The problem in my head started on the flight to Gimpo Airport, South Korea, just a sort of mental static, but static with a purpose. I slept uneasily, woke up at landing, groggy and confused, barely able to make it through baggage and onto the train to Pohong. The static got worse on the three hour train ride, worse because it became more clear, a voice: "No...no," gently insistent,"no...no, you are going the wrong way. Turn back, it's wrong." I'd never heard voices before so you can imagine how freaked I was, though it calmed me to recall Oliver Sacks' revelation in his book Hallucinations that hearing voices was considered normal until the Freudian age produced a more restrictive definition of "sanity," and Julian Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral mind (1976) which posits that everyone heard voices in ancient times, and that these voices were either telepathic, or not.
The cab in Pohong took me to my place, two flights up to a single room with a mattress on the floor. I could not sleep so at 1:00am I set out on the streets. I headed west- the giant oil port to my left- up and down low hills crammed with shuttered shops and quiet homes. I tried to send mental communiqués to Gregory and Anthony back in L.A. but they fizzled. I wrote texts (which they did not answer). Here are a few I saved:
"I'm getting increasingly intense signals that the Korea idea was...."
Paranoia arose in my gut. A few late night workers were on the sidewalks, and their furtive glances inspired a growing terror. When dawn arrived I was at the central market near the docks, where tens of thousands of crabs, eels and fish were brought alive from small fishing boats to old women, preparing, in the case of the eels, to make an ultimate hell of their last moments on earth. The eel-women sat with one basket on their left filled with intact, fresh black eels, writhing in fear. The women would pick up one eel at a time, hook its flesh with a scalpel-like implement, then pull down to flay it alive, drop the skin in a pile at their feet and toss the body into a basket on their right, where it joined a growing pile of pink worms writhing in agony. I watched this for a while, until the hostile thoughts of the flaying women joined the chaos in my head. I had an image of becoming an eel, of one of the women grabbing me, hooking my skin, tearing it off.
I may have screamed. I may have run. Somehow I got back to my small room to hide until I had a better plan. Did I calm down? Did I sleep? I do know I wrote because I found this in my handwriting, an apparent attempt to re-establish my identity in the face of intrusion:
I want to fuse poetry and prose and forget the artifice of rhyming and meter but also avoid the sloth of stream of consciousness, as we call undisciplined expression that wanders in a circular path, circular thought being suspect because it produces nothing new, just the same question and answer over and over, but meditation can employ circular thoughts with variable centers, for instance I'm asking a circular question, "What is an atom?", asking it over and over, but in the center of this circle is an atom, what the Greeks surmised could not be cut because it’s the smallest thing, yet smallness is not what I seek nor inability to be cut, I just seek the center of my thought and I can only visualize a center if I think in circles for circles have centers and lines do not and while circling I had a new idea about the atom at the center of my thought: It is an atom from my body and it contains my pre-birth memory, and unless I approach this atom and access my memory, I won't know who or what I am or what I come from, or where I'm going, because we have lost our memory- by “we” I mean the conscious network on the surface of this globe and in particular the part called human that proclaims its self-awareness. We are proud of the apex we imagine we’ve attained and yet we have no memory, as no one older than two years has a memory of being a baby because one presumes being a baby is so different from everything after that it cannot be remembered, and the center of my circular thought is that we humans have no memory of what we were and in fact have less memory of that than we have of being a baby because we see daily evidence of babyhood and its preface in sperm and egg yet we see nothing of what we derived from before the birth moment, so as I continue to wander in this circle ever mindful that scorn attaches to a wandering mind that wanders too long without “results” I squint and try to focus on the center of my thought and think I see an atom that multiplied many times makes up the atoms of my whole self, and each atom in isolation contains the hologram of my memory, the memory I seek but as those mystics we call particle physicists find that particles do not submit easily to our glance because our communal particle consciousness creates an interference pattern with the memory of the solitary particle, which we deem not conscious anyway (and by thus deeming close the door to its memory) so circling circling it’s gone! I can’t do it I can only guess and wonder if I should put on saffron robes or live my life and get “results” some other way because I can’t answer the question at the center of my thought and I am barred entrance to my own memory.
I don't recall getting on the train to Seoul, but I did, and that evening I was back in the Gangnam District, still struggling to quiet my mind. I was finally able to call Gregory and Anthony; they were in turmoil too. The three of us were battling ferocious internal voices claiming we had made a mistake, countered now by other voices claiming that we had made no mistake, that the doubting voices were tricks from our enemies.
I remember standing before a modest beige facade with a blue neon sign in English: Whiskey Club. It seemed so inviting, so safe; I went in. The decor was classy. Several men, some American, some Korean, in evening jackets and beautiful Korean women dressed in long gowns chatted at a shiny black bar. I took a seat. A stunning woman, whom someone who didn't have my problem with perfection (Ch. 6) might call "perfection," brought me a menu. It listed dozens of whiskeys, by the bottle. I pointed to the first one and asked the price. She said, "$600," and then I knew I was in a place I did not properly understand, at the same time that I didn't understand the head I was in either. What happened to the $5,000 Gregory had stuffed in my wallet? Confusion within confusion, and to make it worse, my next memory is of a Korean woman sitting naked on the edge of a hotel bed. She is speaking to me. She says, "They know about you. Be careful."
The phone rings. Gregory says, "They tricked us. It's on. Come home."
I hate when that happens.