under lock and key

I can't sleep at night anymore, ever since I stopped locking the door. The fear is overwhelming. Someone might walk in at any time, and I could do nothing about it. I lie awake staring at the door, waiting for it to fly open, though I am no more sure that it will happen than I am when it will happen, or even why.

I know, of course, that I could stand up and lock it. I'm not a fool. Sometimes at night I stand up and approach the door, vowing to myself that I'll lock the door, but I lose my nerve. My hand is trembling so violently by the time I reach the doorknob that I could scarcely operate the lock even if I still wanted to. I stand there, hand trembling, pulse rapid, gasping for breath, and black out. When my mind returns I find myself back in bed, the door still firmly unlocked, everything unchanged except for my growing fear.

But I can't lock it. The fear, the uncertainty, are nothing compared with the absolute terror that accompanies the certainty that if I lock it, no one will come.


caffeine free

As sleep eluded me once again, I found myself pacing an unfamiliar house, as though in search of something--though rather than searching I merely walked the same path many times, hoping something new would come along. I was seized by a fit of some morbid version of inspiration, seized a pen, and looked for the nearest scrap of paper on which I felt I could safely write.

The only thing available was a box of sprite. I ripped off a corner and began to scrawl my dark thoughts, pondering on death, on darkness, on shadow, on cold. My words twisted down labyrinthine passages, barely linked, making little sense unless perhaps viewed from above. As I ran out of space I wrote along a margin that my pen had formed: i wrote this on a scrap of a box of sprite. my despair is lemon-lime, carbonated, CAFFEINE FREE.

I hid the scrap in my pocket lest someone find it and read it. I was afraid of their reaction, but I wasn't sure if I was afraid they would think I was serious or joking.


morning music making me sick

I was awakened this morning; why I was awakened is irrelevant, merely the fact of awakening. I stalked out of my room, and sat down only to find, a few moments later, the sound of generic bad metal (complete with Cookie Monster vocals) coming from my roommate's room. I might have forgiven this, but some of the other people present decided to take up singing old theme songs badly out of tune.

I was awakened and immediately assaulted with bad music. I withdrew to my room and turned on my music collection, hoping the sound of melody and good vocals and happiness would somehow repel the bad music and unpleasant start to my day. When I left later, there was still bad music going on outside. They had clustered around it like some cluster of heathens worshipping their baby-eating god.

Like a good virtuous listener of music I informed them that their music was horrible and withdrew to my cavern of safety and virtue, and I wept for them. I wept that they did not understand what good music was. Perhaps they never would.


what the fuck am i doing?

Lately I have found myself increasingly lethargic. I lie in my bed, trying to find a comfortable position, baking in the heat, unable or unwilling to do anything about it. I go to sleep later and later each day, and wake up later still, unwilling to get up and start my day. When at last I do wake up, I barely actually start my day in any real sense, so much as I now have my eyes open and can sit and waste my hours.

It was early evening when I finally got around to taking a shower this Saturday. Before I did, I walked back into my bedroom in quest of something--but it had eluded my mind when I walked in the doorway. "What the fuck am I doing?" I asked myself aloud, and found that I was not asking what I was looking for in my room at all. I was asking something a lot more significant than that.


the little engine that was filled with existential angst

Once there existed for the purpose of analogy a steep hill up which a train track ran. It was very steep; observing it one might have questions whether the trains could reach the top.

The first train to attempt the ascent might have questioned whether it could reach the top, but it lacked the mental capacity to do anything other than what it was designed to do. There was no "I think I can" as it mounted the peak; it merely did, and did well, and that was all that was important to it. That was also all that was important to its masters.

The second train to attempt the ascent lacked a sense of duty; when it doubted whether it could drag its load to the top of the hill, it merely abandoned its load on the tracks and continued on its way. This saved it a lot of time and effort, and freed it from the heavy burden of doing someone else's labour.

The third train to attempt the ascent attempted to drag the abandoned cargo as well as its own to the peak. It failed in this attempt, and rolled back down the hill, applying its brakes the entire way so that when it reached the bottom it would not continue going anywhere. It stayed there, dejected at its inability to actually make a difference.

The fourth train did not even attempt the ascent. When it saw the abandoned cargo and the train that was unmoving, it despaired of any attempt and immediately gave up, heading the other direction to report its failure.

The last train to attempt the crossing, while disheartened by the evidence of failure, did not give up there; it instead attempted the crossing. "I think, therefore I am," it repeated to itself, uncertainly, as suddenly it began to experience dread. It knew that it could make the decision to climb or not to climb, to surrender or to be like the first train, and that its decision would shape the course of its future. It found itself wondering what the purpose was of the hill, of the cargo, even of the track, whether it was the pawn in some greater scheme or whether it was alone in a great dark expanse of universe--whether this hill was a trial made to test it or whether it was all without meaning and all full of despair and hopelessness. As it crossed over the hill, it learned an important lesson: it's always easiest to continue what you are doing, because that generally doesn't involve making a choice.


a happy ending after all

One might have thought that with such an ending ("Everything's going to be all right now") the story had a happy conclusion. The irony, of course, is that nothing could be further from the truth. The real story ended in decline, the heartbreak much more poignant than the most beautiful and touching scenes from the text.

For a week or two everything seemed all right. But he was full of his own private doubts and fears, plagued as he often was by doubt when things were going well; she was waiting for it to hurt again and for things to go wrong. None of it felt right. And eventually when she gave voice to these confusing feelings, all of his private doubts and fears were realised. Thus they signed the death warrant for their happy ending.

All of his fleeting happiness escaped when she eventually left him. He took to alcohol, the age-old panacaea for the freshly broken heart; she returned to the world that she knew of abuse and pain, feeling alone and unloved, but at least she was familiar with that.

He pursued several fleeting relationships, each of them short-lived and miserable, serving only as reminders of what he was certain was his one true shot at happiness. Eventually he died alone of alcohol poisoning; his then-girlfriend discovered his body a few days later, called the police, and went home and committed suicide by mixing vodka and prescription sleeping pills, sure that she was responsible for his death.

After a string of abusive boyfriends, she finally found one that she was utterly terrified to leave. They married after a few short months of dating, and she has developed a talent for lying about the bruises. She has little joy to her existence, but is convinced that she ought to be happy, because she believes that most people are entirely unhappy, and at least, she reasons, she has something to be happy about. She is not sure what she has to be happy about, except perhaps that on the surface, if one ignores all of the facts, she is married and on the right track to raise a family, and she always dreamed of getting married and raising a family when she was young. She just didn't want it to happen in hell.


new heights of absurdity

If you have not seen one of those trendy patriotic 'support our troops' ribbons, or their derivatives, you are a blessed soul. Allow me to explain. There was a time when people would wear ribbons on their lapels to indicate their support for a specific cause. They were colour-coded, and most important, they were not terribly gawdy. They did not have text on them. Someone might ask 'what's that ribbon for?' and you could converse about the cause of your choice. This was the extent of it.

Following the terrorist attacks of 11/9/2001, plastic patriotism became trendy. By plastic patriotism, I mean the kind that is entirely insincere. At the time, the popular sticker was 'we will never forget' or something like that, and various incarnations of the red, white, and blue. (As an aside, I must note that the French flag is also red, white, and blue. Irrelevant to my point, but worth remembering as you celebrate America Day.) They were everywhere. In a town such as my own, predominantly Republican and predominantly uneducated (the two tend to go together, but we will pretend that these numbers are separate), there was nary a soul that did not demonstrate their patriotism with the purchase of such lovely stickers.

Fast forward a few years. George Bush II, some time after the terrorist attacks, invaded Iraq, war was declared, etc. As is always the case with wars, the nation was divided into those who opposed the war, and those who believed that to do anything but support the war was to hate America and everything that it stood for. (One might notice how this sort of thinking reeks of groupthink and propaganda. I leave you to consider this on your own.) The popular bumper sticker quickly became a little yellow 'support our troops' ribbon.

At this point, ribbons took off. There were red, white, blue, and yellow (an ugly combination) ribbons, camouflage ribbons, and even some ribbons for other causes (POW-MIA, breast cancer, etc.) Some of them said 'god bless America' and some remained 'support our troops'. I cannot speculate as to how it went from the point of lapel ribbons to quietly show your support of something, and gawdy yellow magnets to slap on the back of your SUV. The shape is the same. The meaning is not. One of them says you support something; one of them says either that you are caught up in some form of patriotic hysteria that can only exist if you purchase goods which say that you are patriotic, or that you were feeling generous when a fundraiser, hoping to exploit this consumerist patriotic hysteria, passed by.

I am telling you this not because you do not already know, however, but because I recently saw something which puts this absurdity to shame. It was a yellow support-our-troops ribbon, on the end of an antenna. A ribbon antenna ball. Truly, some people know no shame.

If you would please join me in a moment of silence for human dignity. . .