He Carried Himself Well (A Contemporary Tragedy)
They had gathered around me over several decades, filling up space, jostling and clamouring, a confusion of choices and identity; a delicate selection of worldly morsels seeking my attention - and ultimate approval.
Tattered, misshapen memories, and tottering towers of experience. They would accompany me regardless of destination, no circumstance too great, no occasion too small. Bustling and leaping, they would dive headlong into suitcases every time I went for the front door.
And without hesitation I carried them.
It’s funny, I never really noticed the weight. More penetrating were the stricken, desperate voices rising in dissonant chorus as I swam my way through the ebbs and flows of time. And then things took a horrifying turn for the worse.
All of those rogue fractals of moments past, those noisy, self-proclaimed truths, took on an identity of their very own - and claimed to be me. An unsleeping aperture turned on my every move, watching and judging, a new, insular lens through which I began to view the world and its inhabitants.
It is extremely difficult to walk away from your own assumptions, and from your own memories, but if you don’t, they will begin to own you. The fascinating part comes with the recognition that there is also a part of you that is listening to those crooning songs of your past, which gets a thinking man, well - thinking...
Who is it, listening all the while?
And I saw it then, part way down one of life’s lovely back roads - I am indefinable. I cannot be shoved in a suitcase or two, and told who I am, or where to look, just because I have a series of chance encounters and recollections all in a bluster over their own self importance. All awash with the fear that they might implode if forgotten. And, the beauty and cunning of it all is - they will. Why do you think they are so desperate?
So I set the suitcases down, and that narrow lens went with them. I stood for a long moment, and as voices that had been mine, pleaded and promised and wept, I took a step away, then another. Not more than ten steps back, and all was silent, though I still had an awful feeling that the eye was watching me.
And I just left it all there, on the side of that road, and never returned. If anyone stumbles upon the empty shells of my previous existence, I doubt they’ll hear much - they’ll probably be carrying their own confines around with them, listening to the voices of feigned importance from their own past.
But in the end we will all begin to wonder - who is it behind it all, in the deep, quiet places, listening; always listening..?