Monday, June 30, 2014

Mike's Story Part 65 - Furnace

   January 5, 2008 
  "Holy shit!" 
   "It's gone! My email about B-. I looked in sent mail. Do you have it?"
   "Yes." I found my cc'ed copy of the email and forwarded it to Mike. 
   "This is them. They're letting me know I have to back off." 
   He sat back, pondering. "I'm taking this very seriously." 
   "Why would they care more about that than about your helping Steve [Alten] or [the guy working on a movie about the end of industrial civilization]?" 
   "They're afraid of my brain." 
   The next day, I found the missing email in Trash. 
   "I didn't do that," he said. 
   "Well, it would make no sense for them to do that. I think what may have happened is:  Larry Chin responded; after you read that, you put it in trash along with the whole sequence."
   "That's possible."
   But there was no doubt "They" were messing with him, as became clear on his reconnaissance trip to LA. It wasn't so much the missing luggage, leaving him to the elements during record-breaking storms, he said, as his seat companions on the flight:
   "Aren't you the guy who smashed his own computers?" asked one. Another claimed Peak Oil is no problem because of the abiotic oil off the coast of Louisiana; a third had been to all the countries Mike had been to.
   The first guy seemed to me the most convincing candidate for possible agent.  As for the others, well...  As soon as you raise the issue of Peak Oil, people have all sorts of facile comebacks of which infinitely-renewable-abiotic-oil-that-supplies-you-with-more-on-an-almost-as-needed-basis is a favorite.  But Mike had long since lost his patience with this pipedream.  And as usual when something happened that got under his skin, he interpreted the act as willfully directed towards him, just as when he heard someone use the phrase, "a voice from the wilderness" or,"crossing the Rubicon," he assumed they had read his website or his book.  He forgot that he himself had plucked those phrases from ancient texts.
   Both for better and for worse, this self-oriented interpretation of events was all part of that furnace of energy that burned so fiercely within him, propelling him into the heart of government wrongdoing to reveal the truth or, when that avenue was blocked, self-destruction.  What he lost sight of in the process was other people; their histories and motives, whether innocent or otherwise.  He saw them only in so far as they related to him; his efficient focus ("I am, after all, German,") dismissing anything else as chaff.
   For instance, the third guy on the plane might have been to other countries as well.  Anyway, it's not as though the countries Mike had been to were unusual.
   On the other hand, we must never lose sight of the adage for which Mike was the poster-boy:  Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not following you.
   Nowhere was his Mike-centered stance more apparent than in his relationship with women, as witnessed by the following conversation about his life:
   "Any regrets?"
   "My girlfriend in high school. I dumped her when I went to college, moving on to bigger, better things. That was a mistake. She really loved me." 
   He used to describe me that way too:  "She loves me unconditionally."  Never mind that it's hard enough to do for one's own child and I sure as hell didn't do it with Mike; his descriptions of former relationships, if positive, were always about how much the woman loved him; never about how much he loved her.
   Another time, we were watching a movie in which a flapper lolled atop a piano, crooning a torch song. She was dressed in a short, sequin dress and smiled beckoningly. 
   "That's what I call a real woman," Mike enthused. 
   No response from me. 
   "Not because she's blond," he hastened to add. 
   But of course, that wasn't the reason for my silence. The flapper was beautiful and sexy. Her manner said, at least to a man given to fantasy, "I'll do anything you want."  But the one thing she assuredly was not was real. 
   One day when he was crying, I thought: It's two years since he left LA for Ashland. In that period he's moved four times, each time with a, "Fuck you" attitude. Had that stance been cultivated so he wouldn't get attached? Is that why he never asked me anything, or got to know me apart from how I related to him?  If so, I doubt he was aware of what he was doing, so instinctive had the behavior become.  He had "more important" things to think about.
   I did make him see the world from a different vantage point for a moment on January 11, 2008, shortly before he left.  (I happened to record the date and thus offer it.)
   "Do you think it's a man's world?" I asked a propos of a provocation, though I no longer remember what.
   "No... But men have certainly fucked it up." 
   "They wouldn't have been able to do that if it hadn't been a man's world."
   Another time, he betrayed a more expansive view without any prodding.
   That vignette had an inauspicious beginning:  I passed the bedroom where he was watching a show that seemed to be about modern gladiators. Two men in helmets were beating each other with what looked like clubs.  
   In the foreground, an earnest man explained, "There's been an assault on masculinity." 
   The scene might have been a reject, ("Boys Gone Wild," perhaps) from Saturday Night Live. 
   The next night, however, Mike unwittingly redeemed himself by watching Nine to Five, a movie about secretaries unionizing.   
   Although he could be gentle and kind as a lover, sex was the pre-eminent arena in which his tendency towards extremes worked itself into a frenzy.  Undoubtedly, it was one of the reasons he was so antsy to leave.  
   I was practicing octaves on a keyboard whose keys, while silent with respect to pitch, clacked when pressed. 
   "I don't know why but that sounds very sexual to me," Mike said. 
   "Life is a Rorschach," I replied, quoting my friend the clinical psychologist.  
   Not long afterwards, I ran into him on the street. He didn't notice me because he was talking to a young woman who was staying with one of our neighbors. 
   I waved. 
   "We just got back from the bagel shop," Mike explained, gesturing to the bags they were each carrying.  He adopted an attitude of nonchalance - which would have turned into defiance if challenged - as though to say, "You know that on a personal level, you're history anyway; when I leave in a couple of weeks, it'll just be official."  I did know that so the meeting didn't faze me. 
   The young woman, however, did not know it and gave a wan smile. 
   January 12, 2008 
   Two weeks 'til he leaves, the morning of the 29th.  Right now. he’s watching the military channel.  He says it gives him a sense of what the Powers That Be are working on.  Having heard that, I sometimes watch with him but at the moment, the show is about different sorts of guns, a subject which means a great deal to Mike but nothing to me so I have immersed myself in research at the computer.
   Mike comes in, settling into the wicker chair that I bought when a friend complained I didn’t have an arm chair.       
   “We’re going to have lots of long talks before I leave...” 
   Reminiscence?  Reflections on life?  The comment was a reference to the conversations we used to have when he first arrived and was in such a distraught state.  He once complained to his shrink that they’d mysteriously stopped.  I said it was by his choice; he no longer needed them.   
   “...Where I get down on my knees and thank you for saving my life,” he continued.
   “That’ll take two minutes.”
   He laughed and got up to make himself a drink before returning to the bedroom.
   That was the last of the "long talks."

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