25 June 2011

Systematic unpicking

Other people frighten me. I approach them and pull faces and they react and I back away slowly. Sometimes I’ll lie right up against the glass and trace their topography for hours, imagining they spent their childhoods hypnotised by the dirt clods that sprung off their bicycle wheels as they bounced over broken tarmac slightly faster than their reaction times dictated, and then I can almost feel the barrier dissolving.

Our lives are predicated on this underlying assumption that we are known, and that we can know others. We think that because we can agree to certain fundamentals that keep the motorway generally unclogged, we must also conduct more or less the same symphony beneath our shirts. But regardless of which parade we succumb to, amidst the props and paints and perfumes, the vagaries of continuity will invariably betray a lie that remains most invisible to even ourselves. I’m talking about our souls here.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m not a religious person. I don’t think you can peel away the pragmatic layers of a human to reveal the frightened inner specter of their gossamer truth. Life winds its expert fingers around the lip of our trembling essence and we emit a tone that answers in the only way that it can. Others glimpse our identity through a whirling zoetrope that blurs our static moments into a unified narrative, into a seamless 'you', until one day...

Well, one day I discover that you’ve saved every tissue your mother has ever sneezed into inside a desk drawer. And there is nothing in my toolbox of experience that can answer the 'why?' of this one anomaly. I’ve pulled a thread, and the entire fantasy of knowing you unravels and spools around my feet. A realisation swims up from the deep: You are not me. And, furthermore, I am alone. This gives me a terrific sense of vertigo, and then I must wait for the normalising properties of time + space to whitewash the graffiti this notion produced.

If ever you find yourself seeking your reflection in the shallow pool of someone else, instead see if you can appreciate the illusion that you’re not buried alive inside a fiction of your own making. Scatter the crumbs of your history and watch the birds make off with them, one by one.

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