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Guest Writer

What means this?
Blue Monday
by Edward Morris Jr.

here is no such thing as making a long story short. Our stories are always short. Our reasons are always long.

I am making a joint and putting this music on, this New Order from 1980s Madchester asking me to tell you how does it feel, tell you now how does it feel. The words toll down from full fathom five. This great spoked wheel of life returns to its insane hub. Synthesizers clang out that the cuckoos have taken over the clock. Everything I already know.

This is one of Marlena's CDs. But I do not take it out. She did not write this album. Although she could have.

She can do anything. She is as brilliant as she is beautiful. Now the bastards have even turned her against me. And, just like the rest, even if I could prove a thing ... who but God is there to prove it to? And what kind of a god could allow this?

When we met in 600-level PolySci class at Portland State, Marlena told me she has a lot of pet peeves. I know this expression. I know what a pet peeve is but I ask her, what is a peeve? We try to look it up but never figure this out. She laughed so much I think that's why she asks me out later.

Now I know. Life. Life is peeve. Monday is peeve. Peeve is getting no sleep all weekend and then everything that happened today. I could not think of the English words for things the whole time I try to teach my freshmen de Tocqueville and Marx. None of these kids know French or Russian. I kick myself for learning English last.

I left my office today one hour earlier than when my office hours say I am in. Willamette Week calls and says, Where is our interview? Today they want to interview me because they hear about some of my story from my students. Too bad for them.

Today it would have been my interview on that particular page they set aside. Tomorrow that same page will have a clown running for mayor and some other abused child running as fast as they can from Church of Scientology.

I just don't know what to do. I can only work for the school. The stipend is less than half our rent. Marlena was working a real job to support us and going to school. She had a proprietary interest in all this, more so just before she left.

In the note Marlena left me last night she asks, What's Wrong With You? Over and over, she asks this. So hard I try, before, to tell her that Civilization is what's wrong with me! She should know this. We are studying for the same doctorate!

What is wrong with me? What is wrong is that I know too well that people will not waste their lives watching "Survivor" if they are shown there is more in the stars than on TV. What is wrong is we are not ready to talk to the aliens because people in authority we never gave them said so.

Every hint of anything new gets such spin that fossil bacteria and water on Mars and ice on Titan are now this huge deal. They laughed at Orson Welles.

How does it feel ... It does feel now like terror in dark places. Like a longing of the soul for someone else to see. Mostly it just feels like the times when you get bogged down and cannot separate yourself from what it is you are doing.

This last feels to me mostly like being submerged in a vat of warm oil. You know you are not really going to die. It is just disgusting.

I am no Juraj Janosik, no Slovak hero for the women to bathe in wine and dry off with ham. I was soon to be a doctor of political science. Now I am just Stepan Kavarovic again. Nothing just yet to put before or after my name on any office doors to come.

I have no wish to rob the rich or smash the state or die for my beliefs. I am professional student! Or was, before they deny my work visa or take my student aid on a technicality for publishing in American journals (Marlena edited my work), which somehow counts as work though I never get check. All links to every one of my articles or blogs online got hidden same day.

I am not professional student any more. After 10 years I can no longer delay the end of that road. That is both the greatest and the least of my worries now.

Three months before this, President Gasparovic himself revoked my Slovak citizenship. I was on a list with 20 or 30 other graduate students accused by United States of getting student visa for "questionable" reasons.

What is this questionable? I live with my girlfriend because together we can live in bigger place and not some basement dungeon apartment I could have had back in Communism. I have to take classes part-time this semester because my aid got cut even before all this.

My English is not so good, but I did not know part-time means "Chechen Terrorist." It is the insanity of the times.

Everyone here in Oregon seems so shocked that an oil warlord got into the White House to fight wars for the companies that put him into power. It has always been like that in Slovakia. Like they say on "Oprah": "Honey, somebody lied to you."

Bush's circle of advisors has managed to manipulate world events and keep everyone in the dark. Gasparovic is no better. He used to be something like deputy director of your CIA. (After Nežná Revolúcia, our CIA is called SIS.)

Gasparovic is old lawyer money instead of old oil money. But "lawyer" always meant "organized crime" in Communism, and still very much does. He was Meciar's Dick Cheney. Meciar was so crazy he ran against him. It was like it would be if George W. Bush ran against his dad.

I used to just make fun of Gasparovic. Now I hate him. But he is just one tissue of this organism, yes? Slovak flag and American flag are both red, white and blue. It is all the same anywhere you go. Every country is overrated.

I used to wonder who would reform the reformers. Now I just see everything from further and further back and it is like being trapped in Lovecraft's hall of mirrors, turned on themselves, repeating out to an endless decimal. Seeing through the dark glass.

Tell me now how would you feel?

They want to deport me from the country where it all came apart. These representatives of a government that has become nothing more than reality-TV to mask so many worse things I cannot even talk about yet.

America is just like it was during Communism when I was growing up in Bratislava. The government knows that all systems and religions are obsolete. But they have to be kept in place by force.

Some people see this. This writer Jim Hatfield, who they say committed suicide, just like they say Lenny Bruce overdosed and they say Bill Hicks got pancreatic cancer. Like Kennedy, like King ... So many poisoned, made to jump in front of trains, dosed with LSD just before the microphone of the world gets shoved in their faces.

And me. I am fucked over and out. I am The Man Without A Country. I have to run again. Marlena really left me because she hates to say goodbye. The lawyers hounding us so much, the phone calls in the middle of the night, all of these were only fuel on the fire.

No. All will be well. Marlena will come back. I will wait and smoke joint and play on computer. And think. At least I can still do that.

How like rats in red-hot maze all of us are, focusing all our stupid systems on the cheese at the end that might or might not stand alone. Above all this, what rough beast holds a clipboard and charts our progress?

Just one article of mine caused all this hassle. Very terrorist stuff that dared to make claims about American participatory democracy, the role of the Supreme Court and every loophole in the system that got America where it is now.

I went to Ground Zero in New York City. I talked to people who lost loved ones there. I interviewed Karl Rove himself about this when he was in town. We laughed and had coffee and cigars at the Hilton. He was very polite. He said he'd read my monograph about Machiavelli and bookmarked the blog where he found it. I said, "Thank you, sir."

All I ever wanted to do was pick up where Machiavelli left off, to write about politics now in its own real terms. I am not terrorist. I am conscientious objector. But I read in your Robert Heinlein that you can't achieve peace on your knees.

Anyway, my conclusions were sound in the article. I cited everything I said. Every reference was an academic journal. None of it matters now. I am not first scholar to get kicked out of America.

Let me slow down. I can apply for work visa in Paris and clean houses for a summer while I figure out what to do. When I tell them at the Sorbonne that I was 86'ed from America for disagreeing with President John Wayne, 'sieur Chirac himself will give me keys to the Tour Eiffel, yes? It is okay. I am still alive.

For now.

Please, computer, take my head out of all this. Take me out of my head. Take me to see ... yes, there is the site I bookmarked from last night.

Science Fiction. Art Bell and Richard Hoagland and the Photoshop of Mars. They are the "tinfoil hat people" who say NASA doctors its photos to blur out alien ruins on Mars. I say if NASA just used Linux instead of Windows, none of this happens.

It is good story. The tinfoil hats say that the ruins of this "city" they are calling "Cydonia" are millions of years old, surrounded by quicksand. Why would this be so hard to accept? But there will always be unexplained black patches on space shuttles, and Captain Mantell, and all of this.

My advisor calls this "censorship by inclusion."

Everything gets published, so how do you tell which version is true? Most people couldn't care less. They just want to watch.

Now I am starting to sound like I wear tinfoil hat.

There is more here, articles from 1992 about U.S. troops in South America commissioned to stop a bridge being blown up. This is supposed to be a war-game exercise. No one is allowed to bring in the night goggles, but one soldier does. She sees three little people blow up the bridge with a weapon that Special Forces gear cannot detect.

Ah, another woman writing about the government's Black Budget to pay for the covert operations. She says that our real presidents do not live on Earth, that technology is too far ahead of our evolution and the media has to explain everything to everyone to prevent stampedes. They dumb down all the wars and everything so we understand and do not panic.

Perhaps the system is not failing, she says. Perhaps those who actually run this planet know exactly what they are doing.

I snuff out the half-smoked joint in the dirty glass ashtray she left me. I only have a few things. The necessary things. No more.

I am thinking about that movie "What the Bleep Do We Know?" where the shaman was the only one who could see the ship. Most of the people on these funny sites are insane people who live alone.

But the world drives them mad. That I can understand. I will put on tinfoil hat so my brains will be nice and shiny when the police scrape them off my wall.

No. I am tired of this. I will go smoke joint on the roof. Where is my Walkman?

My building is tired. They made it in 1910. It used to be a small hotel. But every building used to be something. I have the joint behind my ear and a lighter in the pocket of my jeans. Marlena shaved my balding-early head for me a few days ago. It feels oily.

The hallway floors are tiny white hexagon tile, patterns of patterns, echoing and old. The landlord's wife fills the halls up with bad art. There is always note from someone's girlfriend or boyfriend on bulletin board by the buzzer in front hall.

My footfalls echo in the stairwell. The white stripes on the sleeves of my hooded sweatshirt glow in the orange light from the street outside. My ears are ringing.

On top floor I walk out onto the fire escape and hoist myself up and out onto the ladder above. The roof is walled in by old, cozy bricks with a concrete slab along the top. Tar and gravel get friendly with my sneakers. The vents sound like homeless people howling in the cold. Over to the north, they still have not taken the Christmas lights off the KOIN tower.

I light the joint, put my Walkman on and find Metallica on the radio, leaning against the wall and looking out over the city. West of the KOIN, high up on a building whose name I do not know, they have put up a big bank of lights for the news and police helicopters. The whole square switches from green to red to white as I watch. They must be testing it out.

"Dostoyevsky," I mutter through the smoke, "this is the new underground." But I am on the roof. And Dostoyevski said that so many great ideas are unthinkable 10 years before the future happens.

Why did I think of that? What means this? Oh, yes. That I am high.

On the radio, "Turn the Page" goes fucko bazoo. There is a huge grinding sound, a beep that makes me fall to my knees and scream as I rip the headphones from my ears. The music goes away. Everything goes away except beeps and beeps and beeps of broken digital code.

I put the headphones back on for a moment, curious.

But I am only curious in the back of my mind. As I fell down just then, the whole city has gone dark. Everywhere, from the Cheerful Tortoise bar down the street, to the offices and the freshman dorms, there are sounds of shock. I am quite suddenly very glad to be up high.

The radio is, I think, picking up the police band. The voice I am hearing sounds like a cop, anyway.

"Copy that, uhh ... consul. You and your associates have about half an hour for your look-see before the lights come back on. Don't touch anything. Don't cause any shit. Copy?"

I have no love for police. In Bratislava, they broke my papa's nose when he was 11 just for waving around a toy gun. I take the Walkman off.

A spotlight shoots up from the helicopter-traffic signal to the right of the KOIN tower. It goes far, far, far up, seemingly toward the moon. But it is cloudy. I cannot quite tell.

There is a low kind of sound that makes my teeth hurt. The sound gets bigger and bigger. Over and above it, in a different range, come the sounds of helicopters. I realize I have been done with the joint for a while and not paid attention to this. Where did the roach-end go, this ... Oh.

Oh. My.

It is a black bullet with a Honda "H" on the nose. The back tailfins look like certain kinds of planes, or the kind of flying taxicabs the British want to build now. The parts are familiar, chrome and steel and tinted glass. But the car flies and makes no smoke.

From where I am, as they slowly pass, I can see three of them behind the light tint on the windows. They have long heads, lots of teeth and funny little hands. They are making notes, pointing a lot. Their heads go back and forth, up and down, like little old babushki very excited about something.

They are pointing at buildings, hopping up and down when they see some, vigorously negating when they see others. Everyone stops dancing about when they look over at the Pearl District, where the yuppies are. Then all three of them just kick back for a moment as they go by.

They seem satisfied with something. They did not look at my building.


Wait. What the hell do I mean, yet? Where did that thought come from? I am on my knees, my head below the level of the concrete slab, because I cannot stand up and I am seeing this go by and and and ...

Let me slow down.

They continue rubbernecking like the tourists here. The way they act is like ... like the big builders did in Communism. I would see them walking up and down the Stardmeska in the center of my city, always toward the old Novy Bridge across the Danube that has not been blue since I was alive, anyway.

The builders would be looking at vacant lots, making notes where to put a house or a car park or anything like this. They would be excited and why should they not be? They have just sunk the plot. They are like the happy couple with the new home, like the way Marlena and I decorate this apartment ... And we will put this here, and this here ... Wait, I think that looks better over there ...

They are all nodding their heads. The driver raises one of just a few webbed fingers and points all around, making a clockwise corkscrew gesture.

It is getting warmer out here. Just like the whole planet. Maybe they special-ordered that too ... But I am high, and do not know what I mean.

I just know that so many cities all look like the Pearl District here: Cheap, cheerless and lifeless, with two-hundred-grand studio apartments they call condos and this is why they drive out the poor, like the poor were this other species beneath even recognition ...

Let me slow down.

But I cannot.

For an escort the Honda has a police helicopter, leading them down to where a faraway pair of flashlights flags them in from one rooftop of River Place, by the waterfront. The last thing I see, before the lights come back on, is a bumper sticker on the Honda-thing:


At my feet, my headphones bark the creatures' answering radio call:

"We can get the original tenants out of sectors A-K, Captain Roberts, sir. Just tell us when you want to rebuild." It is leprechaun voice, high and tiny, like the little people in your Machen and Yeats. I remember what I saw of the things in the car.

More than their odd-shaped heads, more than anything else ... they look somehow like they belong here, like they would do okay in this gravity, like ...

Maybe they were here first. No other planet in the solar system is habitable.

Wait. Maybe it is still impossible to say exactly what I mean. But maybe the little people belong here more than us. I think of the government giving casinos to the Indians after so long. I wonder what your government gave these.

Maybe we're almost done destroying this planet the way we destroyed Mars. I should have asked Karl Rove. He would know. My heart slows down as the lights come back on. I know that in the news there will be UFO reports.

Oregon is getting the Northern Lights in part, this year, though. Some weird electromagnetic current. Or at least this is the party line I hear on the news.

How do I feel? Tell me now how I feel.

Wrong. And even if anyone did believe me ... so what? I put my hands on the edge of the slab and look at how long I'd have to fall. Not long. I don't jump. I knew I wouldn't.

But now all of me feels oily. And cold. My head is higher than an old-growth redwood.

But my body is just getting over bad, bad fright. I slowly manage to make one more spliff, light it and begin to smoke.

When it is a dog-end and I can think again, I go downstairs to pack my bags.

I got lucky. There is still the morning. My old colleague Matthieu in Montmartre still has a futon free for me.

Perhaps real life begins at time like this. Or perhaps not.

But at least I get to find out for myself.

For Martin Lukac and Aaron Cisowski. E-mail Edward at dante3000@gmail.com, and don't miss his previous work.

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