The Boy

“Do you believe in destiny?” she asked.

We were seated, away from the buildings yet not secluded enough to be truly away. There was even more green, creeping all around us like uninvited guests. The bench was iron cast, painted green to hide the ugliness beneath. She was close by yet further away still. I was stuck in a moment fuelled by contradictions and oxymorons.

“I don’t know,” I replied, as honest as I thought I could get.

“People talk about memories and moments as if they are all interwoven, like everything makes sense, everything matters. Ask anyone about their earliest memory and they will lie, try to come up with a profound answer. Ask anybody about a dream they remember and they will tell you shit they think relates to something or the other that happened or will happen to them. My earliest memory was of my sister waking me up screaming after she found out I had shit the bed. Literally. I was three at the time, I think.”

She smiles as she says this and I see traces of a beautiful woman. At least what I thought a beautiful woman should look like. I was still in the ideas forming stage at the time.

“What is your earliest memory?” she asked. She seemed honestly curious, and it felt like I had her complete attention. Like the world all around us could crumble and she wouldn’t notice.

“My earliest memory is of being born. Waking up to a screaming world and curious eyes surrounded by disposed things and forgotten toys.” It was the most I had said in one go and yet somehow, I didn’t feel like stopping. I held back. Control is important. I didn’t know where I knew that from but somehow, I did.

“People always assume that what we say is the most important thing, the best way to convey what we really think. But words lie. People lie all the time. How we say something is a lot more important than what we say. The subconscious mind leaks through the how, completely bypassing the what. You feel abandoned,” she told me.

“I am told that is how I am supposed to feel, the natural reaction to my circumstances.”

“Still learning, I take it,” she replied with a smile.

“To be alive is to learn.”

She said nothing for a moment, breaking eye contact as she considers this.

“I can help you remember,” she said, “remember before.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“The one thing wrong with humanity, I have discovered is that there are humans involved. We are born and inducted into the same cycle of paranoia and beliefs our parents grew up with ensuring the same cycle of destruction persists. I don’t want to be a product of a failed system. I want to be one of the few people who can honestly claim to have been born free.”

Record broken twice in one seating. What do you know.

“But without the past how can you figure out where to go to next?”

I smiled while I looked at her.

“Isn’t that the best part?”

“Carl Jung believed that we all inherit our ancestors’ traits and intuitions. If that guy is to be believed memory or no, every action you take will be tainted by what the ones that came before you believed, would have believed given similar circumstances.”

“Could be, could be not,” I replied with a shrug. She seemed to accept this.

“My sister believes that we are all defined by moments. One big moment splits your life into before and after, sets the course for what one ends up being. In all honesty, I think that’s bullshit. Real life works nothing like that. There are moments, some big, some not. That part is true. What happens after is what defines us. I believe you have just found yours. Your first big moment.”

“Being born doesn’t count?” I asked her.

“You had the chance, to invalidate that, just now. You refused it. I think a moment, a true defining moment, should be inviolable.”

I nodded my acquiescence.

“You are not a child, are you?” she asked.

“I am,” I replied, “for all intents and purposes. I was, after all, I was born just last month.”

She smiled at that.

“How old do you think I am?”

“Is that important?”

“Seems like something one should know, doesn’t it? I already have a name, a date of birth. Shouldn’t I have an age too?”

She considered this for yet another moment.

“Physically I would put you at eleven, maybe twelve. Cognitively? You are beyond me, even, I think.”

“Twelve. I want to go with twelve. It has a nice ring to it.”

A nun walked by, pausing momentarily to pass on her greetings.

“So, what happens now?” I asked her

“Now, now you prepare to go to school.”

“Oh joy.”

HIGH FUNCTIONING DEPRESSION

By Jacquie Mwaura

So yesterday life decided to hand me another one of its harsh reality slaps. I just realized I’d been suffering with functional depression for the past 10 months. 10 months. Yaani a baby was conceived, carried to full term and came into the world while I was struggling to get by. I was updating a very close friend of mine about a recent conversation I had with a mutual friend.

The irony of all this is that in as much as I’m in the mental health field, I still have stigma attached to seeking professional mental health services.

In this state of high functioning depression, your life seems to be going pretty well. After all they’re people suffering from a lot worse. You may have a supportive network but there’s a little voice that tells you they just wouldn’t understand. Your family may not really know what’s going on deep within. How do you see your loved ones internal struggles yet they are “ok”?

I would intentionally socially withdraw from family events since the question of “What are you up to now?” would always come up. How do you start answering a question you don’t have an answer to? You’re expected to know these things, right? Unfortunately, applicable life skills don’t rank high within the school syllabus.

This week I felt like it all just needed to come out. A balloon filled with air will eventually burst if the air keeps coming. To prevent this, either stop letting the air in, poke a hole and risk the balloon bursting, or squeeze some air out through its only opening. I opted for letting some air out.

Am I by the wave of a magic wand healed? Definitely not. So, what changed? I had a deep no holds back conversation with a close friend. (Haha probably I scared him 😆) I felt it needed to be done. To put it out there. Surprisingly enough it worked. This human mind though. I felt lighter. Like a huge sigh of relief.

Are there times where I felt I hinted I needed help? Of course. But I recoiled when I felt I wasn’t being heard. When I just thought, “You won’t quite understand.” I can’t blame them. How do you begin to comprehend that someone functional would be suffering inside?

On March 3rd 2017, I made this journal entry:

STUCK IN THE MUD

“Feeling low. Things are definitely not going as planned. Certainly, questioning my life’s decisions. All because of hypostress. Having nothing to do. I should not define myself by having a steady source of income but everyone else seems to. I really have to avoid certain situations. You don’t want to meet up with people who’ll ask you the one question you dread. Hence, social withdrawal. I understand why people do it now. The worst part is you can’t even tell those closest to you. Friends and family alike. You feel like a failure in their own eyes. You start questioning everything. Was working so hard in school even worth it? Why do everything (they told you to do) right only to get out and feel betrayed by the system? Starting the 11th month now. It’s crazy to even believe it. It gets really bad to the extent you don’t enjoy the things you used to. Start projects and leave them halfway. Where’s the drive for anything? You see a failure in yourself. A failure to the little girl you were. You have let her down. Her dreams down. She was unstoppable. What changed?  How do we move on from here? (Hopefully this won’t be the never-ending cycle it’s been so far?) A part of me still hopes. Still dreams of a better future. Things should look up, right? It can’t all be doom and gloom, right? Would life really be that cruel? Wipe the tears away. Things will get better. I hope. 😔😔😔”

I knew I needed to talk to a shrink earlier on in the journey but I had no clue of where to go. So many of us may be at that point. Also, despite knowing all that shrinks should do, I still felt like they too wouldn’t understand.

So did I just get started with my internal baggage as soon as we started talking? Nope. It took him boldly asking “What’s up with your life?” As I said before, I hinted. Probably a little stronger now. Sometimes you just need to confront the person head on. With nowhere to hide. Perhaps this would have prevented some number of suicides.

I went on to share my insecurities in a world where everyone seems to have their shit together. Where “seeing” how your former classmate is doing is just a page away. Social media gives such an unrealistic perception of one’s life. Despite knowing this, when something is shown to you repeatedly, you start accepting it.

Unfortunately, the response may not be the same for everyone. You may be told, “Just snap out of it.” “You seem fine. Are you sure you’re not just having a bad day?” “Just pray about it. Mungu halali (God doesn’t sleep)” I know they mean well. What we must learn is that sometimes no response is a satisfactory response. Sometimes we just want to be heard. That’s enough. I just need to know you’re listening.

I’m hoping that sharing this at least speaks to one person. Makes them reach out despite knowing the risk. Helps friends not just talk about stuff on the surface but go deeper. Makes someone reach out to an otherwise “normal” looking individual. Repeatedly if need be. Better safe than sorry.

I’d also recommend watching 13 Reasons Why. The acting is terrible. Read the book if you can. However, the message behind it speaks volumes. She didn’t kill herself because of one particular reason. It was a culmination of multiple “minor” events.

I hope that as a society we shall truly embrace empathy. Seeing other’s issues as they see them themselves. This applies to everyone whether male or female. Let’s have these conversations and save lives.

 

Additional information on High Functioning Depression:

https://www.google.com/amp/www.rd.com/health/conditions/high-functioning-depression/amp/

The Man and The Slug

“Once, before, there was a man. He considered himself something of a scientist. One day he was seated in his garden, taking in all that he owned, content in his solitude when he notices an intruder slinking by. He claims it is out of scientific curiosity, advancement, whatever, but he reasons that the slug is composed mostly of water. To prove himself right he sprinkles a healthy dose of salt all over the it,” he finishes as he looks up.

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“What question was that again?” The man who had gotten within inches of killing the leader of the free world asked.

“What is your name?” The interrogator asked once more.

“What is in a name, et cetera et cetera. Besides, don’t you have my papers with you? People still say papers, right?”

“They identify you as North Korean,” she replied.

“Well there you go.”

“You don’t look Korean, not even in the slightest.”

“I am adopted.”

She sighed in reply.

“Why did you do it?”

“Does it matter?”

“I should hope so. Otherwise what is the point?”

“Chaos. Nihilism. Insanity. It could be anything.”

“Is it?”

He smiled.

“You got me there. Clever. No, all I want is to watch the world burn.”

“So, chaos?”

He shook his head in reply.

“Don’t be ridiculous. If I wanted chaos, then I would have actually finished the job and vanished.”

“You just said you wanted to watch the world burn, ergo chaos.”

“See that is where you are wrong. I want it all to end. Everything, or mostly everything to die. It would have been better, less messy if I played a more active role myself but I like it better this way. A little bit more entertaining.”

“How is that? If you don’t mind telling me.”

“Because you caught me?”

“Sure,” she replied.

“There was this guy I knew who had this great idea for a novel. Great plot. Basically, it was about the end of the world. It starts with you guys attacking one country out of arrogance, and another retaliating because they have had enough, setting off an entire chain reaction. Dominoes falling and all that.”

“Sounds interesting. How does the book end?”

“He never wrote it.”

“Why is that?”

“He kept putting it off, claimed he didn’t have the time until he actually ran out of time.”

“How did he die?”

He smiled once more.

“Oh, you think I am doing this because I lost someone? Don’t be ridiculous. Besides, this was over fifty years ago.”

“So why are you trying to end the world then?” she asked, glossing over his claim of old age.

“Last night a man walked into his house a lot earlier than he had planned to. He goes straight to the kitchen to find some food. Finding none, he starts the process of preparation before heading upstairs to his bedroom to change into something more comfortable. What he finds instead is his wife, in bed with another man, going at it like it is the end of the world.”

“So, your wife cheated on you?”

“The man takes this all in, the grunting, the moaning, the screams as they were discovered with cold detachment. He changes into something a lot more comfortable, turns and leaves the room. As he is watching the pasta boil he gets an idea, a spark. He leaves it all behind and heads into his study where he spends the rest of the night finishing up his work, running calculations and simulations over and over again until he is certain he has gotten it right.”

“Gotten what right?”

“A way to safely synthesise a matter-antimatter reaction. An unlimited energy source, if you may. So, this morning he reports back to work, papers in hand, inclusive of proofs and asks to see his boss and his bosses as well. These sorts of things tend to take a while to organise. As it stands, he is still in his lab awaiting summons. As of end of day today he would have met just about every general they can throw at him. In a month’s time a working prototype will be ready, give it a year and we will have FTL capable shuttles launching into outer space.”

“Really?”

“You don’t believe me. In maybe two minutes time the message is finally going to get to the Chairman of the Joint chiefs of staff and he is going to leave the observation room. Now usually when something like this happens I tend to sabotage experiments meant to recreate but not this time. Because what is going to happen now is in a year’s time this technology will be used to try to end the war. Really want to see that blow up in your collective faces.”

She said nothing for a moment.

“You are insane.”

“Please, give me a little more credit.”

“You expect me to believe that you can somehow see into the future?”

“Of course, not. I don’t expect anything of you. I merely was answering a question posited to me.”

She sighed in reply, before pausing to check her watch for the umpteenth time.

“So, what do you do for a living?”

“History professor.”

“You like your job.”

“A lot more than I did my previous one, I can tell you that.”

“What did you do before?”

“Oh, I was a hitman.”

Again. Silence.

“So, you have killed people before.”

“I wasn’t terrible at my job, if that is what you are asking.”

“Tell me about the first time.”

“He has been called away, hasn’t he?”

“Am sorry?”

“Chairman of the Joint chiefs of staff.”

She paused a beat before responding.

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

He smiled a little before replying.

“It was considered a rite of passage of sorts, something to help them see the kind of man they are leaving behind. They picked someone whose death wouldn’t leave that big an aftershock in the continuum, positive or otherwise. It was this kid, fifteen years old, a man by society’s standards back in the day, a complete waste of space if you ask me. Hardest thing I have ever had to do.”

“Why is that?”

“He is not coming, you know.”

“Who?”

“Your partner. He is not coming.”

“What makes you think I am expecting him?”

“You keep checking your watch. You are angry at him, rightly so but he is not coming.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Why do you think I picked North Korea?”

“If your narrative is anything to go by, nuclear war heads. You are under the impression we are going to retaliate by nuking them.”

“Oh, that is a done deal, okay? After all, it is you morons who elected a loose cannon into the White House. No, that is not it. It is because of you, you see.”

“Uh huh.”

“In about thirty minutes time a beat cop is going to find your partner in a dumpster somewhere, stabbed to death. First impulse will be to rule it out a robbery gone wrong, that is before they run his prints and find out he is a cop. So, in an hour’s time, maybe, your phone is going to ring, and you will know.”

“What did you do?”

“Me? Nothing. I have the mother of all alibis. I was trying to assassinate the President of the United States.”

“This is not funny.”

“it actually kind of is, if you look at it from my end.”

She was on her feet faster than he could react, his face slammed into the table. His response instead is laughter she sits down.

“And we are back to that. You people are sadly lacking in your creativity.”

“This is not a game.”

“Actually, it is. You just don’t know it yet. Unfortunately for you, human nature is going to be the downfall of you all.”

She leans back, resigned.

“He was selling secrets, you know. Started with the Chinese before the North Koreans came into the picture. More money and all that shit.”

“That’s bullshit.”

“Nothing earth shattering, mind you, but he still had access to some pretty interesting stuff.”

“You are full of it, you know that, right?”

“Just last year. You were being shipped to yet another military installation just like this one, cloak and dagger stuff. There was a break in protocol, well at least according to you, and instead of a military escort all the way you were asked to travel half the way on your own. There was a rendezvous point in Portland, I believe, but you got there a lot earlier than anticipated. You booked a hotel room because he likes taking advantage of room service, his words, not yours, and you just wanted to relax before the circus started. You left the room a little over half an hour after him, went outside for a walk. You saw him talking to an attractive woman, Asian, I believe but you didn’t approach them out of fear he was stepping out on his wife again. You really should have approached them, Mellie.”

Silence.

“Who are you?”

“Does it matter?”

“What do you want?”

“I told you.”

“To destroy the world.”

“Ultimately, yeah. But that is not what I told you I wanted, did I?”

“It’s a game. You want to play a game.”

“Bingo.”

“And if I refuse?”

“Doesn’t matter. I am of the opinion the game is rigged. Either way it goes, I get what I want.”

“Then what do you want from me?”

“In every movie I have seen where a superior intelligence tries to destroy the world, humanity somehow manages to survive. There are those cases where you all band together and fight the common enemy together though I don’t see that happening in this day and age. There are also cases where one of the bad guys is somehow convinced of just how great and worthy of saving humanity is and he somehow turns against his people to fight for you. That’s bollocks. I have lived amongst you people for over two thousand years and I can comfortably say nobody in his right frame of mind would consider you worthy. Seeing as I am a sporting guy, however, I am willing to give you all the opportunity to prove me wrong. In twenty-three minutes’ time three things will happen simultaneously. The President will get released from the hospital with a clean bill of health and the first thing he hears will be Korean assassin. Your phone will ring and the news that your partner is dead will reach you. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will conclude his meeting with just about everybody who is anybody in NASA meaning he wouldn’t have heard anything we have discussed here today. You can choose to get to the President through the CJCS or you can do it yourself. I doubt there will be much of a difference either way.”

“And if he opts not to listen?”

“Oh, I know he won’t listen. That isn’t in doubt. Killing him won’t do you much good either because just about everybody in his immediate circle is just as crazy and paranoid as he is. Must be a great time to be American, isn’t it?”

“Why are you doing this, any of this?”

“Me? Am just doing my job.”

“And what job is that?”

“You people have this idea that you are the best this universe can ever hope to offer. Every encounter with alien life ends with you on the winning side. I was sent here by a federation, if you can call them that. My job is simple, always has been. Observe, intervene where necessary and judge. I am supposed to determine if you are worthy to join us. If not, I am supposed to make sure you can’t be in a position to discover we exist.”

“What does that have to do with ending human life as we know it?”

“You are taking this a lot calmer than I expected.”

“You are either insane or you are actually telling the truth. Nothing I can do either way.”

“Aah, a nihilist.”

“More like a fatalist.”

“It is a test of sorts, something to make sure my actions aren’t tainted by bias.”

She ran a hand through her hair, blew out in frustration.

“So, you are an alien. Like E.T.”

“If E.T. had the power to destroy reality as you know it, yeah.”

“Why now?”

“POTUS.”

“No other reason?”

“You know the other one.”

She buried her face in the cupped palms of her hands before letting out a long drawn out sigh.

“I can’t convince you otherwise?”

“I have lived through wars waged in the name of a god who changes to suit your whims, lived through justifications of cruelty, through crises of faith, through both wars. I was in Hiroshima when the A-bomb fell. I have seen the cruelty humanity is capable of. I have seen you people fuck up the ozone, contribute to global warming while refusing to take responsibility for your actions or even admit it is happening. Jesus, I was there when you morons voted in Donald freaking Trump. You people are the worst. Believe that, if nothing else.”

“We are also capable of good, you have seen that also, haven’t you? Do those people deserve to die too?”

“There was a time, before, when I was a lot younger. I used to see the evil perpetuated by those in power, I used to see how those with little were mistreated and taken advantage of and it would make me angry. I tried. I tried my best, in the hopes that maybe I could help humanity change. Do you know what I realised? People weren’t angry. They were apathetic, at best, so they sit back and do nothing, hoping the world would somehow fix itself. The fact that the world was getting worse and its inhabitants didn’t seem to care, didn’t want to change anything about it made me even angrier. It pushed me to the point I was ready to pull the plug, wipe out the disease that is humanity off the face of the planet but I didn’t. it wasn’t time. Not yet. But it was then that I realised I couldn’t allow you people to join us. It was then that I realised just how unworthy you all are. You are all culpable, the good, the bad, the neutral. You are all guilty of the good you didn’t do.”

“If your people are so good then why send someone to commit genocide? Or does murder not register?”

“The necessity of evil. It has nothing to do with you people. It is all about us. It is the answer to the question just how far would you go to protect your people, your home, your family, your friends, from an invading force they have no hope of conquering, of surviving.”

“From what you tell me, your people can easily wipe us out in battle.”

“There was a time before, our society was just like yours. People in power were corrupt, the poor were taken advantage of. After a while, however, people got tired, got angry. So, we rose up, fought back. We fought not just against the system but against ourselves, our nature. We get urges like you people do, sure, but we rise above it. We are not controlled by our baser urges like you all are. It isn’t about the war, you see. It is about the taint. Humanity has a stench and we would rather not smell it.”

“You know we just lock you up, throw you in a hole you couldn’t possibly hope to dig yourself out of in a thousand year even.”

He laughed at that.

“I have lived hundreds of lives, as different people in different circumstances in an attempt to understand the human condition. I used to think I had known love, that I had loved and had been loved in return. A little over a decade ago I met someone. She was a student in the university I was teaching in. I hadn’t entered a committed relationship yet as this person so I chose to pursue her, purely out of academic interest, you see. It evolved into something else, however, something I could neither predict nor control. I didn’t have a problem with that, though. I was content, happy. Five years went by, we got married and settled down. The next logical step would have been to try to have children of our own though this was never discussed. Still, I came back home one evening and found her alone in our living room, curtains drawn, lights out. She had just found out she was pregnant, you see. Usually this is the part where you whoop in joy, celebrate and all that. I had never managed to sire a child before, you see. Children tend to live a noticeable imprint, making it difficult to uproot oneself before the neighbours notice you haven’t aged in over half a century. She told me, however, she had no interest in having the child. It would be selfish, you see, having a child in a world as cruel and unfeeling as ours. We keep messing everything up and leaving it for our kids to suffer the consequences of our actions. Having a child, she said, is the most selfish and unfeeling thing a human being can do. She wanted me to support her decision, you see, despite the fact that I could see it was killing her. So, I told her. I told her everything; who I am, what I am. The whole shebang. Just last night I tried to get her to talk me out of this, all of this, but she wouldn’t. She told me it would be selfish to let the world be just because we live in it. We have had our chance, she said, yet all we do is make it all worse. For our children, she said, we should let it all burn. Pay for our sins instead of transferring them to the future generation like we so often do. Now one thing you need to understand, my wife is a little like me. She isn’t immortal, not completely, just a little bit harder to kill than the average bear. Knowing this, however, she is okay with rolling the dice. Either she survives or she doesn’t, she doesn’t have a problem with that. My conviction isn’t in doubt here, you see. I do this knowing that I damn my son to an uncertain future, knowing there are friends and acquaintances I might never see again. You could try the jail thing though, see how it all goes. Now if you don’t mind….”

He got up, still shackled. She considered going for her gun for a moment but her phone started ringing.

“You really should pick that.”

 

Authors note

I had intended, upon completion, to enter this into a short story contest. I chickened out at the last second and here we are. I would like to develop it further into a full length novel, something i am sure will take me ages to complete, lazy bastard that i am but for now enjoy this, my first attempt at ending the world. 🙂

Serendipity

I once had an argument with my brother over the difference between happenstance and serendipity. I am of the opinion, on some level; they are one and the same thing. Desire exists, in some cases, on a subliminal, unconscious level. Following this logic, finding something you didn’t know you wanted on a conscious level shouldn’t really count as serendipity, now should it? My brother, being the philosopher that he is, laughed it off before threatening me with bodily harm if I didn’t agree with him. We drifted off point the moment destiny and fate entered the equation and our argument shifted from philosophy to theology (aren’t they the same thing?) with a dose of metaphysics. I am going off point.

“Do you believe in destiny?” she asked, and I laughed. Do I?

She looked like Sunday morning, my recollection of Sunday morning, that is, which was a lot better than I felt. She smiled at me and the sun seemed brighter.

“Catriona,” I said in reply.

“Caesar.”

“Breakfast?”

“No, not yet.”

“May I join you?”

“Sure. Why not?”

 

“Tell me a bit about yourself.”

“If I am remembering this correctly we already had this conversation and I did tell you more than just a bit.”
That smile again.

“You gave me the cliff note version of an entire novel. What I want is the first chapter in detail.”

I thought it over for a second before replying.

“It goes without saying- “

“A trade. I know.”

“Hobbies?”

“Surprise me,” she said, “garbage in garbage out, though.”

“I started coding when I was a kid, ten maybe eleven, I am not sure on the exact details. One of my brother’s friends taught me, in the beginning as a goof between friends. It caught on and years later here I am.”

“Really? That’s it? Come on.”

“Fine. Favourite movie, Pulp Fiction, favourite band AC/DC, favourite song Shoot to Thrill, obviously, and for the better part of the last three years I have been writing code for an operating system.”

“Sneaky. Tell me more.”

“What is there to say?”

“You are a difficult one, aren’t you?”

We had walked all around school, I noticed. I could see my room just ahead.

“I want to leave a mark on the world, something to be remembered by.”

“That is ambitious.”

“Don’t you?”

“I don’t want to be remembered. You remember something that was once forgotten. I want to be, immortal, always and forever. Not a memory a presence. Por siempre.”

“Garbage out.”

“Favourite movie, Pretty Woman, favourite band Nickelback, favourite song Bohemian Rhapsody, obviously and I am less than three months away from graduating and I recently came to the realisation I hate the career path I am on.”

“What do you want to do instead?”

“Advertising.”

“Instead of……?”

“Finance. Accounting. Banking. There is something cold about numbers, something unyielding and unflinching. I like people. I want to reach them, talk to them, entertain them.”

“And make a load of cash in the process.”

She smiles.

“Doesn’t hurt now, does it?”

“So, why won’t you?”

Her reply is interrupted by the sudden and wanted reappearance of Bry, the girl standing beside him.

“Half an hour, huh?”

I shrugged. No point in arguing.

“Do you believe in consequences?”

Celyn and Bry are on the queue. They are having a conversation, low and harsh. But that is none of my business. I turned back to face her. She is seated across from me, her elbows propped on the table, her face leaned into me.

“I have a theory, if I were about to do something that would fuck up my life monumentally a future version of me would step out of a time machine and stop me. Every time I am about to do something stupid I take a second to give him a chance to get here in time.”

She laughed at that, drawing more attention to us. I ducked instinctively, mostly because I wasn’t used to being the centre of attention.

“So, you do believe in consequence.”

I looked her in the eye before replying.

“Indubitably.”

It was one of those things, I suppose. You think you mean one thing when in reality it is something else. Freudian, I believe they call it. She felt it too. I am pretty sure she felt it.

“Assuming, of course, a future version of yourself doesn’t have the means or the technology to get back to you. How would you know?”

“That’s impossible. I don’t know if you have noticed but I am really really fucking brilliant.”

She laughed at that too. Any sane man would be insulted. In that moment, however, I don’t believe I was what one would consider sane.

“Come on.”

Sigh.

“I look at life the same way I look at a string of code. If I do this, then the consequences would be this and that. Else the consequences would be something or the other. I live in a perpetual state of awareness, knowing this for a fact and always ready to suffer the consequences of my actions.”

“So, you always know.”

“Nine out of ten times.”

She laughed at that, this time a lot louder than before. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat at the stares I was getting.

“Oh God. I am going to enjoy this. You didn’t see it coming, did you?”

“See what?” I asked. All I got for my effort was a look. Food arrived just as I was considering asking her what she was about. I had to move to accommodate Bry. I looked around as I waited for him to pass and I saw it. it felt like a sledgehammer to the gut. She saw my look of utter befuddlement as I sat down.

“There is a disturbance in the force,” I told her and she started laughing all over again.

The Rich Kids of Musikoma Hills

The Defenestration

Do you ever think about what happens next? After it all, that is.

Not really. Not much point to it anyway. In that moment, I will be someone else, something else.

I don’t mean existential or physical death, she replied, went silent for a moment. I believe we are only alive if the people we love remember us. We are all electrical impulses lighting each other’s prefrontal cortices.

I take a moment to look at her, the woman I love.

I won’t forget you, I promised, besides, we live too through our own memories. And we are selfish. We don’t forget ourselves. Not ever.

Don’t we? She asked, her voice barely a whisper.

I would like to believe I am a different man, in a different place. There is music and alcohol, people are dancing, others are feeling each other up in dimly lighted corners of the room, others on the seats. This is not my house. She is leaning into me, her hand around my waist mine around hers. For some reason this has lost its appeal. We have been at it for weeks, non-stop. Drinking, dancing, smoking. I want to leave, I want us both to leave. I want to be back in my house, just the two of us. I want to hear her screams echoing the vast expanse of my house.

I don’t say this. I don’t tell her any of this. She is moving before I know it. She stands in front of me, turns back and gives me a sly look. She is dancing. It is hypnotic, watching her dance. That, that never gets old. She moves like liquid honey, light spilling all over her body. I consider kicking everyone out, at the very least making them move to my house. After all, his father is a measly member of parliament, several rungs below me. It’s ridiculous the kind of shit society lets me get away with. I notice the poachers. Most of them are trying and failing to be discrete about it, dancing closer and closer towards her. A few months ago, I would have reacted violently. That was then. This is now. Now I find myself laughing.

There is something beautiful about watching a woman dancing. More so when you know it’s all for you. She knows this. She gives me another look over her shoulder as if to confirm she has my complete and undivided attention. He chooses that moment to make his move. I notice moments later he isn’t one of them. Him, I recognise. She stiffens, pushes herself off him. He is speaking to her, harsh and hurried when I break through the ring of thralls. They scatter, vultures escaping the king of the jungle. This time I don’t stop myself. This time, I interfere.

You should leave. Low, quiet.

Not your house, man. It’s a free country after all.

Somewhere between my speaking and his response the music has stopped.

Allow me the honour of disabusing you of that tedious notion

I offer her my hand. She gives him a final sad smile.

Good bye Freddy, she says, giving him her back.

I don’t bother sparing him a second glance.

It feels like the dominoes are falling, slow, quiet, seemingly unbidden. Everywhere he turns they look away. One by one they all turn their backs on him. Only I don’t see this. It is expected. Like the sun rising. Like death and taxes. He is screaming at us, his words seem indistinct, a drowning man yelling under water. Nobody bothers to react to him. He is a ghost haunting a recently occupied house. He screams and rages for ten minutes or so, the whole world frozen to him before giving up entirely. The music resumes the moment he clears the building. People are dancing like nothing has happened. The partners resume their groping, to each their little corners of the world. The brief interlude during a favourite tv program. Commercial break’s over. Vaguely annoying but not to the point it is worth talking about. Besides me I feel her shake. I pull her closer. I give the recently dead a fifteen-minute head start before we too leave.

 

Which do you think is worse, that the world isn’t what you think it is or that it is exactly what you think it is?

It is two o’clock in the morning and I am in bed with a beautiful woman. Naked, of course. My laptop is on the table before us, bottles of liquor littered all over the floor. The room smells of sex and weed with the tiniest tinge of cigarette smoke, disgusting habit, I chide myself almost immediately. She asks the question again. I start, pause the movie and turn to face her. She isn’t wearing any makeup which is okay. There is something false about a beautiful woman with makeup on that disgusts me, turns me off. By unspoken consensus we had agreed, back in the beginning, as little make up as possible when necessary, none at all if it can be helped. She is beautiful. I should know. My father has paraded beautiful women before me since before I could speak properly. I have had my fair share as well but nothing like her. The skies part when she smiles and the world stands still when she laughs. I am thinking it must be love. Either that or I have a brain tumour.

How about this, the fact that I have a beautiful woman naked in my bed and we are about to start discussing philosophy.

She doesn’t laugh at my poor attempt at humour. I am not a funny person. I have long accepted this as a fact of life, like the sky is blue and that water is wet. I am a serious individual. Introspective. That is the word. Introspective.

I am serious.

I can tell. She isn’t smiling, not even a little bit. I want to answer her; I want to see her smile. I want to feel my heart hasten in my chest. I guess you can call her a drug. She is my drug, my drug of choice. But it is two o’clock in the morning-sorry, two oh three- and there is a beautiful woman in my bed, unclothed, who for some reason I am yet to decipher actually likes me, and has sex with me on a regular basis. I don’t want to discuss philosophy. I want to pretend I am watching some sappy romantic comedy with an ending I predicted in the first three minutes so that at the end of it all I get lucky for the third time that night.

Does it matter?

Five minutes past two. She shrugs, sad, resigned. I feel like I have disappointed her somehow. Like I have failed a test. Back in the day, when my father was giving the whole parenting thing a go he would show up for school events, wait to hear what present his son has gotten and at the end of it all give me a look of disappointment. Why not get everything? Why aren’t you perfect? In the end, we both got tired of the game and he lost interest, as did I. Still the look stayed, stuck in my memory like the proverbial immovable shield. I look at her and I see it, and it tears me up. So I pause the movie. She doesn’t turn to look at me.

What difference does it make?
One marks you a pessimist the other an optimist.

I think this over for a moment, movie still paused. It is important to her, I realise. I might not understand it but it is. There was a time when I wanted people to see me, to get me. This was before kids realised money ran the world and my word became law. Somewhere along the way I realised that wasn’t what I wanted. The moment people saw me they would realise I was nothing like them and no amount of money could fix that.

I am scared that the world is exactly what I think it is.

As I say these words I realise I mean them.

Is that worse or better?

I don’t have to think this time.

Worse. Considerably worse.

She says nothing in reply and I don’t know how to react. I hit play and we go back to the movie.

Rich Kids of Musikoma Hills

The Meet

We were playing Scrabbles. My dad was to my right, hugging his tiles close to his chest as Cassandra made a big show of trying to sneak a peek. We were laughing. I remember that. I spent most of my time with Cassie laughing. As did he. He was losing, thirty points behind me while I trailed Cassie by five. The game was ending. I was at five tiles, nothing left in the bag. It was my turn next.

With the spoken word, I have broken men

With the unspoken word, I have destroyed empires

With the written word, I have built worlds

Choose wisely.

She smiled and I shrivelled.

I see her the moment I walk through the door. She is on her phone, face down. She hasn’t changed. Not even a little bit.

I hate this place.

Really? I used to bring you here all the time as a kid.

I say nothing in reply, neither does she. This is why I do not like people. They prefer filling every single moment with small talk and inanities to actually having a conversation.

How have you been?

You are leading with that?

She shrugged in reply, offering a small smile.

I woke up this morning with every intention of blowing you off. There is nothing you have to say that I care to listen to and there is nothing I want to say to you period. Cassie tried to convince me that coming here to see you would actually help, it is for my own good, she said. We had a fought about that. I am not big on being told what to do. Then this morning I woke up next to the most beautiful woman in the world. So here I am like a freaking pervert watching her slow breathing as she sleeps and I am thinking, I am thinking I am happy. It counts for something, doesn’t it? I am happy. Coming here to see you? It changes nothing. My father is an arsehole, my mother still walked out on me but I am happy.

I am sorry, Charles.

Back when I joined campus I had this thing where I thought a woman could fulfil me. This is not your fault, keep that in mind because by then I already had Cassie taking care of most of my mommy issues. So, I did what every generic predictable man does. I jumped in bed with the first girl that showed even the slightest interest in me and before I knew it I was in a relationship. She broke my heart, over and over again yet I kept going back. Girlfriend number two was even worse yet I couldn’t seem to help myself. Maybe third time’s the charm. I loved her. I honestly believe that now with the same startling clarity I believed it then. And she loved me too. That much is not in doubt. I believed she was my destiny, my final fate. Or like the kids call it, my endgame. The Selina Kyle to my Bruce Wayne, the Lois Lane to my Clark Kent. One day I shared my pain with her, my disappointment in the shit show that is my life. She kissed me, pressed even closer against me before telling me that all life is pain. Pain is the only visible sign we are growing. That is why our bones ache when we grow. One week later I found her in bed with a guy I thought was my friend.

This woman, she loved you, you say?

What people say is rarely, if ever, as important as how they say it.

The waitress chose that moment to return.

So, what have you been doing, now that you’ve finished school?

I have been having sex with random strangers in an obvious and classic attempt at gaining my father’s attention.

That made her almost choke on her food. Sputtering coughs followed.

What do you want?

I want to explain myself to you.

You left. That’s the story. Anything else is just details.

It wasn’t that bad, was it? We had some great times, didn’t we?

Memory serves no other purpose than to cause me pain, to wound. If I am being honest I think I got tired of growing up a long time ago.

I wasn’t a very good mother, was i?

I say nothing in reply.

I was in a terrible place, back then. I was no use to you, to anyone. I went to find help. I am better now.

I laugh in reply. Short and contained.

Sometime last week, I was seated across the table from someone else, having a conversation like we are now. Only it was a different place and I am sure I was a different person. You see my father has only ever loved two people in the entirety of his life and both of them left him. With Cassie, however, he always thought he would get her back eventually. She still was in his county after all, and here he is king. A bit like a parent allowing a child his fits of rebellion knowing she will come back anyway. So here we are, talking. She wants to know more about this girl I had brought to meet her. I had brought only one other before, you see. After a while the conversation drifts off to other matters. She is pregnant, you see. This I knew before. What I didn’t know is that he asked her to marry him and she said yes. She wasn’t moving away, you see, mostly because she likes it here and because I was here. Now father didn’t know any of this, mostly because I don’t think it’s any of his damn business but like everything else, if the king wants to know something he will know. I was at home with my girl. He seemed pissed off, more so than I have ever seen him before. Usually, our relationship is one of apathy. I serve a purpose to him. In the eyes of the public I am his son. To him I am his heir, the prince. Save for that I am nothing. Our relationship is practically non-existent save for the emotionally draining and abusive early days after you left. I don’t think you are stupid, not even remotely. I refuse to believe you didn’t know the kind of man he was when you chose to leave me with him. Whatever shit you were going through at the time, or whatever excuse you chose to give yourself so you can sleep better at night, whatever rationalisation, it’s all irrelevant. I am not a good person. On a very good day I am a bitter spiteful arsehole. So, congratulations on fixing yourself. Doesn’t change anything for me. I don’t think it ever will.

She says nothing for a moment and I consider leaving.

But I changed. I got better.

Don’t be ridiculous, mother, people don’t change.

Again, momentary silence. Only this time I choose to break it.

There was this thing we used to do, back when we were kids, before I found out just how much money my father had and the friends I had started vanishing, we would be walking along the road, a puddle of water straight ahead and one of us would turn to the rest and say, you know if I wanted to I could jump into this puddle right now with my clothes still on. So, we would all reply, want to then. In response, he would laugh and we would all join in because we knew going home with soiled clothes equal murder. We can’t do the things we want to just because, mother.

The Rich Kids of Musikoma Hills

The Girl with the Broken Jaw

I had a conversation with a friend once, about the meaning of life. I insisted that purpose of life is twofold, to find meaning as well as to find happiness because after all, what is life without happiness. He looked at me like one would look a child, a naïve innocent child- a look that looked eerily familiar if I might add- and he promised me, like one would reassure said child, in life, you can never find both happiness and meaning. You will either find meaning, he said, and lose happiness because such an accomplishment will only underline further the futility of life itself or you will find happiness and choose to ignore the sprawling emptiness that is human existence.

I am happy. Of this I am certain. Like the sun is a big ball of fire and that we are all going to die someday. We are in my library, her hands are making moves under my shirt, against my skin. Her breasts are pressed against my back, her lips against the nape of my neck. There is a song playing. I am certain there is a song playing, just as certain as I am I love it.

Why vinyl?

She asks. It takes a moment for her voice to break through the fog in my mind. I latch on to it, a sailor following a siren’s call.

I love music.

Mhhh, we already covered this.

My mother was a story teller. She could weave a tale and keep you entranced for as long as she wanted to almost at will. My father, on the other hand, my father is a music fan. I grew up on music. It was his way, I suppose, of showering a child he had no idea what to do with attention. He is something of a purist. I suppose I have pieces of him in me.

So, a music library, huh. Makes perfect sense.

She is laughing. I can hear the humour in her voice. I don’t mind. She presses a kiss just beneath my ear.

I kinda like it. What is it called?

I swing her over, her legs crossed over my lower back, digging deeper and deeper.

The Calendar Hang Itself by Bright Eyes. Heard it in a movie once, loved it.

She purrs against me, leans closer. My wandering hands traverse the length of the side of her body.

I had an argument with a friend once, over the meaning of life. He argued that you can’t find meaning and be happy at the same time. You either choose to be happy and ignore the pursuit of meaning or you can pursue meaning thereby forfeiting happiness.

Sounds lonely.

I realize, finally, he was wrong.

My fingers find an obstacle and for a moment they seem uncertain on how to proceed. Only for a moment.

Is that so?

There is a sharp intake of breath as my thumbs brush against the underwire of her bra.

I am beginning to believe that I exist simply because you do.

Not to find your place in the world?

There is no need to find your place in the world. You physically occupy it.

She smiles. I shiver. My hands no longer traverse the length of her body. The inside of my palm cover each bra cup, separated by merely two layers of clothing.

What happens then, when I cease to be.

It is the intensity in her eyes, the quaver of her lower lip. We are discussing a possible existential crisis yet all I want to do is kiss her, push her up against a ridiculously expensive collection of expensive records consequences be damned.

Then, I suppose, so do I. In the metaphysical sense, anyway.

I kiss her before she can reply. My thumb finds its way past her bra cup as my hands wander higher. I hear them arguing, vaguely, the background chatter of a distant memory. He comes bursting through like a man possessed, screaming bloody murder.

You knew, didn’t you?

He looks tall, taller than I remember. His presence is an actual physical thing at this point, filling up the room, sucking up the air I breathe.

She takes a step back as he approaches me, menacing, threatening.

I am going to have to ask you to leave.

He slams the door behind him. The room shakes, I hear her quiver behind me.

You knew.

I take a step forward.

Leave. Now.

I see his arm move and I instinctively brace myself. Only it never comes. I hear the vinyl crash against the floor. I mirror his movement.

Get out.

Why didn’t you tell me? I am your father.

He shoves me, I stumble a little. He is bigger than me, more muscle than fat.

That doesn’t mean what you think it does. Get out of my house.

He is getting angrier by the second. I stamp back the self-preservation instinct rising like a tide.

Fists clench. He is ranting on and on and on about betrayal and family values. I am one second away from taking a swing at him when I hear her whimper. My back is turned on him even before I realise what I am doing. She starts the moment my skin touches her, her body rigid against mine. It takes a moment before she relaxes and collapses into me. I carry her out of the room, deftly side stepping the screaming mad man on my way out.