The battleground

Today I woke up very early, with a sudden a confused start, and I slowly got out of bed, suffocating from an inexplicable tedium. No dream had caused it; no reality could have created it. It was a complete and absolute tedium, but founded on something. The obscure depths of my soul had been the battleground where unknown forces had invisibly waged war, and I shook all over from the hidden conflict. A physical nausea, prompted by all of life, was born in the moment I woke up. A horror at the prospect of having to live got up with me out of bed. Everything seemed hollow, and I had the chilling impression that there is no solution for whatever the problem may be.
   An extreme nervousness made my slightest gestures tremble. I was afraid I might go mad — not from insanity but from simply being there. My body was a latent shout. My heart pounded as if it were talking.
   Taking wide, false steps that I vainly tried to take differently, I walked barefoot across the short length of the room and diagonally through the emptiness of the inner room, where in a corner there’s a door to the hallway. With jerky and incoherent movements, I hit the brushes on top of the dresser, I knocked a chair out of place, and at a certain point my swinging hand struck one of the hard iron posts of my English bed. I lit a cigarette, which I smoked subconsciously, and only when I saw that ashes had fallen on the headboard — how, if I hadn’t leaned against it? — did I understand that I was possessed, or something of the sort, in fact if not in name, and that my normal, everyday self-awareness had intermingled with the abyss.
   I received the announcement of morning — the cold faint light that confers a vague whitish blue on the unveiled horizon — like a grateful kiss from creation. Because this light, this true day, freed me — freed me from I don’t know what. It gave an arm to my as-yet-unrevealed old age, it cuddled my false childhood, it helped my overwrought sensibility find the repose it was desperately begging for.
   Ah, what a morning this is, awakening me to life’s stupidity, and to its great tenderness! I almost cry when I see the old narrow street come into view down below, and when the shutters of the corner grocer reveal their dirty brown in the slowly growing light, my heart is soothed, as if by a real-life fairy tale, and it begins to have the security of not feeling itself.
   What a morning this grief is! And what shadows are retreating? What mysteries have taken place? None. There’s just the sound of the first tram, like a match to light up the soul’s darkness, and the loud steps of my first pedestrian, which are concrete reality telling me in a friendly voice not to be this way.

— Pessoa , The Book of Disquiet (trans. R. Zenith)

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