I was in the doldrums, overcome with dreadful lethargy. Even the flies were finding it hard to stay in the air. One fly, as big as a sultana, was floating around listlessly in my tea, which had gone cold. It appeared to be doing the backstroke. Do the doldrums make tea go cold? I rather suspect so. This sort of doldrums seems to, anyway. The whole world has slowed down and we with it. Most of all me, particularly me. I knew I should move, take decisive action of one sort or another (and it didn’t really matter what – anything would have done) but the part of me that was needed for this appeared to be paralysed. I couldn’t will it into action – I could stare at it impotently, inwardly demanding a response that never came. After a while a second fly joined the first – two fat sultanas swimming in my tea.
I watched them for a while. ‘You’re the same as me,’ I wanted to tell them, ‘we’re in this together, you know. We are in this together, you and I…’ Side-by-side in Sultana Land. All the way from sunny California. You dream your dreams and I dream mine. Some people are happy, others are sad. Some are angry, convulsed in fits of rage – indescribable rage. ‘He’s having a bad day,’ you say, ‘he’s having about a very bad day.’ In the process of having a bad day, in the throes of it. In the thick of it. There’s no talking to him you see, not when he’s like this. Not when he’s in this stage of the process. The best thing to do is leave him to it; turn on your heel and walk away. Go for a stroll around the neighbourhood. See the sights, such as they are. You’re in Sultana Land now and things can be different here. Things can be very different.
I sat there biding my time. I knew what I was doing even if no one else did. I made sense of the world in my own special way, filtering it deftly through my preconceptions. Unbeknownst to myself, I was producing ‘the bland amalgam’. People learn to be happy in the world that they have created for themselves however. That’s something that we all learn, sooner or later. Or should I perhaps say that we learn to tell ourselves that we are happy, and simultaneously we learn to trust what we are so earnestly telling ourselves. We learn ‘the art of credulity’, in other words. ‘My boy,’ they used to say to me when I wore short pants and was attending school with many other small children like me, ‘you must learn. You must learn the art of credulity and you must learn it well. You must learn to believe the bullshit that we are telling you. Then – and only then – will you be ready to take your place in the world.’
They call him ‘the human gherkin’ because he’s green and lumpy all over and also because there is the faintest smell of vinegar when you get right up close. It’s only just the barest hint, but it’s there all the same. You have to take that into consideration. I had a flash of insight a while back there that had to do with breadcrumbs. It was to do with the idea that if everything was breadcrumbs then you couldn’t have a path, which proves that too much guidance is worse than none. It wasn’t my idea to be fair; it wasn’t my idea at all but it resonated. It resonated a lot. My mind wandered but I called it back. ‘Come back here you’ I called, ‘where do you think you’re going?’ The bastard was about to do a runner, I swear. I recognised the signs. I am after all a professional interpreter of portents. Before that I used to be a professional malingerer but I had to retrain. Because of the economic downturn, you see.
People come up to me on the street and pat me on the head. ‘He’s awful credulous,’ they say, ‘don’t tell him anything strange…’ I did the same thing as everyone else only I didn’t do it as well. I never really got the knack of it. We are all creatures of habit really – that’s what lies at the core of it all. Creatures of habit, creatures of habit. Pure undiluted habit. You know that expression on someone’s face when they’re trying to work out the thing? The expression that says so eloquently, ‘I’m trying to work out the thing.’ That’s a very human moment that is, isn’t it? That’s pretty much the epitome of what it means to be a human being, in my book. Trying to work out the thing. None of us can, you know. We think that we can. We think that we can but we can’t.