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



Our Disease 4

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a dream at all

Whenever Stone’s around, there’s hardly time for sleep. He always has with him a suitcase full of mysterious chemicals making sure there’s always time for a party. They were spending most of the time in Stone’s luxurious hotel since Harry’s place was a mess and Stone always loves to create havoc in some upper-class hotel. Occasionally there were complaints but nobody in the hotel was as rich or connected as Stone so in the end, it didn’t matter.
Despite their differences, the last few days there was much boisterous laughter, long meaningful talks into the night, a connection that wavered on and of. There were moments when Harry didn’t feel so alone more, felt part of the mad scheme of the universe. But in time, as he suspected in the back of his mind, the high faded away and then the crash happened and then everything felt even worse.
The crash was happening now.
On the leather couch in the living room, Stone was having a dispute about Russia with an high-class escort called Tara. Tara was a busty blond, nearing her thirties, her voice almost that of a child. Harry sat in front of them, smoking a cigarette, wearing a fake smile.
”Listen to me young lady, the Russian people just don’t know any better. We tried to give them more rights in the nineties and look what they did? They gave it all away because they need a strong leader. They want someone to point at people and say: ‘we must annihilate these kind of people.’ That’s what people want deep down. They want to be part of a big good vs. evil story.”
”I have more faith for the Russian people…”
Stone started bawling in laughter, winking at Harry.
”We just have to give the right example. We just have to reach the people somehow. Expose their president for the monster that he is.”
”The people have been brainwashed for centuries now. We can’t penetrate their media and we will lose the information war. He’s got them locked in. You have to understand, when it comes to propaganda, the Russians know what they are doing. They’ve perfected it. It was so good, it has even infected the hearts and minds of Europeans and Americans. It’s over darling.”
”But if we showed the human rights statistics then…”
”They will say it’s fake. Western-Propaganda.”
”But it’s not.”
”They will: how do you know?”
”You want to help them and mean good but they don’t want your help. They think they need to protect themselves from you.”
Tara looked sad, drank a sip of their wine.
”I’m scared about the future of our country. We aren’t there yet, but we are getting close.”
”We are almost there, we just haven’t gone to the acceptance mode yet.”
”It’s going to be alright,” said Harry, his eyes getting watery, knowing deep down, that it won’t be alright.
”You really think so?”
”My friend is just pessimistic. There’s good in us. We will prevail in the end.”
Stone started bawling in laughter.
”Just make sure you keep remembering who the monsters really are,” said Harry, getting up and heading towards the bathroom. In the background, Harry could hear the conversation between Stone and Tara continuing. Harry threw the cigarette in the toilet bowl and dropped to the tile floor, lying there, staring at the ceiling.
He thought about slashing his wrists, about bashing his head against a wall until it was a unrecognizable pulp of gore. He thought about jumping from the window, falling three floors and hopefully dying in front of the bellhop. In the end, it all boiled down to one thing; he missed her, oh a god he missed here.
He knew damn well he shouldn’t. But then he did it anyway. The time alone was egregious but he had to hear her voice.
”Sheryl Palmer speaking.” This was alone felt so painful: she took his last name.
”I’m sorry, I’m really sorry,” he began, ”I just don’t who to call. You’re the only person I can turn to.” A barrage of cliches. Sometimes the extent one’s self-loathing has no bounds.
There was a sigh, contemplation. Her voice sounded a little drowsy, she hadn’t been in a deep sleep when he called but she was about too.
”It’s okay,” pause, ”what’s up?” This was a mistake but it was too late now.
There was her coldness, her refusal to express any emotion. She had given him too much already. She was already giving more. There seems to be no end.
”Well…” he didn’t know what to say. Whatever he could say would just aggravate her. But he had to express himself, he had to tell her that he loved her, even if he couldn’t say it outright.
”I had this dream. It was so beautiful.”
”What dream?”
”That’s the most painful thing. I can’t remember. It vanished from the mind. The brain just doesn’t think dreams are important to remember I suppose. But I know it was beautiful. And I know you were in there.”
”Oh Harry, she said, sighing, then: ”it was only a dream.”
It was a reasonable but nevertheless painful statement.
”It doesn’t have to be.”
”Are you drunk?”
”Yes. I’m in a hotel bathroom. Stone is discussing Russian politics with an escort.”
”You be careful with him. He handle the abyss. You can’t.”
”I wouldn’t be doing this if…” if she was still with him, ”if I knew what I was supposed to with my life.”
”Maybe you need to leave that podcast of yours alone. It’s just isolating you.”
”I can’t. It’s my world. It’s the only place that still makes sense.”
”Are you still doing therapy?”
”Not for a while.”
”I know all the answers and I don’t like any of them.”
”You know I care about you Harry, but I can’t help you. I can’t come too close. You know that.”
Harry didn’t say anything, as the happy memories came, so the tears streamed from his eyes.
”I understand, sorry to bother you. I shouldn’t have done this.”
”It’s okay. You should get some sleep Harry.”
He wanted to tell her that he loved her but instead: ”I always hate waking up.”
”Sweet dreams.”
He hung up. The conversation in the living room was still going on. Harry closed his eyes. He imaged himself running in a rye field, trying to catch the shape of his beloved dream. He got close so many times, but the memory kept slipping away.
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Art by David Lynch