Dear Gene Gregorits,
My introduction to you came by way of an interview you did with Vice News. The headline expressed incredulity that you were yet living, and reflections from several acquaintances ran the gamut from admiring to loathsome. The interview saddened me.
Of course, the interviewer had to ask about the whole autocannibalism thing.
I have not read any of your writing, so I do not know if you are a talented writer or not. There seems to be a number of people who think that you are a talented writer. Even people who dislike you admit that you have talent, and I am inclined to believe them.
Let me get to the point: I still don’t understand why you cut off your ear lobe, fried it in butter, and ate it.
I understand that you like to cook. I also like to cook. Maybe I’m too conservative with my spice rack. I understand that you like the taste of fried human flesh, but isn’t it true that most anything tastes good when fried? Seems to me that you might as well have collected toenail clippings and beard trimmings. You could have mixed them with an egg and some fresh basil, made fritters.
I have watched your YouTube videos and I have read your Facebook posts. You seem lonely. You seem afraid. You have trouble maintaining healthy relationships, yet you insist on drinking like a maniac. You are afraid to drive a car, yet express enthusiasm when shooting heroin on camera.
It’s a wonder you’ve managed to write eight books. It’s a wonder you can paint shitty portraits of your ugly cat. It’s a wonder that you haven’t overdosed, succumbed to alcohol poisoning or wandered into oncoming traffic. I’m impressed.
Which brings me back to the earlobe. Autocannibalism sounds serious. You metabolized your own humanity. Have you considered the ramifications? You destroyed a part of yourself by digesting a part of yourself. Toenails and beards grow back, Gene, but there’s a finite supply of the vital stuff.
I write to you out of concern, Gene. I want you to be happy. It occurs to me that loneliness is not so dangerous as the risks we sometimes take to avoid it. It occurs to me that a man might sell books without mutilating himself. It occurs to me that you might find a job, even a shitty one.
A shitty, soul-sucking job. But have you considered what ungainful employment might do to ameliorate your loneliness? Whether it’s waiting tables, jockeying a cash register or painting fences, you will find yourself engaged among others. Engaged. Drunken recreation among others is only detachment; proximity is not closeness; it’s a sad joke.
Henry Miller didn’t write anything worth a damn after The Colossus of Maroussi, except pretty sentences. Hunter Thompson blew his brains out. William Vollmann is married with a daughter, paints beautiful prostitutes, sells many thousands of books, and is rich.
I write letters to unknown writers, writers with no prospects for mainstream success. But my cat sleeps on the sofa; no one disrupts her day. My girlfriend naps on the bed as I write my letters. My son visits on weekends and we walk to the park. When money is tight, I deliver flowers.
No one is shocked by your alcoholism, drug abuse, or fear of driving. No one is shocked by your autocannibalism. We are concerned for you, Gene, that’s all. And I know that you want us to be concerned for you, otherwise you wouldn’t broadcast these goings-on. Otherwise you’d be a Pynchon-class recluse.
Gene, how far beneath the surface can you get before you have sense enough to swim?
Gene, how many people have to get hurt trying to help you?
Am I wasting my time, Gene?
Gene, you aren’t fooling anyone.
Tom Ingram lives in Columbus, GA, where he edits the local A&E magazine, PlayGrounds. He has published fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in Arden, and fiction in Red Fez and Sprinklers.
Photo by By DrCruse (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMelting_Butter.JPG) via Wikimedia Commons.