There are times when it doesn’t seem possible that someone else could think and feel as ardently as I do, that thoughts could flicker in their mind and then burn and flare. It’s contrarily a sadness and a consolation to know that they do, though. Indeed, only the other day I read a passage which confirmed for me that others did and I felt my heart heavy within my chest as I read it. It was a heaviness borne of the wonder of someone explaining part of your very own nature to you, and then the torture of realising that that nature is not so very unique, that the sensitivity you mistook as setting you apart from others is actually the very thing which glues you to each of them in some small way. Torture and wonder become the same thing, become the same sweet-sharp pain and then fade so quickly, and leave no trace, no ashes from that which had only seconds before burned so furiously.
And this torture visits me often.
There was a walk in the rain a few weeks ago. It fell so hard, and while annoyed by it at first, it became more and more relentless, and each layer of clothing became more sodden and heavy, to the point where I willed it to continue and be more brutal still, wishing only to be further and more completely incapacitated by it. I wanted every bit of clothing to be saturated and as I felt water collect under my feet, in small pools inside my shoes, I was happy.
A few mornings ago, after dropping my daughter at school, a young woman appeared in view over my left shoulder. Ten seconds or so passed and for all of that time she was the only other thing I was aware of, or at least only her and an awareness of the time within which her image and its presence within my thoughts existed. Everything else became nothing. The fences and the shingle edging, the house fronts and the house backs, the cars and the refuse bins: they became as barely visible as the thin wave of white cloud overhead. And the sky had begun to fold in on itself too; all things left and right and below and in front did the same, reducing by half, by half again, and then by half yet again. She arrived at my side, and was then almost instantly gone; past me, ahead and already becoming less, not more; now diminishing; now something which felt about to be lost, when her appearance had initially, and yet so fleetingly, felt like something captured. And something of me disappeared with her.
Lucidity is often promoted by the strangest of things, appearing without our bidding. A moment of lucidity; a moment of absurdity. Camus referred to this torture as, ‘the incalculable tumble before what we are.’ These truths which seem to appear are senses or feelings we have about ourselves which become irrefutable fact in a flash. But then disappear just as instantly. It’s like having one’s thoughts violently lanced; but those thoughts have been cauterised, nothing more. The pain passes and one can’t help but feel like a fool for the anguished scream he let escape seconds earlier.
I was stopped in my tracks two days ago, incapable of deciding whether to scrape the toast I had burnt or not. That same morning, I froze as I found the card I had given to my daughter back in February – a cartoon depicting an elephant inflating a heart-shaped balloon with its trunk – and could not return it to the shelf.
We become lost in moments of indecision and reverie, in moments where the torture and wonder of something more profound threatens to appear, as though for just a few seconds you become anchored to understanding something of who you are and the life you live.