A Roomful of Teeth

by | August 15, 2015 | General | 3 comments


“Here.  Here.  Here.  Here.”

The cricket under my bed is keeping time with my
heartbeat.  Laying on my back in the darkness, alone, looking up, little
warm flashes of heat lightning in the clouds light up the ceiling overhead
through the opened window. I wonder if my heart is beating too hard and if I’m
about to have another panic attack at two in the morning for no goddamn reason
at all.  It’s hard getting by on two or three hours of sleep every night.

“Late.  Late.  Late.  Late.”

I have never been alone in my life.

Because of my odd religious background, as a young man I
grew up communally, always surrounded by people.  I lived communally with
men and women from all over the world, sharing various houses and various
responsibilities together as a group, as a tribe.  Afterwards I was married
and had a family.  There was never a break in between where there was no
one around me.

Laying still; hoping for sleep or less woeful dreams, and
watching the little puffs of light come and go against the white ceiling. 
Thunder would be comforting.  Or maybe a train going by, that high
lonesome sound, followed by that hysterical shriek of power. 

An interviewer asked Keith Richard what went wrong with the
Rolling Stones first lead guitar, Brian Jones.  Why did he come to such a
bad end?  Richard said “His problem was he loved being a rock star
more than he loved being a musician.”

“There.  There.  There.  There.”

Something happened to me that made me love being a writer
more than I loved writing.  I’ve been blocked since. The cellar door I open
to go down where the stories come from, I can’t get to it.  The story
fairy locked it.

Things seemed to converge all at the same conjuncture. 
My mother in law in Panama needed eye surgery.  She had health problems
that threatened to end her at any moment.  But her strong heart drove on
heedlessly like an engine even as she dwindled.  My wife, close to her
mother, has gone to Panama on an open ended visit that will certainly cause her
to lose her job as well as maybe changing her as a person.  My son has
just moved out to embark on life on his own as a young man must.  And I am

But there was another thing as well.  I had been

For many years I had no friends and didn’t actually know how
to make friends because, living communally, I had never needed to learn. 
I was a mentally solitary person, living high in my head where the stories and
the fantasies and the voices were and happy to go on living in that world,
though I felt my loneliness always.  I think this is a common thing for
writers and poets.  I was adapted to an interior solitude while still
being a person who needed people.  Writing was my way out of that
solitude.  Black ink looping from my fountain pen like dark silk spinning
webs of fantasy and desire.

I discovered and joined the Unitarian Universalist church in
my town and the effect was life changing.  I had found my natural tribe,
my natural beliefs and with it a ravenous desire for friendship and
people.  Gradually I began to come out of my shell.  I didn’t keep my
writing life hidden because these were also creative people, many of them far
more accomplished than me. 

A small group of strong natured, well educated women
discovered my writing and loved it.  And loved me.  It was as though
a unicorn had wandered into their midst.  We loved each other’s company
and for a time I was a phenomenon.  And then my star fell.  There was
no reason and no explanation.  But the damage had been done.  I had
briefly been a rock star instead of a musician.  And how I loved it. 
And how I longed to get it back.

The panic attacks began first in church.  Panic attacks
are the evil cousins of religious ecstasy.  They boil up from inside and
take you in their undertow and you wave your hands for help and people think
you’re just being friendly.

With these experiences I began to discover my own
insecurities, my insatiable addiction for approval, adoration if
possible.  When my play “Fidelis” debuted in the Le Chat Noir
theater downtown I walked into the theater bar on opening night and someone
said “That’s the writer! Sanchez-Garcia! He’s the one who wrote that
play!”   Everyone in the bar turned to me and applauded – me –
the solitary one, who had never been applauded for anything in his life. 
There he is!  There goes the writer.  Everyone smiled filling the
bar’s dimness with Cheshire teeth.  Oh, how I smiled back in my little
moment in the sun.

Understand, my loving tribe was unchanged.  Most people
who knew me and had made up their minds about me liked me fine, except those
who had dumped me altogether.  But my vanity had been awakened and with it
a terrible neediness that plagued me like a drug. 

Then came the masks.

In the novel Moby Dick, there is a scene in which Ahab has a
huge argument with his first mate Starbuck.  Starbuck is worried that they
are committing blasphemy in Ahab’s monomaniacal pursuit of the white whale
(“It’s just a whale!”, but Ahab cuts him off saying –

“ . . . All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard

But in each event in the living act, the undoubted deed
there, unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings

of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man

will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner

reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To

me, the White Whale is that wall, shoved near to me. He
tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable
malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the
White Whale agent, or be the White Whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon
him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me. .
. ”

 Moby Dick is God almighty wearing the mask of a whale,
the world is a facade of paste board masks and, Ahab, that embittered mystic,
will penetrate this mask and strike at God by killing His whale.  In
Freudian psychology this is called “transference” when a neurosis is
projected from the patient onto another person, often the therapist, as a way
of avoiding confronting their issues. My experience is that this can occur in a
kind of interior mythology, where an actual person can become associated in
your thoughts obsessively with a specific fear inside of you, even though that
person has nothing actually to do with that fear.  But in your mind, in
your emotions, that person acquires the representative mask of that fear. 
Some of the women who had been my admirers and then pushed me away acquired this
mask in my thoughts until I could hardly think of them without fear.  One,
a fear of disapproval.  Another, a fear that I would never have social
standing or acceptance.  That I would always be kind of poor and beat
down, a nobody in the eyes of sophisticated people, the people I longed to be
most accepted by.  I became afraid of these women who had once been
admirers.  These masks stayed with me constantly and with the falling of
my star my emotional turmoil boiled into panic.

As my vanity fermented to sourness I alienated the one
goddess left in my life – the muse.  She ultimately fled from me and I
couldn’t write anymore.  The magic was just gone.  That was when I
bailed out on OGG.  I think this is the kind of thing that gets famous
people killed.  I was never famous, but I had a taste of what it would
feel like to have fans.  It wrecked me. 

A writer writes.  That’s what makes a writer.  Not
publication, nice if you can get it, not money, nice if you can get it, not
even readers, nice if you can get them.  A writer writes.  That’s the
part you get to keep. You can’t be a rock star.  You have to be a
musician.  The act of creation never ends.  Everything else is



  1. Lisabet Sarai

    "Writing was my way out of that solitude. Black ink looping from my fountain pen like dark silk spinning webs of fantasy and desire."

    It astounds me that you can write two sentences like the above yet believe your muse has fled.

    I'm glad you're emerging, though, from the dark night of your soul.


  2. Donna

    I just returned from a trip to the East Coast where one of my stops was the birth home of Nathaniel Hawthorne as well as the Customs House where he conceived The Scarlet Letter. I learned that he also was a solitary man in his youth, who was so devastated by the rejection of his first novel, he burned the manuscript. Even as he gradually gained success in publishing, he was all too aware that the majority of the people around him didn't know or care about his work. Even writers whose names live on experienced the same things that you do, that many of us do. I agree with Lisabet that this eloquent and honest essay shows that your talent and your muse is still with you. We must all remember that fame and fortune are hollow. The love of storytelling only is the heart and soul and life. Please keep writing!

  3. Jean Roberta

    What Lisabet and Donna said, Garce. I don't believe you will ever stop being a writer.

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