“Serpents, snakes. They’re here with me.”
He resembled Precious except for the frantic flop-mop of black hair,shiny from oil; parted in the middle like demon Alfalfa. He had a mouth full of broken teeth, too. His parents never bothered to fix them. Maybe they did and gave up.
What a special human (I think) gift to Brooklyn.
His eyes bulged like snakes were pushing them, trying to pop them and escape from behind the sockets.
He loved to take big shits in a graveyard of broken glass and construction debris somewhere under the elevated subway line cordoned by shaky fencing in one of the gray-shaded lots between Coney Island and home.
Never failed. He’d beckon me over in a frenzy, pointing feverishly at a steaming pile of fresh Raymains as I called them.
I looked. Every time.
Oddly, I admired him; I never had the guts to crap in public. Literally, my bowels would freeze up. I attempted it once. My white Fruit Of The Looms paid the price.
I poked hot and steamy with a shard of glass. Once.Twice. Hell, I lost count.
He giggled every time. Must have been my face. Disgust, curiosity. More pokes, more high-pitched giggles from deep in the throat. I must have tickled a snake into a slither.
Raymond always did odd things, some actions bordered on frightening.
I was afraid to be his friend, more afraid of not.
Out of nowhere, a July afternoon, he dangled his penis in daylight at a 1975 Ford Maverick -stop sign. Avenue S. He just decided to whip it out. I witnessed the incident.
The guy behind the wheel didn’t appreciate the gesture and quickly bolted from the driver’s seat, his orange and white-trimmed Ford slow rolled into the busy intersection. Passenger girlfriend still in shock from floppy private parts at high noon.
The burly dude was faster than I imagined, like his beer belly was fuel storage. Must have been the adrenaline rush.
He stayed on Raymond’s heels all the way through an empty public schoolyard. Public School 215, to be specific. The stumpy guy was quick, but petered out (no pun intended) as Raymond picked up the pace and sprinted like a ghoulish gazelle on feet too big for his wiry frame.
As I observed the drama unfold and Raymond run erratically around the yard like a frightened rat in a cage, I could hear his vocal screech ebb and flow as the husky driver eventually slowed, stopped and fell over from exhaustion. Maybe it was that freak-ass loud laugh that sucked the energy from Mr. Maverick.
“Serpents! Snakes in basement, snakes on the roof!” Raymond bellowed.
He would regularly blurt a whisper of choppy words and sentences, observations about how snakes and serpents good or bad, guided his motivations. Based on how much he masturbated in public, I wondered if the basement reptile was his man parts.
People in the neighborhood said he was crazy. I thought maybe, just maybe, he was the sane one.
Perhaps there is something to these snakes that slide in-between thoughts and push us to enlightenment or frighten us to conform. If there are too many, they can make you insane enough to defecate in abandoned city spaces.
If I closed my eyes in stillness, I heard the snakes in my own head.
I think about you often, Raymond.
This is for you.
My long lost creature teacher.
1). How many snakes will drive you to insanity? In my gut I felt Raymond wrestled with (or not) at least ten. What is the “right” number? How many can a person handle? Love, genius, passion, apathy, lunacy? The paths created by society’s handlers and the actions that push you to test and ostensibly thrive outside rules others have set for you feel like at first, demon snakes. But they’re not. They live to scare you out of complacency. They live to set you free from the cage; you resist until one attacks, causes enough pain. I guess if I must slither in and out of what life is and not what I want it to be, several serpents will be sacrificed to the mental altar of mediocrity. If I remain aware of the deceptive snakes of status quo, reptiles are welcomed as long as they play nice, submit. I’m extremely sensitive to trimming the herd.
2). Learn to detect and handle your own breed of serpents. Lose control for long and you’re shitting in inappropriate places. Definitely a snake gone awry. Tame what frightens you. Are your fears real or imagined? Decide which snake you’re going to breed – fear or fact. You must work at it every day. Thin the herd. You kill or they feed. Your decision. Some people believe they must scare themselves out of great lives, great loves and great thinking. Don’t be one of them. Everything changes, like the path of a snake. Learn to detect important crossroads and intersects.
3). Non-poisonous snakes are dangerous, too. The snakes of the gatekeepers act like they’re looking out for you but they are expert deceivers. Although there is protection – as long as you follow their instructions, swallow their lies, promote their false stories, the non-poisonous can turn lethal real quick. I experienced it. I’m ashamed and angered about how much poisonous corporate culture I ingested, what I lost personally, due to forked tongues. Where are the non-poisonous snakes that can turn on you once you understand their true motivations?
4). Have faith that the good serpents will protect you. I’ve done a good job with my good serpent/lethal serpent ratio. When I’m feeling insecure, fearful, I galvanize the most powerful of them; they prey on the weaker brethren when I instruct them now. Understand the difference between the good and bad ones. Serpents that compel you to shit outside or on the toilet (and wipe efficiently) look the same. Eventually, after a few bites, you’ll just know the difference.
5). Treat debt like prey. You can make a snake pit full of money and still be broke. Excessive debt is like the fat rat in a den of Ball Pythons. Eventually, you’re surrounded, overwhelmed and swallowed. Ultimate empowerment comes from inflow greater than your outflow. Then when evil serpents pay a visit, you have enough surplus to exterminate them. You’ll also have enough money to provide the good snakes what they feed on – positive change, self improvement, travel. Hell, or do what my friend Kelly did – Pick up and pursue your dream in a new environment.
6). Let your serpents roam. The rodents live among us: They thrive on narcissism and negative energy.They are the takers. Allow your serpents to feast brazenly on them. Only then will you prosper. No longer will your view be blocked. The serpents of love, discovery, unbridled passion will breed and flourish.
So will you. Carried along for the best journey of your life.
I wonder what happened to Raymond.
He swallowed “Good and Plenty’s” like they were pills. Never chewed.
I hope he’s become a master snake handler.
I pray he’s stopped shitting in the summer humidity.
And keeps his balls in his pants at intersections.
I truly believe he’s not trapped by what society says he should be.
He makes his own rules.
Him and the serpents.
Now it’s your turn to release the best of them.
And kill the rest.
Your happiness depends on it.