We drift upon this river called time eyes open, ears listening, fingers grasping, without ever a clue as to what we wish to see, hear, or touch. There is no true understanding of the rising moon, nor of the galaxies spinning. The sun is just a candle in the sky. The wind in the meadows may whisper and the froth-topped waves evoke something embedded from genetic memory, but what remains moot. Rain on the window glass dares closest to an elusive truth. The ghosts of the past confirm this. We cannot understand this dream we drift through, or it world be no dream at all.
The purposeless are, by their very definition, without purpose. And, they say a man without purpose is a man without life. But what of dreams?
There is no purpose to a dream other than to release the mind of the burden of memory. A dream collates the recent past and merges it with the distant to form an almost reality. This reality is lived through on fast-forward to cram as much new experience into as few minutes as possible, or else what was the point?
My father said dreams existed to fill in a blank, one he preferred, which also accounted for his claims of not having them. Perhaps this meant he was a man of purpose, for whom dreams therefore served no purpose.
I, however, am proud to have no purpose. I am purposeless. This is a state I revel in. In truth, I sometimes wish I’d never wake up. Often, I’m uncertain whether I have.
I have considered the question as though it is my best friend: Why live?
The world is full of moments, some short, some long, and some unending. Until they do end, that is, which renders the latter one moot. Whether a moment secures itself in life’s final journal depends on many contributory factors. Does one love the instant in question? Does one wish to relive the experience again? If I forget it, will it matter? The criteria are as endless as the ultimate decision.
I have heard people croon about the sunrise. Other good folk have a soft spot for the moon. Children enjoy days at the beach when the tide tickles their toes and the sun bakes their skin. I am no sentimentalist. I have not the luxury of knowing for certain. But I can surmise. I can guess.
Reproduction. That insistence of life to replicate. Without reproduction there would be no life unless we, too, learned to split, endlessly dividing, sending copies of ourselves here there and everywhere. Surely, reproduction must be the reason for living, isn’t it? But here we have a dilemma, for not everyone possesses the inclination, looks, or sheer stupidity to do so. Why perpetrate the falsity of greatness, of a perfection worth continuing, when most are clearly not? It really is a pickle, life.
So, after a lifetime of near misses and many millions of seconds practising for death by living, I have come to a conclusion. ‘What!’ you scream. How can I know what scholars have cogitated over since humanity first learnt to think? The truth, I haven’t, not for everyone. But I have for me: To write this.
To put into words what the lost and the dreamers search for, this is my purpose. It is not to give them the answer, just the reassurance that they aren’t alone in their worrying and searching. Ultimately, there can be no right answer, at least, that’s what I think. But everyone has one essential reason for living, and that reason must mean something to you.
For those who fear to tread the streets, it is not the leering faces, the waves of crashing humanity, nor even the lines of cars who patrol as fuming anacondas that scare, it is themselves. I am no less a person. I would not wish it on anyone.
The palpitations begin at the city limits, as the towers rise like reflective mountains into a disrupted sky, my heart quickening. I gasp, seek to steady my breathing to the train’s repetition, a synchronising of man and machine. There is even a moment when I think it works and a sigh escapes my lips. It is short-lived. It is always short-lived, never lasting beyond the next batted lash. How life continues to disappoint.
Swamped by suburbia’s blur, the train gears up for one last dash, and we charge into the station like Usain Bolt for the finishing line: the tape broken, we stop; no one is victorious. One journey over, another begins.
Disembarking like so many ants from an anthill, we follow the chemical signatures laid down by history out into the glare of a city more on the rails than the train. People are everywhere. Like fish on a decaying reef, humanity teems across the porous concrete, searching for a purpose where there is no purpose. Some look to have hope in their eyes, most not. The difference between the believers and the sceptics is stark. Some might term it enlightenment versus resentment. I prefer reality versus dreams.
A stoplight glares in crimson; a double-dare to death. I have forgotten who waits for whom, so go with the flow and strive to remain somewhere in the middle. It’s only when I reach the other side that I realise I don’t want to be the last to go, the final smear on a Japanese car’s bonnet. I make a mental note to not make the same mistake, but an unhappy seagull, lost and far from home, squawks a distraction and the memory is lost.
The coffee district extends forever. Yes, there are intermissions in the chain of cocoa-driven madness, but not many, and nothing meaningful. I choose one that looks emptier than the others and order the same drink I do every single day. One day, I’ll risk a Latte, but I feel an Americano defines me. The smell of the bean soothes my mind. I wish to take the stuff intravenously, feel that brown warmth tickle beneath my skin. It is a dream I have in a world where dreams are scarce.
I linger at the coffee shop for longer than I should, but less than I wish. Before I know what’s happening, my feet are leading me out of the door and down the canopied street to my own private hell; the roof keeps the weather out and us in. My eyes remain on the ground wherever possible, striving not to look up, not to provoke a response. Not even the three false palms set to equidistant perfection fail to disturb my concentration. Like a robot, I approach the working district.
This world is glass. This world is made of a million versions of me. Everywhere I look, I am there. Even when I close my eyes. The last person I wish to see in repetition is myself. Anyone but me! Alas, life deems to torment me in refraction.
I open the doors to our office building; as I enter, another me leaves. A brief paisley respite — if ever paisley wall coverings can be called this — and I take the stairs. I work on the tenth floor but would rather ascend a hundred flights in preference to the glass elevator and be surrounded by those leering, sneering doppelgängers. Each step takes me higher, ever higher. Soon enough I see the world as a pigeon, a rat of the sky. There are more rats all around me. I feel swarmed by them.
I collapse into my office seat and a faux leather embrace. A moment. All I require is a moment. I don’t get one. Curlicues of steam flit like intangible faeries before my eyes. Where am I?
The office do-good has seen, found and presented before I’ve even taken my jacket off. I nod a thank you whilst contemplating stabbing her with my pencil; my pencil is blunt, typical!
My work provides a distraction, nothing more. The turgid rigmarole of everyday mundanity allows my mind the freedom of thinking itself elsewhere, somewhere where walls are rock and skyscrapers consist of trees. I wish myself away to a world without triplicated others and reciprocated frowns, but never for long enough.
A colleague wakes me from my stupor, even though my fingers continue to type in a fallacy of actual life. I smile, but he’s already gone. It is time to leave. The worst time of the day.
Most look forward to their return, the drive home, the commute. I do not. I hurry down the stairs and out of the revolving door. Too late, the sun is setting.
Everywhere I look, everywhere, a million others are doing the same thing. Each is crowned by a halo of liquid gold. The glass makes angels of all. All except one. The original, me. They mock me from their mercury sanctums, point, and laugh. Every face in every window, every man, woman, and worse, observe me. They know. Oh, how they know! I am abhorrent to them. I am abhorrent to me.
The train is stifling, dark and full of eyes. But as the lights click on, catching me off-guard as I gaze out into the nothingness, I realise there is only one certainty in this reflected face: these glass coffins have me captured and everyone’s watching me die.
Sometimes the need to breathe overwhelms. Our throats constrict, tongues swell, eyes bulge like bullfrogs. A blue sky darkens to ocean, the world reversed, our bodies upside down. Not even the earth offers a steadying reassurance, volatile like an undulating sea. We drown, eyes open. We gasp for air. The worst of it? There’s no rational explanation. Just another day or night in a life of many. Just another second on this road called life.
These moments are fleeting, though occasionally, they linger. But the body always remembers what to do, after all, without a predisposition for breathing, why even have lungs?
Breathing is what we do when we close our eyes. We leave the body to do its thing as we dream of better. Unlike the accordion that requires a good squeeze, or the bike pump that demands manipulation, our bodies do not. So, why do we need so many teachers to help us? The answer is simple: We don’t.
Yet we have apps to follow and sites to see, gurus to advise, and leotarded superstars to offer salvation. If only we could breathe like them. If only we could do it right.
And we try. We try so very hard to understand. To appreciate. To live the dream. If we do it right, who knows, perhaps Death will never take us.
Death, the dark force behind it all. The one who wants us to fail, to gasp, flounder, capitulate. He cares not that we breathe or that we might only sometimes breathe, just that one day we won’t. Even thinking about it makes our chests constrict, breaths shorten, noses block. As dogs before a desert without master or chain, free to explore, but scared to stray far from the puddle at their feet, we hesitate. Death smiles.
Hesitation is his dark foot in the door. It is doubt. It is a taster. That instant of will our breaths return, even when knowing they should. So, we regather like they’ve taught us. We control ourselves with the skill a baby would admire. We breathe, deep and long, our cheeks puffed out and brows sweating.
They teach us to listen to our breaths and from there ourselves. The body will know. The body will calm itself. But in this calmness, this cosmic realignment, we hear what our breaths have immersed. An app shuts down. A website fails. A guru collapses to the ground quite dead. The leotard splits to howls of universal derision.
We breathe because we want to. We breathe because we must. But one day in the not-so-distant future, we won’t. On that day, Death can take us. On that day, our accordions shall not require being played. I, for one, shall welcome it, as I hope will you.
Lost in worlds so far removed From time, and tide, and thought Above the clouds, beneath the sea Floating in-between Preferring views not seen but felt For I am but a man As sand, I’m filtering Through the hourglass, now For each and all to see
There are no depths to this loneliness, it is endless, whereas, I am not. Trenches of ultramarine night stretch out into an unseen distance; I follow them with my fingertips, groping wildly. Creatures flit past like agitated fish, or scattering bats, or just my dreams. Go, I say. But nobody hears.
Somewhere, a raven sings a sonnet, or caws a eulogy. I’m no longer sure. An inverted moon plunges with no intention of sending moonbeams my way. The stars flee. An ebony darkness fills the void. I feel it behind my eyes, pulsing.
Once, I lived the life all younglings pray for, of family, future, and past. Once, but not any more. Now, I loiter on the periphery of a something long forgotten. It is Death. She waits with open arms, ready to wrap her nightshade shawl about my shoulders and give me what I’ve lost. What have I lost?
These depths. This depth. This death. Ah, there you are.
The bleary-eyed awakening offers little to billions of sleepers each night. Less than a gap and at best an inconvenience, mankind surf those moments eyes closed and desperate. The chirruping blackbird is a nuisance at such times. The ticking clock is akin to the devil. As for a dripping faucet, or rain upon the windowsill, enraging.
We tend to focus on those instants, expand them unwillingly, when all we wish is to contract. But time suffers no interventions, at least, not by us.
We desire the flavoured darkness, where ex-loves taste better than ever they did in reality. Where we as sports people score wonder goals, tackle like rhinos, run like the wind, so far from actuality that it’s a good job we can’t see ourselves; unrecognisable faces frighten the children who spy them in clouding mirrors. We act as never we would in real life, for our dreamworlds offer security, sanctuary from prying eyes. Some might term this, release. Others might term it a mass delusion.
Be it a minute or a restless hour, we struggle to depart the awakening and return to the promised land of dreams with utmost expedience. There’s almost a dread. We fear the darkness, for everyone knows it’s where monsters hide. We curl our toes and squeeze our eyes so tight they hurt. Tossing and turning are par for the course. Burying heads in pillows, the same. All that is wanted, needed, required is a return to the hoped-for pleasantness of that pause until dawn. Gold light and blue skies beckon us. Well, when I say us, I mean you.
I don’t want to go back to sleep. I don’t want those moments between dreams to end. If ever serenity offers a troubled mind a chance, it’s during these spaces in eternity. They calm a struggling mind, don’t stir them to further agitation. They soothe troubles, not pretend them not there. A divine gift to restless souls, those who exit limbo into the hushed still of their own bedroom, roofed and walled, secure, free from the ragged world beyond the window glass, these are rare treats indeed.
The moments between dreams never last long enough, for if they do, they are no longer moments but extents. No one likes an extent, they’re too, well… long. Brevity is key to the moment, as time is to life. Yes, life. But what of death?
We do not dream to sample death, we wake from it to taste what will. What good is a stomachful of forever if you’re not afforded the luxury of swilling it around your mouth beforehand. And here I pause…
As I write, I reveal. I unpick the truth with a sledgehammer. There is a liar amongst us and that liar is me. I lust for the pause and dispute every moment, afraid that to do otherwise might prove that I’m gone. I am afraid of the night more than any. I savour the waking, or I’d cry before sleep. The paradox of it all tingles behind my eyes. These moments have sold me a fable I no longer wish to read. Am I awake, or am already gone?