The Heart of It All.
“It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Sorry to kick it off on a downer, but this is something which has occupied me mentally and physically for the past year, and has inevitably come to inform who I am right now. As my close friends know, I recently found out that I have some form of celiac disease, or gluten intolerance, or something equally inglamourous and pathetic. Without the scientific jargon, the most important effects of this on me were neurological; I couldn’t think straight for days at a time, was losing my memory and slowed down to the point where it would be near impossible at times to get out of bed, or leave the house. Right before I figured out what was wrong, I was pretty much convinced I was going insane – becoming completely incapable of finding any emotional attachment to the things that surrounded me daily, to the point where the world was an almost psychedelic mess of feedback. It’s with hindsight that I realised this condition informed the way I was when I was younger; belligerent, haughty and just a plain pain in the ass.
So when it was revealed that my essentail weirdness was explained by my diet, it was a mixed blessing. As soon as I stopped eating certain foods a lot changed – the world became brighter, clearer, and I saw that it didn’t exist simply to lay siege on my sensibilities. Still, when your conception of yourself and the world around you, a construct of 21 years and the foundations of your thinking, is altered in a transitory moment, it leaves you confused and questioning who you really are, and whether the way you thought and acted had any basis in reality. The first piece of writing I did, after I rediscovered an ability to write for myself, examined how I felt in that moment; a lot more capable than I had ever felt in my life, but nevertheless a little fractured. This is also my first attempt to use third person narration in any meaninful sense. Yeah I know, pretty weird for someone with an English Degree =p.
Tim walked down the platform, the lamplights above the wall mounted plaques putting the walkway into a contrast against the blackened evening countryside, giving the impression of a station floating in space, stocked with vessels ready to depart into the star dust. But Tim didn’t notice these things of simple beauty anymore. He could see, but as through a pair of bad prescription glasses, refracting everything so that in the process of un-muddling it, his mind grew impatient and tired, instead beginning to focus on things that were closer. Like the invisible lenses themselves, why they were there, and whether they would ever go away. Whenever he found himself borne away on a weary wind, whenever he found himself drifting from that ideal of himself, that indispensable vision he saw in his earnest, wistful, hopeful dreams, as he often did, he would inevitably look away from the world and all its overwhelming stimuli. He would cast his consciousness away and demand from the contours of his cognition a lasting moment spent looking into his soul; that cumulative effect of the experiences of life. There were times when something about the way the ground felt beneath his feet, the way the air smelt and the sun bounded thrusting every unsavoury vision to his eyes, seemed unsatisfying and inconclusive, as if the world were just waiting for a storyteller, a grand novelist to make him see the real trajectories of the seemingly meaningless human activity around him, so that he could carve an elegant line through and make every moment his own. Instead, he was a prop, an extra, the filling in someone else’s narrative, struck in a moment of existential realisation staring gormlessly at the audience, while the players around him shuffled anxiously to conceal his absent minded blunders. In short, Tim did not recognise his own soul, and it was all he could do to trace a thin line over the fissures in his memory, in the dark place where he kept all the little stories and moments, chalked in the iridescent colours of nostalgia, smudged by the clumsy hand of time.
It was in this state of vague detachment that he kicked through the drifting foliage and boarded a train home, shuffling forward through the car with hasty glances left and right, looking vacantly for space unoccupied and unshared, so that he could spend however many hours in sedate reflection without the burden of awareness that the presence of human company would impose upon him. He took a window seat facing a luggage partition, and put his bag on the seat next to him, in a passive aggressive gesture of obstruction, and faced to look out of the screen just as the train made its departure, ghost like in the evening. Gaining speed, it moved past the familiar landscape, the moss covered watermarks scaling the walls of the bridge, and the graffiti that covered much of its surface, positioned there by some opportunistic artist, knowing the many wandering eyes that would drift over his handiwork. As the train cut through the countryside, he saw it as if from the gaze of a kestrel, crop circles and boxed pastures, unidentifiable lands, anonymous. He wondered what the ancestors of humanity would think of this alien world, irreconcilable to their way of life, the lives of their descendants built on nothing more tangible than the information in text books, the theorems and abstractions shooting them across their world faster than the eye could see. Man, the creature that has wandered furthest from his instincts, the only life on the earth with no niche, no corner of existence that is perfectly his. What a price to pay for consciousness, just to spend one’s life finding a place to call one’s own. His eyes drifted in and out of focus, over the night sky, to the ghost of his reflection in the window, and slowly the beige panelling and sliding blind disappeared to be replaced by a familiar red chequered fabric and a wooden frame that held a full view of his youth. As he dreamed he saw clearly, saw himself as god intended in the unmarred boundlessness of youth, and he tried to grasp it, to understand whatever kernel of hope kept him whole in that moment. But like Sisyphus, it tumbled away from him as the intrusive light of dawn penetrated his eyelids.
As the train rolled into the station, he stirred in his seat, and awoke in the old suburb where his loneliness could sleep.