Someone came up to me and told me that I had to do such and such. I went ahead to perform exactly the opposite of what I was told just to see what would happen. Naturally, one would expect the instructor to be upset, even angry, at a blatant refusal of instructions. Instead, the person, having learnt of what I had done, came up to me and said to me this: of all the people to whom I told the instructions, only you followed it correctly. The truth of the matter was, he expected us to do precisely the opposite of what he had instructed.
When i was asked why I wanted the job, I replied that it was my destiny to become a great copywriter. The interviewer, slightly baffled, asked how I knew that it was my destiny. I told him that all men, as soon as their sight is cleared, will come to know of their destiny; it is like a calling in the heart that one cannot close oneself off to. And then he asked what if I were wrong; what if, like those mental patients, I was actually hearing voices inside, and these voices were formed of fancies and fantasies and the whole lot of fantastical experiences. I said that I could not be wrong; one cannot be wrong about so strong a calling; the call of destiny in short, is knowable simply by its force. He nodded his head in acquiescence and finally asked: If you are so sure that it is your destiny to become a great copywriter, why do anything at all; why come for this interview at all; why pine for this job at all; might one not, knowing that it his destiny, simply sit at home in an armchair and wait to be fetched in destiny’s glorious arms?
Someone came to tell me something quite excitedly, and he must have thought it’d come as a surprise to me; but the truth was, I already knew about the matter. Still, I responded with surprise, because I thought that was what he was expecting, and it’s not nice to fail someone’s expectations. So I acted as if I was thoroughly surprised by what he was telling me, and I even beckoned him to tell me more, to elaborate on all the details I already knew. And I nodded my head eagerly at every wave of information that came from him. After about a minute, I felt a little bored, but nonetheless kept up the appearance of being interested. I told him that I had to leave to somewhere, and that I should like to hear more of the matter whenever we met again – would you believe that – that I would corner myself into something I had no interest in, just to appease another person?
It’s hot outside. The common man would say it’s sweltering, and he would say it with a feigned air of sophistication. But the common man does not know that he is being childish; ‘sweltering’ is a word for the juveniles, for those who have just been taught by blind teachers that a good essay must necessarily contain big words, obscured synonyms of the much simpler, comprehensible ones. I know of one such man in my work place, and I have very little respect for him, even though he is at a much higher position than I am at, and has achieved very much more – the reasons for which elude me entirely. He is the sort of man who places a motivational sticker (the all too hackneyed kind) at the corner of his desk, and who would not dare do anything more than the instructions. Pray, tell me, how a man like this rises to the higher rungs. Maybe I’m just being bitter.
If you’re going to start to write a story, you’ll have have to have a good protagonist; preferably one you can relate to – but that sounds odd, doesn’t it – one should necessarily be able to relate to his creation? Never mind that. So you’ll have to have a good protagonist; someone who is interesting, but not just interesting; he will also have to be queer, because people enjoy an interesting queer much more than a charming interesting. This means that you would have to be queer yourself in order to fashion a protagonist who is similarly queer. But ask yourself: is your queer an interesting queer or a repulsive queer? People generally don’t like reading about repulsive queers; for the very reason that they are named ‘repulsive queers’ – but of course, that’s not the real reason why they are repulsive – obviously, it’s something in their character that makes them repulsive.
Everyday the newspapers bring us new terrors. At first, they are frightening, and we are surprised at the barbarity. But day after day, nothing changes; first a killing here, then there, then at the station, with trucks, knives, guns, shrapnel, then a child is killed, an old lady who lived an inspiring life, a man who was himself quite similar in hobbies to the harbinger himself, and so forth. So much that we grow weary of the disbelief, of the anxiety, the indignation. And now everyday, when we flip open those large paper sheets, we are prepared, in fact, we expect, to see something horrible that has happened some hundred miles away from us; and there will be pictures of people grieving, sobbing, screaming in agony and frustration, and Ministers of this and that affair will make a courageous comment, or imply in stern fashion the commencement of an investigation. And all these will no longer frighten us, they will not even make our stomachs twist as reports of such nature once did; no, we will merely pass our glance over them, swiftly, as if it were no less banal than a new food stall opening at the plaza. The human being, I suppose, can only endure so much before it becomes indifferent; perhaps some human beings more quickly than others. It’s all a matter of toleration and belief.
Why do you always hide behind your monitor? It’s large enough to cover you whole, so that whenever I would look over my shoulder, I could never know if you were there or not. This is why, often in the evenings, when everyone begins to leave their nests, and I steal a glance across the room, I will not know if you have left or not. So, desperately, I stand up, pretending to stretch my languorous limbs, and I look over one more time; and you are always not there. Anyway, I could not have gone off even if I wanted to, since I always have work waiting to be finished. But on Friday, for once, there was no task left on the desk, and for once, I could leave early; whenever I wished. So I looked behind me, and the tragedy – you were still so busy; everyone was crowding around you pointing at the screen and moving their mouths in a perspicuous fashion. I waited for about 15 minutes before there was no reason left for me to stay, and had to leave. I walked briskly past your table, and you were still buried in the work.
Perhaps a greater tragedy is realising that my destiny is a lie – what? How could a man’s destiny be a lie?
Now of course we kept exchanging glances; sometimes over the desk monitor, sometimes between the monitors of two strangers, under the right-angled arm of a another; sometimes while we’re walking down the aisle and one of us senses the presence of the other, or when we’re both walking down the aisle, towards each other, pretending when we are still far away to not notice each other, to look away and anywhere else but at each other, and only when the distance becomes intimate, do we peer up and steal a glance at each other. Yesterday too, I happened to be searching for my card to enter the office, and it happened that you were just coming out. I caught a glimpse of your hair – the colour gradient is quite distinctive – through the tiny window on the door, and just waited for you to push it open. Upon opening it, you saw me; looked at me and smiled. You smiled a curious smile, as if you were aware of all that was happening, and what else could I do but smile back just as curiously. It was approaching dusk and people had begun leaving. I was hovering around my seat, waiting, waiting, waiting. I acted as if I were contemplating some piece of work, giving support and advice to my partner who was still on hers. But really, the reason for my loitering was so that I could leave when you leave. But I wasn’t paying as much attention to your direction as I should have, and when finally looked up, you were gone. Every day, you seem to elude me. And yet, we continue throwing each other these glances as if there was kept beneath the surface a secret dalliance.
You know who the biggest liars are? Those people, calling themselves ‘motivators’, who tell you that you have to think positively and all that sort of banal claptrap – don’t look down on yourself, believe in your abilities, harp less on your failures etc. Oh, the horrid stench of it all. And to think people would still buy their books and pay them to talk at a funfair to a crowd of baboons. I know this, I know that they are liars because I have tried heeding their advice once. I tried to think positively, to be happy; indeed, I tried every way to better my life, iron out the creases. But somehow, I always managed to disappoint myself. The harder I tried, the more I seem to fall into a listless unhappiness. The more I tried to pursue happiness, to fix the little cracks, align the slight misalignments, the more of a coward I became. I don’t know how to explain it, but I became a coward; and I became a coward because I kept trying to pursue happiness. So it was that I stopped caring about the matter entirely. I reduced myself, as did Kafka on some sad afternoons, to an inert mass, indifferent to everything. And wonders that did to my life. I knew how to become myself. The more indifferent I became, the more frequently happiness came to visit. It is as though happiness had felt left out, alone, and it begged for my company. That’s it, isn’t it? The less you appear to care about something, the more it yearns for you. So it was with happiness. I tried to embrace melancholy, I called myself a melancholic person through bone and fibre, I saw the dark haze in everything, I thought the worst of everything, and to people in whom I had no interest I gave not the slightest regard – I might even have come off as a bad person. And this life, this life attracted happiness; happiness could not resist coming to it. I was always happy. No matter what, I could not stop being happy; my circumstances were always such that they would make me happy. And as much as I would try to think the worst of my fate, the worst of my lot and passions, happiness would always keep from sinking into where I wanted to go; into a pit of swarming melancholy. So now I realise, I see it all; I see the lies perpetrated by those ‘motivators’. What unbelievable fools they are.
A piece of my work was rejected yesterday by who was set by some undemocratic system upon the seat of authority. Now often, when your work is rejected, the flaws pointed out – though hardly apparent – it is easy to lose the correct perspective on it; the perspective with which you looked at it when crafting it; so that it appears to you, after the little disheartening critique, as something you cannot believe you had thought of in the first place – what a terrible piece of work this is, and what it more odious, it came from my hands! But no, this did no happen to me. I could still see my work with the eyes I saw it before; and it looked impervious to insult. To say it short, I did not agree with the man who disagreed. Normally I’d back down, and surely, if I were the boy I was before, cowardly and bereft of will, I would have. But no, I am no longer that person. So I stood my ground, I stood before him steadfastly, when he thought I would be leaving to ponder the mistakes of my work, and I told him, in a rather frank tone, that there was something wrong with his seeing and perceiving and understanding; and that I understood things better than him. I told him that I am going to be a great man one day, that it is my destiny, an indomitable destiny; and that he would eventually see that he is wrong. I told him that if he had better eyes and a better mind, he would easily curse at his foolish judgement. Finally, I told him that I will eventually exceed him, and he will look back as I loom high above him, to this very instance where he had dismissed my work. On second thought, maybe my work does look imperfect.
You think you are capable of upsetting me? oh certainly not. How could you be – you a stranger with whom I have had the most trivial interactions with and for whom I have not yet accorded respect – how could a person like yourself, a speck on my radar, a gust in my storm, possibly upset me? I’m just here to have fun. That’s what I believe life is about. Fun is all you should aim to have. In everything you do, just fun. If your fun comes at the expense of someone else’s fun and you do not feel any compunction, then go ahead and compromise the poor lad’s fun. He deserved any way. What am I saying. I’m not a bad person really. I have a good heart and my conscience is clear. No one has ever had any real and lasting ill-will against me. But if they would perhaps come to know of the demons stirring within, of the scissors ready to snap, the thorns aching to sting – perhaps then they might bear some ill-will against me; but behold, how well I conceal everything. Everyday I wear a mask, and I go around talking to people, smiling, laughing, coaxing laughter out of their sordid morning faces. I am a ball of joy.
Had a rather upsetting day at work today. Not sure why. It started of well; wore a white t-shirt and the bus came on time. Saw the same girl at the bus stop as yesterday. She seemed to recognise me just as much as I recognised her. Got onto bus and found a seat after travelling two stops. Got to the office early. Looked through the news feed. Nothing particularly intriguing. Looked at Snap’s share price. Saw it went up after that big dip. Not that I’d do anything about it. But I read it as though I were going to do something about it; take some monumental action that would greatly increase my wealth. That was all in the imagination; as it has ever only been. I am a lowly fox pretending to be a wolf. I think learnt that today, which is probably why I am so upset. Not upset really – more dispirited. Just like the other day when I was having lunch alone because of a troublesome stomach and sat at a table all by myself, lifting spoonfuls of porridge morosely to my mouth. Except then, I wasn’t really upset. I was at peace. The upset was only appearance. Now, however, the upset has found its way past my usual fortitude. The work in the morning was fine. I was a little tired. Ideas couldn’t come out quite straight, but they came out nonetheless. Found out at noon that I had to work with S when I thought I’d work with A. S seems to be quite dismissive of my ideas recently, even proud of her own. That was why I was upset when I heard that I had to work with her instead. I wanted to begin work after lunch, but S was still busy with some other work which I couldn’t help with. So I sat there just peering into my screen. Sometimes I’d flip over to read some Kafka. I also happened to read about Sagan’s reflections on the Pale Blue Dot. Saw an advertisement of it yesterday; the Pale Blue Dot. It was quite marvellous and inspiring, even though, as I had discovered today, the shot of the earth from the Voyager’s last pumps of life was in the advertisement far removed from the actual picture. But that doesn’t matter; advertisements lie all the time. Lying is properly the advertiser’s art. So yes, where was I? I was upset because I had to work with S. I was beginning to get annoyed at S. I have of late realised the inconspicuous immaturity that lies within her; how she takes every chance to talk about her achievements and of the fact that she’s heading some big project at her school. I get so bored every time she starts talking about herself; I just want to walk away. But I can’t; I don’t want to ruin relationships; I’m just not that kind of person. I’d rather just walk away. But I can’t walk away either. I am chained to her by callous chance. Whatever. So back to the afternoon. At 5 o clock, she was finally done with her work and turned to me and said that we should start on the one we were to do together. So we ploughed and ploughed. At 7, we were still not done. What was worse, we had to run through our work with one of the seniors, who, as if our circumstance were not tragic enough, was not in the office. So we had to take screenshots of our work and send it to him. Then wait for him to reply in those tiny boxes. And again and again, he said that work was not up to standard. So again and again, we kept doing. At 8, I saw the nice girl from upstairs, the pretty one. For a while there was respite. Then she left, I was back in the pit. At 830, we left. S was still talking about herself, about her graduation, about the show she would be overseeing, about this and that, and I just stared up at the dull man in the elevator screen. By then I was starving and dinner was too far away. So I went to a subway nearby and ordered a plain tuna sandwich. Finished it and left in a haste, always making sure to look at my watch because then people will know that you’re not a loafer just loafing around.