The Hole

You’d lie in bed thinking of ways to die. So this is what it comes to, you thought, you must be ill. Almost a relief, you thought, to be ill, indisputably ill. Ill. You repeated the word as you imagined ways to die. This is what it comes to, you thought, something in me is ill and it’s taken me over and when that happens this is what happens, this is what it comes to. It’s indisputable, just look. Ill in a dark room. Almost a relief, to have only one thought, one sincere wish. Ill, you must be ill. Almost easier, you thought, now that I’m cornered, really cornered. Easier to be taken out of yourself, out of all fakeness, to be ill, indisputably ill. It’s an illness, you see, I’m ill. There’s the death drive and there’s the life force and the life force is weak, the life force is dying, it’s turned into the death drive because I’m ill and now they’ll know I wasn’t lying because all I want is to die and that’s because I’m ill, do you see, I’m ill and I’ve always been ill, more or less ill, this is what it comes down to, it’s logic, pure logic. Ill. The illness has grown inside me, fed on me and now it’s come to this, now it’s ready, death is ready, death has ripened in me. It’s invisible, the illness, it’s grown in the dark, in obscurity, but now you can see the fruit of its work, of its growth, you thought I was lying, now you have to see I wasn’t, soon you’ll see. It grows in the dark until it comes to this and look at me now, full of the will to death, full of the opposite of will, this is what it looks like, now do you see it? It’s an illness, there’s a name for it.

*

Almost a relief that it was here, that it had taken you, indisputably, that they were wrong and you were right. See for yourself, you thought. Ill. Can you see it? Almost, you can almost see it. It’s indisputable, just look at me, lying in bed thinking of ways to die.

*

It came down to a basic struggle between life and death, didn’t it? You felt out of control, or controlled by something beyond your control. Something in you was trying to kill you, something else was trying to live. You were given over at last, taken out of all pretence, it was almost a relief.

*

You couldn’t read, you could hardly think properly, it was as if you were being dismantled from within. You didn’t know which direction to go, as if your will had been taken away. A hole was how you described it to yourself, wasn’t it? Like dropping into a hole and not being able to look up.

*

It was the first thought you woke up to at night. It seemed perfect and logical. Almost comforting. You narrowed it down to a train or a truck, though you disliked the idea of implicating others. In any case you were a coward, and you often pictured yourself holding back at the last moment, your life as a hesitation before death.

*

You took walks and train rides, scouting for ways and places to do it, toying with it. You decided on a train. You’d get off at a rural station, walk across the rolling fields with an eye on your watch, find a suitable place by a cluster of trees and wait. You’d have what they’d need in your bag, which you’d leave by the tracks. Sweet dream… What were you playing at? Whose will was this?

*

You’ve run out of options, said the voice, what’s holding you back but your own cowardice? You can’t live and you can’t die, you’re beyond useless. You couldn’t make it work before and you can’t even make this work. You’d get that floating feeling of terror and aloneness and you’d cling to your useless life and go home to your regrets with your tail between your legs. You’ve got nothing left but me but you can’t even listen to me. How will this end for you, have you ever thought about that? Are you even capable of thinking about it? No, you’re not, that’s why you need me. Are you starting to see? But you can’t even listen to me, you can’t even do that right. Your whole useless life has come down to this and will keep coming down to this and you know it. There’s nothing for it, said the voice, you know you’ve run out of options. You didn’t have a lot to start with, and the ones you had you squandered and now you’ve run out. And the longer you live the stronger I’ll grow. Listen to me…

*

It was as if something in you took all that was new and made it old as soon as you saw it, as if things died before they grew.

*

You’d lie in bed all morning daydreaming of a sudden fatal accident. A crash, a fall, a meteor. Something that would take you at a stroke, since you were too weak to give yourself over either to death or life. In daydreams everything was possible if unsatisfactory. But it seemed less unsatisfactory to dream of dying than living. Almost comforting.

*

In the days that followed the worst of it you felt as if you were floating above the hole, which remained below you, ready for you to drop back down at the least disturbance. Your words meant next to nothing, they were themselves part of the air, a congregation of vapours.

*

One day you drew a line that meant stop and stepped across it. You moved the line every day. It was a simple question of life or death, a simple question for once! Going forward would mean to renew the ties to life, going back would be to feel the pull of death. As usual the voice was close, opening its mouth to tell you to listen, to tell you you didn’t even know how to listen.

*

You picked a place to move to. You’d move to the other side of the country, from one coast to another. Or you’d move to another country, with other coasts, other horizons. You made plans to keep you busy until you made other plans. It was a question of having a plan and staying busy.

*

But sometimes a small shift seemed to change everything and the effect was simple, like a light turning on in a room. You’d turn your head and see something that had been there all along. Then the light would turn off. Then someone else would come along.

-