I can’t start to live. I can’t bring myself to bear it, to bear bearing life. I need to live, but I know it’s futile. The stains I leave will be washed away.
But I don’t know if life has started yet. Perhaps it has, and I’m just in it, in the mess, wondering, musing and abusing the gift of consciousness all the better to torment myself. How will I know if it starts, what’s the signal to enter the rat-race? I must stand and stretch, ears straining for the gunshot and then I’ll be off! into the thick of it, running, panting, living, life will have started, it starts with a bang and ends in a whimper. But not until then, no life yet. I must wait, I must hold my breath, at the mercy of a gunman, who could put off the vital gunshot I so need indefinitely if he or she so chooses, the bastard. I must wait. I don’t control it. If I grabbed the gun off him or her and shot it, starting the race myself, would that work? No, no self-determination, not yet, not until life begins. That’s how it starts; it starts with you at the mercy of fate and random events; you didn’t have any say in your conception. No autogenes here, no self-generation or self-control yet. But perhaps they shot already and I did not hear it. And now I wait, yearning for a beginning that I somehow missed, that’s already there. And so I am left sobbing for the gift I have already been given. A bang. Something for me to react to. No. It’s started, I could swear it.
Up I get, wakey wakey. I arise slowly, groggily pulling on a pants which lie nearby, near my bed. My realm extends beyond my bed. I am in my room, bequeathed me by my parents. It is my realm. I am poor enough to fit everything I own in it, and rich enough to own things. But enough! I have arisen. The whole world awaits, now that I live. Ah this relish, this joy. The feel of clothes, the ownership of things, it is almost overwhelming. Calm down calm down, I’ll reach the world in good time, don’t get too excited. I’m in it now, aren’t I? No doubting please. On I walk out the door of my room to the adjacent bathroom. My, they’ve thought of everything. I find my toothpaste and toothbrush. Ah, my ownership expands as my realm does! It tastes so strange, this paste. Minty, almost fizzy. It’s a novelty to me, I’m new here. Oh how I have yearned for this, for life! Brushing teeth, doing things, I enjoy it all. I brush til my gums bleed, such is my zeal. Wait. I don’t taste blood. How can that me? My tongue doesn’t work? Or… Or… No… No… The race never began. This is not life. It’s lies. All lies.
Damn it not again. I was sure it had started that time.
Wait again. If even that. I’d best not start off on the wrong foot. But I feel I have, without ever starting – without even having a foot I have misused it, before I have acquired a tongue I’m tongue-tied, it’s quite ridiculous. But I don’t exist yet, I can’t fail yet, it’s all waiting here, if even that, it’s more of a pre-waiting – yes, you wait in a room to be told it is time to rise and go by the steward or invigilator or whatever, ‘Rise and go kind patient sir, it is time, time to start’, or ‘Rise and go kind patient ma’am, it is time, time to start’, and I begin to weep with happiness, happiness at the prospect of having the luxury to fuck up my life… only to find that I must go to another waiting room. But one mustn’t complain, it is all in the name of progress, perhaps soon I will get to the queue, the queue that leads to the starting line. Imagine! But I was at a starting line before, and I made a balls of it, I think. And can there be a queue, if there are no others? Anyway I can’t, not yet, no existence yet, just waiting room after waiting room, it’s getting quite ridiculous, after the 2,347th waiting room I began to lose heart (Imagine, losing heart before getting one!) and I raged at the next few invigilators ‘What is this, why all different waiting rooms!? I want to live!’ and she or he (I could never tell) ‘now now sir’ and ‘now now sir’ or ‘now now ma’am’ (they could not tell either) over and over again until the words I yearned to hear ‘Rise and go, kind patient sir, it is time, time to start’, or ‘Rise and go kind patient ma’am, it is time, time to start’, were said. And I, forgetting in my excitement to doubt that this time I’d reach the queue or a different stage in the waiting process, run to where I am directed, to a new waiting room. You’d think I’d have learned from that incident, but it still happens, in exactly the same fashion, ad infinitum perhaps. But these invigilators here for a reason no doubt, everyone gets their turn, and the bureaucracy is of such unquestionable elegance – like a well-oiled perpetual motion machine. It ensures fairness, no doubt. No line-cutters here among the pre-living. Not that I have seen others. On the contrary, I am not sure I have even seen a waiting room or invigilator. Perhaps there are others, outside the waiting rooms, being led straight to life (and I sitting waiting) – the injustice of it! Injustice, before I have even begun to exist! It’s getting quite ridiculous. But then all of a sudden it will come upon me; that’s the way it goes. You move from room to room, making such little progress that you feel it’s none, but the fact is it all adds up. It’s negligible, for certain, but nonetheless, not nothing…
Success! I am sprung into existence. Perhaps instead of just wishing to exist I should have wished for more; to exist from the start in a comfortable place. But beggars can’t be choosers.
The whole world awaits, and I have yet to find a realm of my own. I am cold and naked, but fully formed at least. If I were to guess my age and sex I would say twenty to thirty, and male. I rest for quite some time, trying to dry myself on the sand and stones. Not too pleasant. Then I rest for longer. When my energy is back (which takes quite some time) I arise. Now, to find some clothing, a place to stay, or some people…
I find some more people soon enough, they live near the shore and are quite shocked that I am cold and alone and shivering. What else would I be doing? They are nice; they take me inside and clothe me and feed me. They ask me many question, none of which I cared to answer. Poor thing, they say, what shall we do with him? They ask about family and my life, and I say No and None. They do not understand. They ask me my name.
I, who innately know so many other objects and experiences by name, have none myself, except perhaps ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘myself’, but these strange people insisted that those were not the type of name they were looking for. I choose Blug after some deliberation (and cajoling), it being an odd noise I had once heard, although for the life of me I know not where. They are hospitable for some time, but then there is a mutual recognition that I must move on, after a few days. I ask which way I should go, and they offer advice. Then I start on my way.
I’m not sure what to do. After so long living rough and scavenging in this cluster of buildings they call a city it seems to me that to choose one, an occupation, that is, is to pigeon-hole myself forevermore. It is an act in which one is sealed up, alone with other drones. It is limiting and in essence is the primary cause of no less than death, as far as I can tell. It goes: Youth, job, retire, death. It is the single act which entailed the complete abandonment of youth, of beginnings. One crawls into a cavity and remains there waiting for death, presumably content with the choice of cave. And if not, one can change only with the greatest difficulty. It is a taboo to change career paths here. So we all remain always ignorant of the bigger picture, the macrocosmic structure of the interlacing prison cells. How do the cogs connect?
I could never be the puzzle pieces.
I do not believe that avoiding this choice will keep me eternally young, but for all intents and purposes I’m acting as such. So perhaps I do, in some sense, although there is no sense in it or to it.
But its dawning on me that to live on would be pointless without a point, or at least a job to sustain myself until I find a point, a purpose or goal. Whatever. Who knows, perhaps I might find a job with some sort of point? And, obviously, a job and life and hence death were unattainable and unworkable without some miniscule sort of sign of life in oneself. So I decide to clamber into a hole in the wall with some bricks, rubble and cement to seal myself in. The problem was to find an apt hole, or one that would take me.
For in this particular region it seems that in order to get any job you must have already had a job or an education. Me, I have nothing but the preconceptions and notions which led me to desire life. I am no tabula rasa.
So I try to get a job, but I fail. I am living rough, so it is difficult. The first rung of the ladder is the most difficult to get on. If you’re me. Bah! I don’t need one.
I renounce normal life henceforth. These people, they have nothing on me. There must be some better humans around. I will look later, now I look for a dwelling, and I find a tub to live in. It’s really exquisite – ample room and shelter. I suppose I’ve never lived normally, yet I have just renounced normal life. Odd. It’s like I’m trying to convince myself that I’m in control. But I am: I renounce normality, there you have it. Rationality and logic were never my forté.
Now I have been living in my tub for quite some time. I no longer stray from it on vain excursions. But now I shall relate the trips I have taken up to now.
One day, for the life of me I know not when, I began to roam around this urban sprawl looking for a true human being. There were crowds of people everywhere, but more like bees than humans – they droned as a group and always failed to acknowledge me or even my stench. They ignore me to this day, and sometimes it makes me doubt my very existence. But no doubting…
Anyway I roamed about begging for scraps from the bees and shouting what must be obscenities – for they winced when I roared ‘Where are the humans? Where is my fellow man?’ There was no response forthcoming. I had a torch, I don’t know where I had gotten it, and thrust it into their faces, demanding to know if they were human and if not, where I could find one. I was avoided at all costs after one or two altercations. But then I saw her – a vision, truly. She was of my ilk, I could tell by the way she rummaged through the trash with zeal. And her clothes – she smelt like me, even from afar. Not like these other petty frail creatures – they balk at the slightest discernable odour. Not evolved enough to appreciate them I suppose. I approached her. She was a beauty. Rags and such smells as would take me months to accumulate (which I now have, but had not then). We were beyond conversation already; she ignored me and I relished the silence. I decided to become her aspiring adept. Me and her, I felt, were beyond the rest of the scum, but she…she was even beyond me. She was more bird than woman, with her beak-like nose and swift mechanical movements. I could not tell if she was clothed or the rags simply sprouted from her skin. She was insensitive to speech, shouts, and even the odd kick. I could get no attention from her. That was when I realised I had found one – a true human, an equal. I observed her close at hand for two weeks straight, intent on finding more of her kind to learn from. I adapted to her silence and did not care any longer if she noticed me. If I was attacked by a group of youths she would not notice but continue on her way, and I, for my part, withheld from interfering with the natural cycle of life when she too was beaten by youths. After two weeks she began to wander outside what I consider to be the perimeter of the city, and I realised there must be no more of her kind, at least here. I found no desire to leave this city, so I stayed behind. As I watched her journey beyond my reach – sometimes leaping, for a brief period crawling – no emotion darkened my countenance. Like her, I was of the moment. But as I reflect on this, on watching her leave, the pang of sadness is shrill and sets me trembling to the bone.
Done now, soon now.
Gradually my very existence grew strange to me again, and I became uncomfortable in myself, and in my tub I would shed my clothes, attributing it to them.
And I began to notice the following correlations; when I lay on my side my right side hurt, when I lay on my left side my left side hurt, when I lay on my stomach my stomach hurt, and when I stood my soles hurt. After some time I deduced that it was my bodily mass and the earth’s gravitation, collectively (hereafter referred to as weight) that caused the immense pressure that I experienced when my bodily surface rested on another surface. And I began to find every possible position untenable, except for the unattainable and optimal situation where I floated, freely suspended and surrounded by equal pressure on all sides (a vacuum was not an option), where any bodily configuration would be comfortable . But air surely could not do this, so what should I do? Perhaps a mucous liquid with pockets of air would be best; I would be suspended in the mixture, and move slowly through it in search of air bubbles. But then the pressure would not be uniform, I need a homogeneous mixture, or surely I would eventually notice the slightest discrepancy in pressure and consistency and it could cause me the greatest discomfort eventually, all others factors remaining the same, I would grow acutely sensitive to such sensations. Eventually.
But enough conjecture; my ass is too bony to sit on and as I mentioned every position is untenable, so I do the best I can and jump up and down regularly. For although great pressure and hence pain is required to propel me upwards, the momentary suspension nicely recompenses me. One extreme to the other. But after several hours I tire of it. Then, after awhile, it seems to me that the problem is not the sensation of pressure in and of itself, but rather my sensing of the sensation. Yes, the feeling of the feeling, the pain squared, the self-reflexivity – consciousness and its compounding traits of sensing sensations, thinking thoughts, everything squared and so forth. That is the problem; not the pain, but consciousness. How to end it? The only way to end it is to seek greater pain, to find a nice sharp implement and take aim at the brain.
Yes, I who so yearned when unborn to exist now find it all too much. Of course I had my doubts in my long wait or pre-wait, doubts which whispered to me, saying ‘Life’s not all it’s cracked up to be, it’s just sensation, just suffering’, but I was undeterred. I who yearned for mere flesh and bones and the chance to fail, now wish to return to nothingness. I climbed the ladder of existence merely to throw it away, as a child does a newly acquired toy. And what of it? I can’t say I didn’t learn anything. I learned to be grateful for the Lethe. I’ll unlearn it all over again, no doubt. I am a palimpsest.
Alive, I tire of life, and when I leave it, I will no doubt wail for it again. I’ll live another while yet.
But its funny, you know. Sometimes I lie supine anywhere in this city, be it on a road, train-tracks, a bench, a shop floor, a roundabout, anywhere will do, and I stare at the sky until everything grows dull. Everything, all my senses. Then a thought enters my mind subtly which I am no stranger too; I think that perhaps this is another false start, there was no shot, that I never left the pre-waiting stage. But it doesn’t matter to me anymore, not in the slightest. And as my senses dull I try to control things: the tones of far-off sirens, the movement of the clouds, and it works often enough. And I smile.