This is… something like a self-portrait. What some of my processes look like from inside. It’s not about guns, at all, so let’s just put that out there. The bullet is a metaphor, but it’s also an image from a recurring nightmare I’ve been having all my life. It’s now been about four years since I had it, and I have hope it won’t come back this time, but…
As early as I can remember, I was tormented by shifting abstract visions. This sounds way more pretentious and exciting than what I experienced, which was this: when I closed my eyes, I could see nothing in my head but an expanse of flawless, terrifyingly perfect, matte whiteness – “PURITY” in the abstract. This grew and grew, like a pressure that would split my skull, until it shifted abruptly to a vista of… utter conceptual Corruption. Like a landscape made of rust, a rotten world, it too grew bigger and bigger, making four-year-old me want to shriek, but just before I quite got there… it shifted back, whiteness rolling on the back of my eyelids. These two images would alternate for hours if I kept my eyes closed. For years, this is why I stared into the dark while trying to sleep.
This cycle fed inexorably into a dream of being in the barrel of a gun. That’s the only way I can describe it – the sensation was of terminal speed combined with violent claustrophobia, falling faster and faster into an ever-shrinking space. The sensation built and built, just like the abstractions, and though after the first few hundred times I had this dream I was aware throughout that it was a dream, I was never able to wrench myself awake. I could never escape the next part… The Tea Party.
From the Gunbarrel I was all at once in a small room, lavishly decorated – think Umbridge’s room in the Harry Potter books, a space so pink and white and frilly and tacky that you’re pretty sure a thousand Barbies shit themselves to death in there. I was in this little room, surrounded by little old ladies with teacups and snacks, all of them smiling and wanting to hug me and talk to me… and there was nothing in the world so terrifying as their empty, toothy smiles. They came closer and closer and I was not allowed to scream or fight them, and the horrified certainty that they would grab me, hold me, eat me, tear me apart, their horrible revolting smiles – back to the Gunbarrel, please! Please, anything!
And so back to the Gunbarrel I would go. Back and forth, all night long, until I woke up drenched in sweat and exhausted. Two or three nights a week. This went on for years, although over time the pattern spread out. By middle school it only happened about once a month. By the time I moved out, it had been nearly six months since I’d had the dream. Just when I thought I was rid of it, in 2014, I had it again. It makes me sick with dread, but I think it also has formed some key parts of my internal geography. This makes it hard to fully escape. I guess that’s why I shared it with you here, even though god knows no one wants to hear about a stranger’s dreams. If it illuminates the following, please write me and tell me how.
Inside this machine, a series of pipes
transports lubricant to each moving part,
ships barrels of love to burn in the heart,
cycles and stores chemicals of all types.
But the blueprint is not the map in here.
This isn’t a maze from which you come back.
Won’t know till the end which components you lack.
Won’t know which settings you scrambled in fear.
The bullet sees the barrel’s walls go by
Infinite pressure and infinite speed
Don’t catch the terror in the bullet’s eye.
Don’t ask it if it likes when people bleed.
The polite bullet never asks you why,
or wonders if a gun is what you need.