Waiting for William S. Burroughs

The thought of leaving me unprotected while a price remained on my head like a glass waiting for William S. Burroughs, prevented John from being at peace in the days before his death. Promising him I’d seek refuge in solitary confinement was the only way to allay his worried mind. Keeping my promise meant total isolation, which, day after day, forced me deeper inside myself. Long-term solitude was made bearable by walking a path in my mind from my cell to my childhood home, over and over and over again. After a while, it became clear to me that most of my life has been lived in protective custody. From birth until age forty, I sheltered in Mom’s protective love. From forty-five to fifty-five, I sheltered in John’s protective love. Since his passing, I’ve been bound to my cell twenty-three hours a day, educating myself and, for the last eighteen months, writing this memoir. Did I lose out on life? I’ll wager the things I’ve lost have been made up for by the things I’ve gained, and if Mom were here, she’d agree. Unlike most parents, she never urged me to find my own way in the world in order to better respect the sacred Western ideal of independence. Under her roof, I was always given the choice to do what I wanted to do, and I chose to stay close to home. She never came right out and said it, but I think she didn’t have a lot of respect for the self-made man trope. In fact, I’m fairly sure she thought it was a crock of shit. After all, she had her reasons for being distrustful of proud, powerful men, like my father.

Aren’t self-made men a lot like unicorns in that they don’t actually exist? Don’t we all become who we are within the sacred bonds of relationships? Don’t we build our selves up by serving the people who serve us? Wouldn’t it take an ignorant fool to answer any of these questions with a no? To paraphrase Rousseau, the greatest liberty is found in obedience to the social contract, yet this simple truth is laughed off as an absurdity by the idiots who fail to see that by the very act of being born they’re fettered by death, which is, of course, the ultimate limiter, the greatest constrainer, the ball and chain of ball and chains. These same idiots who proudly cling to their mythical origin stories, see nothing wrong with claiming to be self-made even in the presence of their own mothers, and what’s more, they’ll puff out their chests while droning on about their inalienable rights and inviolable liberties in a country they say is the greatest on Earth—a country full of the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of teeming shores; the ones who came when Lady Liberty called, only to find nothing much had changed. 

6 thoughts on “Waiting for William S. Burroughs

  1. There is real sadness here. The problem is we focus on the heroes and not the daily struggle to understand and be understood. Let us not write about great battles and elections, rather the quiet conversations into the night between father and daughter, about the passing of relationships, and how we are going to end alone and fully tried by the day. This I believe and this I know. Oh, the glasshouse of WordPress. Duke

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My epitaph: Succumbed, at last, to the Ball n’ Chain of ball n’ chains.
    This mortal coil is not so much a twisted vine about my shoulders as it is mycelium tendrils slithering up my shins, across my thighs, through my groin and into my heart, “you will not escape me, for I have owned you since your first breath.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The connection between his being sheltered from the lies of the world and his present solitary confinement is an interesting one. Many things in life are six of one and half a dozen of the other. His mother loved him and imparted many valuable things, but at the same time it seems like he just couldn’t get through the world in the “typical” way. If a great gift is given on one side of the scale, usually something not so great is on the other side of it.

    Liked by 1 person

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