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Amber Paulen

Ballast Overboard

In short, I am an idle fellow who pisses his time away. I have absolutely nothing to show for my labors except my genius. But there comes a time, even in the life of an idle genius, when he has to go to the window and vomit up the excess baggage. If you are a genius you have to do that—if for no other reason than to build a little comprehensible world of your own which will not run down like an eight-day clock! — Henry Miller, Third or Fourth day of Spring

Ballast overboard! Today all that I have thought is false and all I disagree with is true. No, I can’t sustain that; I would give myself away too soon, a traitor in the enemy’s camp, a punk in Gucci, they wouldn’t even let me in, I’m a horrible liar. No, it’s best to just forget about it… but that’s what I have been doing. Or maybe, it’s the heat. Heat has the most marvelous way of making one, lazy. Like a tranquilizer, so easily determined, there’s nothing left to do.

Leave industry to the Germans! Let the English lock themselves in office buildings! All watches are Swiss made! This is supine weather, inscrutably Mediterranean… finally! Please summer burn into me! Melt me into this plastic seat!

If summer is not the best time to extract the excess baggage—though I am no genius—than it must be spring. But summer is good enough. Thoughts, ideas, like clothes with the tags still on them, what good are they to me! Along with the meal I just ate, out the window, over the side, half-chewed words and rank ideas. See how it lands in that woman’s hair, she absently brushes the chunk out as she would were it a fly.

I must. Before I go any further. Before I continue to venture down the impenetrable hole. The rest of this day I will spend puking— down by the lake, to be sure.

But when I walk down to the lake I’m always thinking of sentences like this:

Women haven’t had eyes for themselves. They haven’t gone exploring in their house. Their sex still frightens them. Their bodies, which they haven’t dared to enjoy, have been colonized. Woman is disgusted by woman and fears her. —Hélène Cixous, Sorties

When I go down to the lake I always bring a book.

Maybe the best way to get rid of the excess baggage, besides sticking a finger down my throat, would be to get smashingly and stupidly drunk. But I don’t think that’s what Henry Miller meant, or maybe he did, how do I know? I do know that at some point there should come some relief. Ultimately, and for now, I am saved: there is heat.

Somedays I think about what a horrible idea it was to begin writing a book. On these days, the temptation to consider that work ballast to be thrown overboard is incredible. None-the-less, I keep plodding on.


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