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The Difficult Ones

Brandon Cole

The Possibility of Being Who You Are


I have nothing to write about so this narrative is likely to dribble along until no more words will come. Right now, I can find words, but this is just an introductory paragraph that has no meaning. Even so, the words are already beginning to bump into each other, a sign that I will stop writing soon.

Nevertheless, I find it unbearable that I cannot find some narrative to tell! There are so many narratives, so many writers, I refuse to accept I have to fail while others succeed.

That last sentence places me in a bad light. I can feel that. That sentence makes me look like I want to write narratives so I can succeed. Of course I want to succeed!

When I say "feel", I mean only that I detect something pleasant or unpleasant. For example, about my lust for success I feel unpleasant. For another example, I cannot say, "I feel love." I do not know what to feel love means, nor do I know what it means to hate. I know only pleasant or unpleasant and such knowledge is very much, but if you disagree, well, you live differently than I, much differently.

It has taken me fifty years to distinguish finally the pleasant from the unpleasant and fifty years is a lot of years. But in fifty years to be able to distinguish only the pleasant from the unpleasant, what type of accomplishment is that? A two-year old baby can make that distinction! A one-year old can and probably a six-month old baby too. So after fifty years I know as much about my self as a six-month old baby and if that observation seems ridiculous to you, you are probably correct. In the realm of human achievement to have attained the wisdom of a six-month old baby after fifty years, in terms of human achievement, look what humans have done! But you need not look because you know already. It is only I, I and a few other, what should I call us? I and a few other difficult ones, yes, we are the difficult ones, so unnecessarily difficult, but to us alone comes the praise of having attained, after decades of living, the working mind of a six-month old baby.

It is time to begin a new paragraph. Past time really, because I had felt that paragraph about my stunted development was going on too long. But when I say I felt that paragraph was going on too long, I mean only that I felt unpleasant about it, though it is impossible to feel unpleasant in that way.

What I felt was a pull in my mind, an unpleasant tugging that would stop if only I would end that paragraph. Still, I did not end it soon enough. So much for the power of unpleasantness to influence me in what I am about!

Candidly, I say that I can suffer unpleasantness when I bring it upon myself but I would prefer not to bring unpleasantness upon others and I am not saying that just to make you like me. We can arrive at liking and disliking later if there is a later. I want to finish now, I want to stop writing about unpleasantness and pleasantness and I want to just stop. So much for my intention to write down something worth writing and more, so much more, something worth reading.

I need to promise myself a reward, that would keep me going. Rewards, yes, I like a reward, something that says at the end, "Look, not everything you did was a complete waste of time! Cheer up now! Reward yourself! Have a drink!"

Would a drink work? A drink works, yes, two drinks, a masturbation episode, pleasurable events certainly, no one would say they are not. Some people may, but those people, what do they understand?

We can disagree as is commonly said, and oh so falsely, and still find ways to walk together, can we not? No, we cannot! If I say I respond to rewards and you tsk-tsk me with "You can make efforts with no hope for reward in this life, my good man!" then I will tell you, "Don’t call me your good man. You do not see life as I do and I will not walk down this path with you because we are as different as it is possible to be."

Now I am finished writing for today but I surprised myself, I must say, that I was not finished sooner. Not that I believe I accomplished anything and now I am finished with my accomplishing, no I do not believe that I have arrived at that type of finished, the finish of a job well done, but I have tired myself out. That is all I mean by finished.

End of writing number 1



Now what? Now nothing. I had to go out today, that was a bad idea. Nothing happened of course, but going out was a bad idea, for me going out is always a bad idea. Going out destroys my concentration though I have nothing to concentrate about, absolutely nothing, except myself. I have been concentrating on my self for decades with paltry results. Still, I find concentrating on myself impossible not to do.

Today there was talking, even I talked, which surprised some people. They wanted to talk too. We even talked at the same time, not intentionally, we are all adults, but one of us immediately stopped and apologized. The time passed politely and pointlessly. All of us were relieved to be free of each other at the end, not overly relieved, but sufficiently relieved to make me wonder why we had met up in the first place.

So far this writing is going badly and I am beginning to conclude something is just not right. Either the time is just not right or the day is just not right, though I am well aware there is nothing wrong with either the time or the day. There is nothing wrong with me either for that matter, other than the characteristic behaviors that are wrong with me and have paralyzed me for decades and have finally driven all my friends away.

These problems in my character are relatively minor, however, and would not stop me writing any more today than they have in the past. So there is some other problem stopping me, some problem which I have never been able to describe sufficiently to make the description helpful. I can still not describe this problem now as anything other than fear.

I need a break.

I need to walk around, to allow another perspective to form and then return to this desk and set to work refreshed. But I am not going to rest until I have driven myself as hard as I can, even if I end up exhausted and defeated! This last sentence is not a sentence I can stand behind. I have no idea where it came from.

Possibly I harbor some pathetic wish to be a leader. Or possibly I heard some ego maniac once voice a similar commitment, the veins in his neck swollen with that commitment, his eyes blazing with it, his tone strengthened by it and the rest of us listening unconvinced and uncomfortable, wondering what terrible price we would have to pay if this ego-driven maniac achieved what he was committed to achieving.

Well, if events turn out as they usually do, none of us worriers would have to pay any price. But others would have to pay, the unfortunate ones would have to pay as the unfortunate ones always do.

Now I have really come to a dead end. But there is some inner voice still encouraging me not to stop. It is an untrustworthy inner voice and I listen to this voice though convinced I cannot trust it.

Perhaps it is the voice of my dead mother, she was good in track and field, I still have one of her medals. Track and field medal winners are known for their endurance and for being blindly determined to finish races long-since been won by someone else. I, for example, could never partake in track and field events though I ran a little as a boy. The team was short-handed and then children run without asking questions. But when track and field became serious later on, I was nowhere near either of them, not even in the stands watching.

That is it.

End of writing number 2



Here I am, determined again and wracked with doubt brought on by a night of dreams about constipation and suffocation. If ever there were signs that signaled me to stop this writing, I have now dreamed such signs and I will ignore them.

In one horrendous situation, a chimney flu was clogged and smoke filled the room. Fortunately some competent stranger nimbly pulled out a wad of charred newspaper as if nothing was easier than solving problems of clogged flues while a roaring fire burned beneath. Nothing easier and yet I had stood there, paralyzed. I did not feel humiliated. I was able to discern dimly that the entire scene was a symbol of some deeper malaise.

I have no idea what I would have done if the competent stranger had not appeared. I may have just stood there helpless and choking or I may have opened a window. There are other ways to solve problems than with a superior attitude. There are fretting ways.

The constipation dream was worse because I was in a restaurant’s bathroom without a door. There was just a curtain, which was incongruous because I was not in a small village in Turkey, I was in an up-scale restaurant in New York City. Also, there were people in the hallway waiting impatiently for me to finish and beneath the curtain I could see their legs pacing back and forth. Lovely times some of us spend eating exotic food with friends and socializing in low lit rooms, very memorable moments.

I was unable to complete my bowel movement because the toilet was unsteady yet I adjusted it without making a mess and set it back in its place. Eventually I did move a little turd, emaciated like a thick worm and more green then brown, but the movement was most unsatisfactory. Somehow I understood that satisfaction had nothing to do with what I was going through, except that if I wanted to be involved in better-quality dreams, I had better change what I was doing during my days.

I have no intention of changing what I do during the day. Nor am I going to say I will redouble my efforts because I have already redoubled my efforts many times. If my dreams want to attack me with threats of suffocation and public constipation, then let them attack me. They may defeat me, who can say? But my dreams will have to defeat me and not just leave me in the morning perplexed and exhausted. They will have to leave me screaming out against the unbearable burden of my waking and my sleeping mental life.

A different sort of question bothers me more, a serious one. What I am writing seems to me to have been written before by someone else. I have the worrisome sense that I am copying. I note this concern apprehensively because I do not yet know what to do about it. It may be true that I am copying, I must leave that terrible question open because before I bash my brain in with my fist, I would like to see how these pages progress and if they progress.

My writing constantly wants to stop and give up and most times it does just stop. So there may be no need for me to investigate further the terrible possibility I am a plagiarist. But if I am plagiarizing, the horrible names some people called me through the years would then be true and I would owe all of them a sincere apology.

But even if I am nothing more than a constipated plagiarist, there is small chance that anyone who called me those horrible names will receive an apology. In fact, there is no chance.

Defiance is no substitute for truth and I do not want to appear that I think it sufficient to treat disrespect by shouting simply, "Fuck you!"

There was a time a few years ago I went driving with friends and one of them needed help, as I remember she needed to find a post office. Her question to another motorist went completely ignored and, when she repeated it and was again ignored, she shouted, "Fuck you then!" She may not have added "then", she may have shouted just, "Fuck you!" or "Well fuck you!"

The other motorist paid no attention. It was possible she was deaf, or she was listening to the radio at high volume, or she had something on her mind and was oblivious to her surroundings. It was also possible she never responded to questions shouted at her from another car and just as possible she preferred not to be bothered by anyone outside her intimate circle. I can understand these reasons and I can even find a way to accept these responses in some one else. But when I am asked a question by a stranger in public, usually I will try to answer it.

The difference between someone who responds to a question by a stranger in need and someone who ignores it, is the difference between someone who believes there is such a thing as human nature and someone who believes there is not. But human nature does exist, that is what I have come to understand, and for any of us to betray our common human nature is dangerous.

End of writing number 3



I must really watch my tendency to teach. I call making grand categorical statements like, "Human nature exists!", teaching because I am reluctant to use a harsher word.

In the past, I have used much harsher words against myself in the furious attempt to kill my teaching impulse, but those words, harsh as they were, did not stop me. Whenever I saw the chance, I taught someone a lesson, horrible as that sounds.

Words I used to describe my pedantic behavior in hopes to end it, words like "insufferable", that word did not stop it. When others used "insufferable" to describe my behavior, that also did not stop it because I shrugged off "insufferable" as mean-spirited coming from them.

Still, how many words are there that could not be used at one time or another to describe me or anyone? Perhaps no person could be described as "day". Although if a little girl said that sitting with her grandpa for one hour seemed to her like she had been sitting with him all day, that could be interpreted as a description of a grandpa whose life had gone on too long for those who should love him and grandpa should try to die soon.

Or the grandpa on his side could say that sitting with his granddaughter was something or other equally unbearable, a word like, but it matters little what grandpa could say. Many words can be used to describe other people as long as one does not mind losing as many friends as I have. If one wishes to keep one’s friends, one must watch what one says, though it is also helpful from the other side to train oneself to stop listening.

I am teaching again! Immediately after I promised I would stop! No wonder I am disliked!

I have come to accept that my former friends avoid me because they know if they pause to talk to me however briefly they risk receiving a worthless life-lesson. They may also believe that since I do not keep my word about not teaching them, I will not keep my word about other matters. Although, to say I do not keep my word is inaccurate.

What my former friends disliked about me was that I would not behave consistently. Some days I would be happy to see my friends, some days very much not. This inconsistent behavior of mine they termed "disloyal". I have now learned that I should not appear disloyal. But there is also the unfortunate side to human relations that it is not sufficient to learn how not to behave, I must also learn how to behave.

I would like to be loyal. I like loyalty in pets and I like loyalty when I read about it in history. Some ancient Greeks were loyal to death. But when I had to face the difficult choice between being loyal to a friend or being truthful to myself, I tormented myself and constantly made mistakes. Sometimes I made the terribly wrong decision and came down righteously on the side of self-truth! That righteous behavior may sound praiseworthy but it is not since there is no conflict between loyalty and truth.

But, unfortunately, it is too late, much too late to tell the friends I abused I am functioning now with a clear mind, and we can pick up our shattered friendships where we left off before I destroyed them with my erratic behavior. Most of my former friends are doing well for themselves, much better than I. One could even say that since our friendships ended, their lives improved in every way. I do not follow their lives as closely as that observation makes me sound. But I hear tales and their success irritates me, much as I would like to claim otherwise.

I believe I am finally getting somewhere with this narrative. What a nice belief to have. If only it were true. Also, if I need a way to kill the writing I am doing, a self-compliment is the sure killer to use.

I know I would do well to keep my opinions to myself, to keep my comments also, to keep most of what goes on with me buried deep inside, and often I do manage to follow this sensible and hard-learned advice. But every now and again I still err and say things I should not, or write things I definitely should not. There may come a time when I will not need to correct myself as often as I still need to do. That time may come and I would like to be around to experience it.

End of writing number 4



Something needs to happen in this narrative.

Another character needs to be introduced, that would help, but what kind of character would fit into a world like this one? Another misfit? Well, yes, certainly a misfit! Who else but a so-called misfit would be willing to walk in and out of pointless situations in which there is no chance to make money?

There could be a woman out there somewhere who might strike a nice balance in this narrative. Some woman independent, sensible, difficult, some woman...yes, a strong independent sensible attractive and difficult woman and also a misfit! But if she has all those qualities, which is frankly already hard to believe, what would she want to be around me for?

I could hope she was going through a bad patch in her life that would make her open to a new experience, if I could be called a new experience. All right, she had fallen into bad habits, people do, it happens. She had fallen slowly into a little too much drinking and over-doing the nights in general and then all of a sudden, one evening, sitting in a crowded café with some ape she had been fucking for a while, she saw through the superficial life she was living and shivered.

The ape sitting across from her with an impatient look on his face noticed no change in her. Her ape sat there and continued to sip his beer even though his companion twisted around to pull on her cashmere sweater abruptly.

Or maybe her ape had noticed something finally and with a reluctant ape effort had put down his glass and said, "Jesus Christ! What’s bothering you now? Are you cold?"

To which she had been unable to do anything more than smile and shake her head "It’s nothing, don’t worry" and smile because she could not tell him, "Plenty is wrong with me, my dear apeling darling, plenty and everything is suddenly wrong with me, and has been wrong, and you and our monkey love and my fake friendships at work and the dirty windows outside my bedroom have all just shattered to pieces on the filthy sidewalk inside my head."

That entire artificial ape-filled world this poor woman had thoughtlessly inhabited for months now lay worthless and shattered to pieces between them but there was nothing she could say about it to her ape, or do about it, really nothing, not then. All she could do was make a terribly hard effort to control herself from trembling and restrain herself from crying out to her ape, "I can’t stand you! How can you be so horribly selfish!"

But she could not say that, she could not say anything, she could only sit there and bite her lip and go on sitting there, smiling as best she could and concealing her thoughts, until she could make some excuse and be off finally by herself to be alone.

A lovely trembling and troubled and difficult woman like that could work in this narrative if I could find her and she had bottomed out enough.

I could have seen her leaving that busy café in a hurry, the poor thing, though of course I could not have spoken to her and she, of course, troubled as she was, could not have seen me, and would not have wanted to talk to me at that moment even if she had.

Her name is, yes her name is, it is impossible that I cannot think of her name!

I see her so clearly hugging herself tight in her gray cashmere sweater, staring at the ground with tears flooding her eyes and running down the sidewalk away from the café and disappearing into the night.

Yes a sensitive and difficult woman who had just seen the superficial life she had thoughtlessly fallen into suddenly appear in all its hopeless vulgarity and trembled, a woman like that could do wonderful things in the grim internal world forming in these pages that is so badly in need of physical wonders.

But she has disappeared into the night, sobbing, without a name, with just a soft nice-looking sweater and a mess of disturbing images tumbling through her head. How is this sensible and difficult woman to do anything significant in this narrative now? How is she to function in this narrative as anything more than a mystery?

I could speak to her ape.

Her ape was still sitting at their table finishing his beer with a disgusted look on his face, but what do I know about speaking to apes?

The first thing to do is to stop calling him an ape. He is just not like me nor I like him and that should go without saying though apparently I need to emphasize it.

But in what ways do we differ so immeasurably? One difference is that he is self-possessed and I am in a perpetual state of inward crumbling. I shore up the crumbling, I do, no need to worry about me! But the crumbling goes on whereas he, yes well with him there is no inner crumbling of any sort.

Physically too, he is dressed expensively and has a good haircut and is a few pounds on the flabby side in his face and neck and hands, but these details mean nothing to me. My concern is only with the troubled woman who has just left him and who never wants to see him again.

"I’m sorry to bother you," I said and pointed to the street.

He stared at me, his eyes filled with contempt for my clothes, and shrugged. "What’s up?"

"That woman you were sitting with, the one who just left?"

"Right, what about her?"

Oh boy, yes, well here we are.

"Look, how about letting me buy you a drink?"

He tapped his half-empty glass of warm beer in an unfriendly way.

"I’m good for now," he said. "What do you want to know about her? What’s up with you, friend?"

"No nothing, just forget it," I said. "She seemed troubled, that’s all. I happened to catch her expression as she walked out. I thought you’d care to know she was sobbing but forget it. Maybe I was wrong about what I saw and anyway it doesn’t matter, I shouldn’t have said anything. People in this city, that’s all I’m saying, if they’re desperate, they can hurt themselves."

He laughed a little and shook his head that I had missed the point.

"Troubled? Andrea? Desperate huh? Hold on a second! Come here, let me tell you something, friend," he said waving me to come closer.

"Andrea should wish she had the depth to be troubled! Andrea’s a fucking jerk, that’s about all the ‘troubled’ Andrea is. She’s a fucking jerk who ought to get her shit together before her whole life blows up in her face!

"You want to sit down? Come on, sit down," he tapped the chair in front of me. "Sit down and let me tell you something truthful."

He signaled the waitress, raised his glass and called, "One more! And how about you, buddy? What do you drink?"

"Irish whiskey."

He nodded approvingly and held up two fingers. "Make it two double Jamesons straight-up with that beer!"

So her name is Andrea and she is a fucking jerk according to this Tom she just broke up with. And Andrea should get her shit together as should we all instead of putting our shit off. Yes, good advice though useless, but at least for once I was not the one giving it.

End of writing number 5

Ducts will present the next installment of Brandon's novel in our Winter, 2006 issue.

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