Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Maybe Tomorrow

Maybe tomorrow things will be different. Maybe tomorrow they will see what a wonderful person Sue really is. Underneath it all. Sometimes, she tries to affirm her reality. I am here. I have a name. I breathe. Then she pauses. But what is it I do? Why do I matter? If I were to disappear tomorrow, who would even notice? She does not have a job. She does not have a partner. She does not even have friends.

Ten years ago: It's her sister Clara's 16th birthday party and everyone is standing around as she cuts the cake. Sue is crouched in a corner pretending to read Pride & Prejudice. She hopes someone will notice and call her to join them. But they don't. Tears glide silently down her cheeks.

If only she weren't always so tired. If only she could wake up before noon. But she has nothing to wake up for. Nobody to talk to. Nowhere to go. She exists in a world of whispers and shadows. They have forgotten about her.

Seven years ago: Sue fails her university entrance examinations and her parents tell her to get a job. She becomes a clerk at an import-export firm. It is undemanding work and she doesn't earn much but at least she can say she's gainfully employed. Her six siblings troop off to university and soon she is unable to join in their scintillating conversations.

When people don't notice you, you cease to exist. How can I occupy all this space and not exist? Sue rolls around on her bed. It feels hot, lumpy, uncomfortable. She considers rising, but it would be too much of an effort to throw off the pungent covers and have a shower. She needs to, though. Her bladder is at bursting point. She doesn't exist but she could still stink up the bed. And let's face it, the bed is foul enough as it is.

A year ago: Sue reads an article in the local newspaper where the writer tells amusing stories of his futile search for a bride. The woman he likes is much too sophisticated to tie herself down. The one who wants to marry him, pestering him with calls, letters and presents, is only a clerk in an import-export firm - silly, cheap and inconsequential. He pokes gentle fun at her, before moving on to the next candidate. Sue quits her job the next day.

She pads over to the bathroom in her tiny studio apartment and squats over the white ceramic bowl. Her life has shrunk to its two basic functions - eating and excreting.

Her parents are livid. They threaten to kick her out of the house. She, the last remaining "child", despite her age. She walks out and spends an interesting night on a tree. When she returns the next day, she finds them suitably chastened. They tell her they understand that she may need some space and let her to move into one of their investment apartments to keep her off the streets. And allow her $50 a week. Same reason.

Itching all over, Sue finds she really has no choice. She will have to shower. She stands under the steaming water, limpid as plasticine, until her skin wrinkles. Then she makes her way back to bed. Still itchy. She throws off her bedclothes and replaces the sheets. Ahhhh... this is more like it.

Six months ago: It's another birthday party and as usual Sue wanders around feeling lost. She tries to join a group of cousins, but they ignore her and go on with their conversation. She feels stupid and miserable and resolves never to go for another family function.

She still can't get to sleep. She reaches in the fridge for a Snickers bar and it explodes in her mouth, a mess of chocolate, caramel and nuts. Satisfied, she licks the roof of her mouth and gets back into bed.

She didn't attend her brother's party and her own birthday passed by unremarked. No card, not even a phone call. Maybe she has actually disappeared. Like Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense.

Her head is full of voices. She reaches under her bed for her latest journal, powder blue with a picture of a lighthouse on the cover and starts to write:

My life is a lingering sob. Nobody loves me, I wish I were dead. But why give those bastards the satisfaction? I'll show them. Tomorrow, I'll get up early, work out, look up arts courses, make a start towards a new life. Tomorrow I will get a part-time job, find love, start living.

Yes, it will all happen tomorrow. Maybe. She chucks her journal aside and goes to sleep.


goldennib said...

Oh, Jenn, do I know those feelings of, what, depression is not quite the word. Neither is futility. I think hopelessness comes closest. Once again, you have captured a feeling so well.

I was just thinking 30 minutes ago how boring, mundane, and uninteresting my life is. A rut. I have the things Sue does not, job, family, friends, my own home, etc., but the feelings are internal, not external. No "things" can fix that feeling. Only reviewing what we already have and being thankful, can we change the grey, hazy view to one of rosey light.

Jenn said...

Hopelessness is right. A sort of existential despair that pervades everything. You want to get up and do stuff, but there is darkness and danger all around. So you curl up in your comfortable little prison and tell yourself things will be different tomorrow.

Eugene O'Neill in The Iceman Cometh said that when we give up our pipe dreams, we die.

goldennib said...

Eugene O'Neill is so right.

Which reminds me that my literary education is lacking. I have not read The Iceman Cometh. I dream of more hours in the day to read, read, read, read, read.

~Lil Nance ;> said...

I think I have "died" a few times. I made a decision a while back (I know you read it) to change things, and not to allow myself to "slide" into old patterns anymore. I'm doing ok for now... but we will see in a few months.

Like you both said, things nor people can fix these feelings. It has to be internal and I think that is where I have screwed up before. I'm still learning lessons, and I assume at this rate... I'll be learning them until I die!

goldennib said...

There will only ever be peace for us as humans when we rejoin God. Until then, the definition of life is "learning lessons." Sucks, doesn't. But I have found, for myself anyway, if I accept that up front, it seems to make me feel better, in some perverse way.

Jenn said...

Goldennib: I would recommend Iceman Cometh (did it for my Drama in Context: Modern American Drama unit this semester. My brilliant lecturer (I had a serious crush on him) thought that Iceman Cometh was one of the best plays ever written. Bar none. I remember watching it on tv and feeling myself curl up and die. It was too depressing. Jane Austen said (I am paraphrasing here) that he who appreciates something the most should taste of it but sparingly.

Nancy: I can empathise with you completely, I am terrified of returning to Malaysia for just this reason - sliding into old patterns of anger and negativity and self-loathing. I guess I have always written my way out of situations. How do you hold on to your centre when everything around you is crazy spinning? You attach your gaze to a fixed point and don't allow it to waver.

I guess this is what you mean by going back to God, goldennibs.

goldennib said...

Nancy - I read your blog after I made my comment. I am so sorry for your loss and I am sorry if I sounded like a twit.

Jenn - I will check out The Iceman Cometh and I love Jane Austin. I find her writing so truthful and wise and without any fanfair. She knew that people are such ding-a-lings.

To me God is connectedness. God is like a big hug that never gets uncomfortable. God is that perfect feeling you get on rare occasions on a spring morning when the sky is a cornflower blue, the air is crystal clear and the sun is all around you. It's rare, but it's bliss.

Andy said...

A haunting entry.

My answer to feeling lost and sad? Get up, get out of the house, do something, especially if it's the last thing you want to do.

I've discovered the world tends to reward you for going out into it and stirring up things, no matter how small and inconsequential you think your actions are. After all, a butterfly flaps its wings in Central Park, and a storm ravages China, right?

Jenn said...

Andy: I know, do something. But when someone is clinically depressed, it's all they can do to get out of bed to shower. They're barely functional.

Would like to spread a little light this season. I realise that my postings of late have been a little heavy. Lightening up, coming up.

stretch td said...

I thought you were reading about my sister. Everyone has almost given up on trying to help her as she won't help herself. She has very little to look forward to -- few friends, no meaningful job, no partner.

She rarely answers the phone. When she does, she'll tell me that she's been busy. Nobody knows what she's been busy doing. She won't tell you anything more.

You want to help, but don't know how. Its all so frustrating.

Jenn said...

Gosh Stretch, your poor sister. Except that there's a difference. Here, nobody cared because she was insignificant, and nobody bothered to help.

If you guys do want to help your sister, then she's blessed (although she may not know it).

Berlinbound said...

Beautiful writing ...

Jenn said...

Welcome back Berlinbound. And thanks...