Whenever the sun hits my face and I close my eyes, it always feels as if I could be anywhere, at whatever time period, and everything would as however I want it to be. Two chances I was given, and both I let pass. The first I watched walk swiftly away and disappear. The second I stood beside and fell to my own demise.
If you think that the ant-eater will come to rescue your plants, then you’re sorely mistaken. That’s because ant-eaters are incapable of rescuing fauna. Which gets you wondering why you had even hoped for ant-eaters coming to rescue your plants. Certainly, your plants were in a terrible condition, the leaves were full of holes and every root was being violated by fungus. And perhaps in your desperation, you turned to the ant-eater. You heard the tale from a gardener who once helped you tend to your plants; he told you that you really didn’t need his services if only you had an ant-eater. And so that idea must have gotten stuck in your head, so deeply that you could never really forget it, and whenever the chance presents itself for this idea to be used, the idea rises to the surface as does an urchin from the darkest trenches. Why are we even talking about ant-eaters? They don’t exist anymore.
No one believes in me. In fact, no one has ever believed in me; which is why I have learned to believe in myself, and with excessive ardour; insofar as to have turned myself into a narcissist. That’s right, I sometimes believe that I am the best at what I do, or at least very, very good at it; and I would survey the others and find no one as exceptional in the craft as I am. Sometimes, they would struggle with a piece of work, struggle to ‘crack it’ as is the buzzword over there, and I would saunter over, ask what they were struggling about and in the moment I understood the problem, find a solution – an elegant solution. And if they somehow said that the solution was not rightly suited for the purpose, I would doubt their capabilities; for how could they not see the genius in my idea.
I am nothing original. Ever part of me is borrowed. I am an amalgam of borrowed ideas. Which is why I will always need something to build on. Give me an empty, and I’ll paint you nothing; but give me one with a couple of lines and a vague notion of what to paint, and I’ll paint you a Picasso. Maybe. One day, maybe.
He’s not a team player, she said – that’s what she said? I suppose it rightly appeared to her that I am not a team player; I admit that I have appeared to not want to work together. But this only happens when the person with whom I am supposed to work is incompetent; whose ideas are far flung from the purpose, whose line of thought is a rigmarole, and whose rigmaroles do not even excite or inspire. If however there is someone who can create work that impresses me, that can make me go “how did I not see that”; yes, then I shall gladly cooperate – I shall share every idea and listen to every returning one. To wit, one should never judge whether a person is or is not a team player just by his interactions with a single other person; one must investigate further, look into the ideas that traverse between the two persons and watch how they coalesce.
I miss her of course; not her maybe, but her presence – what foolishness, how could ‘her’ refer to anything but her presence. Let’s not get tangled in the semantics. I miss her. She was the only one in the office who could make me happy, who could get me motivated to want to go back after a most relaxing weekend. Every now and then, I would peer over my shoulders at her place and would see just the tip of her head above the monitor screen; probably buried in work my dear. Before leaving, she would always go out to smoke a cigarette – not that it would have deterred my affection for her in any way. Then at six forty-five sharp, she would look across and I would look back, and we would both leave together, furtively, so that no one else could discover our little secret world. We’d even walk pass each other without turning a glance. We did this because we knew with confidence that as soon as we were alone, everything would erupt in splendid colours.
It’s obvious; I never write anything serious. The things I’ve written are only ever frivolous. And to think that I so often scorn frivolousness. The things I write are frivolous because they are always about myself; what I do, what I think, the people I meet, my impressions of them, my dreams, my ideas, my sorrows, my pitiless circumstance, my loves, my failures, my regrets, in a word, my world. And don’t people just hate reading about other people. There was an afternoon where I was out for lunch for with a colleague, and for nearly the entire duration of our lunch, she was talking about herself; about how things are in her country, what she did in school, what she’s about to do, what kind of work she’s interested in, what her siblings are doing, what her this, what her that; everything she could curve back into her own world. I grew terribly bored within the first 10 minutes, and thereafter only half-listened and nodded whenever I sensed a pause and an expectation of acknowledgement.
It occurred to me just a while ago that I am not, as was professed, an agent of chaos; I am rather a man of justice. That is the truth, the indefatigable truth – I am quintessential justice. It occurred to me just now because I had wanted to play a trick on a driver (pretending to want to cross the road, and as soon as he would stop, to walk away deliberately). But instead, he came to a stop at the junction seeing as I might want to cross, and I could not help but to wave him to pass; for that demonstration of public consideration was to me something I could not defile. Thus I realised that I could not always generate chaos; I could only generate chaos in the face of nonsense, of people who lived without reason, who walk about stupidly and naively and yet not know about it, people who are unreasonable, who are mean, who like to gloat, who think they are above the rest; those are the people I would gladly bring chaos and frustration to – how laughable they are when something goes wrong and they start about like a blind man swatting at leaves he thinks are flies.
Have you ever played a game of chess where you were so confident of your winning that you left your seat to get some air outside, but only to return to find the entire chess board missing? And so the victory you thought was yours – and indeed, you were already celebrating it in your mind – is lost forever. All you have left to revel in is the memory, the imprecise memory of what was assuredly your victory. That is why I am so sour about this whole situation; because I knew that I was going to win and then all of a sudden I could not. What cruel tricks fate plays on you sometimes. Dangling a carrot right in front of your eyes, letting you smell it, taste it even, then snatched it away and tosses it into the river where the currents will wash it off to eternity.
Do you know about the man who conditioned himself to become impervious to grief? Ah! -as if the human nature were so fickle a thing when we thought it so resilient. But yes, there was a man who conditioned himself such because he suffered and suffered and grieved a thousand tears, to a point where he decided he could not grieve anymore, and so told himself to stop. He reasoned that life is a big joke, and that everything, even tragedies, ought to laughed at. He began first by laughing at people when the quarrelled with one another; then he laughed at a stranger who told him off; then he laughed at the woman who approached him with the intent of selling; then when he read the news of someone getting injured because of a stupid habit, he laughed too. Little by little, he began to laugh at everything. And when everything can be made to contain comicality, nothing remains to upset.
And everything has lost its colour. All sounds become noise, muffled and inconsequential. For what should anything matter when a man has lost his purpose? Indeed, there is less reason to go in now. Even at the lobby, when I stand alone, I imagine that she is still there, watching the numbers at the top dial up one by one. And I’d be watching them with her in silence.
No one knows why she left. They all said they came in one day and she was gone. In the days before, no one noticed any about her. One of them said she was her usual cold self, but apart from that, nothing peculiar. I was hoping in the initial days that it was all a joke, for how could she leave without a word; not after what had happened. Her seat cushion was still there, white with black polka-dots. And I thought maybe she had sent her computer for repairs and cleared up her desk while she was at it. But a number of days past, and still she did no return. Until finally, I asked one of those people sitting close to her and learnt the terrible truth. I suppose I knew it all along; from that day I saw her sitting and talking seriously with the head of services in a quiet corner.
In the office, everyone seems to have passed over it quite easily. It is as if her disappearance had meant everything to me and nothing to everyone else. Or perhaps it is as if I had learnt of the truth a little too late, so that when I emerged from my ignorant slumber, everyone had already gotten used to the truth; while to me, it was as fresh and painful as a wound.
..almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of ‘psst’ that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important you’ve tried to engineer.
Which is why we learn soon enough to not go out of our usual to engineer a favourable situation. Chances are we’ll mess things up and that which we had sought becomes more difficult to acquire. Let destiny have its way; go about your business quietly, but of course pay close attention to the silence; pay attention to when a bell toils almost silently but surely – that is the proper signal to proceed towards your dreams.