By Simon Barget
People think I’m deluded but I am being followed. I have millions pursuing me. When I go to sleep I am duly observed and it is only when my head hits the pillow that I can safely say that very soon in the near future I will cease to be watched over for a blessed few hours and will be able to rest relatively supervision-free.
When I wake up next morning there will be at least three men by my bedside, the same three men who were there upon my slip into sleeping, tall men, roughly hewn, possessing an inward lean of their right shoulder, all bearded, quite surly and spare with their words, perhaps one has been replaced -- this does sometimes happen -- but the new one looks indistinguishable from the one he came to stand in for, this trivial circumstance seeming to want to drive in how misplaced any cradling of hope on my part that they had decided to leave - they are like a cat or an unwanted keepsake wanting to remind you of their bare presence at strictly all times.
I know immediately what is expected, how I am supposed to be as soon as I step out of my bed. The men don’t necessarily mimic my movement, they give me a semblance of elbow-room without ever letting me out of their sight. If it weren’t for them and their haphazard replacements there would be umpteen others taking their place; there is no shortage between all the people lined up over this planet.
I am not saying that the whole world is enthralled as if I’m a faux Truman; what I’m saying is there’s no shortage of people listening and watching, waiting to fill in the gap, the gap is what always needs filling, the sacred unimpeachable gap, the gap is to know why I’m thinking what I’m thinking, to be tuned into every uncomfortable thought, the thoughts that I can’t help broadcast to all and sundry, and these men in the morning are just the barest bones of the entire ensemble who might beat down my walls to get and pick at my body, who’d unearth me and then leave me to be pecked over by birds.
When you are being eye-balled, like I know I’m being eye-balled -- and I’m not being paranoid -- it really isn’t that pleasant. When you’re being watched, it is even more frustrating because the ultimate interest is not even in you, meaning me. These people are unconcerned with my deepest, core-centred feelings -- what I really know I think beyond all dissimulation -- these people have made up their own minds before the monitoring begins and all they want is to be able to confirm what they think they already know.
I could give chapter and verse on what I’m feeling and thinking and no one would be receptive. They would silence and gag me. They would put their hands over their ears.
I see the mouths of the men move not even in preparation for speech, but merely a gesture and the gestures are so plain because human body language is transparent and the gesture is saying: see he’s doing that thing again and that thing this means such and such, we knew it, I knew it, didn’t we all bloody well know it. And almost as an appendage, and can you believe it is so brazen, this afterthought all conveyed by one tiny facial sneer, an up-curl of the lips, that: he hasn’t changed since yesterday and then conveying the fact that it’s all so tiresome that I haven’t and that they’re still having to waste their time checking and watching when there’s really very little to see.
Yes, these men who watch me expect improvement from a situation they have already set-up to be closed, to be impossible to digress from; they box me in on all sides and then expect me to fly.
There are moments when I’m wayward in thinking that the men have just vanished. Or yes, they might even have gone and they do go out periodically for errands, but they are only absent for the shortest periods of time. And behind them are all the other men, the well-preened women, the wise-old-owl grandfathers, none of whom on the outside show the slightest degree of intent; yes, I am clear-sighted enough to second-guess their pretence, but on the inside, behind a few layers of outward behaviour and sometime worrying about their own lives, they are listening out for me like I’m a news beacon or bell.
When you are me and there is no way of keeping thoughts private, then life takes on a patina. When sought out and listened to you have no room for your darkness, you cannot let it run riot, though it seeps out in the recognition of itself being hindered, and so it comes out and it is noted and remarked on, and you are earmarked as unsavoury, a person capable of depravity, showing the urge to maim and to kill, the most taboo forms of violence, to hate as ardently as you love, or to hate with even more venom, to really truly hate spitting blood, and then even more hatred before dissolving noiselessly in a pool of forced tears.
All these things I know the men are and see, and will never stop seeing, with their rough beards and sneers and their black socks - they always wear these thin cotton socks. All these things are open to them and I cannot close any of it up. I have paid the price of thinking I’m worthy. I have paid the price of mistaking that I matter and now the world has somehow believed me and will not let me live.