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I wish I hadn’t been made this way, I wish I perceived a little less, less of everything, in fact—it would make things easier. But doesn’t each of us feel there’s something fundamentally wrong with us, something we devise ways to hide from the world, that sets us apart from everyone else, because everyone else seems quite “normal,” while we, glaringly, are not? There are days I wake up from confused dreams that in their very shifting shapelessness seem to hit the nail right on the head, to encapsulate the peculiar awfulness of me, the unique wrongness of everything about me, everything I’ve ever thought and felt since childhood, from the very moment of my birth and even further back than that, who knows. The peculiar awfulness that only I really know in full, that others catch a glimpse of now and again and more often than not keep to themselves, that peeks out on occasion but that I otherwise succeed in concealing, more or less (unless I am the victim of a colossal illusion), the awful private awfulness of thinking my thoughts and remembering my memories and, in general, being forced to be me, for an entire lifetime. But who hasn’t felt this?

You haven’t? Then you haven’t looked hard enough, dived deep enough. An entire treasure trove of infamy awaits you, my love. We have the Oedipus Complex, the Electra Complex, and if neither of those fit quite right we have the Messianic Complex, the Inferiority Complex, the Ego Complex. Take your pick! There’s the widely popular Guilt Complex, there’s even a Complex of Non-Love to Oneself. Personally, I am drawn to the Cassandra Complex, in which the subject suffers disproportionately from the grief, ignorance, and transgressions of others, but perhaps I am suffering from Grandiosity, who knows. We can certainly tailor a new one just for you, if need be.

But who cares about all that, and anyway, don’t they get it all wrong, these professionals of the private mind, of the human malaise, these self-appointed experts with their own dirty little neuroses and the clever little ways they keep them carefully under wraps. They have taken the poetry out of melancholy, the painful beauty out of lost love, the aching, eternal truth out of grief. Their mission is to level the very excesses of emotion that make us human, to medicate them straight out of us. I say give me your odd and idiosyncratic, give me the irrational impulses with which you hoard your pearl-like truths, give me your longing to die one day and your exuberant, brilliant joy the next. Meet me in that unnamable place where you’ve lost your coordinates, or your will to live, where you fail to uphold the veneer, to play the game, where you stumble over your good manners and blurt something out that is embarrassing for what it reveals. Where your adult voice is unexpectedly, disturbingly usurped by an adolescent fury and frustration, where your nerves are raw and your feelings have run haywire. This is the dungeon where our unprotected selves will make love; this is where we will inhale the sulphurous breath of a dragon we will never slay—before we rise to escape to a beautiful, new freedom.

chaussures

 

You ask me if it really happened that way. If it was really like that. Don’t we all live in our own reality? In V.’s mind, no provision had been made for me to tag along; he’d imagined picking a trinket up along the way, hailing a cab, and that would be the end of that. He hadn’t anticipated that I’d come along for the walk, and then for the taxi ride, babbling as we hurried down the street because I felt happier than I’d felt in a long time—loved, even. In the taxi I grew silent; I stared out the window, trying to commit to memory the cars and trucks and storefronts and endless people blurring by like a smeared painting. I sank down in my seat and leaned into him. He wanted me to sit upright, to keep a distance—I could sense that—but as often happens when I register information too jarring to process, too contradictory to my emotional needs, I packed it away and saved it for a later time. For V., no doubt, it was all too much, too many conflicting states: the reality of the hotel room, and now the far more urgent reality of heading home. This was not his usual way of operating. I was leaning into a man I longed to lean into, leaning into him as though he could hold me up somehow. But he was already negotiating the leap back into his life; he would soon make a clean break and let me fall.

Its elegantly articulated lines, with a hint of casual confidence, caught the eye of personalities ranging from the Duke of Windsor to Marcello Mastroianni. I wonder if you’re making any progress on your translation. You’ve taken an absurd amount of time to render a mediocre advertising text into German; your sense of self-respect requires that you improve it, your intellect that you verify its claims, your business acumen that you analyze the degree to which the language speaks to its target group, your experience in international finance to assess future prospects and risks. You have immersed yourself in the world of luxury shoes, where the words “insolent” and “audacious” evoke the theatrics of the boardroom, of big money. You are incubating, preparing yourself for reentering the professional world: creative and bold, perennially in vogue, the superlative reference in … But will it change you, turn you into one of them? You once told me that you thought you were being punished in advance for some wrong you would have inevitably committed, had you continued in what you were doing. There are ethical repercussions to everything, but they are considered irrelevant if they do not impact the home team: repercussions of trade negotiations, of pharmaceutical research, of moving other people’s money around, of eating meat. I read about the development of weapons robots the other day; horrified to the very fabric of her soul, a Nobel laureate had spoken out against them, but then a researcher proceeded to turn her argument around, stressing the need to implement technology to help combatants abide by the “ethical” rules of war. When putting an innovation into practice, given a choice between the most beneficial application to mankind and the most destructive, humanity invariably chooses the most destructive. But although history has demonstrated this, the ongoing idiocy of “positive thinking” is still, bafflingly, not yet apparent to all.