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Autobiographical Fragments

P.J. Blumenthal

Unless there’s magic
the end will be tragic

Body and Soul



am a watcher. There are many of us. As the name implies, we watch. We watch, but you don’t see us. We watch everything you can imagine and many things you cannot. Nothing happens on your frequency that we cannot see. There is nothing you do that we do not know.

If this sounds tedious, this watching, you are right—at least theoretically. Sometimes the predictability, the measurability of the events on your frequency exacerbates the task, strains our interest—at least theoretically. What seems complex to you is for us a simple quantitative calculation. We see through it all. Every kink is familiar to us. This one daydreams about doing violence; that one plays the hidden enemy; and some touch things, with one hand first then the other for fear of harm or loss of teeth or rashes or death of loved ones. Your most cherished sexual secrets: all old hat to us, your fetishes, your worship of body parts, your denials, your poisoned desires. We have seen, yes SEEN it all. All of it tiresome when grasped as mathematical conformity. Quantity pretending to diversity and complexity. Altering the base of computation by one power or two or any number of powers and we easily follow the predictable course of any convolution.

You see none of this or maybe some but rarely enough to make sense of it as we do. But you are not entirely to blame. It is the law of your frequency.

And yet, what we watch NEVER bores us when we are on duty, and we are always on duty. On the contrary, we are moved by it—to use a word that might suggest how we experience things. What we watch moves us. Literally.

It is pity that binds us to you. No self-satisfying or self-serving pity. Our pity is a force that shackles us to your frequency. We cannot leave, no matter how painful our existence. As if we were plodding along the ocean floor, the weight of the waters of your world bearing down on us heavily. That is the burden we take upon ourselves to be near you and that is how we have been living for so long that, expressed in years, you would scoff in disbelief.

We are pity’s prisoners. Sounds strange? Then you have not understood yet, confusing your language with ours.

We have been away from home so long we hardly remember it. The density of your frequency has made us forget much about our origins. Sometimes we have trouble recalling why we are here. No, most of the time.

Perhaps you are wondering how this message is reaching you. Well, it is like dictation only whispered. It is the only way. Otherwise we have no common language, you and us, and you would hear none of this.

Please understand. I am an independent existence. And yet I always depend on an agent on your frequency to communicate with you.

My agent may not be aware that I exist. What I dictate he assumes are his own ideas, his own experiences. I prefer it that way—even when he calls it “divine inspiration,” though such nomenclature can cause confusion.

Some imagine themselves in contact with the other world. As if the dead spoke through the living. Ha!

My dictation has nothing to do with any of that.

Once again: only watchers may speak through you. There are no exceptions. Other voices are neither divine nor inspired. Let’s be honest. Who else would want to speak to you, really?!

Would you like to sit on the bottom of the sea conversing with the fish?

We don’t either.

Watchers watch you because we have to. It is our punishment.


He has fallen asleep. I shall take over. This is not the first time. I fear it won’t be the last. He is suffering. Sometimes I see him slouching in his chair or stretched out on his bed staring mercilessly at his hands, asking: Why? I feel pity for him and want to solace him. But he won’t hear me. He is hunting for what he calls “insight” but cannot grasp it, searching for meaning but finding nothing meaningful.

Last week he made a first flirting foray at self-annihilation. I knew he wouldn’t go through with it, but the fact that his despair had taken him that far . . .

He was in the bathtub, contemplating his face in a hand mirror before shaving. I recognized the disdain. I have become familiar with all his expressions. He was studying his face intensely; music streaming into the room from the record player: Beniamino Gigli singing Nessun dorma, his emotions amplified by that voice. Then he unscrewed the stem from the razor and removed the blade; he perused it curiously. I recognized the shadow of fear on his face. His arms sank slowly into the water. I sensed the danger, wanted to intercede, but I am helpless at such moments. I cannot interfere directly. For a while he just flirted with the danger, lightly pressing the dull edge of the blade to his wrist. I could see that he was goading himself. Then, carefully but decisively, he guided the corner of the blade to his skin, inhaled slowly and exerted pressure – ever so slightly. He twitched. A thin thread of red curled into the water, forming a fraying cloud that dispersed around his belly. He smiled briefly, as if satisfied with this small success, but he was clearly shocked. Scrupulously he placed the blade back into the razor and screwed on the stem. All was quiet. Gigli too had gone silent. He sat motionless in the tub. Then he raised his arms out of the water, balled his hands into fists and punched at the surface.

I focused my pity on him, hoping to influence him. But that is only possible when he is at peace with himself or sleeping.

I don’t think he’s the sort who might destroy himself, but one is never certain. Circumstances can always drive a person to unexpected fury. Still, if the flirt had really turned to an irrevocable passion, his first words to me, when he finally became aware of my presence, would have been the mute scream we know here all too well: the Horror of Recognition. That is what we call that moment of understanding when a new arrival first experiences clarity on our frequency after an act of self-inflicted violence. I have witnessed it many times, and it is always horrible. Each time I tremble with pity. I have never gotten used to it and never will. They quiver with the Horror of Recognition. No amount of pity—which flows spontaneously and amply from us—ccan fill the unbearable vacuum triggered by the Horror of Recognition. The new arrival remains an open wound long, longer than you can imagine.

We are never hopeless. We always see solutions. We only perceive moments in time that flow logically, one into another.

Self-annihilators recognize the solutions that had gone unnoticed. But that recognition comes too late. Desperately they struggle to regain the bodies abandoned, but these are on another frequency, as if at the bottom of an ocean. None return to them again. That is why we call this moment the Horror of Recognition.


And suddenly the pain became unbearable. Emotions emanated from me like colors refracting through a prism, so fast at first I could not identify them. Pain and joy lay side by side like lamb and lion in a paradise tableau, heat to heat. Anger raged through me. Not anger at anyone or anything but anger pure and unformed, wild and savage, yet at peace with its world, anger accrued like savings; and now it had found its proper venue, like when the north wind settles in the north, the python twines around the tree, the tiger lounges in the high grass.

Then fear surged up and I was afraid, afraid but I saw that fear too was afraid and I felt pity on fear and held it to my heart and said: “We are both afraid,” and fear took its rightful place among my unruly emotions, each a master of its realm, dwelling border on border, but not just next to each other. They converged like clouds and formed terrible and awesome shapes.

I was them, these passions, and they were me. A wind gusted within me and patches of sky (or whatever it’s called when clouds dissipate) became visible. A great stillness dispersed portions of joy through me. I was awake. Names, places, memories filed before me in orderly procession, each divulging its meaning, and the past became an obedient dog, and I was its master.

It’s all a film, this past. All a film. A film before my eyes. Through this film I have seen everything. I have seen nothing but through this film. My loves and hates my vanities and envies. All seen through a film.

I tried to peel the film away, to set it on fire, obliterate it, but it stuck to my hands, elastic and adhesive like the threads of a spider’s web, and I was the fly but also the spider that had spun the web I could not undo. And when I did tear a layer off, I found another beneath it, and my brief satisfaction soon vanished, the new film always a replica of the old. There was no end to peeling, like shedding a serpent’s skin only to resurrect the film of my life.

How to peel away what I am? That was the question. How not to be what I am? How to slice away a part I was or am without mutilating the whole? Cut off my hand because I do not like my fingers? Tear out my jowls because I hate my face?

Was not this film my skin? And the hate, the anger and the envy? Were we not one? Can I cast off myself? Can I? Even if I wanted to? And where? And how? Cast what off?

O dear. What a hung-over feeling. As if I’d partied too long. And suddenly, incredibly sober and a little sad, awakening in the morning and recalling the party is over.

Where to now? What to do? Who to ask? I open a window heavy of heart. I have never seen the sky so blue as it is today. Did it rain last night? O and the air is so crisp. The wind whispers into at my ears. Everything smells fresh. I’m alive. I think I’ll go out for a walk.


Once I thought I was the progeny of angels, dropped into an earthly womb to ripen and take my rightful place among the ranks of the messengers. I was one with this conviction. I hid it from the proud, the hopeless ones. It gave me courage when my courage failed. But how to explain the gap between thought and action? It was insurmountable. And so I became the Dark Angel, the fallen one, and turned my myth into a tragedy, sometimes a comedy. Dark angels see but are helpless to act, pity but unable to comfort, lust but unable to love, call out to angels without hearing a reply.


Hate had brought me to a place where love is imaginable only as romance. A sentence of death, or worse: exile from intimacy. I was the judge and the condemned man, or as Baudelaire says, the wound and the knife.

I called it my farewell to history, but I wondered if that were possible or had history discarded me for not finding my place in its machinery?

I sought comfort in the myth of angels, but in truth, I knew little about angels.

And then it became clear that I was not the only one living a lie. But I did not care what lies the others had fallen for. That at least is what I thought.


I am planning my escape. I’ve been plotting it for years. For years I have been in radio contact with the liberation forces. They’ve explained to me meticulously how to organize it. They’ve revealed to me the secret of the sexual loophole and money magic, the enigma of political might. They’ve initiated me into the mysteries of drugs and alcohol and nutrition and explained the peculiar contradictions in the laws of universal navigation.

So goodbye. You may see me on the street for some time to come, but I will not be one of you. I shall walk among you, but you shall be as shadows to me as I have been for you. You shall not recognize me nor single me out, and yet none shall hide from me. No part of you shall be a secret to me. I see it all.

I am escaping gravity, accelerating in a maddening flight against friction. It is a war against nitrogen, oxygen and carbon which are at once prison and sustenance.

I shall leave only this trail of words behind, exhaust fumes of my struggle, poisons for the lying tongue, enemies of the planetary atmosphere, the only blessings I can give.

I cannot vanish without this goodbye. No one escapes without making it possible for others to do the same.

I am a star and by the time you read these words engraved in the firmament their light may be a million years old.


The events of a long life, all at once, words on a page: harmless arrangements of phonemes and syllables, comprising so much time, so much suffering that I mistook them for eternity. The disobedient past has reached its limits, visible, its beginning and end. The once fierce, untamable forces that imbued countless images and adventures with fear have been domesticated, deflated, are barely discernible, all substance drained through a simple insight. Yes, I am the master designer of the murders. It was I. I know it now. I was the one who didn’t love you. Yes, it is true. Yes, and it was I who engineered the darkness and hired assassins to destroy the light. Yes, they were following my orders, though I had forgotten. Yes, and shyness and arrogance were my slaves, and blindness my blind love, yes, and my broken-down passion was the fist and the blow. Relentlessly repentant or steadfastly wicked, begging for forgiveness or refusing it, ascetic or profligate, calling on a God of good or of evil to heal the painful wounds or cut deeper into the flesh and the heart; hopeful or hopeless, in unbroken struggle, always restless, warring against silence, doing violence to immobility, fighting what cannot be fought: war battling peace, and both attacking quiescence.

Now I am dying. You have kept your part of the bargain, and I have kept mine. No sense asking why it has taken so long. No sense asking if it should have happened this way. No sense asking why it happened at all. An insurmountable struggle has been turned into literature. A past that allowed for no escape exists no more. That yearning for liberation seems ludicrous now. Thousands of small deaths do not add up to this one. One last breath and I am done.


P.J. Blumenthal