Sunday Stories: Insanity & the Russian Doll Conundrum


Insanity & the Russian Doll Conundrum
An excerpt from Doctor, I Don’t Wanna Be Crazy Anymore

by Justin Maurer

Good afternoon, Doctor, nice to see you too.  How am I doing?  Well, last night I watched the film American Psycho with my girlfriend and it really got me into a rut.  Why?  Well, first off, the screenplay seemed smug.  I could tell that the film was based on the book, and actually I’m sure the book is alright, but the film really bothered me.  First off, I have been to the brink of sanity, or I’d like to think that I have nearly gone insane.  Let’s just be honest, I have been very close to going insane. Girls have driven me crazy, and I drive myself crazy. Inside my mind I’m my worst enemy.

Christian Bale, the young, buff, sanctimoniously cool guy was not convincing as a crazy man.  As Batman, Christian Bale did alright, but to really be insane you have to despise yourself.  You have to look in the mirror and hate everything you see.  You have to be thinking, Oh my God, I can’t stand my face, I can’t stand myself, so I should kill myself or kill someone else. Christian Bale’s character loved himself but despised others; I suppose that’s what was supposed to make his character so despicable.  The thing that makes me sick was not the movie; but that all fiction is based on fact.  Guys like that really exist.  Real motherfuckers who work in finance, snort coke, go on holiday to Thailand where they fuck twelve-year-old prostitutes.  It’s depressing.  Maybe I’m paranoid. I know there are good and bad people in all professions. I am desperately trying to restore my fading belief in humanity.

A couple years back I lived down the street from one of the financial centers of the world, the square mile that’s known as the City of London.  The amount of money that some of these people earn would really make you sick.  I’m not against a well-paying profession, I’m just against five point five billion people starving while the other point five jet set off to Dubai to drink cocktails and seal the deal with some hotel baron.  It’s disgusting, Doctor.  And while I know I can’t do anything about it, it really swells in me like a tumor on the inside.  I don’t want to be disappointed in the human race; I really want to believe in it.  I’d like to believe that the shadow cannot exist without the sun, and that we are sixty percent good and forty percent evil.  We’re made up of all these common elements, like water and hydrogen, so how can a ball of water, hydrogen, oxygen, and bone grow up to be an acquisitions attorney?

I try not to be judgmental of others; I don’t want to be a monk in a remote cave somewhere.  I like civilization, I like cities, I like people; there being six billion of us, surely there will be people and professions that I don’t like.  I don’t want to oversimplify my beliefs, because for example, it really scares my girlfriend.  She thinks that I don’t ever want a career, one job that I choose for the rest of my life.  She knows I was happy as a musician, traveling the globe and earning nothing, but playing every night, meeting people, drinking, experiencing other cultures.  Of course I loved it.  But it wasn’t a sustainable life to lead.  I fell really badly in debt.  I drank too much.  I couldn’t hold down a job or apartment or relationship, at the expense of being addicted to adventure.

Sitting in an office for me is such a downer.  It’s such a measure of defeat; for me it is an act of submission to the way things are. To be ineffectual and actively pursue something that you don’t believe in, prostituting yourself while someone you probably haven’t even met gets all of the profits from the time you have sacrificed forty hours a week for your entire life.  I guess the only way to beat your enemy is to know your enemy, and yes, I’ve read The Art of WarKnow your enemy better then you know your friends. That’s the problem, though.  I’m such an adaptable person that I’m worried I’ll start to act like my enemies, walk like them, talk like them.  I’m a skilled actor.  I could infiltrate enemy lines, but I think they could always see in my manner, my tousled hair, my ripped up clothes, the madness in my eyes, that I could never be one of them. But what if I was? What if I am one of them?

Now Doctor, we all have had fantasies that involved some kind of violence.  Especially males with all the testosterone flowing.  As cavemen we used to be able to beat and maul our opponents.  As civilized human beings restrained by laws created to protect ourselves we can only imagine our adversary being hit by a bus or having his face smashed into a thousand pieces by our fists.  I’m not a violent or angry person, but the other day I imagined a saw blade spinning through the air and decapitating scores of these horrendous people. I have fantasies like that on a regular basis.

So last night I got the feeling that I used to have as a boy. The same feeling I used to have at six years old, “meditating” under the kitchen table when my parents were arguing.  Last night I got all tight in my chest and very distant from my beautiful girlfriend.  I so wanted to tell her how I felt, but I couldn’t say it without explaining all of the dismantling of Russian doll upon Russian doll inside my turbulent mind.  I merely said that I didn’t like the movie and I thought the screenplay was smug.  You’re getting in a mood, she said, quite accurately.

It doesn’t bother me if my girlfriend finds Christian Bale attractive, but it does bother me when she enjoys women being mistreated by men in films.  Sometimes girls subconsciously want to be ordered around and talked down to, so they love seeing other women treated like shit.  I don’t think they realize that if someone close to them were to treat them in this way, they would be quite upset.  But they find a male egomaniac in a film attractive.  It’s a fluctuating sensitivity. Wish it would go away.

All that I know is that I want to understand.  I want to get in and out of my own mind, I want to know why I am the way I am.  I can tell you these things, Doctor, because you’re a professional.

Justin Maurer is a writer and musician living in California.  His first book, Don’t Take Your Life, came out on Future Tense Books.  In March his next book, Doctor, I Don’t Wanna Be Crazy Anymore, will be published on the Vol. 1 Brooklyn imprint, Julius Singer Press.