Saturday, June 26, 2010

Self-Centred Introspection

Another excerpt from the story that I'm currently working on. Something I've refined this evening, during yet another spell of insomnia.

Where is the place that all stories begin? Is there a single point from which all our narratives flow, a single indescribable nucleus, where all our pasts, our presents and our histories are determined? And if such a point exists, could we ever trace our steps back to that place, that wellspring of our human-ness, to redraw the paradoxes and petty tragedies of our frail existences? Is it that, then, which we seek all the time as we go through life, apparently aimless but in actuality searching for that which can never be found?

She has a story too. But perhaps the only truth in that story, hidden deep within a web of perceptions, opinions and delusions is that it has no single beginning. Like all stories, it is born anew at every single instant, but also dies in that instant, and is condemned to never be repeated ever again. For her story, like all stories, is nothing more than a string of innumerable instances, microcosms and random events intricately strung together, which each moment almost bearing no relation to the one that came immediately before, or the one that will follow it only a second later

And that is why when she looks for a place to begin, to find out where it all started and where things were inexorably set it motion (oh, that cliché), she is unable to identify a single point, a single over-arching instant in her life to start.

But stories are born to be lived, to be told, to be passed on from the lips of one generation to the next, carrying within them the seeds of destruction that all humanity is inherently drawn to. Years later, she will look back onto that night and recognise that it was her one chance at sanity, for succour, and yes, for redemption. But that redemption can only be achieved through her narration, standing in an invisible confessional box, her past lives and sins surrounding her as clearly as angels and demons richly carved in dark mahogany.

And so she must find a place to begin, to find a single place in her past from where she can stand and begin to draw the tangled threads of her past three years into a single cohesive weave, finding patterns and order where none perhaps have, never will exist. On this night, as she drives all through the night through the rain that hammers the North Indian plains in August, smoking endless cigarette after cigarette, she will force herself to remember.

Self-Centred Introspection

Another late night in London.

My insomnia kicks in on the strangest days. Today, after a week of insanely busy days at work, with a social calendar that's packed to the brim, I thought I would sleep like a baby. Fat chance. It's now 2:30 and I'm still awake; bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, willing to go out for a run, or a drink, or both. Probably not a good idea, but there you go.

So here I am, in a garret bedroom in Notting Hill, with the windows open on this warm summer night. My laptop is warm on my lap; the duvet lies pushed down around the end of the bed. I've got Florence + The Machine playing on Spotify, and a table fan whirring softly in the corner.

It's at moments like this that I have to love my life.

Nothing special, nothing important. Just a single moment when I can look around, at a life that I've built slowly, painstakingly, bit by bit. I've gotten to a place where I think I am, if not happy, then at least...serene, calm, comfortable.

Not content, though. Never content. Always trying, always struggling, always reaching. Things need to be done, places must be visited, lives must be improved upon. It is difficult to not always want to achieve. Especially when in my own head there are so many failures, so many shortcomings, to compensate for.

Dreams, ambitions, goals. All shorthand for the misery that we can cause ourselves by wishing for too much. For trying too hard. For staying so hooked into the whole system that we forget to stop and measure the moments, minute, infinitesimal, that make up this fragile life of ours.

I think it was a schoolteacher - one of the Dominican friars at my Catholic school in Namibia - that introduced me to the Latin saying, per aspera ad astra. To the stars through difficulties. The same teacher told me that if you aimed for the stars, you'd get to the treetops.

And I always wondered how unsatisfying those treetops would be, especially when you kept looking at the stars that you missed out on.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Self-Centred Introspection

A half moon rises over the high rise council estate flats of Notting Hill.


The moon is blood red. Dust in the air, prismatic reflections of pale light. Wisps of cloud fleetingly linger over the semi-circular cusp of reddish-white in the air.

Il pleut toujour sur les maisons de Londres a minuit.

My heart - the half that remains with me - cries with the weather. The other half, the half that I gave you; the half that you wrenched away from me - rests with you. Happy, sad, uncaring, I know not.

Do you stay awake at midnight, wondering if I'm thinking of you, the way that I do, standing here at the window of a garret room in West London, staring at a moon that stays suspended mid-air, close enough to reach out and touch, far away enough to be just out of reach?

I don't want to fuck up anything. I just want to be with you.

But its too late for that. I've already fucked things up, taken it to a point where we're beyond redemption. And now all that is left to me is this moment, standing alone in a cold room in an empty apartment, where all that is left to keep me company are my memories.

And this, a blood-red half-moon, lingering in front of my face, the way that you do.

Just out of touch.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Self-Centred Introspection

He sits, eyes, closed, on the Bakerloo line, right opposite him. Hair black, his Japanese eyes screwed tightly shut, mere slits against a face pockmarked with rashes and pimples. The faded grey of his backpack (waterproof, durable, outdoorsy, careworn, used) flat on his lap. His fingers, - rapid, prismatic, a blur – move the small plastic cube, almost inexorably.

Turning, turning, turning.

The tyranny of symmetry. The rules are simple: red adjacent to red, blue next to blue. Orange all on one side, white on another. Miscegenation is the enemy, order, purity, a bland monotony the idyll to be striven for.

It has taken the man only two stops (Baker Street to Edgeware Road) to complete the Rubik’s cube.


He walks calmly into the stationers. Stillness. Life here is calm, ordered, comprehensible. In the neat ruled sheets of Pukka Pads, in front of the walls of coloured plastic folders, ring binders and clutch pencils he finds a strange tranquillity. Things are not complicated here, decisions lose the menace of their implications. His decisions are bounded by the cardboard ends of the notebooks that he peruses. Sex is merely the static that burns his fingertips as he runs his hand against the wall of paper in a brightly lit store in Notting Hill. Simplicity.