It looked like I had just pulverized my pet hamster with a spatula. I had lost count of the number of times this had happened, given that it was a daily affair. I sighed. My neighbor was at it again. He had thrown a dead rat into my balcony. I never really understood why he did that. It was covered in a white coat made from a paper napkin carelessly folded using the Japanese art of Origami. It even had a cross scrawled on the left breast of the white coat with a red Sharpie.
That it was a harmless habit was obvious. Nevertheless it was grotesque. I lived in Apartment 2A in House 46 on Upper Baggot Street. He lived in Apartment 2B. Everyone on our floor and the one below hated him. He balanced out the equation by hating them back. I didn't hate him. I disliked him a lot. I think he tolerated me because I didn't yell back. Despite his annoying habits of throwing dead rats dressed as hospital orderlies into my balcony, or randomly yelling at the stars in the sky in the middle of the night, I found his freedom to do as he pleased infectious and alarming. I guess that is why he took certain liberties with me. Also because, I didn't yell back like the others. He would throw dead rodents into the other balconies around as well, and get into yelling matches. One time he threw a dead rat, rather dexterously, through the open exhaust window into the house diagonally below his. The misadventure came with disastrous results. The Serbian whose house he had lobbed the rodent into, came up and rained blows to his gut all the while yelling abuses in Serbian leaving him more dead than alive.
Mrs. Petrovsky, who lived in Apartment 3B in front of my house, always cursed him and told me to stand up to him. 'I yelled at him once, and the bastard has never thrown anything outside my door,' she said last Saturday. Sunday morning she had found a very ripe Salmon nailed to her door. She had run off screaming into the Superintendent's office. The monstrosity was removed within an hour. And even though there was no proof of him doing it we all knew it was him. She had confined herself indoors after that.
Everyone called him Ben. He was in his mid-sixties and was the resident lunatic. I didn't know his real name. No one did I suppose. The superintendent told me, he had been a quiet man, keeping to himself. The dead rat experiments had begun only a few weeks before I had moved in. Occasionally, when I stood in my balcony smoking a cigarette with my hands resting across the railings, I would spot him walking in the garden below, furiously muttering expletives to no-one-knows-who. He carried with him a leather Filofax. It had the letters A.M. emblazoned in gold on it. The thickness of the Filofax, varied. Sometimes it bulged like the bellies of the fat trout that were sold along the docklands. At other times it was thin and wispy like the hair of a cancer patient who had undergone radiation therapy to kill the tumor. He always carried it with him like a security blanket. One day I saw him sitting in the garden talking to his hair. Another day he was sitting behind a shrub hidden away from peering eyes and masturbating. For someone with such strange habits it wasn't surprising that the people in the building called him insane. He wasn't criminally insane. I am not sure though. It is a big city. There are tons of freaks here. For all you know he could jump into my shower with a meat cleaver and slice me in two and carve me up like the ripe salmon on Mrs. Petrovsky's door. And probably even nail me there. I confess I have had that thought more than once while taking a shower. Thankfully he never did that. Also if he did it its obvious I wouldn't be telling this tale.
I went into the balcony after I had heard (and seen) the rodent land precariously with a plop. I knew I never yelled at him, but seeing the bashed head of the rat I was tempted to change my own rules as the habit was getting on my nerves. The red cross on the coat was a first. I could see the smudged cross glisten from a distance. It signified something new. Whilst I was readying myself mentally to clear it off the floor and throw it into the bin downstairs, I heard conscientious shouts coming from his apartment. I dropped all ideas of dealing with the rat and ran back out of my apartment into the corridor. All the neighbors were already peering out of their apartments. Mrs. Petrovsky crossed herself repeatedly. The building supervisor was there. There were three orderlies in white coats standing by his side patiently. Ben was walking out of his apartment quietly with the leather Filofax tucked under his arm. He had barely gotten into the corridor when his eyes fell upon Mrs. Petrovsky. He glared at her, pulled his tongue out and broke into a comical laugh. On him it looked scary. Then he punched the air forcefully and shouted 'Forza!' and 'Viva La Revolución' and broke out into a round of 'Air Guitar' playing. I could swear I heard him hum Sanatorium by Metallica.
Sanatorium, leave me be
Sanatorium, just leave me alone...
After he had finished his air guitar performance he looked up hoping to find adulation in the form of screaming young fans, but instead met my eyes. He stared at me hard trying to decipher me, as we do the Sphinx of Egypt. A moment later something in him jolted him out of his trance. He broke off his security cordon and came running to me and handed me the leather Filofax. The orderlies and the Superintendent rushed behind him and formed a circle around him again. He made no gestures after that and began walking quietly. Just once, as he was near the landing of the floor he turned behind looked in my direction and winked. He cocked the fingers of his right hand to form a gun and proceeded to take a shot at me making a clicking sound. Then accosted by the orderlies and the superintendent he was gone. The neighbours stared at me as though the curse of the madness had passed over to me from him. Ignoring their looks that bore into me, I ran back into the balcony and saw him being led into a white van. Volkswagen of course. The sun shone on the white paint blurring the name of the hospital. I made out the words 'Hill' and 'Sanatorium' on it. He once again looked up as he was getting into the van and screamed something incomprehensible in my direction. Then the van sped away. A few moments later the Superintendent came up and informed me that he had checked himself into a Sanatorium. 'He says, 'Man is his own worst enemy. The only way out is saving myself, from myself, for myself.'
Back indoors I stared at the leather Filofax with the initials A.M. embossed in gold on it, lying on the sofa. Curiously enough I began reading it.
THE MADNESS TRACTATE
'I don't like people who pretend to be sane. This world is full of rats. Fat rats, thin rats, pack rats and lonely rats. They all build mazes and run from one maze to another. We are our own worst enemies. We always have been. You know, once the King wanted to go fishing. When he went to the river it began raining heavily. He came back and yelled at the royal weatherman. The weatherman blamed the Rain God. The king forgave the weatherman and performed a prayer ritual to appease the Rain God. The weatherman saved his ass.
Do you see it now? How absurd all this is? We believe in Rain Gods. Rain is a biological process. Evaporation...Condensation...Precipitation. And we say the Rain God did it. Fuck man, how can we be so stupid? We are all rats. I fear for sanity. These rats take away the sanity of the people calling them insane. They chain them. Coerce them into believing in Rain Gods and other whatnots. Build mazes. Quantify and collate data. Stacks and stacks of information piles. Data mined and analysed. And then they fuck it up by saying the Rain God did it. Fuck.
'Sex, sex, sex and don't forget the violence. This is the new shit. Stand up and admit.'
This is a nice song it says so much. Stand up and admit, we are fucking rats in fucking white coats. They put straight jackets on us. I am telling you I have found a loophole in this maze. The bug in their quantified and collated data – INSANITY. It is the only sane thing. Madness. It allows us to be free. That is why we are locked up. We signify freedom. We don't conform to the mazes. It is all quantified, remember. We are the unquantifiable. We are the legions of the free. We are the order to their disorder. Everything is in order. You are in order. This court room is in order. Where is my order? Burger, fries and Coke. Order, order. Madness is disorder. Where is the law and order? We all want to play along the borders. We re not in order.
Because sometimes a rat might get clever and ask questions. They don't like it. Every time the white coats came for me, I bashed their heads in and tossed them into the graveyard. My neighbor has a graveyard. These rats are insane. They pretend to be sane. They make other rats conform to their mazes They are the constructors of the maze. I will kill them all.
This is the year of the Dragon. I have written this code. This manual of survival. For you will need it when the revolution comes. It will help you survive. I am going to write it once again – in saliva and spit and semen covering the walls of the sanatorium in invisible ink. Beware of their sanity. Beware of their ability to quantify and collate data. Beware of the rats in white coats. I am a patient to them. But I am also their doctor. #24278688. Save this for the future. This is the key to the future. She is the key to the future. Read it all from the start to end. Hide it from the fucking white coats. They will come for it. Outwit these fucking rats in their fucking white coats. Outwit the fucking Rain God. I am not going to be quantified and collated. I will not be stacked and mined. Don't be a fucking rat. REMEMBER – THE WHITE COATS ARE COMING.
Find A.M. She has the key.
Whisper things into my brain
Assuring me that I'm insane...
None of it made sense to me. This was the first page. The leather Filofax bulged. Some of the pages were numbered, others were not. It was going to be a long day today. And I wasn't sure I would be in control of my sanity by the time I was done reading it. The dead rat dressed as the hospital orderly in the white coat made of a paper napkin folded using the Japanese technique of Origami, with the red cross on its left breast made with a Sharpie would have to wait. Ben had warned me about them – Fucking rats in their fucking white coats and their quantified and collated data that could be mined and analyzed. I had to outwit them.
I lit a cigarette and began reading.