea! .. Alas, be careful for what you wish for. A wise guy once told me that nothing in life ends without having first sown the seeds for new beginnings.

*

It was morning's end. I sat in the waiting room of my Doctor's office believing the worst of the day, and in fact the worst of my whole life, were now behind me.

Waiting Rooms! .. Waiting is a timeless art; but Waiting Rooms should rightly be called Angst Rooms, and we should fear them, or at least bestow a healthy respect toward them, because once inside, there is nowhere to run and hide from the usually unknown end result of whatever we are waiting for. Waiting Rooms offer us no information beyond what those dated articles from the worn out dog-eared magazines that litter the unoccupied chairs offer. Once inside a waiting room there are no choices to be made and therefore no options to consider because that's information we are presumable waiting for.

My best friend Alfonso Marinara, a fearlessly honest son of bitch, told me he might come by and wait for me; and of course he only means to 'wait with me', but he's really only waiting for a drinking buddy to join him at the Pub, after the wait, to gather and share the news of the day and any interesting current events. No healthy self respecting man wants to sit in an Irish Pub and drink a quality slow-pour dark beer all alone. That would be a sin and a crime against all Irish social traditions. So right on cue, I was suddenly rocked out of my timeless reverie by that legacy Italian accent I know so well; "Heh man, you're still waiting?"

It was that dear son of bitch Alfonso; and the wall clock revealed that I'd been waiting for over 30 minutes and yet I found myself wondering where the time went.

The Doctor's new receptionist stepped into my 180 degree field of visual reality. What a piece of gear she was. One look at her and any man would be hard pressed to make a valid erectile dysfunction complaint to the doctor. She informed me politely, "Mister Murphy, the Doctor will see you now."

Alfonso waited in the waiting room and I was escorted into an examination room where I waited for the Doctor to appear. There was a clock on the wall in there too, but I gave it no mind; I simply waited.

My Doctor appeared; he carefully anchored himself to the examination table and looked at me gravely, "There is good news and bad news."

"What's the bad news," I asked nonchalantly. I thought I was better prepared for it after having been earlier disembowelled by my ex-wife Dolores, through her Lawyer's surgical strike, at our amicable divorce. Any good news that followed I could assign toward a new life that I assumed was even now in the throws of the Big Bang of creation.

My Doctor replied with a sympathetic but guilty tone, "Your blood results came back. You have an advanced condition of AML."

"Advanced? ..AML? .. What's AML?"

"It's bad, .. acute myeloid leukemia. Bone Marrow cancer. The first thing we must do is repeat the blood tests today!"

Strangely, in the silence of my disbelief I felt no sense of alarm as I numbly whispered to myself, "Yes, we must .. I have cancer - bone marrow cancer".

I looked at my guilty Doctor. My gut telegraphed nothing more than a reflexive, quietly demanding response, "What is bone marrow cancer?"

Safely anchored to the examination table, he addressed my eyes and replied in a calm yet compassionate tone of voice, "Your bone marrow is rapidly producing immature white blood cells. .. This is your immune system Bill, and it's progressively ceasing to function because as the healthy white cells die, they are being replaced with immature and impotent white cells."

All of this unexpected news did not immediately penetrate the soil of my fertile imagination, and as I felt it start taking root, I exclaimed with those wide eyes of disbelief, "You're saying my own immune system is killing me? .. Wow!" I declared as I exhaled, "This day just keeps getting better and better. .. My life is killing me, and all along I thought that my night sweats and low energy was just stress from my divorce." The wind had completely left my sails and I suddenly felt myself adrift in my body as I mumbled to myself, "Now I can't blame Dolores. .. What are the odds?"

My Doctor replied honestly but hesitantly. "On the face of it, at this stage they're not good. Less than a 30% chance of..."

"It was a rhetorical statement Doc," I interrupted. "So what's the good news?"

My Doctor unanchored himself from the examination table and his body ignited with a positive light, "The University Hospital has the best cancer research and treatment clinic in the world, and there will be a room available in three days; .. but we need to repeat your blood tests immediately .. today!"

*

I have to say, that the process of treatment for Leukemia, or any form of life threatening illness for that matter, is a very profound and life changing experience. There are never any guaranties of a successful outcome, and in my case, I needed a new immune system, which could only come from a human donor, a human being with the genetically compatible stem cells that are produced in the bone marrow. I needed a bone marrow transplant; which is essentially the opposite of an organ transplant, because if the transplanted immune system rejected my body, it would attack my own healthy organs as though they were foreign invaders and ultimately kill me.

Life changing circumstances are defacto death and rebirth. Are 'life changing' circumstances a good or bad thing? In hindsight, I think it's all a matter of the perspective viewed from the foundation of ones core beliefs. .. It's not like I was a feeble old man with a full life already lived behind me; where refusing to enter a hospital and be treated was a unique and convenient opportunity to commit legal suicide. .. Even though my life situation at the time had gone to hell, and I may have been despondent and depressed, I was too young and vital to have a valid reason to not want to at least try to continue living because I instinctively felt in my gut that I still had a huge chunk of life to live ahead of me. So for myself, it was unquestioned reflexive acceptance to undergo the treatment for my mortal situation.

I knew that the chemotherapy treatments offered no guarantees and that the advanced stage of my illness comfortably stacked the odds against me. Thank God I was still covered by medical insurance but ultimately all of the deductibles still cost me most of the savings I had hidden from Dolores's Lawyer.

Make no mistake about it; a life threatening illness 'IS' Death Row. I was on Death Row; and yet ironically it was also a Port in the storm of life that provided me the safe harbour to anchor myself and entertain the most fundamental and philosophical notions about myself and my life; and it also provided me the opportunity to truly sleep and dream.

I was truly alone with myself and forced to wonder, 'Will this life situation be my last Port of Call, or will I survive and once more unfurl the sails of my faith and convictions and set out anew to navigate the rough seas of life?'

While loved ones around me prayed to the Gods of their private faiths to grant me a pardon from my death sentence, - for myself, I was locked in a cage of fundamental uncertainty where I was forced me to come face to face with my core beliefs of all that I thought I believed about myself and my life. .. I am talking about 'faith'; - that idea which we hold dear to our hearts, - that idea which inspires our decisions, and directs our actions in life; and once confronted fearlessly and honestly, it is either marriage or divorce.

At the risk of proselytizing, - 'faith', .. I prefer the word 'belief' because for myself it's substantially more definable, often starts out as an adopted but unexamined point of view. Perhaps it's a point of view borrowed from a book, a magazine in a waiting room, an apostle evangelizing on a street corner, or from a pulpit, or from an 'authority' in a comfortable professional's office, or wherever; but ultimately it's hand delivered to us through our life experiences. It is 'something' conveyed to us.

The music of an expressed point of view reaches us and we accept it as being true, and so we adopt it because it offers answers that appear to make some sense of what we feel and observe within our life story at the present moment in time; and we carry that belief forward through our unfolding life stories until it's challenged by any given situation in our lives. .. Will that point of view, that faith survive? .. If 'something' new is conveyed and reaches us, or at least challenges us in a fundamental way, then history says no.

A religious person might tell me that my situation was God's will, a judgement upon me from God; and my response could only be, 'For what crime!?' I had Leukemia. It was what it was! It is what it is! It will be what it will be! - Just like the big bang of creation, the cause was unknown! My only course of action was to deal with it through dealing with myself. .. While my doctors were busy trying to heal my body, I was center stage with myself trying to deal with my crisis of consciousness. My core beliefs about my life had taken all of the front row seats, and they demanded an audience with me.

Our core beliefs operate within us in the same manner our hearts pump blood, and our lungs breathe air. .. My 'core beliefs' were the foundation of my 'faith' about my life. They were the filter that I sifted all that I took in from life, and that determined all that I executed as decisions and actions in my life.

My crisis of consciousness caused me to deconstruct and question all of my notions about faith, and I realized that 'faith' was a mere word that I had long taken for granted, but I really did not understand it at all. It just felt and looked a lot like 'hope', but upon reflection I saw it as the mirror image of mere personal truth. I came to suspect that faith is something borrowed but truth is something owned. There was no direct experience with faith, and therefore no unconveyable truth.

Speaking historically, at any given moment in my life I'd swear up and down, argue and defend myself aggressively, that my faith in what I truly believed was inarguably and absolutely the truth. It seems I am confessing to having been argumentative. Okay, I will confess, because I see it now, I was insecure about my life and I was difficult. I was insecure about my allegedly hardened 'faith' in my friends and relationships, my faith in my beliefs, my convictions, and my world view; .. but I also argued for my defense because my faith in my core beliefs had successfully served in guiding my actions in life toward many successful undertakings.

Given my difficult circumstances, I tried hard to define/redefine faith for myself. I wanted/needed to know the truth of it. .. And it's in that context that I attempted to re-assemble myself. I came to understand that there was a flaw in my 'faith', in my know-it-all core beliefs. There was a gaping hole in my personal truths which were all supported through believing absolutely in 'something' about life without absolutely knowing for sure.

As a child, I remember ignoring my Mother's warnings to keep away from the red hot stove element lest I suffer a burn. My natural curiosity saved me and I chose to discover the truth of her warnings, and so I touched the red hot stove element and burned my finger. I absolutely knew, from that moment onward, the 'truth' about hot and pain through my direct personal experience with the red hot stove element. I've managed to avoid many hazardous situations over the course of my errant life because of that hard earned truth.

I ultimately reckoned that owning 'truth' could only be arrived at through knowing something absolutely through direct personal experience. I needed to touch a hot stove and know the truth of what hot and burn really was. .. Sadly, all of my reckoning provided me little comfort because I was aware that I was merely translating a life experience toward constructing a new perspective.

Dishonesty is impossible in a mortal situation like this when your only audience is your self, and so I was forced to admit to myself, that all of my beliefs had been shattered through one situation or another at different times of my life. Yet here I was again, but this time I was on death row and still playing my mental circle game. .. Actually it wasn't really a circle .. it was more akin to a mobius loop.

Anyway; laying sleepless in my hospital room at deep night, staring at the ceiling, and in the vernacular of popular psychology, I again started deconstructing myself through trying to understand my reflexive notions about faith and truth. What the hell else was I going to do during my sleepless nights? .. I mean, I was on death row looking toward the big sleep, the great unknown, the one step beyond the point of no return; and for me it was like trying to imagine what the Big Bang of creation would look like from the other side of the cause of it. All I had to entertain myself was my now shattered faith in my battle hardened, core beliefs.

I started out describing my incarceration on Death Row, then I moved onward to describing the crisis of my faith. Why am I even talking about all this? .. Well, I'm on death row! (ultimately we are all on death's row call) I suppose, that I'm rehearsing my defence for that unknown hour that I 'believe' I must answer for the quality of my actions in my life.

At the end of the day, as I lay on my hospital bed in the still of the night, waiting, contemplating my right-of-passage either across the river of Styx, or through the Pearly Gates, I knew that it was really only me judging myself before the court of my convictions and the hung jury of my core beliefs.

*

*

It's no joke! It was April Fools' Day. I was admitted into a Cancer Clinic where a horrible prognosis was compassionately delivered to me with the barren percentages of a successful outcome that translated into odds any faithless dishonest gambler like myself would run in horror of. .. Except, .. I was to be the main event in a two round bout; a fight to the death. I was the game being played. It was a do or die scenario.

It was my choice to engage in the bout. I actually had the choice to choose between life and death. Well what the hell else was I to do? I mean, I was still breathing, so I had reflexively agreed to undergo the first induction round of chemotherapy. There could be no guarantees, but pretty much it was a fixed fight, rigged to knock back the multiplying and advancing enemy white cells within my body, to buy precious little time toward the many preparations for the final bout.

Allegedly, the first 'induction' round of my chemo therapy treatment was a statistically survivable bout, and therefore a fixed fight - but only to the brink of death; and IF I survived that, then round two would be the full pull, the death match, where my errant stem cells were to be clinically poisoned to death and thereafter replaced with genetically compatible donor stem cells.

I entered the fight ring for the first bout, I was strangely inapprehensive. I didn't feel death in my gut. I fought the fight, suffered the first assaults, and bought myself that precious little more time to be in this world! After several weeks I was released from hospital. Apparently, after that first bout, I was even on points and would soon move on to round two; but I would have to wait at least a month to allow my body to recover from the first chemotherapy assault and also because a compatible bone marrow donor was still needed to assist me by donating their stem cell rich bone marrow to level my odds for the death match.

Bone marrow donors were being searched for from day one. I was now out of hospital and waited in that empty wait state and 'prepared myself' (whatever that means) for the main event, - the death match. Alas! A bone marrow donor had been found, but the Bookies were still unimpressed with the odds. My friends weren't taking any bets, and neither was I because I was preoccupied with thoughts (no regrets) of how I had lived my life.

Just how had I lived my life? .. Well, I have always been an outsider. Others have called me difficult. I seemed to always disagree with what most people thought; and when I've asked 'them' why they think what they think, I have rarely encountered a situation where the other wants to defend their point of view. Microscopes are for scientists, and human's don't like being put under them. On those rare occasions that the other has explained their point of view; .. agree or disagree, I have found a friend. .. I have few friends.

*

My mind was the silent mind of a dead man. I was completely devoid of gut feelings. I felt like a dead man walking as I entered the ring for the final bout. This was to be 'the' Death Match, where the controlled poison that was to completely annihilate my natal immune system, was soon to be followed by the bone marrow graft bestowed by the human donor's genetically compatible immune system; - provided of course that the donor didn't die enroute to the hospital. The timing had to be perfect. Also, if the bone marrow 'graft' rejected my body; (and this was the very real possibility that the Bookies assigned their odds against a victory), the fight would be over and I would very soon be dead.

Throughout my whole ordeal, I felt and I looked like a poster child for a horror film. My body was attached to monitors, and machines that were pumping poison and nutrients through the tubes coming into my arms, my wrists, and also the Hickman line catheter that snaked under the skin of my chest and pushed into the juggler vein connected directly to my heart. Add to that the splash pictures of the spinal taps, the spinal injections and the bone marrow biopsies, and it becomes a very horrifying poster.

The event theatre for the death match was either my hospital treatment and recovery room or my final resting place. The room was filled with my loving friends and family. I was quiet, and no one minded because they were there for me. As I think about it now, when I say they were 'there for me', I believe they were there for me without any sense of personal obligation, and yet the idea of being supportive of me was probably less of an understood and calculated act and more of a reflexive unconscious act on their parts. It feels true to say now that their presence was a collective conveyance of love, even if it was not recognized or labelled that way at that time. I believe there presence was the only kind of prayer that god could hear and answer.

Al, Harvey, John, Ernie, Dan, and their partners and wives were hanging out, either standing, or sitting on the edge of my bed, talking amongst themselves and doing their best to be casual because I had earlier made it adamantly clear that I did not want to deal with the emotions of others.

Even my ex-wife Dolores showed up. I watched as Alfonso discretely suggested to her that her presence might cause me some unnecessary stress. I smiled to myself at the irony that her name comes from the Spanish word 'dolor' which means 'pain', and to think that this is what I thought I wanted, needed, and loved. Perhaps I'm not talking about Dolores; but I know they were my loving family, even Dolores in her own courageous way, not because they were there for me, or that they were my good friends and family, but because I saw their helpless compassionate eyes.

Compassion is a roaring silence and 'something' else, something ineffable. It's like when we recognize that a person needs help, but there is absolutely no way to help. We feel helpless because there's no possibility for any successful intervention. Nothing can be done. The person must go through what they must go through; and yet somehow, 'something' helps. That ineffable 'something', that compassion, seems to convey - let's call it 'the healing music' to the person.

Compassion is like listening to the radio. We receive by ear what the radio receives by a frequency sent from the broadcasting station. A radio station broadcasts a steady frequency that conveys and delivers by piggyback another music or voice frequency to our radio receiver, which in its turn hands the piggybacked frequency off to the air (through compression and rarefaction waves), which in its turn, carries it by piggyback to our ears and we receive it; in much the same way we receive the transmission of compassion.

My dear compassionate audience looked upon me and saw the unknown. They were frightened, but they were love in spite of themselves. .. I was completely exhausted. I looked at the now half full bag of blood red bone marrow hanging from the hook on the IV stand and being delivered intravenously into my body; and I looked at my sad silent audience of love and whispered, "I think I'll sleep now."


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