Writing is a form of escape. Gather as much material as you can (scraps of facts, political tracts, etc.), tie the words into a length of knotty matter, lower it (out of your ocular windows), shinny on down, flee to a fleeting feeling of discarnate freedom.
The mantra of freedom monotonously resounds throughout history. It is won, lost and won again as ideals morph and cellular standards become progressively comfier, yet there is always something ‘holding us back’, ‘keeping us down, ‘getting in the way’. For Trump and his despicable ilk, it is the state. For H, it is his crippling mortgage, a 25-year sentence with no hope of parole or early release. For me, it is a hypersensitivity that makes life unbearably intense (I perceive a gloomy grey sky as a blinding light – imagine how I feel about an azure sky).
None of us is free. The freest a person can be (by one measure) is to be wholly self-sufficient. But few have the necessary knowledge, skills, and resilience to go it alone. This romanticised ideal of picket-fenced exile is the last place of refuge for the disillusioned romantic. It is understandable – society is a compromise so great that it reduces most individuals to a pale version of themselves. But we can only exist (or more likely subsist) in solitude; language demands an audience, an interlocutor, a sounding-board. Without others we dissipate into the world around us, which sounds like a beautiful prospect, but it is not for those who live (and daily die) by the word.
I also feel a pang of jealousy towards mountain-dwelling monks who, after years of training their minds, can relinquish their egos and spectrally float through consciousness to reach states of mind that I can only occasionally glimpse and then for only a second or two. What-can-you-do; I am a sickly child of the west, of England no less, a country as poor as it gets when it comes to staying cool, calm and collected (an overcompensation, perhaps, for the extreme emotional repression of the past two centuries). No, I will not attempt to transcend my cell or make myself well; I consider my misery the by-product of a historic process (psychic sludge, emotional slag), as well as the inevitable cost of consciousness.
If I could transcend one thing it would be to overcome the seven-day structure of time to which I am yoked. Today is Monday, meaning yet another marathon crawl (on all fours by midweek) to reach Friday, so that I may feel relatively free for a time, and try to forget the latest Gloomy Monday, Black Tuesday, Bloody Wednesday and End-of-Days Thursday.
This weekend, like most, was as lovely as they come. J and I were unusually productive; we spring-cleaned my apartment (perhaps inspired by the unusual level of buzz in the city), painted a door and surrounding jambs, painted a window recess and strangely elegant metal grill (fidgety work) so that my gaze can egress with greater clarity. When J left at 7pm on Sunday evening I got into bed and watched two films in a row to avoid the precipitous feeling over which my feet were dangling.
One film – The Young Offenders – was so enjoyable that I momentarily forgot my misery and laughed out loud several times. It was about as perfect as a comedy gets thanks to the two young leads (moving effortlessly between punchy black humour and genuine good-naturedness). In one scene we see how one of the boys loses his father. A builder, he pauses to smoke beneath the eaves of the house he is working on. His co-worker is above him fixing the roof. The man puts his hammer aside, which slides off the asphalt shingle and strikes the boy’s father on the head; he instantaneously drops dead. Perhaps to the idle hammer, the man looked like a giant nail. Either way, what a great way to go: a coup de grâce from above. It reminded me of a film I watched on Channel 4 many years ago called A Hungarian Fairy Tale. I remember nothing about the film except that it was black and white and that a woman dies when a brick drops on her head after a pigeon dislodges it from a roof (the building is old, the masonry crumbling). I was struck by how suddenly the woman died, one moment happily walking along, the next dropping dead in a heap of statistical improbability. That film was the birth of my obsession with freak deaths delivered from above, whether in the form of icicles, masonry, hammers or divine blows.
H and I share a love of Hungarian film, such as Béla Tarr’s misery-mining Damnation or time-transcending Satantango (it runs at over 7 hours). One summer evening J showed me a film set in Hungary on the terrace of her summerhouse; she had seen it when she was young and it had made a deep impression on her. Gloomy Sunday is a fictional account of the creation of the eponymous song, otherwise known as the Hungarian Suicide Song because of the urban legend that grew around it (the song was blamed for a rash of suicides in Hungary and the USA). It is a terrible film (J was young) but compellingly so; she offered to turn it off but I had to see it through to its trite finale. It didn’t hurt that the main actress possessed, if that is the word for it, the most beautiful pair of breasts I had ever seen. I do not mean to be breastist: all breasts are beautiful but we must be allowed our aesthetic preferences. Happily, they were good, noble and patriotic breasts. Although they allowed themselves to be enjoyed by an evil Nazi officer during the German occupation (the film was a German-Hungarian co-production), they did so for the greater good.
Today is a remarkably Gloomy Monday. I sit by my newly painted window, looking through the (disconcertingly) clean glass, on rain streaming out of a makeshift gutter, at the earth slowly transitioning to spring (the grimometer is high – 9 out of 10). As a veteran of life, I know how to pace myself, to ration the misery, to hold out until the weekend. But as I take my daily constitutional, the democratic majority of me (51%) would probably welcome some surprise love from above.