Part One: Wandering
[no_dropcaps type="normal" color="#010000" font_family="Merriweather" font_size="58" line_height="66" width="" font_weight="400" font_style="normal" text_align="" border_color="" background_color="" margin="0px 5px 5px 0px"]S[/no_dropcaps]omething they don’t tell you when they let you out of rehab is to be prepared to hate your boring-ass life. They don’t say, hey you know what? We just took away the one thing that you had in your life that provided some color, some excitement, some inspiration, and now you’ll have to live the rest of your days in a grey, bland, white bread world. They don’t tell you to never expect to love anything ever again.
What they do tell you is one day at a time and accept the things you cannot change, and they tell you all the steps one through twelve, but they don’t tell you that the thirteenth step is to accept your place in bullshit banal mediocrity - and P.S. don’t tell anyone about the thirteenth step. Oh, and by the way, you’ll never want to paint or draw again. Sorry. Leave that to the peacocks.
It felt like that feeling when you’re a kid and the one thing you really want to do, the thing that would be really fun, like riding the Zipper at the fair, but when you walk up to the octopus sign that tells you that you have to be this tall, and your head, even with the tall hairdo that you put on just for this event, doesn’t quite reach the tentacle that he is holding out. And you realize that once again this year it’s just another year on the teacups and it’s no Zipper for you and then that asshole kid in the grade above you that always bumps you real hard with his shoulder and says excuse me like a dick, he just breezes by and hops right on, you know that feeling? Well that’s what I felt like when they let me out.
I moved back into my parent’s house, partially because they were told that I probably shouldn’t be living on my own quite yet, but mostly because I had nowhere else to go. Into the basement, because what had been my room had been converted into a pantry and a half-bath in a remodel that must have taken place three or four minutes after I left for art school. My mom had set up an area for me in the basement, near the back wall, with a bed that I never slept on and a dresser that I put nothing into. Instead, what I did when I first got there, after that excruciating silent drive home from The Wilhelm Center, was I laid myself down on the couch and vowed to never move, ever again. My parents stood there for a moment, and after it became apparent that I wasn’t going to do anything else, my dad let out a little derisive snort, a single sharp exhale through the nose, and walked upstairs without another word. I couldn’t see her, but I could tell my mom was still standing there wanting to say something or do something, or maybe she wanted something from me, I don’t know.
After a long day of watching television in my parent’s basement, I decided to mix it up a little and lie on my back and count the holes in the acoustic tiles that my father installed instead of doing a proper ceiling. I was thinking of sneaking up to my mom’s medicine cabinet and doing a little recon, just checking for anything that might be interesting, like forty or fifty Valium washed down with Southern Comfort. I was on the verge of sitting up and doing just that and then I remembered that there was nothing like that in the house.
I knew that because my mother, in an unusual fit of bluntness, said, “There aren't any pills or drink in the house. That’s behind you now isn’t it.” And of course what I said was, “Yes, Mother.” But what I didn’t say was that if I were so inclined, I could get a scrip for any number of sedatives or anxiolytics or painkillers or any version of housewife heroin that you could name in about twenty minutes and her throwing out her crumbling ancient Vicodin from when she got her wisdom teeth done fifteen years ago was a useless gesture. Also, I was fairly certain that she didn't know about the twenty-year-old bottle of Crown Royal that Dad kept hidden in the back of the cabinet in the garage behind the paint cans. The point is, Mother, that if I wanted to get fucked up I could. At any time. It is just that I'm choosing not to, all the time from minute to minute I'm choosing not to, hoping that this dirty guilty feeling goes away on its own.
The basement had these windows small and high on the wall, and those, combined with the style of commercial would tell me what time it was. If the windows were blasting in painful white hot light and on the television was a commercial for Geritol, life insurance or for some shitty trade school then it was daytime; if the windows were dark and the commercials were for beer or investment firms, then it was early evening and if the windows were sort of light like a rising light and the commercials were for phone sex and for disability lawyers, then it was late enough to be called early again. Beyond that I didn't really care. Time was measured out in thirty minute re-run sitcoms or the space between meals which my mother ripped off with military efficiency. 9 a.m. breakfast. 12 p.m. lunch. 5:30 p.m. dinner like a housewife robot. The end of Springer and my Mom asking if I want a sandwich? It must be noon. The thing was, I didn’t ever want a sandwich, not fucking bologna, not fucking tuna salad, not ever. But, no shit, everyday noon it was like, “Honey, you want a sandwich?” And I was always saying no Ma, I don’t want a sandwich, No I do not want some chips or fruit. What I want is for you to stop making me food. What I really want and won’t have is some Oxycontin. Or Xanax. Or Percoset. Will you crunch up a couple of Valium and sprinkle it on the fried spam? No? Then fucking forget it.
You’d think locking yourself away from the planet and the sun would provide some solitude. Instead I got this stream of blah, blah constantly flowing down the stairs. My mom: “Honey, you should really get some sun. Do you want to go for a walk? Want to go to the grocery store? You should call your old friends. You should get out. How come you’re not drawing anymore? How come you threw out all your paints? Do you want a sandwich? How about some fried chicken. What was that girl’s name? The one you liked? Remember? The blonde?”
My father was no better, though with him it was like: “Hey you should mow the lawn or go get a job. Go get a job, you’ll not be living the rest of your life in that basement will you? I might want to watch some TV in my own goddamn basement too you know, maybe you should get a job.” And I knew that they cared really, I knew that intellectually, like an observer knows things about his subject: “This is caring behavior as exhibited by my mother’s desire to feed me or marry me off and my father’s desire for me to be productive in one way or another,” but there was no real emotional attachment. I didn’t get that swell of warmth that I can vaguely remember that comes from being loved, I didn’t get that smile and ‘ah shucks they’re silly but they’re my folks’ thing either. All I felt there in the first few weeks after the collapse and fast track deterioration of my life was the overwhelming unending desire to be left the fuck alone. I knew they cared, but I didn’t care, not at all, about what happened to me or them or on Jerry Springer, I only kept the TV on because it kept my mother from constantly checking if I had hung myself due to the deafening silence blasting out of the basement. And maybe I would have hung myself if it wasn’t so much trouble, if I wouldn’t have had to go to all the trouble of finding a stool or chair and then a handy beam that would hold my weight. Plus, I forgot how to tie all the knots that I learned except for the double sheepshank and I think I remember that one only because I remember the name cracking me up when I was a Cub Scout. It was just too much effort, and really, if you’re going to do it, hanging is for chumps; pills, and lots of them, mixed with Southern Comfort is the way to do it. Trust me on this.
Sometimes late at night I would go outside and wander around the neighborhood. I’m talking like very late here, when there are no cars and no people, and the silence is vast and soft and dark. I would wander around and look at these perfect little houses with their primped and pruned lawns, and their decorations for whatever holiday was on deck that month. My own mom did that shit too; she would put little shamrocks or hearts or pumpkins on the windows. What a weird compulsion, why the hell would she go through the trouble to put a cardboard turkey on their front door? To show the world that she owned a calendar, that she was aware of holidays? All of these things didn’t make any sense, but really, as an outsider, do any of these suburban rituals make any sense? The ‘Hey there Carl, how’r ya doin’? How’s the wife? Ah yeah? Mine’s a pain in the ass too haha, oh shit did you get a new SUV? Sweet mercy it’s beautiful, lemme come around and kick the tires, why dontcha pop the hood and let me take a little looksee at what kind of horsepower you’re packin’ in that bad boy. Whats that? Oh yeah, sure I have your framing hammer, yep its sittin’ right there on my workbench. Hey I’ll tell ya what. How’s about I go and grab it and bring back a couple a cold ones whaddaya say?’ And no shit it’s just this meaningless verbal diarrhea and they all do it, the wives on the phone, or talking over the hoods of their minivans: ‘What? You didn’t hear? Oh no, Margie and Frank are getting a divorce! The bastard was having an affair with that slutty secretary that he hired down at the agency…’ and on and on forever, none of them ever making a difference, just happy to be alive, to be fucking breathing and consuming and spawning more thoughtless mutants just like themselves, like those unfortunate creatures that don’t get to fuck, they just split a part of themselves off and that thing then grows into a copy of itself. Budding, I think; science wasn’t exactly my strongest course.
I would wander around the neighborhood and wonder who the fuck were these people, was I better or worse than them or was I really just one of them, this herd of nobodies, this giant waste of resources and effort? Did I really think I was any different? All I have done for as long as I remember is take the free ride. I had never had reason to work, not really. I barely had to try in school because the expectations for these spawn of suburbia is so pathetically low, lest some sweaty halfwit douchebag kid gets left behind, it makes so much more sense to hold everyone else back for this non-producing ass hat, we don’t want to hurt his dainty and fragile self-image… No, I never applied myself, was never challenged, never cared if I was, and standing there in the darkness outside all of these sleeping houses, I realized that even art school wasn’t about me, not really, it was to prove to people that I had value, that I could do something, that I had skills, to prove to my dad that he was not throwing his money away, that he was making an investment.
Thinking about it, maybe I have never done anything in my whole life that was not motivated by the idea of what people would think of me. I dressed like this, I went to this school, I drove this car, I listened to this music, but only with the windows down, because otherwise how would anyone know of my cool, cool taste in music, how would anyone know that I am a worthwhile human being? It seemed to me that we are forced to shout our value to the world, or we’ll be forgotten. There must be thousands of people that you have never heard of quietly, selflessly plugging away trying to make the world a better, safer, more beautiful place, but who is on TV? The biggest, loudest, most obnoxious, most useless fucking assholes on the planet. Politicians and pop stars and empty headed news anchors whose biggest talent is the ability to read a teleprompter, and these fucking people in these houses were nothing more than a reflection of that, a weak mirror image of the shitty culture that we have all helped to create. No, I was just like them, doing nothing real, contributing nothing real, content to keep quiet and not make waves as long as it meant that life would continue pretty much as it has.
But now here I found myself not doing anything, not caring about anything, not through apathy and suburban opiates, but because I could see that it was all bullshit, all these structures and systems and machines, these credit scores and low, low APR financing and PTO meetings and local festival queens, it’s all so fucking ridiculous that I can’t even believe that no one can see it for themselves. As I walked around in the dark looking at these houses and SUVs and tastefully decorated flowerbeds, I realized for the first time, I mean really knew it, deeply and profoundly, that this life that we have built around ourselves like an overzealous hermit crab, this life is a dark and bitter joke, and it’s only God that is laughing at all of us. I looked around there and what I saw was the odd, confused look of a victim on a hidden camera show that doesn’t know that it’s all rigged, and can hear the barely contained laughter coming from behind the bushes, but thinks that surely they must be laughing at someone else.
No, I was no different before, but I sure felt different now.
What do you do when you don't know who you are, when who you thought you were, who you thought would become, is destroyed? This is the story of young man, Chris, seeking an identity after the seemingly catastrophic collapse of his life, seeking what it means to be a creator, and, ultimately, seeking a glimpse of hope and recovery after a rock-bottom event.
During his search, he comes to the conclusion that instead of creating beauty for an ugly world, he wants to destroy beautiful things. Because of his background and education in art, Chris knows of a secret: Michaelangelo's David has a fatal flaw, a weakness that if struck correctly would shatter the marble into fragments. What will Chris and his newfound group of society's rejects do with this knowledge?
Antiartists is both bleak and darkly comic, playful and serious. It is about broken people doing broken things, and about trying to find a reason to carry on when there seems no escape from the downward trajectory of one's life. It is, in the end, about redemption and hope, about finding a way to keep living when everything seems lost, about finding a light in the darkness. It is the story of an outsider coming to terms with his differences. This story is ultimately about believing, once again, that it is worth carrying on - that even after seeing rock bottom, life can be beautiful again.