Memoirs of a Terrorist:
An excerpt from the upcoming novel
by Anis Shivani
In everything about my story so far, you’ll have noticed that it’s all a wee bit off-kilter. Our idea of terrorists is what? White supremacists plotting minor incendiary events on the great abandoned plains, spewing hate against Jews, the New World Order, the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission? Gun nuts who hate the federal government? Anti-tax extremists? Anti-abortion kooks who terrorize women and doctors? That’s when we’re not dealing with out-and-out stereotyping of Aa-rabs, those raggedy-head hook-nosed crooks who take advantage of our system only to abuse it, who milk our generosity to bite us the more with their venom. Terrorists are outside of and apart from us. It is easy to demonize. Granted, I’ve given you more than enough material so far for you to demonize me, if you’re so inclined. But where would be your reservoirs of compassion, your very American forgiveness, if you jumped on me? I’m not inarticulate like the typical arrested home-grown terrorist, I can put together a coherent justification of myself – so that does make your task in feeling superior to me more difficult, does it not?
Sure, the most vengeful, most determined among you (those in search of the goddamned cliché, closure!) will want to lynch me anyway, but I’m not addressing those among you. Our lives are nothing but random events strung together, journeys of multiple forks in the road, where at any point we can take a (wrong) turn and find ourselves some time later far, far from where we ever thought we were going to be. And the scary thing about it is that once we’ve taken a particular turn, it’s impossible for us to get back to the path we were on. It’s inconceivable. We become changed people after every choice we exercise, of omission or commission. At the end, looking back at it, it all seems so inevitable. And yet there were apparently random choices along the way. In the end, it seems foretold. That’s the great enigma. I’m not meaning to solve it, but after the attention in the press to my abused childhood, the marginal circumstances of my parents, the failures in adjustment to "normal heterosexual behavior" that the psychologists have been harping on (always offering the caveat, however, that we can never truly know what motivates people like me, but that we can rest assured that I must have "acted alone"), all that I care about now is focusing on the enigma I have just described. (My agent has been protecting me from some of this garbage in the New York Times, for fear that it might interfere with the flow of my writing, block me somehow, but my fellow prisoners have this stuff sneaked in to them - I'm quite the celebrity here - and they pass it on to me). Minor variations determine our final outcomes. What happened to me at UCLA is not the story of an athlete or fraternity type plying a naive freshman with alcohol or Rohypnol or GHB. This is not a story of gang-rape. I contest that it wasn't even an instance of acquaintance rape. It was nothing. If anyone was raped, of dignity and honor, it was me.
It was inevitable that I would sooner or later meet someone like Peggy Drucker. In my second-to-last quarter at UCLA, I decided to take a graduate seminar on James Joyce’s Ulysses. This, after all, is the great modernist classic of the twentieth century. I loved the idea of spending an entire ten weeks fiddling with one book. Before the quarter began, I speed-read the book and especially enjoyed the chapter where Bloom masturbates on the beach, watching three girls. Nausicaa, I think. Gerty MacDowell. "Why have women such eyes of witchery?" I remember that. "Aftereffect not pleasant," says Bloom, of coming on the beach in his pants. My being in prison, after a lifetime of misadventures, feels like that: aftereffect not pleasant. I loved the variations in style. The bombast, the pyrotechnics, the obstructions, the traps. It’s as if he would cover a whole era of writing in a mere chapter, something that would take an ordinary writer a lifetime to accomplish, and then restlessly move on to the next phase of complexity in fiction writing. He echoed different discourses, parodied genres, replicated linguistic territories, borrowed from Greek mythology to make concrete contemporary metaphors of survival and deceit. Bloom, the liberal Jew floundering in the midst of the Irish identity crisis. (Aren’t people who read books like Ulysses supposed to become immune to committing acts of violence? – preventing that is the whole purpose of socialization, of twelve minimum years of schooling. Then how did I break through?) Fiction is no more deceit than is life. Is anything real? Don’t you worry about that sometimes? You’re reading about the reality of my life, which culminated in terror. How about the reality of your life? Are you so sure that you exist? Isn’t Leopold Bloom more real than any single Jew who lived in the twentieth century? Volumes and volumes of interpretation about him and Molly and Stephen, their streams of consciousness – how many real people can say that about themselves? What Joyce said at the end of The Portrait, forging in the smithy of my soul the consciousness of my race. But that was a fictional character. And yet his stream of consciousness supersedes the daily conversation of "real" humans.
It was seven of us in a large seminar room in Rolfe Hall. The teacher was a mousy recent PhD from Berkeley, a man who seemed to have lost several greater, bulkier, less wieldy versions of himself along the road to scholarship heaven. Now he was compact, contained. He had great difficulty listening to what we said in class. It felt as if he talked over us, even when he wasn’t doing so. Professor Steve Rattner, originally of Modesto, California, as he repeatedly told us, perhaps to make the point that there is no knowing where scholarship might creep from, even a place as non-existent on the intellectual map as that. I had started to wonder about dealing drugs – maybe cocaine – on the side, not as my main method of survival. It could have been profitable had I given attention to it. I dismissed Professor Rattner as a potential client. There was something formalistic, legalistic about him, an earnest Talmudic approach to all matters that he certainly brought to Ulysses. A book that has companions, compendiums, dictionaries of allusions for decoding. Not a book, but a bible. English professors are never happier than when they interpret one of the bibles of the canon. Anyway, all this was in my relatively carefree days. I still felt invincible.
This was a class full of unattractive people. That’s a rarity at UCLA, where everyone is beautiful. The unusual student who doesn’t have it in the looks department stands out. But this class consisted of three guys and four girls, none of whom could claim, as does nearly everyone in L.A., that they were part-time actors or in any way related to the movie industry. Peggy was the only girl who sparked the least interest in me. Her face was mottled with acne or some childhood pox, her cheeks were leathery and large, and her deep brown eyes rather too big for her elongated, pointed face. I could sense that Peggy had overcome several different kinds of addiction, dependencies in her short journey on earth – she seemed to give off that sort of vibe. She was definitely what you might call a non-traditional, or returning, student – around twenty-nine, I had guessed (I confirmed that the first time we were out, at the Westwood Good Earth, when she left her purse on the dining table and I peeked at her driver’s license.) Professor Rattner seemed to like her a lot too. In a sense, he and I were in competition for Peggy’s attention. Peggy was liable to go off into enthusiastic outbursts about some passage she had read, offering far-fetched interpretations of what was really going on. But these constructions were entertaining.
I used to try to sit next to Peggy, and usually I succeeded. She wore mostly gray suits, with short, slit skirts that showed a lot of leg, thigh, even inner thigh. I wasn’t afraid about showing my perpetual hard-on sitting next to her. Perhaps in the tortuous ambiance of these unattractive people, and hashing out the intricacies of Ulysses in three-hour long seminars (Professor Rattner didn’t like to take breaks during these long seminars, unlike the practice of every other teacher, because he had a thing about not breaking the flow of thought – usually his own elaborate and impenetrable discourses from a Lacanian psychoanalytical perspective), Peggy seemed more sexually attractive to me than she actually was. I had long been wondering – wouldn’t it be great to have a purely sexual relationship where that is what the other party wanted too? I mean, I was nearly always in it for the sex, but I couldn’t come right out and say it to the chicks. Certainly not the naïve UCLA girls with their heads full of stupid romantic notions. You had to go through the whole courtship ritual to get into their pants, and then there were the recriminations and whining and guilt trips once you moved on. But with Peggy, couldn’t I just "contract" with her for pure sexual engagement, say a couple of times a week? An easy lay, without complications, Tuesdays and Fridays? She was older, more mature – perhaps she had even been married at some point. Surely she would fall for it. She was half-Jewish too (her big nose was an immediate give-away, as were her soulful, diasporic eyes) and so maybe she’d feel more comfortable making a contract like that with an ethnic familiar. A soul-brother, so to speak. She ought to give me a special break. In the end, the ignominy that she inflicted on me she claimed in her written report as a special favor to me, so I wouldn't "do it to other unsuspecting women." They claim torture as privilege now. In a world without real privilege, at least for the inappropriately born, the have-nots, what else do we expect?
It was easy to get her to spend time with me on the pretext that we ought to study together. How does one study with another for Ulysses? But she was lonely enough to immediately oblige. The first time I showed up at her Palms apartment - a large two-bedroom, with little furniture - she hugged me, overfed me (doughnuts, burritos, chips - all the fattening stuff), and talked mostly about her grandparents' sundry illnesses. She was not at ease talking about her parents, and I let it go. Soon, we weren't making much of the Joyce private study session excuse. I stayed the entire morning with her the first time (although I didn't make an explicit move - remember, let the educated girls think they're in control?), and showed up two days later, on a Saturday, unannounced, and she didn't mind. We went people-watching on Melrose, and then she took me to a friend's home down in Palos Verdes. Sandra's parents had been in Europe for a month, and this spaced-out girl, zombie really, was heavily into cocaine. I never touch that stuff. Pot, once in a while, is okay, but anything beyond that - I don't want to lose control over my will, my emotions. It's easier for people to take advantage of you when you're under the influence. I hate being around addicts; they show no will. You don't know what they'll do to get back at you if you cross them. Peggy happily snorted cocaine, and she and her friend disappeared in a bedroom for quite some time, while I watched Family Ties reruns on cable. Before Ulysses, before UCLA, I suppose it might have been possible to enjoy this crap on TV. Now, it seemed completely unfunny. I couldn't stop watching that stuff, though, because it was so unfunny. And this was Hollywood? This was the height of glamour and celebrity in our culture, to be part of this shit? I wondered if tonight was already the night to sample Peggy's wares. I liked her large breasts; I've always been fascinated by humungous tits. They comfort me, they stop my hallucinations (not drug-caused, natural ones, my dear), they make me think that perhaps our lives are going on in a parallel track that we have no clue about. And that at the end of life, both tracks will come together. Convergence. The end of life being a new beginning.
When I drove Peggy back to her apartment in her rusty red Volvo, she became flirty with me. She took off her bra while keeping her shirt on - neat trick. Her red panties were next. She shoved both of them in my backpack. On the 405 Freeway, by the airport, she lost control and started rubbing her pussy, gently at first, and then vigorously. Her fingers were disappearing inside her cunt, and she would take them out to let me sniff them, even taste them. She drew out her performance for a while - the traffic was heavy, and I was driving slower than usual. She was intent on unzipping my pants and taking out my cock right there on the freeway, to suck it off I think, but I was afraid to let her do that. I don't like taking chances when I drive; it's one of the few areas in my life where I've been really chicken. At times, while Peggy was putting on her act, I was repulsed by her shamelessness. Her nose seemed to me longer than before, her eyes more faded and even threatening, and her large lips and mouth whorish and unflattering. At other times, I wanted to fuck her so badly I would hurt her, make her cunt sore from the violent hammering. But I betrayed few emotions, simply held Peggy's left hand most of the time, and drove slowly to her apartment.
Once inside, Peggy suddenly became serious. First, she started crying. She said that when taking the dope, she had stopped short of the point where she became indifferent. Her feelings weren't numb enough. So to get back for an insufficient hit, she takes it out on me? She kept crying about the "love of her life," a TA at UCLA whom she had known her first time around the tracks there, Paul. Paul had dumped her for a rich heiress in Woodland Hills, who was older, encumbered by a learning deficiency, and was definitely infertile too. What I found amazing is that she didn't feel mad toward Paul in the least; she obviously had a problem handling rejection. He who does not handle rejection in stride is not a true American. Because the other side of the coin to rejection is possibility, endless options. Peggy asked me to slap her every time she mentioned Paul's name. This I could get into, although I'd have to make sure I didn't leave marks in case she changed her mind later. Women do that, you know. It was thrilling to slap her, right on her big mouth, and see the tears fall down her cheeks in torrents. It was getting bizarre. Did cocaine do that to you? I was so experienced, but so naive in many ways. I sat on the couch, lowered her on my knees, and took great joy in spanking her butt. She now started mumbling, "I want to go home. Take me to Mommy." Of course, I didn't pay attention to this protest, and kept hitting her. Now she tried to get off my lap, quit crying, and said, "You better leave now. I don't want to play this game anymore. It's getting too serious." But I was unbelievably hard by then, I had to get relief. I unzipped my pants, took hold of both her wrists in a strong grip, pushed her face down on my upright shaft, and came quickly into her huge mouth after she sucked it perfunctorily a few times. She then started bawling like a kid, covered herself with a blanket, and began shivering violently. She said she had a headache. I said she looked fine a few minutes ago. She leapt to the phone, and not knowing who she was going to call, I jumped up too and restrained her from calling. "I'm only calling Sandra [that was the friend in Palos Verdes] to come over here. I don't want to be alone." I said, "But I'm here with you. Don't I count for anything? We're taking a class in Ulysses together. We're Rolfe Hall buddies. Let me show you what Bloom wishes he could do to Molly." I may have said this in a mocking tone. She said I could stay the night as long as I didn't touch her anymore. I didn't see anything wrong in promising that. She made me promise again, "Tell me you're not going to make me blow you again. I don't want to do that with you." I promised. It was nice to cuddle up next to her. Her body was warm, much softer and inviting than I'd thought it would be. During the night, of course, I got hard, and seeing that she was still asleep I climbed right on top of her and pushed myself inside. That's when she woke up, screamed "No, no, you fucking monster, get off me," and started scratching and clawing at my face and neck with her long fingernails. I pleaded with her to let me finish. The whole contract theory of sex with an undemanding half-Jewish female was going nowhere. I'd have to abandon this prospect, look elsewhere. Women by the time of thirty, if they're still unattached, develop huge and complicated emotional problems that are beyond the jurisdiction of most males to solve. It's better to leave them alone. But Peggy had been asking for it all night long; all that provocation, that teasing - I had to come inside her at least once. At this point, I had no idea if she was on the pill, if I was taking a chance coming inside her, but I didn't care. Actually, I'd never cleared up with her if she had any diseases or not. And I'm usually very cautious about that. It's something that seemed beyond my control. Perhaps it had something to do with my time at UCLA being nearly up, and despite having screwed any number of women, still feeling fatally left out somehow. Anyway, try as I would, I couldn't come. I must have been fucking Peggy for maybe two hours, and long ago she had gone limp under me. I think she kept sobbing throughout, and as soon as I was done, she got up and locked herself inside the bathroom. She was still there in the morning. It was the first time in my life that I had really questioned sex as a drug, sex as a means to oblivion. I was fully conscious even at the moment of climax; I never lost touch with myself because this woman wouldn't let me. The final assertion of woman's dominance over man: She won't even let you have this last pleasure in this age without heroes.
Peggy started off on her mission to destroy me with an informal grievance procedure. I suspect she would have gone straight to the formal grievance process if she'd had a choice. The kindly, motherly Complaint Resolution Officer assigned to me, Martha Tan, a half-Mexican, half-Chinese lady with a small face and indeterminate age (as Orientals often tend to be), assured me of confidentiality, of the institution wanting to look at the "totality" of circumstances before coming to any conclusion. "We're not prejudging you in any way," she said, and repeatedly asked me to be forthcoming, since that would only "help your cause in the long run." Sometimes I think our entire system runs on these fragmentary clichés, these words of conciliation and assurance that are nothing but dangerous traps. On the other hand, not to fall into these traps is not an option for anyone. I thought of the worst-case scenario - the sexual harassment policy stated that even if a student were indefinitely dismissed, he could apply for readmission under certain conditions. So that was the worst that could happen to me. I certainly wasn't going to go to jail for this. Once I admitted the worst-case scenario into my consciousness, I became calm and fully cooperated. In my first interview with Miss Tan, which occurred on the Tuesday following the encounter with Peggy, I freely described all that had occurred. I focused on Peggy's drug addiction, her state of total incoherence following the trip to Palos Verdes, her vampish actions during the drive back home, my previous state of familiarity with her because of the study group that we had hoped would eventually include more members of the class, and Peggy's wild and adventuresome sexuality. But Miss Tan kept asking me, "But did you insist on having oral sex with her after she refused? Did you penetrate her after she had let you stay at her apartment for the night, explicitly making you promise that there'd be no more sex? Did you force herself on her?" I don't know what came over me. I could easily have said no. It would have been her word against mine - although Peggy had called Sandra, the Palos Verdes zombie, after I left, and Sandra had orchestrated the whole campaign. She took Peggy to the UCLA Medical Center for a full examination. The police had put me on record as having committed acquaintance rape. Perhaps I had been too violent with Peggy. But it was only hard sex as far as I saw it. I don't know, Miss Tan was so motherly, I agreed to the full slate of charges against me. She took careful and elaborate notes, and dismissed me with advice to continue concentrating on my coursework. I don't know why I admitted everything. Maybe it was because I'd thought that most complaints didn't go any farther, if the perpetrator acknowledged wrongdoing, promised not to repeat the offending action, left the victim alone, and placed himself at the mercy of the institution. I figured I'd probably have to leave the Joyce seminar in order to have no contact with Peggy. That was okay with me. Most of the attention was centered on faculty violence against women anyway - they wouldn't be too concerned with what happened in the privacy of the bedroom between two students, would they? Where was the inequality in power, the asymmetry in hierarchical relations, in that? A slap on the wrist, at worst.
The next I heard of it was an invitation to appear before a full panel, including Miss Tan, but also a couple of undergraduates, another Complaint Resolution Officer (a large black woman with dyed golden hair), an undergraduate advisor from the Office of Student Affairs, a faculty member from the History of Science, and a graduate student in Women's Studies. Would you say that the deck was stacked against me? Both undergraduates were female, although I was given to understand that they had no particular background in feminist activism. The letter summoning me to the hearing had been threatening, legalistic, formal. I sensed no compassion, no pity for my own condition whatsoever. It was still the early days of institutionalizing sexual harassment policies - the full-blown policy had only been in effect earlier in the year for the first time at the University of California. Soon though, they would make it much more pervasive. A Sexual Harassment Information Center. Freshman orientation sessions. Sensitivity training. All sorts of twenty-four hour hotlines, peer counseling, and support systems for the recalcitrant victim. The Women's Resource Center, Student Psychological Services, the Campus Human Resources Division, the Office of Residential Life, and on and on. Quite a stir I caused, huh? Quite a change in policy. I must have saved so many future Peggys from abuse. What a contribution I made to the UCLA community of scholars! I'm so proud of myself for creating so many self-serving bureaucracies. For putting food on people's tables, who otherwise might have had to fend for themselves in the competitive private sector.
At the panel hearing, I immediately sensed universal hostility. The alleged victim herself was not present. I was surprised. I guess I should not have been surprised. I wanted to zero in on Peggy's drug addiction, her wanton and lascivious behavior during the drive home, her coming on to me once we got to her apartment. But it seemed that the panel members had already discounted these explanations. They were strictly into compartmentalization. They wanted to make no association, no linkage, between one form of behavior and another. I particularly remember the shrill protest of one of the whiny female undergraduates, a Marissa Tomei look-alike I guess I would now call her, who kept saying, "A woman has a right to change her mind! It doesn't matter, even if we take you at your word, that she came on to you earlier in the evening. She changed her mind, and she told you that in so many words! You totally disrespected her!" Every single member of the panel asked me if I had freely acknowledged committing the basic act alleged, and if I stood by it. I couldn't see how I could back out at this point. After a while, it became a blur. I could only nod or shake my head, in response to most questions. It seemed to me that their mind was already made up. Not a single sympathizer, not even the hulking professor of the history of science. Nobody smirked at me or anything, but I sensed that they were banded as one against me.
I went home exhausted. I wondered if I could ask Peggy to withdraw her complaint. I knew I was supposed to make no contact with her. But I couldn't overcome the urge to see her, to beg for mercy, if that's what I had to do. It was ten at night when I decided that it had to be done right then. When I got to her apartment, I was surprised when a couple in their fifties opened the door. The awkwardly put-together, wildly red-headed woman screamed, "Jesus fucking Christ! It's him," and almost seemed to faint. Peggy must have described me in detail to her parents. Before her father could give me his lecture, I decided to back off. Next morning, Miss Tan called to tell me that I had enormously complicated my case by violating university orders not to go near Peggy again. I tried to tell her that I was only going to ask Peggy if she could forgive me and withdraw the complaint, so that we could get on with our lives, and to tell her how sorry I was. By now, the thin strand connecting me to the ordinary goings-on of compulsive humanity was severing, due to no fault of my own. Peggy had a right to change her mind. After leading me on as she did. The woman I thought was the likeliest to have a cold, passionless contract for sex turned out to have put a contract on my life.
Next, there were the leaks in the student paper. My name got out! This was never supposed to happen. It was a clear violation of the confidentiality rules. At first, I was sure that it must have been the Marissa Tomei character, since Peggy herself wouldn't want her name dragged in the mud. But reading the story again, I found that Peggy's name was nowhere mentioned. She was safe. The reporter had found a couple of people who barely knew me from previous classes, and had constructed from these interviews a whole elaborate mythology of me as a classic predator. It was as if I was at UCLA only to violate women's right to change their mind. Then things became foggier and foggier as I started attending mandatory counseling sessions. There was one psychologist in particular, a Katherine Houghtelling, who was single-mindedly focused on my father's relationship with me. I told her there was nothing to discuss there, that everything was under control. I told Katherine that I had not been violent with Peggy. I had not taken drugs or alcohol. I was clean. I had already been seeing Peggy. I told her that in my freshman year, the honors college counselor who wanted me to get into the program, had coerced me into sex. Yes, that's true. I wasn't attracted to her, since she was kind of thick-set, and didn't have the sense to wax her moustache. But she had invited me to her house in Van Nuys one weekend for what was supposed to be a party. It turned out I was the only one. I think she softened me up by plying me with alcohol. And she had her way with me. I remember her weight on top of me. I felt crushed. But I didn't make a big deal of it. I didn't file a sexual harassment complaint. But Katherine wanted to talk about my father. Heck, my father didn't know anything about this world, where you had to be so careful not to get into this sort of shit. The student papers kept talking about my case the entire rest of the quarter. There was a huge clamor for strong punishment. Many women came forward with their own stories about being harassed by faculty and graduate students, about acquaintance rape by fraternity members and athletes. The statistics, reports, and hearings confirmed that I was a monster who didn't know how to take no for an answer. It was then, reading about myself in the student press like that, that I felt a new sense of resignation. I couldn't control these matters. I was dealing with an alien community; they would deal with me as a statistic, not as a human being with his own story, his own difficulties and challenges in life. I was the antithesis of the courageous survivor who goes on to make something of himself despite all obstacles; I had converted my lemonade into a lemon. I think what really killed me is, that asshole Steve Rattner, the Ulysses prof, volunteered to testify against me. Something about unresolved pre-oedipal complexes, the crisis of masculinity, metaphors of war in the American male's psyche, and crap like that. For the life of me, I couldn't recall what I might have said in class in interpreting Ulysses. An entire article in the student paper, full of mumbo-jumbo. Crisis of masculinity? When was the last time you got laid, Professor Rattner? Of course, there was the usual escape clause - Professor Rattner didn't mention my name, since it was supposed to be a general critique of the abysmal status of peer-to-peer gender relations at one of the country's most progressive institutions. But I knew who he was talking about, even if he didn't explicitly name me. Oh yes, he couldn't fool me. And everyone involved in the case knew who he was talking about.
What I want to know is, in retrospect, where were all the protections supposedly available to the accused? This first occurred to me when I was trying to reinstate myself with the school years later, and ran into a veritable wall. Nobody was prepared to listen to me. I made appointments with the Office of Affirmative Action (did I tell you that they were heavily involved in the decision to expel me?). I'm white, but I guess I'm a minority of sorts. But they said the file was closed as far as they were concerned. (This was happening after my first brutal round of experiences in the corporate world. I began to look at UCLA as my last savior. Again.) I was given the run-around. I chased administrators all over the place. Murphy Hall became my favorite haunt. But everybody passed the buck. What would it have meant for the institution to readmit someone they had definitely blocked out of existence? Not that they would have been admitting error during the course of the hearings, but these things have a way of staying put once they have congealed. Once enough time has passed, nobody has the guts to go back and revisit the subjective issues involved, to figure out if the emotions of the moment might have gotten in the way of fairness. As far as I know, I was supposed to have had at least the option of legal counsel. Why wasn't I informed? (Or was I, and the daze doesn't let me recall?) Why didn't someone, anyone, actively take my side? The accused have rights too, don't they? I also had a right to confront Peggy, cross-examine her - ideally, have my legal counsel give her a taste of her own medicine; her behavior, that night, was anything but exemplary for a supposed "victim" of acquaintance rape. But at the hearing, they only played an audio-tape of her accusation - her voice was so firm and determined, it took me aback. I couldn't believe that any woman I had chosen to be intimate with, had shared the most precious, most sacred part of my being with, could become so callous, so one-sided in remembrance. She could watch the entire proceedings of the panel on closed-circuit television. But I didn't know that until later. And I was supposed to have had the right to call witnesses to testify on my behalf - I could have called in Chris Moneymaker, and that guy I helped with on a term paper, the pothead Deepak Chopra, and many others, I'm sure. The resident assistants on my floors - I had never given anyone any cause for complaint in the dorms. Heck, I could even have called this peer sex counselor, a Thai girl in Dykstra Hall with wonderfully tanned long legs, to whom I had once put on a big show of concern about wanting to have sex with my "girlfriend" for the first time, and going into great detail about the options available for "protection" - she was a good source of free condoms, and I loved the way she appreciated my sensitivity about exploring contraceptive options rather than jumping into some rash action. My parents? Maybe. Why not? I could have called them to testify. Anything was possible, if someone had been looking out for my rights.
But there was Sandra, the Palos Verdes zombie, crying and crying, like a hysteric, about the bad shape Peggy was in the morning after, when she had left her so cheerful, so in control, the evening before. That's not true. I don't know why I lost my usual articulateness, my ability to get to the bottom of things, during the duration of that trial. Perhaps I needed a break from the effort to be like others, to conform, to situate myself within the historical context of the time, and subconsciously the effort must have been getting to me. Anyway, I lost my voice for the time being.
Other grievances I have, at this late date: The hearing was closed to the public. I'm sure if it had been open, the tenor might have changed, been more fair to me. I think the panel was only too eager to let in charges and accusations that were tangentially related to the main charges against me, and for which formal notice hadn't been served on me. Were the witnesses against me required to testify under oath? I don't remember. Not that that matters if you're determined to bring down a rebel. Wasn't I made to testify against myself, in those innocuous seeming dialogues with Martha Tan and others? I sure let down my guard, thinking that these motherly types weren't going to let me go to the dogs. In short, where was due process for me? Taped testimony from Peggy was enough to meet the definition of my right to confront my accuser? Brilliant. I needed not only to hear her, but to see her. Would she have held up under direct confrontation? Her story was full of leaks and holes. It would have capsized under the weight of direct questioning. They could only have compelled me to take classes on violence and sexual assault. But they went whole hog in punishing me. The institution was trying to salvage its perception in the community. It had to take the next step to legitimize itself as a bastion of progressivism. Where women, no questions asked about their background and deficits, are protected from the evil forces roaming around in the outside world. Where women have a safe haven, so they can reach their maximum potential, absent artificial hindrances. In my appeal some years later, I tried to present new evidence, but I heard back that all evidence had to have been presented at the time of the hearing. I think the school now has an office of student rights and responsibilities, to act as advocate on behalf of the victim. Where is the legal mechanism, the judicial review, for the accused? Anyone can accuse anyone of anything, especially in these highly charged sexual times, can't they? Peggy was using what they call illegal drugs - why wasn't she countercharged with this violation of society's norms? I was told later that the university follows the greater good principle - they overlook relatively minor offenses, like consumption of illegal drugs, to focus on pathological behavior - like mine. Peggy's behavior had to do with lifestyle choice. Mine with the much greater evil of patriarchal violence. That bitch Sandra was a Yale graduate - her testimony in the closed hearing was therefore impeccable. She could have said anything; her credential, her Ivy League validation, protected her from harsh questioning. For some reason, I kept reading the Daily Bruin every day for years afterward (I even subscribed to it, once I got into a bit of money); looking for what, I don't know. In the early nineties, there was the case of a football player, charged with date rape. He was merely forced to take classes in sexual violence. There was too much alumni and athletic department pressure for the victims' rights advocates to make toast of him. I guess what happened to me, in terms of lack of balance, is now institutionalized. Now, if a student is found responsible for sexual violence, his records can be released to the public. Another victory for the victims' rights people, hurray! Early offenders like me have spawned a whole slew of legislation to force institutions to integrate punishment and public debasement of standouts like me in every stage of the educational process.
Enough of this! I'm losing my cool! I'm in this ten-by-twelve cell, with a naked yellow light bulb that always seems to be on, a little hole for the guard to push the tray of "food" through, and an iron bunk bed with a thin blanket as the only objects in my surroundings - and I'm still riled by Peggy's betrayal! Of all the betrayals I've faced in my life, was that the most egregious one? You know, I wouldn't be surprised if the institution had pushed her to file criminal charges against me - so that on top of being expelled, I'd have landed in jail as well. Did Peggy restrain herself from going that far? Was it her parents? Sandra? I'll never know, because I never heard from Peggy again. She can join the list of all the women who have stolen the best of me, used me for my emotional capability, my sensitivity, my romantic essence, and then thrown me away, never to touch me again. Why did they do that to me? It was a low-tech public lynching, that’s what it was – what category of the victimized do I fit in?
But since this is time to be totally honest (unlike that one-sided hearing), I should tell you about a dream I repeatedly have. It's been going on for fifteen years now. I dream that I have Peggy locked up in the large closet in her apartment – it’s as large as a room, so I don’t feel much compunction on that account. She has plenty of room to breathe, to move about. I have her wrists and ankles tied up with her white sheets, and her mouth gagged. I’m trying to feed her with whatever pathetic leftovers she has in her fridge, but she refuses. Every hour or so I go inside the closet and initiate a new round of sex. First, straightforward missionary position. To get things rolling in the closet. Then, I eat her out to her heart’s content. I love eating women out. I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t appreciate this quality of mine. I am the world's greatest kitten, lapper-upper of women's sweet juices, their creamy aroma of brutal melting. Then, I turn Peggy over on her stomach, open her legs wide, take a gob of Vaseline, and have some good old anal sex. It’s a great butt reaming I always give Peggy, and in my dream, I don’t feel exhausted, don’t even sweat a bit, as I put Peggy through the ropes all night long. Fist her. In her cunt. Her asshole. Oh, I forgot, I have Peggy blindfolded the whole time. Yes, the blindfold, with one of her nice red silk scarves – that was important. I didn’t want her to be able to see. To deprive woman of the capacity to see, to identify her abuser, her victimizer – that was important (a lot of good that did me in the end, huh?). I keep the light on in the closet. I go through her clothing – her blouses and skirts, her bras and panties (mostly functional, practical cotton, nothing exotic). Her shoes are too small for my feet. I like feeling my hard penis sticking straight out in her wispy panties. She can't see me, but I prance around in front of the mirror in the closet, and tell her, "Bitch, don’t you like me in your clothes? I carry them off so much better than you do, you uncoordinated, awkward, gangly, inelegant whore!" I ask her if she’ll confess to me whether or not her uncles and cousins fucked her when she was a little girl. Of course, her mouth is gagged, so she can’t answer. I find a nice, thick belt in her closet. I whip her on the back, and she takes the punishment like a good girl. No objections, no ramifications. Guiltless, consequence-less punishment. That’s my girl. I want to insert something larger than my dick (not that I have a small one – a good, thick seven and a half inches) in her wide-open, leaking, breathing, pulsing, throbbing, slippery cunt. I find a candle in her kitchen. I bite her lips as I shove the candle deep into her – much deeper than my penis can go. The wax starts breaking off, and the candle, after having traveled through her juicy channel, feels so warm and alive, that I start licking it lovingly. If she didn’t have those compelling large breasts, none of this would have happened in the first place. So I must show special affection to her breasts. I must be the admirable lover, treat every inch of her body with my special love technique – lick her, suck her, sweeten her, warm her up, feel her, touch her with that special magic move that is bound to push her over the edge. How many times she comes through the night, I lose track of. There’s no doubt: she comes over and over again. I can’t keep up with her. Her need is immense, insatiable. She will be the death of me. My penis is raw, sore, tender, indistinguishable from what it used to be, at the end of this night of tender loving. I find clothespins in her laundry room (why does a lonely bitch with no kids, no obligations, need such a large apartment all for herself?) and clamp them on her large nipples – her nipples get very, very large. She is obviously turned on. I clamp pins on her cheeks, her neck, right over her eyes, her belly, her thighs. I give her a nice haircut, while I’m at it – real short, and not whorish, sluttish, like she used to have; I make her a professional-looking woman, a lawyer or accountant. Funny how a little thing like a haircut will make you look so different. I admire my handiwork. I didn’t realize I was such a good hairstylist. I start laughing hysterically. Dawn is coming up. I can hear the mellow, frightened, anxious birds outside. Every Los Angeles dawn is breathtaking. This is where land meets water, for the last time. After this is the unknown. So we must stop here and take a breather, reckon how far we have come. This dream cannot last. This dream is over. These are always the last words on my lips, my last remonstration to Peggy, as I wake up from this repetitive nightmare.
There are slight variations, of course. I may use different objects, different sequences in introducing her to the full range of my love-making technique. But the gist of the dream remains the same. Now, had I actually subjected Peggy to a night like that – blindfolded, gagged, tied, locked in a closet, and her not even knowing if I was going to leave her there until she died, and the rotting smell of her useless body would finally attract the neighbors’ attention, and the police would have to come and break down the door and the youngest, least experienced among them would have to make the dreaded call to the unknowing parents to tell them that their daughter had been murdered by a vicious psychopath – now, if I had actually put Peggy through this sort of treatment, perhaps she would actually have had a case against me. Where was my violence? But how Pavlovian, how determined our reactions are: to this day, my attraction to large breasts has not diminished. Edward O. Wilson must have a point about criminals, about terrorists, the breast-obsessed.
SYNOPSIS: MEMOIRS OF A TERRORIST
The novel is 500 pages (120,000 words) long. It tells the story of Johnny Brinkman of Reseda, a UCLA-educated, Southern California man of Persian Jewish and Greek Orthodox heritage, with pretensions of anarchist messianism. He brings about supposedly the greatest acts of terror in American history, in the year 2002.
The unreliable first-person narratorial voice challenges the perceptive reader's stereotypical assumptions about the nature of "terrorism," and violence in America in general. John Brinkman is repeatedly disillusioned by the worlds of academia, business, politics, and even domesticity. He tries hard to fulfill his need for belonging and acceptance through various stratagems throughout the 1980s and 1990s, none of them succeeding in bringing him a measure of satisfaction. Eventually, at the age of thirty-eight, he orchestrates the "second American general strike."
The novel incorporates recent history (the Jerry Brown campaign, the Rodney King riots, the O.J. Simpson trial, the drug wars, the Michael Milken indictment and Wall Street fraud, the Monica Lewinsky episode) with fictional counterparts to these events with which John has personal experience. At various times, John works as a bond-trader in Century City, a gigolo in Beverly Hills, and at the beginning of his "career" as a vocational school street sleuth in Carson. He is kicked out of UCLA on sexual harassment charges in his last quarter there. Nevertheless, he charms, lies, dissembles, and manipulates his way into the center of many things, much like an anti-Forrest Gump.
His brief and illusionary marriage to Lauren Klein-Miller, a Reform Jew, introduces yearning to belong to the Jewish faith and an equal degree of anomie when even this attempt at social integration fails. John is not the typical junkie or street hustler; rather, his relatively sophisticated level of information keeps the reader constantly on edge as the temptation always exists to either excuse or demonize him. In all of his criticisms of American society, John offers a grain of truth; nevertheless, the astute reader will detect perverse interpretations of valid social criticism and will be challenged to separate the grain from the chaff.
The novel seeks to shatter the illusion of the "terrorist" or "anarchist" as the disreputable Other, and seeks to spark recognition of universal character traits among the larger American population. I have sought to make John a lovable villain, along the lines of Richard III, and hope that the reader will constantly oscillate between empathy and annoyance for John's reading of the events of his own life and of his country's life in the last two decades.
The novel is composed in the form of prison memoirs - approved and supervised by his agent and editor, both leading figures in the publishing world - written between January and April 2002, as John awaits trial for his unprecedented acts of terrorism (or so the government seeks to prove). Occasionally, John speaks about prison conditions, but mostly he uses his time in solitary confinement to evaluate the occurrences in his life that have led to the desperate pass he has arrived at. Before the trial can occur, however, John is killed in prison, and there are conflicting explanations in the novel as to how this has come about (the preface at the beginning of the novel by the novel's editor conflicts with the newspaper report and John's defense lawyer's reading at the end of the novel).
The events of the last year should make this novel a particularly compelling read for a large number of people, since the book integrates a wide-ranging look at the last decade's conspiracy theories, the various forms of extremism pervasive in America in recent years, and the confrontation during that time between various technologies of population pacification and the continuing resentment of disenfranchised groups.
Anis Shivani grew up in Los Angeles, and attended Harvard University, graduating with honors in 1994. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards for social science and humanities research, including Ford and Mellon. He researched public policy in education, labor and development at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As a freelance journalist, he has written opinion pieces on a wide range of cultural, economic, and political topics: everything from the WTO and globalization, to impeachment and the Florida recount. He is the author of two novels, The Age of Critics and Memoirs of a Terrorist, and screenplays based on these novels. He is a published poet as well, most recently in The Café Review. He can be reached at: Anis_Shivani_ab92@post.harvard.edu