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Rant #262
(published January 19, 2006)
Things We Need
by Fritz Swanson
Things we need.

We need to move faster.

There is a new nasal spray with a number for a name, and it will make you instantly horny. A million years we've been grinding up the penises of large cats, and the matted hair horns of leathery hided herbivores, and here it is.

(You're impatient. Google it. It's called pt-141.)

The FDA is moving through the final stages of approval. This isn't any kind of lie or metaphor.

Probably you have been, will be, are thinking about puffing away on the nasal inhaler that stimulates the nerve clusters of both male and female brains that make us horny. Right now. As you read this.

There is no time for fiction, or poetry, or trying (to essay, as they say). There is no time for any of it.

Our work will invade our homes, our minds, our lives, and we will demand of ourselves a more efficient orgasm that can be fit in before karate and after piano lessons. We will be studying piano with our children, they looking toward the future, we looking back, as we imagine the bone crushing speed of our heels, our fists, our high-pitched shrieks.

We and our children will be ninjas that can play Chopin.

The work of our lives.

And this is even old, that work should be a burden, that our lives are moving faster. Too fast.

The first story I ever thought I might write was called "Faster." I was thirteen years old, and while I had told stories before that, it was to be my first story, the first real story story I might write, that I might look at and admire, take comfort from, consider a thing to be remembered. It was called "Faster" because, at the age of thirteen, I already knew it was the spirit of our age.

The opening scene was a woman racing down the expressway on what I and my friends referred to as a "crotch rocket." It was a lime green and white Kawasaki motorcycle. She roared down the highway.

She got caught in a traffic jam. (You're impatient already. You want to be done. Can't you wait for me to warm up?)

I had no idea what the story should be about.

I still don't.

I just knew that it should be called "Faster" and that it should be done before I had even started, because the title itself imposed such force, was so perfectly of the moment (that is, exactly the zeitgeist of 1989, as I understood it) that it's nature should link up with the universe, as the hexagrams of the I-Ching are meant to do, and it would just be.

Am is are was were be being been.

It's impossibly passé to mourn the vigorous speed of the now.

Here we are. The Pill is ancient. The bikini has passed its prime. We shall inhale our arousal as easily as we breathe in Shakespeare's, Stein's, rose rose rose.

"The now." What does that even mean?

Needs are immediate, they are now. Therefore, what we need is the closest we can get to understanding the now.

And yet sex is primal, the definition of our lives, the thing which makes us and breaks us. Bacteria, which have no sex, can live indefinitely, on and on and on. But we, frail creatures, are obsolesced by our own burning. We remix each other, and then we pass away. We are in the constant process of making space for our newer forms, our transcendent legacies.

Our need is our present, our past, our future.

And here is this inhaler. And it makes the need faster. Isn't this what we want? Isn't faster the point of need? Isn't NOW the meaning of NEED? Isn't making the brain align with the heart, and with the physical demands of the body an almost spiritually perfect state, finding our true purpose through our absolute control over the body?

I paused thirty seconds and using the online version of the OED I looked up "rat race." Its earliest iteration comes from Mencken, who referred to Jazz dancing as the rat race. It wasn't until 1939 that that meaning was transposed to the workaday struggles of what was then the height, the depth, of Modern Life. (Then modern. Consider the words.)

What we need, we must have, and we must have it now, immediately, at this instant. Food, shelter, a baby to pass it all along to, a tidy middle age, a bit of respect, a pine box and a plot of dirt where we might pass the time until Donne lets loose his piercing horn, a scream as loud as a million ten-year olds karate chopping through the air, and we'll sit up on that last day and we'll see Him descend in His unnumbered wheels of fire.

The now. The once and the future. Here. He descends from above.

I'm trying to be fast about this. You want to get to the point. You want to be done.

I race down the highway, I hug the Kawasaki between my thighs, and there ahead of me, the line of commuters as long and dense as a swarm of African ants looking to eat a baby.

My friend Reg told me once about a Buddhist hell. Coils of snakes, having sex. You see them in the grass, hundreds of them in a knot. You come upon them, and one by one they raise their heads, bemused at the intrusion, both stuck together in their copulation, but also staying wary, worried that a hawk might swoop down and eat them, one by one, or the entire knot at once. Their needs in perfect balance.

In this particular Buddhist hell, replace the snakes with people, millions of people, all in an unending knot, all having sex together, no way to untangle, no way to find beginnings or endings, heads or tails (as it were). And all desperately afraid that they won't orgasm, can't finish, desperately afraid that death is coming, or that they will be pulled away before the final gasp. And they just keep going at it.

And they never stop.

What single idea can I latch on to, draw out for you, show to you again as if for the very first time? We want orgasms. We want to look at our spouse, our lover, a stranger, anyone, and feel that burning that bacteria will never know, because if we don't feel it, then what was the point? The bacteria are the other Adam and the other Eve. They live in that pre-lapserian world. They did not take on the knowledge of their own nakedness, the pain of child bearing, the grunting sweating desire.

We gave that immortality up. We gave up the endless unblinking division of bacterial life. We traded that simple perfection for these brief moments of exalted feeling. We traded forever for now. This is what we got.

We got this instant.

This period.


The inhaler will give us now whenever we want. And I wonder, isn't that something like the endless perfection of bacterial life. Is now now if it is anytime?

Is the bliss of Eden, the unending perfection, a long and unbroken orgasm? Did we give up a forever orgasm in order to experience it only sporadically, and to spend our lives fighting to come back to it again and again and again? Is our science, our life, our energy all devoted to bringing us back to the endless orgasm?

Is the Resurrection an endless orgasm?

Is that what we wait for, in those boxes in the dirt?

And why all the karate? Why the Kawasakis and the Chopin? Why tell the stories, and divide the world up into all of these little bits of fluff? Why all of the roses? Why all the rushing about, filing paper work, sweating over what the boss has said or not said? Why the rat race, the sweaty dance of Modern Life?

Is that what we need? Is this what we need?

I am bored with now. You are bored with now. It's just more of the same. And that's the bacterial way of life that we forsook in that metaphor where we ate apples and watched the sun set, a flaming sword. We walked away from same, so that we could have different. We gave up bliss, so that we could have McDonalds, so that we could come to hate our world, so that we could come to despise ourselves, so that we could work harder for less satisfaction, and drive each other apart, the divisions so old and deep and painful we can barely muster the energy for perfunctory sex twice a year.

We chose this path. Because we knew, as bacteria somehow we knew, that bliss unending was worse than pain broken occasionally by bliss.

And I don't know why we believed that. But that's what we chose. Bemoaning the choice was also part of the deal. She came to me with the apple, and I said, well, what the hell, it's the only one I haven't tried. And now I've tried everything. And I want to start untrying things.

And that's where we get this nasal inhaler.

You'll be able to go buy one soon, and I will too. And eventually everyone will have one, and at a certain point, we will all be puffing. Perhaps in one instant, the planet will align, and we will all puff the inhaler at the exact same instant, a perfect and unending now. We'll be dazed, wondering out into the streets, and there will be ninjas wreathed in fire, their guitars pulsing out deep and unbending power cords, and they will all be riding Kawasakis as an eternal honor guard.

Jesus will descend playing his ebony grand piano.

And we'll all see each other. And everyone will turn to everyone else on, and even the dead will rise again, and there we will return to the bliss of God's benevolent gaze.

We will have returned to the perfect now. We will have become bacteria again, eternal.

Jesus will smile and karate chop his way through another set.

And we'll all be coiled together, the whole of the human race, sex that never ends.

Heaven on earth.

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