16 November 2012

My Brother's Foot [Revised]

That summer, the heat sat on us like a second skin. We had moved to the Fields for the peace and quiet my father missed in the City, and for the fresh air my mother hoped would whisk the quickly establishing staleness out of our adolescent minds. To our collective surprise, a three story house out here still cost more than our apartment in the City had, and my mother, who disliked cars but whose feet would only carry her so far, declared this an outrage. “They should be the ones paying us to live this far from the post office.” My mother liked to accompany her correspondence on its way to the stamp and seal, and believed it would only arrive where it was headed if she personally told the cashier how and when it was meant to get there. Another extravagance the increase in rent cost us was our habit of dining in restaurants, and within the first week we were bored out of our skulls.
Like an island, the Fields were surrounded by the ebbing and tiding of fog. Every night, the fog rolled down from the hills enclosing the valley, and every morning at sunrise it rolled back up, uncovering a crawling heat as if someone had lifted a doormat. It radiated from beneath the grass, fed by the sunlight the valley caught like a funnel. In the midst of it all, my brother and I, relieved from our scholarly duties for the summer, lounged like washed up corpses amidst the clusters of furniture that seemed out of proportion in the vastness of the new house. The house itself was relatively cool, my parents kept it dark until sunset, and while this shut out the heat, the lethargy summer brought with it found a way in nonetheless. Like an unwelcome guest it sat between us on the couch, spread its glaze on our eyeballs as we were watching TV, and laid its fingers between the pages of our books, blurring the lines we were trying to read.
After weeks of our sighing and moaning demonstrations of boredom, our parents pulled a tent from one of the boxes in the garage and exiled us to the edge of the Fields so they could finish unpacking in peace. Being our parents, this impromptu camping trip came with a set of rules: access to the house was denied, except in the case of emergencies and uncontainable bowel movements. “Emergencies are for people who can’t deal with the pace of life,” said my brother and during our three days of exile I saw him occasionally emerging from behind a bush, wiping his ass with a fern.
I went back into the house once during our three days, while my brother was snoring at the wall of the tent. I had to flush twice and tried to muffle the sound of it the best I could. When I got back into our tent, the night’s cold had crawled under my clothes. I slipped into my sleeping bag, pulled my legs to my chest and held my wet feet with my hands.

On the last morning, I woke up to my brother sitting up in his sleeping bag. “I’m so bored,” he said, rubbing his palms on his knees.
“What time is it?” I plucked sleep crumbs from between my lashes. The fog was still clinging to the tent and the fabric hung low over our heads, heavy with moisture. From below, I could feel the heat gathering in the grass.
My brother shrugged.
“There’ll be breakfast inside,” I said, but he flicked a finger at the wall of the tent, sending drops rattling back into the morning air.
“Too early,” he said.
“I thought you didn’t know what time it was.”
He reached into his bag, pulled out his wristwatch and without looking at it, threw it into my lap. “It’s too early,” he said again.
I patted around the tent for my socks. When I had unraveled and pulled the left one up to my ankles, he said: “How do people live like this?”
I shrugged and said: “So leave.”
He nodded, then he reached out and slapped the back of my head.

Outside, the fog started rolling up the hill, nestling in the treetops like clouds of bats, and the sun that had climbed the sky behind a screen of moisture threw itself into the valley with full force. My brother opened our tent to let some air in and started packing up his sleeping bag. I knelt down to shake dust and potential spiders out of my pillow.
“I’ve got it,” he said, and sat on the fat roll he had turned his sleeping bag into.
“You’ve got what?”
“Give me your towel.”
“What for?”
He grabbed my bag and threw its contents on the floor of the tent. I quickly reached into my unraveled sleeping bag and pulled out my towel. “Here.”
He took it and frowned. “What’s it doing in there?”
“Keeps it warm,” I said, gathering the things he had scattered and put them back into my bag.
He sat cross-legged and put the towel on his lap. He watched me collect my things for a while, then pulled his right foot up to his face and examined the sole, the nails, the few black hairs growing out of each knuckle. Then he rubbed it vigorously between the toes with my towel.
“Hey,” I said, “you’re going to wash that.”
He pulled out some dark grime from under his nails with the towel.
“You’re definitely washing that.”
“Shut up,” he said, and examined the foot some more, turning it in his hands. Then, pulling his calf up to his face with both hands, he gently started to nibble his toe.
I made a retching noise. “You’re gross,” I said, but got no reaction.
He took his toe out of his mouth and wiped his spit off it.
“Do we have a – “
I followed his gaze to the tent wall. “Do we have a what?”
He shook his head and pulled his eyes from the wall. He looked at the foot he was still holding with both hands, then lowered his face toward it and bit into his toe.

It came off with greater ease than either of us expected. There was the sound of someone stepping on a twig, and my brother’s head flung back with a toe between his teeth. We both stared at his foot and saw no blood, no broken bone, no carnage of any sort. The toe had simply come loose, and in its stead was a smooth flat surface crowned with a minuscule flesh-coloured cylinder. My brother coughed with surprise and the toe landed in his lap.
It just lay there on my grey bath towel, and where my brother’s teeth had snapped it off the foot, we saw a round opening the size of the cylinder. Finally, he picked up the toe and held it over his foot, pressed it down onto the cylinder. It fit, but there was no clicking noise, which, somehow, I had expected. It just sat on its former place a bit loosely, and when my brother flexed his toes toward the ground, it slipped off and fell to the ground.
From the house, we could hear our father call us for breakfast.
“Tell them I don’t want any,” he said, picking up the toe and holding it up at eye-level.
“You tell them,” I said. My spine was so tense it itched. The hand I was sitting on was falling asleep.
He shrugged and closed his fist around the toe.
“Does it hurt?”
He looked at me. “Does what?”
“Your foot,” I said, “does it hurt?”
“No. Doesn’t feel like anything, actually.”
“What about your toe, does it – you know, can you feel anything?”
He opened his fist. The toenail had turned dark brown and looked like velvet, or maybe mould. The skin around it was taut and pink.
“It looks like a mushroom,” I said.

He nodded and threw the toe into his open mouth like a peanut. In my head a voice yelled “What are you doing” but it didn’t quite reach my mouth, and he bit down. It sounded exactly like biting on a peanut, and the tightness in his eyes gave way to a glint of excitement. He opened his mouth wide and bared his teeth at me. Large strands of pink were sticking to his teeth, stretching between his jaws like taffy. He closed his mouth again with a satisfied smacking sound.
“What does it taste like?”
He grinned, and the bright pink made his teeth look whiter, and somehow bigger than usual.
“Just as expected,” he said.

On our way back, he made me carry both our backpacks and the bag I kept my towel and spare clothes in. “We’ll get it later,” he said when I tried to pack the tent into its sleeve. The straps of the backpacks cut into my shoulders and the extra weight pulled me backwards. He walked next to me, slowly, balancing on the heel and side of his foot and occasionally holding on to my shoulder for stability. When we reached the house, the skin around my ribcage felt tight as a stocking.
At the breakfast table, my mother poured us each a glass of orange juice and made us eggs and toast. After three days of water and salted crackers, I was licking my plate within a couple of minutes. My brother sat there, looking past us all, with what appeared to be simultaneously a frown and a grin. Occasionally, he took a sip from his orange juice. “Eat your food,” my mother said, and he just nodded without touching it. I drained my glass of juice and asked for another one, which my mother poured me with a smile. “Well at least someone’s hungry.” My brother into the distance and said: “Can I have some coffee?” My mother looked at my father and raised her eyebrows. Then she smiled. She reached into the cupboard, pulled out a mug and placed it on the table in front of my brother. My father poured coffee into it. They both watched him drink and smiled at each other. I sipped my orange juice loudly, and the acid felt like sandpaper on my gums.
Now that we were back in the house everyday rules once again applied, so when our mother sent us upstairs to brush our teeth, we did so. The mid-day air came into the bathroom through a crack in the window and ricocheted sluggishly off the tiles like the bubble in a lava lamp. In the mirror, my brother’s chin twitched with the back and forth of his toothbrush. Right next to it, my forehead crumpled with each stab the bristles of my toothbrush took at my sore gums.

For the next twenty-four hours, the toe travelled through my brother’s intestines, big and small, and came out at the other end looking no different than any other piece of meat consumed and digested by a human body. And then there it was, in the toilet bowl in front of him, and he called me into the bathroom and said: “Look.” I looked and said “what?” “Look,” he said again, “that’s it.” I held my breath and moved closer, worried for a moment this was a practical joke at my expense. “How can you tell?” He grinned and flushed with one hand in his pocket, like a man about to close a deal.

It took him almost two months, but eventually, piece by piece, limb by limb, my brother ate himself. The majority of that time he spent in the bedroom we shared. Our parents were apprehensive at first, but with a characteristic stubbornness, he quickly won them over. His investment in what they came to call his “project” was reason enough for them to leave him be. Occasionally, my mother would attempt to lure him to the dinner table with dishes that had been his favourite, but after the consumption of both his feet and his right leg up to his knee made using the stairs difficult, she allowed him to stay in his room during meals. The bedroom was on the second floor, and while the use of stairs was out of the question, I still wanted my brother to be able to move around. I offered him my old skateboard, so that he could use his hands to pull himself forward, but he refused. My father, who had overheard the conversation, told me not to treat my brother like an invalid. “At least he’s working on something. You would do well to do the same.” He took my skateboard away and locked it in his closet. The same night, my brother ate both his hands, making the skateboard useless anyway.

From then on, my parents decided I was in my brother’s way. They took my few belongings out of our room, leaving behind only my unmade bed, and put them in a cupboard in the living room. One of the downstairs sofas could be turned into a bed, and I was to spend my nights there, so that my brother could work undisturbed on his project, and perhaps complete it should he choose to do so. The house was big, but we’d been used to a small apartment, and my parents weren’t quite used to the freedom occupying the upper floor of the house had given us kids. They could have allowed me to stay in the small guest room next to theirs, but they insisted the living room was a more suitable place for me. They said it would do me good to rise and retire with the natural flux of the household, and that being more aware of other people’s daily routine would remedy what my mother called my “constant attention-seeking.”

The nights in the living room were brighter than what I was used to. At night, my parents turned off the light in the living room and went upstairs, and I laid down on the makeshift bed shaded my eyes with a hand. The room upstairs had heavy curtains allowing us to sleep in near total darkness, but downstairs, the room was flooded with the yellow light of the porch, and until the embers in the fireplace expired, their glow served as an unnecessary nightlight.

While everything else in the house was changing, the Fields didn’t become any less boring.

Upstairs, my brother had now eaten both his arms to his elbows, and was experiencing difficulty holding on to things. He found it almost impossible to read his novels about people lost at sea. On most nights, I could hear my mother make her way to his room to read to him, and in the beginning he let her, but more and more he started chasing her away, and sometimes his refusal extended into a shout that came tumbling down the staircase and slid underneath the door into my ears. I would lie awake then, with a hand behind my head and think about the voices he had used to read me stories that would keep me awake at night when I was still too young to make out the words on the pages.

My brother’s project continued in this manner until nothing was left of him but his head. He had been all head for three days when he called me into his room.
I sat on the bed next to him. His hair was greasy, but he didn’t look tired. His skin was rosy and clear, and his eyes were gleaming.
“How do you feel?” I asked.
He grinned. “Pretty good.”
“You look different.”
“That’s because I feel different. I’m so close now.”
I nodded and looked away. “What are you going to do now?” I asked.
He bit his lip. He sucked it in as far as he could, then let it slide back out.
“I don’t know,” he said, “I’m not sure how to finish this.”
He furrowed his brow and his pupils widened like they had in the tent when he first bit off his toe.
“Do what you just did, and pull,” I said.
He looked at me. I shrugged and raised my palms. “I don’t know. It’s your project.”
“Damn right,” he said.
He bit his lip again, and instead of pulling it into his mouth through suction, he bit further and further, until his lower lip had disappeared and his teeth were biting down on his chin. It looked very strange. He kept biting and biting until his head folded back in on itself and disappeared between his teeth.
It took him ten minutes, and when he was done, I hadn’t moved a muscle. The only thing that was left on his pillow was some of his hair, which he somehow hadn’t managed to eat, and his teeth, white and hard and smeared with pink.
I got up and walked out of the room to call my mother.

When he had been gone for a week, my mother cleaned out my brother’s room, burnt incense to scare away the moths, and put a lock on the door. She mounted his teeth and what remained of his hair onto a styrofoam head and put it on display on the mantlepiece. “Where’s your boy,” guests would ask, ignoring my presence in the room, and my mother would point to the mantlepiece and say “This is what he left us.” My father, sitting in his chair would add: “Went out there and made something of himself. He’s making us proud.” And my mother would nod as the guests said “Aaah” and admired the faceless grin above our fire. If they had brought their own children with them, the story of how my brother had gone out there and made something of himself was repeated to them in a tone caught between pride and bitterness. My brother’s teeth grinned over the scene from above a spitting and cracking fire.

Though my brother had, boredom never left. In his absence, his boredom was handed down to me like a heavy pair of shoes. When I complained, my mother would point to the mantelpiece and say, “Look at your brother. He went out there and made something of himself. All you ever do is complain. Maybe one day, when you’ve achieved what your brother has achieved, you’ll have something else to say.” Then she would turn off the light and close the living room door behind her. I would get up and tap my finger against my brother’s teeth, then against mine. While mine felt soft and porous, his sounded thick and full, and their corners were as sharp as a saw. I would turn around and sit back down on the couch, and pull my knees up under my chin.

16 October 2012

Bones [Class Assignment]

The bone lay on the table between dishes and cutlery and clashed with the colour of the tablecloth. Sarah bent down and picked up a fork that the bone had pushed over the edge of the table. “I don’t see why,” she said, “I have to be the one to keep it.” 
“It was his favourite bone,” said Tom, who was leaning against the doorframe because his shoes were muddy and the kitchen floor was clean. His hands were stuffed into the pockets of his coat and he was determined to leave them there. 
Sarah threw the fork into the sink. 
“Well, I can’t keep a bone around the house, it’s not sanitary.” 
Tom looked at the dishes that were piling up in the sink and said “Where’s Frank?” 
Sarah shrugged and started collecting the dishes around the bone. 
“Did he find a job?” 
“Look, can you just take that thing somewhere else?” Sarah pointed at the bone with her chin. “I don’t want it in the house.” 
“Dad said to give it to you.” 
“Well why doesn’t he take it?” 
Tom took a step into the kitchen and Sarah said “Tom, for God’s sake, I just cleaned.” 
He bent down and started fiddling with his shoelaces. “Mom doesn’t want it around, I guess.” 
“Well neither do I,” said Sarah and turned on the hot tap. The bone sat on the table and looked like a mushroom. Tom undid his shoes and stepped on the cold tiles in his socks; the floor was slippery and he went to sit down. “He’s been weird,” he said. 
“Who?” said Sarah and slipped on thick, green rubber gloves. 
“Dad. He’s been talking about the neighbours digging up the yard again, and on the phone he sometimes thinks I’m Leonard.” 
“That’s weird. What do you tell him?” 
“I say Leonard’s dead, Dad, this is your son, Tom.” 
“Don’t be cruel,” said Sarah. 
“I say it nicer than that.” 
Sarah looked out into the yard at the unfinished swing set. Moss was climbing up its limbs and the chain that held up one of the swings was starting to rust. “He’s doing fine,” she said, “he’s just tired.” 
“Tired from what? He’s not doing anything.” 
“Maybe that’s the problem, maybe he needs exercise. Mom keeps telling me he complains his shoulders are sore in the morning. He should really take some vitamins.”
 “What, vitamins and exercise? Don’t be crazy.” Tom reached out and touched the bone with two fingers. 
“You know what I was thinking,” Sarah said, “they should sell a part of their back yard. I mean, it’s too big for them now, they hardly go there anymore. They could sell that bit at the end, it’s mostly dirt anyway. Mom says she doesn’t like looking at it, she’d rather see someone actually do something with it.” 
“Why don’t they just hire a gardener?” 
“Not everybody makes as much a month as you, Tom,” said Sarah, and scrubbed a layer of grease off a dish. “If they sell it,” she continued, “they could use the money to travel, get out of the house a bit, you know?” 
“Where are they going to go? Dad gets nauseous when he travels, and Mom can’t let anyone pick up after her, ever. Remember when we stayed at that hotel in the Mediterranean and she wouldn’t let the maid into the room until we’d cleaned up beforehand? Remember that?” 
“Vaguely,” said Sarah. “Frankly, I’m surprised you do, weren’t you five at the time, or something?” 
“Yeah, well,” Tom and knocked against his temple with his knuckles “It’s served me well over the past, this thing.” 
Sarah put a few dishes aside with a clunk and looked out of the window again. A couple of crows had assembled on the crooked wooden beams. “Mom says another reason she wants to get rid of the rear part of the yard is because she says she can hear people digging there at night. She says she’s scared to get up and check, you never know what kind of people they are… But in the mornings the earth is all loose and kind of spread all over the place.” 
“That’s crazy,” said Tom and weighed the bone in his hand, “why would anyone do that?” 
“I don’t know.” Sarah leaned against the sink and started drying plates. “I told her she’s imagining things, but you know how she gets when you doubt what she says.” Tom nodded. “Maybe it’s Dad,” he said. 
Sarah sighed. “Maybe you’re watching too much TV. Dad’s fine, he’s just tired.” 
“We should get him a new dog,” said Tom, “maybe that would cheer him up.” 
“I don’t know, do you think he has the time to take care of a dog at this point?” 
“What else is he going to do?” said Tom, “he doesn’t do anything. Ever since that stupid dog died he barely even goes to the bathroom.” 
“What the hell is wrong with you? I thought you liked that dog?” 
“Yeah, well, it bit me once.” 
“Really? You never told me about that.”
“It wasn’t hard or anything, I think he just got mad. I think I was trying to take his toy away from him or something.” 
“Will you stop touching that bone, it’s creeping me out,” said Sarah, “it’s probably full of germs.” 
Tom let go of the bone. 
“It’s probably the bone you were trying to take away from him,” said Sarah and laughed through her nose a little. 
“Maybe. That would make sense.” Tom got up and leaned on the table. “I should go now.” 
“The kids will be home from school in an hour, don’t you want to stay and say hi?” 
Tom sat back down. “Okay,” he said. 
“It’s a bit too late for that. For me anyway, you go ahead.” 
“That’s ok,” said Sarah, “I quit a while ago. I only really have coffee with Dad anymore.” 
“Yeah,” said Tom, “me too.” 
“It’s hard to say no to him.” Sarah smiled. 
“So what do I do with the bone? You really don’t want to keep it?” 
Sarah shook her head. “It gives me the creeps. Plus I never really knew that dog all that well.” 
“Well, apart from the biting incident we weren’t that tight either,” said Tom. 
“Why doesn’t Dad keep it?” 
“I don’t know. Mom says it depresses him. Apparently she caught him crying over it the other day and she decided it had to go.” 
“Poor Dad,” said Sarah. She got up and opened the cupboard and took out a silver can. 
“What are you doing?” 
“Making coffee.” 
Tom nodded and picked up the bone again. The porous surface felt like he could crush it if he wanted to. “It’s so light,” he said. 
“Will you put that down!” said Sarah and the coffee machine filled the room with its buzzing. 
“It’s just a bone.” 
“Well, keep it then, I don’t want it.” 
Tom put the bone in his coat pocket and watched his sister fill a steaming cup. “I’ll have one too,” he said. 
They sat over their steaming cups for a while, until the screams of children burst through the door. 

12 October 2012

Tommy and Arlo [Writing Exercise]

I suffer, hey, says Arlo, look at that thing in the window. Have you ever seen one like it? Tommy says no, he hasn’t, and he doesn’t care, the gym is two blocks away and they have no money for the bus. You’re lazy, says Arlo, what we going to the gym for. For the ladies, says Tommy, and coughs up a fishbone. The woman next to them holds on to the lamppost as though it was an elbow, a gentleman, or a tree she built her nest in but has forgotten how to climb; her hair waves in the wind like the flag of some country whose outline doesn’t look like anything to you. Her hair is brown, but the streetlight puts some gratis highlights in, and she is grateful. Arlo says keep walking and so Tommy pulls the woman’s hair out of his nose and places it back onto the current of air that has been carrying it, and he follows Arlo around the corner like a sheepdog or a sheepish dog or something in a sheepskin. Hey man, says Tommy and points to his stomach growling, he can almost see the sound form bubbles under his skin. Fuck off, says Arlo, we ain’t got time for that. The gym is two blocks away, and God knows when closing time’ll be. It’s dark and the woman at the streetlight lets her head fall backwards and her lids fall shut. A half-eaten can of beans sits on the sidewalk, and Tommy kicks it and dripping beans rain all over the pavement, the walls, and Arlo’s back. Arlo doesn’t notice, his coat is thick as a wolf’s. Smells good, he says, smells hella good my stomach is aflame don’t you know? And Tommy nods and says the gym will take care of that. Nah, the gym’s not for eating at says Arlo and Tommy nods again, but this time he looks perturbed. Hey maybe a beer before we get there says Tommy and steps on the shoe of a bum. The bum says God will punish us all and Arlo says do you see any beer round here? The sign of the bar glows yellow and then blue and Tommy points at it and says it ain’t going to get no greener. The bar is empty and smells like dogfood, but food is food and they sit on stools half their size and stare into a candle in a glass and see the body of a moth coated in wax. What cann’eh getche? A beer says Arlo and looks up at the twitching moustache holding a towel. Yeah, says Tommy, a beer. The moustache disappears and reappears with bottles and pops the caps off them and says that’ll be five bucks. Money, you mean, says Arlo, and the moustache twitches again and the beefy knuckles choke the bottlenecks. Tommy slips off his stool. They leave the bar with growling stomachs and fiery lids and Arlo says nothing for a change. They walk through puddles of streetlight and Tommy’s nose swells up and deflates with the rushing by of low beams that cut through wet spots like a stone through a window. A woman staggers by and Arlo sucks in his stomach and says evenin’ mehdayme, and she peels open a halfway closed eyelid and a tear of drool rolls out the corner of her lips. Arlo releases his stomach and Tommy says hey, and grabs his elbow. Two blocks, says Arlo, and Tommy points there it is, and the sign is blue and says GYM and the next minute it is grey and the white light that floods through the glass doors is black as pitch. Tommy and Arlo stand on the sidewalk, the bags under their eyes carved deep by the streetlight. I need to sit says Arlo and keeps standing so Tommy sits down instead. A man in shiny silver shorts and a shiny silver shirt walks out of the glass door carrying a bag that looks like a pillow. Asshole, yells Arlo, and the man says fuck you and gets into his car. Then Arlo sits down too, and they lean their heavy foreheads against the streetlight and sit there for a while, until Tommy feels a bug crawl into his collar.

Writer's Block

So about two weeks ago I started my MA in Writing – ever since, I've had complete and total writer's block. Stage fright, I guess, or maybe the realisation that I have to take it seriously now. Either way, the suffering got pretty intense, and I've been dragging myself through my everyday activities like a wounded animal; after a while, I got so sick of myself I decided I had to do something, so I picked up a "how to write every day" type book and went straight to the exercises. I started yesterday. I'm not sure how much shame there is in learning to write again and treating it like physical exercise, like jogging maybe (which was the suggestion in one of the books I read and which, incidentally, I should start doing again too) – either way, it seems to be what I need to do. 

02 October 2012

Aspiration / And God is Empty [Poem]

The sitting softens with time
yet the focus on it hardens.
The gluteus has melted away until there is an impression of sitting on bone
like cracking an egg.
Gentle hands sieve out the cracked shell
and what may have remained of a dead thing
Surrounding the roaring tube
that jitters like a vacuum
the hips are spread and from them ooze the protruding legs
with this insistency that bones have of remaining straight.
When the face falls sideward you half expect a tear rolling down its surface
slaloming through the beads of sweat
and burying itself on the floor. 

29 September 2012


Though it is now more obvious than a few years ago, I (along with seemingly most of my generational peers) have spent my youth so far in a limbo, an ideological limbo in which any movement, any attempt at creation and at stuffing meaning into the more or less tactile carcasses of dress, of expression, of speech, of the use we make of our senses, seems doomed from the start to go up in smoke, as there is nothing it can adhere to, nothing it can rub against, and we twirl through the motions of spirit one failed, meaningless, utterly self-referential act after another, so postmodern it has become aware of nothing but itself, thinking that from its patch-worked bowels it can extract something, anything, of value if it only digs, squeezes, pulverises enough. But really, there is nothing, because there was nothing to begin with. We've exhausted the limited (but seemingly endless) heap of countercurrents and acts of rebellion, as well as the currents we chose to be rebellious against, so far even that we started assimilating parts of them in a desperate attempt at a new act of defiance; but the irony only got us so far, and distinguishing between what we meant and what we refused became increasingly muddy, until it became nothing at all. Now, we find ourselves stuck in a cycle of referentiality, all we are left with is the attempt to take over what has been, what used to make sense in the context of its own time, of its own place, and struggle to make it our own, to corrupt it according to our needs, and to do so while at all costs avoiding to let ourselves see that all we are doing is vulgarising it, contaminating with our own lack of meaning, of fulness, we are littering the streets and pages with empty concepts because, when ripped from their original context, their original propagators, they are nothing but shells we adorn ourselves with in an attempt to stand out in a mass that is adorned with the same shells, occasionally showing a very slight variation in shading or shape, but shells nonetheless. We all jingle the same, empty tune, and we're loving it because, hey, it's our generation's birthright to take and ruin, to colonise and misunderstand, to cut the filaments that fed the heart and dangle corpses from our ears, we are the recyclers and the conquistadores of the past, we are a band of toddlers obsessed with DIY and disgusted with history, in fact, we have no scruples about robbing signs, symbols, words of their context, we are a-contextual and the world better follow our lead, the past needs to be cut into pieces and distributed among us so that we may make use of what cannot be discarded without being recycled into an identity, so we don't let it sleep but take it with us into the future, we call it innovation, no, wait, we call it being unique.
We don't have a movement because movements are for suckers, for those whose aspirations are too linear, and, perhaps the one thing that sets us apart is this recycling of what used to be and fashion it into new identities. Our generation is circular.

26 September 2012


I'm not sure how this occurred, but on our way into town this morning, the conversation that usually accompanies our walks turned from the physical (sharks and crocodiles, and why they're aesthetically vile, on top of being nothing but stomachs with teeth) to the fantastical, namely mermaids and why they're clearly mammals. Though this is more of a debate you have late at night when you run out of ideas and less nerdily whimsical topics to discuss, I have often had to listen to people loudly (fuelled by wine) exclaim that mermaids, if they existed, would fall under the category of fish, with a reproductive system to match. This theory never appealed to me, perhaps due to a mammalian narcissism, perhaps because it seems wrong that something based so closely on human proportions would lay eggs and produce offspring counting anywhere between two and three digits, and I kept insisting that mermaids have wombs.
And today, it finally occurred to me why this was closer to making sense than I thought: it was pointed out to me that sharks move their rear fins sideways, like most fish (excluding those flat ones that dwell on the bottom of the sea like predatory pancakes), but that sea-mammals, like whales and dolphins, wag their tails up and down, fanning the water like ancient Egyptian servants as they swim.

The reason this is so, we figured (we could probably have read this up in any book on marine biology, but we didn't have one at hand, so guessing was the best we could do), is because fish have a skeleton much different to that of mammals: they do not need to accomodate a womb like we do, and their skeletons go straight through their bodies, almost as though they were on a skewer, with bones sticking up and down, which means that a sideways motion makes the most sense for them.

For mammals, however, such a motion would prove very difficult, even underwater, as their skeleton is mostly dorsal, i.e. located along their backside. Additionally, whales, as well as dolphins, don't seem to have bones in their rear fins, whereas sharks do; mammalian rear fins therefore seem to really function according to more of a fanning mechanism, used for propelling and steering, whereas those of fish, along with propelling, might serve more of a directional function, like a rutter on a boat.

But all of that pseudo-biology aside, what really matters about this is, of course, the thing whose existence is uncertain at best: the mermaid. In their traditional representation, mermaids are "seen" swimming moving their back fin (the fishtail part) up and down, like dolphins and whales, rather than sideways – and, surprisingly, this makes a lot of sense. If they are based on human anatomy, at least partly, it would make very little sense for their skeletal composition to suddenly undergo a complete change as we go from their human part to their fishtail: seeing as their human upper body is depicted as normal, with a spinal cord and ribs, their fishtail would, to make sense, have to be composed like that of a dolphin (or whale, if we're talking about a particularly heavy-set mermaid), with a dorsal spinal cord that extends further than that of humans, all the way down to the feet, which, in this case, are flattened to the state of fins. Imagine a human with two boneless legs sown together (ew) and a very long, straight spinal cord that traverses this sown-together construct, plus two human feet, flattened to they look like fins, with the bones of the feet stretched like gum until they are very thin and serve to give shape to the thin skin of the fin-feet. Or just look at a pretty mermaid.

Either way, all you need to do now is get used to the idea of a pregnant mermaid. Fortunately, it seems it would be much easier for them to regain their figure after pregnancy than for us, what with non-stop workout your abs get simply from swinging your fins up and down. 

Staunverbot - Nihil Admirari [Essay/Fiction]

These days, being called “impressionable” is considered an insult in the same right as “gullible”. The impressionable person is one who finds himself in awe when facing an object, concept or experience that is unprecedented within his own conscious universe. 

The loss of surprise and wonderment to the more and more common tradition of “unimpressedness”, especially in the academic world, is what Peter Sloterdijk remarks on in the introduction to his essay Streß und Freiheit (2011), and whom he calls “Verblüffungsresistenz” (resistance to bewilderment/astonishment). 
The essay as such deals with the conceptual contradiction between the rampant individualism of the West since the emergence of liberal cultures in the 17th century, and the insistence of social sciences to conceive of societies as “constructs”, as political groups driven by the conviction, inherent to its components, that they are somehow bound together by historical, geographical or social causes, by fate or by dedication. However, what struck me about these few opening paragraphs in which Sloterdijk reminds his readers of the increasing rarity, even scarcity, of bewilderment and wonder in the realms of philosophy and social sciences, even though they are often thought, at least in Western philosophy, to underly all contemplative activity (cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics I, 2, 982b.), is the feeling of cynicism, not on Sloterdijk’s part, but one that is very common among students of philosophy especially, and often even picked up on the way as a required personality trait, as though it were, like a Bar Mitzvah, an essential part in the ritual of becoming a fully-fledged philosophical being. 

What this leaves on the tongue as an aftertaste is the impression that, if you’re surprised, if you don’t immediately accept as part of the “game” some of the “truths” that were established within the community, you are not doing your job as a doubting entity within said community (paradoxically enough), but rather, you are wasting your time and reputation with doubting things whose existence is fundamental to the very activity of doubt within each of the undercurrents existing within philosophy.
However, it is true that, when partaking in philosophical thought (always an activity drenched in social and historical awareness, no matter how deeply hidden away in your own mind you think you’re operating) doubt and wonder are more acceptable than, say, in the example Sloterdijk pulls from the realm of social sciences, which is their complete acceptance of an established “internal standard”: the existence of “societies”, both as the abstract concept a social structure composed by an accumulation of human beings, and as the very actual, very mind-blowing realisation that, somehow, this multitude of people is composed of willed, conscious individuals who each strive towards the fulfilment of their own life-narrative whilst still managing to remain, more or less, a functioning part of said “society”. The disparateness between individualism [with its sui generis, the obsession with the own unique-snowflakiness] and the integration of the individual within a societal construct that runs on the idea of commonness, is what, in this essay, leads to Sloterdijks proposal of a “Verwunderungsübung” [an exercise in astonishment] against the stream that flows through social and political sciences. 

In philosophy, as well as outside of the womb of academia, the cynicism that we are all, to varying degrees, infused with, cuts in two opposite directions: cynicism is both the ad (a very Sartrean) nauseam doubting of all there is, to an almost crippling extent, as well as the stigmatising of those we consider to be “gullible”, based solely on the degree of cynicism we have attained ourselves. We are almost expected, on different levels, to both doubt everything, and to already know everything, a state that can, surely, only be reached through pretence. 


In the end, it inevitably boils down to cynicism. Cynicism sucks, but it compellingly knocks on your door every time something knocks you down, and after a while it seems like the only reasonable option. It just strikes you as so obvious and irresistible you almost can’t wait for the cynicism to kick in in its full-fledged form and devastate all hope and delicacy (which you associate with weakness at this point anyway) in its way. You’re still in the trial period of the cynicism package you finally succumbed and subscribed to the last time your heart got broken by something ugly. You’re not quite there yet, not bone dry and indestructible, you still occasionally shed a tear or feel your stomach crawl with flying bugs or contract with nerves or hope or love, and you’re impatient, you want to turn into the ice queen you were promised you’d be, this rewarding status you will attain once life has hit you hard enough and chipped away sufficient amounts of your soul. You just have to toughen up and wear the crown one day, you just have to. Even this is a hope, you realise, and you take it back and shut your mouth. 

And then one day this girl dies and you go to her house and you go through her things. She killed herself with something easy, pills from what you gather, and after it hit her parents that she was gone they got scared and wanted her things out of their house and out of their lives. They’re staying at a hotel until her traces are removed and her room is turned into a blank slate that can be redecorated into anything they want, anything that will keep them busy enough to forget. You and a few others volunteered to help and so you go through her drawers and you find a notebook filled with her writing, apparently dating from just before her death. You sit down and start reading until someone tells you to get up and keep working, so you slip the notebook in your back pocket, you won’t sell this yet. After a while, the room is clean and you go your separate ways; with a bench under you, you start reading the pages and you read her pain, her broken heart, her loneliness, her disbelief. You understand most of it, though her handwriting gets complex and hard to read whenever her hand starts shaking too much, and you’re pretty sure that smudge above the word “coping” is a tear. The scribblings in the little leather notebook stop abruptly after a while and you’re left feeling an emptiness in your stomach that doesn’t surprise you even though you had lunch just an hour ago because nothing surprises you much these days. You understand. Her pain was there, stronger and more all-encompassing than she was prepared for, and she felt the logical progression from being left by someone who was everything lay in leaving everything else that was left to leave. Her life, the world. Her pain was there, too much of it, and now she’s gone and for all you know the pain is too. But you’re not sure of that. The pain is right there in the little leather notebook, unused otherwise but for a few pages of Spanish vocabulary. 

Your friend has a gallery, so you photocopy the pages, you transcribe some excerpts to increase their legibility, you resize, you crop, you frame. On opening night, the spotlights are tasteful and the people shuffle through the room, bubbly wine in hand from which they sip as they read, in constant gliding motion, never coming to a full stop no matter how compelling the reading. You gave them real pain, so simple and futile in its commonness, they’re drinking it up with the bubbly wine because it’s real and it has a sad backstory to prove it. “It’s so sad, really, these kids, how seriously they take things…” says a woman. She’s tall, think, gangly, she tries so hard to stay young. You pace through the room, some people smile at you, some pat you on the back and say “very touching, very moving”. They smile and you bare all your teeth for them. You feel naked when you smile. You go into the back and adjust a spotlight that was crooked. The black ink jumps out at the room and the words on the page come to life again. “Love the concept”, says one busy voice to another as they’re rushing by. You gave them the pain they hate to feel, the pain they find ridiculous, and you provided them with an opportunity to walk away from it. Later tonight, they all will, and, after a glass of celebratory wine, so will you. 


Here are the pages you took from the notebook and hung on the wall for all to see:

Strangely enough, I never thought I’d have to get over you. I’ve thought about it, what it would be like, but whenever I did it was so abstract, almost an exercise in conjuring up feelings that I could let go as soon as reality, namely the fact that you really were there, kicked back in. Now you’re gone for good, no hope as to your return, no more sitting on my floor holding me and telling me you love me and that we’re worth the trouble… it’s as hopeless as if you were dead, but it’s worse because you’re not. Your feelings for me won’t return and stay for good, yet the million ghosts of you I’ve gathered swarm around me each of them carrying an absurd speck of hope like a disease. 
If you were dead, I’d stop hoping. If you were dead, you wouldn’t be able to go on, to forget me little by little, to fall in love with someone else, someone better, someone who will end up destroying your promise (“if it doesn’t work with you, I don’t want it to work with anyone”) once and for all. It’d be easier. I wouldn’t have to live with the knowledge that you are fine without me. That you don’t look back or miss me, when everything about me used to be saturated with you. You meant much, much more to me than I realised. And now I’m abandoned without a clue as to how to go on. 

Writing helps. Gives the whole thing  momentary abstraction. The words only stand for the pain. But at the same time, I feel how desperate the situation is. I’ll never be able to write about a broken heart in a way that feels real. And everyone has had their heart broken anyway, who cares. Everyone is alone with their pains.

The mere idea that you will be fine and I won’t, that you will get over me, that you already are, that you will fall in love with someone who means to you what you mean to me… it sickens me to a point where I feel so helpless and disgusted that I just want the world to shut down and start again at a point where things were still good. Where there still was an “us”. I keep thinking I met you too early. Or at the wrong time, anyway, under the wrong circumstances. That, had all this been right, I’d have meant to you what you mean to me, and you’d still love me with all your being. And then, I start hoping that you’ll come back, realise that you do love me and never leave me again. 
But all I can do is rid myself of this hope. You won’t come back. There is no going back from the curse of friendship, from the loss of feelings or love. I’ll never be to you what you were to me. I think it’s this unfairness that kills me. No matter how much I suffer, no matter how I feel now, you’ll be fine, better off, you’ll heal & forget me quickly, unaware and uncaring. So all I can do, really, is let myself forget about you – about the love of my life. 

Another night of despair and it keeps growing. I’m afraid I might associate my bed, my own bed, with this pain. This fear of having lost what was most precious to be. And of having lost it irrevocably because there is no merciful power that will make him love me the way I love him. And the more I think about it, the more painful this realisation becomes. I won’t ever mean to him what he means to me. Someone else will, I suppose. 
And my feelings won’t seem to fade. And how could they? Some part of me probably still treasures them. The love of my life, at 20? I so yearn to explain those feelings to him. To have him, if only for an instant, feel what I feel for him. Understand what he’s done to me and what he’s wasting, throwing away. I am angry at so much unfairness and… I’d say cruelty if I believed such a force actually has a hand in things. 
I’m afraid. Of the future. Of my coping with having lost him, of him being fine and me devastated. Of the loneliness and the dark days, of never finding anyone to bond with, of never being able to sleep again. Of destroying myself with this pining. Of wasting my youth. Of never loving like this again. Of loving like this (again). Of being hurt. I cannot think straight. I still think of him so often and with every passing hour he probably thinks less and less about me. And there’s nothing I can do to stop this decay. 

23 September 2012

Arte Metropolis – Luxembourg

Ah, Lëtzebuerg, eternally wedged between borders, though in this short documentary about the luxembourgish art scene featured on arte's programme Metropolis, these borders are temporal rather than spatial: 6:07 – 18:40 (French and German)

20 September 2012


Lately, it seems I've been obsessed with a topic that, strangely enough, is very hard for me to write about: the notion of homelands, mine in particular. Like the most basic version of a crazed Odysseus, after having been swept away from home by the hand of fate [academic convenience], I've started holding on to this ideal of the homeland, tentatively at first, then with increasing fury and obstinacy, as though my previous lack of inquiry into the concept of a native land was obviously the source of all my discomfort and awkwardness on my way through life and the world, as though the act of returning to a homeland, emotionally and intellectually at first, then possibly someday physically, would bear as fruits the precious answers and keys to questions and locks that have plagued me along with portions of humanity in its existential quests since the dawn of things. [If you were wondering, I consider the current step of the process (or obsession) to be the one dealing with the emotional or intellectual side of re-approaching and re-investigating the homeland, as well as the myth thereof.]

However, every time I embark [odyssean jokes, fuck yeah] on an attempt at writing about my own country, I have to realize that I am hitting a wall. A wall spray tagged with the following revelation: I know very little about my homeland. Though it might have contributed to it, this is not due simply to the fact that I haven't lived in it for over 6 years; looking back, it doesn't feel like I exhausted the [then more defined] limits of what is available in this country in terms of entertainment, culture, and, well, debauchery [I was a good teenager, mostly] before I left. So now, whenever I return, with this image of "how things used to be (but most likely never really were)", it is as though I've regained consciousness after a long sojourn in slumberland, or any other place filled with fog. I recognise things visually, I know where to go, which route to take, I remember street names [the few I ever bothered to learn], I'm even more or less informed as to what a handful of individuals who may or may not have frequented my old high school are now up to. Yet it feels like I can never be fully sure whether I am actually in the right country, the same country I left  a few years ago with the certainty I was ready to put an end to our relationship, I can't tell if I'm speaking the right language, making the right gestures, if I want the right things. The thing I was not expecting, no matter how facepalmingly inevitable it was, was that things would continue to change, to evolve, after I was gone.
Causing me to skip a few stages of grief, this realisation is [proverbial firecracker that I am...] immediately met with outrage: What?! How dare the fluffy womb-cocoon I left all these years ago to find myself [in the arms of a pretty drastically shape-shifting Calypso] and collect a few degrees along the way continue to evolve without me? How did it not fall into a hibernating slumber to unthaw in pristine condition only at my return, and present me with a scene and atmosphere unchanged, still fully familiar and accommodating, instead of being littered with question marks? If I were indeed the crazed Odysseus figure I claimed to be just moments ago, I would have swiftly murdered and impaled all those new suitors lined up to claim the hand of my mourning bride, but I'm not a fan of bloodstains, even less partial to prison cells [the olden days of slaughtering for dignity are over, plus I'm remarkably claustrophobic as a person], and, if "bride" is even an appropriate image in this context, this "bride" is one I share with +/- 500.000 other people anyway, if my airline's inflight magazine's sources are anything to be trusted.

So how do I write about something I've been divorced from [again with the marital analogies] for so many years that I find myself almost alienated from its general socio-cultural climate whenever I return to what I still believe to be my roots? An what do I write about when there is nothing, of the things that occur in this country, that I can review without there being someone else more immersed in it who could review it much better? How can I make remarks and claims about my home country that are somehow socio-culturally relevant when all I sense here, all that's still evident to me, is the country's atmosphere, and such things are desperately subjective and personal?
On the other hand, if I throw in the towel and step away from my claim to a place where I belong and thus give up the notion of this country as my homeland, then what do I have instead? There's always the grand tradition of purely nominal emigration to an honorary step-homeland – electing their substitute nationality of choice is something a lot of my peers are notoriously good at. 2.500 square kilometers are just not enough to hold all of us, especially with those whose life-dreams taking up the kind of space only a larger country can comfortably provide, and still, for those who choose to stay within the clog-shaped borders of this country, our ambitions only fit if we can compress them to an innocuous size, or float them above our heads on a string.
But then again, this could just be the impression I had when the air was getting thick and I was happy to leave. Maybe now, things are different, and opportunities grow plushly, and the increasing number of those who seize them thrive in this new environment that has sprung up overnight, if "overnight" can be used to refer to a time bracket of half a dozen years. Maybe that's what things are like; to my nowadays pretty untrained eye this is what it seems like. Then again, the opportunities given to others often seem more notable than one's own because... just because. Look up "facebook", the bible of feeling like everybody else has a life except you. Anyway, tangents, tangents are bad. Where was I?
For me, there doesn't seem to be the option of letting go of something that has embedded itself in my daily trains of thought as much as this homeland idea – uprooting this obsessional notion would not do much good; if anything, it would contribute to my mind [and the personality attached to it] floating around even more in want of an anchor or a set of landmarks than is already the case. Not a viable option, then. A less drastic method would involve gently channeling this obsession into a few different areas, one of them being verbal creations, in the form of, gee, I don't know, articles or fiction about whatever it is that bugs me about "belonging" and my lack of confirmation in that department. Another area the energy otherwise wasted in unhealthy obsession [as opposed to so-called healthy i.e. productive obsession] could be conducted into is working at finding a sense of fulfilment in this [seemingly inevitable] state of "homelessness" I find myself in these days – when small birds, too young to fly off on their own, fall out of the nest, or, worse, are removed by alien hands, they no longer quite fit in with the rules and regulations of the nest the sat in in perfect contentment only a few moments ago. I suppose this is the tacky analogy to attach to the feeling I'm trying to explain here: an attachment to the limbo of a conceptual no-man's-land, in my case, is the thing I need to become conscious of, not as a tragic balancing act that will inevitably end in a vertiginous inner fall, but as a freedom that allows me to find my attachments elsewhere, in an area that has nothing whatsoever to do with geography. The fact that I don't quite feel comfortable or entitled to feeling at home anywhere doesn't help, but certainly adds to the amount of energy that will be devoted to this particular internal adjustment.
Meanwhile, this distance might enlighten me as to whether there is anything of note I can formulate about the one country I should have a certain insight into, or whether this task is better left to other people who actually bother with the country's political and historic intricacies. Perhaps the geographical, purely physical distance I opted for a few years ago was not the right kind of distance; it was more of a rebellious, contemptuous attempt at ignoring everything I'd dwelled in from my birth up until that time, something pretty common in the ready-for-college age group I guess. The distance I need might be one that is focussed, not on comparing whatever place I live in right now to an idealised and [time-]warped version of my childhood and teenage impressions of "home" and thus tearing my current habitat down, but on adapting, if only in parts, to where I live, and adding to my collection of experiences and personality traits whatever the chemistry between that place and me happens to conjure up.

If you take Ulysses' word for it, being sedentary is totally overrated anyway, and adds nothing to the feeling of being "homebound"; if anything, the yearning for the native land, falls under the category of those feelings whose satisfaction is fleeting, and as soon as you've taken in what you missed, the restlessness kicks in again and it's time to set off for another arrangement of loops around the Mediterranean Seas for a while. In terms of animal analogies, I suppose a bird's eye view of the nest, as you're spiralling high above it in the air, is more fitting, and perhaps seeing it all from a certain distance makes it all so much more bearable [because so much less real. We all love our phantasy]. Or, perhaps, the frog's way with a recurring return to where ever it was you came out of your egg [added to this is the benefit of the following analogical extension: upon your return, the pond will seem much smaller than it did when you were a tadpole. You will also have a set of nice, muscular legs to go with your new, demandingly itinerant lifestyle. Just saying.] It seems that, rather than making camp somewhere with permanence in mind, the lifestyle that comes with this particular limbo is cyclical in its nature. Cyclical. You'd think, what with my gender and all, I would have figured this out sooner.

18 September 2012

Speaker's Block

There are things that are close to me, very close to me, like, blood-related, and that I still know virtually nothing about. When I say nothing, I mean very little besides the narrative threads my brain has spun between the scattered bits of information I managed to extract from fellow family members by tricking them into reminiscence. One of those things, the one I'm referring to here, in my usual non-pushy way, is my grand-mother; she died long before I was born and I have therefore never been able to meet her in person, which resulted in her creating, on my impressionable mind, an imprint that slowly degenerated into the kind of obsession elusive dead people can sometimes engender in the living. Anyway, because I've been good lately and haven't pestered my parents with questions about her as much as I used to, they probably figured I was finally mature (yah...) enough to handle a more up-close-and-personal encounter with my deceased ancestry, and gifted me with two documents that are witness to her sojourn on Earth: a correspondence article she wrote for a magazine in the sixties, and a graphological study of her temperament and emotional composition, a service she probably called upon in a hope not at all foreign to me, namely that of having someone else determine what kind of person she was – it seems easier, doesn't it, to have someone else, someone with a kind of authority in that field, look upon you and read the signs that compose you so as to tell you who you are and what you need, someone who will have a view less cluttered by the emotions and constantly melting and recomposing masks you have donned over the years of your life, less hung up on all of the different definitions you thought applied to you now and forever. There is no "me" that lasts forever. But still, we expect to always be able to read ourselves clearly, to understand what we need, and for those that are close to us to do so too. In fact, there is one social situation where we expect this kind of non-verbal understanding more than anywhere else: romantic relationships.

There is one thing, however, that relationships, the good ones as much as the bad, have all, up until this point, served to collectively teach me: instinctive trust, a kind of 'clicking' in respect to personal preferences and outlooks, is not that common, nor even necessarily required. Sure, in a good relationship there will be the occasional instinctive epiphany about the other person, but why should it be necessary for our partner to function the same way we do, or with nothing but us in mind? In fact, I've had relationships where such a close similarity of internal operation proved to be a bad thing, simply because not all of my actions and quirks make sense, even to me, and finding them mirrored in the other's behaviour made them all the more irritating. Also, after a while, the feeling settles in that there is very little about the other's independent being that has the capacity to genuinely surprise you. Where movies tell us a "boyfriend" is supposed to know, instantly and instinctively, from the gut (rippling with abs, of course), what is wrong when our smile turns to sad, or what to do when we're upset, in real life, we have to get over that ideal of someone who can, without fail, decipher our reasons for acting and feeling a certain way, often even better than we can.
We have to allow the other to be as clueless and scared as we are, though hopefully a bit less scared because one of us has to keep a clear head and a less than psychotic grasp on things once in a while. And where we feel that certain intuitions about our innermost mysteries are missing, they can always be taught, explained to each other with great care. They might not always be understood perfectly, we are different people after all, and they might not be applied as solutions every time, but it's a start.

How did I deduce all this from a graphological analysis made 50 years ago, and about someone else? It might be that the whole idea of roots as an indicator of who you are in the social, temporal, and spatial net you were born into is still sticking to me like it has for the past few months. The weird thing is, when I read the analysis, the descriptions the graphologist (for some reason I feel like it was a woman, but what do I know) gives of my grandmother's personality struck me as very similar to my own, but expressed without so many of the negative connotations and undertones I so often weave into my own evaluations of myself, and for once this didn't send me off on a tangent about how weirdly hereditary some personality traits can be. Nor did it particularly baffle me how similar I apparently am to my paternal grandmother – if graphological analyses are to be trusted; a doubt I choose to suspend for now. What it did, rather, was pierce my bubble of stubborn egocentrism and social autism for a while, so as to make me realise that perhaps the view others have on us is less cruel and less intolerant than we assume, and – this goes for some of us – maybe even less so than the judgment we make about ourselves. Of course, I won't know how accurate this reading felt to the person it set out to define – my grandmother; all I know is that the charming part of this particular way of being analysed seemed to happen without requiring an actual attempt on the part of the subject to describe herself, or her own image of who she was. When asked "What kind of person are you?", some people reply with confidence, they deliver set little verbal vignettes of "the kind of person" they are, and they don't find the question of what they want or need at a particular time particularly tormenting. Others will not know what to reply to such an enquiry and wish they could just be figured out through osmosis or something. The idea that someone could read your handwriting and understand, not just make unfair or cliché-ridden assumptions, but really understand what you are about at this moment in time, seems like such a load off one's back. Not having to constantly brief one's social relations as to the status of the perpetual investigation into what it means to be "me" that, for some of us, constitutes our life – yeah, it would be a relief. Especially as it would mean only having to "communicate" oneself when one truly feels ready. But, as not everybody is a certified graphologist or clairvoyant, or other paranormal semiotician, I suppose there are only occasional bursts of intuition we can depend on with our peers, and we can find relief in the fact that some feelings are more easily conveyed than others. And, perhaps, that some things just don't need to be expressed so as to conjure up a 1:1 scale replica of the original feeling within the other person; those things are ours to deal with and to figure out for ourselves.


I have speaker's block like one has writer's block.


When you ask me what is wrong and what I feel, you are asking me to poke around in the dark; it is as dark to me as it is to you. How should I know how I feel, when I feel so many different things at once, some good, some neutral, some upsetting, all chattering away at once inside me, how am I to know which one speaks the loudest at this particular moment in time, which one is bobbing at the surface when what it's swimming in is a loud pool of thoughts and needs? I feel as though too much is within me, too many things undealt with, unclassified impressions and moods, like I am a hoarder of sensations and none of them have their proper place, resulting in a right mess; I have accumulated them without scrutiny or afterthought for too long, much as I do with more tangible things, but unlike tactile collections they cannot be categorized later on, because I can no longer tell them apart, they are all just caught in an internal whirlpool that is heterogeneous only as far as I can deduce from the mood swings I suffer, but otherwise homogeneous because there is no way for me to discriminate between what exactly it is that grips me at any given moment, as though I was experiencing all of my moods at once.
All there is to do in terms of cleanup is to hope that, at the right moment, when they are ready to be dealt with, the thoughts will pop up and make themselves known, or just fade away with time.
That is why, when you ask me what I feel, what I need, I listen to this constant buzzing inside of me, inspect the murmurs for something that stands out, and wait for a feeling or need to make itself known, so I can at least pretend that I know myself just a little bit. At best, what I end up telling you will be a guess, at worst a lie. How should I expect you to know what I need and what worries me exactly, why should I hold you to the standards of stereotypically elementary movie romance when even I don't really see through myself all that well? What I cherish, however, is that most of the time you try.