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Mental Illness, Etc.

On Authenticity This essay is a critique of the compartmentalization, sterilizations, and dehumanization of our current society. It addresses these issues and compassion (or its lack thereof); bureaucracy; mental illness (especially schizophrenia, psychopathy, narcissistic personality disorder, ADHD, depression, and autism); money and poverty; and other things. Nor is it so much a critique as a manifesto. It is radically passive insofar as it does not call for violent revolution or even a change of government, etc. Rather, it calls for an unprecedented outpouring of “soul-force” as Martin Luther King would have it, or “class consciousness” as Marx would have it. I. Compassion I entertain no doubt that we (as Americans) are no less compassionate than we ever were. Indeed, we have demonstrated that quality time and time again in hitherto unseen qualities. We have only to turn to the recent relief efforts in Haiti, West, Oklahoma, and Japan to see that this is the case. On the other hand, we Americans are capable of demonstrating a conspicuous lack of empathy. Consider, for instance, the recent massacres in Arizona, Colorado, and Connecticut. I nowise exonerate the perpetrators of these vicious acts: they were doubtlessly suffering from true mental illnesses (i.e. those caused by brain lesions). But heinous as their acts may be, was not the invective heaped against them equally heinous? Millions called on social media for their summary execution—for their lynching. The similarities to the negro lynchings of the early twentieth century bear no mentioning. Do we not believe that Adam Lanza is a child of God? Have we become so callous as to utterly rob him of his humanity? Did any of us cry on his behalf? Certainly I did. As wicked and perverse as his actions may be, I have only the deepest sorrow for a man who would feel so isolated and betrayed that he would go to the extreme lengths of killing his mother, ~20 schoolchildren, and himself. It is often said that suicide is a selfish act. I say this is false. Suicide entails a fundamental abnegation of the will to live. It runs counter to millions of years of evolution. It is the resort of only the strong, brave, and truly desperate. I “disclaim suicidal ideation and intent to harm self/others” as psychiatric parlance would have it. In fact, I am a pacifist to the core. Though I am by no means a Buddhist (the New Age/Western trend of Buddhism seems to me to be an egregious form of cultural misappropriation), I heartily subscribe to the Buddha’s maxim: “Him I call a Brahmin who neither kills nor helps to kill. He has put aside all weapons and renounced violence.” Let us consider the case of Adam Lanza. He was very likely autistic, and there is evidence that he was sexually abused as a child. His mother was an alcoholic who showered guns upon him to make up for her lack of love of him. And, what pains me the most (inasmuch as I have been subject to the same), Mr. Lanza subjected to merciless bullying as a child. Truly his past is saddening ad lacrimas. Perhaps the most hurtful thing that has ever been done to me was when my mother gratuitously said to me “Karl, I hope you don’t become a school shooter” when I was 16. This is why I have severed contacts with my family. Words cannot express how much this angered and offended me. I compensated by using a plethora of drugs in heady abandon. School-shootings and spree murders can indeed be eradicated from the face of the earth, but only when mothers and fathers say no more things like this to their children. II. Mental “Illness” What of these spree-killers, then? Do we not, in some way, hold them less accountable for their actions due to the largely fictitious concept of mental illness? I do not deny that mental illness qua mental illness exists—depression, schizophrenia, etc. undoubtedly have neurobiological correlates. But these terms do have a way of getting bandied about without due restraint. Thus, the (wo)man who loves math is labelled “autistic.” When did it become a crime to have a passion in life? Is it not more spiritually edifying to do math than vacuously to imbibe the vapid offerings of popular culture? I don’t know; I am not one to judge the actions of others. At any rate, it seems to me to be better to produce art (be it rap, Photoshop®, whatever) than to mindlessly consume it. I have been called autistic/sociopathic on numerous occasions, and each has been especially hurtful. And what shall we say of psychopathy, AKA antisocial personality disorder? I do not condone anti-social actions, nor have I shown any unusual predilection for them. Any person who presumes to transgress the social contract ought to be temporarily removed from society and forced to undergo a loving and consensual (which is to say, when (s)he wants it) mental health regimen. The prisons of America are indeed hellish nightmares out of which men can only return with a redoubled commitment to crime & degeneracy. The manipulative and cunning aspect of sociopaths is another matter. I would go so far as to say I have no problem with this, provided it is not to the detriment of others [as is the case with McDonald’s CEO, who has the temerity to relegate his workers to subsistence wages while he rakes in $8.25 million/year]. Don’t we idolize the (wo)man who can bed another with suavity and bravado? Aren’t soldiers necessary for our national defense? Aren’t hackers and crackers needed to indicate the flaws in our security systems? I could go on ad infinitum, but the point is this: we need some element of flattery and chicanery for the world to go round. What of Narcissistic Personality “Disorder”? Or any personality “disorder” for that matter? The media and its pettifogging organs are quick to label Kanye West as “suffering” from this utterly fictitious “disorder.” The evidence, they say, lies in his latest album “Yeezus,” in which Mr. West proclaims “I am a God.” But what of it? In the song, Mr. West takes care to explain that this is not, in fact, the case. If Mr. West had lived in prehistoric times he may indeed have been labelled a demi-god. Few doubt the sublimity and grandeur of his work, and there is little doubt that Mr. West does not pour his soul and being into his music. I, for one, feel that it is indeed divinely inspired, as are the works of the great scientists and artists across the ages. As John Mercer said years ago: “It ain’t bragging if ya really done it.” The phenomenon of ADHD represents perhaps the most odious imposition of Big Pharma into the lives of others. The shocking Ritalin® epidemic has been covered elsewhere (New York Times), so I will pass over the matter here. Finally, let us address the matter of schizophrenia, the mental illness du jour. It would be preposterous to deny the existence of this disease, which afflicts ~1% of the population and has truly devastating effects. It too has a way of being over-diagnosed—any (wo)man who has suffered a brief reactive psychosis is quick to be “diagnosed” with such. At any rate, there is convincing evidence (see Sass) that schizophrenia derives some (though not all) of its etiology from societal circumstances. And the phenomenon of schizophrenia demonstrates how ingrained the stigma (=wound) of mental illness is in our society. Suppose there are two candidates for a job interview: one with a 4.0 GPA with schizophrenia, the other with a 3.0 GPA with depression. Who is more likely to be hired? Even if the schizophrenic’s psychosis is in remission? And is psychosis a bad thing insofar as the “sufferer” suffers not from it? It is a well-known fact that truth is undefinable. Does not forced medication reek of the odious interposition of one world-view upon the other? Does the fact that a prophet was schizophrenic detract from the awe with which we behold his message? At any rate, the matter of “labelling” is a fraught enterprise. Any moderately intelligent man understands that no word can have a non-tautological definition. Try to define “define” for instance. Can you? When did grieving over ones loved one become a sign of “depression”? When did youthful rambunctiousness become a sign of ADHD? When did a talented and bodacious rapper become “narcissistic”? When did passion indicate autism? When did the travails of a creative life indicate bipolar disorder? When did fastidiousness indicate OCD? III. Media. My words on the media are those of Tolstoy: “With the development of the press, it has now come to pass that so soon as any event, owing to casual circumstances, receives an especially prominent significance, immediately the organs of the press announce this significance. As soon as the press has brought forward the significance of the event, the public devotes more and more attention to it. The attention of the public prompts the press to examine the event with greater attention and in greater detail. The interest of the public further increases, and the organs of the press, competing with one another, satisfy the public demand. The public is still more[99] interested; the press attributes yet more significance to the event. So that the importance of the event, continually growing, like a lump of snow, receives an appreciation utterly inappropriate to its real significance, and this appreciation, often exaggerated to insanity, is retained so long as the conception of life of the leaders of the press and of the public remains the same. There are innumerable examples of such an inappropriate estimation which, in our time, owing to the mutual influence of press and public on one another, is attached to the most insignificant subjects. A striking example of such mutual influence of the public and the press was the excitement in the case of Dreyfus, which lately caught hold of the whole world. …. The first manifestations of Christian art were services in churches: in the administration of the sacraments and the ordinary liturgy. When, in course of time, the forms of art as used in worship became insufficient, there appeared the Mysteries, describing those events which were regarded as the most important in the Christian religious view of life. When, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the center of gravity of Christian teaching was more and more transferred, the worship[105] of Christ as God, and the interpretation and following of His teaching, the form of Mysteries describing external Christian events became insufficient, and new forms were demanded. As the expression of the aspirations which gave rise to these changes, there appeared the Moralities, dramatic representations in which the characters were personifications of Christian virtues and their opposite vices.” I have some minor objections to his viewpoints, however. I adhere to a brand of moral nihilism which I call “ethical relativism.” Allow me to explain. Just as it is impossible to prove a negative, it is quite impossible to deem an act “right” or “wrong.” This is what Sterner means when he calls morality a “spook.” The nuances of a situation very much frustrate the ethical contexts in which an event may lie. An infinity of “is”s may converge to an “ought,” but the human mind is certainly finite. I do not condone murder, abortion, larceny, etc. But if anything I adhere to a certain quantified view of Kant’s categorical imperative: “Act only on that maxim whereby at the same time you can will that it be a universal law.” But I will indulge in no baseless metaphysics to justify/condemn this or that action. This is the case of rap and other “trivial and immoral” amusements of our time. To become addicted to them is one thing; to produce & moderately consume them is another. The best sort of man, I say, is he who discards the factitiousness of the things about him and dares to produce an authentic (or not) account of things. To quote from the Bhagavad Gita: “Taking recourse to my own self-referential nature I create again and again.” IV. Sterilization It is evident that our society has become unduly sterilized. We drink unfattened milk only to learn the benefits of doing the opposite. Likewise with uncaffeinated coffee. Fearing the carcinogenic sunlight we either take recourse to the equally carcinogenic tanning beds or lather ourselves with carcinogenic sun lotion. We tend to forget that most of humanity has never required these things, nor do now. We cover up sexual relations and masturbation (unlike, say, the Greeks) even though these things are both natural & necessary. How were you born if your parents did not fuck? Do you know that masturbation/homosexuality is observed across the animal kingdom? The moderate use of drugs is likewise forbidden. (Note that I am in no way prescribing their excessive consumption, a vice to which I myself fell prey.) Have you heard of the Eleusinian mysteries? The use of peyote by the Indian shamans? Did you know that animals (eg. jagaurs, bears) are known to indulge in these things as well?
We have traded godliness for cleanliness. The constant application of hand sanitizer and condom has left us senseless & careless. The odious practice of circumcision (in both sexes) has rendered us impotent and dysfunctional. When will we discard of these things? When will we, for once, turn off the computer and return to nature? Have you ever climbed a mountain? Have you ever swum across the Rio Grande? Have you ever drunken creek water while camping in the humid heat and cooking eggs over a crisp camp fire? Will you ever do these things? V. Compartmentalization/Bureaucracy In what follows I shall restrict my criticisms of bureaucracy to academia (specifically mathematics and physics, which is my purview). They equally apply to business, government, etc. Something is fundamentally wrong with the state of academia. Many feel it to be so, but few venture so far as to say that the emperor has no clothes. Daily we are inculcated with the message: “Go to college!” Usurious loans are taken out for the exorbitant cost of attending those places; and the avaricious profit-based “universities” suckle the teat of federal loan programs dry with a deplorable dropout rate. Higher education has also become a fundamentally sexist proposition: men are drawn to it less so than women. While this is no problem for me (I kid ), it has caused men massive disadvantages in the job market. Is college worth its price? The proverbial unemployed English major says not. (By the way, I am in no way deprecating that or similar majors. What would our world be like without art or music?) I would fain we allow for some more spontaneity in our lives. Is a job at 7-11 really so bad? I would take it any day over a quantitative analyst offering. Stress does kill, and it is better to be poor and happy rather than conversely. We would do well to remember those who did drop out of college, later to be met with tremendous success. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg are names that come to mind. What of the state of academia itself? Has not, as Dr. Zeilberger would say, academic mathematics split into a thousand disparate branches? Von Neumann’s quote rings true as ever: “at a great distance from its empirical source, or after much "abstract" inbreeding, a mathematical subject is in danger of degeneration. Whenever this stage is reached the only remedy seems to me to be the rejuvenating return to the source: the reinjection of more or less directly empirical ideas.” The mass of mathematicians lead lives of quiet desperation. From the despairing pure ones we pass to the despairing applied ones, who have only to console themselves with strings and molecules. Has the paradigm of rigor and abstraction played its course? When will the next Poincaré arise? Generally speaking, colleges have rejected the mission of education for the mission of research. Perhaps this would not be such a bad thing if the research were not so shoddy. The journals, even the most esteemed of them, are awash in arrant fraud after fraud. One needs only to consult the blog “Retraction Watch” to verify that this is the case. And how the academicians hate when one of their own writes a popular book! Their contempt for the masses is despicable and horrifying. “death must come as a relief” to those men who would conduct such wicked and disgraceful lives. (DISCLAIMER: I am not advocating that we assassinate our professors, mkay?). When will we embrace laughter? When will we give up our possessions and loose ourselves to the trade winds? When will we stop caring about grades and salary? I do not advocate either the diminution or of increase of our current form of government. I am no socialist, I am no anarchist. But the government we have now reflects the people whom it governs. VI. Dehumanization No one denies that we live in a dehumanized world. The simulacrum has superseded the spectacle. Instead of meeting our friends in reality we meet them on facebook®. We are glued to our iphones and other such devices. As Heidegger would say, we have let the tool become a part of ourselves. I am by no means calling for the abolition of facebook® et al. I am no Luddite, I am no Kaczynski. Technology has given us blessings beyond count. Gone are the days when tuberculosis and AIDS were death sentences; gone are the days when childbirth was often fatal and sexual intercourse was fraught with uncertainty and peril. Above all, following Aristotle, I would prescribe a Golden Mean in the use of technology. The poet Michael Spencer Free put it best when he wrote: ’Tis the human touch in this world that counts, The touch of your hand and mine, Which means far more to the fainting heart Than shelter and bread and wine. For shelter is gone when the night is o’er, And bread lasts only a day. But the touch of the hand And the sound of the voice Sing on in the soul always.
And does not dehumanization reach its climax when we consider the pernicious influence of big business & their insinuation into the halls of academia & government? Those soulless entities would run ram shod over our rights—to a clean environment, to healthcare, to clean water, to food—for the sake of their own profits. Their villainy exceeds comprehension. The vicious banker Blankfein, head of Goldman Sachs, gouges the price of copper and of our currency itself, yet his cruelty and profligacy goes unpunished. That man of great wickedness ought to be jailed at once. VII. Money/Poverty Finally, let us consider those twin issues of money and poverty. I flatly reject the overuse of money, that is, greed. Conspicuous consumption fills my soul with contempt and disgust. Does a Porsche® prove any more useful than a bike? Does a mansion do just as well a shack? Will we ever stop enslaving ourselves to these false idols? When will we heed the words of Euclid? That sublime geometer, upon taking up a pupil, taught him the first theorem. The pupil inquired: “But what shall I gain of this?” Euclid called his slave and quipped: “Give this man a dollar: for he wants to make gain of what he learns.” (Strobaeus). I myself adhere to a minimalist lifestyle and love every bit of it. My room is as clean as a bone; I have given away my laptop. I have renounced the use of drugs (save nicotine and caffeine ) because they are substitutes for a real life. I am clear-minded beyond belief and attend to my passions with redoubled effort. VIII. Platform Let it be proposed 1. That we cease all stigmatization of mental illness and human suffering. 2. That we eradicate child abuse from the face of the planet. 3. That we strive to clean our environment, especially as it is in China and East Asia. 4. That we abolish all corporations at once. 5. That we reform our prisons. 6. That we provide free mental/physical health services. 7. That we provide subsidized food, housing, water, electricity, and education. 8. That we conscientiously endeavor to eradicate war from the face of the planet. 9. That we prohibitively tax the consumption of luxury goods & drugs. 10. That we end all discrimination on the basis of age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, and class.
submitted by kargross to rant

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Tinder Fate, A Modern Love Story


Luciano 'Luke' Vargas sat on the sofa in his studio apartment with a bottle of vodka in one hand, and his iPhone in the other. The man was only twenty-six, wearing a black t-shirt and jeans, he looked like a man in mourning.

Luke had his late mother's Italian skin, her elegance, her artistry. She was the reason he was a writer and an artist. But he had his Dominican father's hands; the hands of a factory worker who slaved away at a dead-end job until his body gave out. Perhaps that was why Luke was so upset at what Stacy had done.

Luke glanced at his phone screen. His background was him and his now ex-girlfriend. With her pale skin and dark hair Stacy looked like Snow White; the fairest princess in all the land. She exercised her right to an abortion, her body her choice, but her reason was what broke his heart. "I don't see a future with you," he repeated her words as he went to the app store. He loved her, he would have married her- but no, she didn't see a future where she woke up by his side. She didn't see them growing old together. "Well fuck you, Stacy!" Luke said as he started the download.

He had heard of Tinder but up until now had no reason to use the famous hook-up app. "I need a photo." He ran his fingers through his hair and took a quick selfie in time the app was downloaded. Luke filled in his age and location with no other information. All he wanted was a hookup, someone to make the pain go away.

He sat down and started to swipe right on everything on screen. After all someone else had to swipe on him if they wanted to talk. Just his luck every girl had black hair and ivory skin, like some kind of sick cosmic joke. "This is such bullshit..."

'Bing!' He had a match.

"Crying or smoking?" asked the text.

"?" Luke replied.

"In your pic. Your eyes r red. u crying or high?"

"Does it matter?"

"Just wondering: R U looking 2 party or 4 a rebound girl?"

"Rebound- bad breakup."

"Wow, sorry. DTF?"

Luke knew DTF meant 'down to fuck.' Somehow he lucked out and was playing the Tinder game on easy mode. But was this really what he wanted? "I don't even know you," he said out loud.

'Bing'
"I know you," the text replied. "Look at my picture. We've met on multiple occasions."

How the-? He assumed the phone had activated a voice to text feature. He did as she said and looked at the profile: Shannon, age twenty-eight, originally from San Jose, California, but somehow currently in New Jersey less than a mile away from his current location. Her face did not look familiar, and there was no occupation listed. "I'm sorry I don't remember you."

'Bing'
"I work at the clinic where you take your dad for his chemo treatments."

"Oh, ok." That explained why he didn't remember her. His father had been fighting stomach cancer for a decade, but in the past year, it had metastasized to his heart, lungs, and brain. He had been transferred to hospice care. So needless to say, among all the drama, Luke tended to not notice the faces of the clinic staff.

'Bing'
"The last time I saw you, you were holding your father's hand while he slept."

That had to be at least a week ago. "He decided to end treatment."

'Bing'
"O, I'm so sorry. Can I come over? We can just talk."

"Sure." Luke sent her his address since she was pretty close already. He barely sat back down when he heard the buzzer. "Hello?"

"It's Shannon."

He jumped back in shock. "Um, come on up." How close had she been? Was she stalking him? Worst case scenario, he was about to get robbed and murdered.

Best case: she looked just like her photo. "Hey," said the girl with the long black hair and sky-blue eyes.

"Hey..." Luke was frozen with nerves. There was nothing remarkable about the girl, in fact, she didn't even resemble Stacy (at least that's what he kept telling himself.)

Shannon gave an awkward half smile. "Can I come in?"

"Yeah, of course, sorry, would you like something to drink?" He took a few steps towards his fridge. "Soda, beer, vodka?"

"Do you have Redbull?"

"I think so," Luke said as he tossed her a can from the fridge. Luke was partial to Redbull with vodka and lime. But Shannon appeared to prefer drinking the foul-tasting beverage straight from the can.

"What?" she asked, her blue eyes seemed to shimmer when she smiled.

"That stuff is nasty," Luke said with a smirk.

"It's an acquired taste," Shannon replied with a shrug. "I mean it has to be," she leaned in close to Luke, pressing her lips to his ear, "Redbull gives you wings."

Luke chucked nervously. "Yeah, I've heard that. It's why I usually mix in vodka: helps me to stay grounded."

"You're so funny!" Drink in hand, Shannon took a seat on the sofa. "So what do you want to do? Netflix and chill?" She kicked her long legs up on the coffee table.

The girl wasn’t tall, maybe five-four, but her denim shorts made her legs look irresistible. Luke sat down and immediately felt an awkward erection. "Oh F-."

Shannon only smiled. "Sit back and relax," she said, motioning to his phone. "You pull up a movie, and I'll work on the 'chill.'"

Luke nervously covered the awkward bulge with his hand.

"You shy or something? I swiped right, I already know I want you."

"You might change your mind. I mean, I don't know how this works." Luke glanced at the floor. "I mean you can leave whenever you want."

"O-M-G," she said with a laugh. "Do you have a micropenis or something?"

"No. Micropenis is anything less than two inches, right?"

"Let me see." Shannon straddled his lap. With one quick motion, she opened his jeans and reached in her hand. "You're perfect, just the right size."

Luke chuckled nervously. He already knew he was four inches, maybe four-and-a-half when fully erect. "The first time we had sex, my ex-"

Shannon playfully stroked her index finger down the bridge of Luke’s nose. "What did the little meanie do?"

"She told me I'm lucky to have such a comfortable sized penis because the last guy she dated really hurt.'"

Shannon covered her mouth to hide her laughter. "Who says something like that?"

"My ex, apparently."

Shannon put her arms around Luke’s shoulders. "Tell me about her."

"Like what?"

"Did she have big tits? Or a nice tight pussy? I mean, since she was so quick to point out the comfortable nature of your body." Shannon took off her shirt to reveal her breasts.

They were small enough to warrant walking around without a bra but tempting enough for him to lean in for a kiss. "She was fine, I-I guess." Luke kissed her collarbone. He wasn't sure how far he could go or, how far she wanted him to go.

Shannon sat up tall aligning her pink nipple to his lips. "I've had people tell me I'm a perfect mouthful."

Luke felt his heart pounding. The way her soft skin glided across his tongue, the way her body leaned into his touch: he wanted her so bad. "I can see that."

"My turn." Shannon elegantly slipped off her shorts, to reveal her lacy white panties. "Let me show you how I like to worship a man." She stroked her fingers under Luke’s t-shirt, coaxing it off his slender body. "Nice."

Luke had soft, peach-fuzz, hair on his arms, legs and chest, with a thick dark trail from his navel, leading down to his pubic hair. He was already hard, and his jeans were already open, so he attempted to relax. He felt Shannon take him in her mouth, her lips opening and closing around his tip. Luke then noticed a strange sensation; a hard, cold bead stroking him down the length of his shaft. "Do you have a pierced tongue?"

"Yup," Shannon said as she smacked her glossy lips. "You're going to love this."

Luke felt like he was going to slip off the seat. That was when her fingers went straight up a place he did not expect. "Oh, God!"

Her fingers were massaging inside while her mouth locked on to his cock, moving her piercing over the tip. Luke felt like he was about to burst when she stopped.

"Now," she took a seat on the sofa, facing away from him. "I want you to f-k me."

Luke chuckled. He assumed she said 'fuck' but the words" came out as 'F-K' with two distinct syllables. "I'm not really that great at doggy style."

Shannon responded by pulling his arms around her, so he was holding her chest. "But I like it when boys hold my tits while they blow their load. Will you give it a try?" she asked as she kicked off her panties and lifted her butt into position, "for me?"

Luke was so hard, and the only thing more embarrassing than failing at sexual penetration would be drenching himself in cum before he could even start. Carefully moving into position behind her, he stroked his tip against her wetness.
When he felt ready Luke thrust into her, his hips moved rhythmically as he felt himself going deeper than he thought possible. Her body seemed to clench tighter and tighter, pulling him in closer.

"Yeah, that's what I'm talking about," Shannon moaned, as she moved her hips with increased speed. "Pound me like you mean it! F-k all your problems away!"

He gripped her chest hard, holding her like a stress ball. The way she was screaming like a porn star, at first it was a turn on, but quickly became annoying. What was she, an escort? Was he going to be presented with a bill at the end of the night? Was this all some cruel prank?

"You doing alright?" Shannon asked in a moan.

"I'm fine." Luke’s mind drifted to the moment Stacy left him. He could picture all of his unsold books and paintings, his inbox filled with rejection letters from agents and galleries. Then to the moment when he left his dying father alone in the hospice care. "Fuck the world, fuck this life!" Muscles trembling, Luke laid back on the sofa, too overcome with emotion to even speak. There were tears in his eyes but worse, Luke was still hard: he hadn't even finished.

"Lay back, close your eyes," Shannon said, her voice soft and soothing.

Luke did as she asked. He closed his eyes and allowed her to take control. He felt her hands then her lips. Luke laid his head back, trying to relax but soon he could feel the suction of her throat, like a pressure point massage. The deep, soothing sensation coaxed out one glorious orgasm. "I'm sorry, this is so humiliating."

Shannon only giggled. "Don't worry. Nice guys always finish last."

Luke couldn't help but laugh. He kept his eyes closed. If she chose to leave he didn't want to have to watch her go.

"It's ok, just let me hold you," Shannon said, wrapping him in a blanket. Or at least it felt like a blanket. Luke did not remember keeping such a warm, soft down comforter on his sofa.

He awoke the next morning alone. "Of course," he said as he looked to the empty vodka bottle. "It was all a fucking dream." Then he saw her.

Shannon stood before him, her body nude, with every curve as perfect as he remembered. Except for one detail- on her back was a pair of massive white wings. "I have to get to work."

"What?" Luke sat up and went straight for his pants. "What is this? What are you?"

"I want you to stay by your father's side tonight," she said as she closed her wings over her body. "I'm sorry." In a flash of light she was gone.

Luke quickly got dressed and splashed some water on his face before making his way to the hospice clinic. It was only around noon, but if this were truly his father's last day on earth, he wanted to be there.

"Hi Dad," Luke said as he entered the darkroom. "You asleep?"

"I have no reason to sleep," the dying man muttered, facing the window.

Luke walked over to open the blinds, letting in the bright light of the mid-day sun. "Much better. You may be dying but you're still a human being, you deserve more than four blank walls."

"For the time being. Although a coffin typically has more then four sides, if I'm not mistaken." Luke’s father moved his trembling hand to the bed controls. "No matter, the oven in the crematorium certainly has four sides."

"Funny," Luke sighed. His father was six-foot-two, and prior to his illness, he had the strength and physique of an athlete. He had even competed in kickboxing and other martial arts. But the man that lay in the bed was a sickly shadow of his former self. But something looked off. Luke lifted the blankets to reveal a bandage on his father's stomach. "Where's your feeding tube?"

"I was going to tell you."

Luke’s hands were trembling. "I was supposed to be notified of any changes to your medical care."

"Only if I am not of sound mind," he said as he sat up, looking his son in the eyes. "Unfortunately my mind seemed to be holding strong, more so then my other organs." His father blinked away tears. "Part of me hopes it's because the brain is where the soul resides. Although I know you don't believe in such things."

"For the last time, I am not an atheist," Luke groaned, now recalling why he limited his visits to once a week. "I just don't support organized religion." Luke could sense his father's blatant disbelief. After all, the last time Luke set foot in a church was his mother's funeral. "I saw an angel."

"You saw an angel?" his father asked, with noticeable sarcasm.

"Yeah, she told me I needed to be here."

"Your mother?"

Luke shuddered. The idea had not occurred to him, but not it was all he could think of. "She said her name was Shannon, but she was a little like mom..." His mother's name was Gabby, she had black hair, brown eyes, and a honey-tan complexion, but personality wise the similarity was downright creepy.

"Luca..." Luke’s father's was facing the now blindingly bright window. "Luca, estoy muy orgulloso del hombre en el que te has convertido." He swallowed hard, struggling to continue, "y el hombre en el que te convertirás." He then laid back, eyes closed.

"What?" the word choked in Luke’s throat. He spoke little to no Spanish. The idea that he would not be able to understand his father's last words- the cosmic cruelty was unimaginable. Luke stood up and walked to the door. He punched the metal, hard. "Ow!" He could hear Shannon's laughter.

"He said...Luca, I am very proud of the man you have become, and the man you will become. Your Dad calls you Luca?"

"Yeah, he did. He said Luke sounded too plain, too American. My mother wanted me to have an Italian name. He called me Luca because it made her smile. Then when she was gone, he called me Luca in her memory." Luke turned to his father's body. He was dead, cold, but next to Shannon stood his father as a young man. The sight brought tears to Luke’s eyes. "So that's it? You're taking him, and then what? You're just going to leave?"

"Did you want me to stay?" Shannon asked in a whisper, as if such an idea was rare for her kind.

"I don't know. I mean if you want to, if you can."

"Let me finish up here first," she said as she waved her hand, summoning a portal of white light. Shannon then turned Luke’s father's spirit towards the heavenly pathway. "Come on now, your Gabriela has been waiting for you."

"I'm going to see my wife?" his voice was trembling with emotion.

"On earth, she was your wife, but in heaven, she will be what she was always meant to be; your other half. When you are reunited, your spirit will finally be whole again. Together you will decide to live forever in God's kingdom or cross over into the next life."

Luke’s father gave one last nod, and finally departed into the light.

"Are you the angel of death?" Luke asked in a meek voice.

"No," Shannon replied with a laugh. "That's like assuming the flight attendant owns the airline. I am a guide, I sheppard all good souls to the light."

"An angel of mercy?"

"I kinda like that name, it has a nice ring to it."

"Thanks."

"Luke, do you want me to stay?" Her voice was nervous, strangely anxious.

Luke sensed this was his one and only chance to speak from the heart. "Yes, I want you to stay!"

"Because you're afraid of being alone?"

"I'm not afraid," the words fell from his lips before he could take them back. His only family was dead, and he was talking to an angel. Luke was, in fact, very afraid.

"Then what?" she asked. "And don't say something stupid like 'I love you.' We've been on one date, if you could even call it that."

But he did. Maybe that was his problem; he had so much love to give but no one to receive it. "I could. I-I could love you, take care of you." Luke pursed his lips as he realized he was essentially begging a supernatural being. "I don't know what you are or what you've been through, but..." Luke suddenly chuckled softly to himself.

"What's so funny?"

Luke paused to wipe tears from his eyes. "I just remembered a joke my dad told me during his last chemo session."

"When he was declared untreatable?"

"Yeah, he looked at me and said, "A guy sits down with his doctor to get his test results, the doctor says, 'The good news is you don't have lung cancer, it's all in your head.' The guy is all, 'That's great news!' But then the doctor says, 'No, brain cancer is much worse.'"

Shannon covered her mouth as she giggled. "That was a good one. Your dad is going to fit in just fine up there."

Luke swallowed hard as tears continued to flow. "What I remember most about that moment was his smile. It was a real, true smile. He was in so much pain, but he found the strength, the courage to smile. That's the kind of courage I want to have, to just smile through the pain. And maybe once I learn how to do that, I can guide others; teach people how to survive, how to love. That's the dream."

Shannon had gone silent. She cupped her hands over her face as if trying to hide her emotions. "I won't be returning in this form. I might be ugly, like a pigeon or a stray cat with one eye."

"I'd still love you."

"Ok," she said with a nervous smile. "I'll see you soon." With that, Shannon vanished.

Luke shook his head as he wiped the tears from his face. "Yeah, sure. I'll be on the lookout for a stray cat with your blue eyes."

to be continued...


https://dourdan.wordpress.com/


submitted by dourdan to Wholesomenosleep