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  • I cannot go anymore to the marshes,
    Where the gatekeeper smiles at the poisons he's made;
    For my heart belongs to the one on the mountain,
    Where the doves build their nests in the sun-ripened glade...

    For I am the mercury - light of the morning,
    Looking for shelter in this thunder and this rain;
    And you like some windmill weave light where its storming,
    Your love like a potion, for the hunger and the pain -
    Let it rain...

    I have been bought, I have been sold in the city,
    I've dined with the demons, and I drank of their fear;
    But you, you have known, and waited in silence,
    Come cradle my heart in a homecoming tear...

    And we are the mercury - light of the morning
    Looking for shelter in this thunder and this rain,
    And He like some windmill weaves light where its storming,
    His love like a potion for the hunger and the pain -

    Let it rain - let it rain
    Let it rain on the mountain
    let it rain

    (“I Am the Mercury” by Jimmy Spheeris, from Isle of View)

    Much of what went on for me over that time was like this classic battle between my ideas of good and evil, with my soul the wretched battlefield over which the two armies raged their horrific fight to claim the land. Back and forth they stormed, tearing up all of the crops in the surrounding fields, leaving nothing but burnt and scorched earth in their wake. Any victories that “Good” might have claimed in that war were purely “Pyrrhic” victories. Yes, I’d beaten down the demons for that day, but the price of victory – Good Lord, the price was devestating. The battle would leave me utterly torn up inside, hating myself, hating the world, hating the forces of evil, resenting the forces of good for not being stronger in my defense, for not giving me sufficient sustenance and reserve “troops” to fight off the demons. That year would be the culmination of all of my best efforts to improve myself, spiritually, and what I considered “evil”’s best efforts to keep me tied to the basest of existences, thrown at me. So, this is what you get when you mix the combination of addiction with being raised Roman Catholic by a man who spent 6 years as a Christian Brother, filled with ideas of what is good and what is evil in the world. I wouldn’t have wished my struggles that year on my worst enemy.
  • I returned to Pennsylvania, really not sure what I would do. The week and a half I’d spent down in Maryland with Billy Z. had been very much like walking into a completely different world, a very attractive world, a world free of much of what I was struggling with back home - the financial struggles, magnified by my seeming inability to hang onto a job for any sustained amount of time. There was my rage towards Al over the betrayal, stealing the girl I’d found myself falling in love with, the confused girl, seemingly caught in the middle of our little triangle, still agonizingly teasing me with her entreaties and whispers of caring, her eyes reaching out to me for understanding and love, the touches, the rubbing against me in moments of intimate “friendship”, but clearly, firmly by Al’s side, as if it was something she had no control over – it was utter torture to me. I hated her, and I hated him, but these emotions were all driven deep beneath the surface of an effort to continue on as phony friends, still acting like we were, but no longer believing a word of it. So when I went back there, Ivyland no longer felt like my home. I hated the place, now, and just wanted out of there.

    I spent as little time in the house as I possibly could. I found myself going down into the city a lot more, into Philadelphia. I had business at the V.A., bloodwork and meeting with the doctors to certify my continuing 30 % disability. I was such an emotional wreck, there was never a question that I was still suffering from my “nervous condition”, as they called my malady. I was looking for work, and there were jobs in the city. There were also other things – the block of strip clubs that lined Broad Street between the V.A. building and City Hall. I’d found myself being drawn into them, down into the smoky rooms where scantily clad babes with phony bodies paraded around and danced as they stripped down to nothing in front of you, where horny, sleazy old men slobbered over them in dark corners, where you always looked away, never making eye contact, never allowing your deep, dark shame to be revealed to another sad soul who either had no shame, or who hid their shame like I tried to do.
  • I’d been there several times before, managing to leave before anything could happen. Here was the Devil’s Den, the last place in the world I wanted to be - yet here I found myself drawn down into, to that deep, dark thrill of excitement sweeping through my being each time I followed that pull down, heard that whisper, that base desire that achingly wanted to be satisfied, to consume me.

    On one of these trips into the dark dens of desire, I’d struck up a conversation with one of the girls, as she danced for me, a pretty, thin, dark-skinned girl with beautiful eyes, lovely curves, she seemed real and different from the others to me, and I wanted to go further with her. I wanted her to make me whole. We had arranged to meet on the corner of Broad and Market after her shift. I had no idea what would happen from there - I just wanted to completely give myself over to this dark desire that I found embracing my soul. I bided my time about the city, waiting for the agreed-upon time when I would make my rendezvous with the girl. Time to think....here I was, this now somewhat famous character in the rooms of recovery around N.A., one of “the writers”, one of the people others looked up to and found inspiration from, and I was ready to meet up with what was most likely a hooker on a city corner, to do God knows what with. Imagine if anyone saw me now, what they would think. There was even a kind of thrill behind that thought, like I was getting away with something, “who would know?”, perhaps I’d been given a cloak of invisibility, like in the Rings of Gyges, that classic tale of Plato’s.

    As the time of meeting approached, I walked to the opposite corner at Broad and Market, and as I made my way across Broad, pulled between the dark thrill and the desire to be the “good” person I wanted to be, I looked up to the sky and thought, “Oh, God...help me!” This made no difference in how I felt, of course, as I continued to cross, knowing I was diving into wherever destiny would lead. I was ready for the darkness, ready for the thrill, please take me, anything to quench this overwhelming desire I felt inside to just kill the pain in my soul.

    I reached the other side of Broad, and stood on the busy corner, my heavy winter coat bundled about me, I pulled my hood up and over my head, just in case anyone who knew me happened by, I did not want to be “caught” meeting with a hooker. I was still a few minutes early. Then I heard the very last thing in the world I wanted to hear in that moment – “Hey, Pete!” I looked around. Oh God, I’ve been spotted! Where’s the girl? Please tell me she’s nowhere close, I can’t get caught, but damnit, I wanted her, this whole thing is just too insane! Down through the crowd of business day sidewalk traffic strolled this guy, Andy, surrounded by 4 other guys, members of the newly formed South Philly group of N.A. I didn’t see the girl – “Good!”, I thought. “Hey, man, we were just heading over to my apartment to listen to a tape of Bobby Earl – why don’t you join us?” And, so I did.
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