The Semi-coherent Ramblings Of A Forced Shut-in By Brian Polk

“Chieftain” by Ali Hoff

This Pandemic Has Gone On Too Long And I Can’t Hold A Steady Train Of Thought:
The Semi-coherent Ramblings Of A Forced Shut-in
By Brian Polk
Art By Ali Hoff
Published Issue 084, December 2020

It was at that moment I realized I hadn’t said anything funny in two days. I wasn’t battling demons as much as succumbing to ennui, which made sense. This was a pandemic and I was collecting boredom like some of my friends collect records or burnt bridges. But I knew my fortunes were trending downward the night my roommate tried to convert me to Qanon. “Hmm,” I said, because up until that moment I had successfully been able to ignore him. But that was the last night I saw the guy, since he moved out the next day. His parting note just said, “Believe.” I doubt he’ll ever know how tall of an order that really is.

The neighbors changed the password on the WiFi again, so now I’m back to sitting outside the library until I can crack it. My parents told me to stop calling them. “You depress us,” they said. Can’t blame ‘em. Actually, yes I can. The melding of DNA created this brain, so I suppose it’s all their fault. In our last conversation I tried to think of something funny to say, but, well now we’re back to the beginning, aren’t we?

My girlfriend quit drinking a week before she left me. I’d like to think the two weren’t connected, but … actually, never mind. Do you ever think about blasphemy? What a weird sin to be smote for. “Smote,” is that right? Smited? If I had access to internet right now, I would look that up. I always like to think I’ll remember to follow up on things like that, but I never do. I guess I’ll never know. It’s okay, I’ve never really been religious anyway.

I think at this point most people succumb to self-pity. But that just seems like a lot of work. I don’t think I think enough about my existence to pity myself, so yeah, I won’t be doing that. Of course, I don’t know what the hell else I’m supposed to do. That reminds me of the rabbit I keep seeing in my front yard. So much of his life is spent just being aware of his surroundings so he doesn’t get eaten. And here I am worried about WiFi and not having enough energy for self-pity. Oh, the thoughts the brain will come up with when it’s not worried about being eaten.

Speaking of thoughts. I was in a plane once and the turbulence shook us so intensely I thought I was going to die. It surprised me how much I actually wanted to not die. I guess you get attached to things when you have to be alive every day — like certain TV shows, having drinks with friends, or clean sheets. Damn it, that reminds me: I haven’t done laundry in three weeks. I’ve even resorted to wearing my underwear inside out. I’m not embarrassed by that, but I’m sure it’s going to start to smell soon. Though I suppose everyone’s already wearing a mask, so what the fuck matters?

When I first brought home my houseplants, I felt like a god, because I got to decide which ones would live and which would die. Then I felt like an inadequate god, because they all died — not from a misguided sense of vengeful omnipotence, mind you, but from sheer forgetfulness. I wonder if there is a God and He or She or It forgot about us? And that’s why [motions wildly] you know, all this. What if God forgot about Himself? Would He cease to exist? Is that what Nietzsche meant when he said, “God is dead?” That divine self-forgetfulness is suicide? That’s probably why self-care is so important, because when you forget about yourself, you figuratively forget you exist. And then you might as well be dead, just like God.

That reminds me of a religious story my grandfather’s gardener used to tell me when I played outside in the backyard: “Jesus had a half-brother named Enrique Christ, who Mary begot with her first husband, Terrance,” the gardener said as he pointed at me with a trowel. “An underachiever, Enrique didn’t assist his younger brother with his ministry, having only seen one of his sermons live. Jesus didn’t have time to think about his brother’s absence much when he was on earth, but once he died, he began to harbor resentment. In fact, when Enrique got to the gates of Heaven, he had to knock for hours before Jesus bothered answering. That’s when the two had a genuine heart-to-heart where they both confessed to being less-than-perfect brothers. It was touching.”

Whenever I stop drinking for more than five days in a row, I think, “So this is what my sober friends tell me I’m missing?” It makes me think I’m missing something. The days are getting shorter, the nights colder. It makes me wonder if I’m on someone’s List of People To Kill. I sure hope not. But what about other lists? Like, List of People I Would Sleep With If I Didn’t Have This Marriage Hanging Around My Neck. Or, List of People Who I Would Give My Money To If I Died. Though I suppose that last list is known as a “will.” I wonder if I’m on any of those.

That’s as far as I can take it during this turbulent era. As far into my brain as I want to go tonight. There’s just too much to think about at a time when thinking is at a premium. But I, for one, will not cease biding my time until I can get my thoughts straight — or at least think of something funny to say.


Brian Polk is a Denver-based writer, publisher of The Yellow Rake, and drummer for Joy Subtraction and Simulators. He’s the author of Placement of Character and Turning Failure into Ideology. He likes writing, muck raking, yellow journalism, zines not blogs, cheap booze and punk rock.


Ali Hoff is a UK-based freelance concept artist and 3D Modeller.

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