One of us had fallen and we shielded him as we mourned his passing, and to me, death was a white sheet covering a frail body and a glass eye staring up at me. People sobbed, but a laugh escaped my body, for there stood my dead friend beside me, bottle in hand, fixing his usual sharp gaze on his own lifeless body. The mere act of looking up versus looking down makes all the difference in the world. The living grieving, pitying, reminiscing, outliving the dead. Heaven above, hell below, and an amused soul watching from the bardo. I think he winked at me then, and his favourite song played somewhere in the background, and his words floated up to me about death, dreams and friendship. And somehow, miraculously, even as they burnt his body to a crisp, I made my peace with his sudden departure into non-existence.
R.I.P., dear friend.
Happiness is a stop sign with an upside down smiley. Everything else is a fucking freeway – speed, exhilaration, the thrill of the chase, by-lanes, scraping gravel and gaping, never-ending spaces.
Don’t be thinking of stop signs on the road, kindly whizz along. Unbox, put the top down, scream your lungs hoarse. Embrace the wind, watch the road bumps, turn up the goddamn stereo. Life is ordered chaos, my love. Close your eyes and death shall whisper in your ear; stop too long and therein lies your final resting place.
I know you. I know you well, almost as well as I know the back of my hand, or how my tongue knows the edges of my teeth.
You are the lone tear that rolls down my cheek without warning. You are the characters I create to escape my bleary present. In fact, you are all my characters fused into a grey nebulous mass at the back of my mind. You are their voice, their story, their tragedy, their laughter, their strength. I know you; I created you. I know your purpose. I know your beginning. I know your reason to exist.
I wanted no part in your creation. But I had no say in it. And now look, you are no longer a wisp of thought, a broken consciousness. You are a tumor, little grey one.
Now I know. Finally I understand. I will be the first to go. I will go first, so that you survive, so that you outlive me. Not because I want a part of me to stay behind, but because you shall have meaning. Because when you end me, you shall break free.
One moment you’re overly conscious of your existence, painfully aware of each rasping breath you take after smoking too many cigarettes, the silent assimilation of energy inside your core, the relentless exploration of every inch of your mind like the impatient, hungry tongue of a lover snaking into your mouth. The next moment you’re fleeing down the highway with your headlight buddies – joyful, fleeting, racing, dancing, snowballing, zooming into the welcoming darkness, the end of the tunnel, the eternally evasive shadow, the very purpose of your existence.
And here I am, lost within the madness of it all. I’ve begun writing poetry and composing songs in my sleep that are beyond beautiful, and which I cannot recollect when my transcendent presence ends and the corporeal one begins. And still I persist, bound ever so strongly and grappling with the half of me that belongs in the otherworld, haunted by the daunting lights blinking to glory at dusk and the spirits beckoning me with promises of peace.
I’ve been a recluse. I’ve gone into hiding to avoid dealing with all the messes I’ve created and separated and untangled and hung out there to dry in the sun. It’s not healing, it’s not meditation, it’s not even a break from writing I’m simply lying alive waiting for the darkness that was once my friend. Depression seems to hit and miss me by one person. I’m jealous of the hopelessness I see in other people’s eyes. I want my edge back. We were good together – a good combo, like burger and fries, like cigarettes and coffee, like masturbation and death fantasies. No, maybe not that last one. It’s so easy to want to die, it’s so easy to wipe out like a lonely little flame fluttering in the wind. I wanted to be a limerick, a dirty joke, an old ditty that plays on the radio, the tip of an iceberg. Now I know, I’m a ballad of woe, a cross between Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, and water – just water on which other things can float and rise to the surface. I almost didn’t put these thoughts into words because when I do, I become the writer, I give weight to my own existence. But finally I am leaning towards the hopeful, gravitating towards the light and contemplating the burden of those with a weightless existence. It seems like a good beginning on the path towards the end.
In a daze I stumbled back to my dorm, stoned on some of the best hash the country had to offer. I crept inside my blanket and began tripping to the breathing of seven men into the silence of the wind. I had surrendered to the daydream delusions and fantasies of my drug-addled brain, when I heard a sob from the bunk above mine. One, then another, until great heaving wails rocked the entire bed, yet the others continued breathing and snoring, as if I was the only one alive or sane enough to hear the sound of grief. Listening to the drunk little boy shaking with tears, I froze within my stupor, unwilling and unable to reach out. I pretended to be asleep, and he continued sobbing into muffled pillows. These are tears of self pity, I thought with disdain. These are not tears where you feel sorry for a three-legged dog or a poor beggar kid; these aren’t tears of losing someone dear or missing someone who is far, far away. These tears were because he felt sorry for himself, sorry for the way he is, sorry for those that were no more in his life, and because he never knew the love of a mother. I knew, and I understood, but I was hardened and he was weak; I despised his tears, I hated a man who could cry unabashed for the man he could not become.
I’m surrounded by people, but I am alone. As always, alone. I wish the smoke from my cigarette could obfuscate some of the thoughts floating around in my head, the ones that are too clear, too sharp for this particular moment. They worry about me. They think I am turning dark. They think I am letting myself go. Well, go where? I am right here, letting empty days stretch out lazily before me like a long winding road – their favorite metaphor for life. I may not laugh as much as I did, there are definite dark circles under my eyes, and I may be writing about death and sex and the darkness that shall fall when that last cigarette falls from your limp hand. I may be tempted by Death as a mysterious seducer, the she-Devil, a Scheherazade of the netherworld. But no, I am not ‘turning’ dark; maybe it was you who chose to only see the light. And no, I am not suicidal, I have always been strong enough to ride the wave. Let me reconcile with my darkness; I cannot shove such bile back down my throat like you did, only to have it erupt when you least expect it.