It’s already the middle of September, and I’m still waiting for it to start. It always does so slowly, with an effort that seems forced and dispassionate. September in my country is an addled month. It is hated by most, as it heralds the end of summer, and appears unable to defend itself in its lack of expressiveness. No multicoloured falling leaves here. No chill in the air, no change. Just a misguided, stumbling expiry of a season that’s laden with way too many foolhardy hopes. It only serves to accommodate the needs of those who imprudently prolong the order that the next season supposedly dictates.
‘And yet, here I am. I’ve been here for years, right in front of you. What have you done? How have you made the impossible happen? You’ve done nothing. The fact that you see everything makes it even worse, because you’re in a position to attempt to conquer what you claim cannot exist. Instead you have become a magician, performing one disappearing act after another, as if to show that you’re impervious to my Medusa-like idiosyncrasy.
How are you not a coward, a hypocrite, a child? You refuse to even let yourself be hurt by something you self-proclaim as worthwhile. Even in that regard you opt for the cheap version of pain and loss and passion. A watered-down albeit safe entropy that are human relationships.
If you consider the fact that out of all the people you meet, interact with, and fuck in your life, only one (if that) will be your companion. Every single other you will eventually have abandoned, hurt, regretted, loved, screwed and made happy, in vain.
That’s what we believe failed relationships to be, don’t we? A waste of time, effort and bodily fluids. We falsely believe happiness to be a continuous process with a beginning and an end. We consider it to be linear, consistent, attached to a person, a place, a condition that we will one day find, immediately recognise, and hold on to forever.
We are fools. Happiness only belongs in moments, seconds and minutes; maybe hours if we’re blessed. It is fragmented, chaotic and unpredictable. It comes in surges and leaves with the tide, slowly, calmly, unalarmingly, smoothly, as if to leave you with a remembrance by which to recognize it when it reappears. Nothing is in vain, not the way we have defined it in order to pardon ourselves for the things we did not dare to do. How did you then not deprive yourself of even a single moment of happiness I could have given you, one that you would have in fact given yourself?
I demand too much of both myself and others you said. My question is why don’t you? Why do you put up with irrational bullshit of people who feed off the perversion of total possession and enslavement of individuality and render you eunuchs enthralled, but refuse to go a single step forward towards something that could potentially amaze you? If only for a moment.
Because you also perversely feed off the fervour to be consumed, absorbed and possessed. You give yourselves away and then claim to be empty. You drain yourselves to the point where there’s nothing of you left. And so in every relationship you are simply a mirror, a reflection and a desire of what your idol claims they want, until the desire fades, as it always does, and all you are then is someone’s discarded cupidity.
Instead, what I want is you. But you have nothing to show me.
A door is ajar. A window is cracked. The room you used to inhabit is dusty, mouldy, dark, and depleted. You’ve lost yourself. You’ve disappeared into the souls that only ever wanted you for what they could make of you. A fistful of clay; never a complete work of art.’
In English, the word ‘lie’ slides off the tongue, while its Greek equivalent ‘ψέμματα’ needs to be spewed out with your lips and teeth. We lie every day, to make things easier, to avoid long conversations we’d rather not have, to feel better about ourselves, to keep people happy, to stop them from knowing how we really feel, think and operate. We lie to extinguish the truth we yearn to utter but know the other cannot digest.
We lie to live. We lie to conceal either the strongest or the most vulnerable parts of us. We lie to enliven the average, maximise the mediocre, and emphasise the ‘normal’.
We lie because its reaction is safer, more predictable and possibly less damaging for the parties involved. We cannot speak of judgment without being judgemental. We cannot contemplate truth without acknowledging the utterance of lies.
A friend told me recently that people will listen if you open up and speak out; that it is our own fear of embarrassment and self-judgement that keeps you cocooned and alone. ‘People are way nicer than you think,’ he said, ‘sometimes it’s all in your head.’
I paused and ruminated. I entertained the idea of divulging what I am, and have been for some time, convinced I will agitate my listener. I’ve mulled over scenarios with a multitude of results, but again, they were all in my head. I’ve been disappointed more often than I’ve been pleasantly surprised, but that only amplifies the worth of those who astounded me and elucidates what seems to become clearer every day.
If we don’t speak, and we don’t risk, and we don’t wager, we will never win, we will never learn, we will never be surprised. An educated guess is better than silence and a veiled truth will tell you more about your audience than a sugar-coated lie.
We lie to simplify, and yet we constantly complicate the straightforward to further conceal the raw facet we fear of a realistic truth. We pile lie(s) upon lie(s) to fabricate truths we know the other person will see or has already seen through.
We’re proud to have made it an art. We devise strategies to perfect it. We embroider it with hints of kindness to make it seem benign. We bathe it in a light of concern and protection and insert the venom in the needle-sharp point of a shooting dart.
We are all Cupid. We all shoot. We have all killed.
We are babies flying with a bow we believe we are entitled to. Aware but indifferent to the consequences of our lethal game.
We lie to secure a place within a life we have been convinced has been designed by someone other than us. If we are not the creator, we cannot be the destroyer. And yet, we are both.
The summer is almost over. In my mind there is exactly one week left. I know I need to prepare more sedulously for the next one.
I am in a foul mood. I have been in one this entire month. I don’t know how to uproot or excoriate this feeling and shed the layers of heat that have entrapped my body in a state of consciousness that is dystopian for me.
I am angry and confused. I am disappointed in my inability to accept certain people’s incoherence. I am wont to behave and operate with a certain a mount of consistency and when I am confronted with a significant lack thereof I am befuddled.
I overthink and overanalyse in an attempt to decipher the inexplicable. It is a self-imposed mental abuse. I go over details, nuances, hidden meanings and underlying assumptions that I know will never even take me close to the edges of truth (if truth could ever have any edges).
I rely on patterns of demeanour to instil a rationale in every situation, but some people are chaotic, and thus unintelligible. And so I find myself in hell, one inhabited by disjointed demons whose nonsensical answers to my queries bury me even deeper in its circles.
‘It’s alright,’ I tell myself while treading on a path I’ve constructed out of reason and perspective, but sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s grotesquely and crudely unfair. It is my worst kind of hell, and I’ve come upon many.
I need to learn from Dante. I need to keep Virgil by my side. It’s the only way I might survive the ninth.
I bought Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas when it first came out in 2010, while I was doing my PhD. I liked it so much I immediately bought all of her other books as well. Two days ago I felt an itch for it, even though the only thing I remembered about it was the fact that I had enjoyed reading it immensely and that the protagonist was a writer. Forty-eight hours and 425 pages later I feel elated, confused, determined, envious and excited. I wish there was more.
I find myself unwilling to leave Meg’s story. I spent two days in my universe to experience a few months in hers, with bits and pieces of her past thrown here and there as flashbacks. We treat fictional characters, especially the ones we like, like real ones. We talk to them and offer our advice as we watch them make one mistake after another, as if we’ve all led perfect little lives.
The novel mentions storyless stories and historyless histories, terms that don’t actually make sense in the absence of context. It talks about our role in the universe, our energy, and how much of our story we can actually make sense of. Even though art is supposed to imitate life, we often see the opposite happening, people attempting to act as a fictional character would, believing this adds more value to their mundane existence.
I selected the term envious before, and I didn’t choose it lightly. It’s not so much that I wish I had written this book, or at least one like it, which I do. It’s not that I long for Meg’s storyline, but there is something about her life that I do envy; something that kept me hooked both times I delved into her world. The same thing that made me underline passages, look up words, meanings and theories: her conversations.
Not the ones she has with Christopher (her boyfriend), but those she shares with her friends Libby and Vi and Frank and Josh, all troubled characters in their own right, as we all are, but all willing to look at our life, even for a span of a single conversation, as a thread in the seemingly endless cloth that is the universe, and what implications, if any, this might have. How our choices, instincts, desires and callings shape us and the people around us, how the narrative patterns we create for ourselves based on false assumptions and beliefs of what life should be like, end up preventing us from going forward and daring to want and claim happiness regardless of the number of times we trip, fall or fail.
Why do we never talk about multiple universes and the choices we’d make elsewhere? If life is as dull, colorless and monotonous as we define it and blame it to be on a daily basis, why not entertain the idea of something impossible, improbable, different, difficult, imaginary, fantastical, extraordinary? Why must we always turn to an art form to silently and sometimes miserably wallow in a pool of anguish and dejection and never try to exorcise our demons of banality with verbal holy water? Because we’ve already deemed ourselves banal, clichéd and predictable to the point of exhaustion (if not annihilation). We can’t even stand ourselves in this universe, let alone another.
The more we convince ourselves that our stories are unchangeable, the more storyless we become. The more we believe that our histories don’t matter, the more historyless we remain. We blend in with nothingness and amalgamate with the metallic, grey sound waves that make up all the background noise we use to lose and hide ourselves within. We should stop talking and start speaking, before our voices become voiceless.
“Look at me and tell me what you see,” she told him. It took him a while to answer as he knew she was actually asking and waiting for a truth, not a compliment.
“I see someone unconventional.”
“Too generic. Try again.”
“I see someone independent,” he said.
“Too obvious,” she replied, “you are better than this.”
“I see someone difficult, hard, demanding, stone cold and unwavering,” he said with a blatant expression.
“Now, that’s more like it. Now tell me why you’re afraid of it.” He froze for a moment, his eyes widened, his hands tightened. He didn’t expect it.
“You are too certain of some things, too determined.”
“Is that bad?”
“No, no, it isn’t. It’s just that it’s hard to handle. You’re hard to handle. You know what you want. Exactly. That scares the shit out of me. I will always be one step behind, at least. I can’t follow you. You’re running and I’ve just begun to crawl. You look back, mind you, care enough to give me a look of compassion but one that also includes the decision to not let me or anyone else slow you down. I don’t know if you want to, but I am certain that you can’t be slowed down. Not by me, or anyone for that matter.
You expect…not compliance, but a degree of understanding that should I prove myself unable to catch up, I should give up. You expect too much of people, which is strangely fair because you demand the same of yourself, and so no one can tell you you’re being unjust, and that’s even worse.
Your look of disappointment could break bones. It can definitely break hearts. You demand compatibility while also requesting authenticity in oneself and mutual respect, which is a foreign concept to most people. No one tells them to be the best version of themselves while disallowing possession. People don’t know what to do with all this freedom. You rob them of the fairytale of belonging to someone and shedding any responsibility for who and what they are in order to simply become what the other wants. Because this way, when things go wrong, they can’t blame another, they can only blame themselves.
Once you have become someone else’s, when you fail you are their failure, not yours. You take that away. You ask them to be responsible for what they are and what they do, and they can’t handle it. They can’t handle you. And they soon reach a point where they don’t want to. So they leave, or if they’re really weak, they fail often enough knowing that you will send them on their way, and they will be free prisoners again. They want to be yours. They crave it. But you forbid it, and they don’t know who else to be around you. They do not trust themselves enough to feel secure in your presence. They feel naked, empty; they feel they will never be enough, and they won’t. But what they don’t realise is that they don’t have to. You’re not asking for enough. They can’t see that. They fear you.
They see what you project, not what lies beneath. When they look at you, all they can detect from some point on is how little they seem, how large you are and how small they may appear. They begin to prepare themselves for when you’re going to get tired or bored of them. So they never try, thereby depriving themselves of the chance to either fail or succeed. They then seek you after a while, just to see if you’re still interested, only with the intent of disappearing again, in your glorious shadow.
You’re too normal, and they’re waiting for the crazy. When it doesn’t come out, this normalcy frightens them to the core of their existence, because without problems what will they do with you? They can’t fix you, repair you, console you, help you, retrieve you from the darkness and be crowned saviours, kings, knights in shining armour. You are the darkness, you’ve become one with it and you’re not afraid of it. You have conquered what they don’t even dare to acknowledge exists. You are everything they only ever wished existed in theory. The reality of you is horrifying. You can’t be; therefore, you must not be.”
I fuck up inadvertently, I think, every once in a while just to see what happens. Things cannot simply exist in balance if one of the scales is not fed occasionally. It will tip over and bathe me in a burst of unbearable righteousness. We all fuck up for the same reasons, in spite of what we tell ourselves, or others. We fuck up to know we can still bleed; to verify that someone cares; to experience the consequence of action and realize that if we’re to blame for the bad, we’re also culpable of the good. A million times I’ve speculated the odds of one event or another, and wondered why things didn’t turn out differently.
Useless brain damage.
Every one of our misfortunes is intertwined with time, most often bad time, miscalculated time, wasted time, and so on. And yet our successes are the result of chance, luck, or hard work. We somehow distinguish one from the other, as if we’re not all fighting against an eternal, universal clock. In space, distance is time, but here on Earth we’re striving to quash it by inventing ways and creating machines that belittle it. Human hubris, in all its timeless glory.
Now, here is the oxymoron, the tragic irony that perpetrates our existence. We hold on to lifeless objects that we’ve associated with living and dead souls in order to go back at will and relive, everything. We waste time to relive time. We kill the present to enliven the past, even for a little.
We are in love with it, in the worst sense. We shed our ego when we need it the most. We lower our shield when we’re being attacked. We forget who we are now when we look at our past selves. And so, all we bring into existence are contrivances to go back more effectively. We have become experts in claiming one thing and achieving another, clandestinely, surreptitiously, cunningly.
We fuck up so we don’t forget. We fuck up to punish ourselves when we’ve gotten away with something we somehow know we shouldn’t have. We fuck up because we don’t know what to do with ourselves when we’re happy. We fuck up to know that we still have a choice. We fuck up to know we are free.
And then, we fuck up some more.