I am infested with selves, selves which bicker and squabble and complain late into the night.
I am infested with identities, half-forgotten identities that cling to me like so many voracious, major-league head-lice, biting and feeding on me as they will, annoying and tormenting me day and night, resting only briefly when they have eaten their fill.
I am infested with abandoned personae, personae which pose and posture before an imaginary audience.
I am infested with the shells of who I never was.
I am infested with the ghosts of my earlier selves, tenants of a building long-since demolished, denizens of a city buried by the sands of time.
They queue for buses that will never arrive, wait outside boarded up shops that will never again open, stare out blankly over vistas that no one else can ever see.
They wait for a restitution they will never receive.
These selves are dried-out, dusty old husks with no will of their own, husks which are blown around pointlessly by the wind, like tumble-weed in those classic 1950’s Hollywood films of the Wild West.
They draw up close, whispering inanely as they do so, and then draw away again.
They approach, gesturing impotently, and then sink slowly back down to the murky depths from which they emerged, satiated for a while, content for a while to pass back into obscurity.
Sometimes I can see them down there as they rest.
They are lined up in ragged rows, like the empty shells of long-dead crabs lying side-by-side on the sea-bed far below. Every now and again the restless currents of the deep catch hold of their hollow, frail, ghostly-white pincers and lift them up from their sides, moving them slowly from side to side in solemn grotesque unison, in a sad mockery of life.
These selves that infest me are husks of who I used to think I was.
They are the ghosts of a thousand thoughts and feelings that I never properly expressed. They are made up of the worries I was never able to let go of, the fears I never had the courage to confront, the obsessions I never had the strength to put behind me.
They are the dead things from a thousand forgotten yesterdays, dead things that still walk and talk and clamour – however briefly – for attention.
They are dead things I never had the decency to lay to rest.
They are formed from fears I covered up, desires I never managed to satisfy, addictions I could not manage to satiate, yearnings I never even knew I had.
They are the sorrows that never saw the light of day.
So now, as if in revenge for my cowardice, they daily infest me.
They haunt me without mercy.
They eat me alive, though they themselves are long-since dead.
I am infested with memories, memories that scurry restlessly through my mind like the fleas on an old dog’s belly.
I am infested with memories that randomly break through the pathetically shallow superficiality of my everyday life, memories which punch gaping great holes in the complacent banality of my mundane preoccupations and leave me at the mercy of whatever horrors choose to emerge from them.
I remember the aching emptiness of my own existence – the unremitting unforgiving pointlessness of it all.
I remember the insistent senseless insane repetition of my own grotesquely foolish thoughts, which were all I had for company.
I remember playing endless pointless games in the privacy of my own head – games which were so profoundly meaningless that even I didn’t really care about them.
I remember my own private mythology, a defence against a reality lacking in even the slightest trace of magic, a reality so brutal and harsh that nothing soft or delicate or uncertain could ever hope to stand up against it.
I remember a city of dirt, slowly crumbling under a colossal granite sky.
I remember streets stretching out to infinity, full of empty cigarette packets, old beer cans, the discarded wrappers from bars of confectionary, used contraceptives, and half-eaten burger buns.
I remember impossible hopes and unrealistic dreams; days filled with petty, meaningless temptations and vast empty stretches of unending surreal boredom.
I remember moments of bright deceptive pleasure followed by the dark unending hours of leaden despair.
I remember conversations that made no sense at all, but which nevertheless passed the time for all those concerned.
I remember the interminable daily confusion of incoherent, murky, ill-defined, half-formed worries, illuminated from time to time by sudden stark lightening-like flashes of undiluted raw anxiety.
I ignore all art and beauty, subtly thwarted robot that I am.
My preoccupations lead me nowhere;
I am in love with futility, wandering around in circles
that I am determined not to see.
Whispering tales of elaborate malice
I haunt myself without mercy.
My empty performance resounds throughout endless corridors of time –
a repetition without grace or purpose.
Numbered in scores of thousands,
we flock together without fellow feeling.
Associating blindly for want of anything better to do
whilst eternity beckons dimly somewhere in the distance.
Poisoned by our own ghastly futility, dry and hollow,
we stand around,
partaking involuntarily in an obscene pointlessness.
A motley crowd of spent echoes and splintered reflections
with nowhere to go and nothing new to say.
“Don’t touch me” I snarled viciously, my voice super-charged with venom. “Don’t touch me…” No one could ever touch me however because I have no body. No one would want to touch me anyway because I’m so toxic. So very toxic. If anyone came across me they would avoid me like the plague, I’d say! I kind of am the plague, come to think of it. That’s not too far from the truth. You’d be right to avoid me. “Don’t touch me” I screamed again, recoiling violently from an imagined aggressor. There was no aggressor there however – there was only me. Only me. I was the aggressor. I have always been the aggressor. The aggressor has always been me, for as far back as I can remember. Always, always, always. How did I get to be so toxic, you might wonder? The same way as anyone else, is my reply. What other way is there? The same way as everybody else – exactly the same way, I would answer. There aren’t any other ways really – you just wander down that road, that old, old road. It’s easy enough to find your way onto it! You know the road I mean. Everyone knows it. ‘Easy is the descent to Avernus’ says Vigil. How right he was. How right he was. Easy is the descent. Easy is the descent. It’s so easy that you don’t even notice yourself descending – you don’t notice it at all. You drift onto the road that leads to Avernus and you never notice how you got there. You never see yourself doing it. It’s as if you’re a sleep-walker. What am I saying? You are a sleep-walker – that’s the whole point. You’re a fully paid-up somnambulist. You’re a member of the professional association. You’re an accredited member. Of the Guild of Somnambulists. You’re sleep-walking but you don’t know it. You don’t know it because that’s what sleep-walking is all about! It’s all about not knowing. It’s all about the absence of knowing. You don’t know what you’re doing. The easiest journey in the world, that’s what the trip to Avernus is like. ‘Bang’ and you’re there! You’re there before you know it. Does that frighten you? It ought to frighten you. Don’t you think? What could possibly be more frightening than that? Hey – wake up you dozy bastard! Wake up. Wake up. Wake up. Wake up. Wake up you’re in hell. You dozy bastard. Wake up and smell the roses. Wake up and smell the coffee. “Don’t touch me” I hiss venomously, full of instant malice. But it’s only myself I’m talking to. There’s no one else here.
I’m sitting here in the shopping mall listening to piped music. It’s early enough in the day, maybe only nine thirty. I’m sitting here drinking a White Americano staring listlessly at the people walking to and forth getting ready for a day’s shopping despite the fact that it’s not even ten o’clock yet. “Nothing’s going to stop us now,” goes the song in the background. “Nothing’s going to stop us doing what exactly?” I ask myself bleakly. What exactly is it that we’re doing and not going to be stopped from doing? Shopping perhaps? Leading stupid, meaningless lives? Being utter idiots? Having our minds controlled by the advertising agencies? Being the helpless ridiculous tools of our blank-faced sociopathic corporate masters? Please someone help me out here. Do me a favour…
It’s Saturday morning in the shopping mall. Of course the crowd is out early – Saturday is shopping day. We’ve been waiting all week for it after all. We’ve been waiting all week to come out and spend our money. I continue to sip my White Americano, in a somewhat morose fashion. I feel tired and jaded. Very tired and very jaded, come to think of it. My eye-lids are heavy with fatigue but I could tell you why it is that I feel so tired. I haven’t been doing anything, after all. I’m only just sitting here. I never do much anyway, it occurs to me, and yet I’m always tired. My eyes feel stuck closed with tiredness – as much as I might try I can’t seem to manage to open them properly. I call it ‘Sticky-Eye Syndrome’. It’s a recognized thing. For me it is, anyway.
‘The Story of my Life, Part One’ I wrote down dutifully in my notepad. The Story of my Life Part One, the Story of my Life Part One, the Story of my Life Part One, the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One, the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One, the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One, the Story of my Life Part One the Story of my Life Part One. I was stuck on the title and couldn’t get anywhere with it. This always happens, in my experience – never start with the title because you’ll never get beyond it. You’ll never get past it. Write something and then put a title on it. If you must. I toyed with the idea of getting another coffee. The first one wasn’t doing very much anyway, that was for sure! I’m a creature of habit, it occurred to me. I’m always thinking the same things, saying the same things, writing the same things. I’m stuck in a pattern and that pattern has become unbearable to me. It’s become my hell.
Music is still playing away insidiously in the background. Always the music. Always the rotten old music. Always the same old tracks – what a torture! Why doesn’t anyone else see that it’s a torture, I ask myself? Why are they just carrying on, oblivious, apparently content? Why is no one screaming? That should be the big question, I realize. The big question that is raised by society and the societal life in general. It’s the question that no one ever asks. The forbidden question. No one ever screams and no one ever asks why no one is screaming. The two go together I suppose. It’s all part of the same syndrome.
Even if you were to ask this question no one would know what you were talking about. They’d stare at you as if to say “Are you strange?” Is there something wrong with you? Are you a person with a problem? Is that what’s going on with you, you strange person? “Why aren’t you screaming?” I ask incredulously, practically begging for an answer, but all I get back in return is the deafening sound of silence. Like the song.
I was in the happy place doing all the happy things and then I woke up and realized that it wasn’t real. The happy place wasn’t real and I hadn’t been doing any happy things there. That hadn’t happened at all. Tears slowly rolled down my face as I realized that the happy place wasn’t real and that I had never been in it. It was a very sad moment for me.
Perhaps if I imagined very hard, I thought to myself, then I could imagine myself back into the happy place and everything would be good again. Even before I tried however I knew that this would never work. Never work, never work, never work, I said to myself dolefully as the big fat tears rolled down my cheeks. I could never go back to the happy place because it wasn’t real…
Do you know that feeling you get when… No forget it – I’m only upsetting myself. I’m only making things worse for myself. I don’t want to go into it. I walked into the Fun Max shop all bright and breezy and told the man behind the counter that I wanted to max out the fun. Max the fun, max the fun, max the fun I said, tapping out the beat on the counter with my fingers. Some of my fingers. I’ve got hundreds of fingers. Possibly over a thousand – I’ve never counted them. I’m like a human centipede only with lots and lots of fingers rather than lots and lots of feet. I’ve got fringes of fingers all over my body and they never stop moving, not ever.
The Fun Max shop is real, not a dream. The Fun Max man was real too. Smarmy-looking but real. “Well you’ve come to the right place,” he told me with a big grin all over his smarmy face, “There’s no shortage of fun here…” Plenty of fun, plenty of fun, plenty of fun I sang out enthusiastically, tapping the rhythm out on the counter, my fingers fairly flying. The Fun Max shop was real but the fun it sold was of a very low quality. It was like the Pound Shop of fun and the fun you could buy there was cheap and trashy. It left a bad taste in your mouth. You’d feel contaminated, polluted, sickened. But you’d be addicted all the same. You’d be all hollow inside afterwards – hungry for something you couldn’t have. You’d be hungry for something that didn’t exist.
My mood grew ugly, thinking about all of this. The more I looked at the man behind the counter in the Fun Shop, the man with the big cheesy grin of his plastered all over his face, the uglier my mood grew. I hated the sight of him. I longed to tear him to pieces with my needle-sharp venom-filled mandibles but I didn’t dare because I knew he was the devil in disguise. I was full of fear and driven by a thousand nameless addictions. I was eaten up on the inside with them, contaminated, tainted and polluted. I felt sickened to the core – sickened by myself mainly but also by the man in the Fun Max shop. I wished heartily that I’d never come to the place but I knew that now I could never leave…
So the corporate mechanism supplies the package to everyone concerned and that is fine, that is perfect. Everything’s always perfect, isn’t it? Everything’s always perfect, as the man said. Perfect, perfect, perfect. The corporate mechanism was perfect and so too was the package that we were being provided with, as and when required. Which was always, whether you wanted it or not. The package was a perfect package whichever way you looked at it – the package was a perfect package and no one would argue about that. No one would ever argue about that because they were always far too busy looking at their own perfect reflection and their own perfect reflection was the product that they were being provided with. The corporate mechanism provides us with who we want to be. Who would argue with a perfect reflection? Who would want to?
The product the mechanism provides you with is yourself, only perfect. It’s been improved and enhanced. It’s been made unreal. We can’t argue with a perfect reflection and we don’t want to but there’s a problem here all the same. And it’s not just any old sort of problem either – it’s the biggest problem there ever could be! We’re being supplied with the package that is ourselves and we have to buy into it every day but the problem is that it isn’t really us at all. Of course it isn’t. Naturally it isn’t. How could we think that it was? How could we think that it would be? It’s an empty image that’s being mass-produced by the corporate mechanism and it’s got nothing to do with us at all. How could the mechanism know about us, how could the mechanism care about us? How could we imagine that there’s anything at all personal about it?
So just to come back to the point again – the package we buy into is ourselves only it isn’t ourselves it’s a generic product of the machine and the machine neither knows about us nor cares. It’s incapable of knowing, it’s incapable of caring. It’s a machine. Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t this seem just the tiniest bit ‘off’ to you? Just a teeny-weeny bit ‘not-quite-right’? I mean, you’d be careful who you invited back home with you if you didn’t know them, you’d be careful about who you’d accept a lift from late at night on a dark street, so why wouldn’t you also be a wee bit cautious about who you’d let construct your identity for you? You follow what I’m saying here I’m sure – the corporate mechanism is after all actively trying to exploit you for all you’re worth! That’s kind of what it does. That’s the type of relationship it has with us. I mean, we do know that for a fact, don’t we? These guys – the guys that go to make up the mechanism – don’t really care about your well-being. We can pretty much take that as read, right? I trust that we can all agree on this point. This is a fairly basic point, after all…
So let’s get this clear – we’re going to let some kind of predatory, exploitative entity define our identity for us, decide what we like and what we don’t like, decide what our world-view is, decide what we want to do with our lives, because WHY? Because that seems like a real smart idea? Because everyone else is doing it? Because it seems like ‘the thing to do’? OK. Fine. Alright. I can relate to that. I get all that. We could point at the nice shiny identity that we’ve bought and say “Yes but isn’t this cool?” It’s such a cool identity. It’s perfect, as we have already said. Perfect, perfect, perfect. What’s to question? What is there to argue with? You get to be a pretty little narcissist, a handsome little narcissist. You get to be all wrapped up in your own little world. Like the corporate mechanism tells you to be. You get to be all wrapped up in your own little world only it isn’t your own little world because it was designed for you by the mechanism. And it isn’t ‘you’ who is wrapped up in this perfect little manufactured world either because that so-called ‘you’ is also a product of the mechanism. That’s the thing isn’t it – a narcissist isn’t wrapped up in himself or herself. They’re not wrapped up in themselves at all (no matter what it may say in the psychology textbooks) – they’re ‘wrapped up’ in something else entirely, they’re wrapped up in a dream, they’re wrapped up in an illusion…