I am writing this with my eyes shut. All of it. The truth is, I cannot afford to look at the screen long enough to read what I am typing. The screen is dangerous. I should switch to a typewriter. I will, I think.
I can remember the moment I realized the lights were deleterious. I was walking home, eyes fixed straight ahead, past midnight. I walked, I walked, as I walked I found myself under the familiar glow of the electric street lamplight. It flickered wildly like morse code. In an instant I knew: the lights were putting thoughts in my head. Restaurants dim the lights when they want to lower the noise levels. It's like that. Under natural light I am controlled, puppeted even, by the evanescent will of the sun and the moon and the stars, but the electric lights are demonic, terrible.
It wasn't just the lamp, it was everything -- the hallway lights, the screens, the little numbers glowing on the microwave display. I never noticed how much the glow was always watching you, piloting you. I walk down the street and avoid the puddles of luminance the lamps throw in my direction. When all else fails, I walk with my eyes shut. The noise is unbearable.
With this aversion comes a new kind of terror: in shutting down the communications of, I don't know -- demons, the government, spies -- I cut off all communication. I can't check my email. I can't check my texts. I hope my friends won't care. I hope they accept that I've vanished from the scenery of this world.
One might ask why I write. In fact, the same question bothered me for a long time. In my mind, the idea of writing has always been closely aligned with the idea of suicide; by putting the hand on the pen, or the keys, one consigns oneself (I consign myself) to a kind of death. Words spoken to me will never go answered, and that instilled in me some kind of basic terror -- if not on the level of rational thought (I would be dead) on the level of associative thought (that would be like death). So by saying the words I think, I kill them before they can be spoken.
One day, I was walking through campus. A cold day, just the faintest hint of frost on the grass -- and then I Saw. Along every leaf of grass, every tile of the pavement, every stone, every lamp-post, a label in cold white text, faint words: grass, pavement tile, stone, lamp-post. I see a man walking down the street -- words. I hear a voice -- words. I see a lamplight -- words. To misquote a misquotation, I realized that "there is nothing but text"; the world is the word.
So now -- why write? In essence, I can't stop myself. The world is suffused with text, so much so that it overflows and becomes books, articles, newspapers, essays. When the text comes bubbling up inside me, when it overflows, what else am I to do but write? What else is there to do? And to assuage my own doubts, now I must call my own voice, my own words, to trial.
Judge: Opening arguments, please.
Prosecution: Your honor, the prosecution contends that writing is suicide in slow motion -- by figuring yourself on a page, you fix yourself in a single instant, an instant which -- no matter how creative -- will never be able to answer any question asked of it. Where the spoken word lives on, the written word lies dead. The conversation is already over. You are already dead. In this trial, the state demands the maximum possible sentence for the defendant: the sentence of silence.
Defense: Your honor, opposing counsel has argued fallaciously. My opponent has claimed that the written word is dead -- in this matter I am content to agree. The fatal flaw in her argument is not that she is wrong but that the comparison she draws, that to the spoken word, is fundamentally incoherent. While the self in writing is indeed inaccessible, unable to answer questions asked of it, is not the self in speech so too? If you ask me in an instant, in a minute, in a day, in a week, whether I said any of this, verily I may say no! Did I say any of that? Do I exist? Did the myself of a second ago say that? Does the myself of a second ago even exist? I am words on a page. Do I exist? Do I exist?
Essential to the act of writing is this foreclosure, the trial ending before it can begin. To justify the words pouring out of one's head is to have already written them, and to justify stanching that flow is to have already cut it off; no partial progress can be made, only a final ultimatum. So the trial ends here, without even an argument -- an aporia in a single instant -- and none of the characters existed. In any case, I believe the defense -- I do not exist either, I am as dead as the words I write. But I am optimistic in this: writing represents no infinite loss, no jump from life to death. So I am safe in writing, the words will not become daggers that turn in upon me. And so I write.
If my excuse for writing is that I have seen the world labeled, textualized, outlined in chalk, as it were, there is no need for urgency. Indeed, the inability to escape textualization gives rise to a certain ineluctable modality of writing; I cannot but write. So why now? Why not wait, growing older, growing wiser, waiting for all times to pass, until some brilliant instant on or near the deathbed, when I shall rise phoenixlike and write down every word and every thought?
The reason is that I have seen the end of the world. Orange fire licks at rotting leafless trees under red skies, trumpets blare in heaven, water turns to wormwood. Moreover, not only have I seen it, but I have it on good faith (my electric fan at the corner of my desk pronounced it to me with absolute certainty) that the day of the apocalypse shall be January 26, 2024.
So I have no time left to wait for the deathbed, no time to accumulate my words and thoughts, no time to burn out and rise again. I must write now. The path I must take has been prepared for me.
I have been locked up again. I heard voices, I saw signs, I decoded messages -- they all told me to die. I didn't want to die. Yet they told me to die.
I took a razor blade two inches below my wrist and made an inch long vertical gash between the tendons. Not cleanly, mind you; it took many cuts and some sawing to get it as deep as I intended. I called an ambulance for myself. I didn't want to die. Three, or maybe five, or maybe seven, people made sure never to let me go unwatched as I prepared to go, a many-bodied Argos. I was scared they'd take me to the psych ward for suicidal intent. It was ok, I said. I didn't want to die, the voices told me to, I said.
Flash forward brings us to 2 AM. I was in the emergency room waiting for a room in the psych ward. I was more lucid now and understood why my explanation didn't cut it. I voluntarily committed myself because I was scared of what I could do if the rotting brain could make me hurt myself. First mistake. I forgot the golden rule of psych wards: avoid going there at any and all costs.
Flash forward brings us to 4 PM. Finally a room has opened. I am moved to the psychiatric unit. I feel fine now, not in any danger, but my fate is already sealed (with systems as decadent and gothic as the mental institution, it is impossible to speak of my experience without at least a hint of melodrama). At least a week in here, I am certain. I will try to push for Friday, but I have no hope.
Something is very wrong here, and I don't mean on an abstract level with the concept of the psych ward as an institution. Life stands still here. You ask, can I get a book from my bag? Can I speak to Dr. So-and-so? Can I get some coffee? And they'll say yes, yes, in a moment, yes, I'll do that right now. In here, right now means thirty minutes minimum. If you're asking for something to be done for you, and they say they'll do it, ask three other people too; still, they will likely never get it done. My wound reopened and I needed medical assistance. It never came. I needed my computer. It took asking four people over the course of two days to get a no.
I am not naive enough to think this is accidental. The ward thrives off insanity, it lives on it like vultures live on carrion. They watch in the windows like voyeurs, eyes through the slats of the window, every five minutes. They laugh at us behind our backs. Don't you hear it? The smiles behind the half-closed doors, furtive glances -- they say what can we do today, how can we disorient them further, the door creaking shut, and couldn't you have sworn for a half second they were dropping something in your food, little white powder, what are they doing to us? The recessed lights glare from the ceiling like ten suns.
I am its proletariat and its exterminating angel.
the moon is a light bulb breaking.