I spent the winter of 1977 reading Nietschze and though I was merely 22 I understood I was in the presence of an unattractive mind. It was stuff like this that did it:
“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.”
I wrote “bullshit” in the margin. I understood already that primitive sophistry wasn’t for me.
Schlegel was better: “In actual life every great enterprise begins with and takes its first forward step in faith.”
It snowed for days. I huddled in a Vermont cabin and wrote poems, read copiously and talked to my cat.
That season was the beginning of the adult Stephen.
Disability vs. the Wide World
Childhood: I remember those Finnish houses with their tall white tile ovens—they stood in the corners of rooms like spies. Adults of course believe these things give a home character. This is the difference. Some days the horror of adult life is enough to drive one under the bed. My little boy, the one who became me, knew those stoves stood between wakefulness and dream. And years later, when I was in college and reading Edgar Poe, I felt the hypnogogia as he called it, and saw that disability was in fact the tell tale heart—the life that goes on under the floor; the life that’s been operated on; the one on the tip of your tongue but never uttered.
Here’s the thing: there are days when you don’t want to go outside. The adult world is filled with stove makers. You stay home and drink tea. You think about all the creepy doctors. The spies.
You think about all kinds of things. You promise to get strong presently. By the afternoon you’re ready to go outside. You take your indignant, nail studded wheelchair, guide dog, hobby horse and go to the grocery. And though all the customers and employees stare at you, stare as if you’re the skeleton in a morality play, you roll or walk a most strange course straight for the olives with pimentos. Lord knows, sometimes happiness slowly crawls into you.