Monthly Archives: August 2010

Two can play at this game

Look at you, X tells me at the barbeque, laughing and smiling, pretending to be normal. See, two can play at this game, he says, if that’s how you want to play. But I don’t, not really, he says, I want to love and be happy. Talk to me, please, he says, let me in on your laughter.


Thesis, antithesis, synthesis

Walking the streets with X. It’s like walking with someone who keeps pushing you in the wrong direction. Always X and always this third anonymous man between us, or beside us, the more anonymous the more I try to locate him.

Is it the one you’re always mumbling to, X asks, the one you write your little notes to in your little book?

A wall of water

Walking in Brighton with X, always with X. The streets slope sharply down towards the sea so that the sea looks like a wall of water at the bottom. The sea should give me a sense of freedom, says X, but it doesn’t, it’s like a wall, looming over us. We have to get closer, he says, let’s go down this street, we have to get closer so it flattens out, so we can see. I feel like I can’t breathe, he says. This is a free-spirited town, but not for us. Can you feel it, he says, this thing that looms over us? Look at you, he says, looking all calm, smiling at passersby, you don’t fool me, you’re as browbeaten as I am. Talk to me, he says, tell me all about it, there won’t be anything I haven’t felt, get it off your chest. We should talk more, he says, reach out and touch each other like in that old phone ad. No, not like that, he says, ow.

Straight to the source

If only I could get rid of you, X tells me, just wipe you off my mind forever, then I could go straight to the source, the source of life! Then I could drink from a nourishing spring instead of a poisonous one. Isn’t that what you’re thirsting for too, he says, the spring of life?

A noble act

You know that Buddhist saying, X tells me, ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him’. If I met you on the road I’d kill you, he says. Would you kill me? It would be an act of compassion, he says, a noble act!

The point of no return

There’s a point when you almost give up, X tells me, when things have got as bad as they can, from bad to worse and still worse, from worst to worst, when you know you have to give up, when you’ve nothing left but the urge to express that you’ve nothing left, then lose even that, that’s when you reach the point of no return, he says, which was where I started when I started talking to you, the point where I gave up and had to go on.


X tells me he’s spent all day drinking himself into the place where he can think. Slowly. For despite his nerves he’s a slow man, he says, a man whose mind develops slowly but surely, like something ponderous moving through water, finding the right current.

This was my condition

This was my condition when I received the freedom to choose my career. Was I capable of actually using that freedom? Did I have the courage for a true career? My self-regard depended on your opinion; seldom was it otherwise. An outward success could give me courage for a moment, but nothing more, and afterwards my dependency would be all the worse. I never thought I would get through the first year of junior school, but I did, I even got a prize; but the entrance exam for the Gymnasium looked impossible, yet I passed; but then I had to face the first year of the senior school – and so it went, on and on. I gained no confidence, on the contrary, the longer it all lasted the more convinced I was of my ultimate failure – and in your hostile attitude I had my proof. In my mind’s eye I often saw my teachers gathered together and discussing me – discussing how I, the most incompetent and ignorant of all students, had managed to get through the first year, and the second, and the third, and so on; discussing how I had crept from one success to another, and how the Heavens cried out for justice, and what jubilation there would be when it was finally administered. And it wasn’t just at school, in my mind’s eye I have seen this everywhere. Which wasn’t easy for a child to live with – so how could I trouble myself over my lessons? And who under these circumstances could create a spark of interest in me? At that decisive age I could neither attend to my lessons nor anything else; I was like a bank clerk who had committed a fraud, but who still had to continue working, but without any interest in the bank except to avoid discovery. So small, so far was everything from what truly mattered – yet at last I reached the final exam, which I partly swindled my way through, and then I was free. I was free to concentrate on myself, which I had even managed to do under the constraints of the Gymnasium. Thus I had no real choice of career: I knew that everything would still be irrelevant to me, I just had to find something which was compatible with my self-absorption, and also my vanity.

— Kafka, Letter to my Father (tr. H. Colyer)

One thing

I feel like I ever only talk about one thing, says X. I seem always to be circling around one thing. Or it’s circling around me, like a vulture.

The judgement is coming

I worked hard, he says, I did my best, I think. My conscience should be clear, but it’s not, it never is, why is that? The judgement is coming, he says, the terrible sword is being lowered, but slowly, infinitely slowly.