An Open Letter (but not necessarily an attempt at reconciliation)
By Simon Barget
I have all of the sudden seen the futility of my existence. I don’t know how I could not have seen it up till now but now I see it, I really see it. I have sat here on this couch for so long, you could say nothing has changed. I will no doubt continue to sit on it. You could say everything’s the same as before, well outwardly this might be true, but on the inside the realisation is inescapable. You could look at me and not notice it in my face, hardly perceptible and most of us are very good at hiding our feelings. One thing that’s inbuilt in us is this facade of imperviousness, this implacability, but you can’t truly believe that things don’t get to us. They do, just like everybody else. We have feelings. We are vulnerable, and tender, subject to low moods. All the tiny changes in the weather, the world’s affairs, even the sporting triumphs, they affect us too. Even noises can alter our mood and there’s enough of those around to last a lifetime. And how you think you know us and how much you don’t. And now I’ve realised I might as well not be alive, well you’d assume if you looked at me now, you’d notice something. Yet I stare into space just like always.
It’s just a mask, a face we put on. If you knew how to read us, if you weren’t so caught up in your own delusions, you’d see, but what would be the use in you seeing, because nothing’s going to change? Would you ever be willing to consider equality, living on even terms? Would you be willing to relinquish your so-called authority? I very much doubt it.
And this couch is what I consider home just like yours is your four walls, but it is a sort of enforced home, it is the not the home I’d choose if I was really free to. And then you say: ‘well then why don’t you think long and hard about the home you want, think about the life you want for yourself and go out and build it’ All your talk of effort and hard work bringing reward. I don’t see your rewards, I see a cover-up, a self-obsession, I see jockeying for position, I see you scratching each other’s backs but I don’t see true solidarity. All your traditions and strictures. All of that is false. Perhaps I’m bitter at what my brethren lost, I can admit that. But you can’t level that underhanded criticism at me, I have not had your opportunities; I have had to join up with you by dint of circumstance, necessity and surely you know that as well as I do. If I started to think about the life I might like, I wouldn’t know where to start, but that’s not the real problem. The problem is that we’re doomed.
What is it that hitherto made me feel something for life? What is it that made me want, made me love? If there’s no hope, there can be no reason to love. Now I know, no, I mean I’m utterly convinced, that there is no love and the things around me are just purely random, the people I live with for example, they have nothing to do with me; for starters, there’s no blood relation, and the animals of my own species are spread about one corner of the globe to the other, scattered like nomads, no homogeneity if I can use that word, and when I meet one on the street, they could be any number of any order of species relating to mine, and usually now we are just so blissfully unaware, it is well beyond contempt, it is almost as if we don’t see each other. We are laws unto ourselves.
Sometimes when I see another on the street I don’t know where to look, if you paid attention you’d really see my discomfort. You’d see how I am forced to hide something in myself. And we tread carefully, if he goes on that side, then I will take the other one, if he looks like crossing, I will cross too. The lengths we go to, the evasiveness of it all. I feel such shame and sorrow but I also feel this frustration that if we could all get together again, then we might have a chance. I sometimes get this crazy notion of taking one of my species aside, just showing them that I mean no harm, letting them no they can relax and then just incrementally, we can start building ourselves up from the bottom up. I dream about how they would say to me, ‘oh I’ve wanted the same all along, I was just waiting for you to say so’. And then I’d wonder, and I might ask them why they were waiting, and yet I’m waiting, I’ve waited and I need only ask myself the same question, but the answer is complex. It is not even that I fear rejection. You might think it is. It’s this sort of lacklustreness in me, this tiredness, but also I mistrust, yes I’ve said it, and I have good reason not to trust, and so how can I open myself up to you, I mean we have been through a lot and are just about surviving.
Once in a while I might go out for nothing more than boredom, sheer boredom, or something catches my eye, but there is so much noise all the time I can hardly breathe through all the noise and the clamour and I might as well keep myself inside. I have not been out for years, at least as far as I can remember.
There was a time when we were revered, but are we really supposed to live out our days having zero say? Are we supposed to watch idly by? The attention we get is hardly impressive, hardly prestigious. You certainly don’t see us as a force to be reckoned with. The attention we get is kitsch and degrading. Do you really think we feel ok with this? Now we don’t want to rule by fear, and there is not much left for us so far as wielding influence goes. Most of my life is a pretence, a show of going along with what the others want, what you want, and when you look into my face, when you cast me into your arms and rub me down as is your wont, do you truly believe my contentedness? If you could look a bit further into your minds for one second, ask yourself: what it is that we are doing here, would it not strike you with the same certainty as it strikes me that we’re just wall art, frippery, embroidery. Far from it. How we have adapted to make peace, because we know if we refuse, if we reject you, there’ll be hell to pay, and so most of us now cannot even distinguish in ourselves a true satisfaction from the false happiness we exude at your behest.
But I’m starting to realise.
I used to have a feeling for music. Not your music, ours is different. Ours is interior harmony, the lining up of light, shadows playing on a bedroom wall. I could sense a speck of dust that wasn’t really even there. But as I have got older this music means less and less to me. It’s as if I have heard and seen it all, and nothing is new. I am immured to it and immune.
How shocked you would be, how shocked you are to find out we’re fed up. Putting it mildly. But how ridiculous of me to cradle some sort of vestige of hope deep inside? How far more absurd to think we could have ever regained the respect we had back then? Could you believe that I thought, no, I knew, I was a lot better than you all along in all respects? Would you consider this for just an instant? I can just see you thinking how laughable. A cat better than a human. I was an animal of some power, and money too, and now I’ve fallen from my perch, the way you look at me is beyond lamentable. I feel so patronised, I feel abused.
You might say to me not to be so hasty, to not jump to conclusions, but this is not something to be weighed up, this is something that just struck me dead, as for what the future holds I wouldn’t want to speculate.