I had this stereotypical view that black people apart from me probably threw stones and lived in huts.
That’s for me!” I already had a grim view of existence, so there was no problem there. I was and am agoraphobic, so being reclusive was a snap. The only challenge was whether or not I could actually write horror stories. So I studied fiction writing and wrote every day for years and years until I started to get my stories accepted by small press magazines. I’m not comparing myself to Lovecraft as a person or as a writer, but the rough outline of his life gave me something to aspire to. I don’t know what would have become of me if I hadn’t discovered Lovecraft.
I feel to that the gap between my new life in New York and the situation at home in Africa is stretching into a gulf, as Zimbabwe spirals downwards into a violent dictatorship. My head bulges with the effort to contain both worlds. When I am back in New York, Africa immediately seems fantastical – a wildly plumaged bird, as exotic as it is unlikely.Most of us struggle in life to maintain the illusion of control, but in Africa that illusion is almost impossible to maintain. I always have the sense there that there is no equilibrium, that everything perpetually teeters on the brink of some dramatic change, that society constantly stands poised for some spasm, some tsunami in which you can do nothing but hope to bob up to the surface and not be sucked out into a dark and hungry sea. The origin of my permanent sense of unease, my general foreboding, is probably the fact that I have lived through just such change, such a sudden and violent upending of value systems.In my part of Africa, death is never far away. With more Zimbabweans dying in their early thirties now, mortality has a seat at every table. The urgent, tugging winds themselves seem to whisper the message, memento mori, you too shall die. In Africa, you do not view death from the auditorium of life, as a spectator, but from the edge of the stage, waiting only for your cue. You feel perishable, temporary, transient. You feel mortal. Maybe that is why you seem to live more vividly in Africa. The drama of life there is amplified by its constant proximity to death. That’s what infuses it with tension. It is the essence of its tragedy too. People love harder there. Love is the way that life forgets that it is terminal. Love is life’s alibi in the face of death. For me, the illusion of control is much easier to maintain in England or America. In this temperate world, I feel more secure, as if change will only happen incrementally, in manageable, finely calibrated, bite-sized portions. There is a sense of continuity threaded through it all: the anchor of history, the tangible presence of antiquity, of buildings, of institutions. You live in the expectation of reaching old age.At least you used to.But on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, those two states of mind converge. Suddenly it feels like I am back in Africa, where things can be taken away from you at random, in a single violent stroke, as quick as the whip of a snake’s head. Where tumult is raised with an abruptness that is as breathtaking as the violence itself.
I am tired of people saying that poor character is the only reason people do wrong things. Actually, circumstances cause people to act a certain way. It's from those circumstances that a person's attitude is affected followed by weakening of character. Not the reverse. If we had no faults of our own, we should not take so much pleasure in noticing those in others and judging their lives as either black or white, good or bad. We all live our lives in shades of gray.
I hold the hands of people I never touch.I provide comfort to people I never embrace.I watch people walk into brick walls, the same ones over and over again, and I coax them to turn around and try to walk in a different direction.People rarely see me gladly. As a rule, I catch the residue of their despair. I see people who are broken, and people who only think they are broken. I see people who have had their faces rubbed in their failures. I see weak people wanting anesthesia and strong people who wonder what they have done to make such an enemy of fate. I am often the final pit stop people take before they crawl across the finish line that is marked: I give up.Some people beg me to help.Some people dare me to help.Sometimes the beggars and the dare-ers look the same. Absolutely the same. I'm supposed to know how to tell them apart.Some people who visit me need scar tissue to cover their wounds.Some people who visit me need their wounds opened further, explored for signs of infection and contamination. I make those calls, too.Some days I'm invigorated by it all. Some days I'm numbed.Always, I'm humbled by the role of helper.And, occasionally, I'm ambushed.~ Stephen White "Critical Conditions
When I felt ill and was on the way to becoming a burden to the other men, I noticed a growing chill in their attitude toward me. For people like us, living day and night on the brink of danger, the normal instinct of survival seems to strike inward, like a disease, distorting the personality and removing all motives other than those of sheer self-interest. That is why this afternoon I did not wait to go and tell my former comrades-in-arms what had happened to me. For one thing, they probably already knew; besides, it seemed unfair to risk awakening their dormant sense of humanity.
Oh, would thatI had died the way the Sikh did! I can not go forward. I shallnot submit to being made to see more clearly than I do. Yet, ifI turn back I am self-confessed coward! Furthermore, how can Iturn back! How shall I reach India, alone, alive? As a corpse Ishould no longer interest myself. And if I should succeed inreaching India, I should despise myself, because you and Jimgrimtreated me as fellow man and yet I failed you. On the other hand,if I go forward they will teach me the reality of things, of whichalready I know much too much! It has been bad enough as failedB.A. to stick my tongue into my cheek and flatter blind men--pompous Englishmen and supine Indians--for a living. I have hadto eat dust from the wheels of what the politicians think isprogress; and I have had to be polite when I was patronized bymen whom I should pity if I had the heart to do it! And I couldendure it, Rammy sahib, because I only knew more than was goodfor me and not all of it by any means! I do not wish to know more.If I saw more clearly I should have to join the revolutionaries--who are worse than those they revolute against! It is alreadybad enough to have to toady to the snobs on top. To have to agreewith the snobs underneath, who seek to level all men to a commonmeanness since they can not admire any sort of superiority--thatwould be living death! I would rather pretend to admire theEnglishman whose snobbery exasperates me, than repeat the liesof Indians whose only object is to do dishonestly and badly butmuch more cleverly what the English do honestly and with all thestupidity of which they are capable!
I have had so many Dwellings, Nat, that I know these Streets as well as a strowling Beggar: I was born in this Nest of Death and Contagion and now, as they say, I have learned to feather it. When first I was with Sir Chris. I found lodgings in Phenix Street off Hogg Lane, close by St Giles and Tottenham Fields, and then in later times I was lodged at the corner of Queen Street and Thames Street, next to the Blew Posts in Cheapside. (It is still there, said Nat stirring up from his Seat, I have passed it!) In the time before the Fire, Nat, most of the buildings in London were made of timber and plaister, and stones were so cheap that a man might have a cart-load of them for six-pence or seven-pence; but now, like the Aegyptians, we are all for Stone. (And Nat broke in, I am for Stone!) The common sort of People gawp at the prodigious Rate of Building and exclaim to each other London is now another City or that House was not there Yesterday or the Situacion of the Streets is quite Changd (I contemn them when they say such things! Nat adds). But this Capital City of the World of Affliction is still the Capitol of Darknesse, or the Dungeon of Man's Desires: still in the Centre are no proper Streets nor Houses but a Wilderness of dirty rotten Sheds, allways tumbling or takeing Fire, with winding crooked passages, lakes of Mire and rills of stinking Mud, as befits the smokey grove of Moloch. (I have heard of that Gentleman, says Nat all a quiver). It is true that in what we call the Out-parts there are numberless ranges of new Buildings: in my old Black-Eagle Street, Nat, tenements have been rais'd and where my Mother and Father stared without understanding at their Destroyer (Death! he cryed) new-built Chambers swarm with life. But what a Chaos and Confusion is there: meer fields of Grass give way to crooked Passages and quiet Lanes to smoking Factors, and these new Houses, commonly built by the London workmen, are often burning and frequently tumbling down (I saw one, says he, I saw one tumbling!). Thus London grows more Monstrous, Straggling and out of all Shape: in this Hive of Noise and Ignorance, Nat, we are tyed to the World as to a sensible Carcasse and as we cross the stinking Body we call out What News? or What's a clock? And thus do I pass my Days a stranger to mankind. I'll not be a Stander-by, but you will not see me pass among them in the World. (You will disquiet your self, Master, says Nat coming towards me). And what a World is it, of Tricking and Bartering, Buying and Selling, Borrowing and Lending, Paying and Receiving; when I walk among the Piss and Sir-reverence of the Streets I hear, Money makes the old Wife trot, Money makes the Mare to go (and Nat adds, What Words won't do, Gold will). What is their God but shineing Dirt and to sing its Devotions come the Westminster-Hall-whores, the Charing-cross whores, the Whitehall whores, the Channel-row whores, the Strand whores, the Fleet Street whores, the Temple-bar whores; and they are followed in the same Catch by the Riband weavers, the Silver-lace makers, the Upholsterers, the Cabinet-makers, Watermen, Carmen, Porters, Plaisterers, Lightemen, Footmen, Shopkeepers, Journey-men... and my Voice grew faint through the Curtain of my Pain.
Whilst writing all this, I have had in my mind a woman, whose strong and serious mind would not have failed to support me in these contentions. I lost her thirty years ago [I was a child then]--nevertheless, ever living in my memory, she follows me from age to age.She suffered with me in my poverty, and was not allowed to share my better fortune. When young, I made her sad, and now I cannot console her. I know not even where her bones are: I was too poor then to buy earth to bury her!And yet I owe her much. I feel deeply that I am the son of woman. Every instant, in my ideas and words [not to mention my features and gestures], I find again my mother in myself. It is my mother's blood which gives me the sympathy I feel for bygone ages, and the tender remembrance of all those who are now no more.What return then could I, who am myself advancing towards old age, make her for the many things I owe her? One, for which she would have thanked me--this protest in favour of women and mothers.
Anyhow, I had found something out about an unknown privation, and I realized how a general love or craving, before it is explicit or before it sees its object, manifests itself as boredom or some other kind of suffering. And what did I think of myself in relation to the great occasions, the more sizable being of these books? Why, I saw them, first of all. So suppose I wasn't created to read a great declaration, or to boss a palatinate, or send off a message to Avignon, and so on, I could see, so there nevertheless was a share for me in all that had happened. How much of a share? Why, I knew there were things that would never, because they could never, come of my reading. But this knowledge was not so different from the remote but ever-present death that sits in the corner of the loving bedroom; though it doesn't budge from the corner, you wouldn't stop your loving. Then neither would I stop my reading. I sat and read. I had no eye, ear, or interest for anything else--that is, for usual, second-order, oatmeal, mere-phenomenal, snarled-shoelace-carfare-laundry-ticket plainness, unspecified dismalness, unknown captivities; the life of despair-harness or the life of organization-habits which is meant to supplant accidents with calm abiding. Well, now, who can really expect the daily facts to go, toil or prisons to go, oatmeal and laundry tickets and the rest, and insist that all moments be raised to the greatest importance, demand that everyone breathe the pointy, star-furnished air at its highest difficulty, abolish all brick, vaultlike rooms, all dreariness, and live like prophets or gods? Why, everybody knows this triumphant life can only be periodic. So there's a schism about it, some saying only this triumphant life is real and others that only the daily facts are. For me there was no debate, and I made speed into the former.
Trippers and askers surround me,People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward andcity I live in, or the nation,The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors oldand new,My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or lossor lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news,the fitful events;These come to me days and nights and go from me again,But they are not the Me myself.Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog withlinguists and contenders,I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.
I had a magical day during one Sunday when I walked out in nature. On the outside this day only consisted of taking a walk out in the beautiful sunny weather and cleaning my apartment, but on the inside everything suddenly changed. When I walked out in nature in the sunny weather, a silent explosion suddenly happened within me and my whole perception of reality changed. In a single moment, everything had changed, although nothing on the outside had really changed. Everything on the outside was exactly as before, but my way of seeing had changed. The difference was that before I did not see and now I could see. My eyes were open. Suddenly I was one with everything, one with the stones, one with the trees and one with the people that I meet on my walk. My heart danced with joy together with a feeling of: ”I am God”. Not that I am the creator of everything, but that I am part of the Whole, part of the divine. It felt like coming home, that Existence is my home. I also saw that even if the people that I meet did not understand that they are a part of the Whole, they still are a part of the Whole. I felt the waves of Existence in my own heart and being and I felt like a small wave in a great ocean. It gave a taste of the eternal, a taste of the limitless and boundless source of creativity. In just a few moments, I learnt more than during 20 years in university. Wisdom is basically the understanding that we all are part of the Whole. We are all small rivers moving towards the ocean. I laughed at the fact that enlightenment is really our innate birthright, and that small children already live in this mystical unity with the Whole.
I had depressing thoughts that the theme, even though I had thought of it, was better than I was as a writer. Henry James or Thomas Mann could easily write it, but not I. 'I'm thinking of writing it from the point of view of someone at the hotel who observes her,' I said, but this did not fill me with much hope. Then my friend, who is not a writer, suggested I try it from the omniscient author's point of view.
Then the best thing I can do is—" He froze. The brown eyes that had been narrowed with aggravation suddenly went wide with...what? Amazement? Awe? Or perhaps that stunned feeling I kept having when I saw him?Because suddenly, I was pretty sure he was experiencing the same thing I had earlier. He'd seen me plenty of times in Siberia. He'd seen me just the other night at the warehouse. But now...now he was truly viewing me with his own eyes. Now that he was no longer Strigoi, his whole world was different. His outlook and feelings were different. Even his soul was different.It was like one of those moments when people talked about their lives flashing before their eyes. Because as we stared at one another, every part of our relationship replayed in my mind's eye. I remembered how strong and invincible he'd been when we first met, when he'd come to bring Lissa and me back to the folds of Moroi society. I remembered the gentleness of his touch when he's bandaged my bloodies and bettered hands. I remembered him carrying me in his arms after Victor's daughter Natalie had attacked me. Most of all, I remembered the night we'd been together in the cabin, just before the Strigoi had taken him. A year. We'd known each other only a year but we'd lived a lifetime in it.And he was realizing that too, I knew as he studied me. His gaze was all-powerful, taking in every single one of my features and filing them away. Dimly, I tried to recall what I looked like today. I still wore the dress from the secret meeting and knew it looked good on me. My eyes were probably bloodshot from crying earlier, and I'd only had time for a quick brushing of my hair before heading off with Adrian.Somehow, I doubted any of it mattered. The way Dimitri was looking at me...it confirmed everything I'd suspected. The feelings he'd had for me before he'd been turned-the feelings that had become twisted while a Strigoi—were all still there. They had to be. Maybe Lissa was his savior. Maybe the rest of the Court thought she was a goddess. I knew, right then, that no matter how bedraggled I looked or how blank he tried to keep his face, I was a goddess to him.
Not to waste the springI threw down everything,And ran into the open worldTo sing what I could sing...To dance what I could dance!And join with everyone!I wandered with a reckless heartbeneath the newborn sun.First stepping through the blushing dawn,I crossed beneath a garden bower,counting every hermit thrush,counting every hour.When morning's light was ripe at last,I stumbled on with reckless feet;and found two nymphs engaged in play,approaching them stirred no retreat.With naked skin, their weaving hands,in form akin to Calliope's maids,shook winter currents from their hairto weave within them vernal braids.I grabbed the first, who seemed the strongerby her soft and dewy leg,and swore blind eyes,Lest I find I, before Diana, a hunted stag.But the nymphs they laughed, and shook their heads.and begged I drop beseeching hands.For one was no goddess, the other no huntress,merely two girls at play in the early day."Please come to us, with unblinded eyes,and raise your ready lips.We will wash your mouth with watery sighs,weave you springtime with our fingertips."So the nymphs they spoke, we kissed and laid,by noontime's hour, our love was made,Like braided chains of crocus stems,We lay entwined, I laid with them,Our breath, one glassy, tideless sea,Our bodies draping wearily.We slept, I slept so lucidly,with hopes to stay this memory.I woke in dusty afternoon,Alone, the nymphs had left too soon,I searched where perched upon my kneesHeard only larks' songs in the trees."Be you, the larks, my far-flung maids?With lilac feet and branchlike braids...Who sing sweet odes to my elation,in your larking exaltation!"With these, my clumsy, carefree words, The birds they stirred and flew away,"Be I, poor Actaeon," I cried, "Be dead…Before they, like Hippodamia, be gone astray!"Yet these words, too late, remained unheard,By lark, that parting, morning bird.I looked upon its parting flight,and smelled the coming of the night;desirous, I gazed upon its jaunt,as Leander gazes Hellespont.Now the hour was ripe and dark,sensuous memories of sunlight past,I stood alone in garden bowersand asked the value of my hours.Time was spent or time was tossed,Life was loved and life was lost.I kissed the flesh of tender girls,I heard the songs of vernal birds.I gazed upon the blushing light,aware of day before the night.So let me ask and hear a thought:Did I live the spring I’d sought?It's true in joy, I walked along,took part in dance, and sang the song.and never tried to bind an hourto my borrowed garden bower;nor did I once entreata day to slumber at my feet.Yet days aren't lulled by lyric song,like morning birds they pass along,o'er crests of trees, to none belong;o'er crests of trees of drying dew,their larking flight, my hands, eschewThus I'll say it once and true…From all that I saw, and everywhere I wandered,I learned that time cannot be spent,It only can be squandered.
At cocktail parties, I played the part of a successful businessman's wife to perfection. I smiled, I made polite chit-chat, and I dressed the part. Denial and rationalization were two of my most effective tools in working my way through our social obligations. I believed that playing the roles of wife and mother were the least I could do to help support Tom's career.During the day, I was a puzzle with innumerable pieces. One piece made my family a nourishing breakfast. Another piece ferried the kids to school and to soccer practice. A third piece managed to trip to the grocery store. There was also a piece that wanted to sleep for eighteen hours a day and the piece that woke up shaking from yet another nightmare. And there was the piece that attended business functions and actually fooled people into thinking I might have something constructive to offer.I was a circus performer traversing the tightwire, and I could fall off into a vortex devoid of reality at any moment. There was, and had been for a very long time, an intense sense of despair. A self-deprecating voice inside told me I had no chance of getting better. I lived in an emotional black hole.p20-21, talking about dissociative identity disorder (formerly multiple personality disorder).
I still had this idea that there was a whole world of marvelous golden people somewhere, as far ahead of me as the seniors at Rye when I was in the sixth grade; people who knew everything instinctively, who made their lives work out the way they wanted without even trying, who never had to make the best of a bad job because it never occured to them to do anything less then perfectly the first time. Sort of heroic super-people, all of them beautiful and witty and calm and kind, and I always imagined that when I did find them I'd suddenly know that I Belonged among them, that I was one of them, that I'd been meant to be one of them all along, and everything in teh meantime had been a mistake; and they'd know it too. I'd be like the ugly duckling among the swans.
I had always thought that life was the actual thing, the natural thing, and that death was simply the end of living. Now, in this lifeless place, I saw with a terrible clarity that death was the constant, death was the base, and life was only a short, frgile dream. I was dead already. I had been born death, and what I thought was my life was just a game death let me play as it waited to take me. . . Death has an opposite, but the opposite is not mere living. It is not courage or faith or human will. The opposite of death is love. How had I missed that? How does anyone miss that? Love is our only weapon. Only love can turn mere life into a miracle, and draw precious meaning from suffering and fear. For a brief, magical moment, all my fears lifted, and I knew that I would not let death control me. I would walk through the godforsaken country that separated me from my home with love and hope in my heart. I wouuld walk until I had walked all the life out of me, and when I fell I would die that much closer to my father.
In the past I had often tried to escape the grown-up world of sorrow through my imagination- dreaming that a handsome young lieutenant would ride to my rescue or that a great empresario would discover my musical talents and whisk me away. I had envisioned knights in shining armor and happily ever after scenes to escape from rules or boredom or pain; including a vision of my mother walking through our front door whole and well again. Now I knew that a lifetime of escape led to a life like Aunt Bertie's. My imagination was a gift, but I had to live in the real world. My eyes had been opened this summer to poverty and crime and abuse and I needed to use my imagination not to escape, but to help people like Irina and Katya, to make my own contribution as the women in the women's pavilion had done. I couldn't do it in the same way Jane Adams and my grandmother and Aunt Mat were, but I would find my own way and my own time.
I had witnessed his pain in motion; the way he had stroked over the sea fueled by something so similar to what fueled me. The agony he couldn’t hide from his caramel-colored eyes. I was drawn to whatever was broken in him, probably in the same way that he was drawn to what was broken in me.
In my view, there are many different kinds of hugs. There are the ones you give to huggers, people who hug all the time. These, to me, are by far the least special of all hugs. I see the outstretched arms for the third time in as many days-the expectation of an embrace- and I am drawn in by a feeling of good manners rather than sincere closeness. It's like shaking hands. There are also those I hug only once in a great while because I hardly ever see then, but who I don't necessarily feel that close to. Those kinds of hugs are probably the most awkward. I'm expected to hug so I do it, even if I'm not sure I want to. Hugs like these are brief, and I am always left wondering what sort of look the other person had on their face where I couldn't see. And then there are HUGS. Like the hugs my parents give me when I'm having a bad day, any sort of hug from Armon the giant, or a hug like the one with Yipes right now. Yipes and I are not apt to embrace each other unless there's a good reason to do it, but when there is a good reason, it's a hug that feels like it ought to.