Please allow me to introduce my recently completed novel--Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography—a fictional memoir based on my own experience of dealing with schizoaffective disorder and post-traumatic stress.
“No, Ben. What I’m asking is: Are you the vehicle, and Georgie rides around in you? That is why Ben’s the driver, right?”
BENJAMIN (BEN, BENJY) SCHREIBER has Tourette’s syndrome, which causes him to display uncontrollable tics and hops, and to stutter and swear inappropriately. He is bullied through his school years and can never form firm friendships, especially with women. He is simply incapable of happiness. In his late twenties, he plunges into a downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse, which culminates in an attempted bank robbery using a cell phone as a fake bomb. He is arrested and placed under psychiatric evaluation, where his psychiatrist, Dr C, quickly sees Ben’s affliction as more than just Tourette’s. Ben is not alone: Inside his head lives GEORGIE GUST, Ben’s alter ego. Georgie is obsessed with his manipulative but extremely sexual next door neighbor CLAUDIA NESBITT and shares a sadomasochistic relationship with her that is supported only by his obsession—Claudia has no love for Georgie. Ben is desperately searching for someone —Claudia Nesbitt as the Perfect Woman—who will provide him the unconditional love that he never received as a boy. He finds it easier to retreat into his mind to share Georgie’s sick obsession with Georgie’s cruel and abusive Claudia than to deal with his real issues. Dr C senses that Ben is suffering from some type of post-traumatic stress that occurred early in Ben’s childhood and that he uses Georgie as an escape when bad memories start to surface. It is up to Dr C to help Ben face the buried terrors of his childhood so that he can finally let go of Georgie and reduce him to the literary character that the writer Ben wants him to be.
As its title suggests, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography is actually based on my own experiences as a person diagnosed with a comorbid schizoaffective spectrum condition. Ben and Georgie and Claudia were/are all part of my past, part of what has led to my becoming a writer. Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography represents my first manuscript of appreciable length. Its target audience is adult readers who enjoy the transgressive style that best depicts the intricacies of a mentally ill mind. Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography weighs in at roughly 250,000 words and is fully complete.
How simple it is to see that we can only be happy now, and that there will never be a time when it is not now. Would I trade my comorbid schizoaffective spectrum condition? No way. Never. Too many gifts, like Georgie Gust and Claudia Nesbitt, come along with it.
'What A Powerful Book'
"I confess, tears fell in some spots, as Ben came to know what had happened to him as a child. You have chosen the perfect way to express what a mentally ill mind actually FEELS like. The incessant repetition of Georgie's morning routine, with new variants every time, his "first dates" with Claudia, over and over again--all gave a disturbing and VERY uncomfortable "edge" to the book that left my brain spinning by the end. It's brilliant."
via EM (Reader)
‘I Loved This Book–Everything About It’
"As I an undergrad, I was required–emphasis on required–to read Jean Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers, a very early example of transgressive fiction, and although I could appreciate the literary value of the book, it was almost impossible to read because of Genet’s approach to his characters–he didn’t seem to like any of them, and his prose seemed more to ridicule than explore their foibles. As a result of reading Genet’s work so many years ago, I have never thought I liked transgressive fiction, never thought I’d read it again, and then along came Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography. Wow. What a difference. Harnisch's Georgie Gust is such a beautifully written, tragic character, who the reader can’t help but cheer on. You want Georgie to be happy. What an accomplishment. Harnisch wades into a genre in which disconnected, ugly sexual encounters predominate, and yet you just want Georgie to get it together, be happy, and see the world as his friend. Genius. I loved this book."
via NM (Reader)
'Inwards To The Outward'
"Harnisch's sense of the inner machinations of human experience spring into life through text. An almost ritualized sojourn, much like the classic hero's journey, takes place before the reader's eyes and leads to insights both sanguine and sometimes disturbing. True to the modern form of literature, Harnisch uses all tools available to catch the reader in a spider's web of story while exposing humanity's own false prophets. Truly a great read!"
via AM (Reader)
JONATHAN HARNISCH: AN ALIBIOGRAPHY
Book ONE introduces BENJAMIN (BEN, BENJY) SCHREIBER, who has Tourette’s syndrome, which causes him to display uncontrollable tics and hops, and to stutter and swear inappropriately. He is bullied through his school years and can never form firm friendships, especially with women. He is simply incapable of happiness. In his late twenties, he plunges into a downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse, which culminates in an attempted bank robbery using a cell phone as a fake bomb. He is arrested and placed under psychiatric evaluation, where his psychiatrist, Dr C, quickly sees Ben’s affliction as more than just Tourette’s. Ben is not alone: Inside his head lives GEORGIE GUST, Ben’s alter ego. Georgie is obsessed with his manipulative but extremely sexual next door neighbor CLAUDIA NESBITT and shares a sadomasochistic relationship with her that is supported only by his obsession—Claudia has no love for Georgie. Ben is desperately searching for someone —Claudia Nesbitt as the Perfect Woman—who will provide him the unconditional love that he never received as a boy. He finds it easier to retreat into his mind to share Georgie’s sick obsession with Georgie’s cruel and abusive Claudia than to deal with his real issues. Dr C senses that Ben is suffering from some type of post-traumatic stress that occurred early in Ben’s childhood and that he uses Georgie as an escape when bad memories start to surface. It is up to Dr C to help Ben face the buried terrors of his childhood so that he can finally let go of Georgie and reduce him to the literary character that the writer Ben wants him to be.
BOOK TWO explores Ben’s days at Wakefield. School is too traumatic, so Ben lets Georgie attend and take the abuse. The book explores Georgie’s relationship with the original Claudia Nesbitt, the girlfriend of the jock OZER, who tormented Georgie mercilessly. Claudia befriends Georgie and loves him for who he is. The other good part of Wakefield is Heidi Berillo’s philosophy class, in which Georgie excels. Heidi encourages him to write an essay for the prestigious Winterbourne Scholarship. Georgie discovers alcohol and is constantly hung over. He is arrested for drunkenness and bailed out by Heidi, who keeps encouraging him. Georgie wins the Winterbourne prize but loses Claudia to suicide.
BOOK THREE explores Dr C’s interactions with Georgie and Ben. She thinks that dredging up Ben’s past will somehow fix his present. Ben describes what went down at the hold up with the cell phone “bomb”. He describes being booked into the psychiatric ward. Ben develops a strong obsession for Claudia/Heidi. Ben describes his first sexual encounters at age 10, in the Boy Scout treehouse. Ben describes some of his mother’s abuse and neglect of him as a child. Dr C points out that Georgie looks more like Ben’s mother than Ben does. Ben is haunted by a demon that resembles his mother. He remembers being sexually assaulted by his mother at age 11.
BOOK FOUR shows Georgie back in his morning routine of breaking coffee cups, falling in showers, and of course, meeting Claudia for the first time. Georgie’s house grows in size and grandeur with every dream. Claudia has an affair with SIR TONY HALLDALE and is caught by Georgie. Claudia is hit by a car and paralyzed. She then drowns when Georgie takes her boogie boarding on his boat. Georgie tries to kill himself. Ben is realizing that everyone is crazy in some way, not just him.
BOOK FIVE explores romantic love through the story of John Marshal, who is taught by a prostitute that one can get everything one wants through seduction. John wants Glory and personal prestige and vows to get it by obtaining lowly positions in upper class homes, and then seducing the one woman in the household who has the most influence. He begins with MARIBELLE ROMAN and ends with CLAUDIA SINCLAIR. He discovers that seduction is indeed very powerful, but you must never actually fall in love.
Envision a blend of a mentally ill mind with unsurpassed resiliency and fiery intellect and your result would be the brilliant Jonathan W. Harnisch. An all-around artist, Jonathan writes fiction and screenplays, sketches, imagines, and creates. His most recent artistic endeavor is developing music; a new-found passion with visible results already in the making. Produced filmmaker and published erotica author, Jonathan holds myriad accolades, and his works captivate the attention of those who experience it.
Manic-toned scripts with parallel lives, masochistic tendencies in sexual escapades, and disturbing clarities embellished with addiction, fetish, lust, and love, are just a taste of themes found in Jonathan’s transgressive literature. Conversely, his award-winning films capture the ironies of life, love, self-acceptance, tragedy and fantasy. Jonathan’s art evokes laughter and shock, elation and sadness, but overall forces you to step back and question your own version of reality.
Scripts, screenplays, and schizophrenia are defining factors of Jonathan’s life and reality – but surface labels are often incomplete. Jonathan is diagnosed with several mental illnesses from schizoaffective disorder to Tourette’s syndrome; playfully, he dubs himself the “King of Mental Illness.” Despite daily symptomatic struggles and thoughts, Jonathan radiates an authentic, effervescent, and loving spirit. His resiliency emanates from the greatest lesson he’s learned: laughter. His diagnoses and life experiences encourage him to laugh at reality as others see it. Wildly eccentric, open-minded, passionate and driven, Jonathan has a feral imagination. His inherent traits transpose to his art, making his works some of the most original and thought-provoking of modern day.
Jonathan is an alumnus of Choate Rosemary Hall. Subsequently, he attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where he studied film production and screenwriting under Gary Winick and David Irving. During his studies at NYU, he held internships under renowned producers Steven Haft and Ismael Merchant. He is best known for his short films Ten Years and On The Bus, both of which boast countless awards including five Indie Film Awards, three Accolade Awards, and winner of Best Short Film and Audience Award in the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, to name a few.Despite his impressive formal education and awarded honors, Jonathan is your normal, down-to-earth guy. Meditation, Duran Duran, vivid colors, Patrick Nagel prints, and rearranging furniture are some of his favorite things. Vices include cigarettes, Diet Coke, inappropriate swearing, and sausage and green chile pizza. He enjoys irony, planned spontaneity, redefining himself and change. Jonathan lives with his beautiful wife, their 3 dogs and numerous cats, in the unique, desert village of Corrales, New Mexico.
The reader is introduced to BEN SCHREIBER and his alter ego GEORGIE GUST, who is obsessed with CLAUDIA NESBITT. Ben indicates that he has not told his wife KELLY about Georgie, Claudia, or that he is “nothing but a trust fund baby with an addiction problem and a constellation of lurid sexual fetishes that shrink into petrified silence in the presence of any actual women and a half dozen psychiatric diagnoses ranging from Tourette’s syndrome to schizoaffective disorder.” He has been arrested for trying to rob a bank by brandishing a cell phone and referring to the September 11 terrorist attacks. He now must undergo psychotherapy with his court-appointed psychologist, DR C. He hopes to come to a point in his therapy where he can be honest about everything with Kelly but he knows the journey there will be terrifying.
Dr. C’s Introduction
Dr C raises the possibility to Ben that everything he experiences is just a series of hallucinations and that his reality is actually the inside of a psychiatric hospital. She suggests that Ben has a choice—leave the vivid world of his hallucinations or re-enter the sterile, ceramic world of the hospital.
Introductory Clause: Subject (Paresthesia and Parenthetical Pet Peeves)
Ben introduces his pet peeves (inserted in parentheses; thus, parenthetical). He says he used to be “all right” but now, at age 30, he is classified as a double personality, lacking any sense of his own self. He disagrees. He is self-aware.
To the Reader, Looking Back
Ben recalls being defined by fellow school children on a trip to the Eiffel Tower, as “normal” and “one of them.” He clings to that memory so that he can stay “normal” somewhere within himself.
1. Prologuery: Georgie’s Big Break
Georgie Gust discusses his release from the psychiatric hospital with DR ABRAMS, claiming all his voices are gone, leaving only his Tourette’s symptoms, which are not committable. Dr Abrams says he has been in touch with Georgie’s therapist and wants to keep him at the hospital. Besides, with Georgie’s parents’ money, Georgie is a big ticket item for the hospital. Georgie has a vision of killing Dr Abrams violently and driving off in his car. Dr Abrams says he will get Georgie’s release paperwork together.
2. Georgie Gust Takes a Stand
Georgie thinks about Claudia—the woman he loves and hates; his sex goddess and creepy nemesis. Georgie hangs himself to end his obsessive thoughts of Claudia.
3. Proof You Can Go Home Again
Georgie returns to his country home. Ben is his driver. Georgie is a brand new man, with no Tourette’s tics. He is visited by MARGARET, his only friend, who reminds them of their trip to meet the Dalai Lama. Margaret had found Georgie when he tried to kill himself and wants to know why he did it. Georgie describes growing up with Tourette’s and being sexually abused as an infant by a nanny. Margaret suggests that maybe Georgie should try to find his old nanny, to try to get closure from the abuse.
4. Claudia Moves In (Part I)
Georgie meets Claudia, who is his 40-year-old next door neighbor. He is intoxicated by her and her long toes with flaking pink nail polish. Georgie is still the new man who has met the Dalai Lama. Georgie goes grocery shopping and encounters Margaret again, who reminds him to hunt down his nanny. Claudia has left him a note when he returns—the note refers to her cooling affection for him. Georgie wonders if they have met in another lifetime. He gives a completely naked Claudia a pedicure and foot massage in her bathroom and is sexually aroused by her feet. She gratifies him by rubbing his genitals with her feet. He awakens in Claudia’s bathroom and abandons the happy self-sufficient Georgie that met the Dalai Lama. All he wants is Claudia and the joy/hate/love/torture/sex she promises. He longs for a never-ending orgasm. She is a world on fire and Georgie needs that. He obsessively watches her from his house, using binoculars to focus on her toes. He runs into Margaret at the grocery store again. He drops his morning coffee, falls in the shower, makes new coffee in a lineup of 10 espresso cups, wanders through his gloomy house, and rechecks his grocery list of Cigarettes. He thinks he has pushed Claudia out of the picture and he is back to being the self-sufficient Georgie again.
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.
6. Making it Count With Dr C
Dr C asks Ben who Margaret and Claudia really are in his, Ben’s, world. Ben says they don’t even exist in his world. She asks him what he gets out of knowing Georgie. Ben tells her that Georgie just appeared one day: he was Georgie and Georgie was Ben.
7. Claudia Goes Deep
Claudia returns to her house. She tells Georgie she was fired from her job as a paramedic for having sex with her boss Greg and his wife Sara. Georgie agrees to pay her for sex since she is out of a job and he needs someone like her.
8. Ah, What a Comfy Web They Weave. . .
Claudia torments and tortures Georgie by handcuffing him, gagging him with a feather duster, and coating him with wax, then agonizingly removing the wax. He is horrified and in pain, but at the same time he feels peaceful and detached from himself. Claudia tires of the “game” and leaves him still bound and wax covered. He passes out, coughing on the feather duster, then awakens to find himself free of the wax, duster and handcuffs. Claudia has disappeared again and Georgie resumes stalking her house, watching for her. He fears he has lost her and that causes him pain that gives him a sense of peace. Claudia returns and increases his pain by not visiting him. Georgie camps out in front of a window to watch for her constantly. His fear of losing her gives him bliss. Claudia pounds on his door, then becomes Ben’s mother pounding on his childhood door. Claudia finds Georgie emaciated and almost dead and takes him to a hospital. He tells the hospital staff to release him; that Claudia is a paramedic and will take care of him. They return to Georgie’s house, where she again tortures him, giving the pain he so desires and also threatening him with a pregnancy. The fear of Claudia not caring gives him the feeling of endless orgasm he is searching for.
9. Practice Makes Perfect
Claudia again disappears. Georgie heads for the grocery store and Claudia waits for him, knowing he needs cigarettes. She promises to call the next day, but doesn’t. Georgie lines up and drinks his 10 cups of espresso waiting for her. He goes to Claudia’s house—the avoidance torture is too much. All he wants is the unadulterated orgasm again. Claudia is frying a sandwich and invites Georgie to sit on the pan for pain. He does, and sets his pants on fire, and then the whole house. Georgie again finds the everlasting orgasm while trying to put out the fire with his cum. Georgie, having destroyed Claudia’s house, now invites her to live with him.
10. Claudia Moves In (Part II)
Georgie decides that having Claudia move in is the best, and the worst, thing that could happen to him. She cannot torture him with her absence, but now she can physically torture him constantly. He gets familiar with all of her physical idiosyncrasies, which is too much to know, but he also gets to torture her a bit—her pain causing him pain and therefore bliss. Claudia finds nothing but drudgery but has nowhere else to go and no money except what Georgie pays her. She finds new ways to torture Georgie—by making him think he is in a coffin and dying. He awakens in his own bed, not knowing if it was a dream or whether Claudia had let him go. He no longer knows what is real and what isn’t. His mother invites them to dinner.
11. Dinner with the Gusts
Georgie and Claudia have dinner with Georgie’s parents. Claudia intends to torture Georgie with their disapproval and disgust with him. Having dinner with them is torture for Georgie.
12. The Fruits of His Labor
Georgie awakens in the street, naked, amid a crowd of people. Claudia is gone. He tries several different stores, asking to use a phone. He calls Ben, who drives him home. Claudia has hypnotized him and left him in the street, as a new form of torture, and Georgie has no way of stopping her from doing it again. The fear of her power over him is new torture, and new bliss. Margaret checks in on Georgie, having heard he was out naked on the streets. Claudia drives Margaret off, leaving Georgie without his old friend.
13. It’s All in a Day’s Work
Claudia and Georgie go out on a real date, which starts out full of happiness for them both. Georgie unconsciously flirts with the waitress. Claudia is furious and leaves without him. Claudia leaves a note for Georgie saying their relationship is over. He finds her in the bathroom in a pool of blood, but that is just a dream, which morphs into a memory of jealousy and Claudia’s house fire. Claudia is actually lying in the bathtub next to a nearly empty prescription bottle. Georgie secretly hopes that she is gone from his life, but fears that she has. Claudia has been playing dead. Georgie wakes up in the closet and thinks he enjoys the nothingness he feels inside it. Claudia is miserable because she can’t please him. He can’t stand her misery.
14. Calling for Reinforcements
Georgie meets Margaret again in the grocery store. He tells her he and Claudia are living in utter bliss. She asks if he has found his nanny yet. Georgie returns to find that Claudia has thrown an orgiastic party at his house. He realizes that Claudia only stays with him for the money, and he feels a whole new brand of pain. He dreams of torturing Claudia with a knife and awakens to find her cutting him with a razor blade. Margaret visits the house and hears Georgie’s screams. Claudia tells Margaret that Georgie has not been well and sends her off. Two policemen visit due to a report of domestic violence. Georgie convinces them he has no intention of charging Claudia with anything.
15. Dr C Goes Deep
Dr C asks Ben why the driver’s name is Ben. She asks if Ben is the vehicle and Georgie rides around in him. Ben says he doesn’t know—it’s a lot more complicated.
16. Love Can Keep Them Together
Another dream where Claudia has dinner with the Gusts, but this time Georgie is on a platter with an apple stuffed in his mouth. She awakens to Georgie squealing, still in pain from his razor cuts. She is tiring of the torturing because Georgie no longer represents every man who ever hurt her. Still, she’s being paid to torture him so she will continue to do so. She goes out on her own that night and re-encounters Greg and Sara and brings them back to meet Georgie, who hides. He uses one of his security cameras to film Claudia having sex with Greg and Sara. Georgie pays her double the next day. She plans to stick to sleeping around rather than torturing Georgie physically. Georgie goes to the grocery store in search of Margaret, but cannot find her. He returns to his sex clubs where he won’t find Claudia. He hopes that cheating on Claudia will eliminate his need for her, but the level of torture at the sex club cannot match Claudia’s cruelty. He cannot feel enough pain: he has outgrown that level of sadism. Ben drives him to a new place run by a haggard old woman who has sex with him on a smelly bearskin rug.
17. Nothing But a Brilliant, Bright Prick of Light
Georgie awakens on the vomit covered bearskin rug and flees the old hag. Ben drives him home; Claudia is not there, nor is Margaret. Georgie has only himself for reassurance and he is no consolation at all. Ben pities him. Georgie awakens and tries to get the hag’s stench off of him. Claudia returns and he prays that she will go easy on him. He and Claudia have unprotected sex in the shower and again he fears getting her pregnant. He tells Claudia he loves her. She ties him to a dolly and shoves him down the stairs. He awakens to Claudia burying him alive. He welcomes death.
18. Damned if You Do
Georgie suddenly can breathe again. Claudia has given him CPR and revived him. Claudia swears to never hurt him again and says she loves him. Georgie is disdainful at her weakness. She asks him to make love—she is tired of hurting him. He pulls out just before she reaches a climax and leaves her. They return to their previous torture arrangement. Margaret arrives again and stays for dinner. She invites Georgie and Claudia to a play with her and a friend MANDY. The play mimics Georgie, Claudia, and Margaret’s life together, making each of them profoundly uncomfortable. Claudia considers how to drive the knife more deeply into Georgie
19. Hunting They Will Go
Claudia takes a break from torture to allow Georgie to become complacent. She suggests that she, Georgie, Margaret, and Mandy take a vacation at Georgie’s parents’ cabin. Mandy cannot go, so Margaret brings her friend CARL. Ben drives them to the cabin and then drives away. Georgie isn’t sure where he stays and doesn’t care. He wants Margaret to fall in love with him. Georgie has a hallucination about Carl, Claudia, and Mandy, which morphs into Claudia, Greg, and Sara again. Claudia morphs into Georgie’s mother, abusing him, riding his penis, and then into the hag from the cottage, while Georgie reverts to a small child, terrified and not strong enough to fight back. The creature wants to be pregnant. Georgie cannot help but respond physically and has an orgasm that lasts an eternity.
20. Wake Up and Smell the Dopamine
Georgie wakes up to an angel, in the form of Margaret, who tells him he cut off Claudia’s hair. He had been drugged by Claudia. Georgie, Claudia, Margaret, and Carl leave the cabin. Ben is amused by the group. Georgie returns to his fetishes and Claudia returns to Greg and Sara. Georgie returns to the hag’s cottage but there is no one there. His dick is limp and useless—like a boy’s. He goes to the grocery store and meets Margaret again. She says she knows he didn’t find his nanny because he is not any better. She insists that he has to see the nanny to get better and gives him a piece of paper. He tells Margaret that maybe he doesn’t want to get better. He wants to tell her it’s too hard.
21. Then, Unto Them
Claudia is pregnant. Her morning sickness rids her of every rotten thing she has ever done to Georgie. Georgie comes home and wants to embrace her but steps in a pool of vomit and can only think of getting the puke off his shoes. He is not good with sick people. His shoes are more of a concern than a baby that may or may not be his. He tries to clean his whole living area free of her vomit.
22. Claudia Moves Out
Claudia is gone and Georgie wonders how he was ever bored with her. She made his life a tortuous adventure and he has reverted to making his 10 shots of espresso. He wants her back. He can’t even find Margaret at the grocery store. The store manager throws him out. Claudia leaves messages on his answering machine, about the conference she attended when she first met him. He wonders if he has imagined the torture and that everything is as it should have been all along. A message from Margaret asks if he has contacted his nanny yet. He finds the paper she had given him and goes to the address written on it. Ben drives him. He recalls the first “Claudia,” a girl named Marie show taught him how to love—the clutching and the pushing away. He leaves, feeling that he and Claudia and their baby could live the American dream together. He can remake himself. He returns home, to be trapped in a noose by Claudia. He thinks that Claudia will be nice to him if he pays her to be. He doesn’t want to play the games anymore, but the noose tightens. She tells him she has had an abortion and now she will kill Georgie.
23. Waking Up With Mr Clean
Georgie wakes up in a psychiatric hospital, in restraints. The psychiatrist DR WEINSTEIN tells him he has no girlfriend named Claudia. Georgie is happy—No Claudia, she doesn’t exist; she never hurt him. But if she wasn’t real, then what is? The doctor tells Georgie he has been in the hospital for fifteen years. Claudia, Margaret, the cabin—all have been a dream. But Georgie now thinks that it is the hospital that is the dream—the hallucination. He cries out and Ben answers. Ben tells Georgie that Georgie is his alter ego and is not real. Georgie hears Ben cry out, claiming to be Ben Schreiber, and he wants a cigarette. Georgie smiles as he fades away.
1. The Road to Wakefield
Ben, age about 18, travels to Wakefield School, together with his alter ego Georgie Gust and Georgie’s parents POPS and ROSE. Pops tells Georgie that he must win the Winterbourne scholarship. He is attracted to a girl—a troubled teen.
2. Settling in
Georgie settles into his single dorm room, which he fills with philosophy books. He scratches his father’s face off of all the family photos he has brought. He learns about a jock named WYMAN.
3. The birth of adult love
Ben watches as Georgie attends school. Georgie writes a description of his Perfect Woman (Claudia Nesbitt) and Georgie falls instantly in love with her.
Ben is remembering HEIDI BERILLO, a teacher who apparently morphs between Claudia and himself. She has a medical degree and will not teach at Wakefield for long. She receives a call from Dr. Winterbourne about a student who graduated two years previously.
5. School blues
Georgie attends Heidi’s class. The trouble teen girl is there also. Heidi tells them about the Winterbourne scholarship—to be won by the best essay. The teen girls stares at him a few times. She is popular with the jocks Wyman and OZER and Wyman’s girlfriend SUSAN. Her name is Claudia Nesbitt. Ben has an alcohol abuse problem, which becomes Georgie’s. The jocks tease Georgie, imitating his Tourette’s symptoms and nicknaming him Mr Twitchy. Claudia doesn’t find their antics funny. She befriends Georgie. Georgie finds the campus bar, The Pen.
6. The classroom
Heidi holds her Introductory Philosophy class. She throws a piece of chalk out the window and then asks whether the chalk hit the ground. Most students, Georgie included, are not listening.
7. Hung over
Georgie gets drunk at The Pen and spends the next day hung over in class. Georgie explains that he has Tourette’s but tries to explain his ideas on philosophy. Heidi is impressed.
8. Talking through windows
Heidi tells Georgie how well he is doing in the class and that he should enter the Winterbourne contest.
9. Mr Twitchy
Georgie is mocked and laughed at by the jocks, but not by Claudia. Georgie finds solace from his humiliation in hard liquor at The Pen.
10. Pushy boy
Ozer makes out with Claudia, but she won’t have sex with him.
11. Bar cops
Georgie now emerges from the bar clearly drunk and rapping to himself. Ben asks Dr C, parenthetically, if she could diagnose him with a disease so he could have a label to put to who he is.
12. Fuck the bar cops
Georgie continues with his rap “Fuck the Police,” even when he is nabbed for drunkenness by two cops. He is bailed out by Heidi.
13. To the rescue
Heidi tells the drunken Georgie he needs to get his life in order.
14. Passed out
Claudia sees Heidi drop Georgie off at the dorm. Ozer tells her Georgie is only there because of a need for diversity in the school. Georgie is locked out of the dorm and climbs up the drainpipe, which breaks. Claudia runs out to check if he is hurt. They run to elude the campus security. They spend the night outdoors at the top of a bluff and watch the sunrise together. Georgie tells her it’s where he comes to cry. She chides him for wasting his time getting drunk and arrested. He puts a foot over the edge of the bluff, as if he might walk off.
15. On the edge of something?
Georgie reassures Claudia that he wouldn’t really walk off the bluff. Not until he was famous. He tells her he is going to be a famous writer. Claudia asks him why he can’t stop drinking.
16. The new day
Georgie apologizes to Claudia about the day before. She is happy she saw the bluff at sunrise. Georgie confesses that he drinks so that he doesn’t feel alone. Claudia responds by saying no one is ever really alone. Georgie explains his Tourette’s symptoms.
17. At The Pen that night
Georgie is invited to a threesome by two college girls.
18. Back in business
Georgie attends class in fine spirits after his night with the two girls. The class is to work in pairs and Georgie is left the odd man out. Claudia joins him. Heidi again tells Georgie he is doing well and should enter the Winterbourne competition. She invites him for lunch.
19. Grave company
Heidi and Georgie have lunch in a cemetery. Heidi asks Georgie why he is hung over again. He says it’s because he is a rebel and doesn’t conform. He says he doesn’t know what he wants but doesn’t want his Tourette’s devils to control his life. Heidi says that everyone has their own demons.
20. There’s no place like . . .
Ozer asks Claudia what’s up with her and “Mr Twitchy.” She insists they are just partners in class. She blames him for not showing up to class on the day partners were chosen.
21. Misery loves company
Georgie keeps a flask of alcohol under his mattress and carries it with him now to the bluff. He finds Claudia sobbing. She asks him why he smokes and tells him she would care if cigarettes killed him. The two reveal that they are only at Wakefield because Dr Ozer, the jock’s father, pulled strings to get them in.
22. A good thing
Georgie tells Claudia he hates his father; she tells Georgie she loved hers but he committed suicide. She says she prays to her father and believes he hears her. Georgie says his parents never hear him or see him, even though he’s right there. Claudia shows him a misdated coin that is worth much money because it is a freak—just like Georgie. The two decide to forget the pressures they are under and just relax together. They run in the meadow by the bluff and then attend a street fair. Claudia admits to being pressured by Ozer to have sex. She and Georgie kiss and Ozer catches them. Claudia claims to have had sex with Georgie.
23. Once, twice. . .
Georgie thinks he might just enter the Winterbourne competition and begins his library research. He observes Ozer making out Susan, Wyman’s girlfriend. Ozer is still furious that Georgie was with Claudia and crushes Georgie’s hand with a book as a threat.
24. Truth, lies, and lunch
Georgie and Heidi have their weekly lunch at the cemetery. She is the first adult that Georgie has been able to talk to. He tells her he is off his medication and feels good. She tells him he makes her feel young and alive. Georgie is going to title his Winterbourne essay “On Bad Faith.” Heidi asks what happened to Georgie’s hand. She tells him he reminds her of her sister who had cerebral palsy but was also very bright. She tells him he has a lot to offer the world. Georgie doesn’t know what to say.
Georgie has detention for being late to class because of his hangovers. He spends the time lying on his back listening to classical music.
26. Rocks for jocks
Heidi’s class talks about Bad Faith. Georgie is being pelted by pebbles tossed in the window by the jocks. They throw a rock that smashes Georgie’s glasses and injures his eye. Claudia tries to soothe him but Georgie erupts, tossing his books, desk, pencils, and anything he can grab. Ozer and Wyman are suspended and removed from the upcoming lacrosse game. Georgie continues his rampage and destroys his dorm room. He tries to apologize to Claudia later but she is furious that he treated her like he treated everyone else, when she thought she was his friend. Georgie reassembles his room but can’t sleep. He starts to write about his own existence.
27. Something positive
Georgie and Heidi have another lunch together. Georgie is even more on edge that usual. Heidi sees that he is no longer smoking. He tells her he quit drinking too. He focuses on writing.
28. The big game
Wakefield loses the lacrosse game, with Wyman and Ozer on the sidelines. Georgie continues his writing, oblivious to the game.
29. A slight change of plans
Georgie no longer has detentions. He has lunch again with Heidi and tells her that he is writing his essay for the Winterbourne and that has replaced his need for cigarettes and booze. She informs him that this will be their last lunch together as the school is reconsidering her tenure because she appears to be favoring Georgie and Claudia. Georgie’s room is broken into and his computer knocked over. His essay is still intact, but he retitles it “Apart from Me” and runs from his room.
Georgie goes to the bluff to cry. Heidi finds him and tells him he can’t run from himself. He tells her she can’t know what goes on inside him—all she sees is the external issues about Tourette’s. He runs to the edge of the bluff but she doesn’t try to stop him. She is tired of feeling sorry for him. She tells him to flaunt at and laugh at his problem because he can’t be beaten by something he can laugh at. Georgie appears in and participates in Heidi’s class that afternoon.
Georgie continues to work on his Winterbourne essay, which is now clearly an autobiography. He is tying his life story into the concept of bad faith. Claudia stops by to tell him it was her dad’s birthday.
32. A twisted tree
Claudia disappears from the school. Georgie races to the bluff and finds Claudia’s freak coin. He finds Claudia hanging from a tree.
33. How the shite hits the fan
Georgie is devastated by Claudia’s suicide. He starts smoking again. He meets Ozer at the Pen and tells him that he, not Ozer, lover Claudia. When he returns from the Pen, Heidi is waiting for him. All Georgie can think of is Claudia and it is interfering with his writing. He considers leaving Wakefield. Claudia has left him a letter that tells him she is happy to be free from living the charade that her life had become. She asks him to be happy for her. Georgie resumes writing.
34. The Other Ending
Georgie wins the Winterbourne Scholarship. Georgie credits Claudia for his win. Heidi informs him that she is leaving Wakefield. He introduces her to his parents.
Part I: Dr C, Meet Benjamin J Schreiber
Unfinished Intro—Buffered Off a Thought
Dr C asks Ben what his goals are for his therapy. He doesn’t know. He just knows that the New Age self-help books he’s been reading aren’t helping.
Sling-backs—Out of My Deepest of Pockets
Dr C wears sling-back open-toed sandals that cater to Ben’s foot fetish. She said she was going to make Ben “love himself.” Ben reveals that he has been seeing psychiatrists since he was twelve and had been diagnosed with ADD but then finally with Tourette’s. He thinks Dr C is delusional if she thinks he will ever like himself. Ben has writer’s block.
Ben sometimes stops writing when he is in love, but that is lover’s lock, not writer’s block. This instance of writer’s block has lasted eighteen months—he hasn’t written a thing. He senses Heidi and George are both in the background somewhere. He wants Georgie back.
Georgie Writes Back
Ben gets rejection letter after rejection letter. Georgie returns and tells Ben to relax and sleep –things will be fine.
Dr C Meets Ben (A Written Account from Dr C)
Dr C says she’s never had a client like Ben before. She did not like Ben because he was rich, late, and dressed eccentrically—he made a bad first impression. She admits that some of his eccentricity was due to his Tourette’s but her bias still showed and Ben picked up on it. He admits that even he doesn’t like himself. Dr C recovers her professionalism and tells him that she is going to help him to love himself.
Dr C asks Ben what he remembers about his school days. He tells her about Georgie instead. Ben at first discriminates between his life and Georgie’s life, but then slowly melds them together, confirming that he and Georgie function together.
Flashing Forward to Yesterday
Ben recognizes that Georgie and he share the same “person,” and that they can to place themselves anywhere. Georgie chooses only to go to Long Beach, California and New Mexico. The only time he follows Ben is if Ben goes back to school. Ben still seeks his lost inner child that was damaged by his parents. Ben and Georgie are now in Long Beach and Ben wants what Georgie has: Ben wants Claudia.
Long Beach: The Hub of the Warp
Dr C wants to know what the name Claudia Nesbitt means to Ben. He says it is between Georgie and him. When Georgie sleeps, Ben experiences time warps and nightmares.
Housekeepers Are a Blessing
Georgie is too nice for his own good. Dr C wants to know why people take advantage of Georgie. Georgie doesn’t feel crazy but how would he know if he was? He keeps thinking about Claudia Nesbitt and how he loves her and how he hates her. He hopes she dies so he can stop being a good guy. Georgie is talking to himself—he doesn’t wonder if he’s going crazy; he just wonders how crazy he is.
Ben dreams of Claudia at a restaurant. Ben morphs into her waiter, as Georgie. Georgie obsesses on people, mostly. He loses himself in a fantasy world for as long as he’s obsessed with them. The next morning, Georgie starts his routine with Claudia while Ben sleeps in, thinking of Claudia. Ben makes oatmeal; Georgie finds a clean shirt. Georgie is alone and invisible. He doesn’t feel. He doesn’t exist—he’s not needed. He breathes. He thinks. But he is not. Georgie wants to say he doesn’t care about this, but he does.
Part II: From Wakefield to Rehab
Dr C Made Me Do It
Ben has an appointment with Dr C and ramble on. Ben has been diagnosed with Tourette’s, schizophrenia, and other diseases, so he doesn’t trust doctors.
What Really Happened
Dr C wants to dredge up Ben’s past to fix his present. Ben explains how he came to attempt a bank robbery, because his father froze the funds in his trust account. He is arrested and put into rehab.
Mental Ward Snuff
Ben describes BETTY, one of the ward nurses, who checks him into the mental hospital, and his first night after admission into what he categorizes as Hell.
Ben meets Heidi—his Heidi, not Georgie’s, whom he’s met in a gift shop parking lot. Ben obsesses over Heidi while Georgie lives with Claudia. He is attracted to a girl bagging groceries, who makes him daydream about Claudia and he morphs into Georgie, who is now in a coffee shop, watching Claudia enter. Claudia recognizes Georgie but nothing has happened between them yet. It’s a new version of their meeting for the first time. Claudia asks Georgie if he wants to sleep with her and they go to a motel for sex.
Part III: Getting Clean with Dr C
Pregnant With the Idea of Georgie Gust
Dr C asks Ben who Georgie is. He can’t answer her because he is not sure himself. Ben knows that he imagined Georgie a lot more once he started writing about him—Georgie became everything he hated about himself. He also doesn’t know if writing is therapy or if it is the source of his disease. He doesn’t know if his cure involves the death of Georgie. Or Claudia. He imagines a scenario where Georgie would be born, his scared and lonely childhood, his Tourette’s diagnosis, and his heavy drug use. He describes a mystical experience where Georgie is possessed by a sense of supernatural beauty. Then he describes Georgie crying as he writes. He is transfixed by something supernatural, mystical, and sexual, like an orgasm, that his past transforms to. Writing his story does this for him. Ben recognizes Georgie as part of him: Ben spies on his hallucinations while Georgie lives them. But Ben wants Claudia—she is his stereotypical woman who will end his loneliness.
What Got Me Here
Ben, in the psych ward, is full of self-hatred and loathing. The psych treatment has made him see himself for who he really is. He is tired of the bullshite—he doesn’t want any more learning experiences so he can learn to love himself.
Taking It to the Cleaners
Ben is finally cleaning Georgie out of his head, but he wonders what happens when he kills him off in a literary sense. And what happens to Claudia? Ben realizes he has to stop fantasizing about her and wasting his life. He starts to realize that he is the author of these fantasies and if he says they are fact, they are, including Claudia. Georgie misses Claudia because she kept the house neat. Ben recognizes Georgie as the scapegoat—everything is Georgie’s fault and never Ben’s.
A Chance Encounter: Reality?
Ben encounters Heidi in a convenience store parking lot. She is in town for a psychiatry convention and decided to get her nails done. He gives her a pedicure in her hotel room. They meet and walk in the neighborhoods and along the beach. Heidi encourages him to write. She skips her conference class and has a bath instead. Ben joins her and gives a foot massage. Ben finds his writing block has gone.
The Emperor Concerto, Second Movement
Now Georgie’s day takes over. He craves some different routine but his day proceeds just like all others. Ben wonders why he has given Georgie, whom he now views as his literary creation, so many issues.
In the Parallel Midst
Ben sees Georgie’s driver Frank drop Georgie off in a secret desert location. Georgie is studying New Age books, intending to do the exact opposite of what they recommend. He checks into a nudist colony and participates in a foot fetish orgy, but it no longer satisfies what he needs. He then crawls on salt crystals. On the way home, he tells Frank about his nanny who abused him. Georgie is looking for an endless orgasm because during an orgasm it is like he doesn’t exist.
Georgie’s Home Is My Home
Georgie’s living room contains photos of his past girlfriends, awards, trophies, and travel posters, as well as intellectual books—all in three copies (as are his video and music collections). There are many unfinished drawings and paintings that show Georgie’s brilliance. His past seems rich and full. Everything is placed according to obscure mathematical relationships.
Ben sets up cameras in his New Mexico home so he can record videos of him at home from all angles.
Don’t Be Afraid To Let Them Show
Georgie attempts to use a camera to record Ben. Ben tells Georgie that he feels itchy and dirty. Georgie tells him to take a shower. Ben has new meds and wants to get back to writing.
Ben imagines ultraviolet-blue boils on his thighs as Georgie heads him to the shower.
In The Shower—Water Off
Ben is filthy and his skin has yellowed. Georgie helps him take off his clothes and shower. Ben longs for some strange disease so he can overcome it and feel he has done something—and then maybe everything.
History of Sex
Ben is in his guest house, which is a crack den, which he shares with his former crackhead Zombie selves, the Nameless Movie Director, the Fit and Slim Jogger, the Successful Stockbroker, and the Poor Homeless Guy. Georgie joins them.
Umbrella Makes Me Spread My Wings
The zombies copy all Ben’s moves; he finds and opens an umbrella and they do the same. Ben’s umbrella is shredded and he gets soaked; the zombies’ umbrellas are fine. Ben can’t light his crack pipe because it’s wet, but the zombies won’t give him a light. The zombies watch Ben in disapproval, except for the Homeless Guy, who continues to copy Ben, who lies down on a mound of dirty clothes and pizza boxes. Georgie appears, with a crack pipe. Ben reveals that he has a wife Kelly, who knows nothing of Georgia or of Claudia. A series of Zombie Wives appear, followed by the Real Kelly, whom Ben calls his Living Colorful Beauty. Claudia also appears as a zombie. The phone rings incessantly. The zombies turn into policemen who chase Ben in the streets of Albuquerque. He falls and faints and wakes up again in the crack den.
Part IV: Dr C Meets Mr Clean
Ben (Benjy) is 11 and his old house in suburban New York is being torn up. His mother makes him stay inside with her. Pops is divorcing Rose and she can’t stand to be alone. Benjy sees an albino jogger run past his house every day—it’s an hallucination that only he sees. He thinks Mr Clean will be there for him someday, like his Pops no longer is.
Dr C Meets Mr Clean
Dr C urges Ben to write as therapy. She tells him to write the gross, obscene, sexual stuff first to get it. out of him. Ben’s wife Kelly tries to keep him to a routine to help him. He has no idea how stressful living with him might be for her. The rest of his family just wants to control him and set him up in rehab.
Benjy is in sixth grade sex education class. Ben learns the words that come to mean so much to him later.
A Man Ahead of His Time
Benjy pilfers his first porn at age 9 from his dad. He buys his first magazine at 10.
Boy Scout Brothel
Ben and his friends set up a sex club in a kiddy brothel. Ben and his friends never graduate beyond their sex roles set up at this time. But in childhood they were invincible. Ben develops a fetish for latex condoms. He feels all his sexual preferences were Divinely Selected for him. Ben wonders how a good little kid like him ever became involved with a perverted sadomasochist like Claudia Nesbitt. Except that they were a perfect match—two doomed tortured souls. Ben/Georgie becomes obsessed with the agony she causes him. When he thinks he has gotten her pregnant, Claudia admits she doesn’t love Georgie and will be raising his son with another woman. Ben realizes she isn’t the woman of his dreams. The real Ben emerges a week later. He tries to convince himself that he and Claudia can raise a baby together. Claudia tells him she cannot have kids—her tubes are tied.
Love Beyond Dignity
Ben awakens from nightmares, as he always does, where love and happiness are misery and emptiness. He used to be such a happy kid. He had dignity. Now he has love without dignity.
Georgie reads up on mental disorders to find out what is wrong with him. He realizes that past hurts and being taken advantage of now prevent him from moving on with his life and being happy. He instead turns inward to his fantasies.
Mother’s Naked Friend
Dr C asks Ben when his fascination with older women started. He explains how his mother used to parade his Tourette’s to her friends to gain attention and sympathy and as an excuse to avoid playing racquetball with her friends. Benjy accidentally sees one of his mother’s friends fully naked at the racquetball club. Ben says Georgie is the one who is hung up on the childhood sex thing.
Mother’s Lava Soap
Ben explains how his mother groomed him for borderline personality disorder. He figures that he must still be that traumatized kid. She would swat him with newspapers and wash his mouth out with soap for his Tourette’s outbursts, which he could not control. He wonders if the pumice from the Lava soap started his foot fetish. Dr C tells him it is part of his self-esteem problem.
Waste: Notes on Ben’s Novel
When Ben falls in love with Claudia—or Heidi—he vows to sober up and become a better person, but he doesn’t know how to succeed with Claudia. He writes about Claudia but he cannot put his feelings into word—they muddle up his thoughts. He wants to stop his meds but he loses his sanity when he is off them. Ben is still obsessed with Claudia. Georgie’s affair with Claudia has shattered the whole heart and soul of the desperate, lonely man who just wanted to replace Heidi with Claudia.
Georgie attends his family reunion at the Hamptons. Without words, he’s desperately begging somebody from the inner family circle—the one that controls it all, who is loved, to turn on some secret switch in the invisible boardroom that will turn the tables around again for him. That will make him feel good. He will even love himself again then. He still wants to feel some new and positive things, good things that will last for the better. But that switch was never even there to begin with.
First Date with Perplexity
Ben imagines his first date with Claudia. Georgie steps in and does the date. They have sushi at a restaurant. Georgie tells her he has schizophrenia; Claudia doesn’t mind.
From The Inside
Georgie wonders if Claudia has ever been miserable. She always seems to have good luck. He is mentally tortured by Claudia.
The Slow Fade-Out
Claudia has abandoned Ben. He needs a story to work on to have a new beginning. The themes would be death, loneliness, and despair.
End of November
Ben cannot let Claudia go. Georgie is not around to act for him and Ben has succumbed to Claudia’s torment again. Georgie wants to have sex with someone else so Claudia won’t be his Last One.
Claudia, Heidi . . . My Perplexity
Ben realizes he never learned how to deal with conflict. If a conflict arose in a relationship, he ended the relationship. He moves out of his house and into a full service apartment where he’ll be free to be completely alone. He sees Claudia everywhere now. Ben can see himself in the mirror now.
More from Waste: A Novel by Benjamin J Schreiber.
Ben is off his meds but the writer’s block is gone. He knows Heidi lives next door, not Claudia. Heidi can balance the chaos. He takes her to dinner and she talks about all the men she dated and slept with.
Ben and Pops
Ben remembers a time in sixth grade, before Georgie, when he and his Pops were alone at home. His mother and sister had gone on a vacation. Pops and Ben have gone on a father-son ski trip. They laugh together and have fun, but Ben knows he has to go back to his mother and her torment eventually. Pops leaves Rose soon after and Ben never has another father-son experience.
Alter-Ego Claudia: Georgie’s Nightmare at Noon
With his new meds are working and the writer’s block gone, Ben feels rushed. Therefore, Georgie takes over and clears the remnants of Claudia from his house but the visions of Claudia are too strong She rapes Georgie in her desire to get pregnant. Georgie wants to break up with her but she won’t let him go.
Easy Steps to a Perfect Pedicure (Déjà Vu)
Ben takes one pill and Georgie reappears. This time Claudia is a neighbor in Long Beach who has just broken up with her girlfriend and it is Halloween. The pedicure fantasy begins again. Ben remains as Ben, and he knows that he will strike up a relationship with Heidi in Long Beach. Ben sees the premise for a big novel: a living, colorful beauty and borderline personality disorder. He’s making it.
Rehab and Mother
Ben tells Dr C that his mother visited him in rehab. His one fear is that he’ll end up looking like his mother-tight curly hair and obese body. Dr C asks if Georgie (with tight curly hair and obese body) is patterned more on Ben or on his mother. Ben considers it a stupid question.
End the Violence
Ben’s mom was a bully. Ben’s father allows him to go to boarding school as a teen and his mom is furious. She hits him repeatedly and finally he hits back. He leaves for college a worthless piece of shite who needs a new mother.
Second Skins with Footnotes
Dr C asks to know more about Heidi. Ben says she is his obsession: she changed his life, but not in a good way. She brings back Georgie, who has Claudia as his Heidi. Claudia is the essence of every woman Ben encounters.
Georgie has some genuine goodness despite his overall unwholesomeness. He sees beauty in every woman, he is generous with money, he buys food for the homeless, he picks up trash. Georgie likes Dr C, even though he knows she thinks he doesn’t exist. Georgie knows all about Ben, even if Ben doesn’t know all about Georgie. Georgie also knows it’s Ben who can’t get over Claudia. Georgie also knows that the sadness and despair stems from Ben’s mother, but Ben lets no one know her. No one.
Part V: St Valentine’s Day Massacre
Journal. . .
Ben can’t tolerate his current symptom--paranoia. All he can think of his is writing. He doesn’t want down time, free time or Georgie time. He thinks everyone around is listening to him and suspiciously spying and snickering. Police sirens and helicopter noises come and go as he drives. His medication makes him dizzy. Higher doses give him hallucinations, which he craves. He still craves Claudia but wants to be free of her. Ben wants to discover himself so he can make his mark on the world, but he knows he is limited by his excuses, medical maladies, and baggage of abuse, neglect, and life. He wants to leave a profound message for the world.
A Valentine Reminder
Ben remembers the real Claudia who died and how he brought her back to life with the help of Georgie. Claudia explains that Ben was just too high maintenance for her—she couldn’t take care of him.
Ben fantasizes his own funeral. He hears all the women he knew speaking about him—most said he was complex and funny and unpredictable. His funeral is held at a crack house. Ben begins to meet himself, thanks to those who once shared his life. He has broken up with another woman, MELANIE. Ben reverts to Georgie in Georgie’s home again, with the awards and trophies from Georgie’s past life. Ben admits to buying them. Ben lives other people’s anonymous lives. All he wants is to be someone.
Ben believes he will die in the next 15 days. He has to write down his thoughts before it happens—his thoughts about himself: the nausea, coughing, anxiety, paranoia, loneliness, bitterness and nostalgia that make up his disease and his existence.
The Orange Button
Ben is addicted to change, so he visits hotels frequently. He experiences insomnia and paranoia and sees his own funeral again through a spy camera in the room.
Ben has had enough of excesses and enough of habits and addictions, fears and phobias, money and resentment. He visits FAT ANNE, a good friend from a Tourette’s support group. She no longer wants to be his friend because he is selfish. Ben has a dream where a character Lisette acts like he does in Claudia’s real life. He treats her with disdain, a disdain he also holds for himself. Ben looks to Georgie to understand life and overcome his selfishness.
Dialogue with Self (After the Funeral)
Georgie believes he doesn’t matter—he’s shite. He is becoming just words, writing, a metaphor. HE wants mutual, reciprocated love. He worries: If I stop thinking of me, will I still exist?
Georgie’s brain starts to process thoughts again. Strange voices ask him many questions about who he is and what he wants from life.
The New Way to Feed Solitude
Ben just wants his own version of who he is. He wants solitude—to be left alone. He finally is able to release the past. He also realizes that everything is genuine—imagined, perceived, or experienced—it all defines him as a man. He is just like everyone else. He’s doing just fine.
Is This A New Beginning?
Ben the author finally has a good idea. On a flight somewhere, he introduces himself to a fellow passenger as Georgie Gust.
Part VI: Rest in Peace
Support This Troupe
Ben talks to Dr C about the jogger, Mr Clean, again. Ben thinks his mother was having sex with the jogger, who was young enough to be her son. Dr C finds it interesting that only Ben can see his mother and the jogger.
Ben’s apartment has demons. His computer boots and shuts down on its own, even when unplugged. Bathroom lights flash and water runs. He looks online for an exorcist and finds Reverend JEZEBEL CONSTANZA, who conducts an exorcism. The demons are worse than ever afterwards. He thinks it wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t so alone. Georgie isn’t alone with his demons; he’s out with different women every night. He has dedicated himself to getting Claudia out of his system.
Georgie and Dr C
Georgie is the only one to show up at Dr C’s next session. He’s frantic. Dr C wonders who Georgie is when he isn’t Ben. Georgie needs someone who loves him, someone who can touch his soul. But he’ll never have that. He needs peace.
Ben shares his bedroom with the demons. He is visited by his Mother/Angel/Older Woman at night and climbs into bed with him. He knows the woman—his mother, his angel, his lover—is an illusion and tries to ignore her. She tells him she is haunting his house with memories. She encourages him to shoot himself. Ben has a memory of being age 11. His mother comes into his bedroom, crying that his father is leaving her. She abuses him sexually, leaving him traumatized...
To The Shore
Dr C watches Ben drive away in a taxi and recalls the first session she had with him. She has succeeded in getting Ben to say hello and goodbye
to Georgie Gust, and of course Claudia.
Part VII: Postscriptum
Meanwhile, Back At Ben’s New Mexico Ranch . . . .
Ben writes furiously now in his New Mexico home.
Ben J Schreiber
Ben submits a short story for publication. He wants Kelly to understand.
Checking the Mail
Ben receives a rejection letter that criticizes his use of Georgie as a hero. He has written 43 chapters about Georgie and Claudia. He obsesses over why he can’t get anything published. Dr C told him that Georgie is not a real character; he’s just an alter ego stuffed with all the feelings Ben refuses to feel.
Kelly is Ben’s editor and is very supportive of his work.
Another Living Colorful Beauty?
Ben writes Kelly a letter that ends up focusing on the negative and how pathetic he is. Kelly replies that she loves having him as part of her life.
Back To the Heat
Ben writes to Kelly again, this time questioning the value of his written work. Kelly again supports him and tells him she loves him.
The fortune teller Sister Clara has sensed something about Ben and has drawn images of Ben’s grandmother, aunt, nursery school teachers and nanny all abusing him as an infant. This discovery explains to Ben why he is so fucked up now. He goes home to Kelly, but Kelly is not there.
Ben is being monitored at home rather than admitted to a psych ward. He thinks he may finally have found himself.
Soliloquy (for Dr C)
Ben is out of rehab and writing as therapy. Ben has told Dr C that he has skuzzy blue movies playing in his brain constantly, starring Georgie and Claudia. He doesn’t tell her much about the movies—he thinks psychiatrists are crazier than he is.
Part I: A Day in the Life of Georgie Gust
Georgie lives out his typical morning—breaking his coffee cup, falling in the shower, making his 10 cups of espresso. His neighbors wonder about Georgie and Claudia. Georgie arrives at work six hours late and then does nothing there. At home again, he erases the mark next to “get cigarettes” on his marker board, then rechecks it. The next day Georgie and a New Age woman meet, while both singing “A Day in the Life.” The New Age woman is Claudia. They check into a motel and reality blinks out.
Part II: Another Day in the Secret Life of Georgie Gust
The motel room is empty. Georgie is in his yard. His message machine records a message from Claudia. Georgie is now walking along a beach, looking disheveled and downtrodden. Claudia’s voice sounds on his voicemail. Claudia is at a lecture: we are revisiting the early days of Georgie and Claudia. Claudia encourages Georgie to tell his story. Georgie starts another day, awakened by the arrival of a Mexican cleaning crew.
Part III: Living the American Dream
Georgie and Claudia live in an enormous McMansion, which they are having remodeled. Georgie asks Claudia to marry him. She takes the enormous ring from him. This is really what marriage is like, like they say—only mutual self-interest with a hint of disgust and loathing.
Part IV: The End of a Dream?
Georgie and Claudia’s McMansion is even huger with the new addition, but inside all is not well. Cracks are appearing in their romantic dream marriage. Georgie goes on a business trip to Vegas, refusing to take Claudia with him. Claudia meets up with Sir TONY HALLDALE and starts an affair with him in her home. The next morning, Claudia calls her friend AMANDA and asks her urgently to come over. Sir Tony Halldale is dead in Claudia’s bed. Georgie calls on his way home from the airport—he’ll be home in 15 minutes. Georgie arrives and Sir Tony walks down the stairs, looking for his high school sweetheart Claudia Nesbitt.
Part V: The Crack-Up
The marriage is on the rocks and the posh mansion begins to disintegrate. Over time, the house totally falls apart and Claudia and Georgie disappear. Georgie returns to it, followed by Claudia a few years later. They resume their marriage. Georgie begins another day, trying to sort out his relationship with Claudia. Claudia walks on Georgie’s street with Sara, whom she introduces to Georgie as her wife. Claudia later ties Georgie up and rapes him, to get herself pregnant. She confesses that she never loved him. Georgie tries to kill himself.
Part VI: The Flashback
A flashback to Georgie meeting an older woman while both sing “Hotel California.” Claudia is on her way to get her nails done. Georgie ends up giving her a pedicure. At home, his message machine plays messages from a bored Claudia, tired of her lectures. Georgie makes love to her feet in a cheap motel room. Georgie sets down to write the first installment of The Secret Love and Death of Georgie Gust and Claudia Nesbitt.
Part VII: The Fantasy, I
Claudia and Georgie are the fun-loving couple on the beach. The scene changes to Georgie, alone, beating himself up, pretending he’s Claudia. The scene changes again and Georgie is invited to watch Claudia and Amanda have sex. Greg and Sara watch too. The scene changes again and Georgie and Claudia have coffee together at a yuppie coffeehouse, where they discuss the intricacies of modern American life. They have stolen fifty thousand dollars and are eluding the police. They split and promise to meet up again when the coast is clear. Claudia boards a plane and never returns to America.
Part VIII: The Fantasy, II
In a different city, Georgie and Claudia are different people. They meet for the first time in an elevator in Georgie’s swanky apartment building. Claudia is French and speaks with an accent. They carry out an old fashioned European romance, complete with billet-doux.
Part IX: The Secret Love and Death of Claudia Nesbitt and Georgie Gust
Georgie’s current fantasy mansion is the size of an airport. Claudia is a natural beauty set against the gardens. Georgie proposes to her and on their honeymoon they consummate the perfect pedicure. Claudia is hit by a car and paralyzed in her torso and legs. Claudia tells Georgie to pretend she is dead and to marry CLIO. Georgie vows to stay with Claudia. He takes the paraplegic Claudia boogie boarding on his boat and she drowns. Georgie, the CEO of Georgie Gust Enterprises, takes it all in stride.
Part X: Down and Out with Georgie Gust
Georgie is now a homeless derelict. He enters a luncheonette, where he is served by a waitress who is Claudia. Georgie starts up a conversation with MR WILTON, another customer, about success in business. Georgie helps two young teens cope with their grief at the death of a friend. He points another young man in the right direction to respecting his girlfriend. The scene changes and Georgie is a successful businessman. He has a revolver in a brown paper bag. The scene changes again and he is on a bus. A Wal-Mart version of Claudia sits beside him. Georgie expounds on mental illness with the other passengers. He tells his psychiatrist about the bus ride. Georgie says he told the Wal-Mart Claudia, “It just seems like, I told her, all my years at Wakefield, and all my years at Harvard, existed for the simple purpose of proving to me that I was an utterly absurd person, no different from any other absurd person. No different from her or anybody else—because we’re all absurd people, see?”
Part XI: Epilog: The Waxworks
Claudia is dead and Georgie sinks his whole inheritance into a wax museum where he can immortalize Claudia. Georgie is married to Clio but he is enthralled with Claudia the Waitress. He gets AMOS, his wax museum designer, to use Claudia the Waitress and the model for Claudia the wax museum showpiece.
Part XII: Coda: Benjamin J Schreiber Writes to Dr C
Ben explains how his schizophrenia causes him to have blue and hardcore porn movies playing in his head all the time. He is just a spectator and has no control. Georgie, Claudia, and other characters show up and the same crazy scenes keep playing. He thinks that they sometimes are trying to tell him something—like maybe the whole world is stupid, meaningless, and empty.
Codex: Doctor C Writes Back to Benjamin J Schreiber
Dr C tells Ben that many people feel that the world is crazy and that their lives are pointless. Dr C tells Ben that Georgie and Claudia are showing him that everybody needs someone or something to make the absurdity mean something by learning to laugh.
Appendix: Final Q & A Session between Benjamin J Schreiber and Dr C
Dr C explains how no living woman could live up to Georgie’s expectations of the perfect Claudia Nesbitt.
Glad You’re Not Me
The author Jonathan Harnisch is a mentally ill artist who suffers from constant sleep deprivation. He has seen improvement with new medications and is still married. He hit bottom in 2006 and his family took over his life. He writes as therapy for his Tourette’s and schizophrenia. The passages included here show the thought patterns and brilliant phrasings that a schizophrenic mind can generate, unfettered by rules of realism.
JUAN MARCINEL (JOHN MARSHAL) meets the beautiful CHANTAL and experiences his first sexual encounter on his eighteenth birthday. He tells Chantal that his goal in life is to achieve glory. She gives him a small portrait of Che Guevara and tells John that Che succeeded by seduction.
John, now well studied, is put forward for a position as a tutor for the ROMAN family by FATHER PADRIC.
John’s father is livid that his son is going into service for the Romans. He banishes John from the home.
John meets CLYDE ROMAN at the mansion and his beautiful wife MARIBELLE. John sees that Maribelle is his seduction target. He gains her favor by promising never to beat her children if they do not learn their lessons. Clyde Roman suggests that if John’s work is good enough, Roman may eventually set him up in his own business. He gives John a used suit to replace his peasant clothing. He meets the children, REMY and CHRISTIAN.
John begins his tutoring of the children at the breakfast table, further impressing Maribelle.
John is the main attraction at a dinner party. He performs by reciting bible passages. Roman offers him a two year position as language teacher and caretaker, but John turns him down as the agreement would bind him but leave Roman free to dismiss him at any time.
John encounters two youths that he went to school with—they are jealous of his success. They beat him up and leave him seriously injured. He is found and nursed by Maribelle until he regains consciousness, and then in cared for by the maid LAUREN.
John is healing well a week later and again is invited to attend the dinner parties. One guest, HAROLD LAWRENCE, insults the communists and John is enraged. He goes to his room and looks at the portrait of Che. Lauren arrives to take his one suit to clean for the next day. Maribelle checks in on him and finds him in his underwear, with Lauren attending. John wants to reassure Maribelle that he would not touch another woman...but he cannot. Lauren thinks she has claimed John as her own.
John now travels with Maribelle to do errands in town. She asks if he is happy and he confesses that he still wants a position with more purpose. Maribelle informs him that she is about to come into a small inheritance. She offers him a gift of money for being so good to her children and tells him to buy more clothes. Clyde Roman in incensed when Maribelle tells him that John refused money. Such rudeness from a servant. Roman gives John more money and John accepts it.
Father Padric visits to tell John of some good fortune. Lauren wants to marry him and Father Padric is interceding for her family. John refuses her, stating that he wants to marry for love. Maribelle makes a final plea on Lauren’s behalf but John still refuses. He tells her he does not love Lauren.
Mr. and Mrs. Roman heads to their home in the Hamptons, taking John and the children with him. John is overwhelmed at the grandeur and size of the mansion. The children chase butterflies and John convinces Maribelle to join them. It begins to rain and Maribelle and John take shelter together under a tree. They are both intensely aware of the attraction building between them, but John is also aware they are in full view of the house. That night, during his prayers, John reveals that his plan is to steal Maribelle’s heart so that he can cuckold her fool of a husband.
John confesses to Maribelle about his secret obsession with Che. He begs her to protect his secret from her husband, who would fire him, or worse, if he knew. He tells her he has a portrait in a box under his mattress. He tells her to look for the box but begs her not to look at the portrait. Later, he asks her if she found the box and gets a slight nod.
The Romans are entertaining Mr Calvert and Mrs Driscoll. John informs Mr Calvert that John’s friend Seth has offered him a partnership and that friendship with Mr Calvert could be beneficial. Maribelle is dismayed to hear that John is considering leaving. He tells her that at 2 am he will come to her room to tell her something. He seduces her that night. Maribelle asks who the portrait shows—who is her rival? John tells her there is no woman he loves more than he loves her.
Mrs Driscoll leaves. Roman tells John that the Senator will be attending the town’s annual parade and it is his job as Mayor to prepare the town. Padric has asked that John assist him in the church service. John also is invited to participate in the parade itself. These are two high honors in the town. Some of the townspeople, particularly the Lawrences, are not amused that the tutor gets to play politician and priest on the same day. It goes against separation of church and state. John goes to Maribelle’s bed again that night. He tells her he loves her and she returns his love.
Mr Roman is livid the next morning. He hurls and newspaper at John and asks how he could do such a thing. John leaves the room without finding out what it is that Roman thinks he has done. John assumes that Roman has gotten a letter from someone suspicious of John and Maribelle’s relationship. Maribelle comes to John’s room that night, but he does not open his door to her. Maribelle shows her husband a note left at the gate about John and demands that John be sent away. Roman thinks she is being foolish. Her husband points out that banishing him would just confirm the rumor. Maribelle tells him that Lauren and Mr Lawrence may have had an affair and that she too had received letters from Lawrence. Roman strikes his wife and goes in search of the letters. John decides it is time to leave.
John goes to a priest, Father Peter, in a nearby county. Father Padric has put in a good word for him, suggesting that John be offered a scholarship. John will be going to New York City with Father Peter. John will be personal secretary to a businessman, Mr Sinclair. Mr. Sinclair sends John off to buy new clothes. John is given a desk in the library. Mr Sinclair tells John he is expected to dress for dinner. He meets Levida, Mr Sinclair’s wife, his son Norbert, and his daughter Claudia.
Claudia comes into the library but scurries out when John spots her. He goes riding with Norbert. John has lunch with Mrs Sinclair and Claudia and fears it is one of his duties. He asks Father Peter if he could have an allowance to eat lunch elsewhere. Mr Sinclair is carrying out an experiment by having John dine with them and wishes to continue it. Claudia finds John amusing.
John goes to the opera. Mr Sinclair then hears that John is the son of a Texas oil merchant, according to the opera-goers in the next box. John insists that he did not start the rumor, but did nothing to prevent it from perpetuating. Sinclair tells John to go to the opera every evening and stand in the vestibule when important people are exiting. It is important for him to become recognized. John goes to a party at the Devins’. Claudia is the belle of the ball. John is winning her over by being the opposite of the young men of her class. John’s friend Seth is also at the party.
Claudia visits John in the library. He treats her coldly. He then visits the rooftop garden and is again joined by Claudia. He tells her that he finds her intellectual conversation stimulating but he doubts that the man she is about to marry will have the same view. Claudia pretends to sprain her ankle so that John must put his arm around her and help her off the roof. Claudia later gives him a slip of paper. John does not reply to Claudia’s letter, so she stomps into the library and gives him a new letter demanding that he meet her on the roof at 1 am. They meet and kiss passionately.
The next Sunday, John helps serve Mass with Father Peter. Claudia avoids John. He confronts her in the pool room and she kisses him passionately when she sees he is jealous. John goes to her bed that night. Claudia cuts off a lock of her hair and gives it to John, vowing to always obey him. John tries to leave the hair behind but Claudia insists he take it. He avoids Claudia and she accosts him, telling him she no longer loves him.
John receives a parcel containing a huge stack of letters. John makes Claudia jealous by flirting with her friend Louisa Charles. He visits Louisa the next day and goes to the opera.
John receives a letter, which Claudia rips from his hand. He embraces her and apologizes. They make love that evening. Claudia has been miserable for the month that John has avoided her and never wants to experience that again. She asks John to elope with her to Vegas. He asks how he will know she still loves him, once she is disgraced. She informs him that she is pregnant with his child. John is called to see Mr Sinclair the next morning. Sinclair is indignant that his grandchild will be the son of a tutor. Claudia tells John that if he leaves, she will leave with him. He escapes and flees to Father Peter, who has a letter for him. He has been made a partner in Mr Sinclair’s hotel. He is being brought into the family.
John meets Claudia in Central Park. He is leaving on private business. She begs to go with him but he tells her to wait for him. John visits Seth, who asks if he has found love. John says he has found passion. John tells Seth of a dream he had where Seth was a woman named Margaret. John returns to find Claudia distraught. Her father has received a letter that has caused him to revoke his permission to marry and to remove John from his new position. It is a letter from Maribelle. She claims that John seeks out and seduces the woman in the household who holds the most power in order to advance his own position. John dreams that the love of his life shoots him in the head.
John returns to Father Padric’s church during services. He shoots Maribelle He is arrested, jailed, and sentenced to death. Claudia visits him and tells him that these do not need to be his final days—no harm was done. She is willing to help him escape. He sends her away. Another visitor comes later—it is not Claudia but Maribelle. She was not killed by the shot. John asks Maribelle to look after the child that Claudia bears.
Jonathan Harnisch, the author, describes through his own personal experiences what it is like to be a schizoaffective individual and how he has taken charge of his own life and overcome many of the challenges his disorders have forced him to face.