Villains, the original meaning of the word was treacherous, abusive, evil. An
electronic sign in huge red light emitting diodes flashed in my neocortex: Villains At
Work High Risk Zone. A reign of terror beneath my roof was undeniable. I never lied.
Stepping into the tub, I took my usual pre-dawn shower. I saw headlights from the
window in the bathroom, villains driving vehicles, one after another, out of the parking
lot across the street, sweeping their yellow headlights, turning my white skin tawny. I
heard other vehicles parading down the blacktop as well, showing their contempt for me.
Another curious incident, happening often when pissing into the toilet before bed: a
neighbor’s bright front door light would go dark, light, dark. Showering and peeing,
alpha and omega, I had been locked into their vice grips every night.
I have a peculiar way of washing my hands, more scrupulous than a surgeon before
an operation. I lathered a bar of soap, fiercely rubbing my hands together, then twisting
the bar around my palms, and very muscularly cleansing them, pressing harder and faster
against one another, the procedure exceeding two minutes. I had alerted the villains, so-
called biological entities, aliens is actuality. They assumed I was idiotic, these sentries at
my private gates, stowing the information undoubtedly in subterranean caves, preserving
them until the Sun went supernova.
When I used a battery-driven Oral B toothbrush in the morning and before nighttime
sleep, I imitated the noise of the instrument as I lightly pushed against teeth and gums,
sliding quickly, a process taking more time than the hand washing. My dental hygienist
recommended that I devote at least two minutes to my teeth. Villains always listened,
wrongly concluding that I signaled outside help, hoping to throw off my bondage. The
thorough gargling, then mouth-rinsing sounding like hydropower turbines, villains
downloaded, capturing the noise so it would be analysed, decoded, attempting to find out
whether I had been decrypting rebellious defamations during my daily ablutions.
Often, I read print newspapers the way in which genius John Nash ( “A Beautiful
Mind” ), in both movie and book, had read his paranoiac, splintering, bizarrely digitalized
newsprint, searching for an enshrouded conspiracy as I did mine. He had an immense
breakdown, villains desiring my own crackup, going fetal upon the linoleum bathroom
Standing before the toilet, I unzipped my penis, releasing urine, staring at a large
poster of the artist Francis Bacon who said, “all that death, I find it very beautiful.” I
pissed many times, drinking teas accounting for that. Staring at Piss-Bacon, hearing
liquid against porcelain, probably made by American Standard, its name rang true, I the
basic AS, nothing out of the ordinary though disengaged, searching interiors of my
carnivore-brain for meaning and consciousness and privacy. I wanted to read on my bed.
Read in peace, that was, without outside villain-static.
Villains watched me piss, in the daytime making sure I heard their parked vehicles
outside my apartment, engines running, doors slamming, power brakes pumping staccato
beats, wanting me to be acutely aware I was incessantly under an almighty and
mysterious process of observation: Jeremiah 33:3: “…great and mighty things, which you
not know.” Periodically stumped, I shuttered at the omnipotence of the villains’ inten-
I stood in the closet, momentum gathering, villains extending their clutches over my
mind, suspending me over the abyss. I took Bacon’s words to heart, pulling out a
Browning shotgun and box of shells given to me by my father for my 16th birthday. If
I unzipped it from the soft case, classic filmdom’s retribution ( impossible taking the
villains to court---they were so diffuse and dispersed ), I would blast anonymous
persons, all the city’s citizens complicit in villainy. Their toxic venom spurting from
my 16-gauge carcasses, blood cascading, think Kubrick’s movie, “The Shining,” blood
flooding the hall.
At night, peeing became a light show, vehicles streaming down the street, headlights
flashing on and off, red lights twirling and flashing from law enforcement vehicles,
firecrackers exploding, their rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air, their amassed
throw-weight measured by the increase of sickness, physical, mental and emotional, they
attempting to overload me with the ultimate affliction: death.
Reading at night or day, the ceiling light beaming down ( Picasso’s “Guernica,”
history’s light bulb shone down on atrocities ), mufflers covered my ears. I bought them
at a sporting goods store, mufflers used at indoor shooting ranges, men and women of
violence wanting to eliminate or conceal hidden icons of earsplitting noise. I liked great,
sprawling novels and social histories, their fortissimo overcoming the villains lurking
where I least expected it, in books. Where had the people come from, those traipsing past
my windows as I read, many on cell phones mentioning my name, telling friends about a
“lout,” a “freak of nature,” a “dummy,” a “poor excuse for a human being.” Often, they
would stand against my first floor apartment’s wall, their iPods loud with hip-hop or
death metal. I momentarily stopped concentrating, regaining it after inuring their
undesirable antics. But the villains’ war against me knew no boundaries however I
The villains’ goal: discombobulating me until I raised the white flag of surrender.
Remember the Masada fortress, Zealots holding out against the Romans, finally
deciding death and suicide by their own hands preferable to Romans slaughtering
them. I, the new Jew, under siege by villains, yelled to a person playing guitar outdoors
a foot away from me on the bed, “Never again, punk!”
Twice daily, I flossed my teeth, rooting out particles, tiny shards caught vice-like in
between teeth, breaking them loose and free, unlike the villains’ strategy of threading my
mind with corruption and rot. I looked in the mirror, seeing myself in the mirror,
awkwardly angling the floss, transmogrifying my face into the image the villains prefer:
ugly, haggard, wretched.
Of course, we all loved sleep, even nightmares holding darkness and doom. But we
continued sleeping for the sake of waking up alive the next morning, another day we
were not dead. Impossible to sleep off hangovers of the dictatorship of villains, creating
another insomniac their plan. Billions had gone before me without much sleep, making
them weak and tractable, turning them into moronic insomniacs.
“They shall not pass,” spoke Delores Ibarruri Gomez, directed at General Franco’s
fascist military machine. Always heroic, I snuggled under sheet and blankets, taunting
them, daring villains to break through my sotto voce or normal verbiage, unafraid,
though through the wall I often heard loud thuds, meaning stop my closed-mouth, tongue
unmoving in throat-speak. I sounded like a Tuvan throat singer, my own overtone
harmonic sounds until sleep. Outside, vehicles ceased, the normally busy street hushed,
silent-nighting me, only without attendant glories accompanying the holiday season.
“That’s terrorism,” I rasped loudly, but below the decibel threshold that would get me
evicted or having to confront the police after my wall neighbor had had enough of my
Villains feasted on the quiet, dead-air street in which I might burn my wings and
crash, interrupting the hush, babbling confessions I neither had nor would ever have. I
placated them though, running through childhood memories, increasing their hostility
towards me. “I love drama, so let the pressure mount. You’ll have to assassinate me, I’ll
never be taken alive,” I barked. “Your hysterical terrorism rages and your opposition
simmers, murmuring me into inner quietude.” Bed-speaking words and phrases I would
not have uttered without villains stalking through my private rooms, erupting in my
dreams, I the Conqueror, you lousy with gutter-born syphilis of the noggin.
For exercise, I rode a stationary bicycle in a long, deep bedroom closet. I pedaled fast
twice daily, 30-minute reps in high gear. Mufflers covered my ears, otherwise the din
bouncing off the walls would deafen me. I pumped robotically fast, villains hoping I
would dizzy myself in the claustrophobic closet, getting disoriented and confused, my
urge for immortality obviating practicality, gaining not deathlessness but cardiac arrest. I
wanted to outlive the pukes, dreaming of a die-off for those who sought an early death for
good old me.
Pedaling, I counted silently, starting with one, two, one, two, then counted to twenty,
then counting one to nine to thirty, one to nine to forty, and so on, repeating that until I
reached one hundred. In between, I might repeat a number say eight, rhyming it with
debilitate, masturbate, exonerate, eliminate, frustrate, defecate, exterminate ( my
favorite ), counting silently, my mouth sealed shut: “Nine, nine, nine, feeling
fine.” Endorphins soon kicked in, an opiate-like substance, cosmic dark matter I
intuited, the analgesia making me euphoric. Nothing could harm me. Villains had no way
to hurt, torture, or slay my being: I was Emma Goldman, Buddha, Simon Bolivar,
Seigfried, Frodo, Don Quixote, plus mythological heroes from around the world.
Paranoia melted away, my true version of myself reaching its zenith. Who could deny
history and fantasy? Only the villains, of course.
After the workout, I drank cups of Morning Thunder, listened to dark ambient on my
iPod, and raised my middle finger at my foes.
The dressers holding hundreds of family photographs, old VHS porn tapes, hundreds
of clipped articles, a drawer full of literary magazines containing my published poetry,
passports renewed in a small drawer, letters from former friends chronologically
arranged, unfinished manuscripts hiding beneath underwear, collectible poetry chap-
books, ‘60s radical pamphlets, my nephew’s pencil drawings: whenever I opened a
drawer trying to find lost memories, villains shared my eyes, I the camera, seeing
what I saw. What was this, a horror movie, who the monster, who the idol?
The sliding windows near my bed, how villains made them quiver, trying uncountable
ways to assail me, straining to shake my fundament. Those windows often had large-watt
lights outside blazing through closed blinds. What was going on, a Nuremberg rally, ala
USA, klieg lights seeking out misfits and undesirables?
The maroon blanket, a gold M stitched in it: villains thought my dad had not earned
his university varsity letter in swimming. And for that matter, the villains dismissed my
own graduation from high school and college, I hauling out the diplomas, villains
cheerleading with iPod drum and bass loops from the curb. They determined the
diplomas counterfeit, forged, bought from a dealer of false papers.
Being unable to reconcile my life and behavior to my dad’s was their fixed idée, their
obsession. The pressure cooker took its toil, though I perfectly addressed my
dichotomous life when I thought about it in a swivel chair near the front windows.
They whispered through my store-bought earplugs used for sleep. “Shut your mouth,
we’re tired of your senseless backtalk, ripostes won’t stop our investigations.” They
rebuked me, three a.m. horns waking me. Had they entered my sleep-filled
unconsciousness? I turned on the light, examining the earplugs closely. In tiny red letters
I read with a large magnifying glass, “Creech.” It was the Nevada Air Force Base. From
there, a Predator or Reaper drone firing a Hellfire missile could obliterate me in my sleep,
If not, I had plenty of dreams in my pockets ready to use. But the villains shelling
me with mortar rounds was not inconceivable. I began energizing my force field,
protecting me from incoming ammo.
I heard cars’ or trucks’ back-up beepers outside. Perpetual war persisted.
I’d take my chances in Tripoli.