The Meaning Of Life 

The Meaning Of Life

The room was as quiet as a mouseful of pins. Angel had been invited to sit awhile… mainly because nobody was ready to receive her. The doorkeeper had released barely sufficient information, but she understood that the delay was likely to be minimal. Old enough not to take matters at face value, she feared the worst…a wait of at least a day or so, or even longer, much longer. The world had become a slow place. The new millennium had taken longer to arrive than the customary turns of century in the past. Yet, how did she know that? She hadn’t been there, had she? She shrugged… and prepared to wait. Her watch ran too quick and she had placed it in her bag, rather than allow it to mislead her. In the good old days, she would have been able to take advantage of such diversions as a magazine-rack, a television set or, even, full-blooded books. Now, of course, endemic slow motion was not conducive to entertainment…since it showed up all the seams and otherwise concealed boredoms. Even exciting plots dragged and drooped…which brought Angel back to Angel. She had a lifetime to ponder those distant eras of high romance and adventure when she had been, if not exactly fast and loose, certainly a trifle impetuous. Before that, her childhood had been full of endless summers…yet, paradoxically, childhood had fast fizzled out just as if Einstein had never been born.

The most amazing fact is that, even though I am not yet old enough to write, here I am actually writing a journal, yet I don’t believe any of it happened this way…not that I can easily forget events that happened today…more that a newborn baby girl such as I has no more than a single event to record in a journal, even if she could remember it and, more incredibly, write about it…and, surely, one’s suspicions are aroused when the journal also purports to describe its very act of execution by a baby who is able to write. Whatever the case, merely let me say that I was born today. Being born, let me also tell you, dear journal, is not a messy nor a painful act from the baby’s point of view. Anyone who tells you different is simply rumor-mongering, reaping the chaff of hearsay and prospecting loose logic.

Diaries are a bit of a fad at the best of times. Still, having come to another round number of days, a millennium in fact, I have considered it high time for another entry. At least, this proves Angel still exists. But what sort of person am I? A baby who can write, well, I must be a pretty strange two year old, mustn’t I? And an even stranger adult yet to come, no doubt. But I must pull myself together. I have a serious part of my journal to write today…it being merely coincidence that it fell on the thousandth day of my life…and the figures of speech must be sufficiently elegant and, yes, weighty, to match the occasion’s importance. What occasion? Well, dear journal, you seem to be full of curiosity. In fact, your personality is decidedly…how shall I put it?…human, isn’t it? However, to satisfy your foibles, let a tiny toddler girl like me confirm that today marks the very first clear day of my future grown-up memory. And what is it that I shall remember so clearly from today? A see-saw on the hillside, bathed in the shafting sunset, and a man who purports to be called “uncle” pushing me up and down from his end of the contraption. I hooted with delight as I felt the thinning tug of Earth’s gravity at each thrust into the empurpling heavens. “Angel, hold tight!” he shouted in cascades of echo, brimming with transitory joy. Yet despite the clarity of memory, various questions will remain. What had we been doing up to this point? Indeed, what did we do afterwards, how did we get home to my blurred parents, whether I slept in a cot or a grown-up bed with no sides…and was I fed a cheese supper to account for the dreams I know I am going to have tonight but, like many dreams, since forgotten? Well, I shall never remember even though I happen to write this entry between supper and bedtime, so very tired from playing in the hills with “uncle,” my head spinning round and round until the great flouncing tides of sleep sweep in and expunge a toddler’s excited confusions about a very special day...

The time has arrived to get on with the rest of my life. After the three dates above, dear journal, I know, I have forsaken you for yet another thousand days, or is it nine hundred and ninety-nine? It is unclear when millennia are supposed to begin and end…yet does it matter? The unquestionable fact is that I am five years old… but my ability to write English on your pages has not significantly improved, if at all. However, emotional responses to my own thoughts have matured apace and I can even begin to comprehend the predicament in which I find myself Angel is a freak: not exactly one of those infant prodigies…since they retain a foothold in childhood… their brains merely holding a lot more room than most for intelligence, logic or artistry…whilst Angel’s brain, yes, my brain, does not even belong to me! How can I explain it better? Simply let the words speak for themselves. I’ve nothing to add. So, turning to the rudiments of my life, the one called “uncle” has vanished…under a cloud, as it were. I don’t understand why, but my parents (far less blurred than my previous entry) tell me a lot simply by their inclination to say nothing about him. I have a recurring dream where “uncle” appears, slopping up what looks like buckets of blood, lugging them between bedrooms and the top floor…where the landing light is always out. But who has ever heard of dreaming in real colour? My common sense tells me it is impossible. Not much else to record at this point in time. I wish I could go to school like other kids where I might get some things out of my system naturally…using plasticene… playing team games… and with teachers far more human than my parents seem to be, and than you, dear journal, come to think of it. I shall give you another rest and, by implication, you, too, dear Angel.

When I re-read the childish handwriting in the first few pages of this exercise-book, I am amazed at my own duplicity…and, yes, ashamed. I admit it… I come clean, dear journal, O such mockery of a dear dear sweet journal…the fact of the matter is that I have pretended…yes, pretended…a twenty-seven year old shelf-sitter who wishes she was someone other than Angel, even if it is to be a precocious five year old whom she never was, never will be…I’ve bitten the pencil to the lead, clumsily fisted it…a mock pram-squatter etching out the scrawls and scribbles of an ancient a cave-dweller. But what can I expect? Hieroglyphics were always meant to outline the raw emotions of last races as they tried to find themselves, weren’t they? Don’t bother to answer. Angel won’t mind.

“Angel won’t mind.” The number of times I’ve heard that said. I’m not exactly trodden on, more squelched to pulp under hob-nailed feet. One day I’ll stand up for myself. The last fellow who dated me ended up exchanging me for a blonde. The fellow before that raped me, even before I’d met him. He said he raped me in a dream…one of his dreams, that is, not mine. I’ve yet to meet the fellow who rapes me in my own dreams… assuming he’s a real person in the first place. Anyway, for the time being, I’ve given up real men altogether. Life’s more controllable in dreams, you see…marginally. So, I’m taking the extraordinary step or writing this journal on consecutive days for one simple reason. I saw “uncle” this morning… as clear as clear can be. He’d grown older in the last twenty odd years, of course, but, striding from shop to shop, his whole demeanor was basically unaltered. I watched him from behind a corner…if corners have behinds, which I’m sure they don’t. It would make more sense if space were two-dimensional. Time adds the vital third ingredient, giving edges their behinds…and me the room to maneuver. I followed him from edge to edge, wondering whether I should accost him. After all, if it weren’t for him, I might have been a normal human being… not one full of complexes and fears and all that emotional shit. I might have actually grown up properly. But he disappeared into a crowd and, as I write this out, I blame that very crowd for his camouflage. People are their own conspiracies and take scant account of mere individuals like me. And people (yes, you!) who happen to read this journal in the future, behind the corner of time which is my death… well, they should be ashamed of their mass carelessness. Most men resemble my “uncle” in the best of times…surely, the crowd didn’t have to go the whole hog of uniformity. Still, I’ve written it down…got it off my chest…made a clean breast of it, as it were.

Today seemed as good as any to resume these entries. There are a helluva lot of blank pages to go…as here’s trusting to long enough life to fill ‘em! Perhaps I’ll have to up the rate of entry. The room is quieter than a mouseful of pins. That’s a strange expression for me to have written. I don’t know where it came from… some book I read somewhere, I suppose. The doorkeeper told me I wouldn’t have long to wait. I’ll believe that when I see it. These days people have to wait for the delays themselves to start! It’s at times like this one begins to ponder the past…all of those endless summers of childhood…the crazy romances…and the various misadventures which began as something far more important before they fizzled out. There’s nothing in this room to help me pass the time…only a few still paintings on the wall…and the uninteresting furniture. So, it’s useful to have my journal book with me, whiling away the hours by telling the hours…until night comes.

The room ran with rats, all pinning hopes on vultures’ dreams. They do not teach anybody anything these days, the solitary man thought. He shuffled sheaves of hieroglyphics in the hope of them falling into a shape of sense. Sluggish time dragged like tides of sleep on shingle: Einstein in prison, like Galileo. The man pulled the past apart, word by word. Then he lugged pails back and forth across the landing, for slopping out. Later, he sat on the cold floor, rocking back and forth, back and forth, to the rhythm of ancient childhood games, dreaming of a pig-tailed girl called “Angel” above him in the empurpling heavens. Eventually, the doorkeeper turned off the man’s light, to mimic day-fall.

(published 'Samsara' 1996)

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