The boy fell asleep on the couch, reading. He loves to read, loves to learn – and loves the idea of finishing books. How terrible, he thinks, that last habit is. So vain and lacking any soul of itself. As soon as he moved over to the bed, to take a nap proper, he couldn’t sleep.
Thinking about life, thinking about the afternoon. He did well. Maybe meeting her wasn’t ideal since he’d seen her only Wednesday, but at least he wasn’t emotionally involved today. The coolness, he admits, wasn’t all his credit to take. It’s also the culmination of long nights gaming, writing, smoking, drinking. “Should I be alarmed, that I feel hungover after two beers, just a night after finishing off a third of a whiskey bottle?” He does, yet, after not being able to sleep when he wants to the next move is a beer. A drink and writing. A drink, then worrying. Then honesty. Then ashè, the will to make things happen.
Most of the time, writing comes to him when it’s late and he’s in despair. Close friends tell him, “you can write”, but he shrugs it off. Secretly flattered, secretly terrified that there is some tank of inspiration that he’s in the process of depleting. He’s only written from the comfort of drunk despair. He’s only put to paper an expression of his feelings when the world didn’t listen. Or rather, didn’t play along with his expectations. Victim writing, the worst kind.
So it’s a mix of pride without knowing the hardship of work, and wondering if the hardship of writing as work will fall upon him.
Sometimes it’s because there’s nothing else to do that makes him write. That, and the fact that it’s always a legitimate excuse to drink. “God, who have I become, a drunk?” It’s laughable, for either he’s right and he should be laughing at the road of demise ahead, or he’s far away – then the laugh should be aimed at his cowardice. This is also his struggle, in many ways. The lack of understanding where he falls, in the grand spectrum of things. Is he lazy like he is in his father’s eyes of the highest expectations? Or is ‘laziness’ that façade he needs to tear down by being ‘lazy’? The latter is certainly more appealing, but the road is terrifying. The former, merely continued torture for a better tomorrow.
He doesn’t believe in Utopia, whether it’s his own or the world’s. Things can get better, but ideals, ideals are ideals for a reason. It’s also a spectrum of possibilities that he fights. Countless what ifs, only to be met with the blindness and stubbornness of AN ideal. So here he sits, in a complex house of illogical cards. He knows that it’s a bit too complicated, but if he were to not believe the complicated structures around him, he’d be homeless. He knows the rooms are not in order, that there are hallways he’s too scared to explore. Sometimes, he tries to follow a thread of the structure, but seldom he ends up finding out where it came from, or why it’s there.
It’s as if the house doesn’t want him to know how it’s all connected. Or perhaps, one can never fully grasp that, as settler-crab in a borrowed shell.
People give him meaning. People, and the empathy he feels for them. The glory of respect, adulation, infatuation. The glory of ‘getting to people’. These days, he’s fighting that too. It’s ironic because fighting is something he’s avoided, but when he takes a step back, he realizes it’s all he’s done so far. Perhaps the difference is, being a mercenary of love makes this an acceptable, forgettable role, while fighting for oneself requires an inner General?
He starts to wonder, “Who exactly IS that General? And what does he want? And, who does he fight? Where’s his glory? Where are his acres and his monies that make the fight worthwhile in the first place?”
For now, the General is occupied with fighting a battle for Nubian rewards. “If only I remembered the word for it?”, is what the General ponders.
Suddenly, a boy appears and starts asking, “Is this a battle for someone else? How do I know you are truly our General? For without her, what’s the battle to be fought? For without her, who am I?” The General takes a glimpse at the boy, and curtly replies, “No battle without an enemy, ever. The fight you’re fighting is your chance to hone your skills in combat. For there’s always an enemy.”
The boy’s confused, and starts wondering out loud,” What’s the meaning of fighting eternally? Isn’t it that peace shall follow war? And if so, aren’t there some wars to be fought for peace, but others to cease?”
The General sees the confusion in his eyes, sees the circularity of his thoughts, and the vainness of wasted thoughts. He belittles, “You’re thinking of winning. You’re not thinking of fighting. Don’t be a sissy. Don’t fight for fucking glory, fight for the gory mess of experience.”
The boy hears it, he does. It doesn’t stop his worries. Doesn’t stop him, like a two-dimensional roach forever doomed to roam on two-dimensional kitchen tiles.
The General decides that to tell a story –
“You are a boy, and a boy you will become again. One man understood this once, and set himself free.”
This is the story of Burdan.
Born in the mountains, to parents who cared but didn’t know how to, he grew up without a north star, only with his fears and his attempts to please society. He knew that as long as people didn’t hate him, didn’t dislike him, he’d be okay. He knew that this was not always in accordance with what he wanted, but that’s a bargain any kid with too much of a sense would take. He was hard on himself because he believed he had to be. He believed that he was already losing, so he must maintain as much as possible. He became obsessed with failing his own ideal, with him not living up to expectations set by him, but really by all others. Burdan didn’t mind. It gave him purpose. Sometimes he’d succeed, and feel a million bucks. Whenever he didn’t, it was routine to not live up to the standards anyhow. Deep down, Burdan still knew that something was off, something was in dissonance. These thoughts always remained secret, only to be thought and felt when he was sure no one could hear. Burdan thought that he sometimes cried all this out loud, but after years of practice of pleasing and fulfilling the dreams of others, he’d forgotten to scream with his own voice.
So, all his adolescent life, he’d been fighting. Fighting to not stand out, fighting to be fit, fighting to fulfill his own dreams of high social standings. Fighting for the recognition and words of affirmation from his father, fighting to be left to his own fight by his parents. One night, Burdan had a dream. ‘A deep purple dungeon, overgrown with moss and lit only fleetingly. He’s in a cell, in shackles, not being able to stand more than a foot away from the cold, slimy walls. All that’s on his mind are his shackles. He fights them by pulling on them, smacking them against the squares of stone, his temporary home. Burdan thinks, “There’s no point in fighting this, it’s futile.” But he also knows that no story ever ended there, only reality. No one is there to tell him why he’s in shackles, or if he’ll ever get out. Or how he’d get out. So, he starts thinking to himself, “Perhaps I put myself here in the first place?” He feels pity, he feels loneliness. But then, a new thought arises from his gut – “if no one’s put me here, I don’t have to be here”.
And suddenly, the shackles fall off, and –
the boy was is in his dream no more.