he forces of market and the laws of physics appear to be conspiring against me and they most certainly are. The restaurant continues to increase in size in direct proportion to the demands of the party I’ve been elected to serve. Accordingly, my capacity to supply is diminishing at the same rate. It’s clear things are only going to get worse unless I do something. It’s not clear I can do anything.
And then She arrives, carried in like the Ark of the Covenant. She radiates a dreadful desire that is need itself. It suffuses the atmosphere with an ancient mood of mystery and annihilation. It’s clear things are going to get exponentially worse, the double binds tighter, the symmetries more fearful, the stress unredeemable unto permanent deformation.
It’s Sean Penn’s grandmother’s birthday party and She needs a margarita. There is nothing that could be more serious. As if the whole meaning of birthdays could unravel for all time, existence as we know it negated, humanity aborted.
This, Her need, is what compels digestion and forms galaxies. Everything matters, becomes matter, on the basis of this kind of total desire. Hers. Seeking satisfaction. This isn’t a mere drink order, it’s a drink imperative, the logistics of the essence of thirst on which reality depends, a physical law made potable. It is the imperative of to be or not to be. And I know I will be no longer if I do not get her a goddamn margarita. Oh how I must be, and however I must, I must, if only I am but a cog in a cosmic margarita machine. I just wish the bar was where it usually was, had always been until now!
There she sits, a graven monolith, grandmatrix of cosmic fatality. I can only see her from the corner of my eye, a corner that demands to be the frame by haunting the picture. An eye that cannot look away. This Ishtar, this Lillith, this Plutonic Mona Lisa’s lurk, becoming the ambience of my life’s dependence. The projection of all the biological processes mere humans must remain normally ignorant of, of their autonomy and desire. The alienation of my own body becomes familiar.
Without question it is through Grandma’s margarita-need that Mr. Penn becomes his most Saturnian, his most Dantean. What makes his vibe so Titanic. For He is the fatal agent of Her thirst’s principle desire. And neither will be denied anything less than total existential satisfaction. For why else enter a Buffet to begin with? I fill with quakes, my cells rumble and clank. The endocrine system grovels, the blood scrapes and gropes against its arterial walls, the eyes plead for a different function.
Him. Oh no. Him I can see all too clearly. He is clairaudient in his unspoken directions to me, about that goddamn margarita. Like his grandmother he is a silent menace, though more immediate, active—living fucking oblivion in tailored leather—scarier than anyone. Mr. Penn is that which transforms wants into needs, wishes into commands, intention into attention. He is an imperative force of nature, a viral henchman of Need, agent of desire. A Genie from a lamp forged in the mythic elemental fires of Mount Doom. An enzyme from the Belly of the Beast.
He can and will kill me, Mr. Penn. Hahaha there is no mistaking his capability, my mere expendability. It is clear I simply absolutely must get this drink to her as if Mr. Penn’s life depended on it, as mine certainly does. I need not ask about the margarita’s specifications, nor its Pharaonic and embalming nature. I just know that she knows that I just know that it is to be frozen and salted with an extra shot of Grand Marnier and four cherries. She emanates the facts of her desire, Her infernal mood. This is the urgency of fate. This is the uncanny presence of a manifest destiny. Sean Penn is here to make sure the future has a goddamn margarita with her name on it, that what will happen will happen. I feel his eyes burrow into the back of my head and I know: five, five cherries.
Thus more guests arrive, just in time for more guests to arrive. A parade of demands, a carnival of unsettling people refusing order, ordering. I go. If I can just serve the margarita all will be ok. There is hope that I can and it will. I go. If I can. Unforeseen obstacles cast a shadow of a doubt.
The bar is not where it should be, where it has always been, and suddenly I’m in a wheelchair. Mr. Penn has incorporated my emotional state into my own body, linked my mind to my body. I’d love to hate him but I just don’t have that luxury, and besides, he would know. For my own benefit I need to at least think that there is a possibility of him mistaking my fear and compliance for love and competence. So I go in quest of the bar wherever it would be, has to be, somewhere.
Instinctively, like a rat, I know I need to get outside this place in order to get oriented, to find a way back inside to where the bar, and the salted grail goblet will be. The consummation of my mystery.
Fortunately, I am able to exit, the door being where it should be. I wheel towards it, forcing a smile, a winning one I hope, out of habit, like a rat.
From the outside, the restaurant is a warehouse-shaped steamship of a building with the façade of a Reno-ish strip club palace overlooking some dusty street in the French Quarter of El Paso that is completely deserted and far, far too bright and lonely. I just know I hate it. I am wheeling, up to and around to where I must go, feeling hope, wheeling and feeling I’m making a wake through the mud of panic, feeling locomotional and the optimistic cleanse of self-propulsion, of a path made clear and taken, getting there . . .
There is where I’m as lost as ever, lost as a thud in dampness, in a thick and gross part of the restaurant I know I shouldn’t be in. I hate everything that is this, everything I’m in. Also, I don’t know where the bar is from here. Nor where it is from anywhere, from wherever I am. My own perspective has lost its privilege. Everything is relative and again I’m my own grandfather.
The restaurant’s operating as usual, unconcerned with my ordeal, indifferent to my existence, unchanged by my motions. Despite the fact that I am extraordinarily immersed in my own imperative, I cannot access the ordinary. The satisfaction of need is the maintenance of the ordinary, the need for anyone who has a name. It’s imperative we keep it.
So I find my way back outside, from inside, to an expanded vista of unexpected contingency, tracing the arcs of rabid conspiracies, whatever that might mean. But I’m sure I now know the meaning of ‘no’ in its edificial aspect. And that knowing what you don’t care to ever know, what isn’t worth finding out, is the better part of wisdom. But there is as yet no clear way out of the infernal classroom of this sinister pedagogy and bizarrerie so I must continue to learn the hard way about the futility of knowing anything at all.
The building has grown an urgency and promises to continue to do so, the kind of thing that is obvious to any human person, the concrete resonant antipathy, windows like the dead eyes of psychopathy. The bleary sky is red with advanced mourning. The street is malevolent with secret activity, its devouring aspect is very pervasive and the stuff of grimness. I must avoid it or not even hate will mean anything anymore. Time is being taken from me with increased greed. Urgency’s building. My wheels’ turnings, an engine for some hope. I turn to re-enter anew.
I find a way!!! Back inside, from outside. There I find that the bar is in sight. I feel a sense that I am about to be handsomely rewarded, this a test I have passed and I am about to be given the throne of the Grail King, the foolish servant given the World. I think yes yes yes this will pass into something that will be called destined glory, the past but a necessary ordeal. I am reliving all of history. Until, again, I am undone by my own fantasies, my past, my obsessions, my negative capability and positive incapacitation . . .
Alas. Worse now. Than I could’ve seen at the time . . .
I see that Sean Penn sees me, the nightmare to end all sleep, that is. He feels something like murderous, feeling how he looks. Looks that make things clear, that observe for me the actual into existence. He is in actuality the ordinary I have fled from.
I see that I am a worthless worm-man and deserve oblivion, but only after eternal suffering, Mr. Penn salting the rim of the drain he is going to shove me down with his big black boot. And my, God, those Boots. His gaze directs me back to the party. I realize I am now crawling. He dictates my mode of getting where he needs me to be. His capacity is my incapacity. Back at the party, a new wave of the bad old feeling crashing into the old new feeling more vague as it becomes my feeling of being alive. I am drowning.
In my fixation on Grandma’s need I have again missed the larger picture. I have missed the need for the margarita, the restaurant for the bar. This lack of systemic awareness is my fatal and fundamental defect for which I will be destroyed, why I have found myself being decontextualized by Mr. Penn’s Carpathian gaze. I have been negligent of others. Yes, every voyage of self-discovery eventually founders on the rocks . . . Frozen and salted . . . oh no oh no :
More guests have arrived and are biting their lips, shaking the ice in their empty glasses in the rhythmic unison of the kind of tribal judgment that precedes a sacrifice. I must not do nothing. But I can do barely anything. My God, those boots. I crawl towards the arriving guests with as much enthusiasm and capability and humility and joy that I can gather so that Mr. Penn can observe my efforts and forgive my defects. But the bar is not in sight. I tell myself nothing. My thoughts have never been so flaccid. Maybe I’ve given up hope. Or maybe hope just stopped needing to be. I force a smile and slowly crab walk towards the crowd of awful clatter, smiling wildly.
Through the thunder of the crowd I hear the voice of the Grandmatrix speak to me through the voice of Mr. Penn, her mercenary ventriloquist—
This isn’t what we ordered! And besides, we asked for more of it! And another diet coke for our children and their children and every child, may they eat free forever after. Bring us wine for our mothers and good prices for our fathers and clean doggie bags for our cats. May bread save us all in proportion to our hunger. Know: we will not be denied our worth in steak sauce! Bow your head and worship our allergies, lay prostrate before our perceived intolerances. Cheer our selections and affirm our place in the world of fad diets. Hallow our occasions, for they are the meaning of your life. Know that we are always correct and you are nothing but what confirms what we know. We demand you repeat your specials until they turn to mush in your mouth. Humor our interrogations and foibles and laugh appropriately but leave us alone already! But not for too long. We demand the justice of total attention to our needs. Bring us your manager’s manager’s manager. For we have changed our minds, we forgot to say. More are arriving and will continue to arrive. And we’re over here, just way over there, and we may decide to move tables again. And it will be all separate checks and have you been saved by Jesus Christ? Here, take this in lieu of a tip, your salvation is far more important than money. Just know we are on our lunch breaks so hurry. Are you not writing any of this down?
Then I realize I do not have a pen. How could I possibly satisfy from memory alone?! And then Mr. Penn pulls a pen from his pocket and clicks it and clicks it and clicks it and clicks its and