Our Disease 13

The man who plays a song to himself 

Harry had been looking for the bug in house, some surveillance device. He leafed through his books, looked behind framed pictures, ripped down posters. There had to be one, he figured. The Oblivion hacker known as Mr. Anonymous could not known his words otherwise. There was no sense in contemplating a certain omniscience to his part, that’s what they want, that’s when they have you. The end-goal is make you their puppet, whether for ideological, experimental, scholarly or entertaining purposes. When you think there’s a supernatural cause to this invisible communicating with you, is the moment when you liable to become of their many victims.
For a moment, he wanted to smash his laptop and computer to pieces. The whole scene reminded him of the ending of one of his favorite movies ‘The Conversation’, the main character being ironically his namesake. In this film, though its technology it’s laughably dated, its character study would be a preview of the many loners we would see in the future when the Internet ruled our lives. Harry was not born in a world without Internet and this old world of tape-recorders, video-tapes and scribbled letters fascinated him. He once dreamed about writing novel about this, a period piece. Its setting would be about this old world, its main characters seeing the world drastically transform. In some parts for the better, but in other parts, we would lose something to. This has always been the case when it came to revolutions; we gain something and lose something. Only in time, will we discover whether we gained something greater than what we lost. The answer would not be answered in this imaginary novel.
Harry thought about ‘The Conversation’, the toilet flooding with gore, the main character trying to find the meaning of his recordings, the final scene: Harry playing the saxophone after he was torn his apartment apart trying to find the bugs. He saw himself in that scene, replacing the late great Gene Hackman.
He decided to stop looking and perhaps, though he felt it was only going to make him feel worse in the end, to write. Perhaps a treatment to this period piece.
Sitting down on his computer, he started at the Webcam camera head of him. Was Mr. Anonymous looking? Perhaps, but it didn’t matter. Let him look. Stone was right. The only way to win against oblivion, is to look at yourself in the mirror and not be afraid of what you see. Let them see. He even considered jerking-off, but quickly decided against that. It wouldn’t be of no us anyway. He was drugged up on amphetamines, something he hasn’t been for a long time and in those days when he did use it, he would scribble a lot. None of it was any good, but at least it was something.
Perhaps it would be different now.

It wasn’t. Harry would write for hours but would delete every word. He hated every sentence he wrote. It’s his own fault for not having written anything seriously for years. The thing about writing is the same about every art, you have to give yourself to it. If you don’t give enough, you will never become great at it. You’re supposed to suffer for your art. If it goes too well, you know you’re doing it wrong. There needs to be a certain anxiety before you start creating, even if you have been well-established, as Harry actually has been, having written several political commentating books in the past. The point is to get through this anxiety, push through it and don’t hold back. If you are willing to do this, willing to hate yourself on so many occasions, you will eventually find the right words.
But Harry knew he didn’t have the stomach for this now. Already in such a fragile state, he knew that any failures, no matter the size, would be heartbreaking. So his heart was broken that night, exacerbated by the inevitable crash of the amphetamines. Harry would lie in his bed, trying to get some sleep even though he wanted to avoid this, fearing the nightmares. For a moment he did feel asleep but it didn’t last long. In this slumber, there came the peculiar memory of an childhood friend Crispin, they were twelve then they were practicing fight moves they saw on TV. Crispin, despite being of heavier size, was more limber being able to do a roadhouse kick which he did, accidentally giving Harry a nosebleed. Harry wanted to cry then but Crispin quickly helped him, his mom being a nurse probably helped, told him to put his nose back as Crispin cleaned his nose. He felt very safe with him in that moment. Harry realized then before he awoke seconds later that he never had a closer friend than Crispin.

He would watch ‘The Conversation’ the rest of the night. The movie affecting him like never before. He felt he was Harry Caul, this lonely figure who can’t manage to establish close relationships. There is guilt in his soul but not a willingness to confront it. He listens to other people, to conversations not meant for his ears. There is also the truth about the human animal that becomes clear when you listen to them when they don’t know it. In the end, he doesn’t know whether his life is being invaded or his mind is invading on itself. There’s no answer in the end. The story ends on this devastating note. Outside a man is being kissed by a woman. Inside, Harry plays a song for himself in the ruin of his world.

After the movie was done, Harry, though reluctant first, opened his e-mail. Immediately, a video-player would dominate his screen, showing Webcam footage recorded from somebody’s laptop. There was no stopping it, any click of a button wouldn’t do anything. You could shut the computer off or watch it till the end.
At first, Harry suspected he would see himself but he saw crisp images of another room, a man and a woman having sex. The woman was on top, the sound she made was something that sounded familiar to him. He quickly realized who it was and though his first instinct was to shut his computer off, he let it play anyway. It was going to be painful to watch but he loved seeing a glimpse of her, even if it was with another man.
They would change positions, he didn’t know the man but he could see that he was hansom, but there was a kindness about him as well. You dream about your rival being someone smug and posh like the current president, but it’s worse when he looks like a nice guy. It was love, Harry could see it. It wasn’t just lust. She was happy with another man, as he had suspected. He kept watching until the end, tears would stream down his face.

Art by Edward Hopper

***

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