Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Soul Story

My soul has always fascinated me: the sense of being and yet outside the realm of the physical, the sense of the abstract and yet a very real physical presence, the mythology of the eternal lord of our transient bodies, the realization of the many-fanged guardian whip that keeps us on the straight and narrow, the consciousness that transcends our human limitations and is yet utterly tied to them, the mystery of a vague memory and the promise of a lifelong search.

My soul distracts me. She demands care of me, and love, and tenderness. She seeks from me responsibilities that I am not always sure I can live up to. She demeans me, in my lowest moments. She mocks me, she degrades, demonizes me. She loves me, she promises me the hope of a better morrow, be it the day or the century or the millennium to come. She is an escape hatch, and a ball and chain on my ankles. She is a slap, and a caress, and an order. I cannot understand her. I cannot breathe.

This cannot go on! She cannot continue to lead me this merry dance. I will have to find her. I will have to bring her down.

I search for her weakness, her blind spot – a way to bring her to me. Everything has a blind spot. The rear view mirror in my car has it. The eternal electronic surveillance that increasingly pervades our physical world has it. Even the shadow, ever faithful, has it.

Where, when, is the soul’s blind spot? Is it at a fleeting moment that whizzes past as I find myself torn between the future that stands grand as a freshly paved road and the past that still accelerates in a last-ditch attempt to catch up? Is it a shadowy corner at an unknown crossroad just beyond the circling arcs of vision? Is it at high noon, in plain sight, hidden and dead for the briefest of moments?

I drag myself from the tethers of my unmade bed (where I must return eventually) to the doorway where opportunity knocks impatiently for a brief second, to the confines of the tin can – just cramped enough to keep me deliciously uncomfortable – that will transport me in a blitz of colors and sounds and weaving snarls to the otherworldly order of bioplastic smiles and disguised indispensability that gush forth from starched collars and caffeine-free cappuccinos.

Every now and then, I wander beyond the pale (where I must lose myself eventually) to the green that seeks to bond with the chlorophyll in my eyes, to the undulating rolls of timeless rockscape (timelessness being an arrogance of nature, of course, true only till roads are carved across its back in an indifferent, rude swathe), to the frolicking of rapids trying to wrest the floaters from my toes clinging on to the last remnants of humanity in a world so utterly wild.

But she is nowhere.

Sometimes, I fly. I soar across the dark to the faintly glimmering starlight. I caress the moon, hoping to distract her from her preoccupation with her pockmarked, ravaged face and focus on the beauty within. I violently let myself slip down vertical channels that run endlessly till I am sick to the stomach of the fluid weightlessness and the burning embers of an angry earth still trying to forgive the trespass. I dive into the shallows of the Great Barrier Reef and the soft pillow down, into reams of impersonal digital print inked hastily, into ice-cold midnight showers burning the welts on my skin in celebration of victories past.

Rarely, I converse. Not so much in words as in glances so disinterested as to stare openly, not so much with friends as with strangers on the underground and the malls I like to frequent. In each conversation, I seek the understanding of my brethren, a pat on the back, a clue. There is delight – perverse, but delight nevertheless – in shared misery, common hopelessness. Their chains, their boredom sets me free, if just for a moment. At times, however, I find a flicker of interest, a slight narrowing of the eyes, the beginnings of a smile, and I cower. I shuffle away, hurriedly, towards the corner the rats inhabit in the hour just before dawn.

She is nowhere. Ever.

It has been like this for many years, Long, far too long. I give up. I need to bring this to an end. Today.

Poison? Sleeping pills? Rope? Knife? Gravity? Car? Does it matter?

I go for the sleeping pills.

* * *

I cannot understand this. There, on the right side of my bed, my left arm outstretched, clutching the bedspread in a last involuntary grip on life, I lay inert. The remnants of my last frothy breath has left a stain on the bed sheet. The bedside lamp is still lit, the ongoing remnant of my last act. The police are here, the grave-looking doctor, the crying relatives, the mildly sympathetic and furiously curious neighbours.

But, I don’t feel dead!

I soar again, plough the weightless depths at breakneck speed. I mingle with the khaki and the stethoscope, I find myself in pockets and hair and armpits. I circle, and swim, and dive till, at last, the ecstasy and the shock passes, and I feel ashamed and stupid and sorry.

I lie down on the stained bed sheet next to myself, and reach out to hold her lifeless hand in mine.

* * *

It lasts a moment. One blinding, excruciating, lovely instant when all the nerve endings I sacrificed tingle in unison, and every sensation I no longer have the right to feel envelops me in a blinding delicious explosion.

In that one moment, I find myself. In that one brief, infinitesimal passage of time, I live.

Then, all of a sudden, I feel a tug. It is a soft pull, almost apologetic, like the suction from a weak hoover. I resist the impulse to resist, to shrink back from what feels like the first chain around my new-found life and freedom.

I am powerless. I know that now. I allow them to drag me away.

* * *

Tears! Oh, those terrible, terrible tears! Those hideous cheerful faces poking at me! That awful sickly hospital smell of the newborn, crying. Only, I know, it’s not the babies crying.

It’s their imprisoned, millennia-old souls weeping for what they know and are about to forget.

Get this goo off me!

* * * * *

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