Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Twitch of the Death Nerve

I’ve been riding my bike a lot lately. It’s been very liberating to venture out on bike trails and simply choose what path to take. I haven’t made decisions for just myself in quite a long time. Choosing a path almost feels rebellious. A few weeks ago, I went down a path I’d only seen a couple of other cyclists take. It’s an off-road trail that runs past a wheat field and seems to lead into a bunch of trees. I was feeling a little reckless, so I left the comfortable and populated confines of the normal trail and went down the path alone. It led me to a big house with an iron gate that had a bunch of shit scattered around it. In front of the gate was a huge field covered in trees, mangled bushes and tons of abandoned stuff. Things like a disassembled air fan, several couch cushions and many clothes were on the ground. I’ll bet those objects could tell a good story if they had a chance.  
It was getting dark and looked like it was going to start raining any minute. I saw a flicker of lightning in the distance. As I sat on my bike looking at the debris and bushes, a thought crossed my mind that has in many places many times before: “This would be a good spot to be murdered in.”

I imagined some faceless, nameless assailant coming up behind me and choking me to death. I imagined him throwing my dead body in that field, perhaps in pieces, and imagined the pack of German Shepherds and Dobermans discovering my fingers and toes spread across the space. I imagined finally being free. No more pain. No more trying. No more failing. The thought almost made my mouth water.

I think about Laura Palmer a lot when I’m riding my bike. Maybe it’s because the trail I usually take runs alongside a river. Maybe it’s because some of the nature reminds me of my home state, Oregon, and of the beauty of the Northwest that we both (might have because she’s a fictional character) lived in and shared. Laura Palmer is one of the few characters I really relate to, which is sort of funny because I don’t even like Twin Peaks. It was a boring TV show for the most part. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, however, is one of the best women’s pictures of the last twenty-five years. I know a lot of people are annoyed the movie exists because it gives away so much of the mystery surrounding Laura, but I love it dearly. Laura's story is tragic. It's full of abuse, guilt, shame and normal teenage stuff like rebellion, experimentation and even love. She was like the Marilyn Monroe of Twin Peaks, simultaneously the most-loved and loneliest, saddest girl in town. Lynch managed to capture and present it all in one gigantic cluster fuck of a movie without judgment or a tremendous amount of pity. He just empathized. Maybe I'll write more about it in the future.
I’ve always felt guilty. It’s something I carry around with me constantly, like a cancerous lump in my emotional body that won’t go away no matter how much chemo or holistic medicine I throw at it. Sometimes the lump is bigger and sometimes it’s smaller, but it’s always there. It makes me feel afraid to be happy…like, if I’m happy, then I’m going to be punished in some way. Why should a person who feels as guilty as I do deserve to be happy? Logically, I know that I have absolutely no reason to feel guilty. I’ve made mistakes, sure, but no more than the average bear. I’ve genuinely striven to be a good, kind person. Helping people makes me happier than just about anything. I think the character of Laura Palmer felt similarly. She always felt guilty for things that weren’t her fault, for things she couldn’t control, for the fucked up life she wound up with.  We must have done something wrong to deserve all of this pain, right?  

I guess I’m lucky because, right now at least, I’m older than she was on the show. I suppose I can handle the pain a little better. Our problems definitely started when we were around the same age, but I guess that’s just made us seasoned pain professionals. Laura was a little braver and bolder than me though. She managed to find both punishment and relief in places like One-Eyed Jacks and with people like Leo and Jacques. She pushed herself to edge of oblivion with both twisted sex and copious amounts of drugs, hoping to grind that pain into nothingness and excess like metal on metal, like a razor slicing deep down a person’s arm narrowly avoiding the important bits. Punished and degraded by abusive men and stiff leather, released by cocaine and orgasms. Twitch of the death nerve. Oh, but Laura, that’s so easy. Tempting, but easy. I suppose I can’t blame you because I’ve almost been coaxed into similar situations. I grew up in a small Northwestern lumber town too, remember, but I knew that wasn’t the right way to escape or feed the pain.
Wanting to live is a far greater challenge than wanting to die. I don’t want to feel guilty all the time. I don’t want to die anymore.
That last sentence is probably the toughest thing I’ve ever had to write.  
I stood in that field all alone and got a shiver down my spine when I realized what I was thinking about and how downright pleasurable it was to feel that way. Why does the idea of dying feel so good? I decided right then and there that would be the last time I ever lusted for death, ever wanted to be punished for simply existing. No more fear, no more giving into my depression and letting it beat me to a pulp over and over again. I’m sick of that shit. I want to and I am going to take control, have fun and sucker punch my depression.
I gave the field one final look as the big drops of summer rain started to fall. Then I turned my bike around and headed back to the comfortable and populated confines of the normal bike trail to be amongst the living once again.

And because I’m a crazy person who thinks far too much about the lives of fictional characters, even ones that freakin’ died in their universes, I got a pang as I made my way back to the land of the living because I realized Laura Palmer would never be given the same opportunity. If only she could have held out a year or two more and gone to an out of state college. If only she could have told someone about what was happening and that someone had actually done something to help her. If only she could have met Dale Cooper sooner. At least Lynch was kind enough to give her the angel, the friend, she so desperately wanted in the end.