I wrote this somewhere in a chapter of a book I’ve been working on. Nothing else in the chapter even remotely resembles this, as most of it is rather melancholy and reflective. Nonetheless, this went through my mind when a psychiatrist asked me if I had a plan on how I would commit suicide.
SCENE: I rent out a motel room on skid row and go on a bender for a week (if there’s one thing that would make someone want to kill themselves, it’s a week-long bender.) Next, call Jon Larsen and tell him something is wrong and I need him to come down, now. That creates urgency and a feeling of foreboding. When he arrives, the door latch has been extended in order to keep the motel door slightly ajar, thereby providing Jon with access to the room. As he walks in, he tries to turn on the lights, but I have already smashed all the lightbulbs all over the ground so that every step he takes will be marked by the crunch of glass underfoot. A stereo will be playing distortion on an infinite loop. All the remnants of the bender will cover all flat services as if they were trophies. Across the room, the outline of a lit bathroom door will beckon him to walk towards it. As he moves across the distorted, glass covered room and gets closer to the bathroom, he’ll faintly be able to hear the subtle sound of music through the door. Finally he has arrived. He knocks, says, “Mike?” No answer. His frightened anticipation has reached its pinnacle. He opens the door and finds me naked and hanging as the song “Elvira” by the Oak Ridge Boys plays on repeat. Jon is now horrified and calls 911 while crying, though perhaps he’ll first instagram my dead body. For the rest of his life, no matter where he is or what context it happens, every time he hears Richard Sterban sing in his iconic bass tone, “Oom pappa oom pappa oom pappa mow mow,” he’ll automatically burst into tears, tormented, incapable of forgetting that terrible night, when what was left of his tormented soul was shattered into infinite pieces, and Spencer Wholrab would be super jealous. Fuck them all, mission accomplished.
The answer I gave the psychiatrist was, “Well, sort of.”
Zaqistan is located in the most hostile, unforgiving environment than anyone could have the misfortune to experience. It makes Skull Valley look like a water park. In essence, there is no reason to ever go there, yet somehow Zaqistan survives in the unrelenting heat of an alkaline desert, thriving in the absurdity of its existence.
If I was to offer one thing to say about Zaqistan to potential visitors, it would be this—don’t go. It’s a fucked up place. African Bushmen would describe Zaqistan as an impossible environment to scrape a meager existence from; ancient Greeks would have attributed the barren flats to a vengeful Hades. But if you are masochistic enough to visit this merciless land, you’ll definitely have an experience.
As far as I know, the first step to visiting Zaqistan is letting two kids from New Orleans, one from Chicago and another from New York sleep on your floor in Salt Lake City. Then you watch one of them meticulously create a piñata costume as he tells you about his homeland.
From what I’ve gathered, renowned global explorer Zaq Landsberg founded Zaqistan in 2006. He’d fallen into a little (not much) money and decided on a whim to purchase approximately two acres of the old Bonneville Sea bed on Ebay for $600 dollars. When prodded, Zaq gave his reasoning for the acquisition as, “Getting a little piece of the American West before it was gone.” Judging by Zaqistan’s incredibly remote location, that’s not going to be a problem anytime soon. Its original embassy was located in Argentina, but for a while it was located in an art gallery in Manhattan, a stone throw away from the United Nations building. Although there are a number of people who have dual citizenship with Zaqistan, for the vast majority of the time the official population is zero. Nobody lives there, and nobody blames them.
Resting as the only independent nation within the contiguous United States (outside of Native Reservations), Zaqistan is ridiculous, just like this sentence. Although the land does appear to be unsustainable for any form of life, extremophiles like sagebrush and rattlesnakes live there in abundance out of sheer absurdity.
Cubans often use their Zaqistani passports to appear as tourists, as the passports look so legit and Zaqistan is so obscure that cops are dumb enough to believe them. My passport should be arriving in the mail any day now. I’m planning on using to pick up on easily confused girls.
Like all proud nations, Zaqistan has a number of monuments that highlight its history and achievements. Most impressive of all is the Triumphant Arch, which stands out against the nothingness with a brilliance of sheer existence. The robots tend to be a popular tourist attraction for the younger generation, and the Zaqistani flag is a prominent fixture visible from every border. There’s also a lot of sagebrush.
The Zaqistani national pastime includes shooting guns at bottles, drinking an irresponsible amount of alcohol, setting off fireworks and fashion photography. It’s a formidable place. Crime levels are low in Zaqistan based on liberal socialist laws and the utter lack of anyone. Health care is free if you bring a first aid kit.
If you’re trying to find Zaqistan in person, it’s suggested you know how to operate a compass, as the obscure directions you will receive by email include geographical coordinates that aren’t going to help. The compass is there to provide a fleeting feeling of hope. The dusty roads leading into the nation are convoluted and lacking signs, so it’s better to show up before dusk.
Since phone service is does not exist in Zaqistan, contact with the outside world is scarce. If you end up getting a flat tire in the land and your spare also happens to be flat, you’re fucked without ingenuity. Zaqistan runs on ingenuity. It’s their main import and export. They import and export a lot of it.
The capitol Zaqopolis can be difficult to navigate for first timers, but once one learns to use The Zaqopolis as a central landmark it becomes almost impossible to get lost. What appears to be a monkey bar dome adorned with loose camouflaged netting and a number of female mannequin legs take on a special significance when you realize it marks the only shade for fifty miles. Indeed, it is the cultural hub of Zaqistan during the day, and the majority of political decisions take place under its cover. Cover is something highly valued in Zaqistan, as finding a shady spot of repose is the only way anyone can survive in its unceasing heat. Survival in Zaqistan is important. Surviving in Zaqistan is difficult.
If you are capable of living long enough to see the sites, there are a number of breathtaking postcard-worthy landmarks to visit. The Guardians of Zaqistan stand vigilant over the land at times when it’s deserted, protecting the small nation from would-be intruders. Towering over the landscape is Mt. Insurmountable, the highest point in Zaqistan. Anyone daring enough to risk ascending the summit is guaranteed to be rewarded with unrivaled view of all of Zaqistan.
If you travel to Zaqistan with someone unfamiliar with the concept of “roughing it,” expect them to yell at you for hours at a time as you drink 40s of Mickeys and stumble around in the darkness. Don’t panic; it won’t help. Instead you should focus on finding the gold skulls of long deceased animals that mark the cryptic trail to Zaqistan, and if all else fails, try to hear the gunshots being fired into the night sky. You won’t hear them mostly because the deadening effect of the dried seabed eliminates all forms of echolocation, but it’s nice to have a false sense of hope. If your companion has given up his false sense of hope in exchange for a true sense of doom, explain that nothing has killed you yet, and at the very least death comes quickly in Zaqistan, which means you won’t suffer for long. If your companion explains that the duration of suffering is less important than the magnitude of suffering, continue drinking. More than anything, it’s important to maintain a loose form of consciousness at all times, as hyper-awareness is problematic in irrational scenarios. You probably already have your hands full; there’s no need to make things more complicated by recognizing how close you are to death. Denial is key to sensibility in Zaqistan.
After your stay in Zaqistan, it is recommended you stop by the closest cowboy bar, a quaint little joint near a lone gas station in a town famous for refusing to die. Get a hamburger. Also get a shot and a beer. Congratulations! Somehow, against the odds, you survived to tell the tale, and now you can talk about something with bizarre authority, where every answer you offer can only be met with more questions. Zaqistan builds character, which you already must have had if you went there in the first place, and are now following in the footsteps of giants like Professor Wexler, world explorer.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. I fucked up and chose the one to Zaqistan.”
On what’s becoming more and more of a regular occurrence, I woke up this morning on Jon Larsen’s floor to the sound of Beach House on repeat. Jon has a hard time falling asleep without noise, and thus he’s in the habit of playing music rather loudly from the moment he starts yawning to when he wakes up at 7 P.M. Jon doesn’t like being awake. The only thing he hates worse is silence.
Groggily I got to my feet and checked my pockets for items I might have lost. All there. I looked over at Jon’s protracted body lying awkwardly on his bed and remembered my dream from the night before, a dream where I’d woken up to find Jon in the same position, only now dead. In the dream I called 911 and calmly told the dispatcher, “I think my friend is dead. There’s probably no reason to send paramedics but I imagine it’s customary for these types of things.” Afterwards I hung up the phone, grabbed one of Jon’s film cameras, took a photo of his now vacant face and put the camera down. Then, for whatever reason, I’d update my Facebook status. The fact that I was updating my Facebook in a dream after I found Jon’s dead body is fucked up. Social media is so invasive that I can’t escape it even in sleep. But that’s not the point. The point is, I obviously couldn’t write, “Jon Larsen is dead,” on my wall, as it’s become such an expected catch phrase that it might as well be copy-writed, and if I did write that, no one would bat an eyelid. Instead I wrote, “Life imitates art,” and kept it good at that.