A night at the beach

“I never learned”, he said,”what other people learn in their childhood.”

He gave me a wry smile.

The cold hung heavy in the air and seeped into our bodies through the beach sands. The silence of the December night was disturbed only by the subdued hum of the waves. In the distance the city lights were a beacon to another world-a world of warmth, good food and eternal loneliness. But here, the mind was vulnerable and open. Here there was nothing to distract a man from the one person he fears the most, the one person he avoids at all costs-himself.

In the darkness, his voice was gentle, barely audible. 

“Sometimes I feel like escaping from my own mind, even if only for a moment, and see how things are without being polluted by my perceptions; to enter your mind for eg., and examine your thoughts, thereby confirming the normalcy of my own. I would give anything to have that kind of insight” he continued, his voice now cold and distant.

“Everyone is caged by their self. There’s no escape” I said.

He fell silent for a while. I watched the moonlight dance through the swirls of his cigarette smoke, recognizing in it patterns and faces long forgotten.

“Did you love her?” I asked softly.

He hesitated a little, then said slowly, measuring his words,”I did. And I didn’t. Can you believe that? I think, and now I see it, that I was more in love with the idea of her-that she could be my anchor to reality, y’know, to keep me human. Perhaps I never was in love with the living, breathing human being. Perhaps she was only my attempt to keep in touch with myself. It’s funny isn’t it, how we relate to the world-like we think we’re the centre of it all, the fulcrum around which all things happen. That’s the only way perhaps, to see the world-as our story, and yet the truth is that we are only a minor, insignificant character in the story of the world, which is itself quite unimportant.”

He added, after some thought,”Man believes in the uniqueness of his own experience. His pain is his own, his happiness too. I sit here thinking there’s something wrong with me, y’know, in the way my mind feels untethered and disconnected. It’s like, I operate on a completely different set of frequencies; that I don’t understand others nor am I understood; and yet part of me says what I feel is only a part of the vast body of common human experience.”

I shrugged,”That’s a nice way of thinking you’re not going insane -that there are others like you.”

“You don’t think so?”

“I think everybody has their own little bubble of insanity hidden somewhere, covered with a careful veneer of normalcy-things learned while growing up, relationships, courtesies, how one should think and behave. But all these are external accruments, built upon flimsy scaffolding. A scaffolding, I think, of mostly anxiety, the desperate desire to fit in, to not be left out.”

Even in the darkness I saw him smile in approval.

“Ultimately however, it doesn’t matter. None of it does,” I said.

“It does matter. Maybe not in the grand scheme of things, if there is a scheme that is, but what I feel is not irrelevant for me. It may not matter to others, and obviously I won’t be around to care when I die; but I’m alive now, alive and breathing and cursed with the ability to feel” he asserted.

It was my turn to reflect now.

I laid back, saw the moonlight engulf the winter sky. At that moment suddenly, existence seemed like such a burden. What a misfortune it was to be constrained in the here and now; to be unable to transcend body and mind, time and space. Could such a journey ever be possible?