Enfin. At last. Slap of the forehead and Big Duh. I must be a fool indeed for it to have taken me so long to see what it is I have been doing, am still doing, mean to continue to do. Some of you must long since have sussed it for yourselves, but it was only just at the end of this long day that I myself saw it properly: I am banishing…purging…exorcising all ugliness from my surroundings…because I cannot purge the ugliness I am carrying around, which ugliness boarded me, pirate-style, these many months ago, and caused me to be abducted here to Cancerland.
Yes, pirate-style. All sly, quiet, come alongside without a sound at all, no telling when exactly because, well, no sound at all. But then what a ruckus, when the floating murderers judged the time was right. And what a crew it was that came aboard, feet first on swinging ropes: Black-toothed, crusty-lipped, wildly scarred (X across the face), forehead all but cleft, chin and nose half gone, one-eyed, one-legged, one-armed, and of one mind too, which One Mind had only One Thought – Take over. Commandeer. Make what was mine, theirs, and slash and drown me to boot, so there will be no question about ownership…or ship’s owner, if you will.
It was these pirates raised my hook and set sail for Cancerland, with yours truly limp below decks, bound and gagged and drugged inside my own body. And pirates (lean closer now, to hear the heart of the thing)…pirates never give up what they have taken. Never. It is theirs forever, unless taken from them in turn, by others worse even than they, or by the Admiralty. But if that doesn’t happen, if what they have stolen is not wrested from them, then they cackle over their prize forever, finger and polish it, suck on it as if it were the rarest sweet, sleep atop it, roll it in muslin and bury it, if need be, to keep it out of other hands.
These snot-dripping all-maw marauders are the ugliness I cannot banish – or not entirely, anyway. I can only, with the Admiralty’s help, hold them somewhat at bay, keep them (I hope) from slashing my throat in the middle of the night, by striking bargains with them, new ones all the time, because their hunger for what is still mine is extreme. It will not let them rest, and so they will not let me rest, unless (this is the bargaining) I parcel out trinkets enough to keep them busy, and to keep them from simply taking me whole, all at once, the way a starving lion would.
About the ugliness that possesses me, literally possesses me, I can do very little. In reaction, therefore, I seem to have declared war on the kind of ugliness I can do something about…on external ugliness, of whatever sort my eye falls upon in these my Cancerland digs, on cracks in the wall, scratches in the wood of the floor, imperfectly hanging pictures, all that which is torn, frayed, rumpled, stained.
Listen. It is what I can do. And so I do it. All day, and sometimes all night.
It’s late now, for instance. Most Cancerlanders are trimming their wicks. But I have just finishing applying the fifth coat of glossy varnish to a raw, ancient slab of wood, which (though still quite raw-looking) now gleams in the moonlight under my little propane grill. I plan to fire the grill up in a few minutes, not so much to cook upon as to see its jets of flame reflected, maybe, in a surface that was just this morning brutally ugly because weather-pocked and blackened, like the bones of a wrecked boat, but is now smooth and bright as glass.
I still am at the mercy of the pirates, of course, in the place to which they brought me, willy-nilly.
But I am no longer bound and gagged. I am free, within a certain compass, to move about and do as I wish.
And so, I make gleam.
And, sometimes, I write.
On the very best days, there is almost no difference between the two.