My name is Howard. I am the light.
At first I was unaware of this, as you are now. But like you I came to understand what I am and what I must do.
I am the way.
Everything I do becomes legend. Remember the rock group Big Panty? Remember their slogan: DO BONGS?
I used to work for them. I knew them in high school before they were making any money. I used to move all their equipment around from one show to another. A show in those days was somebody’s basement and a party. It was fun.
They were the band but I was the man. They even said so. Between numbers I would call, “Do bongs, Do bongs” and soon everyone was shouting it.
Even now that they are big and play the big halls people are still yelling “Do bongs.” They yell it from the streets when the Big Panty party limo drives by. They chant it on television shows when Big Panty are on. I am no longer with Big Panty but “Do bongs” lives on and on.
There’s a little rock trivia for you. They used to laugh when someone would say “Do bongs.” They aren’t laughing now of course. Now they hear cash registers.
It is legend just as I too am legend. I am Howard. I am the light.
I went to Mr. Donuts once and saw a girl whose entire face was covered with burns; but her hair was beautiful. It was a brilliant fiery red. It seemed likely that her hair was what had set fire to her face.
I thought about striking up a conversation but it was very late and the only people about were lost spirits and perverts. I didn’t want to frighten her.
Besides, I could see her reflection in the mirror eating a donut. She had no upper lip and her top row of teeth was encrusted with yellow muck. She could not keep the donut from spilling out of her mouth. She used one hand to hold the donut and the other to retrieve the pieces that fell, and then stuffed them back under her yellow teeth.
I admired her greatly and wanted to talk to her. But it was late and though I am not a lost soul or a pervert, I could not think of a way to begin talking to her.
And when the loneliness washes over me, I have to remember; unlike you, I am here for a reason. I cannot see a movie every time I don’t want to think. I cannot pick up a phone each time the sounds of my own thoughts are insufficient. I cannot bowl instead of cry. It is important to know that to be the one, as I am, I must be ONE.
The reason the music is so loud is so I can hear it. I have to hear it. I have to be able to hear it. Long shot, liquidator. Nobody is special.
I tell you this not by way of explanation. I tell you this not so you can nod your head and say, “See?” But I do want you to know that I spent some time locked away.
I had a lot of books all neatly packed away on shelves. When they found me, all my books were heaped into the center of my room. I was sleeping on top of the pile.
The problem was that I hadn’t answered the phone in several weeks. The problem was I ignored the door bell. I didn’t eat. I didn’t hallucinate like they said I would.
I participated in osmosis.
And when they came in and found me and yanked me off my support systems, I didn’t fight. I let my Walkman drop to the ground. My body rose, lifted upwards. I saw it all before my door actually came down for the benefit of the less divine. It was all there: hoses, screaming, the smell of charcoal. I can’t explain it except to say that it happened.
“Do bongs,” I told the fireman. He nodded, wrapped me in a sheet, ate a donut. Me too.
I have a plaid bag that I keep my bowling ball in. I found the bowling ball in a gutter. It was in the plaid bag. I keep the ball and the bag together because that’s the way I found them.
The Irish have a similar thing for their tea pots. They call them Tea Cozies. An Irish girl named Christine told me about it one night.
She was a fan of the band I used to work for, Big Panty. I used to see her at all the shows. She had amazing red hair that used to fight the light for brilliance. I actually once had a conversation with her. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her hair. We talked about tea cozies.
“You actually put them over your tea kettles?” I asked.
“Mmmmm,” she laughed. “We knit them.”
And this is how I get to sleep at night: I lay in bed on the covers and close my eyes. Then I pretend I’m being shot in the head. I flinch and convulse three times as three bullets enter my skull and blood showers my face.
Then I attempt to crawl out, but I am losing strength so fast I can only make it to the edge of the bed. I reach up for the phone but I can only raise my arm a little off the sheets before I collapse altogether in a heap. Then I sleep.
But I am always able to fill with blood and rise up. I am the erection. Through me you will find love and joy and an ocean of harmony. I have seen the after-world. It is as written, and St. Peter will greet each and everyone of you. “Do bongs,” he will say. “Do bongs St. Peter,” you will say back to him. He’ll grin and let you pass.
I am that merry wise man.
The reason I can see the girl so well in the window is because I have no lips either. I have been through it, boy! I have walked through fire and lived.
But now you wouldn’t know me from Adam.
The fire fighters think that they extinguished the blaze. They didn’t. They carried it out on a stretcher and brought it home. They gave it oxygen. They fanned the flames and sent it out on its way.
You can see the flames licking my face. You can only look for a second before it gets too bright and hurts your eyes. Look away. Don’t point, child. Don’t stare.
There but for the grace of me go you.
It also works for television too.
When the show stops I get sad. And the commercials take so long. Sometimes I can’t barely take it no more. I lay back in the chair and pretend bullets are pelting my body. I shake and quiver and flail about, but there is no escape. They eventually stop but it is too late.
The blood is draining from me but still I want to raise my arms to my Father and beg forgiveness. I can’t get them up and soon I lose consciousness.
Then the show comes back on.
My hair was not touched by the flames. I don’t exactly know why, but it is the truth. My entire body was consumed with fire like the burning bush. But I did not speak. I had long red hair, and I still do. I have lost everything but the red hair. It is all gone except for my hair.
The Mr. Donut is the only thing open late at night and that is why I go there. The guy behind the counter is huge. Flesh bursts out of him on all sides. He nods to me and does not stare at my dry face. He doesn’t seem to mind that I have no upper lip. This isn’t easy to say, but he never, he never says anything. He never looks away. He never flinches. He gives me my cruller and my coffee and I pay him and I leave. It is the only thing I really look forward during the day. I look forward to the day becoming night so I can get a donut.
I like the fat guy that works behind the counter at Mr. Donut. He talks to me and doesn’t flinch. He asks if I’ve found work yet. I shake my head no. He tells me it’s tough. He puts sugar and milk in my coffee. I don’t have to ask any more. When he takes my money I can taste powdered sugar. He seems to exhale it. When he brings me my change he nods and tells me to have a good night.
I nod. I sit in the booth and turn on my Walkman loud. Maybe I listen to Fuzzbox or the Go Gos or maybe today I want to hear Sinead. I open the Best Seller I brought with me and read. I can eat with one hand and catch all the food that comes rolling past my charred lips with the other.
Sometimes people come in and get donuts and sometimes they actually stay. Nobody sits in the booths near me. No one talks to me. I couldn’t hear them if they did. The music fills my head. It is good. I never listen to Big Panty.
Once a girl came in that I recognized. I think she used to come see the band I worked for. They were good once. You may have heard of them. Big Panty.
I used to see this girl at the shows before the fire. Before she got burned up real bad. She had this amazing red hair that I could see from back stage. It would swirl around her head as she danced like a moving halo. When I came up to her she would talk to me because I wore a Big Panty All Access necklace. She knew I could get her backstage. And I did one night. It may even have been the night of the fire. It may not have been. I don’t remember.
At the Mr. Donut she didn’t even look my way. She wouldn’t have recognized me if she did, but I might have at least reminded her of something. She’s gone now and I never said anything to her. She probably thinks I was killed in the fire like so many others do.
You would be surprised at how many people think that. They don’t know that I am the fire. I became the fire. Just as Mr. Donut is powdered sugar, I am the fire and the light and the way and the truth. I am.
Dr. Roy Euclid told me that it might be easier to deal with things if I pretend it happened to someone else. So sometimes before I go to bed, before the bullets, I think about that girl that I used to see at Big Panty concerts, and I pretend she is the one who picked up the bad lighter. I picture her putting the cigarette between her lips and raising the lighter just under her nose. She’s doing it the exact same way I did. She closes her eyes and brings her thumb down. She bends her neck to get even closer, the exact same way. And then it’s her hand that erupts and her face that gets sprayed and her world that darkens. Forever.
But soon the bullets are fired to put me out of my misery. And another day is upon me.
Don’t look at me! I am the burning bush. I am the vision. I am the walrus, goo goo goo joob!