Monday, January 14, 2013

Chapter 1: New Year

The smell of coffee and curry stagnated in the studio which was dimly lit by pornography emanating from the desktop monitor. Summers’ transfixed eyes lay deep in their craters and reflected lesser light than his greasy forehead and nose. The hairs on his head resembled an orgy of snakes and his wiry beard didn't reveal the computer fat he'd gained during his year long hibernation; a year that was exhausted of all but its last five minutes. He turned his head slowly away from the screen, expressing the kind of grimace one usually employed in the presence of others; his repulsion was ostensibly warranted by the cheesy dialogue. I sat in the corner of the room watching this low definition obscenity with contrasting amusement. Why anyone in their mid-twenties would spend their new year’s eve in this depraved fashion is a mystery one may choose, wisely, to keep intact. But I think Summers is worth unravelling at least in the justice of introspection. After all, who else would decide to refrain from parties they weren't invited to so they could spend time with me?

He abruptly darkened the room by closing his browser and heaved a sigh which punctuated itself with a shrill whistle. Summers was asthmatic, but that didn't stop him from smoking. He eyed the pack of Dunhills on the bookshelf, burdening it with all the pressures a party coordinator from New York felt during the hectic week that followed Christmas. But before heading out for the year’s first charring of his shrivelled lungs, he opened up his music player and clicked twice for a gentle tune to mix with the odors of the room, strangely neutralizing them. He lip-synced to the mellow lyrics ricocheting off the bass notes that rippled across the thinly carpeted floor, supervised by graceful promenading along the fretboard in the style of funk:

Well. I'm up here in this womb
I'm looking all around
Well, I'm looking out my belly button window
And I see a whole lot of frowns
And I'm wondering if they don't want me around

What seems to be the fuss out there?
Just what seems to be the hang?
'Cause you know if ya just don't want me this time around,
Yeah I'll be glad to go back to Spirit Land  

The discerning ear would rejoice at indentifying Hendrix but I was intrigued. Even the lightest music with the most juvenile lyrics could evoke profundity given the right setting. Summers’ fingers rhythmically twitched as he summoned his remaining reserves of make-believe to air-guitar. His silhouetted figure arched back in a way that demonstrated far more pain than Hendrix himself might have intended. He stopped to look at me for a second and then resumed serenading himself, spinning languidly on his revolving chair. What peculiar forms human beings take when in private, where their smiles and tears take on a purer authenticity and their thoughts converge on finer focal points.  Like the lower entropy that results from the opposite of mixing.  In this sense, socializing was an act of violence. It bludgeons away at one’s individual splendor to bring meaningless harmony among the stupid and the ignorant. In its aftermath of pestilential proportioning, it leaves behind a vile offspring of hypocrisies and euphemisms. But privacy isn't just freedom. It is necessary for the smooth functioning of social ironing. For how many lives have been saved by alcohol, video-games and masturbation combined?

Summers was just another human being entangled in the trafficking of love, miserably gasping somewhere between the unconditional and the unrequited. And hate, which is simply love times a negative number, is unfairly diagnosed as disfigurement. The hatred for friends can imply the love for friendship, for instance. Such higher order demands of intellects manifest as hatred when unanswered. Society replies instead by demonizing the poor soul. He is required to search forever like a blind man with cliche for a cane: cornucopias of fish in the sea, pursuit-worthy happiness, greener grass on forbidden sides. But he doesn't make this any easier for himself. His isn't a plea for acceptance but a convulsive rejection of it. Validation is patronizing and engagement is condescension. So narrow is the entrance to his heart, that even the cupid of the highest rank of marksmanship would consider close-range assault. For one’s intellect is sharpened by an open-mind, but what comes of an open-heart but surgery? And if one is to fall in love, is he to sink or swim?  

And the age is such that love needn't emerge for the evolutionary incentive to reproduce. There is plenty at stake for the future of the human race and a mere multiplication serves insignificance in a simple-minded curtsy. These inductions of mine may sound far-fetched, but keep in mind that even fiction chances upon truth from time to time, as her seekers are well aware. Why then do I see Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky spread out on his dining table, fragmented pages from abusing the weak paperback binding and stained brown from coffee spills and samosa sauce? Socialism is was is an idea virtuous to the human race that didn't rely on genetic reproduction as much as it did on print, and Summers could very well be an asexual with this in mind. Marx isn't and could never be immortal, but there is a good chance Marxism will be. I find it peculiar that Summers was taking up a political stance in a world that refused to take him seriously. Such are the enigmas of the human condition.

As the song was fading to a close, he pulled up yet another screen, this time white, and fixated on it as though the porn was playing again. “Aha! The hairs on his head resembled an orgy of snakes!,” he announced suddenly, as he typed with the enthusiasm of an amateur writer. But it isn't a young Hemingway who comes to mind, but rather Orwell’s fictional Winston Smith:

“For some time he sat gazing stupidly at the paper. The telescreen had changed over to strident military music. It was curious that he seemed not merely to have lost the power of expressing himself, but even to have forgotten what it was that he had originally intended to say. For weeks past he had been making ready for this moment, and it had never crossed his mind that anything would be needed except courage. The actual writing would be easy. All he had to do was to transfer to paper the interminable restless monologue that had been running inside his head, literally for years. At this moment, however, even the monologue had dried up.”

I ventriloquize Orwell - Animal Farm being a personal favorite - for effect but also to quote a man who was wrought by so-called love, lest we forget that frightfully chilling shriek that the mind cried upon reading the closing sentence of 1984.

Two minutes to twelve as he pushed back on his chair and arose to work on the cigarettes in the bookshelf. His pockets clinked with every step from the Altoids he carried around habitually, in case he wanted to get close enough to offend someone. He placed the pricey filter in his mouth and playfully gestured an invitation to walk outside with him, to which I wholeheartedly obliged. As I followed him to the front porch united in step, I realized an atomic difference between freedom and captivity and how it was possible to have one inside the other. I couldn't feel the cold given my fur coat but it must have been strong enough to have pierced his thin clothing and swallowed his flip-flop laden feet as he visibly shivered. I could have bolted just then, but I decided to stay, or rather, my body did. I felt overcome by an intoxicating expression of sympathy as I watched Summers tilt his head backward at Orion, his gaze a concoction of despair and delight. One had to be alone to witness true beauty. Some things were best unshared, because sharing was caring, and Summers didn't care. And as fireworks lit the sky in the distance, it was a solitary pine tree of all things that caught his eccentric attention. The leaves drew outwards, just like the pyrotechnics frozen in time. At this very moment, the tree was in fact participating in the consumption of oxygen in the atmosphere, very much like the distant fireworks, and every other thinking thing. Everything was connected, by molecules, or more strictly, electrons. He looked down at the origin of this fantastically tall tree and may just as well have contrasted it with the ongoing man-makery:  the short-lived fireworks were propelled by gun powder while the nutrients permitting this tree its height and age clambered upward using nothing fancier than capillary action. And what more limited the height of the tree than the diffusion of the nutrient molecules through its cellulosic sinews and their limited supply thereof? Beauty may well lie in the brains of the materialist.

A minute to go, and Summers lifted the lighter to his cigarette. Was it Bertrand Russell who quipped that a fool sat at the other end of the flame? Well, may that fool be the fool of Socrates, the fool who accepts how little he knows! His body shrunk a fraction as he inhaled heavily from the pilot light, that asthma making itself heard despite the bursts in the distance. As those toxic fumes circulated in his corrupted lungs, what thoughts freed his imprisoned soul? What was he learning about the world and himself underneath those malnourished yet impassioned eyes? Few of us experience that fractal like beauty, where something is beautiful in the context of surrounding beauty, one of an infinitude of possible magnifications. He knelt down and patted me on the head and said, “Happy new year buddy!”. At that moment, I leapt up and kissed him on the face wet. He hugged me but awkwardly dodged my further advances as he tried to keep the combusting tobacco from harm’s reach. Somebody had to love this man. I loved this man. How could I not? Did we not share the common experience of being abandoned and lost? Where were those who claimed our affections? Was I that beast who equated worth with love?

I strolled with him around the block unleashed, for while a libertarian walks his dog, a socialist walks with his.


R.K said...


Ankit Khandelwal said...

Hey Nikhil,
Just got to know about your recent work from the novel.
We used to work in SEDS-VIT :)
Keep going buddy!


Seeker of Truth said...

Two companion pieces