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I Am Thinking Of Starting My Own Religion by Timothy C. Dyke

The attractive man at the bus stop may best be described as a boy. It is 8:30, Sunday morning. I am on my way to the Sure Shot for a cup of iced coffee, and I imagine that this kid, this young man, is going home from a one-night stand. A tattoo sticks out from the sleeve of his white T-shirt, some warrior design in black. It’s too early in the morning for me to be staring. I stare. The attractive guy at the bus stop is probably no longer sitting at the bus stop by the time I am back in my apartment.
     I lay on my couch. I’m watching the Olympics. It’s still Sunday morning, and there is a large woman who lifts weights. She inhales before she cleans or jerks. Maybe I would be attracted to large women if I were attracted to women. The boy at the bus stop is probably in his twenties. He wears dark glasses. I would guess that a mix of German and Korean flows through his apparent vascularity. I imagine what he looks like when he gyrates at night. I am eating Fritos, drinking dirty brown water from the cup that, twenty minutes ago, contained my iced coffee. The one woman on channel 8 who lifts weights is replaced by another woman on channel 8 who lifts weights. This woman is also large. I am thinking about introducing a cat into my narrative.
     I wonder if I would call these women fat. They can each lift 250 pounds over their heads. The announcer makes clear that this is the event referred to as clean and jerk. This is not the snatch portion of the competition. I do not make these terms up. I am still thinking about the attractive young man at the bus stop. I have memorized his symmetrical face. I have this friend. We met in a writing class. In a story about a sex-addict, she referred to something called the three-second rule. To work his recovery, her character practices this with great devotion. He doesn’t allow himself to look at any object of sexual attraction for longer than three seconds. If he finds his gaze lingering, he closes his eyes and whispers to himself: Thank you, God, for granting beauty to this world.
     I am thinking of starting my own religion. I am thinking that by giving my main character a pet, I could introduce a thread of narrative complication. Perhaps he is not supposed to have pets in this apartment building. Perhaps his neighbor has been leaving cryptic notes on his door about hair on hallway carpets. Perhaps there can be symbolism surrounding the parasitic nature of mites and fleas.
     The second large weightlifting woman barks and falters. Her mouth opens, puckers, and I watch her blow out breath. The announcer reiterates that she has an easy clean, but she fails to get the jerk behind her head. I am fascinated. I watch without negative judgment. I think the announcer says that this second large woman suffers from a malady called Madeline’s Deformity. I consider that this might be what I am writing about: my deformities. There is this urge to masturbate. There is this urge to pierce my own helix or give myself a Mohawk. I imagine myself pulling the T-shirt over the head of the beautiful 22-year-old boy at the bus stop. I decide to call him Ryan. In my fantasy he tells me to get on my knees, and then I feel some weakness for imagining this, so I change my mind and wonder if it is possible to get off while imagining the boy at the bus stop with one of the weightlifting women.
     My deformity. I often fantasize about men in their twenties who have sex with women in their forties. I write two sentences about something incomprehensible. I consider the difference between not understanding and understanding that something cannot be understood. I am thinking about writing my manifesto. I am thinking about justifying the way I am always writing about the act, the processes, of writing. I am thinking about masturbating, but I am not masturbating. I make up lies about myself. I used to be a grill master at summer camp. I used to be really good at Frisbee golf. I once held my breath underwater for 55 seconds. Sharks respect me. In Denmark I had an uncanny ability to order the best item on the menu without ever speaking the language.
     The beautiful boy at the bus stop and the weightlifting women: I watch the Olympics. I almost died once on the back of a dressage horse. I think on one of the other channels there might be a water polo game. Those men all wear tiny shorts. They glisten with wetness. I am 49 years-old. I hardly ever glisten, though parts of my scalp did shine for a day. I got a Mohawk at The Shear Thing on King Street, the shop across from the Burger King. The barber knew what he was doing with his razor blade. My Mohawk floated on a sea of shaved skin, but the haircut is three weeks old, and already the side-hair has grown in enough to obliterate the shimmering result of the Mohawk, the whole strip-of-pelt-in-the-middle-glistening-baldness. The cat is watching me. I like to imagine that I am in control of how I spend time. I like to imagine I can control time. I like to imagine I am in control. I like to imagine. I think I might go into the bathroom right now and shave those side-hair areas. I like to watch reality television. I have never driven an ambulance but I am related to a lung surgeon and a neo-natal cardiologist. I am a Kindergarten teacher. I am a progressive educator. I call myself Mr. Ken in the classroom. I imagine I have taught those who cannot tie shoes to use Velcro instead. I imagine I have saved young lives. I am thinking of starting my own religion.
     I will choose three razors. I used to buy the expensive razors, and I’d use one for six or seven face shavings, but now they lock these up in their own little cabinet, and to buy these razors and their expensive replacement cartridges, you must summon a clerk as if you were buying spray paint in cans or Sudafed in bulk. I buy the cheap razors now: one blade a piece, ten to a pack. It’ll take three cheap razors to give myself a decent homemade Mohawk refresher. There are links between what I pray for and what I would like to forget. I am metaphorically dependent upon the first person pronoun. There are links between my libido and my imagination. Ryan is the sexy guy at the bus stop. There are links between my imagination and my memory. Would it be too much if I said my cat’s name is Karma?
     One time I worked stage crew in a community theater production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The stage manager overheard me as I made fun of her backstage New Age ramblings. She told me that when I mocked her, I pulsated orange bile from my groin shakra. In my fantasy, Ryan, the bus stop kid, likes it when a woman in a sequined gold halter-top rubs his nipples from behind on the dance floor. She is old enough to be his mother, but she is not his mother. She slips her hands under his T-shirt, and he closes his eyes. She grinds against his backside, his tight little ass. In my fantasies about the beautiful boy at the bus stop, he is always heterosexual. I see him fondling a beautiful, middle-aged Chinese woman with huge breasts. He uses his fingers; she uses her mouth.
     I am not at this moment shaving my head. I am thinking about it. I wonder why the objects of my sexual fantasies are so often young and straight. I wonder why they are mostly Asian. I wonder if this has something to do with some kind of psychological issue for which I should seek remedy. Perhaps there are mechanisms of self-hatred lingering in my psyche. Of course there are. The woman on the television squats in front of fractions of tonnage. This young man named Ryan wakes up next to the beautiful, aging Chinese woman on Sunday morning. He offers to scramble her some egg whites, and she says no thank you. Her gold halter-top languishes on the floor, just beside the bed. She says it might be better if he leaves. She tells him there is a coffee shop down the street, and she says there is a bus stop right outside the door.
     There is a bus stop right outside my door. Actually this is not literal truth. There is a pile of junk furniture right outside my door. In this particular section of the city, the garbage men pick up bulk items on the second Wednesday of every month. Residents on my street don’t seem too specific about the exact date of the junk pick up. I am thinking about starting my own religion. People leave junk offerings on the street all the time. When I first moved in, I thought about what I could find in the junk pile. I’d bring up an occasional chair to my apartment. Now I think less about what I can acquire, and more about what I can give away. I carried a clock downstairs last Wednesday. My mother gave it to me, and her mother had given it to her. It was German, probably made in the 19th century out of cold wood.
     The clock should have been cherished, both for aesthetic and sentimental reasons, but I lived with an alcoholic for a year and a half, and to spite me, he left the clock upside down on the floor while I was at work. Every evening when I returned home from school, he would be sprawled there on the couch, passed out. The television would be tuned to the SyFy channel, and the clock would lean at the base of the TV stand, upended, quivering in mechanical awkwardness. The clock hasn’t worked for years. I became depressed whenever I looked at it. Now it depresses me to think that I removed it from my apartment. I haven’t told my mother. I stare at the space on the empty wall where it used to hang. The guy I used to live with is doing well now with his recovery, but he no longer speaks to me on account of something that happened. I will make up what happened. I will say that on a vacation to the North Woods I became disoriented and swung at his head with a canoe paddle.
     I cannot canoe. I never lifted weights in high school or college. I have flirted with yoga, and ran two half-marathons before I contracted a joint disease on a cultural exchange to the Ukraine. I am attracted to men with wiry chests. I am attracted to men with veins that pop on their lower arms. The woman who wins the super-heavyweight division of the snatch and clean and jerk competitions in the London Olympics is smiling atop the podium as she fingers her medal. Karma is my female cat. She licks herself. I am wondering if I have ever been sexy. I am wondering if that Mormon missionary stared at me the way I think he was staring at me. I am sitting on my couch. I am about to shave my head. I am thinking of starting my own religion. I wonder if my narratives are inherently racist. The Chinese woman who wins the gold medal in the super-heavyweight division looks like a man. I wonder if she is a lesbian. I wonder how many woman weightlifters have sex with other women weightlifters. My mother used to say to me that if you have a pet, you must take responsibility for that animal’s survival.
     I am ashamed that I carried my mother’s antique clock to the junk pile outside my apartment building. I am ashamed of my tendency to find humor in the very existence of Chinese lesbians. Once in college – this would have been years before I came out– I went to a lecture on images of same sex attraction in Qin Dynasty ceramics. I am theorizing that before I could grasp an understanding of my own sexuality, I grasped for some kind of understanding of sexual difference on an intellectual level. I still have no clear grasp on my own sexuality. I still have no clear grasp on images of same sex attraction in Qin Dynasty ceramics. Here is what is confusing to me: if I am friends with someone, and if I dream one night that I am giving this friend a blowjob, am I supposed to tell my actual friend of this dream the next time I see him? I think it is a gay cliché to whine about how young queers do not appreciate Judy and Liza. I wonder what it is like in the locker room of the Chinese women’s weightlifting team. I wonder if they stare at each other in the showers. I wonder if the awkward and adolescent jokes about the snatch competition translate to other languages.
     I am thinking about creating some kind of treatise. I am thinking about making assertions. I am thinking about the attractive kid at the bus stop. In my religion, the essential doctrine revolves around the reality of the ability of fictional characters to change lives. I have never finished reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I do not need to read books in order to understand their significance. I have never finished The Catcher In The Rye. I have never finished A Confederacy of Dunces. I have never finished Portnoy’s Complaint. I have never finished Beloved. I have never finished Infinite Jest. I have never finished The Handmaid’s Tale. I have never finished any book by Martin Amis. I teach Kindergarten. I have read Goodnight Moon 154 times. I can believe in the transformative potential of men who never existed. I can draw strength from conceiving of the Buddha as a character in a story. I wonder if Jesus masturbated. He must have. He was one of us, rendered in flesh. I wonder if He ever jerked off after the Resurrection. I have inappropriate thoughts about what He might have done with those holes in His hands. Adherents to my faith will be required to read from a list of books I will never complete.
     I am sitting on my couch, drinking water in a used Styrofoam cup. I watch the Olympics. When my invented cat looks at me, I see myself. When I refresh my Mohawk with cheap plastic razors, it is inevitable that I will bleed. Blood will run down my face. I am prepared to look at myself in a mirror and see myself this way. I will dab at my skin with paper towels. My imagined pet will taste my actual body fluid. The bleeding will only last an hour or so. I once read an article about trepanning, the act of giving oneself a hole in one’s head. This will not be the first time I wake up with blood in my sheets.
     There is the weightlifting woman. There is the boy at the bus stop. There is this friend of mine, the one I dreamed of a couple of times with the blowjob scenario. There are piles of manmade junk in outer space. There is the clock my mother gave me that I took to the garbage pile on the side of the road. There is a cat named Karma and stories about stories. One time in college I sat in a large hall and listened to a lecture on Edgar Allan Poe. A woman picked at the scruffs of paper left behind in the edges of her spiral notebook. The professor stopped his lecture to look at her directly. Tension loomed. When he told her to stop her picking, she said that in Wiccan tradition, the cat often appears as the witch’s familiar. There is the clean and jerk portion of the snatch competition. There is this way I touch myself through corduroy. There is the fantasy of hands on the dance floor, the white T-shirt lifting, the hardening nipple. I am thinking about praying to the One True God. I am thinking about the woman on the dance floor, the way she drops to her knees. I am thinking of writing some straight-up, straight-couple porn. The twitching and the hardening, the spurting and the moaning. Oh my God, oh my God. It is so big. Give it to me. Oh my God. Take it deep. Oh my God.
     I am on the couch. I still watch weightlifting. I have regrets. There are things I would like to recant. In my youth at summer camp I called a nine-year-old boy a fag, and he said: what would you say if I told you I had high blood pressure? I am sorry that I made him sad even though he misunderstood the exact nature of my bullying. I am pretty sure he thought I said he was fat. I wonder what kind of man that boy would be today. One time in Amsterdam on legal mushrooms I hallucinated in the shower that I was flying toward the kingdom of heaven. I was naked, and the entire stall lifted up, turned sideways, and zoomed out of the Rembrandt Hotel toward a celestial glow. One time in college I gave a boy, a sophomore, a blowjob during Midnight Cowboy. I am making this up. My deformity. I am thinking of the weightlifting women. This next one is Lithuanian. She must have been so much larger than all her schoolmates. When I shave my head, I know I will bleed. I wonder if this Lithuanian weightlifter was bullied. I wonder if she was the bully.
     My manifesto: I don’t care what you say about me behind my back. I will never go to Greece because I want there to be one place on Earth that can be as beautiful as I imagine it. I will believe things can be real when I know they are not real. When I bleed from the head I will lick my own lips. My shortcomings will not interfere with my sense of what is worth seeking. If I see a beautiful boy at a bus stop, I will not imagine what he likes to do in the shower. I don’t fully endorse this notion that every story has to go somewhere. I think it is worse to be clever than it is to be late. Not everything has to be about something. There is this clock that lies in a pile of junk on the edge of the street by my apartment. There is this woman who squats over a barbell on television. She used to be the only female member of her high school football team. Her brother is a center for the New York Jets. I am thinking of starting a book club. I am thinking of walking into the bathroom, coaxing my invented cat from the edge of the sink. I pick up a razor and stare into the mirror. I need some way to break through. Perhaps olive oil can serve several useful purposes. Karma licks herself as I shine up my head. I will be making a reference to some kind of anointing.
Timothy C. Dyke has short fiction in Santa Monica Review, Drunken Boat and Kugelmass. A text/image collaboration with Noah Saterstrom appears in The Spirit of Black Mountain College, a book project published by Lorimer Press. Timothy lives with parrots in Honolulu, Hawaii where he teaches English to high school students. He is working on a novel.