Thursday, June 20, 2019
An Unwelcome Guest
I’d been in the apartment a little more than six months. Centrally located but quiet, well-furnished, 7th floor. Perfect for me. There were enough small takeout restaurants nearby that I didn’t have to cook much, and the bar scene was just right. I even got the idea that the apartment had a certain feng shui that helped me with the women. Since moving in, I’d brought home many, something that had seemed harder in my previous place.
Of course it was sheer superstition about the feng shui. The women I brought back--they hadn’t yet seen the building when they stumbled with me out of this or that bar. So how could the building be working on them in my favor?
No matter. With a new job and new digs, staying fit at a gym round the corner, women like never before, I finally felt set up in this new city. It had taken awhile, but the town was starting to seem right.
During my fourth month in the apartment something odd happened. A girl I’d brought home, Maureen was her name, had dragged herself from my bed at about three a.m. to find something to drink in my fridge. I was in bed, asleep, when she began to scream in the kitchen. Startled awake and stumbling from the bedroom, I saw she’d switched on the kitchen light and stood against the wall, frozen.
“You … you …” she began.
“What? What happened?”
“There’s someone in your fridge! Your father! He glared at me. He’s in your fucking fridge!”
Her eyes were wild. She was screaming, unhinged. She'd wake the neighbors, and probably already had.
For a minute I didn’t know what to do. Like everyone, I’d had to deal with nut cases now and then, but this was different. Once her words really sunk in—I was buzzed and half asleep—I thought either someone must have put something in her drink at the bar, or the girl was a full-fledged psycho.
“You think my father is in my fridge?”
“He said he was your father!”
“But … it’s impossible!”
There flashed through my mind the trouble I might be in—that she’d somehow accuse me. Just recently there’d been a widely reported case in town of a rich young perv who’d been slipping date rape drugs in aspiring models’ drinks. That guy was headed to jail.
I tried to calm her down.
“Listen. There’s no one in the fridge. Just think about it. It’s impossible.”
“I saw him.”
“My father lives a thousand miles away. You must have been sleepwalking or dreaming.”
“He’s there! I saw him.”
“But it’s impossible. Think about it... Here. I’ll show you.”
I stepped toward the refrigerator door.
“No! Don’t you open it! He’s … horrible.”
She was blinking, breathing unevenly. She did look drugged. What was I going to do?
“Okay,” I said. “But my father doesn’t even live in this town, much less in a fridge. Don’t you realize what you’re saying is literally impossible? Just try to be calm, think it through. It’s the middle of the night. Come back to bed. We can talk about it.”
“You’re sick!” she yelled at me, really angry this time. “I can’t stay here. This is SICK.”
She scampered past me to the bedroom.
“Where’s the light switch!” she yelled.
I went and turned it on for her. She dressed quickly, muttering curses as she did, then rushed back to the living room and grabbed her bag.
I followed her to door, tried to say something to calm her down, but it was no use. She slammed it on the way out.
It took me awhile to get back to sleep, but that I finally did made me feel a little proud of myself. I got in a good three or four hours before work. No use letting a psycho ruin my night and the whole next day. And as for trouble, if she was going to cause any, I’d just have to deal with it. I’d done nothing illegal.
Two days passed without any appearance from the police. I breathed a sigh of relief. Crisis over.
Then one evening about two months after Maureen's fit I was putting a styrofoam carton of takeout pasta in the fridge when something pinkish caught my eye. It was in one of the door racks. I reached down to fish it out.
It seemed to be half of a set of dentures—the top half. What the fuck? It looked real enough, but was too small, about a third the size normal adult dentures would be. Was it maybe a denture made for a kid? Or a toy? But why was it in my fridge?
I took it and sat on the sofa near the lamp, to look it over more carefully. I thought back to the state of the refrigerator when I’d moved in. In fact there’d been a few items from the previous tenant: some condiment jars, a few drink bottles. Had I maybe not noticed the denture when I cleaned them out?
Then it hit me. Looming up like a wall, solid and white, menacing: the memory of that night with Maureen.
I put the denture on the coffee table, then picked it up again. Then put it back down. With a tightness in my throat, I went back to the fridge and stood staring at its closed beige door.
Then I had to laugh at myself, at how absurd it was.
I went and looked at the toy denture again. But it didn't seem to be a toy. And really: Why was it in my refrigerator?
I finally opened the refrigerator and peered in, scanning the spaces, the shelves. Drinks, white plastic bags of uneaten takeout. It was a mess. I swung the trash bin out from under the sink and, my heart starting to pound, began to empty the top shelf where most of the takeout was. Toward the back of the shelf I noticed an empty white bag stretched lengthwise, covering something. I seized the corner of the bag and yanked it off.
There he lay, on his side, blinking.
“Okay, okay!” he snapped suddenly. “It is what it is. I like the cold. What are you gonna do about it?”
I’d recoiled four or five steps, eyes trying to take it in. It was impossible.
“What are you gonna do about it?” he repeated.
“What the FUCK!” I yelled. “What the fuck is THIS?”
“This is this,” he said, glaring at me with beady black eyes. "It is what it is."
He wore what looked like a threadbare hospital gown. He was nearly bald. Shriveled in an unnatural way. From head to toe he seemed a bit over two feet. An obscene doll.
“Who are you?” I demanded. “What are you?”
“Oh as if that's …” he began. Then: “And who are you—if it comes to that?”
“This is my apartment. I’m renting it. How long have you been in here?”
“Not quite sure.”
“You told a girl you were my father!”
“I didn’t want to scare her. She caught me awake.”
“You didn’t want to scare her?! You think finding a shriveled man in a fridge in the middle of the night is not going to scare the shit out of someone!”
“Well … I did my best.”
“FUCK!” I yelled, stepping closer to the open door.
“Yes, that’s the way. Get it off your chest.”
“Off my chest? FUCK! This is ABSURD. How did you even get in here?”
“I’ve been in here a while. I like the cold.”
“But ... why my fridge? You should be dead in there. Are you in there all the time?”
“I'm not dead. And I think I told you," he said sarcastically, "I like the cold. It helps me sleep.”
“You should be dead! You’re in a fucking refrigerator!”
“But I’m not. I can hibernate. Since I was young. I can do it. I think I’m part bear. Hah! Funny, hey?”
He made a kind of pirouette move with his hand, as if to punctuate the joke.
I was frantic. I began to pace a bit, still keeping my eyes on him.
“How old are you?” I demanded.
“I don’t keep track. It’s better that way. Sometimes I’m out cold three, four days. So as for months and years, who knows?”
“C’mon now. Let’s just keep things simple here. We can just get along. It’s no skin off your back. I only nibble a bit of your chow now and then. Couple times a month I figure. What’s it to you?”
I winced, unsure whether I was feeling nausea from the thought, or whether it was the impossibility of the whole thing.
“NO,” I finally said.
“Just be a good sort now and put my bag back over me and close the door. The light bothers my eyes. C’mon, then,” he coaxed.
“You are OUT OF HERE.”
From the floor where I'd dropped it I snatched up the bag he’d been using as a sheet. I wrapped it round my right hand so I could seize hold of him. I didn’t want to have to touch him.
“No no no!” he started, covering his face with his hands. “Just take it easy here! There's no reason to … ”
I moved closer and began to reach in toward him.
“I’ll bite you!” he barked. “I’ll bite you good!”
“I have your dentures,” I said, feeling more confident.
“You only have the top one! I’ll bite you! I swear!”
Lunging forward, I got my hand round one of his deformed little legs. He twisted himself round to make good on his threat. I yanked him out of the fridge in a single swoop.
I held him up in the air, upside down. He was screaming and writhing, trying to grab my arm to bite me. Holding him out away from me, I got to the apartment door and managed to open it. I swung him out onto the hallway floor, far enough that he wouldn’t have time to scurry back. I slammed and bolted the door.
Cussing, heart racing, I retreated to the living room. I stood glaring for a while at the locked door. He didn’t knock, didn’t make a sound. I heard nothing in the hallway.
I needed to get my wits about me. It was all too much. A hibernating imp!
I sat back on the sofa, trying to think. Then: “My dentures,” I heard through the door.
I didn’t reply.
“My dentures!” he said a little louder. “C’mon. Be a sport.”
To be done with the whole thing, to get him to leave, I took the dentures to the door, unbolted and opened it just an inch, then flicked them through the crack near the floor. I heard them drop against the hallway tile just before reslamming the door.
“Aw, you could've broke ‘em!” he whined.
“Go away!” I yelled.
I stood listening for movement, but heard nothing. A few minutes passed. He made no more noise from outside.
A half hour later I decided to go out myself and look around, to be sure he was gone. I didn’t find him in the hallway, nor on the stairs going down (he was too short to use the elevator) nor anywhere near the building’s main entrance. I scanned both ways down the street. Nothing.
All this happened a week ago. There have been no problems since. I did clean out and disinfect my fridge. And I called my father. Though of course I told him nothing about what happened. He wouldn't have believed me.
Sometimes I’m only half convinced myself it happened. But no, I know it happened. It's all too clear in my mind. I wasn't drugged. And Maureen wasn't drugged.
And so a question: If I ever run into her again, which I suppose is possible, should I tell her? Should I try to apologize?
I'm thinking it'd be better not to.
Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.
Posted by Eric Mader at 3:25 PM No comments:
Labels: horror story, refrigerator, story
Friday, June 14, 2019
Stop Lying About Sohrab Ahmari
I’ve been roundly disappointed in reactions to Sohrab Ahmari’s piece decrying “David French-ism”. Reading through the first flurry of pundit weigh-ins, I kept thinking Huh? Did I miss something in the original? So I went back and reread it. No, in fact, on second reading I still don’t see any blanket rejection of the liberal order. Ahmari was not, as many claimed, declaring himself a theocrat. It’s just not there.
Ahmari’s position, it seemed to me, was far more nuanced. In brief: The liberal order is such that it will typically end up imposing one or another vision of the good. For any liberal state to hold together, this is perhaps even a necessity. Our current left (with its hysterical identity politics playing on constant loop, with its penchant for censoring critics in the name of a bogus “safety”) has nearly succeeded in establishing its own vision of the good as paramount. The problem is that that vision is a disaster, whereas conservative ideas of the good, at least the kind held by Ahmari, have the imprimatur of a long history of cultural flourishing.
Given the stakes, given the left as it stands, Ahmari is arguing that conservatives need to begin playing hardball if they are not to be utterly silenced. This is the main thrust of his argument. Not reject the liberal order as such: rather, play a louder, more aggressive game within that order. Conservatives need to stop dreaming that mere proceduralism will save the American future.
Is that beyond the pale?
To reject David Frenchian proceduralism as a fix-all approach is not equal to becoming a fascist. Many of Ahmari’s critics don’t seem to get this. He is not arguing for an end to the Constitution or some kind of Catholic sharia; he simply seeks more direct engagement in areas of pubic life besides just the courts and staid conservative political reviews.
I myself think there’s a large and disgusted demographic of Americans who would agree with him on this. They want pushback. Why, they wonder, don’t our conservative leaders stand up to these pinkshirt bullies?
This is not to reject polite debate in arenas where it is necessary—say, in the courtrooms where David French has accomplished so much. I point this out because Ahmari was also widely attacked for stating what seems to me a necessary truth about our moment. He finished his essay with the words:
Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.
Ahmari’s critics were horrified that he called civility and decency “secondary values”. But these critics at best misread his point, and at worst show that they’ve lost all sense of the hierarchy of values that comes with any serious thinking about the good. Luckily Matthew Schmitz of First Things debunks these misreadings in an excellent essay that you should take the time to read.
Ahmari’s post-battle talk with Mark Bauerlein (on podcast) confirmed me in my first reading of his piece. Since I think a lot of people still aren’t getting this, and others are tendentiously pretending not to get it, I’ll type some out by way of transcript.
Bauerlein mentions the Drag Queen Story Hour, which set off Ahmari’s argument with French, and wonders if conservatives who believe in proceduralism above all have any means of stopping this debased new institution.
AHMARI: If your conservatism is merely the upholding of procedure and maximal autonomy, with harm and consent as the only limiting principles, then you may win X, Y, Z legal battle over religious liberty in the courtroom, but the thrust of the culture will sweep you away. Because the ideology that we are up against says not only is drag to be tolerated in the drag queen bar or whatever … not only will it be legally tolerated, but it must be treated as normative, [that] for me [as drag queen] to feel fully autonomous in my identity, you will have to acknowledge that everything I’m doing is fine … Or if it’s a matter of the transgender thing, it’s not enough that you say So-and-so has a right to surgically transition: you must say that this person was always the gender that they became, and that their old name is now a taboo, it’s a dead name. That’s the full exercise of my autonomy [as trans], and it will [have to] destroy your autonomy for me to feel autonomous.
So that’s why I think that this idea that Sohrab Ahmari, by challenging David French-ism or this sort of conservatism, is proposing, you know, the restoration of the Papal States, or a kind of Catholic sharia—all these extremist labels that have been thrown at me—also reveals the kind of limits on the conservative imagination, that there’s only one configuration. And anything that suggests that we could go back to, for example, decency laws, or obscenity laws, must mean, you know, Vichy, or Pius IX, or Papal States. You know, there were people who were firmly in the liberal tradition—I cite Matthew Arnold in the essay—who say, Yeah, liberalism and autonomy in their proper spheres, but there have to be other limits [besides mere autonomy]: there are spaces in which the moral authority of the community must override individual rights, or free trade, blah blah blah. To be a bit pragmatic actually. Who’s the dogmatist [here]—the one who says, “In the face of Drag Queen Story Hour, if you want to do anything about it, you must want sharia,” or the one who says, “No, in its proper sphere, OK, but don’t try and make it normative for my children.”
Bauerlein then asks if Ahmari considers this development a result of the excess influence of libertarianism from the 1950s forward. Ahmari agrees, and points out that since the 1960s especially, conservatives may have grumbled about this or that development, but nonetheless pursued a deregulatory approach in all spheres of life, one which, he implies, has given the left carte blanche to remake the culture according to its own perverse blueprint.
Honestly I’m tempted to type out more, but I think the main point on Ahmari’s supposed “illiberal turn” is clear. Listen to the whole thing.
And speaking of blueprints, I myself would like to see conservatives with a bigger voice than my own start getting on board with more concrete initiatives. There is news of a “Straight Pride” rally planned for Boston later this year. That seems a good start, though to me the choice of name, merely derivative, is not ideal. I’ve long thought about the need for some kind of celebration or rally to counter the Rainbow Cult Processions that now gyrate through our cities. I’d call the event the Back to Basics Rally.
Why "basics"? Because our bodies, male or female, are one of the basic grounds on which our health and wholeness depend. It is this basic ground, the beauty and goodness of healthy development as male or female, that is being rebelled against. We should never be seducing youth into rebelling against their bodies and then, insanely, affirming and celebrating them when they do. But that is precisely what America's elites are doing.
Participants in Back to Basics would stress a few central truths:
1) Transgenderism is not a matter of “discovering one’s true gender”, but a dangerous psychosexual disorder, one which quickly spreads (cf. Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria) among youth.
2) Wise Americans raise their boys and girls to become healthy men and women, not sexually confused mannequins prey to a cultural fad.
3) LGBT activists currently have far too much sway in our schools.
4) During elementary and high school, boys and girls should only be identified based on their physical bodies and should use corresponding restrooms and locker rooms. The respective pronouns are he, him and she, her. Public schools that do not uphold these basic standards should be sued, boycotted, and protested by parents. Such schools, through their pandering to a destructive sexual cult, gravely endanger American youth--as is already happening.
Back to Basics Rally participants would also, of course, celebrate:
1) the goodness and givenness of the body;
2) heterosexuality and the goodness of traditional marriage and family;
3) a sane return to basic biology;
4) healthy, age-appropriate education of youth.
In short, participants would celebrate the opposite of what our mainstream culture now promotes--a rebellion against the body via an LGBTQ dogma that demonstrates an ever-deepening fetishization of sexual and gender disorders under the rubric “Pride”.
There are millions of American parents who see how this cult has run rampant over our schools and media. Back to Basics Rallies would allow them to come together to push back against the destructive ideology being spoon-fed to their children. If these parents were to unite under a platform stating basic biological truths, in defense of their children's healthy development, they could turn the tide against this cult. I propse Back to Basics, B2B, as an effective slogan for this needed movement.
And really: How far are responsible parents going to let this go before they take a stand? Studies now suggest that the number of young people identifying as "trans" or "nonbinary" has increased as much as 4000% (!) in recent years. The reason is not difficult to grasp given the climate created by the LGBT movement and its trendy cheerleaders in the entertainment industry. Young people see gender-bending as a vehicle through which to gain the attention youth always crave, as well as a route by which they may dramatically mediate the suffering and confusion that come with growing up. That this gender-cultism often ends with hormone-blocking therapy and surgery is what makes the phenomenon truly tragic. Youth are defacing their natural bodies and scarring themselves for life, and medical and educational authorities are helping them do it. Many of these youth will end up sterile, will arrive at age thirty and wonder: “How could they have let me do this to myself?” That this will happen, that it is happening already, is as obvious as Wednesday follows Tuesday.
Would Ahmari, or other conservative writers, get on board with such initiatives as Back to Basics? I’m not sure. But such a movement as I sketch out here, with raucous in-your-face rallies and parents up in arms against our sexually corrupted education system, seems the kind of thing Ahmari is calling for. This is not a rejection of the liberal order, but a rejection of the new gaythoritarianism that is corrupting American culture and endangering American youth.
Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.
Posted by Eric Mader at 2:26 PM 1 comment:
Labels: Back to Basics, Catholic, conservative, David French, LGBT, liberalism, Sohrab Ahmari, Straight Pride
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