Joshua Weiss

July 1997

A Clockwork Orchid

So I'm writing this little paragraph on June 1st. I'm writing to wish Jason, 16, who lives in a dinky town in Arizona, a happy birthday.

All right, so here's what I'm doing. All the stuff in between these two lines above and below this text was written on June 1st. This stuff is happening later on. Therefore, I wished Jason a happy birthday on the 1st, I talked about the death of Oasis on the 1st, I talked about the orchid on the 1st. Everything else goes in here. Get it? Got it? Good.

So now it's June 3rd, and I am officially done with classes for my sophomore year. Not as exciting as it sounds. In fact, today has been thoroughly boring. I have absolutely nothing to do. It's funny that we always look forward to having so much freedom on summer vacation but once we get there we long for things to keep us busy. My dad wants me to get a job, but I'm not going to. I prefer to go out with my car every day hunting for things to take pictures of... Unfortunately, here in Iowa, it's slim pickings. Ah well. I was just re-reading some columns from not only the June issue but some back issues as well, and the one thing that stood out for me was the fact that plenty of people out there seem to be having casual sex. That, I think, is fascinating. You always hear heteros talking about how they're virgins and how they're waiting for the right person to come along before they'll do anything, but I have yet to hear one gay person make this comment. Other than me. I'm a virgin, and I'm going to stay one, until I'm physically with the person I know I want to spend the rest of my life with. Who else here can say that? Fascinating.... Sociology, people, sociology...

By the time everyone reads this, I will have gone to and returned from my vacation in Vermont. I'm taking my camera there, too... Black and white film... there's so much I can do with my old friends and that camera that my mind is overloading thinking about the possibilities. Oh yeah, and I'll be finding out in Vermont whether my old friend Tyler is or is not gay. Or any of the others, for that matter. I have my suspicions. Mom says we will probably spend a little while there, then, on our way back, stop in Evanston, Illinois to check out Northwestern, because that's where I would like to go to college... She says we'd probably spend a few days there, and that makes me mad, because I know of another place where those few days could be better spent... I don't know. Eventually I'm just going to say to her: "Hey, there's this really good friend of mine on the way to Vermont, don't you think we could stop by?" or, the even-better-situation-but-I-doubt-she'd-go-for-it: "So if we can't stop by on our way to or from, could you spring me some cash and let me drive out there and stay for a week?" Yeah, right. Well, I wouldn't be too quick to discount my mother on this one... She's entirely too over-protective, but if I can somehow convince her that what I want to do will not be harmful to me in any way, she'll go for it in a second. She's pretty cool that way. Now I just need to convince her...

A new month on Oasis means a new poem from yours truly, and the one that appears this month is the first in a set of three. (Before I continue with that I'd just like to remind everyone out there that being a poet sucks. It really does. there's no glamour, there's no happiness. True poetry breeds nothing but hatred and contempt. There.) Our semester projects for English were a list of things we could do, and the first one on the list was "Write three poems from the viewpoints of any of the characters in the book." Lord of the Flies, btw. So I did that one. It's a modern literary triptych. I chose the three entities: The island, the pig's head, and Simon... The first poem in the triptych is in this issue. The whole thing was titled "Leviathan (or) On the Consequences of Christian Life"... Leviathan in honor of Thomas Hobbes, and the other title in reference to the three stages of Christian living on which this work is based. The 1st stage, Sentience, is represented by the Island, which I always viewed as another character with emotions and feelings the same as the boys. The 2nd stage, Sin, is represented by the pig's head, for obvious reasons. And the 3rd stage, Salvation, is represented by Simon, again, for obvious reasons... If you've read the book, that is... So there they are, three sestinas. The first one is online now. (Addendum: Speaking of poetry, I just realized that everyone else's poems are always about being gay and love and what not. Not mine. That's interesting, I think. I don't think Oasis is about being gay, I think Oasis is more about being human. My poems reflect that. Certainly I have an interesting time coping with being gay, but my poetry more reflects my experiences coping with being human. Interesting.)

Well, this is basically all I'm going to say here... most of the column appears down below... That's what I really want you to read... This section was more of a "here's what's happening in my neck of the woods" sort of thing... until next month, I guess. Feel free to write me; contrary to popular belief, I don't bite unless you ask me to, and I do have feelings which can, occasionally, be hurt. But write. Even if you hate every word I say and want to crucify me. Write me anyway.

I'd just like to remind you that we should not be ones to attempt to harness the power of Destiny. It, as well as the future, was placed beyond our reach for a reason.

It's June 1st. Still. So I have knowledge of four other people ever reading even one of my columns, and I remain... well, 75% uninvolved. Hi Matt. Don't get me wrong, this is not my doing. Not my choosing. I responded to both of the letters I received. Only one wrote again. Hi Matt. So I discovered that writing this column is going to be pretty much like writing my poetry, or my essays, or my *ahem* play... (That was bad news... I'm trying to get every copy of that piece of crap burned. Hopefully my next three won't cause such distress. hopefully.) It will be like me writing anything else in the sense that no one really cares whether I do it or not. So now I'm not writing this column in the hopes that someone out there will read it and care, because I've seen almost no evidence to support that. ALMOST none. Hi Matt. So I'm writing this for myself. I'm writing this to lull my senses, to numb me to the world. I am writing this to please myself. So I can say, "Hey, man, you're getting out there, you're getting things done, your purging like you want to..." because I am. I'm getting my work out there. I'm purging my soul for more of it, ever more. I'm presenting my soul to the world, saying "Here I am, do what you want with me, hate me and laugh at me (thanks to Tim Rice), love me and talk with me, here I am." But no one does. ALMOST no one. Hi Matt. This happens on the Moos a lot, too. (Don't forget, I refuse to go IRC. Bad things.) I posted eight posts to a particular mailing list out of 1,116 posts. No one responded to a single one. Not even a little whimper. "Why not?" I ask in another post, but still I get no response. No feeling, no fire, no emotion. When I write, all this emotion drains out of me. Where does it go? Certainly not into other people. Sometimes it feels like I'm the only real person in the world anymore. Like everyone else has just curled up into little chrysalis and died there, never unfurling their true selves. Perhaps it is arrogant to think of only myself in this way, but I have seen no evidence as of yet to the contrary. well, ALMOST none. <you know what goes here...>

Occasionally, in my more paranoid and delirious states, it occurs to me that this Leviathan, this Oasis, has become much more than what it originally intended. It has become an automaton... almost a clockwork orange, if you will. Kind of the Red Queen Theory, here... Oasis just keep running and running, doing all that it can, helping (or thinking it's helping) all those thousands upon thousands of gay youths out there who need support and guidance, and it keeps running as fast as it possibly can, but it doesn't get anywhere. We all just spit out the same buzz words over and over again, these mind-numbing phrases that mean a lot the first time you hear them, but get progressively more silly with each passing month. Pride this, Torch Song Trilogy that, Religion this, Parents that. Everything contributing to my (much hidden, even from myself) theory that free will is indeed an illusion. That everything we think, everything we have thought, has merely been borrowed from another, perhaps unseen force. That we cannot make our own choices, rather, we are forced to make the choices that we know are right, not because we believe they are right, mind you, but because we have been taught that they are right, we know they are right because someone or something has told us that they are right.

But then, as always, there are exceptions. Hi Matt.

Do not misconstrue my rant. I am not opposed to Oasis. If I were, I would certainly not be contributing, nor would I even be reading. It does what it does extremely well, I do not deny that. Part of the reason I am so comfortable with myself now is because I read Oasis, have fully accepted who I am, and can feel comfortable baring myself to the four winds, as it were, even if no one reads it. I am proud of myself, even if it is one of the seven deadly sins (o/~ the seven deadly virtues, those ghastly little traps... o/~). No, I have not seen Torch Song Trilogy, nor do I have any idea whatsoever as to what it's about. But I'll bet "The Toilers and the Wayfarers" is better. Religion, I'll save for another post, and I'll guarantee I won't spit out the tripe that I've heard before. And yes, I have told my mother. That's all I need to say about that. There are only a certain number of things that one can talk about dealing with homosexuality, and that is unfortunate. The risk of going stale is indeed high, and new thoughts and ideas must be constantly introduced, lest everyone stops talking, which will indeed happen sooner or later. I fear Oasis' death. When none of us have any ideas left, this fine magazine will surely crumble. I do not wish this to happen, nor, I assume, do any of you. So what can we do?


That's not a bad thing, though. Neil the-most-brilliant-man-I-will-never-ever-meet Gaiman taught us that we really don't have anything to fear from Death. She's just a girl who wears a top hat because they're fun who goes around doing her job, but not taking it too seriously. I mean, jeez, if Death herself can have fun doing her job, why can't we enjoy life a little more? She doesn't teach us how to die, she teaches us how to live. She reminds us to spend our time here wisely, and that's what we ought to do with this Oasis. (For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, go by your nearest comic book store and pick up "Death: the high cost of living" by Neil Gaiman. I guarantee it'll blow you away.)

This may be the only time it is wise never to recycle anything. Recycled thoughts, recycled ideas, recycled phrases are nothing. They mean nothing, they imply nothing, they are nothing, unless you express them in a creative and different way. So let's get at it. Use this time of Oasis wisely, because we're running out of ideas, and we may not have long. Let's live.

It's still June 1st. All that was written on June 1st, and now it's later in the night, but it's still June 1st. After I wrote that, some friends came over unexpectedly. One of them (not really a friend, more of a person who latches on to me for no apparent reason) is entirely boy crazy. Completely. And of course she has over 20 email addresses (she's a newbie and I have 3...) of various boys she's met in chat rooms (which, in my opinion, appeal to the lowest common denominator of human scum... I would mention my utter hatred for IRC here, but I would offend a great many people... Not that I haven't already.). And of course she had to use MY computer (I don't like other people touching my stuff) to write them all and tell them how much she loves them. ALL of them. And the other friends who came over are yelling at me because they don't think it's right that she does this and I should stop it but I can't and all I can do is sit back and laugh sometimes because I know where it's going to end up but then I scream at such utter stupidity. And that's what I did when they left. I screamed.

More specifically, I drove out into a meadow somewhere, away from civilization, away from the bloody clockwork of the idiots and their Supreme God: Technology, and I screamed there. For a long time. And when I had done screaming, I saw a flower. An orchid. I have no idea what it was doing there, it was all alone, and I have since convinced myself that if I return to the spot I will not be able to find it again. Perhaps someone planted it there. Perhaps it wasn't there, but just an illusion that came to me at that time. Perhaps I just wanted to see the orchid. But I saw it.

And it was black.

Undoubtedly, it was dyed by some person (or just appeared black in the illusion), either by dying the roots or the petals themselves, as orchids do not come in black. Undoubtedly, the person who dyed this flower was a fan of the aforementioned Neil Gaiman. Or perhaps I just wanted to see this black orchid, sitting there all by itself, waiting to die in a green meadow, undetected by humanity. If it was real, it certainly didn't have much time left, as dyes of that sort must be poisonous to such a delicate and pristine thing. I bent over to smell it, but I couldn't smell anything... I thought about picking it. I came so close. I wanted to take it home, to have it be with me forever. But then it would die. Then it would wither... By now I was crying, my screams long since having died into wails of sadness that racked my body for no reason. I was just looking at this flower which could very well have been merely a figment of my imagination (was I dreaming?) and crying, crying more than I ever have before in my life. This orchid was dying. It had been tampered with by some force, be it God, evolution, Darwin, or society; it had been tampered with, and it was going to die. But it still lived. It turned it's tiny, gentle face to the light and almost smiled. Chlorophyll A continued to aid in photosynthesis, the xylem continued to carry water, and the phloem continued to carry food. The orchid was dying, but that fact did not stop it from living. It was all alone in the field, having been tampered with and sentenced to death, but it still carried on. And I wept.

And as I write this I'm crying again. I doubt the orchid ever existed. I would say I was hallucinating, but there is nothing that would cause that. Perhaps I was merely dreaming, and my Lord Morpheus chose to give me one of the sweetest and gentlest of his citizens. I could be cliche about the orchid right now, I could begin another long tirade about how the orchid represents all of us, how it really symbolizes our gay community and should be viewed as an allegory. But I won't, because I find that to be incredibly shallow and grossly incorrect.

That's not what the orchid is at all. The orchid's just a being, like you or me. Granted, it's simpler, but life is better for it. Life is easier. All that other stuff is my left brain talking. Always analyzing, always contemplating... Recently I've decided that my left brain knows shit. Hi Matt. My right brain says that it was an orchid. It wasn't the gay community. It wasn't you. It wasn't me. It was an orchid. Just a beautiful, sweet, tiny, hidden-under-the-rug orchid.

I fell in love with a flower today.

If that disturbs you, then I pity you, for you have no idea about what love really is.

I didn't pick the orchid.

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