I called up my favorite writer, William Vollman, and told him I had AIDS. He had just written a book (this was around 1994) about a guy who went to Thailand who got AIDS.
I didn’t have AIDS. I wanted to somehow connect to Vollmann. I didn’t know anyone with AIDS. I didn’t know any writers. I just wanted to have fun. In retrospect, it was stupid.
He called me back a few days later and left me a message on my answering machine. I was standing right next to the machine but didn’t want to pick up.
He said in his foggy, slow voice, “I’m really sorry to hear you have AIDS. There are lots of groups out there that can help you out.” He left me his phone number and told me I could call him anytime I wanted.
I never called him . Sorry I lied to you about the AIDS thing. I loved “The Butterfly Stories”.
Sometimes I write things and people judge me afterwards. “You were a horrible person to do that!”
I know I was. This was 20 years ago. I did lots of horrible things then. Much worse than calling a random guy and lying to him.
I lied to the people closest to me also. And lied to myself repeatedly about what I wanted from life.
Nobody is perfect. We are all just trying to be a magnificent burst of color before we are snuffed out.
But at the time, I was very happy. He called me back!
I felt like my call to him, plus his call back, combined, was like a work of art. I was an artist! And this was my installation.
I said to my friend, Casey, I’m going to make every moment of my life a work of art.
Since then I’ve made many works of art. Much to the disgust of just about everyone who has ever known me.
I’ve disappointed a lot of people in the past 40 years. Hopefully less and less.
I wrote a book in my mind: How to Make Enemies and Disgust People.
I don’t know.
When I eat good food I get healthier.
If I feed good things for my mind, I get healthier.
If I have good people in my life, I become a better person.
If I’m grateful for all the above, it’s like scraping clean my insides.
These are all choices I can make today. The only day that will ever matter.
Or maybe I just said all of the above because I still feel bad about calling Vollmann 20 years ago and I’m trying to make up for it.
I still try to make every moment a work of art. But more importantly, I try to appreciate the art that everyone else is creating.
I don’t want to miss the beauty that is playing hide and seek in each second. [This is the only line I will live by today].
One day it will be too late to improve.
I’ll be splattered like a Jackson Pollack across all of my descendants and everyone who ever knew me. I hope I will be a good artist by then.