In the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum

Patrick Keppel

I am writing this as a public service to all those who somehow don’t feel fully alive unless they are seeking out those remote corners of every city in which some disturbed individual, or worse some group of them, has set up a unique exhibition of the grotesque.  These exhibitions are free of charge and enjoy a cult following; they are the city’s decadent little secrets, passed along in slurred whispers at 3 a.m. in cloudy cafes.  Those of you who have seen the razor sharp teeth of the thousand or so discarded dolls crammed into “Limbos”; the dirty bones and vials of relics apparently exploded into orbit around the shrunken brown head of “St. Infantasy, Martyr”; or the deathpale worms poking their heads out of the black soil of “The Earth Room,” know the jarring pleasure each affords.  Granted, most of these exhibits are in themselves quite harmless, except in that they are usually (but now always) hidden in some dark, dingy alley in the most desperate sections of the city where vagrants and criminals abound.

But really now, truly listen:  There is one exhibit you must make certain to avoid no matter how the sound of it may intrigue you; in fact, I realize the danger of my even bringing the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum to the public’s attention.  For this reason, no doubt it’s fortunate I cannot direct anyone to its precise location, though on the other hand if I knew where it was I wouldn’t now be writing; I’d have had the authorities close it down at once.  But this is all beside the point, since I’m quite sure the monstrous proprietors of this museum move their nasty little chambers all around.  Sometimes as I’m walking alone down some street, any street really, I’ll see something – a dead animal, say, or a gushing hydrant, or twin beds – which brings it all back, and I know it’s nearby, pulsing in its lurid light, just underneath.  Do I then investigate, poke around the ashes of the neighborhood for shreds of clues, ask coded questions of passersby?  Not on your life!  I run and hide, I flee at once to my room and pull the shades, lest somehow once more that hideous exhibit find me, and before I know it I find myself wandering lost and terrified through its dim, distorted corridors.  Oh, you may laugh at this, say I’m being extreme, and I am, I know I am, but that’s just it – I wasn’t so before.  Oh, beware thrill seekers!  The Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum is not worth the risk.  My experience there was a nightmare from which I am only just now beginning to wake.  And while it is true that everyone’s experience there would differ widely – such is its genius, as I will try to explain – I’m not certain that anyone, anyone at all mind you, emerges from it unscathed.

True, I went there at what was for me the worst possible time.  I was not well; I was losing weight, not sleeping, talking to walls; in short, for the first time in my entire life I found myself utterly alone.  For seven years my wife Elizabeth and I had enjoyed what many who appreciated our obvious compatibility had called a fantasy marriage—but they didn’t know the half of it.  Who indeed could even have imagined, much less penetrated, the dense fabric of our private, dreamy life together?  Between us we fashioned a whole world, a whole language, created and re-created it daily.  We animated everything around us, not just our childhood dolls or toys or every part of our bodies, as all lovers do to some extent, but even the most insignificant, most in-animate things, and constantly so, relentlessly.  Knives, scissors, vacuums, ice scrapers – everything we touched had a soul and sang along with us, celebrating our joy at “passing together through this vale of tears we call life,” as the Justice of the Peace, prophetic old hag, had read at our elopement.  When a pen came up missing, we turned the place inside out to find it, listening all the while for its tinny shriek:  Help!  I’m over here! And we’d say “Where?  Where?  Tell us where,” and after a long pause it would answer with a sob, I don’t know.  It was really terrifying sometimes; for all we knew our beloved object was lying in a gutter somewhere miles away, half-buried in slush, freezing to death, maybe crushed!  Sometimes we’d find it months later in some forgotten corner of the closet, dusty and worn but alive—and then, what a celebration we’d have!  We’d kiss it, use it to draw countless hearts and exclamation points, and store it from then on in a red velvet box with the string of pearls.  Some perceptive individuals, perhaps sensing this invisible world resounding just beneath the surface of our public lives, used to say what wonderful parents we’d make someday, but we were in no hurry to prove them right.  What need had we for children when as it was our apartment rang with little voices, all clamoring for our attention, and getting it too, every time without fail?

But then, but then – all at once the joyful singing stopped.  Well, not all at once; during the usual period of lies and subterfuge they sang on tape, or were merely ventriloquized.  But before that, before I actually discovered my wife had forsaken our world for another, she showed not one sign of dissatisfaction, none at all, nothing of significance anyway.  You may believe this or not, I don’t care.  At first I was shocked to realize that our mutual friends were avoiding me, but now I’ve learned well that the world despises a loser, no matter how blameless – or especially if he is blameless (such people do exist you know).  At one point it was of vital importance to me that Elizabeth had agreed (and, incidentally, without coercion) to sign a written statement that it was all her fault, that I had done absolutely nothing wrong.  Thankfully, we never drew up such a document – imagine having that around!—but none of that matters to me now.  I only mention it to describe how my state of mind may have contributed to my dreadful experience in the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum – not that this fact absolves its proprietors.  No, not in the slightest.

It all began on the first of November, exactly one month to the day after my wife had departed our world.  I remember it was a terribly dense, gray Saturday morning, the kind that convinces you at once that you will never be resurrected.  I cowered in bed far longer than usual, occasionally glancing up at the brass hook poking out of my ceiling, and supposing for the hundredth time that it was strong enough to suspend the heaviest houseplant, but probably not a body.  As usual this train of thought led me to the humbling fact that I could not in any case tie even the simplest good knot.  It would have to be a “good” one, I figured, one you had to master, one sanctioned by the Boy Scouts of America or taught on the docks by some old salt (“Aye, there you go, Laddie, a ‘cuckold’s neck’ that is”); but the former I had never joined, and the latter I’d only read about, having lived my early years in the heart of the country, hopelessly landlocked.  On the other hand, research, premeditation (consulting The Book of Knots, say) was out of the question, and as this was my usual exit from such semi-dark musings, at last I just groaned and rolled myself out of bed to make coffee.

It was deathly quiet in the kitchen.  The spoons, the mugs, were lifeless in my hands, merely functional, corpses of metal and porcelain.  How they used to dance through the air to my beloved just waking to our weekend!  I gave a couple of short sobs, then winced at the sound; I hated when they bubbled to the surface like that, but even more so this time, because the very moment they spilled down my chin and onto the counter, the man next door erupted in one of his uncontrollable fits of shrieking laughter.  Victor had Tourette’s or something and so almost never went out, cowed, I assume, by thirty-odd years of ridicule.  As such he was even more alone in the world than I was, but the few times I’d seen and spoken to him, even hoping to befriend him, he’d shrugged me off, pretending he hadn’t heart.  Of course, he couldn’t help himself, he wasn’t laughing at me; he even kept the television on loud to muffle his outbursts (no doubt previous tenants had complained), or else to make me think he was just entertained himself like anyone else.  Still, it was naturally disturbing to notice how often his funhouse cackling coincided with my worst moments; perhaps my miserable little cries dribbling through the thin walls made him nervous, or even compassionate, and this was his only way of showing it.

But on that awful, gray morning, it was only too obvious that Victor was the whole world, and that in its eyes I was a terrific fool.  I sobbed some more, louder this time, and Victor laughed again.  “Stop it!” I cried finally, but the world found this particularly hilarious; its triumph sent me reeling across the room as far from the wall as possible.  I curled up in a ball and covered my ears with my palms, but the cackles bled through the cracks in my fingers.  I tried desperately to think of something else, anything else, and that’s when I heard them, those voices in the distance, drawing nearer, a chorus of boys singing over and over: Kyri-e Eleison, Kyri-e Eleison, Kyri-e Eleison…

Then I saw them, emerging in hazy black and white as in an old film, black-robed boys in procession along a sandy strand, the leader holding aloft a giant spear of a crucifix, the last (and smallest) swinging a censer like a bell.  The scene was familiar, but I couldn’t identify it, so I kept replaying it over and over, rewinding the film, examining it for clues, expecting that at any moment the boys would wander into the tiny dim room in my mind where their names or their purpose were uselessly stored.  A light would flash, no doubt a disappointingly faint one, a mere flicker, but you know how it is, I had to have it anyway.  Sometimes I felt them eerily close, just on the other side of the wall from full recognition, but no matter how carefully I led them on they always took the wrong turn. At last I sensed they’d wandered too far and were hopelessly lost, and so abandoned the search.  But it had served its purpose; I had calmed, and so had Victor.

I got up and warmed my coffee, smoked a cigarette.  Outside a cold rain was spitting down from the sky, dragging the last of the autumn to the dirty pavement, mercenaries on a mop-up which I knew would last the rest of the day and deep into the night.  I knew for certain now that it was the day I’d dreaded for some time, the day I wouldn’t know how to survive.  I had tried to prepare for it, or else stave it off, by cultivating a desperate variety of interests.  I wrote letters, especially to people I hadn’t seen for years.  I kept a journal of my dreams (frightful things, mostly about intruders ransacking my home, or lurking in closets).  I set up a darkroom, watched my diet, read German fairy tales, played myself in chess, studied basic alchemy, plumbing, phrenology.  They seemed sturdy enough nets while I was weaving them, but of course on this heaviest of all days, none of them were of the slightest use.  I plummeted through each of them as through cobwebs and by afternoon hit rock bottom with a terrific thud.  As a last resort I switched on the television and made a quick circuit of the channels, pausing only at a panel discussion of the abortion issue, which started out quite civilized but of course rapidly degenerated into a vicious scream session, one side hurling ‘piles and piles of dead babies,” and the other slinging “rusty, bloody coat hangers in back alleys.”

It was awful.  I paced up and down my apartment, smoking, wringing my hands, then all at once stopped in a kind of paralysis, a quiet terror.  For months I’d been teasing myself about that brass hook above my bed, and although I wasn’t really considering suicide right then either, suddenly I understood for the first time in my life how it happened.  For a while you had these moments in which you felt horribly trapped, immobile, suffocating—quite a lot of them at first and then perhaps less frequently but more and more intensely—until one day you just couldn’t wriggle free, you didn’t even try.  You were already dead, so the last act itself was just one minor detail to take care of, like locking the door before you went out.

Naturally I was alarmed at this revelation and began to scramble for alternatives.  I grabbed my coat and rushed out the front door, but was blown back by all that cold rain; and besides, where could I possibly go that my despair wouldn’t follow, squat on my shoulders?  At a bar perhaps my demon would get distracted and mingle with the other depressed souls, but there was no guarantee of that, and my misery wanted no company.  Back inside, I figured I should call someone and snatched up the phone, but the dial tone stretched out like a long black line separating me from the world.  The only person in town whom I knew for certain would not make a withering excuse was M., the brother of a friend of mine who lived upstate.  But M. was in severe depression himself.  At the age of thirty he’d suddenly found himself caught in the web of a number of obsessive compulsions, sexual in nature and adolescent in origin, which prevented him from becoming the productive member of society his generally friendly manner and high test scores had always presumed.  After losing himself (and the greater part of his inheritance) in a few religious cults, he had finally surrendered to the urging of concerned friends and relatives and sequestered himself in the gentle, careful environs of Weber Sanitarium.  What’s more, though I had seen quite a lot of M. the year or so he’d lived here, I hadn’t yet told him of my situation.  I didn’t want to upset him, I’d told myself, since it seemed likely that M. in his extreme, childish way had considered my wife and me the most stable couple in the world, perhaps even substitute parents for the ones he’d long ago lost to divorce, and that news of our split might make him reason in despair that if we hadn’t made it, then it was hopeless for him.

But this miserable afternoon I couldn’t help but admit there was more to my not telling him than some conveniently benevolent desire to protect him from the harsh realities of the world.  I’d always used to try to encourage him by saying that he was not so very different from a lot of people, that in fact if I myself were to lose the structure my wife supplied me I’d no doubt soon join him there on the borderline.  Of course, this was rather easy encouragement, perhaps even somewhat disingenuous, since at the time I never dreamed such a loss was possible.  How could I face him now that it was so, now that the distinction between us was rapidly blurring?  True, I had not as yet developed the disabling compulsions he had, but I didn’t doubt that I was a high risk for one or two.  Actually now I wish I had called M., since he has been the only one who has truly understood and sympathized with my experience in the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum.  But at the time I could only believe it was better to keep my distance from M. for a while, lest before we knew it we’d begin to feed and shape each other’s manias.

Of course, I considered calling M.’s brother, D., who was after all like a brother to me too, or any of my other old friends scattered across the country; but although they all had on numerous occasions made it clear to me that I should not hesitate to call at precisely times such as this, I didn’t feel I could stand interjecting my misery into their happy Saturdays.  I thought too of calling my real brother or else my sister, but as our parents had spent a great deal of their marriage ignoring their problems, we were rather uncomfortable talking to one another about ours.  I’d invariably allow myself to become terse when they couldn’t give me what I wanted, even angry.  Besides, I’d come to despise that moment at the close of any telephone call when the tiny voice at the other end clicked away into the unreachable past, the dead receiver echoed in its cradle, and once more I was enveloped in dark, oppressive silence.

In short, I was exhausted, drained from the intense effort I was putting into every single day, every hour.  Now I wanted more than anything for something to come to me, for someone to tell me what to do.  For a while I even convinced myself that precisely that would happen, that at any moment I’d hear a ring or else a knock at my door, simply because I so wished it.  I sat down in the chair and waited, and waited; the caller, the visitor, was just now dialing, was walking up the steps, and here they were…”Now,” I said aloud, “N-N-Now!”

I played this game for the better part of an hour, each time actually picturing the individual who was coming to rescue me from these depths, often someone I’d never seen before, offering me a whole new world to explore, a new life.  The postman with his bag of special deliveries; the political canvasser; the woman upstairs with her broken thermostat; the wrong number who by total chance had lived across the street from me that summer seven years ago, and who had watched with great interest from her attic room window as I sat on the porch steps piecing together “that poor broken woman with the dark circles” (Elizabeth!  So it wasn’t a dream then?  It did happen the way I remembered it!).  None of them came when called, but that hardly discouraged me; in fact, it wasn’t long before I’d systematized the game.  Once I’d conceived my savior, I gave him or her precisely ten minutes to make themselves known, and while the clock ticked down to that moment of transformation, I imagined exactly what I’d say, and what they’d say, and what future meetings would hold, pleasant or not.  Every now and then the picture would get hazy, or else simply complete, and there was nothing to do but wait out the last fifty seconds or so; and then suddenly Victor would let loose a shriek, and into the breach would wander that procession of choirboys with their dreamy chant.  Each time I repeated in vain my previous attempts at identifying the boys, if only to dismiss them more quickly – I didn’t want them blocking the way when my visitor arrived – but then all at once they themselves tripped the wire, and all was light and revelation.

They were from a film after all, The Lord of the Flies, which I’d seen a portion of many months before on one of those long nights my wife’s absences had begun to seem suspicious.  The book I’d read in early adolescence, just after my pious phase during which I was secretly preparing myself for the priesthood—kneeling in that cavernous church in the dim blue dawn, even on Saturdays, alone except for the dozen or so old, worn sufferers and penitents scattered in the shadows; clutching my red missal and fingering my beads, clenching my teeth and thinking hard to myself as the bell was ringing, “There it is, right there, the Body and Blood!”  Perhaps the book put an end to that era, scared me off with all that “savagery within.”  Remember that awful business?  Kill the beast!  Cut his throat!  Spill his blood! Poor Piggy, he didn’t have a chance.  No, it was better not to be thrilled with blood, but then what else was there, I wondered way back then and often since, except the bland world that seemed so drained of it?

Anyway, although recognizing the source of the procession hardly rescued me from my present despair, for me there’s always something somewhat satisfying, if not sedative, about making pieces fit, any pieces.  Suddenly I felt extremely tired and without a single other thought about my mystery callers or visitors, I dropped off into a dead sleep right there in the chair.

Now, I’m not at all fond of afternoon naps; for me they’re always fitful and usually haunted by the most disturbing dreams.  I hate the feeling of waking in total darkness, terribly disoriented and often twice as weary as I was before.  This is especially so if the nap is suddenly interrupted as it was that day by the ringing phone.  I scrambled, or rather was lifted, out of my bed (at some point I must have drifted there from the chair like a ghost), not at all aware of who I was or where, thinking only “Disaster” and then “Catastrophe” and then “What what what?!” until finally I answered the phone and heard the soft, gentle voice of my wife Elizabeth at the other end.

She wanted to see me right away; she had something important to tell me, or to show me, something she knew I’d like.  I paused, allowing that warm sound to fill my chest cavity, the old familiar tone.  Of course, I breathed at last, of course I’d meet her wherever she liked.  She gave me an address, then I hung up the phone, and instead of the usual awful silence I heard a gentle buzzing, a rising murmur, throughout my apartment.  It’s over, I thought; she’s coming back!  And the place erupted in cheers.

We’re back!  We’re alive! they shouted, the potholders and the pillows, the envelopes and erasers.  I spread my arms wide as though to embrace them all.  I put on my coat and was just about to leave when I was called back by the toaster, who unlike other toasters was sort of plump and slow, and not really all that good at toasting, but lovable in his simple way.  “What is it?” I said, but he’d forgotten, and everyone laughed, and I smiled and took a few steps toward the door, and then oh yeah:  Go get ‘em, Cal! Moved, I tapped him on his broad shoulder, said I couldn’t have done it without him, and get ready to toast his brains out.  Everyone laughed again and cheered.  I waved and hurried out the door.

I was delirious, I couldn’t believe what was happening.  I barely remember riding the train downtown.  Before I knew it I was looking up and down Brian Street for “a dark alley that veined in from the right side.”

You should know right away that the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum was not really a basement at all; that is, there were no upper floors to the museum.  Oh, there were stairs all right, hundreds of them, but the museum itself was all basement.  Do you follow me?  I don’t suppose you do.  I scarcely understand the place, though I spent hours there – the most terrifying hours of my life.  It all began happily enough.  My wife and I had always enjoyed museums, especially those secret exhibitions I mentioned earlier, and we were elated to have stumbled upon this one, happy to stroll into it arm in arm, celebrating our reunion.  Oh, there was no need to say anything, no need to make it official with an apology; my Elizabeth was back, and all was forgiven.

We were greeted in pitch darkness by a tall, thin woman in a stiff, midnight blue suit – our guide whether we wanted one or not, a performance artist, I imagined; in fact, a faint white and bluish light shone down on her, and on my wife and me as well, so that it seemed as though we were all standing on a stage.  Her black hair was tied back in a tight bun, so that she was mostly a face, a glossy blue mask with intense dark eyes and high sharp cheekbones.  She stood very rigidly erect and spoke in a very formal if soft tone, more like a scientist or a doctor than a tour guide.  Understandably overwhelmed by the strangeness of the scene, I didn’t catch what she said at first, then gathered she’d already begun explaining the first exhibit.

“…So that at times one is prevented from performing the simplest acts,” she concluded matter-of-factly and gestured with her palm to our right.  The room was pitch black, but at her sign there was a faint hum of electricity, and a hazy cone of eerie reddish and bluish lights shone down from somewhere.  There seemed nothing there at first, but soon our eyes adjusted, and we could see certain familiar objects slowly materializing, as through a purple gauze.  It was a bathroom, or a portion of one – a narrow, milkwhite sink with an unusually complex network of silver pipes curling beneath like thick vines to a chessboard tile floor, and a small, cracked mirror hanging slightly askew just above.  The faucet was on full, and I could faintly hear and see a steady stream of white water; in fact, the more I watched, the more I felt I could feel the water, flowing warm and soft over my hands.  This was my first indication of the unique powers of the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum, but I barely had time to acknowledge what was happening before the first performance/exhibit began.

A man, more haze than flesh, emerged out of the darkness and approached the sink.  Weary from labor, he obviously wanted to wash his hands, which were quite large (and rough, I imagined).  However, just as he was about to place his hands in the soothing stream, he saw something in it, some reddish white mass spinning slowly around and around as though on a spit.  He stood back aghast, transfixed.  After a few moments he considered trying again, but every time he made the slightest motion towards the sink, the mass (a hologram, I believe) seemed to intensify, becoming redder and if possible more animal than before, its turning ribs more distinct.  Then a woman remarkably similar in looks and bearing to our tour guide approached from behind, clearly interested in using the sink as well.  She waited behind the man for a moment, never letting on she was there, but then finally, seeing the man was having such a hard time, she grew impatient and disgusted and turned away into the darkness.  The man stood there frozen, mesmerized, no longer even trying to wash.  And so the first performance ended, evaporated, faded to black.

The spell broken, my mouth fell open.  I was stunned, impressed.  I glanced at my wife, who was grinning broadly.  She must have felt it too, the strange power of the performance, which made us feel wholly sympathetic with the man, not in the way people normally toss out the word, but in its strictest sense; we were completely as one with him in his plight, our consciousnesses merged, his terror ours.  Who was this actor?  I thought, I must get his name.  Then the tour guide extended her palm again indicating the way to the next exhibit, which I could just barely see hovering like a patch of fog in the far corner.  We slowly made our way over, and out of the white mist emerged a little grove of seven tall poles, on each of which was impaled a full set of teeth.

“Sometimes when people are under great stress their teeth fall out,” our guide explained with jarring disinterest.  We stood there looking at the display, waiting, but this time no actors emerged into the spotlight.  Soon it was clear that there wouldn’t be any performance this time, and my wife and I turned to one another and smiled.  Well, it was clever and interesting, we were thinking, more of what one would expect from a place like this—but what a letdown after the previous exhibit!  Perhaps a little too quickly we turned and nodded to our guide to show we were ready to move on.  For an instant I thought I saw her come out of her character when the faintest trace of a smile played at the edge of her lips – evidently she too knew it was a weak exhibit – but at once she recovered her professional sheen, turned silently on her heel, and let us further on into the darkness.

Now, it’s quite possible that some of you have perceived the trap I was falling into at precisely this moment.  Lulled to sleep, my defenses down, I must have seemed easy prey to the museum’s depraved proprietors. I should have suspected something the moment I noticed how long the walk to the next exhibit was taking, as well as how increasingly dark it was getting all around us.  But instead I did precisely as they’d no doubt designed;  I turned inward and thought about the previous exhibits, especially the latter, which in my mind at least had sparked an unfortunate connection.

When I first met Elizabeth seven years ago at the Architecture Institute, she was in a deplorable state.  An abusive father and several neurotic lovers had led her at twenty-two right to the brink of debilitating despair.  She could barely sleep, much less assume a passable role in the waking world, which in general is quick, even anxious, to sweep aside those who cannot pretend they are having an easy time in it.  How strange it was, then, wandering there alone on the frazzled outskirts of the well-ordered, self-policed city of rational men and women, to find she had attracted me, a more or less healthy, straightforward young man.  It was a dream, too good to be true.  I was kind, thoughtful, patient (her own description), but not blandly so; I knew how to pass in the careless, blind world, yet I had never forsaken my childhood passion to see beneath its surface, to know life in all its complexities, to crack its hidden code.  We fell in love at once, but naturally for a while she resisted my attentions, until at last one raw February night a light flashed in her head, and she understood I was her only hope.

Within a week she’d asked me to move in with her, and I did so at once, carrying in with my toaster sincere promises that I’d take care of her, that I’d see her into the world until in time she felt comfortable enough to perform in it herself.  She warned me that this was a gigantic task; she would be a lot of trouble, and after all she might never get there fully.  But I said I didn’t care, that really I could see no better way to spend the present.  Besides, she might be surprised to see how well I could do the job; in many ways I felt as though I had been born for it.  She seemed elated with the declaration, if still somewhat skeptical, so at once I threw myself into the project with all my energy.  I got her up in the morning (no small feat), walked her to the Institute, right up to her classroom door, then collected here there at night.  After dinner I made sure she began her designs ahead of schedule.  Oh, she was good at her work, everyone knew it, far more talented and ambitious than I was; in fact, watching her work made me realize something I’d suspected all along—that in the end I would have to be content merely to do the groundwork for someone else’s plans, check their calculations and measurements, though of course these lowly tasks too are important in bringing any conception to reality.  But I didn’t envy her her success, not in the slightest.  On the contrary I delighted in the prospect of being that invisible hand pushing her gently toward her inevitable and well-deserved fame.

In the meantime, I chased off bill collectors, returned her library books, changed her oil.  In short, I gave her life a structure, a benign order, it had never known.  This is not to suggest we did not feel intense passion for one another, of course we did; in fact, some people felt it was just the opposite, that we were all passion and nothing more.  We even had to learn not to let it spill over too much in public so as not to cause some repressed individual to sigh enviously, “Oh, it’ll fade.”  But most people, I’ve found, cannot keep two ideas in their head at once.  We, by contrast, were in perfect sync, our relationship a self-reflexive operation; without passion we could never have sustained our desire to complete the arduous labor on the mundane foundation of our relationship, and without this foundation we could never have built that fantastic structure, that constantly shifting, ever expanding dreamhouse in which we ecstatically dwelt for seven years.

True, at times early on Elizabeth simply couldn’t believe the floor beneath her could be so solid and, as if to test its resilience, would lapse hard into fits of extreme depression.  After a dose of my relentless care and attention, however, she would always revive, and with a swiftness that often surprised even me.  Then in the middle of our first summer, one of these fits lasted an unusually long time, almost two whole weeks.  One steamy night in July she woke up in a pale terror, tears streaming down her face.  She’d had an awful nightmare; she was sitting in a restaurant when suddenly her teeth began falling out four and five at a time.  In a panic she rushed to the ladies’ room, where a woman who seemed to know instantly recognized the symptoms and dispassionately informed her she had “dyspnea.”  The woman said no more, but my wife knew that the condition was incurable—that when you were out of teeth, you were out of time.  There was nothing she could do except to keep her mouth closed as much as possible in order to prevent the remaining teeth from loosening.

Well, I managed to calm her down, and the next day we laughed some about the dream. Dyspnea!  We both thought it was one of those nonsense words our dreams piece together out of fragments, a grotesque distortion like a minotaur, until on a whim we decided to check the dictionary and to our surprise found it there whole, a real element of our waking language; it named a kind of breathlessness, as I recall, a symptom of hysteria.  We spoke no more about the dream, but by evening Elizabeth seemed even more agitated, pensive, and self-absorbed than before.  When after a few days all my usual methods of reviving her failed to take hold, even I began to doubt that I could really help her.  But then she missed a period, and after a visit to the clinic we had our explanation.  Elizabeth was relieved to have this biological excuse for her anxiety, we both were; she’d really feared she was cracking up for good this time.  Of course, having the baby was out of the question.  Our twin stars were just then piercing the evening sky; neither of us could abide having them eclipsed even temporarily. The jarring effects of the abortion lingered for days, but I did what I could—brought her flowers and tea, read her Anna Karenina in seventeen different voices—and vowed never to let her suffer again.   Two weeks later, hours after our bodies had melted to sleep in joyful reunion, she woke me up and whispered we should get married.

Was I dreaming?  No.  Brimming with pure joy, I leapt out of bed and to Elizabeth’s immense delight ran ecstatically around the apartment, turning on all the lights, waking up the spoons and forks, the umbrella and the broom, shouting them the good news and accepting their various congratulations, their first words (It’s about time! said the clock, an understandably impatient sort).  And thus were they all welcomed to life, to our blossoming world in which even the least among them were beloved.

So, yes, it was a difficult time, but a good time too, a time of celebration – at least that’s how I see it and always will until I die, no matter what my wife says or does to distort it.  Oh, never try to save a marriage by asking for explanations; just take your memories and go.  It’s unbearable to see your history, even its most basic facts, twisted and reshaped like soft clay in order to plug the gaping holes in some monstrous present delusion.  For now my Elizabeth contends she never did love me with a passion, neither then nor even now, not really, not with her whole being.  She says she saw early on that despite her sincere desire to believe in them, all my benevolent “structures” cast more of a spell on me than on her.  For instance, as she “remembers” it, she never even really asked me to move in with her in the first place(!); somehow I had just assumed that this was the obvious first step in “my project.”  Her pregnancy was thus particularly painful for her – was I so blind that I couldn’t see how miserably I’d failed her?  And yet there I was, promising still more!  But after all that was over, she’d decided what the hell, it wasn’t so bad; in fact, the constant attention was rather nice at times, and I wasn’t a fool.  Maybe our life together would lack the passion, the magical, mysterious connection she’d always dreamed of, but it was sweet.  And wasn’t that what mature people did after all, give up their dreams?  To her surprise, there were times during the next seven years when she came very close to loving me in this ideal way, but she insists it never really happened.

Then the very month her design was accepted for the new Children’s Theatre & Exhibition Space downtown – the event that should have been the crowning achievement of our mutual project – Elizabeth let these old doubts creep in and suck the life out of our glad, spirited world overnight.  Almost immediately – what a coincidence – she happened upon that great mythological being whom she felt spoke “the wordless interior language” she’d always longed to hear.  It didn’t matter if he really was hopelessly unstable, as everyone (including her!) believed; he was the “truth” for her, she said, and that was that.  As for our world, of course she appreciated it; it was wonderful and charming, a marvelous, complex creation—but it just wasn’t enough.  It was a living thing, almost a child, but it wasn’t really hers….

Anyway, during the past few months I’d played this fiction over in my head so many times that I’d almost started to believe it myself.  It was a nightmare that plagued me night and day – the whole last seven years a lie, a cruel joke, a mistake!   No wonder, then, that there in the darkness between exhibits in the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum I became so haunted by doubt.  Could it really be that the nightmare was all over now, as it seemed to be?  Had my wife really come to her senses and taken it all back?  I stole a glance out of the corner of my eye to see if the staked teeth had triggered the same association in Elizabeth’s mind (they must have!), but by now the darkness was so impenetrable I could see neither her nor our guide.  Nervously I reached out my hand to find Elizabeth’s but grasped only cold, damp air.  “Elizabeth,” I whispered, but received no answer.  “Wait, where are you two?”  I laughed out loud, then added weakly, “Hello?”

Silence, not even the hum of electricity.  I cursed under my breath.  I’ve always hated to be lost under any circumstances, but what with my pangs of doubt, I felt doubly anxious.  I knew that once I’d found them we’d all have a little laugh over it at my expense, then suspected that this was happening by design, part of the “experience” as these people like to say.  Well, I was in no mood for a funhouse; I had a serious matter to discuss with my wife.  I took a few faltering steps in the dark, but then stopped, feeling queasy and uncertain.  If you’ve ever been lost in the woods at night, you know what I was feeling—any step you take is wrong.  In fact, this was far worse—may I remind you it was pitch black in there?  Trying hard not to panic, I retraced my steps as best I could—very steadily at first, fearing that any second I’d bump into something or fall down some stairs, which I’m sure the museum’s sadistic proprietors would have found very amusing from wherever they were watching.  But after a while I grew desperate and just started to run headlong into the black, every once in a while calling out my wife’s name and “I’m over here!”

I ran like mad for what seemed an eternity, then all at once, as though I’d emerged out of a bank of black fog, the darkness just ended, and I found myself in a large room that was empty except for three rows of long tables.  Though the place was but dimly lit, I could tell it was a cafeteria, probably in the basement of an old elementary school, judging from the smell emanating from the porous cement walls and dirty tile floor.  It was the kind of place which under normal circumstances I could have remained for some time, blurring my eyes and imagining I was really back there in those old days long buried.  And I believe for a split second I did feel compelled to find my usual table, sit down in the now far too small chair and watch other tiny familiar spirits materialize; peek through the crack into the teacher’s lounge where both beloved and feared sat as though undressed in a cloud of cigarette smoke; or crouch in the dark corner where they herded us during tornado warnings, the black winds howling outside…

But I shook it off.  This was no time for idle retrospection; I had to find the museum’s exit, where no doubt my wife was already waiting, perhaps impatiently.  I hurried instinctively to the far right corner and to my immense relief immediately came upon the stairs.

I ran up them three at a time, breathing heavily, Get out of the basement, Get out of the basement, but at the top of them stopped dead in amazement.  What a jarring contrast!  Suddenly I found myself at the edge of a huge, lavish hotel lobby or department store, crowded with busy well-dressed people and divided in the center by a silver and glass escalator.  I shook my head in disbelief and was even somewhat amused by it all, ready to forgive and even praise the museum’s proprietors; their basement was after all a clever social comment, a haunting reminder of the desperate dissatisfaction this cheery, careless buying and selling tries (and inevitably fails) to screen.

Oh, if it had only been that!  Because just as I was about to step into this lobby, I saw them, that hideous couple descending slowly, very slowly, down the escalator.  They stood out in the crowd in their dirty, ill-fitting clothes—the man tall and skeletal with long, thinning, dirty blond hair, the woman short and dumpy with a head of matted, grayish black curls.  Their blotched red faces were hard and mean, but when they saw me their eyes lit up with recognition and disgust.  They bared their stained, crooked teeth and whispered to one another conspiratorially, descending, descending, never once taking their eyes off me.  I stood frozen in horror until at last they reached the bottom of the escalator and separated, the woman creeping with purpose off to the right, the man taking long strides right toward me, bent on tearing me to pieces.

Now, I realize that at this point my story strains credibility – how could I possibly have believed that what was going on was not just a tasteless trick, albeit a remarkably complex one?  I assure you I’ve considered this very question countless times ever since, and the only answer I can make is that one should never underestimate the obsessive craft of artists and psychiatrists; they among all people will never give up until they have thought of everything, until they have closed up every exit by which you might escape their experimental worlds.  Individually they are bad enough; together they are simply demonic.  For instance, only later did it occur to me that what was so mesmerizing about the couple on the escalator was that they were such grotesque doubles of my wife and me – about a dozen hard years older, cynical, manipulative, stripped of the gloss of our education and careful manner, but unmistakably us nonetheless.  Only a very skilled performance artist could observe a person for just ten minutes and then execute a distortion of his character which the subject could recognize only from very deep within.  Further, I’m no psychopharmacologist (though I have since read extensively on the subject), but I suspect the use of some hallucinogen, some invisible gas in the air which takes effect some time after they’ve begun to show you their collection of “exhibits,” which they know from exhaustive testing will strike at least one dissonant chord in every man and woman.  Whatever the reasons, at this point in my nightmarish experience I was totally incapable of even considering what was real and what was a product of my blasted open imagination.  I’d even forgotten about finding my wife (more on her possible complicity in all this later; after all she too must not be underestimated).  I only knew then that I was being hunted and that I had to run for my life.

I flew down the stairs and through the cafeteria until I came to what I supposed to be the door of the teacher’s lounge.  Inside, a handful of smartly dressed people were milling about, discussing something in low, serious tones.  When they didn’t seem to notice me standing there breathlessly, I did feel some relief that somehow I’d stumbled upon the museum’s exit, but at that point I could hardly be sure.  Then I noticed another door slightly ajar to the right, and to my surprise and elation spotted my friend M. sitting by himself in a small, littered classroom.  I went over and tapped him lightly on the shoulder.  He looked up with bleary eyes – they had him loaded up with anti-depressants again – then finally recognized me and smiled faintly.  Evidently the Weber doctors had brought their boarders on a little field trip to the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum, and now M. was filling out some questionnaire about his experience there (what were you thinking when the lights went out?  Describe your feelings). I glanced over my shoulder at the men and women buried deep in their sober discussions and shuddered.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said through my teeth.  M. looked at me quizzically, blearily;  under medication it was very hard for him to process and respond to any information, much less a request as wild as this.  I started to blurt out that someone was trying to kill me, but then stopped.  M. had struggled very hard to trust his various therapists; it might be too much of a jolt for him to hear that they were careless people, if not downright diabolical.  “It’s all right,” I went on, struggling to sound calm, “just tell them you went with me.”

M. stared at me for a long moment, then slowly turned toward the doctors.  They wouldn’t mind; I’d often acted as his temporary escort to the real world.  Then at last he just shrugged, by now very much accustomed to following orders.  But of course he was supposed to be assertive too.  “I should finish this,” he said, lightly brushing the paper with the tip of his pencil.

I sighed and nodded.  He was only about halfway through.  “Just hurry a little bit,” I said and checked the antechamber, which was now suddenly cleared of scientists – a bad sign.  I stared at the opening; at any second the head of my hideous double would slide through the crack, first one murderous green eye and then the other.  He has to know I’m here, I thought, there’s nowhere else!  Meanwhile, M. was laboring, pondering.  He probably couldn’t find his way out either.  It was hot, I began to feel faint – trapped!  Then I looked all around and for the first time noticed another door slightly ajar leading to a small blue room, apparently a chapel of some kind.  God only knows what kind of debased tricks they played in there!  I braced myself, planted my feet; if the monster appeared I’d run into the chapel and close the door.  M. was rubbing his brow in weary concentration.  Question six, Question seven….Page Two.

That second page hidden beneath the first, my head all in a darkening whirl, Victor’s ghastly cackling, those beastly killers in black pursuing me with their relentless Kyri-e Ele-i-son – these are the last waking sensations I can recall from the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum—though I certainly remained a prisoner there for at least seven more hours.  I must have left M. at once, dashed into the blue room perhaps, or else back into the cafeteria and the ten thousand other rooms adjacent.  It is impossible to say; the rest of what I remember is all hallucination, or dream, though at the time of course I was as convinced of its reality as I am right now of the pen in my hand.

Here is what happened:  I opened my eyes.  I was sitting in a chair in a hotel room.  M.’s brother D. was there with his wife A., talking and laughing with Elizabeth, who was busy at a counter along a far wall, preparing a meal, I thought, chopping vegetables.  All was peaceful, happy; a warm breeze drifted in from an open window somewhere.  They didn’t seem entirely aware of me, and suddenly I understood that it was because I was just now waking, not merely from a nap but from a deep catatonia, which had probably lasted months, maybe years—no doubt the result of my trauma in the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum.

Of course, I was thrilled to be once more among the living and was anxious to speak my first words.  Oh, I could already hear their joyful shouts, feel their embraces, their wet tears; I was so grateful for their loyal care, for not abandoning me all this time, I almost wept my way back into their world.  But I held my tongue, choked back my tears; for a while I just wanted to watch them, to celebrate every mundane detail that makes life worth living, despite its pain.  I remember looking, absorbing, thinking Window, doll, Book, Cradle….Cradle?  Yes, there was one there in the corner, an old wooden thing on rockers I’d seen many times under a blanket of black dust in my parents’ attic, the painted silver moons at its foot absorbed into the grain.  And then to my astonishment I saw for the first time what my wife was really doing there at the counter, not cooking as I’d thought, but holding a baby, a naked, raw, blotched-red infant.  I gasped inwardly – the baby was ours!

How can I begin to describe my feelings at that moment?  Imagine waking up to your wildest dream, your most perfect conception of peace and contentment.  I was overjoyed, blissful, warm – it was paradise!  Anxiously I began to search my mind for the pieces with which I could fill in the wide gap in my memory, probably spanning a year, but I groped in total darkness.  At times I saw a flicker of light as from a shard of blue glass, or an object, the brass doorknob to our bedroom – a whole world trying to burst through the seams of the opaque fabric obscuring them.  It was frustrating not to be able to retrieve these objects, these memories, to hold them endearingly in my mind, walk around them as at a museum, touch them, feel their solid weight, their remarkable composition; but at least I knew they were there.  I felt certain it would all come back in time, each found fragment of the mosaic, no matter how insignificant, a cause for renewed celebration.

Oh, if only it had all stopped there, if only I could have sustained that vision I’d never have wanted to wake further.  But too much had happened in the past for me not to doubt it, and the very moment I did so, my pleasant hallucination turned into the grotesque nightmare for which I’ll never forgive the cruel proprietors of the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum.

Unable to retrieve any tangible pieces of my past, I abandoned my search for the time being and sat enjoying the scene before me one last time before I would at last break the spell with a single phrase, hopefully something very clever.  It was almost funny, this little domestic scene in which I’d played a key role without even knowing it.  Evidently I’d done something right, I laughed to myself, and considered saying precisely this as I re-entered the drama.  In fact, I was poised to take my first step on stage when suddenly I stopped, paralyzed with the dreadful suspicion that I was misreading the scene entirely.  How could I be sure that this child…

No!  It was mine, I assured myself, it had to be mine.  And then all at once, I received conclusive proof of the fact – to my unspeakable horror!  All along my wife had been happily cleaning the child, powdering his thighs, his genitals, but suddenly I noticed that the latter were not those of an infant at all, but of an adult male.  The penis stuck out absurdly straight from its small scrub of tangled brown hair, white bumps at its base, a mysterious black spot on its side.  I will resist the temptation to omit one further shocking detail concerning this organ, though no one would blame me if I did.  Observe what a monstrous place this museum was:  the boy’s penis was mine, not as a matter of genetics, but actually, physically mine.  And suddenly I realized that my wife was not merely cleaning the boy, but preparing him for something, an operation or a ceremony, though apparently not circumcision.

At once I sprang out of my chair and rushed to the child, sweeping him off the counter and into my arms.  Contrary to my expectations, no one even blinked at my sudden waking.  My friend D. beamed with delight; as a new father himself, he evidently took great pleasure in watching me deal with this wriggling thing, which despite my attempts to secure a grip kept shrinking in my arms.  At last it was the size and shape of this one stuffed toy my wife had carried with her since she was two – a worn, brownish red animal, some strange hybrid of bear, pig, human, and badger by the name of Cupid, who was the first voice and brightest star in our domestic pantheon, having played all the leads in our nightly readings from Levin to Felix Krull.  Or at least I recognize it as such now.  At the time I was merely horrified that I was somehow harming the child.  I wanted to do everything right, especially since I had so boldly “rescued” him from my wife, who oddly enough seemed to think nothing at all of my rash action; she was still busy at the counter with something, and chatting with A.  In a way it was as though I hadn’t done anything – as though I weren’t really there!

Finally in a kind of desperation I plopped the child on one of a set of twin beds that were placed very close together and which were remarkably similar to the ones my brother and I had slept on as children, right down to the checkered pattern of the bedspreads.  I shrugged and made some offhand remark about this coincidence to D., who was reclining on the other bed and still smiling at my clumsy handling of the baby.  But then as I babbled on and on abut the beds he began directing concerned glances toward the child, who was now wobbling about on the very edge of the bed.  Finally D.’s eyes widened in alarm, and he reached out an arm, but it was too late.  The baby had fallen between the beds head first and was now struck, his stubby feet dangling stiffly in the air.  I laughed nervously and made a few awkward attempts at extraction, but for the life of me I couldn’t’ figure out how to get him out without damaging his large, soft head.  Oddly enough the baby wasn’t at all crying, and evidently this eerie silence compelled the more experienced D. to take command of the situation.  He made a move to assist me, but I waved him off.  “It’s all right!” I said firmly, “He’s balanced on part of the mattress – see there?  It’s all right!”

I remember nothing more, except feeling a sudden hard pull on my veins and arteries which constricted my heart into a tight knot – a side-effect of the drug, I imagine.  Oh, I don’t doubt that my total collapse greatly alarmed the museum’s dastardly proprietors, made them fear reprisals from the authorities, lawsuits, etc.  I can well imagine their hurried, whispered discussions as to what they would do with me; perhaps at least one of them took one look at me lying there in a quivering heap and thought it best to dispose of the evidence entirely.  But he or she was overruled by the behaviorists, who agreed that they should stuff me with a sedative, rifle my body for identification and keys, and spirit me away to my address. Then when I awoke the next day in the relative safety of my familiar surroundings, I’d have to conclude it had all been a terrible nightmare.

Torturers!  I remembered it all, every detail!  I awoke earlier than they expected, around two in the morning on November the second, dumped on the floor like a beaten prisoner (no doubt a concession to the sadists in the group).  Still shaking with terror, I phoned the police and demanded they go down there and arrest the lot of them.  Then I quickly called my wife.  When she answered sleepily, I gave her a chance to explain; after all perhaps she too had been trapped in the place, pursued by her hideous double. Perhaps they’d purposely separated us so as to confuse us, or told her I’d left long ago in search of her.  Instead, to my infinite dismay (but not really to my surprise), she acted as if nothing had happened.  She merely apologized for not having called in a while; she’d been so busy lately, her design and all.  Then she laughed, fully awake now.  She was glad I called, something funny had happened the other day…

But I couldn’t take it any more.  “Where’s your shame?”  I cut in bitterly.  “Can you be so heartless?  What have I ever done to be treated like this?”

There was a long pause.  “What did I do?” she said quietly, already in tears.  “Besides the obvious.”

“The obvious?!”  I shouted.  “You brought me to that awful place under false pretenses and then just…left me there!”

“What place?  What place?” she said quickly, but I wasn’t about to listen to her denials; they’d probably instructed her exactly what to say to try and confuse me.  I slammed the phone down, for the last time as far as I was concerned.

I stayed up the rest of the night, pacing about near the phone, smoking.  Just before dawn, Victor cackled himself awake, and impatient, I phoned the police once more.  Oh sure, they’d checked out the place, but they’d drawn a blank.  There was a haunted house, a bunch of black cats, and some women with pointy hats flying around on brooms, but no Psychology museum, no sir.

Public servants!  No wonder the world is in such a dreadful state.  Radio, television, the newspapers – no matter what I said or did to prove my respectability, they all just smiled and nodded at my amusing little tale, gave me a cup of coffee, told me they’d be on the lookout; but in the meantime why didn’t I just get a good night’s sleep?

Of course, it was essential that I speak to M. before the Weber doctors had managed to expunge all traces of the contemptible place from his memory.  When I finally got through to him that afternoon and told him the story, I could tell that they’d already begun the job.  Think hard, I urged him.

M. did as I’d asked, paused in silence for at least thirty seconds, but then at last sighed and said he was sorry.  It sounded sort of familiar; they had indeed gone on some kind of field trip yesterday, a job seminar he thought it was, where he did fill out a bunch of forms, but to be honest he just couldn’t be sure.  However, there were a few hours he couldn’t account for.  Unfortunately toward the end of the trip he’d had a few “incidents,” as they called his compulsions, and so the end of the day was sort of a blur.

But I was relentless; I had to be in order to break through the dark fabric of lies with which they’d blanketed his memory.  Once more I described the place, this time more slowly and in even greater detail – the exhibits emerging gradually out of the haze, the rigid tour guide, the pitch black, the dim cafeteria, the littered classroom, the questions, the doctors murmuring suspiciously in the next room…

“It could be,” he said suddenly.

I told him to keep thinking about it, and then an hour later went to see him at Weber.  As soon as we stepped outside onto the hospital grounds, he leaned closer and tapped me lightly on the shoulder.  “I was there,” he whispered.

My mouth dropped.  Perhaps deep down I was hoping that it hadn’t really happened, because now I needed proof.  Was he sure?  He told me he was, there was no question about it. After he’d spoken to me, he’d thought more and more about the place and finally decided to see what Dr. Mays, his therapist, would say about it.  He told her the whole story exactly as I’d related it to him, and when he was done the faintest hint of a smile played at the edge of her lips.  When he asked her what she was thinking – he was proud of this, he’d never done that before – she seemed “a little nervous,” and then finally shrugged and muttered something about a book she was working on.

“I mean it has occurred to me, too, that the mind is very much like a museum,” she’d said matter-of-factly.  “The way it tries to preserve the past by dividing it up into floors and rooms.  But all for the sake of the present.”

M. and I gazed at one another for a long moment, and then mirrored each other’s smile.  There was no need to have him describe the woman; no doubt she looked entirely different from the way she had under the bluish white lights of the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum – her hair released from its knot, her tour guide’s costume stashed away in a closet somewhere.  But how brazen of her, how vain, not even to disguise her voice!

M.’s been working undercover ever since; any chance he gets, he brings up the museum in therapy, gauges Dr. Mays’s response, then reports his findings to me.  It’s a long shot, I know, but don’t underestimate M.; as one removed from society he is not only freer of its preconceptions, but freer too to exploit its weaknesses.  Perhaps someday Dr. Mays will crack or slip – certainly she feels some pangs of guilt for what she’s done – and then we’ll have our woman.

In the meantime, I’ve told my story to everyone I know, and in the process have brought those friendships which had been teetering on the edge to a crisis they aren’t likely to recover from.  One night soon after the crime, my wife called in great agitation.  She said she’d heard my story through mutual “friends” and was worried about me; maybe it was time I talked to someone – a psychiatrist!  I still don’t quite know what her role in all of this was, but needless to say this was the last conversation we ever had.

A few friends like D. and A. are doing their best to remain loyal and sympathetic.  When I told them what had happened, they drove all the way into town and convinced me that despite my terror of the place we should scour the scene of the crime for clues.  We spent hours driving up and down Brian Street and through all the alleys intersecting it – I could barely stand it and would not even leave the car – but except possibly for an old bathroom sink leaning against a dumpster, the museum had vanished without a trace.  D. stopped a number of passersby or shopkeepers, but of course they’d never heard of such a thing.  I can’t say I was disappointed; it was at least possible (if not in my view likely) that the rest of the museum’s cowardly, degenerate proprietors had fled town for good.

Anyway, though D. and A. have never once questioned the veracity of my story, I can tell they have their doubts.  To tell the truth, I don’t blame them.  Despite M.’s corroboration, at times even I have wondered (as I was supposed to) if it was all just a dream.  But then all memories in time take on that hazy quality, even those from my very real marriage.  What’s more, a few times since then I’ve had nightmares in which once again I find myself trapped in the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum, wandering desperately through a few more of its terrifying exhibits, thus distorting the actual experience even more.

For this reason I’m glad I’ve finally written it all out; now at least it’s clear and permanent, as fixed in my mind as it is in print.  Practically speaking, it’s my last resort, a way of taking matters into my own hands.  I’m posting hundreds of copies all over town wherever lonely or desperate bodies tend to wash up – silent, murky bars and cafes, dirty Laundromats, airless underground stations.  PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE!  If I cannot succeed in closing this vicious trap down for good, I pray I can prevent others from falling into it.  It grieves me to know I will fail to catch the vast majority of you in time.  I see an endless procession, a long line snaking around the block.  I see hard, bluish faces bowed to the cold wind; I see arms folded, wet feet scuffling along the pavement an inch at a time as though chained.  Day and night I shudder with clairvoyant certainty that at that very instant some innocent soul is descending into the Basement of the Psychoanalysis Museum seeking a moment’s shelter and warmth, only to find countless doors opening to his worst fears, a hall of mirrors reflecting the infinite facets of his deepest shame, but no exit.

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