In About a Boy, Will measures his life according to units of time. Half-hour segments. It is strange how when in a relationship, or out of it, the same happens. You have your eye glued to your phone. You exercise patience. You try to kill time. Literally. I have a meeting that will take up half an hour. Excellent. That’s a half hour when I don’t have to think of him. You have a phone-call that takes up 10 minutes. No that won’t do. I should send one or two emails perhaps and that would take up more time. No, we’re still at 18 minutes, maybe if I fill my bottle of water, another few minutes will pass, but only one or two have gone, so I stare at the phone for another 10 minutes, until I am awoken from my daydream by a colleague who enters the room and asks something. Relieved, I engage in a conversation hoping that the discussion will get my mind off my phone, and the thought of him. After another chunk of time, where in another context I would feel that it is a total waste of time. I welcome the diversion. I welcome the occasion that allowed me to lose focus for a few moments. I get up, stretch, move around, I sit, I fiddle with something. I am determined not to check my phone. It’s been sitting there on my desk and I know there are no messages, I haven’t heard any notification. I still check it. And then stare for a few minutes at the messages and the time the person was last online and the no reply and the identification that the message was delivered. And was read. And it gets irritating, but you tell yourself you must exercise patience and restraint. You get up again and get some more water and then resolve to kill another half hour segment doing something useful and positive. I need to finally get to those minutes I have been postponing for the past 3 and a half weeks. That would kill some time. And you get into it and actually forget about time for a moment until you are interrupted again. And that’s the most dangerous thing, because the slightest interruption brings you back to the present moment, where you re-enter a cycle of checking messages and wondering why the message has been read but there has been no reply, or why the person has not read the message even though he’s been online or why he’s neither read the message nor been online. It’s a tiring process. It drains you and exhausts you and you wonder why people aren’t as attached to their phones as you are, or even wonder whether you did something to provoke or upset the person, you wonder what distractions there could possibly be that would take their thoughts away from you. You enter into their imaginary mind and wonder what they’re thinking, where they are, what discussions they may be having with themselves. You wonder if you are in any way part of those discussions, those thoughts. You wonder whether anything you said and did while you were together will ever be recalled, thought of, felt. Felt with any tenderness or feeling, as strong as the moment they were said. You wonder if he thinks of you at all and you feel fragile at those moments. You think the moments you spent together could not have been in vain, could not have been a dream, could not have been imaginary. But the lack of communication weighs down on you and you go back to a fleetly awakening and a determination to focus, to go back to your segments of time that will gradually enable you to go through the hours – always the hours, and the days in a sane and at the most, semi-productive day. A reflection like this takes up an hour. Two units of time. A page of colouring will take up 3 units of time, and if the music is good, you take another page which will take up another 3 units. Before you realise it, you will have used up 3 hours without you feeling it, numbed by music and colours. A film will almost take up 4 units of time. Excellent. A two hour film will enable you to focus your mind elsewhere, maybe giving him enough time to finish whatever he is doing and check his phone. Because maybe he was busy, maybe he was in a meeting, maybe he forgot his phone somewhere, maybe he was driving. And then at some point you realise that the only temporary solution out of this situation is to go to bed, and shut your phone and that would use up a good chunk of units of time.
December 29, 2016
December 9, 2016
Grateful for the silence of a few hours after a field trip to finish the book I am currently reading. The silence of a phone with no notifications and no phone-calls. The luxury of finishing an assignment and purposefully not thinking about work for just one afternoon. The peacefulness of being transported to another dimension where all that you hear, smell, taste is the world inside the book. Grateful for those few hours of disconnection from reality.
They heard the thud of wood on flesh. Boot on bone. On teeth. The muffled grunt when a stomach is kicked in. The muted crunch of skull on cement. The gurgle of blood on a man’s breath when his lung is torn by the jagged end of a broken rib.
Blue-lipped and dinner-plate-eyed, they watched, mesmerized by something that they sensed but didn’t understand: the absence of caprice in what the policemen did. The abyss where anger should have been. The sober, steady brutality, the economy of it all.
They were opening a bottle.
Or shutting a tap.
Cracking an egg to make an omelette.
The twins were too young to know that these were only history’s henchmen. Sent to square the books and collect the dues from those who broke its laws. Impelled by feelings that were primal yet paradoxically wholly impersonal. Feelings of contempt born of inchoate, unacknowledged fear—civilization’s fear of nature, men’s fear of women, power’s fear of powerlessness.
Man’s subliminal urge to destroy what he could neither subdue nor deify.
What Esthappen and Rahel witnessed that morning, though they didn’t know it then, was a clinical demonstration in controlled conditions (this was not war after all, or genocide) of human nature’s pursuit of ascendancy. Structure. Order. Complete monopoly. It was human history, masquerading as God’s Purpose, revealing herself to an under-age audience.
There was nothing accidental about what happened that morning. Nothing incidental. It was no stray mugging or personal settling of scores. This was an era imprinting itself on those who lived in it.
History in live performance.