For my old friend, H

I went OUT last night. And I even ENJOYED it. Sorry, I have to get the new MAIL-forged reality out of my moderately hung-over HEAD. This text will mainly be about K, via YOU and me.

First, YOU. Consider this text a fragmentary novel. Language is fiction as far as I am concerned. Every subjective utterance you make sacrifices the thing at stake. To say “I love you”, for example, is to kill “I love you.” It thereafter becomes I-love-you, infinitesimally diminishing in value with each reiteration.

Please don’t read these texts (I still can’t bring myself to say the B-word) if you don’t really understand what is going on here. This is all disconcertingly, sleep-stymyingly strange. It is like writing a novel in public view, in real time, and being able to gauge people’s reactions to it. Yes, I am a sucker, I look at the STATS. So you in the UAE, UK, Slovakia, Germany, Denmark: look away. I know you are only reading this out of mild boredom and curiosity. This is an exercise in far more than fiction. This is a challenge, a good-old-fashioned quest: can a text find its real readers in the abysmal depths of cyberspace without deliberately drawing attention to itself?

Yesterday I watched a thriller about Jesus. I like to watch the pretty moving pictures, they soothe sad, exhausted brain. The film was riveting, I have to say, and surprisingly tasteful. I was even tearful during the Last Supper. It was such a humble little spread, not at all like the lavish feast depicted in Renaissance art. And I was blubbering by the time Jesus healed the leper for the simple reason that I have always felt a bit, a soupçon, truputi, chut-chut of a leper. BUT the Ascension was a bit much for me and I did look away in SHAME at the special effects.

It occurred to me that Jesus started out with 12 disciples (the ultimate definition of faith – is there a symbolic meaning to the number 12 that I’m not getting?). In our ridiculous meta times, that would translate as 12 LIKES. My humble little text, which has nothing to do with nothing, started out with a mere 3 VIEWS: me, J and K. But before K, I must mention M…

I liked how Jesus looked in the film. I wanted to lean towards him and weep repentantly into the rectangular bosom of my laptop screen. (In an earlier text I mentioned that Jesus looks over me in my toilet. This is probably coincidence but my stool has never been better.) My friend M looks uncannily like the classic Western depiction of Jesus. It is the first thing most people notice about him. Once he had been drunkenly wandering around the forested outskirts of Vilnius all night (7 or 8 hours by his reckoning) when a car stopped to give him a lift to wherever he wanted to go. “I’m only doing this because you look so much like Jesus,” the driver said.

Every weekend, me, J and K defy and defer reality through vodka, White Russians, potato pancakes, humour, music, dancing, weeping, ranting, cooking, watching films, walking, and, above all, TALKING.

M often joins us. He is very fond of us and we are very fond of him. But he told me recently that he wouldn’t like to be a member of our “club”. I nodded understandingly. As Americans say, I GET it. Why? Because we are too sad for him. M grew up in a group. Sadness was antisocial. It brought down the communal mood. It was the proverbial leprosy. K and I (not J), on the contrary, are solitary and profoundly sad creatures. It is why we are so glad to be together each weekend.

K is very young. She is roughly half my age. But she is truly an old soul (goddam I love that expression). K wants nothing more than to die. J and I do everything to keep her alive. The hope is that our drunken, joyful weekends will form an abiding, abstractly happy memory for her. That they will combine into a tenuous reason to live: the hope of happiness. I have never met another human emotionally closer to me than K. It is terrifying at times. I grew up with people forever asking me “What’s wrong?” or mindlessly urging me to “Cheer up!”. K is not depressed or ill. There is nothing wrong with her. Her sadness is elemental. To me, it is a thoroughly reasonable reaction to the world and the history that has shaped it. K is for kindness. That young woman would put most Christians to shame. Wherever there is spiteful gossip, and there is always spiteful gossip, she jumps into the fray of it to defend the poor person being maligned. The word “empathy” is a bit overused these days to denote kindness, to signify an ability to feel what others feel. I think part of K’s suffering is that her empathy is, as Americans say, off the charts.

J is by far the most normal of us. I like to think that K looks up to J. But our weekends sometimes get out of hand. It is inevitable when a week’s worth of pent-up sadness, frustration and disillusionment is added to the voluminous cocktail. K storms off. I start ranting about how no one appreciates my writing. J just gets sad or panics about the future. So one weekend I was Man of Action. Over potato pancakes at our favourite restaurant in Vilnius, I suggested we draw up a charter that would lay down the rules for our (drunken) conduct and behaviour. This is what we came up with (on some flimsy napkins):

  • WE HAVE THE INALIENABLE RIGHT TO BE LEFT ALONE BUT ALSO TO SECRETLY CRAVE ATTENTION. IT IS UPON THE OTHER TWO TO JUDICIOUSLY DETERMINE WHICH IS THE CASE. IN SUCH CASES, A 2-PERSON COUNCIL SHOULD BE FORMED TO ARBITRATE OVER SUCH MATTERS
  • NO ONE SHOULD FEEL PRESSURED TO CONSUME ALCOHOL IF IT GOES AGAINST THEIR GENUINE WISHES.
  • DRUNKEN RANTING IS TO BE CONSIDERED AS SUCH AND NOT TAKEN AS PERSONAL INSULT. THE RANTER IS PERMITTED 1 HOUR PER EVENING OF RANTING. IF THAT LIMIT IS EXCEEDED, PUNITIVE MEASURES CAN BE APPLIED.
  • SULKING IS PERMISSIBLE BUT MUST BE PROPORTIONATE TO THE CAUSE AND CONSEQUENT COUNTER-MEASURES.
  • X’s REDACTED MUST BE RESPECTED AT ALL TIMES.
  • ALL PARTIES MUST RECEIVE AT LEAST ONE COMPLIMENT PER SESSION.
  • IN TIMES OF CONFUSION, CRISIS AND HUNGER, A MAN OR WOMAN OF ACTION SHALL BE APPOINTED EITHER VOLUNTARILY OR BY MAJORITY DECISION.
  • IN CONSIDERATION OF THE FACT THAT J IS THE LEAST DRAMATIC PARTY, SHE IS PERMITTED UP TO TWO HOURS OF UNSOCIABILITY PER SESSION AND IS ALLOWED TO ACT OUT OF CHARACTER.
  • COOKING RESPONSIBILITIES MUST BE SHARED EQUALLY UNLESS ONE PARTY VOLUNTEERS OTHERWISE.
  • REDACTED IS AND ISN’T PERMISSIBLE.
  • RETARDATION IS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT EXCEPT WHEN IT IS OVERRULED BY MAJORITY DECISION.

It lacks the gravitas of the Magna Carta or the eloquence of the American Bill of Rights, but at least we put some napkins to good use. And now, if you will excuse me, I have to go make a votive offering to Jesus. Hopefully I will see you again on the other side of the weekend…