Criticism can be hard to take. (Honestly, criticism is ALWAYS hard to take. In fact, sometimes it’s impossible to take without imagining the critic’s body torn to pieces by three rabid mice, the number low so the pain will last. But perhaps I’ve revealed too much about my interior life. Let me begin again.)
Criticism is hard to take, but it’s made more palatable when it’s so far off the mark it sounds like a joke. I imagine walking down the street and having some clown scream at me from his car, “Nice boobs, you fat Filipina.” Being a slender non-Filipino man, I wouldn’t know how to respond, except with laughter—and an increased alertness for other passing vehicles. No offense to be gleaned here, just the ravings of a passing local lunatic.
Every morning (except when the electricity is down), I have a cup of coffee, feed Sam (is a dog) and cross the dirt road in front of the Tiny White Box to connect to a Wi-Fi signal equivalent in strength to 1997-era Compuserve. In addition to Facebook notifications that Steve would love extra jewels or sparkles in some online game, emails telling me of great deals on things I don’t need, and initializing downloading of some podcasts, I receive text transcriptions of voicemails.
Other than police or hospital calls, I assume three-in-the-morning phone calls are from drunks or crazy people. The other morning, I got a voicemail with a 3:43 timecode from a phone number unknown to me. I knew the person wasn’t drunk because drunken enunciation is too “fluid” to be properly transcribed. Here is the transcription of a phone message left at three in the morning:
You don’t know me but you suck. Tiny White Box, huh? You think you’re such a deep thinker, like Faulkner. You’re nothing. You suck. It sounds like you just expect the world to give you everything, so you’ve run away. You really suck, especially at writing.
Just a couple of things here. I’m a slender non-Filipino man . . . who repeats himself. Also, given that I define myself by my jackassery, fake deep thinker is not a charge I can take seriously. I mean, I read a lot of folks who are wise—Kierkegaard, Walker Percy, Dostoyevsky, Camus—but it’s like eavesdropping at the grownup table. I bring what I’ve half understood back to the kids in the playroom and turn the question of which comes first, essence or existence, into nonsense jokes about chickens, eggs and dinosaurs. As for Faulkner, I’ve never read anything by him, except for a story in an anthology I snuck into science class to help me maintain my D- average. The story may have been called “A Rose for Emily,” but it might also have been “A Pony for Crippled Charlie.” My ignorance of Faulkner is nearly infinite.
The final charge, expecting the world to give me everything, is the funniest. While I’d love the universe to meet all my needs, known and unknown, I’ve grown used to disappointment on that front. If I could successfully demand of the universe that I be 20 years younger, six inches taller and a better dancer, you’re damned right I would! Right now, I’m living a simple life financed by my own savings, entertaining myself by writing and plotting the next act in my improbable life. If the anonymous caller, whoever he may have been, would like to help finance writing instruction for me, contributions may be made to the Tiny White Box. If any of you would like to buy me a time machine, a body stretching apparatus and a sense of rhythm, you can donate to the same place. I await your contributions.