Category Archives: Personal

Pie or cake? (IRL)

“Why do I find Karl Marx so beautiful ever since I’m in love with you? I mean, his ideas about society.”

“And I find capitalism less awful.”

“See, we don’t have to be alike, do we?”

“Maybe that’s why we’re here. To complete each other’s choice.”

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the body

I often feel so small and light that my existence doesn’t count much and I can go unnoticed or even disappear without having any effect on this world. Nevertheless, I’m still a body; I still eat, urinate, occupy a residential unit, and have my identity registered by all kinds of authorities. I may feel dead, but my physical body keeps functioning. Dying is not that easy. I have to deal with this cumbersome thing which is the body. And as humans we have built a whole culture around death (that is essentially for the livings). It’s as if you could never escape.

until when

So here it is, the end of summer. An entire three months of love with two people whom I treasure the most and who keep giving me reason to stay alive, even sometimes against my will. Going back to life in France and seeing people again feel less like a burden now. It’s not that I’ve regained the taste of casual company. But I’ve managed to shelter myself from the exasperation that it may cause me.

I wonder how long this feeling will last. How long I can be okay. Because I need to be okay – not that I desperately want to be ‘cured’ or to be normal, but it’s exhausting to go through a breakdown, and I don’t know how much longer I can still endure that, how many breakdowns I have left until I completely give in, and fade. The truth is sometimes I do want to live, when I think about our future with all the things that I want to share with you and the life that we would have together. But I’m tired, I’m just so tired. I’ve never been a driven person, I always leave the battle to other people. So how can I strive to find myself a place in this world, which involves competing and calculating for the sake of self-seeking?

The only thing I ever fought for so vehemently, that I though I’d never quit, turned out not to be even a thing. It has drained me. I can feel my faith crumble to the point of irreparability. I might not be unhappy anymore, but now there’s a cynicism lurking beneath every positive feeling I have. I’ve given myself this summer doing purposeless things. I thought that maybe when I finished those books, I would be healed. Now I realize that there will never be a deadline for healing. My best friend needed two years to ‘get over’ her story. But she didn’t set out to do it; it just happened. So I feel better now, I might actually am, but I also might not. I can only keep going about my days and see what happens. Until when, until when.

l’attente

J’attends mon amie à la sortie du métro. Le vent humide et légèrement glacial traverse mes cheveux. Je m’assieds sur un bord de mur et reprends ma lecture. Il s’agit d’un recueil de nouvelles de Le Clézio, mon auteur préféré. Des “faits divers” transformés en récits poétiques et brûlants sur des vies en fuite. Je m’évade tout de suite vers des terres lointaines, dénudées et abandonnées. Le temps de la lecture rallonge ainsi la “vraie” durée de mon attente.

Depuis que je suis arrivée à P., j’ai appris à lire dans n’importe quel endroit et à n’importe quel moment. Souvent, mes temps de lecture correspondaient à mes temps d’attente. Souvent, j’attendais une seule chose. Et souvent, j’attendais devant les entrées du métro. Alors, aujourd’hui, quand j’attends mon amie, je me sens emportée vers un autre espace-temps (au sens anthropologique du terme), et plus spécifiquement, vers la ville que je viens de quitter. J’ai l’impression d’attendre la même chose que j’ai attendue tant de fois là-bas. Désormais, peu importe où je suis, ce sera mon unique objet d’attente. Et je tarde à quitter le livre des yeux, à mettre fin à mon attente, afin de rester dans cet univers où ce sera toujours toi que je voir arriver lorsque je lève la tête.

the salvation

A magpie walks on a balcony railing on fifth floor. Then it flies to a tree from the garden below. When it sets off, it just lets itself drop into the air. It gets absorbed into the leafy branches, then all of a sudden the bird spreads its wings and soars up to the top of the tree. The whole scene happens within a second. Then I think that is how I would like to kill myself. A suicide that does not end with death. Because I do not want to live until I cannot. And so I have to do it; I have to set out to die in order to regret it. But as soon as I embark on the journey towards death, right when I leave the wall, the balcony, the window, the rooftop, or whatever it is that still keeps me alive, a pair of wings will be released from my body and bring me back.

sombre

J’ai envie soudain de m’enfermer dans la cave, même si elle évoque une ambiance de thriller, puisque je n’aime pas la lumière et je me sens en sécurité là où elle n’atteint pas. La douceur de l’ombre atténue l’acuité de la lumière. On dit que les plantes tendent vers la lumière car elle apporte la vie, pourquoi ne demande-t-on pas ce qu’elles font dans la nuit? Leur vie n’arrête certainement pas lorsque le soleil se retire. Et puis, au-dessous des arbres, c’est l’obscurité qui règne. Là où on cherche refuge.

summer

The sky is the same

I look up at the sky. It’s the same bright, limpid blue sky that promise of possibilities. It gives me the same overwhelming feeling as its height is emphasized by the tall building made of glasses that draws perfectly parallel vertical lines. Yet it’s not the same sky. How can it be the same now that I’m here and not there anymore? How can I leave that place and still carry its sky with me? Do I only see the sky in memory? I’m here, and yet I’m not here. I’m not there, and yet I’m there.

Sane

I started a new novel and now I’m half way through it. Probably finish it today. It reminds me of The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. The protagonist is a kid with schizophrenia, but it’s not clearly stated in the story because it’s told in first person. Like the dog in the night-time, the mental condition of the main character makes him blamelessly anti-social and brutally honest. But I like his voice. It forces you to have understanding (and not sympathy) of the subject. It’s not your version of the story, but it’s about how they see their world. In that world, it’s not them who are mad. “the only thing I have control over in my entire world is the way I choose to tell this story”, wrote the protagonist. It makes me think about victims of deeply traumatic events. You can’t judge whether they’re telling the truth or not. Because they were affected by what happened, you can’t expect them to provide an objective account of history.

Take it slow, I tell myself. Maybe when I finish all these books, I’ll be healed. Right now, I’ve decided to be in a state of numbness and stasis, that is, stagnating in the present moment, not reminiscing the past, not projecting myself in the future. I can’t participate immediately. Everything here brings back the person that I used to be, and that I didn’t like. Maybe if I hang about on this campus often enough, I’ll finally get attached to it, even though it’s not mine. Feeling familiar, knowing my way around.

Passing 

I feel nervous when I step in this university’s cafeteria for the first time. As if I returned to my first day of being a bachelor’s student, unaware of how it functioned. The sociolinguist Pennycook talks of “passing as a local” in a second language (besides, I find this term more sensible than “foreign language” which denotes a stronger sense of ownership), i.e. making yourself credible to your interlocutor so that they would believe that you actually are a “local” from somewhere else. You don’t need to be fluent in that language. It’s not a matter of authenticity, but of legitimacy and perception. In the end, authenticity may be less about turning inward and being true to oneself, than about putting on a convincing performance to an audience. So every time I feel vulnerable in a new environment, I observe people and, not imitating them, I try to act as if I was a “local”, an insider. I get so self-conscious about it. Of course nobody cares. I guess I do it for myself. I surveil myself before anybody else could. Is that a way of claiming ownership over one’s own image, by subjecting oneself to the imagined gaze of others? Of course, if they ever watch me, it doesn’t matter what they perceive. It’s what I think about their perception of me. Then I wonder if we ever do not perform. Maybe we’re constantly performing to ourself, looking at ourself as if we were somebody else. Anyway, I only want to find the the place to get tap water. And I guess all this can be summed up in one word that is meaningless to me because imprecise and abused in CV: adaptation.

The feeling that it won’t last

The lunch meal in the cafeteria reminds me of the lunches I shared with my classmates last year, in the common room of the information and communication department. That was where we gathered every noon between two 3-hour lectures or seminars to eat, talk, do projects and revise for exams. I recall this because we didn’t have a cafeteria there, and I’m trying to remember the last time I had a lunch meal in the cafeteria of a university that was mine. Last year was the first time that I was constantly surrounded by people and belonged to a group, but then again, none of that lasted longer than the academic year. It was an affiliation born out of convenience and necessity. But can we talk of permanence even when it comes to people with whom we’ve been deeply emotionally involved? Because now my thoughts drift to him, as I think about the novel that I’m reading and how it’s similar to the dog in the night-time one, because I gave him that book last summer. I thought he’d love it because it was peculiar like us, but he never showed me any sign of appreciation. Like with everything else I gave him. I’ve settled on the conclusion that, it’s not that the story is lost, but that there has never been a story. All those years, I was chasing an ideal. How ideas are dangerous. They can kill.

Longest day of the year

I find my shelter on this campus. These days, by “shelter” I mean shelter from the heat. It is nestled in a passage between two blocks, and has benches shadowed by the thin and scattered foliage of some newly-planted trees. Sometimes, a slight breeze flirts with the leaves. I lie down on the bench and look at the sky. Instead of being covered by vertiginous pine trees, my view is invaded by metal-and-glass high-rises. The sky is not the same as I thought. It’s lower and heavier.

People start to come out, so I move inside one of the building nearby where it’s fresh and empty. I crawl into a corner and press my body against the glass wall. People keep talking but their sounds can’t reach me. I’m sheltered from the heat and from human noises. Of course there can’t be absolute silence. There’s the elevator’s ringing sound. The bangs from the slamming door. But I guess it’s the empty space that keeps people away from me. I feel safe in a corner of a very large room that offers no point of reference.