Sunday, February 8, 2015                                                        Dreadful Joy


“I’m Cruz. I’m a food addict. I crave blood.”

I had no reason to be nervous. The seven people in that room yearned for me to notice them, to communicate directly to them. Yet, dread held me. I had never spoken to anyone about my sickness.

“It’s a fixation. An obsession that frightens and disgusts me. I can’t control it. I work at a meat market to be near it. But I’m not a butcher. I’m a college student. Or I was, until this ... happened to me. Now blood is all I think about.”

I paused and tried to read my audience. I didn’t see revulsion or distress, only a rhapsody of fascination. How much could I tell them before horror got a grip on them?

“I’m a vampyr.”

Chairs squeaked as bodies shifted. Expressions tightened, curious, concerned. And the fluorescent lights buzzed louder.

“I think we’re all vampires. Food addicts. Our sickness measures in our bodies the sickness of our civilization. We are all vampires, sucking the ecological life out of this planet.”

The electric hum softened and expressions relaxed. Sylphs twirled across the room like feathery night moths.

“In college, before this addiction got a grip on me, I studied cultural theory. And that’s helping me now to see my compulsion in a broader context. My thirsting for blood is not just my personal suffering. It’s explicitly political. But we’re in a post-political world. Consumerism is the only social thought of our time. Even in communist China. There are no other dominant ideas in society, except consuming. We’re all vampires. And so, to defeat that addiction is an explicitly political act. I want to overcome being a vampyr. I want to be a human being again. And that’s why I’m here. I need your help – to reclaim my humanity.”

Seven bodies leaned toward me, rapt. Anxiety lifted.

“Last time we met, you said food addicts shouldn’t think of themselves as victims. It’s narcissistic. I’ve been pondering that, and I have to agree. Addiction is something universal. It happens to everybody some way or another. Our cravings might be different, but the conflict is the same. And that’s our solidarity. This is a conflict that permits no compromise. Because there is no negotiating with addiction, all of us are united by conflict.”

I inhaled the red glow of bloodsmoke wafting from my audience. My mouth ached, a forlorn throb of need that I swallowed to continue speaking:

“These last two meetings, I’ve learned that living with addiction means redefining ourselves in a radical way. In my case, because I want blood – because I want the vitality in blood – I find it useful to define myself as a vampyr. I know it’s shlock and shock. It’s a sick myth. The undead. But addiction is just like that. We aren’t dead, but we’re not alive the way other people are. For us, life has become uncanny. We are never alone with ourselves. There’s another will that’s taken us over and no matter who we think we are, addiction makes us act out what we are. We’ve become things moved by another will. And that’s why we need a Higher Power to help us.”

A peal of academic patter sounded in my mind from my lost life as a student, and I voiced it to distance myself from the greater exertion of not feeding:

“The Higher Power I honor is not a divinity. It’s an idea. An idea about being imprisoned in freedom. Freedom imprisons, because we can choose. We’re not like animals. We’re not forced to obey instinct. But we are forced to choose. Even not choosing is choosing. That freedom is my Higher Power.”


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