I was born in Buffalo twice, once physically and four years later my consciousness followed me down. Through hypnosis I was able to recall my physical birth. Pulled like a stubborn tooth with stainless steel forceps, I came out furious. In that moment of being the object of brute metal force as my reintroduction to the world of flesh, most of my values were formed. I vowed to do away with steel. Steel and flesh would never meet again, not in battle, not in the name of salvation either. The age of steel was to end.
Once out of my mother’s body, all naked and wet, all senses as fully opened as the trauma of a forceps birth allowed, I had my second realization. In feeling the body heat being radiated from the doctors and nurses in the operating room, I was perfectly certain. It was unmistakable. The heat from the bodies of the people in the room was without a doubt purely Italian.
Before Buffalo, before Ross Drago, I was a French painter and political satirist who died, and became a Swiss- born painter who lived in Germany. This later, lyrical painter, once described as “a fairy of a man” died angry, no, furious, and, I recall, went not to where dead people go who are adrift, or sucked along the path of religious white waters pouring over Niagara Falls. He was angry, and went far away from all others, and manifested in his rage a room impervious to fear or pain, manifested a laboratory where he could study gravity, electricity, and magnetism. He was finally conscious and enraged at being abandoned here on this tiny, distant planet, exiled here by his own love for the people of Earth. This would be clarified to me many years later in a dream recollection. He died and created a laboratory to study the forces of nature, with the singular purpose of conceiving of and bringing back to life with him, a principle for technological levitation, or what would be simply called, a flying machine.
In this laboratory of his making, experiments took place. These experiments were conducted in an atmosphere that would make any researcher swoon. Every device, every material was manifested instantly from emptiness by virtue of his mind. That was the nature of the death plane. He researched feverishly, testing electricity, examining gravity, working with powerful and simple magnetism, for nearly a year, determined to bring back to life with him an answer that would be released into this world, and would set all of humanity free.
The problem was, it was all in his mind. None of it, not the tiniest piece of information was other than his own concept of these forces. Useless. It was all madness. He had made a fool of himself for nearly a year. Exasperated, he was adrift still in his laboratory, until the idea came to him. It was brilliant, even amusing. He would invent a house cleaner, someone who would come in every day and clean up, dust, polish surfaces, wash floors. He would practice until her face remained perfectly the same, day after day, after day. He would start by making a woman, with shapely legs, reddish hair, flower printed dresses and a pretty face.
So he began, always laboring at keeping this face of a single vision. He practiced every time he thought of it, and within weeks he had mastered the art of this mind game.
He became so versed at sustaining this woman’s face that it pleased him even to look away and casually glance at her, to see that she was exactly the same.
So it was that she came each day and moved furniture. Davenports and tables, soft-patterned rugs and bronze colored lamps; an upstairs and downstairs had been added to his laboratory, until in time it resembled a house. He became so good at sustaining this woman, that he thought to attempt creating a man.
All the while, this laboratory and this person were two dimensional, as if projections in grainy light on the rear of an envelope or spherical screen that he was inside of. Sound was also the same, in his ears, in his imagination. The flat images came and went, appeared and disappeared as he pleased and were within his mastery.
The man he created was also an ideal man. He was, of course, as he himself had been, a pipe smoker, but with curly black hair and large blue eyes. He would be an artist as well. He, too, would come and go, but less frequently than the woman. He was given a deep voice and was clearly kind and loving of ironies, puns and mental fun.
Having once more mastered a human being, the obvious idea came to him. He decided to try his skill at making two beautiful women. One would be tall and dark skinned with dark brown hair and brown eyes. The other would be petite, with large blue eyes and blonde hair. That would be perfection. No one could choose. He would make them both.
Now the laboratory on this ground glass two-dimensional screen was complete. Upstairs, downstairs, people in nearly every room at any time of night or day. So perfect was it that the greatest test of all repeatedly delighted him.
Whenever the idea came to him he would suddenly leave the laboratory, which was now more of a house, and go “outside,’’ where things had been created, perhaps hurriedly, foliage and sidewalks and various fill-in scenery in order to spend time away, and then to come back abruptly, to see if it would all be exactly the same. Yes. Yes, the same woman’s face, yes the same man, yes the two beautiful young women, and yes the interior all were precisely the same. He was a mastermind. It was astounding fun.
There was no tiring of this little celebration, and on one occasion he went out of doors, only to return and find, to his amusement, that the house cleaning woman was angry with him. This was beyond his own expectations. He laughed aloud to see her expression of anger, and as he laughed, her anger grew more intense. This volley of laughter and anger built and in his great laughter his eyes focused on her eyes, locked on them is more the exact word. In this moment he began to notice something. He began to recognize that this woman’s anger, burning in her eyes, was somehow greater than his own ability to imagine such rage. Her fire was greater than his ability to ever conceive of or sustain. In this terrible moment, a kind of taffy-pull began between himself and this two-dimensional creation of his own mind. The force, like taffy, stretched between his stomach and her own. It was a tug-of-war, and the tension grew to tremendous intensity, each pulling for their life on the force. Then, in the peak of tension between him and the woman, the taffy force suddenly snapped into her stomach and she had won! Instantly the projected room popped into three-dimensional reality, terrifying him, everywhere everything puffed into the third dimension. The woman stood there in the flesh, real, before him, furious, the room and all in it protruded in actuality, no longer a thing of his mind, but present. He screamed an electric scream, turned and ran up the three-dimensional stairs, into his three-dimensional room and buried himself under actualized covers and cried himself to sleep.
Though I was not to remember this for thirty years, all things remained three-dimensional and real from that day on, at age four. The woman was, of course, my new mother. The man was my new father, and the beautiful women, my two older sisters. I had managed to remain inside of the bubble of my own autistic mind until four years old, whereupon I received the rude awakening my mother was to promise me for the rest of her life. Now I was to try and understand that my name was Ross Drago, and that Europe was far, far away. I was to learn that the well-known artist, the violinist, the German scholar whom I thought I still was, was now an Italian Catholic Buffalo boy.
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