Chapter 8 of Tally: An Intuitive Life, All Things That Matter Press
At PJ’s the three convened to work on Tender Branch [an excerpt of PJ’s account of his “death and renascence” in mid-life]. Whenever Rogue and I talked about PJ’s invented words, odd style and his way of separating sentences with three dots, PJ looked annoyed. Rogue was curious about PJ’s “new” words, engaging in word play with him, while I tended to accept them whole.
It was hot inside his apartment, with only a fan to cool the three of us, and when we were almost finished editing, Rogue and I decided to go outside and enjoy the day. PJ, reluctantly, let us go.
Coming back from the park, PJ met us on the corner and ambled back with us to the street-level door. Rogue waved and went on his way. I followed PJ upstairs.
“Rogue is deliberately taking you away from the work,” he fumed, “because he does not want The Old Man to accomplish anything.” He went on to say that Rogue wanted him to remain handicapped and helpless. “The Company, he could see, would never work, because Rogue was determined to subvert it.”
I assured him that Rogue said he would finish the typing later that night. But PJ felt Rogue would find some reason not to do it. “He’ll find one excuse or another, because it has never been his intention to help PJ.”
His assault on Rogue appalled me. If he kept harassing Rogue, wouldn’t he leave?
As soon as Rogue came back, PJ attacked him. Rogue shrugged it off. He took the pages home to type. Leaving PJ’s apartment, he and I agreed that it was “all exhausting.”
PJ said that Rogue was attracted to handicapped people. In PJ, the handicap was his age and illness, his “decrepit body.”
I received a letter from PJ:
The old man gave the kids their freedom after dinner and came to his squalor, was lonely, far too, went out into a light drizzle. Sixth Avenue had become a street theater. Couple guitarists, amplified, and a wailing sounding instrument were blasting country music; seated in a shelter, a large circle had gathered for audience and the guitar case was full of coins and bills. Good for the old man. He could hear every note, feel the rhythm. A young woman in street clothes danced, her feet, body and arms punctuating the sound. The old man felt an anguish of pleasure, stayed and watched for an hour.
The dancer was a cripple, at last she took an abandoned cane and shopping bag and limped away. So, we’re the existent dead. Moments of diversion, sound in the rain, then back to our evasion (however) of life. The old man returned to his lonely bed, after pills, with a wish for sleep/death.
“I don’t think you’re one of the existent dead.”
“No,” he said, but at times he experienced it. He handed me several pages.
I read, “Existent death is a phase of variable lengths of time. The existent dead live without consciousness and completely through rationalization, a thought process by which we evade evaluating what is happening in our lives. Everyone goes through periods of existent death, and of being renewed, into times when we are more conscious of what we are doing and pursuing what is valuable to us.”
He wrote what I thought was succinct, with a provocative ending:
Existent death is a state of being in a functioning body, by one’s self and in relation to others, but evading consciousness of experience, especially the memory of eternity in the present instant.
PJ stayed up late cutting the pages and pasting them up for his booklet. Coming in I saw him lying on the bed in a state of exhaustion. At the work table Rogue and I had set up with its strong overhead lamp to aid his poor eyesight, I looked through the pages. Some were slightly crooked, but easily fixed. I had to admire the job he did.
At the bottom of the title page, though, he had cut off the last lines. I told him and he nodded, yes, he thought so. He wasn’t sure, because his eyesight was so poor.
He had asked me to make a number of copies of each page in case he made errors, and I selected the best one of that page and cut it carefully and correctly, aware that he had done this as a professional in his earlier life.
My assistance made him look dejected, but simultaneously hopeful. When I finished he barely glanced at the work, as if to say I know it’s all right, but I couldn’t do it, don’t rub it in. So I moved on quickly. He acted resigned, but as we collated the pages he livened up.
We put the cover on the mock-up and he was enthusiastic again.
“The old man has been thinking we three might promote the publication of PJ’s million words.”
Tender Branch was out, he said, and before that a blurb on “World’s End.” The writer had hundreds of pieces. The three of us could print, bind by hand, and mail them.
He wrote to me:
The old man’s efforts at promoting the writer had been weak, for the lack of concept how to. Tender Branch had shown the way.