…and you feel as if you are being ripped apart from some place inside your chest.

There are lingering memories of all the uniforms you had to wear, and all the times you had to change your own skin, and all the moments when you were shocked at how jarringly different the you you thought you were was from the you people reacted to.

They were always uniforms that you knew were never the truly respectable ones. You never wore a football uniform, but wore band uniforms, track uniforms, baseball uniforms and scouting uniforms. You never wore a military uniform, but wore line cook uniforms, hotel busboy uniforms and fast food uniforms. You never wore a first responder uniform, but wore 5K and 10K t-shirts with numbers pinned to them, salesman jackets and ties, political campaign t-shirts, stickers buttons, and endless lanyards and stickers that said “Hello, my name is…”

All eyes are upon you. You are branded, marked differently than everyone else around you. You are there to stand out as the one to serve the crowd, answer all the questions and perform.

Your very identity, grounded in something ancient and lost, is fighting these changes. Because every hat, tag, ring and wristband you dawn, you are being irrevocably changed.

The fact is, you hate almost everything that humans adorn themselves with to make themselves into something else. You’ve fought every day the feeling of being in your own skin, because you can feel your skin changing every time you move.

…thinking that you will one day become a celebrity.

Look at your face. It is a magnificent thing to behold. Some call it the ugliest face they’ve ever seen, others are arrested and captivated by it. When you have the slightest change in temperament, the emotion gets magnified and painted across your face. It may start as mild indigestion, but by the time it works its way up to your facial muscles, it’s full-blown angst.

Your face is weathered, craggy, pock-marked, asymmetrical.

It got that way not from wild life adventures, but from having to face other faces every single morning, and doing that terrible dance of reflecting those faces, having them reflect yours, and you theirs. The Bible talks about one man’s countenance sharpening an other’s, and that doesn’t even seem close to the half of it.

A face like this that can convey enormous quantities of emotional information within a microsecond must be worth millions to a movie producer.

You buy your ticket to LAX, and cram yourself and your backpack into the very back of an overcrowded plane. Already, you caught the keen interest of some D-list celebrity sitting up front. She scowled at you deeply, and muttered something under her breath. (It was probably, “I hope he gets to the back of the plane quickly,” but you imagine she said, “I’ll want to call my director friend when I get off the plane to let him know that a most magnificent face just walked by.”)

You have purchased four nights in expensive boutique hotels near the parts of Los Angeles where celebrities are known to lurk about incognito: Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Sunset Strip, Venice Beach.

Of course, you will wear sunglasses and a ballcap a lot, and walk around looking as if you are trying to avoid being seen by the paparazzi. At opportune moments, when you think you see someone who is a talent scout, director, producer, talk show host, etc., you will casually remove your ballcap and sunglasses to mop the perspiration off your brow and forehead, then scowl at them intently.

You stand outside of openings to movies that will go straight to DVD after opening night. You take tours through studio backlots, and scowl a lot at tinted-glass windows on trailers and buildings. Perhaps you can get on the Jay Leno show, and make an ass out of yourself.

After a while, it becomes abundantly clear that everyone you meet is avoiding you. You aren’t sure why. Perhaps they think you are a mogul, and they are intimidated by your power. Inside shops in Beverly Hills, clerks swarm around you and seem ready to escort you to the door. Walking around Venice Beach, you spy what appears to be some trash-mouthed talk or reality show babe walking her teacup poodle.

You begin staring at her a lot, working every mind trick you use to get people walking down the street to turn around from the sensation of having eyes on the back of their heads.

She doesn’t appear to notice you at first, but then she calls over a beefy, bald male in a sport jacket. This must be Vin Diesel. Both of them are looking and pointing at you.

You put your sunglasses and ballcap on, and shuffle towards them disinterestedly, hoping to naturally just run into them.

You feel a sharp pain and hear a crack on the back of your head, and wake up hours later to the feeling of your pockets being rummaged through.

“Sorry, buddy, you’ve already been picked clean, but I had to check.”

The rest of the night you walk the streets, scaring away several homeless people who can clearly see you’re more messed up than they are. Your hotel absolutely refuses to believe that you are the same person who checked in the day before, and indeed, a glance at your face in a store window tells you its been irrevocably altered–probably for the worse.

“Hey pal, want to be in a movie?” asks a fellow with a neck beard and checkered shirt. This must be some kind of indie filmmaker. What a great way to start your career!

“Certainly!” you cry. “When do we start?”

“In a few minutes. See, I’m Wally Dogood, the snuff film producer who goes around taking video of homeless guys beating each other up. Soon as I find a dude to do some mortal combat with you, we’ll be ready to go.”

You run as fast as you can to get away from this wretched situation.

“Mommy!” you cry into the only pay phone you could find, “I need money. They took it all.”

“Who is this?” Snaps a hard, cigarette-calloused voice. “Operator, I am not taking this collect call after all. It’s not my Junior. Please reverse these charges.”

Then, you remember that your own mother and father have been dead for years. But who is that over there?

Why, it’s Jay Leno!

Jay has his cameraman with him. They are doing his famous man-on-the-street questions. You race up to him. A beefy, bald fellow in a sport jacket steps out of nowhere and lays you flat.

You wake up in a part of Los Angeles you’d hoped didn’t actually exist. They’ve carted you to the hospital, and then dumped you off with the other human refuse here.

“What’s your story?” asks a fellow who is dressed like Wally Dogood was. “My name is Josh McManus. I’m a double major film school/social work student. I want to tell the stories of the beat-down peoples of the earth.”

And so, your dream is realized. Within a few months you have become a celebrity. Josh reports back to you that he has almost 3,000 hits on his Youtube documentary video, in which your most magnificent face appears for a full five seconds.

…with your soul already over 80% sold to the devil.

You are frightened by the face you see in the photographs, as well as the one in the mirror. Something more than age has corrupted it, and several people you meet readily know this. Another kind of energy has possessed you too many times to count. There is a leak in your chakras that is like no leak anyone has ever known. A tear in the very fabric of your core energy center, creating a portal for forces to enter and work their way up your spine into your brain, causing your heart to clench and diffusing negative heat throughout your body.

You have the skin and hair of someone fifteen years older than you. Your eyes are rarely animated with the joyous expectation of what life may bring. Someone or something got the best years of your life, and it wasn’t you.

The entity you conjure up in memories that others might call you, is a weak-willed fool who allowed his true identity to be overpowered by forces from within. Of course, forces on the outside recognized that you were easily susceptible to power plays, and so many of them latched onto you and leached away as they pleased. Through and through, the energy on the inside rammed itself into your skull this will to always try to please whatever strong personality was nearby, or whatever personality the crowd seemed to deem cool, hip and with it.

Of course, you had to reject God, because none of this was compatible with the Almighty. In doing so, you became a man who worshipped other men. Any artist, musician, filmmaker, thinker, politician, or pop singer that impressed you became your god. You lived for the imaginary moment when one of your objects of worship would find out how much you adored him, and this spurred you onward toward finding ever more “great” men’s feet to fall down before as their adoring fanboy.

During these years you sensed a certain erosion of your self. With each new god, you altered your identity just a little bit to model your behavior after him, and in doing so effaced that which was so wonderful about you to begin with.

You hated your original mold of true identity, of course. You’d associated it with all things uncool, nerdy, religious, wimpy and unimportant. You shared half of your original mold with each of your parents, and all of it with your little brother, so naturally, you hated your family. They were like you, socially maladjusted, religiously superstitious, awkward, easily caught up in useless crap like Jesus, math and computers. You wanted nothing more than to be like your two older adopted brothers, who were nothing like that biologically-compatible trio you scorned. Your older brothers did terrible in school, rebelled against authority, and by their accounts, were highly regarded by their peers.

By the time you woke up one night at the end of 2001, deep in debt, with your little brother two years gone, and surrounded by friends who were in their thirties and forties still doing nothing but going to see live music and get drunk–by the time you woke up this night in a smothering relationship with someone you couldn’t really stand–you finally caught a glimpse of what it truly means to sell your soul.

…inside a very messy world in need of a great, tidying hand.

“Do you want it to be messy?” she asked you once, “Because it gets really messy.” You were very drunk, and unsure if she was referring to the life you were attempting to live with her and the Ahmis Happy Hour Gang, or if she was alluding to the possibility of an adult relationship with her.

You thought of yourself as a very messy person, too. After all, you were the one your parents always screamed at for living in a pig sty. You were the one who took almost five years to graduate from college with an English degree, as you messed around from one major to the next. Your mind was feeling extremely messy at the moment. You didn’t care. You wanted both: a big, messy summer full of nasty little detours with her and whoever else came along.

It could all one day be the subject of one big messy novel.

But, then you discovered that messiness is the natural state of all humans. We tend toward entropy, disorder, chaos. Parents who once chided you about your pig sty of a room keep messy houses that border dangerously close to being the houses of hoarders. Bosses are placed over you, who forget everything they say, and omit large sections of important details in press releases, not to mention carelessly forgetting about proofreading what they write.

Celebrities with flawless skin and immaculate outfits get married in pitch perfect ceremonies, but it all ends in big messy divorces, messily botoxed faces, sloppy drug-addled children–nothing but endless chaos.

The great achievement of mankind, pulling itself out of the dark ages, into the enlightenment, and onward toward two centuries that gave us space travel, the atom bomb and the Internet–it wasn’t a triumph over religion, superstition, backward thinking, or Nature itself. It was a triumph over messiness. Neat lines, grids, vectors, equations. The smoother the planes, the crisper the designs, the more rigorous the proofs–the tidier the thinking, the more abundant and fruitful the results.

You don’t see the problems America and the rest of the world faces as products of generations of youth going soft, or fundamentalists getting stranglehold on science, or immigrants leaking their backwards cultures into otherwise flawless systems. You see the tendency in this world that has always been there: toward messiness. And, you see humans who fail to recognize just exactly what the true triumph of the last two hundred years was: a perfection of tidiness.

Being proud of being messy is like being proud of the fact that you aren’t a morning person. These are easy things. Most people are messy, most people are not morning persons. In order to be something special, you have to strive toward being very much the opposite: a man with a disciplined mind that places his thoughts into systems of grids and well-defined coordinates. A man who always tidies up after himself, and doesn’t leave behind irresponsible messes for his kids to clean up.

…and you are tired of you.

Completely weary. Bored, disinterested, and always depressed when you enter the equation. You are tired of things that remind you of you. You don’t want to identify with the face in the mirror, the face other people love or hate.

You thought that writing about you in the second person would be liberating. You think that it’s probably not, really.

You are fragmented, lost.

You once had the sin of excessive pride, now you have some kind of sin that runs opposite that–it is a sin because you know that your life, your consciousness, your very innermost being, is a gift. And you wake up on days like this running the risk of losing that gift for having taken it for granted, and then tossed it aside out of contempt.

When you meet someone, you fail to muster up all of you to face that person. Instead, you let only the most minimal part of you escape, just so that person acknowledges you aren’t dead.

This is a sin, too. You are quick to blame the other person–he/she simply doesn’t want to take the time to get to know me.

But, you don’t want to take the time to share all of yourself with others. In fact, sometimes, you actually suck the stuff of their identities out of them, finding it easier to throw back in their faces a mirror of themselves. The weak, co-dependent ones love it and are flattered. The weak, suspicious ones hate it and feel mocked. The strong, nasty ones hate it, and the strong, cheerful ones are indifferent. You can see from these selections who ends up being your so-called friends.

You haven’t taken the time to truly take stock of yourself, as you, as a man of this earth, and fully understand and appreciate the gift of you that God has given you. And so, you grow easily bored from half-trying to amount to…not much of anything.

…recognizing the face inside the old photograph.

The sad and wary look of the old man, stealing a glance through slitted eyes–too timid to look directly upon the photographer, but too suspicious of the newsman’s motives not to take in what the men are doing with their flashbulbs and pencils. You are the same old man, too tired to go on for another day in late 1968, weary of the wicked, irrational world with its rock n’ roll and Vietnam.

You left behind a lot of money, and a lifetime of assurance that when you spoke, people listened. Having been born into the family of a wealthy grocery magnate on the East Coast, you managed to successfully slip through the fingers of draft boards during the war. Life was spent taking hunting and fishing excursions–up to Nova Scotia, or down to Argentina. You were too busy loving your whiskey and rum, though, to do much actual hunting or fishing, much less write about your life as if you were some kind of Hemingway.

You had three illegitimate children from your adventures, never pausing to know any of those women beyond the few weeks you stayed in their cities and frequented their bedrooms.

One of those children found you on the Wharf that year, living in a men’s flophouse on your last dime. She just wanted to see the face of the man who sired her, but you were certain she was sniffing about for an inheritance. Not long after that, she left having gotten what she came for, and these prissy, smooth-talking men happened to appear here a few days later. Somehow in your mind, you connected them with the unwanted daughter, but they were really just taking a break from their coverage of the activities at Haight and Ash.

You’d lost the art of making friends–more to the point, you’d forgotten how to trust other people. Every face that made eye contact and stopped to talk to you was searching for whatever part of your inheritance you didn’t spend up. You died in the arms of an old washerwoman in Chinatown, promising her this legendary fortune in exchange for knowing one last time what a woman felt like.

You told the angels of death and re-birth that you did not want to be reborn ever again, telling them that if they must, they should reincarnate you in a simpler time, like the dark ages of Europe or the golden era of Tibet. They didn’t listen, as they rarely do. They decided to give you what you needed. So, you were re-born as a little girl in the Midwest, in the 1980s.

Your name is Ashley.

You have big sad eyes and a pouty mouth from all the karmic baggage you carry. Unfortunately, this has sent all of the wrong kinds of signals to the boys of the town, and you’ve got three children and no regular man in your life. You live with your mother, who happens to be your own illegitimate daughter from your previous life. She is showing you the photograph that the newsmen took of you, having just found it on a photo archive website. “That’s your grandpa, I know for certain that it is. You have his eyes and mouth.”

Chills of recognition wash over you, and you suddenly want to fly away somewhere–maybe Nova Scotia. Your three children, who have always been a burden to you, now appear around you screaming demands that you enact justice for some slight one committed upon the others. You might as well be tied to giant boulders. What you wouldn’t give for the easy, privileged life that now fuses its memories with these memories of the last twenty-nine years.

…with a renewed will toward absolute power over others.

Nothing makes you feel right inside like a moment of acquiring some type of power over another human being. It used to not matter if that power came in the form of your parents wanting to please you, their only child, or a teenage love adoring you while you treated her like garbage, or sending someone on a guilt trip by tricking them into laughing at you with an invitation to laugh with you. You loved moments of arguments when you were clearly winning, and when you were clearly wrong and losing the argument, you’d use some backhanded tactic to make the other person feel like complete garbage.

You’ve chosen not to hold too many professional positions where you managed others, because you soon discovered the bizarre dynamic of managerial servitude that comes with the modern boss/employee relationship–where the boss must tend to the needs of his employees’ time-off requests, remember birthdays and accept responsibility for their screw-ups when meeting with the higher-ups. This rarely felt like power past the first day.

You’ve watched others grope blindly at what it is that truly makes a human being happy–recognition, love, money, material things. Some pitiful souls even still cling to the notion that placing their trust and belief in a Higher Power is the only way to true happiness. Certainly not you.

You know the only thing that can make any human truly happy on this earth, and that is holding absolute power and dominion over all other human beings. The will of each us, you cry, is toward infinite power. So many of us stop contentedly with a whiff of this feeling when our children are still young and trust us completely, obeying everything we say. What fools those breeders are!

Confidence men–the really big ones like Madoff–they kind of get it right. But, they are too distracted by material things and money, and the instant gratification of having put one over on someone one time. They are starting to see the true glory of holding much power over many, but they merely have a taste instead of a whiff. Then, you have the celebrities and politicians. People like Madonna, who in her prime, could assemble an entourage that she treated like shit and millions of fans who adored her. Or, Oprah, who really started to get it, but got too caught up in a lot of New-Agey bs. Oprah’s minions will pretty much do whatever they tell her to, but she forgot her sweet spot of acquiring more minions, and has moved on to a shaky approach of being less visible to them, but higher up in the business food chain–for what?

Bush Jr. had a 90% approval rating after the WTC towers went down. Why did he blow it so badly on trying to one-up his daddy with a dumb war in Iraq? He could have, should have spent that currency of human trust on demanding that the American sheeple do his every bidding, building vast centers where people could come and pray to and worship him. Same with Obama. He rides into office practically deified, and then goes completely quiet, letting his wife and children, and even his dog, get more attention in the media than him.

You understand what it is they all did wrong, every last one of them. They were tainted by some lingering sense of conscience, of needing to have compassion for humanity–or, simply held too many misplaced priorities–thinking that their place in history was most important, or money, title, material wealth, media attention, love of a family, etc. were all the most important goals to strive for. Perhaps a few even started to believe their nonsense about loving their country and being patriotic.

Not you.

You know what your goal is, and you have no other in mind. You will gladly live as an ascetic, eschewing all material things. You will openly accept utter anonymity, and turn your back on the love of family and friends. You need nothing at all extra from this earth, other than the basic essentials to keep your human organism alive. Your one and only goal is to obtain absolute power and dominion over all humans, so that every last one of them drops to worship you when you walk by, and each one of them is ready to die and/or kill for you at your command.

It is time to begin your studies, and plot your course of ascension. You head to Half Price Books, and find some great motivational teachings by Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglar. You spy The Prince on the paperback rack for fifty cents. You grab the biographies of Caligula, Nero, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Jim Jones, Steve Jobs, etc. and envision a furiously-paced course of learning and modeling to distill and extract only the most salient points of dominating others from those who’ve come before you.

On your way back home, you decide that you also need to have one last sloppy night as a regular joe before embarking upon this quest. You purchase a six pack of Lone Star tallboys, and a double meat and bacon burger combo meal from the Whataburger. Goodfellas and The Godfather are on, so life is good.

Tomorrow, once you’ve fully recovered from your sugar/salt/fat/alcohol/gangster movie-induced torpor, you’ll crack open those books and begin working on your secret website to lure your first minions into your sphere of power. Perhaps you’ll start with a cult of followers, like the guy from the movie the Secret, and then urge those minions to boycott advertisers and write congresspeople following public threats you make to those entities. Soon, those of the media and government will fear your wrath and join your cult as well. Then, you can begin your run for the Presidency, on a platform of legalizing all manner of vice, taxing it, and using the proceeds to build a bigger military presence that will invade Canada, plunder its resources and position a massive wall of nuclear warheads facing China, Russia and Europe.