Una furtiva lacrima

I am listening to Luciano Pavarotti sing Una furtiva lacrima, an operatic piece from Cavalleria Rusticana. I don’t understand the words, but I think that the opera is rarely about the words, it is more about the beauty of the bars and notes that seem so elusive to the human voice. I listen to the operatic pieces of the great opera singers, but Luciano Pavarotti is my favourite. In his voice, I can feel the underlying emotion that flows like an undercurrent of a stream. In his voice, I feel a certain verbosity that I lack, a completeness that seems to make an empty apartment full of an ether that livens my mood but brings with a gravitas.

What do i feel as I sit smoking cigarettes listlessly, standing in my balcony? I stand in my balcony to escape the stifling silence of my apartment and to seek solace in the company of the traffic that moves on the road opposite me. The buses that travel past me are my favourite vehicles, and in each bus I catch the eye of a citizen, a person gazing listlessly out of the window. Who are we to each other, except strangers that choose to give each other company in a brief moment of time, never to see each other again? Is this a longing I feel or a dysphoria?

The track has changed to Christopher Spellman’s Sola perduta abbandonata, a guitar instrumental. I’ve been listening to it on loop and in each note of the guitar strings in a message that I can’t convert to verbiage even though I understand it fully well. It was the end track for a movie “Two Lovers”, about a man who was torn between two lovers. His sensitivity, his monochromatic emotion, his sentimental drive to try to do the best he could for both of his lovers left me lost. I find that I am lost, lost again. It isn’t a surprise anymore.

Where am I?

I am in an Eastern European town, and yet I am miles away. Miles away into nothing in particular. Where is my mind that soars and leaves my body behind? IIs this body such a shell that all it does is to carry my head to places it wants to go? My body is no amusement park, it is no temple to a spirit or a shrine to a God I don’t believe exists. My body is something I wish I could recognize. The face in the mirror is mine and yet, I see myself as if I am standing at the end of a long tunnel. It is cold, and it is warm and it is forbidding but welcoming, a dichotomy that makes my mind yearn for an anchor. I am looking for a lighthouse. I may have found it already but I am miles and miles away looking for a shore I can rest in.

I long for an endless expanse of sea, an endless expanse of sky, not this boxed sky that I look up to, bound by buildings and telephone poles in my sight. I don’t understand if this is an ennui, or a wound, but I know that neither does it hurt nor does it feel numb. There is a feeling I can’t place. I wake up drenched, feeling the embrace of someone I don’t remember. I feel wet kisses on my lips, the laughter fills my ears but my ears hear the seductive whispers of a lover. My mind knows there isn’t a lover, my  body knows there isn’t one. Of the two I don’t know which one of them craves for this embrace so much that it creates phantoms that chase me in my dreams.

 

Fantasy

In the long list of women I lust after, or have lusted after, is another one. Two more, in fact. With each passing day I feel as if there is a shift in the way I see the world, and every day I have a new muse. Who are these muses, you might ask, and I ask the question to myself. The weather is stiflingly hot even in the evening, the pressure of the upcoming examinations is starting to make its presence felt, but there is a sense of optimism somewhere in my mind that I am trying to find. It is like hearing something rattle in a dark attic, I hope to follow the sound to find its source, and who knows? I might find something interesting.

So there are two more women in my mind now. But before that, I need to re-establish a few a things. Past women, so to speak, are like ghosts now and they need their closure.

The Receptionist, the Waitress and the Projectionist I haven’t seen in quite some time. They’ve faded from my memory. Nothing remains of them except some empty, parchment like phantom feeling which I don’t think too much about. The Lab Technician has, like the Lecturer, been re-assigned to another branch of the University, and I haven’t seen either of them for more than a month.

So that leaves me Adara, the passing fancy.

It is funny how things come and go. I have been sober for more than 2 weeks now, and there isn’t even a slight urge to taste alcohol. I’ve stopped smoking for a week and that too is now a dead longing. It is as if they have become the decomposing roots of a tree that once thrived, green and lush. My interest in all of those “Unattainable Women” has just fizzled out into nothing. Masturbatory activity is now diminished and this is not a reduction in the interest for sex (my body longs for the company of another, some bright sanctimonious prick once said) and there is a gnawing dissatisfaction with life in general. Pessimism is realism, but sometimes reality is a weight that seeks to push you down into a quagmire of desperation.

Adara, Adara, Adara. The more I think about her, the farther she recedes into the dark. I see her sometimes but we don’t speak. I can’t think about it. I can’t bring myself tto having conversations with people because in a way I have become an island. I tried to keep some connection with people but I’ve found that it is so difficult. Guess Adara has receded into the mass, like a drug that I stopped taking and whose withdrawal brings nothing but an emptiness I am glad to have. I have Marija to think about when I can but she too is gone. She’s gone to Estonia for a week. Adara has shrunk into nothingness and there are times when I read this blog when I forget how Adara looks.

My obsession, crush, romantic interest, or whatever cheesy title you feel is good enough for this longing I have for two girls is, in some way, a little more concrete. I am not substituting a girl and my feelings for her for a drug. I am not, in any way, trying to complete myself, nor am I looking for companionship. One of them is British, the other is Turkish, and I am hopeless and wordless when I think about them. I meet the British girl everyday because she is in my class and I hear her talk about her frustrations in academics and feel normal for a little while. Someone once said to me that it is easy to be lost in your own shell in medical school, and probably it is this feeling of isolation that comes from being a foreigner that seals it, but it is an effort to speak, it is a burden to be a realist because that cynicism that comes with reality is concrete.

 

Dimly lit room 3

I came back home this morning after going to the hospital. I smoked too much yesterday and this caused some severe side effects which resulted in me going to the hospital. Nothing serious, of course, but I am now on a medical course to get rid of my addictions. The physician told me not to drink and smoke, lest I wish to continue vomiting tar and fainting all over the place. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way and I am glad to inform the reader that I have been sober for the last 11 days. I don’t feel the urge to drink and as of now, I am not craving nicotine either.

But my concern at this point isn’t a long rumination of my health. On the contrary, I am still unsure of how to go on. I sat on the sofa next to Marija, my right hand around her shoulder. She cried pitifully, sobbing softly and silently. She didn’t know what to do, she said through her tears and at that moment, I was at a loss for words. I was there to be an Ear for a while and an ear I would be. I waited for her to speak, and she did.

the fingers on my right hand can still feel her collar bone under her thin dressing gown. I can still feel her trembling, I can feel her light touch on my hand as she held mine. Our fingers interlocked as she began her story which I hope I can do justice to.

She has just finished her chocolate, and I am waiting for her to speak. She wants some water, and I get up to hand over the bottle of water I bought for her. I walk to the table and I see many books that I have read. I hand over the bottle to her, but she is too weak to open the seal. I gently pry the bottle away and break the seal, helping her to sip some water. She is lighter than a dream, she is so weightless that I am afraid that she will be swept away by the evening breeze that flows into the dimly lit room where a girl talks softly.

“You were the last person I expected to see here,” she says, her face in her hands.

“And yet, here I am, ” I said. I have a habit of stating, inconsequentially, the obvious.

“I don’t know why I drink so much. I take the pain killers to ease the pain, but I don’t know where the pain is”, she is still speaking with her head in her hands. Her voice is thick with despair. There is a note of resignation in her words and I am alarmed by her intonation. I choose to remain silent.

Marija drinks to be able to feel something. She longs for a smile to voluntarily play upon her lips. She drinks because the world is so dark and colourless to her that the alcohol makes her see things with more contrast, with a certain warmth that makes her day brighter. She felt happy for a few minutes when she was drunk, but when the alcohol takes grip of her, the shadows return.. The colours are drained and her world becomes monochromatic, cold, clammy, deserted and silent. It is the silence she dreads, because that silence was her company in her teenage years and that silence drove her father insane. Her father was a man of very few words, and she didn’t know why. There was nothing that could make her father smile, and that silence, that monochromatic melancholia from her father infected her like a disease. She didn’t remember him, his voice, or anything specific, but she remembered his shadow falling on her. She remembered her father like a shadow, and she didn’t remember his voice. He was dead to her long before he actually died in a Croatian city.

The alcohol she drank took away the numbness for a while. She felt the weightlessness of her limbs, her shoulders felt lighter, her eyes could see the colours. After spending months here in this Eastern European city, sh felt nothing but an emotionless drudgery in her walks to the University. Even her books had turned mute, as if they had nothing to say to her anymore.

She leaned back and rested her head on my arm, and I lay back too. Her sofa is so soft, her hair was softer, and I felt drowsy. Outside the window, the sun was setting, but I could see only the diffused light of a monochromatic evening.

Dimly lit room 2

I have attempted to write this many times. Each time, there is something that is lacking. Somewhere, in the words and punctuation marks, I can see the face of Marija, the Estonian girl. Somewhere, I can see her shadow fall across the keyboard now, and I can see slim silhouette in my mind’s eye but I can’t do justice to it. I met Marija last evening after my colleague insisted that I do. She had got drunk and taken something potent enough to cause her hallucinations. She had a bad trip, one she is not going to forget, and as her screams filled my colleague’s phone, he knew that the time had come for drastic steps. He took her to the hospital where she lay for a few hours, supine and unfeeling. The doctors insisted that she be taken to a rehabilitation centre, but since there was no one who was legally related to her, she had to be let go.

She was discharged, and I was summoned.

I walked through the streets of my city with trepidation. Her condition was stable, she’d had too much too drink and took a pill that (fortunately) reduced her Blood Alcohol Content. It was an accident, but a fortunate one. She was a little irritable and was unwilling to either see my colleague or talk to him. He called my phone to tell me that he needed me to meet her at her flat.

“Ativ, brother, please,” he pleaded on the phone. I could picture him, smoking a Marlboro or something like King’s because it was so strong. He was clearly distressed. “Just go and try to convince her to go to rehab, please.”

I walked to the edge of the city where her flat is. It is right at the top of the building. I was glad that her balcony was barred and not open. It was a sense of grim relief that Marija wouldn’t be able to jump. I knocked on her door after climbing up to the 10th floor in the elevator. In my hand I had a bag of sweets, some pizza and a bottle of water. I waited patiently for her to answer.

“Who is it?” she asked, irritated. her speech was not slurred, so it meant that she wasn’t on anything then. she could her, respond and speak with strength, which meant that at the most, she had a hangover from the booze.

“Who is it?”, she called out again.

“Ativ Schuberg, from the second group. I just wanted to see if you were okay”.

A moment of silence follows. I am unsure of what to say next.

“I’m fine, thank you, Ativ”, she calls out again.

“I’m glad to hear it. But I wanted to see if you were okay. It is a different thing”, I reply, feeling like an arse.

i heard her soft footsteps approach the door. She opened it and there she stood, a slim girl of about 20, black hair, black eyes, lips to die for, dressed in a gown. She stood aside and I entered a dimly lit flat, with books strewn everywhere. It was untidy, dark, and cold. The balcony was open and I could see the countryside extend into the far horizon. I set the package of food and water that I brought on a table by my right and turned to Marija. She stood, flushed, tired and possibly very hungry in the foyer. She looked at me with a little fear, i could make out. Was it shame? Was it fear? I can see her eyes now, they were downcast, as if she had done something that wasn’t expected of her, something indecent. I saw those very eyes from whom the light had gone, and as I looked deeper into her dark eyes, I couldn’t find any light either.

“you are an avid reader,” I remarked, picking up Haruki Murakami’s ‘Kafka on the shore’ from a heap of Asimov and Chekhov. It is one of my favourites and I told her so. She said nothing. I could tell that she was nervous, and I asked her if she wanted something to eat. A moment of silence followed after which she shook her head.

“Marija, ” I began, ” you must eat something”.

She turned away from me and I just stood there like a moron. “I’m not hungry” she said, and her voice was hollow. She turned away and all I could see was her slender back, draped in a dressing gown.

“You are, Marija”, I said. My voice was deep, I noticed it. It echoed through the house. I opened the bag of sweets, dug out a Swiss chocolate. This one was filled with nougat, kind of like a Mars bar in the shape of a small sphere. I walked towards her and she turned to me. I could see that tears had filled her eyes. I put my hand around her and I admit this was the first time I had done it. I am not used to comforting crying women. I say crying, because Marija had burst into tears.

Great. Within two minutes of me turning up, she is crying. Great, just fucking great. At that moment, I could have kicked my own teeth out. I led her to a sofa and sat her down. She is so thin that I could feel her collar bone under my fingers. The sense of alarm is increasing with each passing moment. I opened the wrapper of the chocolate and laid it on her palm. She cried softly, wordlessly, and just each sob sent a spear through my body. Dammit it was painful.

“I don’t know what to do”, she sobbed. At that moment, I didn’t either.

Dimly lit room

In the afternoon, I walked to a different part of the city, where the large hospitals and superstores were located. I bought some things I needed and walked back home. I took by lanes and streets and I saw a little more into the lives of the populace. Bitterness was an aftertaste in my mouth, a biting numbness in my tongue which ensured that everything I ate was turned to ashes. The colleague had told me a few things, and i couldn’t see things eye to eye anymore, afraid of what was probably hidden. Love stories, I am told, often go sour, but we are optimistic, like crack addicts who roam the streets in the halogen glow of streetlights.

Drugs aren’t very common here, but they can be acquired. Tobacco is very cheap, so is booze of every sort. Mom and pop stores sell good liqour, and you can be assured of fine quality if you walk in shops at every street corner.My colleague’s voice came back to me as I walked out of a housing area into a main road and turned to the direction of my flat.

“She is a drug addict, I’m an alcoholic. She’s suicidal, and I am self-destructive. We are collapsing into each other”.

Apparently it is someone I know. She is someone I know. I meet her everyday, and I wish I hadn’t. I wish I didn’t remember her name but I do. Marija is a lost girl, thin, frail, long black hair and lips to die for. I have often seen her in class and she’s not all there. The drugs are embedded in her system. The light from her eyes are gone. There is just a curtain where that spark probably was.

“And what do you expect me to do?” I am smoking a Dunhill’s. I couldn’t resist and after hearing about Marija as my colleague saw her, I needed some nicotine. Or rather, I needed the strong menthol that is infused in a Dunhill Switch cigarette.

“Be an Ear”.

And how would that help? I am a recovering alcoholic who went down a self destructive path so dangerous that I am lucky right now to be alive and breathing. What platitudes, or impotent words could I offer her as I saw through my own facade? The reflections that I see everyday are nothing more than a physical manifestations of my weaknesses. The weight and disgust of my disillusionment seeps out of my pores like an aura that is like a stench. There is a stench of frustration about me. I tell my colleague that.

“That’s wrong, Ativ. You don’t know how much she worships you”.

Does she? I am skeptical. Hero worship is dangerous. To a fragile person, hero worship is fatal. To a fragile, suicidal, possibly anorexic girl, hero worship is another drug. She will call this obsession, this hero worship, a form of love. She will try to fool herself that she is in love, and when she realizes that she has been wrong all along, she will take refuge in drugs. But the drugs will be so used to her body and her body so dependent on the drugs, that she will increase her dosage. I told my colleague so. I told him as the two of us stood in our balcony, the night deep and dark, the streets empty, but our lungs full of menthol laced cigarettes.

 

 

John at the Cigarette shop

“I need a cigarette, Ativ bhai“, my colleague croaks. He is sitting across from me in my apartment. Between us is an empty space of flooring, and sometimes, if I open the blinds, I can see a patch of streetlight on the floor at night, striped with the fine shadows of the blinds. He and I are sitting across from each other, and I am the Ear again. I have no cigarettes in my apartment, because I want to quit and get rid of the smell from my nostrils. Nevertheless, in the case of my colleague, I make an exemption. He needs the nicotine, I notice, and I tell him that I will get a pack. He asks for two types, Dunhills, long and very thin and Rothman’s a more mild cigarette that doesn’t burn your throat. I walk out into the Eastern European evening, the sun has just gone down but it is late at night if you go by the clock.

I am in a black tracksuit, and my shoes make sharp sounds against the pavement as I walk to the Cigarette Shop, one of many that dot this town. These cigarette shops sell cigarettes, beer, alcohol and snacks. I walked into the cigarette and asked for the cigarettes that I wanted. The lady went to get them, and at that moment, a boy entered the shop from a door that lead into a small room. I turned to see him and he was the Angel of Verdun.

Now, I am trying to put my past behind me. The incidents of two weeks ago embarrass me. I hoped that John wouldn’t notice me as I stood there, asking for cigarettes and fumbling with my trouser pockets.

“Ah, it’s you, then”, John extends his hand and I grasp it firmly for a second. There is no point in pretending. I smile widely and apologize for any drunken inappropriateness on my part. I am a gentleman, I told him, and my uncouth behaviour has no excuse. He laughs, and now that I can see him clearly, I gather that he is almost 16 years old, brown-haired with a few curls here and there, but with deep green eyes. He laughs widely, the sound fills the whole room of the shop and the woman gazes at him benignly with a motherly affection. His mother owns the shop, and he studies at the local school.

“You and I have a lot to talk about, Mr”, he is smiling now, and in his eyes is a light that I remember seeing in my own when I was younger. The idealism of youth, I conclude, shines most bright at his age. All my friends are disillusioned, it is a mark of transition from boyhood to manhood. I tell him my name, and he repeats it a couple of times. He gets the pronunciation mostly right, but there is a twang of his accent. I find that it isn’t an uncomfortable accent at all. he and I exchange numbers, and I am to meet him at a cafe in the town center (not too far away from the bench where we first met, he says, with humour and lightheartedness). He wants to know a little more about me, and I want to know a little more about him as well. It is intriguing that a fall from grace can truly mean the beginning of something new, something honourable.

I wish him goodnight, and leave, making my way back to my flat. My colleague has a story to tell too, and I wish to listen to it with my fullest attention. I can’t however, keep a feeling of optimism away from my mind as I walk up the steps to my flat. All seems well.

Words

Words.

They are inadequate, sometimes, numbed and silent. I cannot find the weight of my emotions in words more often than I would like. What words can describe the feeling of elation that passes through my body like the periodic pump of air from a ventilator’s actions? Is it elation? Or am I feeling wave after wave of liberation as I sit throughout the day, unable to concentrate on coursework because I am too tired, too hungry and too delirious?

Words.

I have put much store by them in the past, and to an extent I still do. I still weigh my words as much as possible, and yet, there are times when they are bland. I have a list of drafts and a whole lot of articles and passages and ideas that I would love to incorporate into a book but each time I try to work them into something readable, I understand the futility of verbiage. Can you describe the true euphoria of witnessing a sunset? We know the intrinsic beauty of sunsets and we co-relate descriptions with memory.

Words.

They are inadequate now, impotent somehow. I cannot find words to describe myself now. What do I believe in? I have succumbed to temptations and stubbornness but I know that deep down, every impulse is dulled now. Every decision I make is thought out. There is a word that the asexuals and aromatics like to use, Lithoromantic. It basically describes a person who doesn’t want love reciprocated. I don’t have any evidence to back up the claims of the dynamic between two individuals, but I know that in some ways I fit the description. I like women, and I lust after them, but I don’t want any reciprocation. I shrink from company and I have found refuge.

Words.

As i witness the decadence under the surface, I find that I have nothing to say. Wordless, my contempt takes flight towards the sky. A writer often has two minds and two worlds, one in his work and the other that he lives and breathes. I have neither. My work is inspired by the living and breathing Ativ Schuberg.

Words.

There are no commands issued anymore, and there aren’t any commandments either. I have no rules and no guidelines. The only compass that I have is defected. It refuses to point in any direction. I have reached the destination that I sought, but I am yet to find an end to this journey. Paradise is what I see in the night-time, when all our sins are embraced by the sky. I sit up all night, relishing the silence, the stillness, and I like to imagine streams of light rise to the sky. I like to imagine that I can see the dreams of the people who repose now. I imagine their dreams moving up in straight lines of vivid colour towards the dark sky, towards nothing in particular.

Words.

No matter how many of them I type, there will always be a regret that I haven’t done any justice to what I see. I feel the abyss of blank indifference that hinders my sense of justice in a shade of meditative bliss. Perhaps we shouldn’t cheapen some emotions with words. Perhaps we take away the dignity of emotion when we try to describe it too much.

 

The night is welcoming. My bed is soft and warm. My thoughts swirl around the image of Vivienne. I can see her in my mind’s eye. I see something in her that words want to describe but I can’t. I can’t place what I feel, what I think and what I see, but I want the fluency of language to fail me just this once. I want the wordless beauty of Vivienne captured timelessly like a silent flight of birds.

the symphony of solitude

Lately, I have found that solitude suits me best. I have tried social contact, I even got high on marijuana yesterday, and I have found that there is nothing here, in this eastern European city that makes me appreciate the human race. As I sit at my desk, I look out through the balcony and see the storm the Department of weather forecast a few days ago. It is oddly soothing to hear the gentleness in the rain, the howling of the strong wind. I find that I prefer this country when it is raining and cold, because then I don’t have to pretend anymore.

Am I a recluse, at this juncture? Maybe, but I am disappointed with the way society crawls out of its hypocrisy, and worse still, I am repulsed by the community that the other Medical students compose here. I scratched the surface to discover a repulsive network of drug addicts, drunks, hypocrites and liars. I found, to my revulsion and disgust, the very thing I wished to avoid and ignore. I found myself going down a tunnel of filth, only to come running back to the surface, gasping for air.

My compatriots, the people of my country and those who have some roots back there, are a lot of people who disgust me. I have seen them bite each other in the back. I have seen the men of my nation sit in a circle, puffing bongs of marijuana and drinking liquor, giggling like girls. I tested the waters, drank again and hit a bong myself, only to find that I was right all along: that most of these people, society in general, are empty, colourless and ultimately worthless. They try to find refuge in chemical compounds and they try to find themselves through the burning ends of cigarettes and in the dark swirling liquids that whisky and vodka are. I sat with a couple of boys (I hesitate to use the term men here), and I found that their facade was pathetic. I told them to try to intoxicate me with their best and strongest chemicals, but at the end of 4 hours, I was sober and bitter again.

I remember the words of one of the people I call a “friend” (and use this term as generally as possible) and I remember her telling me that I needed to go out more, to walk more with people, to converse with them. Ha! i have discovered that the fundamental weaknesses of the human race exist and fester beneath the surfaces of my colleagues, and in varying degrees I understand the grime that they hide from each other. yesterday, the two boys with whom I regrettably wasted a few hours, told me that they were afraid of me because to them, I saw everything, I heard everything. One of them fearfully cowered in front of me as I sat smoking my 20th cigarette, obviously drunk, and I heard him pathetically whisper the words I expected:

“We are afraid of you”

I laughed and drank a glass of vodka.

Of course they were afraid, and they needed an hour of getting drunk and stoned to say it. I laughed at their cowardice. I thought the pathetic bootlicking was over, but no, they looked at me with admiration and fear as I hit another bong and sat there, my throat burning and head spinning.

“You are a man, Ativ, in a university full of castrated males”

“I heard that you carry a knife in your pocket always”

Among other sanctimonious trash that I had heard only too often from the others who were drunk or stoned or both. I laughed and asked them if they knew who I was. I am aware of the ramifications of my words, but in a moment of rare recklessness and tripping on a savage urge of sadism, I embarked on a tale of how I was one of the scalphunters for one of the organisations owned by the government, about why I chose to be alone lest someone from my “past” came to me to cut off a loose end, about how I saw defectors and traitors, and bought people’s loyalty and faith. they listened to every word, their fear increasing by the second. While drunk, I could control the perception these two idiots had of me. I know that they would forget everything I said once sober, but in their minds, the seeds of subversion, and intimidation were sown. I understood their weakness, their empty and pathetic lives and I sought to convert that into elevating my sinister position and image. I seem to have won. If they repeated what they said to others while sober, who would believe them? They would be called delusional and I laughed when I told them this. i told them that they could repeat whatever I said to anyone they wished, and who would believe them?

I realized as I sat at home with a headache that there is nothing that I can redeem from society here. I am happy in my solitude and happy in the occasional company of women like the Waitress, the Projectionist and lately with Vivienne. I laugh as I look back on yesterday’s mad trip, my sense of disillusionment settling comfortably like a warm blanket. I am happy and deliriously so.

John or Jean, I hope I will see you again

Last evening, from 4 to 6, I was very, very, drunk. I am not going into the shame of relapse, or offer platitudinous dictums to myself. I am not going to type a bunch of moral strictures or warnings about alcohol. I am going to state objectively the events of last evening, my fall from grace, and my spiralling relapse into self destructive behaviour.

I drank a fifth of Ballantine’s Scotch, Bushmills, and two hundred ml glasses of Irish Cream, and a Martini. I washed all of this down with 200ml of Black Ram whiskey. All in all, by half past four in the evening yesterday, I had a blood alcohol content of 0.25%, and I was collapsed on a bench in the city where I occasionally, just to see the buses and cars go past. I sat there in a stupor, passing in and out of consciousness, yelling and smiling at those who listened. I was so drunk by this time, I could text my friends around the globe only because I had the help of autocorrect on my smartphone.

At 5 in the evening, I was awoken from my stupor by a 14 year old boy, brown haired, carrying a pink umbrella. He asked me if I was alright. He asked me if I smoked and if I needed a cigarette. I told him that I didn’t smoke, but it was nice to see him. I extended my hand, introduced myself, and he shook my hand and winced a little at the strength of my grip. He called himself “John”, but it could be “Jean” (pronounced Zhaun, French) and he looked like someone I knew. I liked his grip, it was reassuring to me as I sat on a bench in almost 3 degrees Celsius in the Eastern European rain. I was freezing, but I didn’t know it. He looked into my eyes and I saw the same pity that I remember seeing in Vivienne’s eyes. I looked into his eyes, greyish green, and fell in love. At this point in this journey that I am no doubt on, I must admit that I am a man who sees beauty and he appreciates it.

If I see a beautiful sculpture, no matter how cruel its message, I will stop and appreciate it.

I fell in love with the boy, and creepy that it no doubt is, I ask for consideration only on the account of the fact that I was piss drunk, passing in and out of consciousness. I told him never to drink, because he would end up like me, a drunk on a bench, and a foreigner to boot. I blew him a kiss and told him that he looked like an Angel, the Angel of Verdun. The Angel of Verdun was a story I heard from an old veteran who told me that in times of distress, and when he was in dire straits on the frontlines, at the very last minute when all seemed lost, the Angel of Verdun would appear, like a spectre of benign bravery and courage. The Angel would guide the lost, the wounded and the defeated towards a certain victory.

“The Angel of Verdun helped to my feet as I lay in pieces because of the machine gun fire,” the old man whispered, “All of a sudden, I could feel the blood in my veins, the life in my nerves. I could walk, and I could fire my weapon. The Angel of Verdun helped me to my feet”. He paused and I remember asking him “What did the Angel look like?” my voice thick with sentiment and passion. “He was a young boy, brown-haired and with grey eyes.”, the old man replied, his voice a whisper. The Angel would take on many forms, but that night, as the old man lay mortally wounded, the Angel appeared to him in the form of a 14 year old boy.

“You’ll fall in love with the compassion in his eyes,” he said, “beware of that, son, beware of just that”.

I am not one for myths and legends. Scientific reasoning will tell you that near-death experiences are nothing more than hallucinations. Subliminally, I was associating my defeat in my battle with alcohol and this redemption with the Angel of Verdun. I told John, for that is what his name probably was, that he was the Angel of Verdun. He’d come when I needed him most. I don’t remember what he said next, but I remember him blowing me a kiss as he walked away. I collapsed into my stupor, his face radiating a halo of understanding and compassion. He mouthed something but I cannot remember what. I like to think, 24 hours later, that it was “I love you”.

I woke from my stupor and made my way to another bench near a mall. I vomited my shame there and before passing out, I sent a message to one of my colleagues here, begging him to pick me up. He called me up and I told him where I was before passing out. He reached an hour later, and helped me into a car and took me home, where I ranted and raged like the drunk I was. He listened, he left and I tried to recover from my drunken sin.

I realised something very important when I was sober. I calculated my blood alcohol content, and I knew that I hadn’t just passed out. I was close to dying due to respiratory arrest when John showed up and woke me out of my stupor. I was going to die on a bench, freezing and alone in the middle of some Eastern European country and this boy, by chance or will, saved my life. I have discovered that how much ever I may have desired death in the past, I am not ready to die. There is a certain value in life, I knew it, but last evening, as I saw the abyss of nothingness stare back at me, I realised that there is a certain value of life, and I am going to find it. All the night I felt that I was in an embrace with him, the boy, and it could be that he helped me sit up while I was passed out. I have a strand of his hair on my coat, and I have left it there, not sure whether he was real or not. The evidence exists that he was a breathing person, but if he was an Angel, it is up to me to decide. For once, I have decided to let wonder take the better of me, and I accept that mortal though he was, there was a sense of deep compassion that only made him divine.

My father was sympathetic. I am sympathetic on myself now, as I sit at my desk. We’ve all missed a step sometime in our lives, and I missed a step yesterday. I regained my footing because of a kid with a nice smile, grey eyes and the sense to show up at the right time. John, or Jean, I hope I will see you again. I hope I will see you when I am sober and we can have dinner somewhere. I owe you that and much more.

Letters, old and forgotten

I looked through an old file on my laptop last night, and in a moment of rare sentiment and revulsion, I opened it to  find old work, in the form of ideas and poetry that made for good reading as long as it wasn’t scrutinized too much, and even more so when it wasn’t juxtaposed against the backdrop of my life. A particular folder with an ambition title caught my eye and although I don’t have excerpts from the many documents in that folder, I can give you a gist of what I wrote when I was 17 and why I wrote it.

This folder had a letter I had written to my ex, and I have never sent it to her. I can’t bring myself to copy and paste it here, because it inspires a sense of rage and  in my younger self. I read it with a sense of revulsion, because it was a letter that reeked of love. When I was 17, I was madly in love with a 16 year old girl, and now, a couple of years later, I find that I have nothing but contempt for both of them. I find that I cannot forgive either of them. I cannot, for the life of me, turn to the boy I undoubtedly was and the girl my ex lover was, and forgive them both for being young and making mistakes like the humans they were. I find myself grower harsher on myself for being young and optimistic.

Part of the blame lies in my school. We were young boys, not young men, and yet, we shouldered the responsibilities of each other and we shouldered the responsibilities of our ourselves. We were told that we were young men, and given strictures on behaviour, and how to dress well, how to speak, how to be bloody punctual. We missed a step like the boys we were, and we were punished with a severity that befitted the Army. Here I am, sitting in a cold, rainy evening, in a cold European city, with a broken back and a sense of shame as I sit drinking myself to a frenzy. I made a choice when I drank today, and as I drink now, I am making a choice, a conscious one at that, to accept the drunkard that I no doubt am.

I read an old letter I sent my father when I was 10 or 11, and in that letter, I could read the shadows of the disillusionment that weighs down on me now. I could sense in the 10 year old boy’s words the weight of the coming disillusionment, the distaste and the disgust with the world. I could sense, in a child’s letter to his parents, the sense of utter revulsion that was to come. In a way, the fact that I am a cynical bastard at heart should surprise no one, and it doesn’t surprise me in the very least.

In fact it is true. A man who cannot forgive a 16 year old girl for being a 16 year old girl, and a 17 year old man for being one, is a cynical bastard witha twisted worldview. I can’t forgive myself and I can’t forgive my ex, because I still remember her for being a 16 year old girl. Every time I remember her, which is almost every day, I can see in my mind’s eye the 16 year old girl I fell in love with, not the almost 20 year old woman that she is now. I forget that I am not twenty either, and other people remind me that I am, just a little over 19. I dress like an older man, talk like an older man, and carry myself like an older man, in part because I find that life is bland, monochromatic and tasteless. Life is a Sisyphean task, 17-year-old me wrote, and I can picture the boy that I was, the light in my eyes dimmed and the expression of the cynic set firmly in my face, and I can’t help but agree.

 

So what keeps me alive now? Why don’t I just end it here, and now, like I fantasize about? Because I refuse to let anything and anyone get in the way of my life. I am self-centred, and that is the unfettered truth. Right now, if Adara walked into the restaurant where the Projectionist serves me my alcohol, the sense of alarm rising with every drink I order, I wouldn’t stop. Adara would know that I was an alcoholic, and I am unapologetically so. The thrill isn’t gone, and neither is the sense of defiance I made a reputation for when I was in school. I could, at this moment, drink myself to death, but I won’t, because I love every minute of it. I don’t regret the hours of sacrifice that I put in towards becoming a doctor. I don’t know if it is worth it. Suffering and the disease are the only real and impartial things in life, and here I am, trying to act the judge.

Adara, the salvation I seek, is somewhere on the globe. I don’t know where she is and if I did, there still wouldn’t be any comfort at all. I know that there is no salvation or redemption in this life. Not in this, or rather, not in life at all, because redemption and salvation are our imaginary escapes into a moral and philosophical excuse for our faults. The way it is with lovers, I know very well. Today, I will be madly in love with Adara, but in a few days I will gate her, like I hate my ex, even though I know that she was just a 16 year old girl and I will hate Adara one day with a vengeance like I hate myself, even though I know that I was just a boy. In the eyes of many people I know, I still am just a boy, who carries himself like an older man. It is a farce, but all of life is an unashamed farce and morality is just quicksand.