From The Novel: Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography and Sex, Drugs, and Schizophrenia [Lover in the Nobody]
Chapter 5. Emptying His Pockets
Georgie is driven by Ben to an orgy held in a palatial mansion where Georgie completely indulges his foot fetish with a woman who resembles Claudia but has a mouth scar that makes her grimace rather than smile. He then crawls around on salt grains—the pain feels great. Ben asks why he hurt himself. Georgie tells Ben about the nanny that abused him, to explain his craziness. Georgie tells Ben he is seeing Claudia. Georgie returns to his house, but there is no message from Claudia and her house is empty. He stares at her house for days. He runs into Margaret again, who suggests they get together. He decides he will pretend he’s not home if she shows up.
The collected writings of Jonathan Harnisch mark a magnificent contribution to the public understanding of mental illness through a masterpiece of transgressive fiction with a heart. The general reader is finally able to see mainstream literary author Jonathan Harnisch at his best. Sex, Drugs, and Schizophrenia contains the works of 2014, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography and Second Alibi: The Banality of Life, in one complete streaming narrative. The monumental scale of Harnisch’s achievement through adversity flourishes and can now be appreciated in this diverse, invaluable, and thought-provoking collection of fragmented fiction which will make your brain spin as Harnisch's sense of the inner machinations within the human experience spring into life through the written word. It forces one to question reality and step into another world wanting the protagonist and his alter ego to get it together and be okay. The author reveals himself through a series of alibis in the day-to-day meetings of multiple personalities, a corner of psychiatry that is hardly understood, and shedding light on the experiences of schizophrenia in a language that the non-sufferer can understand, albeit from the author who suffers himself. Not for the faint of heart, this fictionalized account of a disparate mind triumphs.
Emptying His Pockets
On a desert highway, the midday sun reflects off the tinted windows of a moving stretch limousine; its pearl-white paint muddies with the billowing clouds in the sky.
Inside the limo, up front, a street map is open.
Our driver, Ben, focuses on the long, straight road ahead. He sniffs.
Georgie has a face full of self-help literature. A pair of trendy new shoes lies on the floor beside his socked feet. Georgie takes a long breath through his nose, closing the book that he has just finished. Its cover reads Twelve Steps for Stupid People.
“Why are you always reading those?” Ben asks.
Georgie’s right eyelid flutters exactly nine times. Georgie knows. He counts. He likes to count.
“I like to see what will happen if I do the exact opposite,” he says.
Ben nods. “That sounds reasonable.”
They both pause, contemplating the anti-wisdom of self-help books. The desert rolls by, silently mocking.
(Mocking Ben? Really? It’s just an ecosystem.
‘Course, mocking. There’s no bigger “fuck you” to a man like Georgie, a man living a sterile existence, than life as an ecosystem.
A man like Georgie, Ben? Or a man like you?
Let it go, Dr C.)
“Here we are,” Ben finally says.
The limousine pulls up to the iron gates of a palatial mansion. A trio of security guards in uniform open the door for Georgie. Ben is directed to a smaller outbuilding around back.
On the hot, black asphalt just within the gates, Georgie strips to nothing. The desert swelters behind him, sending up wavering gusts of invisible heat. Georgie shuffles along carefully on the burning asphalt, keeping his head down.
He is quickly joined by staff members wearing psych attire—white shirts, black belts, white pants, and shoes. They are clean, sterile people—perfect for Georgie.
“This way,” one says, his lips pale against the blanched cream of his skin. Georgie steps through the open door of the mansion and turns to the right.
The patio and interior are slate and marble, clean and cool. The floor is coated with naked people, all lying on their backs. Georgie meanders through them like a zombie, unsure of his place in the carpet of bodies. The house seems dead, but is somehow breathing. The rank scent of vinegar assails his nose.
Georgie finds a small space. He lies on the floor on his back, waiting. He shivers, slightly.
A loud siren screams and screeches and a horde of young, naked women flood the room and scatter. Rushing among the naked bodies, one by one they match themselves to pairs of feet. Georgie’s woman is creamy-skinned, with wild, red, frizzy hair and a scarred lip. She grins, and her scar turns the smile to a grimace.
Georgie holds back a momentary panic.
As one, the women drop to the floor. Georgie’s redhead rubs his toes a few times then sniffs his feet. She grins again—that same lopsided smile. This time, Georgie is able to relax. He is in a safe arena—he and she are nothing but strangers. Their nakedness means nothing. They are surrounded by wriggling, mewling grubs.
She strokes his ankles lightly, and his dick springs to attention. She grins her approval. Then swiftly she lowers herself over his toes. His eyes zoom in on her pink crotch. It quivers, glistening wet.
She pulls his toes inside of her. Georgie gasps, jerking slightly at the feel of her. Her wet flesh sucks at him as she imbeds his foot inside her slick pussy.
“Oh, God,” Georgie moans. His eyes close in ecstasy.
Around him, similar noises rise as his fellow fetishists have their dreams fulfilled. Some are having their feet bitten; others are having razors drawn lightly through their skin. Many simply enjoy a foot massage or pedicure. Most, however, most . . .
There are cries and moans and yelps around him, but Georgie seems to be at peace, as he lies on the marble floor naked, stripped of inhibitions. Everyone is so wrapped up in themselves it is like he is not even there. He is a nonentity . . . . A nothing.
Georgie’s face spasms, his eyes tighten. All his peace condenses into a single, surging spark. With one last, piteous moan, Georgie cums; his dick jerks. It is like a fountain, a continuous spurt. An everlasting orgasm. Perfection. It looks to him like he has splashed the red-haired, foot-smotherer—a small spot glistens brightly on her pinky toe.
And then it is over. She stands with one last suck, a parting flex of muscle, and then she is gone. Her white, broad bottom trotting swiftly away.
Georgie sighs and smiles.
Afterward, Georgie partakes in a foot trampling, an egg stomping, a salt crystal crawl. He wanders from room to room in the mansion, feeling the cool, sweet air conditioning on his naked skin. He is not worried about his penis, which shrivels to an embarrassing size in the chilled air. In this place, Georgie feels as invisible as anyone. Everyone is invisible, in this place.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Glasses that fog up when you go outside from air-conditioned room, car, or building.
The foot trampling is fun as always, but still, Georgie would prefer to lie on the ground and have someone stomp him with her feet. Crush him under her strappy sandals. Georgie seems overwhelmed with pleasure, but doesn’t feel quite satisfied. He longs for something else.
Rather than stomping on eggs, feeling the messy yolk and white exploding beneath his arch, he would rather be cracking the egg over someone else’s foot, rubbing it in.
Georgie’s own feet hold only momentary interest for him.
By late afternoon, Georgie needs more than what the mansion can offer. After much searching, he finally finds an ample-sized woman behind a small, out-of-the-way booth in the far corner of the first floor.
“I need something else,” Georgie says. “This is all very nice, but . . . Well, it’s just too nice,” he explains.
He gives a smile to the woman behind the booth. He reminds himself that, even though she can clearly see him, he is still invisible.
The woman smiles back at him politely. She knows more about what happens in this place than anyone, yet she seems to see nothing at all of what is in front of her.
That is the secret to being a good front-desk clerk.
“Did you try the foot smothering?” she says. “Many of our clients find the foot smothering to be entirely satisfactory.”
“Well, I tried it,” Georgie admits, “but it’s over now. I need more, now.”
She nods in agreement. “Of course. Quite understandable.” She glances over the multi-tiered schedule in front of her. “You are Georgie Gust?”
The woman scrutinizes his day’s schedule.
“I would much rather be walked on by other people’s feet,” Georgie says helpfully.
“Oh, I’m afraid we don’t have much of that here,” the woman sighs. She looks at Georgie appraisingly. “But I think I’ve found something that will work well for you. Yes. It’s just the thing, really.”
She points at a small square on the schedule, and Georgie leans over to take a look. His eyebrows rise.
“Starts in 15 minutes—either on the tennis courts or in the shed. Depending on whether you’d rather do it in the dark . . .” she drifts off.
Georgie nods enthusiastically.
“Thank you,” he says.
“I’m here to serve.” The woman smiles vacantly, her eyes seem to look miles and miles past him, as though Georgie is not really there at all.
Twelve minutes later, Georgie is standing in the doorway of the shed. It’s dark inside, but he can hear the sounds of other masochists as they shift around within waiting for something to start.
Minutes pass. Georgie takes his place against the shed wall, watching the lighted doorway as a few other stragglers come in.
Then, there is a long shushing noise as a hard and granular substance pours out of a large container and onto the floor. Salt rock crystals, Georgie remembers. The bits of mineral ping slightly as they strike the hard cement floor.
The door slides closed and Georgie is plunged into utter darkness. The other masochists, who have been whispering and muttering amongst themselves the whole time, suddenly hold their collective breath. For a moment, there is silence.
A voice booms from the darkness: “Get down on your knees, filth!”
Georgie complies with joy. The salt rocks thrust up at him mightily from the floor.
“Now, crawl, like the vermin you are!” the voice booms.
Georgie and the others begin to move around. With every motion, the crystals bite into his skin and the salt begins to burn just beneath the surface. He moans at the pain, the degradation of it all. He hears his fellow crawlers moaning likewise, their voices released by his.
Before he knows it, the room is filled with groans and moans, the pitiable cries of help from the damned; the self-hating salt-crawlers. A part of Georgie longs to get sucked into the orgiastic swirl of pain, the communal hell that they have created. But another part of Georgie (Who? Me, Ben?) floats above him, and watches the scene despite the total darkness. Georgie foreshadows how pathetic he would become if he gave into the moment, if he got carried away with the passion of the crowd. And, seeing himself so clearly, he could not possibly allow himself to become anything else . . . especially a pathetic salt-crawler.
He is both interested and uninterested, enthralled and bored. The self-doubt, the worrying, begins to make him tire of the whole experience. It all falls short of the constant, never-ending orgasm he longs for. His appetite will accept nothing less.
Afterwards, back in his limo, Georgie is dressed anew, in white shirts and shorts, a black belt. He is filthy, yet clean. He sighs, unfulfilled.
His driver Ben glances at Georgie’s knees, which are badly bruised.
“What happened to your legs?” Ben asks.
“Oh, that. I crawled on a floor covered with hard salt crystals.”
Ben pauses a minute, seeming to assess Georgie’s mood. He’s been Georgie’s chauffeur for five years; he knows his boss pretty well by now. He speaks again. Quietly. “And why did you do that?”
Georgie stares at his driver, whose face is reflected in the rearview mirror. He doesn’t seem to judge.
“I don’t know. It feels kind of good to crawl around on the ground. To feel pain.”
Georgie is lying. It feels fucking great.
“Hmmm,” Ben nods.
“It does!” Georgie insists. He realizes he might sound a little crazy.
“My nanny used to do all kinds of sick and twisted things to me,” Georgie says quickly and defensively. “You know, like if I didn’t do my homework or forgot to flush or something. Stupid shite like that.”
“Oh, man, I’m sorry,” Ben says. A canned response.
“Anyway, I’m all messed up about it,” Georgie finishes lamely. “You know?”
“Yeah, that makes sense. Anyone would be,” Ben says, nodding again.
There is a long, uncomfortable pause.
“I bet she was just jealous of you, all your money” Ben says finally. “It wasn’t your fault, man.”
“Yeah. Yeah! No shite.”
Ben pulls the limousine slowly over to the side of the road. Georgie sags back in his seat, and then reaches to the floor between his legs and pulls out a self-help book, which he tosses to the other side of the car.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Car alarms.
The limo stops; Georgie and Ben get out and lean against the back bumper, staring out at the desert. A tumbleweed blows by as Georgie takes a drag on his cigarette.
Ben exhales. “You know, somebody actually takes the time to think up all these fucked up ways of torturing other—keeping them in brightly lit rooms for days, like in Iraq, so that they lose their sense of time. Somebody actually sits down and imagines these twisted ways to warp people.”
“Nanny used to get off to the torture stuff, she must have!” Georgie blurts.
That’s sick. That’s perfect, Georgie decides. But how could I get into that kind of shite? I should hate it more than anyone.
I’ll fake it until I make it, until it works.
(It works if you work it.)
Ben sniffs. “Yeah, probably,” he says. “You can’t turn around these days without bumping into one sicko or another.”
He blinks as his words register in his own mind, and glances swiftly at Georgie.
“She must have,” Georgie mumbles.
It is clear Ben hasn’t heard a word.
He tries to redeem himself. “But that’s in the past,” he says, playing counselor. “Maybe it’s time to move on. To make something of your life, instead of letting your past own you.”
Georgie scoffs. “Yeah, I’ll make a mess is what I’ll do.”
“What is it that you want, Georgie, for real?” Ben insists. “You have everything a person needs and more.”
And Georgie responds. “The never-ending orgasm. A peak experience that will last my lifetime. That’s what I really want.”
Georgie’s face appears dreamy. He is in some other world, a roller coaster fantasy he can’t escape.
Ben snorts and takes another drag. “Speaking of which, that woman you fancy—Margaret? Is she still employed as a helpline operator?”
Georgie waves his hand in front of his face, brushing Margaret off.
“Nah, she’s old news,” he says.
“Huh,” says Ben. “She’s the one you went to Tibet with, right?”
Ben raises an eyebrow. “Did you guys, uh . . .” He sneaks a quick look at Georgie. “Yeah?”
Georgie snorts. “‘Course.”
He is lying. They didn’t.
“But that bitch, she’s just so full of herself,” he continues. “Walking around with that fucking holier-than-thou attitude . . . I swear, she’s stalking me.”
“It was pretty cool of her to go with you on the trip,” Ben says.
Georgie gets what Ben means. “Yeah, I mean, she’s great and all. Whatever. It’s just she likes her job too much. She’s one of those people.”
“At least she has a job,” Ben mutters.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) The fact that people have to play such dishonest games to get a job.
Georgie continues as if he hasn’t heard. “I mean, who likes their job? She’s so fucking happy all the time. Happy and fulfilled. That’s Margaret. It makes me sick.”
(Does it make you sick, Ben? Is that what makes you sick?
Shut up, Dr C. This is my story, see?)
“Yeah, I see what you mean,” Ben says.
For a long time, they stay—leaning against the limo and staring out at the desert.
“So you’re seeing someone else now?” Ben sniffs and spits softly from the side of his lips.
“Y-yeah. Kind of,” Georgie says. He kicks at a tumbleweed that has embedded itself in the back tire of the limo. “My neighbor. Claudia.”
Ben whistles and nods. “Nice,” he says.
“Yeah?” Georgie sneaks a look at him. “Yeah, she’s all right. She’s so clingy, though, you know? I’m thinking about calling it quits.”
“Hmm,” Ben mutters, holding back a cough. “Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out,” he says.
A few hours later, the limo pulls up in front of Georgie’s bungalow.
Ben opens Georgie’s door.
“See you later,” he says.
Georgie gives a half-hearted wave as he unlocks the front door and walks in. The door closes behind him, and he is alone again.
Georgie glances at his answering machine; it sits silent and dark. He presses the play button anyway.
“You have no new messages,” the machine chimes.
Georgie turns the shower on and proceeds to shuffle around his filthy living room in the near twilight.
The room is an overkill of every fancy modernization, every electronic doodad, and every entertainment gadget he could possibly squeeze in. There are photos and drawings framed across the walls of every past girlfriend. The bookshelves boast awards, trophies, and posters from his travels. There are seriously intellectual books—endless piles of them—most of them in three copies. His video and music collections feature an equivalent overabundance.
He owns an absurd assortment of things. Sketches and notes are left lying around, some only half-complete. His drawings and paintings are scattered, unfinished, but still indicative of brilliance.
Then, there are the graph paper illustrations; intricate designs clearly drawn with some vague purpose. It’s obvious that Georgie has a strong mind, maybe too strong for his own good. He also has an exorbitant number of projects in process—arbitrary projects, redundant and grandiose.
The elements of his house, although artistic, are placed according to obscure mathematical relationships. Everything somehow corresponds. Quantum physics material is neatly clustered, labeled, and placed with the complementary videos and books; an MC Escher print hangs in close proximity.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) The valuing of form over function, image over substance in modern society, the fact that Albert Einstein would likely have a hard time getting a job himself if he were alive today due to his messy hair and wore ratty clothing.
Similarly, his stationary bike is surrounded by trophies, workout tapes, sports magazines, and signed baseballs.
The metal ceiling fan reflects light while it spins slowly above the bike. Georgie peeks out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of Claudia. He rushes over and crouches by the curtains when he hears the door to her house open and close. He wonders if she notices him watching, and wonders whether she counts on the fact that he stares, still waiting. Waiting for her. Waiting for something.
Maybe she is showering. Maybe she has forgotten her towel and will have to walk through the living room naked.
He thinks of sucking on her hooker-blue toenails. They taste like candy.
She is not home. Her house sits empty and dark.
Georgie returns to the running shower, which is now steaming.
He daydreams in the shower, even when the soap falls. He doesn’t wash his hair today, remembering someone somewhere once told him: You never look your best when you meet the one you’ve been waiting for your entire life. You are never completely prepared for that.
Georgie resolves to never be fully prepared.
“No sex. Love,” Georgie mutters in the shower. “She must’ve thought of me as the friendly type. That’s fine. I’m used to it.”
He picks up the bar of soap, runs it over his hair, and rinses out the suds.
“I enjoyed myself, that’s all that matters.”
Georgie can see God laughing at him, taking delight in Claudia’s orchestration of him, that day. That one day, that one eternal day she and he met. The day they were together.
A pensive pause. An epiphany.
“I’ll call it personal growth,” he tells the walls of the shower. “I’ll never hear from Claudia, ever again.”
He runs the bar of soap over his hair and rinses out the suds, forgetting he already has.
“My mind ran wild with quiet confusion. It soothed the senses. I could wake up tomorrow, thinking about that day, and the next day about today,” he mutters. “While I’m in love, I stop writing, for the most part. I know it won’t last forever. I’m in love: I scoff at the thought. Me? In love? In love with Claudia? Me? In love with Claudia . . . .”
Georgie’s alarm clock is set for 10:00 am. It blares and blares. He dreams of fires, and sirens. He tosses and turns.
Eventually, the bright white light of the afternoon light shines through his blinds.
Georgie crawls out of bed. The clock mocks him. It’s 2:00 pm.
Georgie shuffles into the kitchen. He’s a wreck. He pulls a mug from the sink and inspects the inside.
Not too bad, he thinks, again. Just a little grungy around the edges. Kind of like me.
Georgie mopes around and stares blankly. He can’t sleep. There’s no use sleeping, he thinks, when your every need is attended to. No use in resting when you never exert yourself.
For days on end he stares at the ceiling, at the wall-fan, at Claudia’s driveway and her empty windows.
It all boils down to nothing, and he leaves for the grocery store.
“Georgie!” Margaret calls, waving.
(Doesn’t this bitch ever go home?)
Briefly, Georgie thinks about leaving, racing out the doors and back home. Instead, he grumbles and plucks a jar of pickles from the shelf in front of him.
“Georgie,” she says again, rolling her cart up to his. “How are you doing?”
“Great. Just great,” he answers. “How’s everything with you?”
“Oh, the same,” she says. There is an awkward pause. Georgie scans the nutrition facts on the back of the pickle jar. Meanwhile, Margaret seems to be weighing whether it would be better to buy generic or go for the brand name.
“What do you think about the riots?” she finally says, at a loss.
Georgie examines an entire wall of mustard.
“The riots. On the news? I’m glad that it’s not on our side of town.”
“I don’t really watch the news.” Georgie replies.
“Oh.” Margaret looks stunned but only for a second.
“Well you should really look into it,” she says brightly. “The east side is getting so crowded now—unemployment, you know—and they’re starting to form crowds and . . . and you know they burned down the First Methodist Church, don’t you?”
Georgie shakes his head.
“You don’t! Georgie, you need to get up to speed. Like I said, who knows when this might start to affect our neighborhood.”
“Someone actually takes the time to think up this shite,” he mumbles, choosing the store brand Dijon.
“What? Well, yeah.” Margaret gives Georgie a searching glance.
He tries to appear normal.
“Anyway, it’s all about unemployment and the lack of services for the poor. Crime is through the roof now, on the east side, you know. There’s this whole Robin Hood mentality . . . .”
“She must’ve gotten off to it,” Georgie mumbles. “She just had to.”
Margaret searches his face. “Who?”
(Claudia . . . )
“What?” Georgie looks at her face. “What are you talking about?”
Margaret blinks. Once. Twice.
“Hey, Georgie, let’s get together sometime this week,” she suggests, a sympathetic, almost pitying look on her face.
“Yeah, yeah. Sure.” he agrees, thinking to himself it’ll never happen. He’ll pull his shades down, pretend he’s not home.
“I’ll drop by Wednesday,” insists Margaret. She pats his hand lightly. “You sure you’re doing okay?”
She smiles. Always with the smiling. Does she ever stop?
“Yeah, yeah. Great,” he replies, convincingly.
With that, she saunters off.
I went to the doctor’s office today. My doctor asked me, “Does anyone in your family suffer from insanity? I grinned and said, “No, we all enjoy it!”