My name is Jeff Bennett. I have to hold onto that, because all I am is a name. A name and a face. Apparently I have a job. I am not a taxi driver, or even a taxi dispatcher; I am the assistant to a taxi dispatcher who is the worst human being I have ever encountered. But I am not my job. I am Jeff Bennett. I am my name and my face.
When I am at work, I see the world the way I imagine a dog sees it, and I remember the way I imagine a dog remembers. My day is a general blur of tasks, a swirling miasma of "do that" and "don't do that," punctuated by the slobbering barks of my alpha male. Work is my kennel; I see the garage through chain link. Interesting things happen outside the cage, but I have trained myself not to understand, because then I would know that the taxi drivers are the ones who are alive and that I am just an element in the background of the rich tapestry they weave. A man with a large nose in a cardigan dispenses sage advice. A stunning red-head whines about the complexity of her fabulous first-world existence. A cloud of gossamer bobs about, crowing through gleaming canines about victories of the imagination. A madman's blue eyes pierce a sheen of engine grease, firing off sounds that can't possibly be a real language. The laughter is the most real part of it all, even if I can't see where it's coming from.
Honestly, my triumph is that I can distill the experience of being at work down to that slurry of undefined sensations, because it's what allows me to get to the elevated box that others might call my home.
To me, it is not home. A name and a face cannot have a home, unless you call a driver's license "home." To me, it is where I punish God. The strings that braid together to form my name and face, they strain and pulse, urging me to lash out, to punish and to demonstrate. But I have no medallion to regard as a badge. The streets are not mine to cleanse. I am not the rain, real or imagined. And so I play the one record I own, for this is the soundtrack to which we punish God.
It is a 45 RPM single. The band is called "Vanilla Fudge," and the song is called "Keep Me Hangin' On." It is a cover of a song made famous by a singing trio called "The Supremes," but those lovely porcelain dolls never understood the material. When played the right way, this song is God's alarm clock. God cannot sleep when this song plays. If you have heard it, you will know why.
So here is where things get tricky. If you want to punish God, you cannot hurt others, because God can forgive this, and God can credit their suffering as good works. Also, you cannot kill yourself. Suicide does not hurt God. Now, bear with me. Human suffering can be felt by God, but it is felt as an itch, and suicide gives God an itch that resolves too quickly to be of consequence. Suicide, to God, is a mosquito bite.
No, the only way to make God suffer is to make yourself suffer, every day, for as long as you can live. See, I read a story once about a woman who had a chronic itch on the side of her head. It was not topical or dermatological, it was neurological, and there was no way to shut it down. The woman suffered from this itch for years, and years. She scratched all the time, to no effect. This woman, in fact, however hard she tried not to scratch while awake, scratched in her sleep. This woman scratched a hole into her skull. This woman scratched her own brain. This woman had to be hospitalized and restrained every night, in order not to claw out even more of her own fucking brain.
And thus it is with God and suffering. If a man can make himself suffer pain, for hours, every single day, this is to God an itch from which He can find no reprieve. So this is my plan: While I listen to my song on repeat, I sit, as still as I can, cross-legged in the middle of the empty floor of my Soho box, holding my arm over a lighter as long as I possibly can. I can't cry out, the neighbors would not long tolerate the sound. So as I try to hold my breath, as tears stream down my cheeks, I burn my arms, trading left for right, right for left. Burning different spots, not so much as to do real long-term muscle damage, but as long as one man can possibly burn himself on purpose, in so doing giving God an itch even He can't scratch.
My name is Jeff Bennett. I have to hold onto that, because all I am is a name. A name and a face. I have a day job, but this just pays the rent on my box so I can itch God out like a motherfucker. I am Jeff Bennett. I am my name and my face. And my roasted arms.