[oasis]

[columns]


Joshua W.

September 1997

Words fail

It doesn't take a lot to get me to cry, but it does take a lot to get me to bawl.

Rent made me bawl. I went to see it on August 3rd in St. Paul, Minnesota. It's really a grand show. Made me happy to be alive and all that. Made it feel good to be in love and all that. Made me proud to be a human being and all that. Well, no, actually, Rent did none of those things. I was already happy to be alive. It already felt good to be in love (as if it could feel bad?). I was already proud to be a human being. So what did Rent do for me? It made me bawl. I don't know what else I ought to say about that. I don't really like how half of the audience didn't get that Angel was a guy. I don't really like how half of the audience clapped a little bit less for Maureen and Joanne. I don't really like how half of the audience dressed in three-piece suits for this musical. I don't really like how half of the audience finished watching the performance and said "that was nice, wasn't it dear?" and drove to their fabulous homes in their BMWs and their Mercedes. I don't really like how half of the audience couldn't remember their childhood, what it was like to be a teenager, what it was like the be a 20 year old, what the word "angst" means. I don't really like how half of the audience blinded themselves to the reality and universality of this show, to the reality of these ideas, of the fact that even kids can think.

But that's not really what my column's about. Truth be told, I'm not exactly sure what I want to say here. No, that's not true, either. I know exactly what I want to say, I'm just worried that I'll disappoint some people.

That has been my main worry ever since I first received an email praising my writing ability so gallantly displayed in my August column: disappointing people. I really don't want to let anybody down. I don't know. Does that make me a good person? If that's all it takes, why aren't more people good?

Let me make this perfectly clear: I'm nobody special. I try to tell people this, but they don't listen to me. I am hopeful that some of you reading this already know it. The back of my mind is going haywire. What you saw in my August column, for those of you who have read it, was just about as fine a thing as you will ever see from me. In some places, I was profound. In some places, I was poignant. In some places, I was humorous. Or so I've been told. That's great. I'm very proud of my August column. My problem is, now people will start to expect that sort of profundity from me all the time. And I can't deliver. I wish to high heaven that I could, that I could touch each and every one of you in a very special way every month, and as you read my column and/or poem you would feel a little bit warmer in the cold reality. But that's absolutely ridiculous. I can't even make myself warmer. I rely on someone else to do that. Kind of funny, if you think about it: I preach individuality and nonconformity, but I can't even take care of my own mental state. I don't like to use the word co-dependent, mainly because I think I'm awfully close to it. Maybe I'm not. I can exist without someone else, you know? But I can't really live. Oh, I can get by. I got by for 16 years of my life. Wrote bad poetry and read books about domesticity and life in general that only served to worsen my condition. Does anyone else out there understand what I'm saying? Does anyone else feel like that? Do tell, if so.

What I mean to say is that I'm not perfect. Nobody really is, I know, we've been fed that from birth. I'm not even very good at what I do. Sometimes I have flashes of greatness, my August column being one. But those are just flashes. And they come only rarely. Most of the time I just babble on about nothing in particular. And then I end up with short columns. And I end up disappointing people. Disappointing the people who loved my long columns and would like to see more of the same. And then I end up deleting the entire column and starting over from scratch, simply because I said what I wanted to say and felt that it wasn't good enough to be put on display. (Josh raises the high-jump bar another foot and gathers speed) So then I try again, only now I discover that I'm not saying what I want to say, I'm saying what I think people want to hear. And that goes against just about every principle I have. So I delete it again. And then I try again, only to discover *this* time that I'm exactly where I started with the first attempt. And I keep raising the bar and leaping over it, only to discover that awaiting me on the other side is this really deep hole that I dug myself. And I keep climbing out and raising the bar again, hoping that someday I'll leap over the bar and across the hole at the same time.

Basically I just get mad at myself a lot because I'm my own worst critic and I'm not really as bad as I make myself out to be. And everything I've done has been my doing, and I knew the consequences when I went into it, but still I pressed on. Or maybe I didn't, because I was too afraid. One of my friends recently told me that he really liked how I wasn't afraid of emotions. To which I replied, "Yeah, I know. That's why I'm such a nutcase." Truth be told, I'm scared shitless of emotions. I'm scared of being sad, I'm scared of being mad, I'm scared of being disappointing... heck, I'm even scared of being scared. I'm scared that I'll lose the interest of people I care about. People I converse with thanks to this magazine. Like Jason. And Anthony. And those who might not want their names displayed in big flashing lights. Sometimes I'm even scared that one day I'll wake up and everyone will have lost interest in me. Even the person I care about and love more than anything else. Every day I wake up and wonder if this is going to be the day when everything falls apart. Not that it has to happen, of course. Just that it might. I kind of feel like that right now. Like everything's falling apart in my life and I don't know what I can do to stop it. Like everything I thought I knew has just been proven wrong. No, not wrong, irrelevant. Obsolete. So where do I go from here? I climb back up and raise the bar again.

My main problem in writing, I feel, is that I get really super ideas for things, ideas that, well written, could change the world, or at least become well-read. Maybe even touch a few souls here and there. The problem lies in my ability. I just don't have the skill in writing to back up my ideas. It's like I need to send these ideas to some great writer like Neil Gaiman so he can write it out and maybe I could live through him. Ideas about life, religion, and everything else... Stuff Kafka would write about. And I try my best to write about it, because it's almost my duty for having these ideas: trying to express them in such a way that other people can ponder them too... But I'm just not good enough, most of the time. And that troubles me. Greatly.

William Burroughs died. Matt told me on the phone... I believe he wrote a eulogy for this column... I didn't exactly know how to take the news... Sure, I had read a lot of his stuff, and sure, I was a fan, and sure, I was crushed, but I really couldn't say anything about it. Other than, "wow"... He was the one that should have died first, really... I mean, of all of his peers, he was the one who did the most stuff all of the time... He and I shared a birthday. February 5. I kind of think that's funny, seeing as how he's one of Matt's favorite authors. Bill Burroughs was a really cool guy. I wish I could have known him, or even just sat down with him over lunch. I don't know, I included this because it just saddens me that another one of those people who had great ideas and could express them amazingly well has died. I was surprised how little people cared. I mean, when Allen Ginsberg died, there was at least a little blurb on Headline News... But for Bill? Nothing. That doesn't seem fair. When a mediocre author like Danielle Steele dies, there will be a national moment of silence, most likely. But when truly great authors like Bill and Neil Gaiman die, no one cares. I'm hopeful that Neil's death won't come any time soon, of course, but you know what I mean. It's just not fair that so few people recognize the truly great.

I'd like all of you reading this column to do me a big favor. Take about 20 minutes out of your time and check out this web page: http://rawilson.com .... Check out the book excerpts page, and then check out the excerpt from "The Earth Will Shake"... like I said earlier, it doesn't take much to get me to cry, but it *does* take a lot to get me to bawl. That made me bawl. I'm not sure why, it's simply a variation on a theme any homosexual author could envision. It probably has a lot to do with why I like "The Toilers and the Wayfarers" so much and why I hated "Torch Song Trilogy." It's really really easy for a writer or a movie director to portray adult male homosexual love. It is extremely difficult, however, to effectively portray teenage male homosexual love. That's what "The Earth Will Shake" and "The Toilers and the Wayfarers" do best. But, again, it's just one great excerpt and one great movie, and nobody knows about them. So it goes.

That's all I have to say this month. I hope I didn't disappoint anyone, but I fear I did. So it goes. Mail me at sengir@ncn.net if you thought this column was any good, read my August column if you didn't. Thanks for listening. (Josh climbs back up and raises the bar again)


[About the Author]


©1997 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.