Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Treat me like a fool"

When you have been lonely for a long time, you ask yourself, am I just clinging on to whatever, whoever passes by, yet I think I want to know the people I know and I feel they are not just passing conveniences because I would not trade them.

At the start of another long hot day in someone else's office in someone else's house, I am staring at his map of western Asia and I know my brain is memorising the shape of Kazakhstan and what good will that ever do me?

It's easy to ask what good anything I do will ever do me, as though the purpose of my life was to do me good and not just to feel good about what I am doing. Maybe it is not even something I do; maybe it really is something that just happens to me -- and how good or bad it will be depends on how I am about it. Right now I am okay.

I know what you are thinking though. If you are lonely, make friends. But it's not easy to push yourself beyond your boundaries when you are unsure that there is anything worthwhile to project. Twice recently I have been reminded that I am not interesting enough for people to want to know. Two old friends -- one an acquaintance to put it more accurately, but the other an old friend who I met up with in the UK when I went there -- wrote to me and I wrote back, excited and I thought conveying that excitement. Neither replied. This happens to me a lot. I know it's not a big deal. People have lives that I am barely a tiny part of. Even people who I don't think have much of a life still have a day to day that doesn't include me. But what you know and what you feel are not always in alignment.

I am constituted to go with what I feel. I couldn't change that because it's what I consist in. If I did change it, what would I be like? Would I "fulfil my potential"? Or would I simply become more coldly calculating? Would I be happier if I knew the answers, or knew how to pursue them? I know I am capable of feeling my way to happiness -- I know that with a certainty that is diamond hard because I do feel it sometmes and I know why -- but can I reason my way into it?

I sometimes wonder whether I have constructed myself this way to avoid hard answers, to make wrongness right. What I mean is, if you do wrong, you may hold yourself up to moral inquisition and blame. But if you say, I just felt it was right, you can excuse yourself. I have been trying to unravel where I have done that, not because I want to beat myself up for wasting my life and opportunities but because I don't want to continue to do it.


When I was, I think I was 14, I had a crush on a girl called Sally. She seemed special to me -- mostly special to look at because I didn't know her to talk to. I would watch from the window of my class as she walked to her class. She had a dignity of carriage that I still find incredibly attractive in women -- it is one of the things about K that attracted me, a certainty that she was worthwhile that she expressed in how she bore herself -- and she was pretty. I believed that I would be a good boyfriend for her: I did not think anything of my looks, although in fact, looking back at my pictures, I was handsome enough, but I was sensitive and kind, and I was sure that away from the playground I could listen to what she had to say and find good things to say to her. I wrote poetry about her, about my unrequited love and my dreams of walking hand in hand with her, or whatever I dreamed of. (Then, as now, I saw the person I loved as someone I wanted to hold gently, rather than someone I wanted to have sex with, although of course I was old enough to think of women in that way. She seemed too nice to think of like that.) In any case, one morning I found reserves of courage that I did not know I had and asked her out. She turned me down flat. She may even have laughed at the idea, I don't remember, but certainly she was scornful. I had to wait till lunchtime to be able to find somewhere private where I could cry.

I felt a bitter injustice. I knew I could be right for her and I had no way to show it. She had disallowed something good that I had to offer. And worse, she did it unkindly. After that, I no longer watched her from the window, I no longer wrote poetry about her (although I still have the poetry I did write) and I tried to still my thoughts about her.

But I do believe that my world should be just. I don't know why, but I do. I believed it then and I believe it now, even though I am perfectly aware it is irrational to think so. I could not credit that someone I had thought so wonderful could be cruel, so I rationalised the injustice away. I came to believe that she had chosen correctly, that I was not worth going out with, that I was too ugly, too boring, too vapid. It never occurred to me that it could simply be that some strange boy, who she had no awareness of, had approached her out of the blue and taken her unawares. Tell my heart that! It won't listen. And anyway, I was not wrong. I would have been a good boyfriend for her or anyone, and when later I had girlfriends, I was good for them. The injustice was the world's, in that it equipped me poorly in means to show her that I was the right choice, or mine, in that I expected a world that does not care to care about me, to nurture me, to not let me be lonely or unhappy, because I am still that gentle boy looking out of the window yearning and I don't know how not to be.


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