Q. Do you know who I am?
A. Yes. It took me a while, but I figured it out.
Q. So why have you summoned me?
A. Because I am miserable.
Q. Why are you miserable?
A. What a stupid question. Isn’t it obvious?
Q. I don’t know. Is it?
A. Of course it is! I can’t seem to get back to where I was before March 4th of this year. Try as I may, everything I do turns to dirt.
Q. What happened on March 4th?
A. I finished the script to my musical, Eden in Babylon.
Q. Isn’t that a good thing?
A. In and of itself, yes — a very good thing. I had been blocked up for over three years, over something stupid. Something a friend of mine did — or a former friend — or someone whom I thought was a friend. It’s hard to explain, but once I got past the block, I finished the script with a vengeance.
Q. A vengeance? Against whom?
A. Against the guy I just told you about — the guy whom I thought was my friend — who ripped it apart – ripped it to shreds, assassinating my character in the process. I finished it, not despite his scathing condemnation — but because of it. I wanted to show him what I was made of. And then —
Q. And then?
A. I dedicated the musical to him.
Q. (trying not to laugh) How masochistic can you possibly be?
A. It wasn’t masochism! More like — manipulation. I thought that, somehow, if I dedicated the script to him, it would soften his heart toward me. He would relax about it all, and then sit down with a glass of wine on a Sunday evening, and read the script more closely, with caring, savoring every word. He would be willing to believe that it just might be a good thing after all — since I had (after all) dedicated it to his very self. Finally, with an approving smile on his face, he would at last come to appreciate what I was trying to do with it — before just assaulting my integrity and writing me off, along with my hard-earned labor of love, as though I were just — just — scum.
A. You heard me — scum! I keep thinking about all these rich people I went to high school with. They think I’m scum because I wound up on the streets — or maybe I was scum beforehand, because my parents were poor. I don’t know — if I hadn’t have been a piano player, they’d have never given me the time of day. And now, even with the piano playing, it’s not powerful enough to negate that image — the image of the guy begging for change on the streets — even though I never really begged, but —
Q. But wait – what does it matter what they think?
A. What do you mean, what does it matter? Of course it matters! I’m trying to produce a musical — not just trying to be some random guy who’s into not caring what anybody thinks of him, as though that’s what he needs to maintain his mental health, or some other boring, irrelevant proposition. Of course I care what people think. I need an audience — I want them to think well of me, or at least — of my work.
Q. But what does it matter what he thinks?
A. Lifelong friend? Theatre Arts professor – reputable? Certainly, his opinion counts.
Q. But does it count enough for you to have let it condemn you? Snag you for three years? And then want to dedicate the show to him? Have you even heard from him since you did so?
A. No — he won’t talk to me. He hasn’t talked to me since shortly after he condemned me.
Q. Why would that be?
A. I guess because — well — I sort of accused him of not having carefully read the script. I said something snide, like – maybe he gave me twenty-five minutes at the most on a busy day, feeling pressured. I might have pressured him. I was stuck at page 58 — eager to get feedback, to be encouraged . . . to move forward . . .
Q. Wait wait — you think he didn’t read the script very carefully?
A. No – not at all. He might not even have read any of it. His comments were all the kinds of things he could have said had he only skimmed it briefly. All except for the big one, where he insinuated that I was some kind of over-the-top political activist, or grandiose sociopath, or whatever it he perceived my main character to be.
Q. Now Andy — let’s get down to it. Do you think that he even read your script?
A. No, I do not. He did not read the script.
Q. Then wouldn’t that explain his silence toward you?
A. How so?
Q. Could it not be that he simply is shying away from you because he doesn’t want to fess up to the fact that he dissed you so flagrantly?
A. Cowardice. It’s occurred to me. But I am not one to complain about cowardice. I myself am just about the wimpiest bloke on the block. I struggle to promote myself; I faint at the slightest trace of adversity. I can’t even get a gig playing the piano anymore, I’m so timid about letting them know my interest. I’m just not courageous, like I used to be.
Q. Like you used to be? When?
A. When I first decided to live outdoors – to be homeless by choice — in Berkeley, in April of 2011, six years ago. I was brave then. I spoke my mind. I was inspired. I didn’t just cave in to the Mainstream.
Q. And you have been “caving in to the Mainstream” lately?
A. Yes. I’m becoming passive, like most people in the Mainstream. I’m starting to just “go with the flow” — even if the flow is decidedly downstream. I do nothing to attack or challenge my circumstances. I don’t fight like I used to. I just – shrug my shoulders, and let it all happen, even as I descend deeper and deeper into hell.
Q. And this descent all began on March 4th?
A. Yes. I had reached the highest height. I had finally finished Eden in Babylon – or, a first rough draft, at the very least — after all those years of blockage and despair, feeling mocked by friends and family, and by prospective producers everywhere — I had reached the pinnacle —
Q. And then you fell down?
A. I fell off. I plummeted down to the dunes. I sank in the quicksand. I still sink, ever lower, even to the heart of the earth.
Q. Do you know the story of Icarus?
A. I do. I even wrote a song about him, years ago.
Q. Have you heard of the Icarus Project?
A. I have. I believe I receive their newsletter. I pay them no mind though. They all seem crazy to me.
Q. But don’t they have something in common with you?
A. Well – looking into them a bit more closely, they do appear to be more-or-less like myself. They’re activists. They would like to see transformative change in society. Many are Artists. Many have Bipolar Disorder.
Q. Do you have Bipolar Disorder?
A. Ha! They say that I do.
Q. Do you believe them?
A. When I’m not too busy being offended by them, yes, I do find a shred of truth in their undying diagnoses and psychobabble.
Q. Then why not revisit the Icarus Project?
A. You bore me. I would have liked your suggestion to have more to do with my regaining the courage I lack. The courage with which I once gave up everything I had — and chose to be homeless in Berkeley.
Q. Will you regain courage by returning to the streets of Berkeley?
A. Probably not. Especially since I’d be escaping all the things I’m afraid of at Friendship Square.
Q. What are you really afraid of, Andy?
A. Myself. I’m afraid of — my own self. Afraid of where my mind might take me. Indeed, where it has already taken me. Whenever I am not consumed in a creation about which I am passionate, my mind takes me to deeper forms of darkness than I’d thought imaginable. It’s the difference between day and night with me. Day — and night.
Q. And now?
A. Deepest, darkest night. It’s unfathomable — I can scarcely even see where I’m going. It pains me. For seven months, from when I first moved here at the end of July, till the beginning of March, I was shining as bright as the day. Since then – my God, it’s been almost six months now — it has been nothing but the dreaded, dead of night.
Q. When will it end?
A. Will it ever?
Q, Won’t it?
A. I suppose a new day will dawn.
Q. Doesn’t it always?
A. Has so far. But all my efforts at seeing the light of day have failed me.
Q. And when all else fails?
A. Use fire. Flame the fan of the sun yet to rise. Light the heart of the night with fire.
Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!