X Marks the Spot

I once tried, as a teenager, to fellate myself (I was centimetres away, just as I am always a few lexemes away from what I want to say). No other male has told me they did this but I suspect many adolescents try (in the spirit of adventure) and fail (a downside of being upright). Like so much of what I want to know, the National Bureau for Statistics does not have any information on the subject. I was, naturally, jealous of the ease with which my dog diligently licked away at his penis (with a slurping, end-of-milkshake intensity). Some pet owners are embarrassed by their dogs licking their “private parts” (much less the way they gleefully sniff every new anus they meet). My mother, for one, de-dogged my poor dog by systematically castigating him for being a dog. Maybe I was a dog in a previous life. Maybe that is why my tail wags so hard at anything remotely exciting. I only know that, strictly speaking, I am not human. I am nature: behind the pulpy façade, the mushy mien, anything goes.

There was no plan. So nothing went to plan. There was only an accidental man. With a wagging tongue and a fondness for sniffing petally objects emitting base notes. Being generically human is hard. Having the skeleton keys to the universe jangle about in your brain all day long (but not knowing how to use them) is maddening. Having to be a lottery-drawn individual is deadly.

I am a cluster of loosely allied cells and contradictory impulses. I am far, unfathomably far, from being the united front expected of face, voice, accent, occupation, gender.

I am, analogously, Africa, in all its historic complexity, America, in its self-destructive obsession with self-affirmation, Europe, in its languorous, disingenuous, cynical, brutal, magnificent, eternal decline. Sadly, I am only a tad Asia. But given how beautiful I find Asian women, and how much I admire mountain-dwelling monks, that could change.

No wonder children instinctively like playing in mud; they want to return to the amorphous bosom of the sludge of antecedence.

If there is one thing certain to unite my cells in clenched, defensive horror, it is when someone starts to tell a joke. Homo erectus invented the joke, which is thought to have contributed to their eventual extinction. But before they died out (from nervous overexcitement?) they passed on the joke to the Neanderthals, who then smuggled it into Europe.

Did you hear about the dyslexic, agnostic insomniac?

He stayed up all night wondering if there was a dog.

My cells do not constitute a self because my brain rejects the idea of selfhood (don’t get me started on knighthoods). Selfhood is a luxurious illusion, a work in constant progress or, in canine parlance, a tail to run after in circles.

My mother once got angry with me for pointing out the similarities between ants and people.

“Don’t be ridiculous! An ant could never write a poem or compose a symphony!”

That was my mother’s default argument for the supremacy of humans over other animals. My mother’s fortissimo defence of humans was a reflexive reaction, from a defensive position, a line so entrenched it descended into warfare; words whizzed, exclamations exploded, lulls sighed. It was a lifelong struggle that she lost; her soul will be laden with the baggage of her illusions when she departs this world.

I do not mean to sound cruel (Exhibit X – a text from J: “I miss you, loveliest man.”). But I did not ask to be born. Families are incubators for every complex, illusion and delusion under the sun. Change the model, follow the spoor of your real feelings, spare future generations the déjà vu of needless suffering.

In my time on earth, I have never met a wise person. I have sniffed the oral orifices of countless smart, shrewd, knowledgeable, erudite and (admirably) logical people. I have read and heard snippets of wisdom. But someone left the tap running.

Not for a nanosecond do I suggest I am wise. Action-wise, I am a first class idiot, a tail-wagging dog, a haunted fog aimlessly drifting around. That said, I have no wish to join the cult of humanity (or any of its myriad sub-cults, except, as a last resort, lit-er-a-ture).

Just as our uprightness is pivoted on a disc the size of a coin, humanity is pivoted on a tiny little “but”. There can be no affirmation without a negation somewhere down the line (a potentially deadly ratiocination in these hyperbolic, inflammatory times).

Affirmation is the stuff of selfhood, the psychic mortar holding it together (it often camouflages itself as negation). It is how the herd of humanity distinguishes itself, like the branding of sheep, one from another (in my case brother from brother).

It is disgusting, the ways which. The telling silences, the furtive glances. The knocked-up pauses, the barbed clauses. Fire up the kiln, bake a plaque. Placate the suspicion that there is no greatness, no individuality, no self beyond the platitudinous sludge you dredge up from the depths of your lowly being.

I will side with the dogs, run with them, get excited over nothing with them. Here is a moment that sums up my life. Before writing the last few passages, I took a break to splash water on my face, make tea (after three cups of coffee), pace around. I took the teabag, dangling on a string, and held it over the bin, a plastic bag, stretched open, on the floor. The teabag swung. A few drops came off it. I waited for its pendular motion to steady, to stop, perfectly aligned to drop straight into the bag. I let go. It felt like the teabag fell from a great height, like a body from a skyscraper. It landed with a satisfying thud. I swayed, a towering edifice, from excitement. Wow, I said, patetico, to no one in particular.

 

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