The patchwork man

There’s a threadbare, patchwork carpet in this motel room reeking of stale cigarettes where I spend my days. I stare at its once lurid details now aged and coated with dust. I’m naked and lying on crumpled sheets next to a girl I picked up at a greasy spoon. The patchwork fascinates me in so many ways. Maybe it’s the medley of shades that remind me of a heart that’s been broken and sewed together a hundred times. Or perhaps, it’s the grime on the cloth that’s akin to a mind fallen into despair.

Life hasn’t been kind these last few years, and the adages like: “It will only get better,” haven’t proved themselves right. I’m the archetypal Byronic hero; the quintessential idealistic nihilist. I know the latter is an oxymoron but isn’t every equation in existence incongruous to a certain degree? Know that I’m not here to boast about my idiosyncrasies. I say these things with a pained soul.

My lover shifts in her sleep and I look at her and wonder if this is all there is. Seamy rough sex in unhygienic rooms. Post-coital drags and half-drunk beer cans. Animalistic lust and sadistic impulses. What about love and deep intimacy? What about attachment and synergy? Sure, it doesn’t have to be cheesy like a quixotic ramble about aubades and the morning dew, but there has to be something more lucid and more profound than only the coming together of warm bodies.

As the years have passed, I’ve grown darker and more tainted like the old patchwork carpet. Somewhere within me, a feral beast has risen, and I struggle with all my might to repress him. But my greatest fear is not if he erupts and takes control, but me voluntarily letting him take charge because I enjoy him. I feast on my twisted fantasies and relish the darkness already. Perhaps the time for redemption has passed, and I’ll soon paint my face white, wear mascara and pull more dangerous pranks than silly phone calls or hiding in closets like a little child. But then again, doesn’t hope reach those who fate has bequeathed to spiritual penury? I’m devoid of inner opulence but doesn’t truth seek the reprobates trapped in painful bondages of will?

Still, don’t talk to me about the light or silver linings. I have nothing against the light, but I’d rather not speak of it. And what are silver linings but a clichéd idiom that asks you to look at the flip side when you’re dying on the battlefield? You’re in a soporific condition, and what are you supposed to do to find the bright side? Dream of unicorns and teddy bears? I’d rather a friend slap me awake for a moment and give me a shot of vodka that burns because there’s twisted pleasure in pain. And that’s another of life’s paradoxes that won’t fit into any schema.

If I were a statistician who borrowed his analogies and images from the field of parameters, population and inference and then wrote prose, I’d say life has too many qualitative variables that cause a deviation that creates a dependent variable. And the qualitative variables are depression, angst, stress, pressure and discontent; the deviation is a turn from exuberance, and the dependent variable is an addiction. I know what I just said sounds like jargon, but if you were to decipher it, you’d know that the truth blinds. Perhaps what I’m saying is too Dionysian in a Nietzschean sense, but I’ve tried to fit it within the Apollonian using statistical imagery. Is the dichotomy of anarchy and law truly present in us? Or is a man in his purest form a wild brute only constrained by an illusion of order?

I read about serial killers and necrophiliacs today. Men who found pleasure in dismembering innocent people and then storing their body parts in refrigerators, and I wondered if we’re all like that. If we’re all Enfant Terribles from Lord of the Flies. If given a chance without a society to constrain us, would we all take pleasure in bludgeoning our neighbours? Is the loss of naïvety something that occurs in a person’s life, or are we born depraved with an illusion of innocence? The beast within me roared today, and I fought him. I won a Cadmean victory, and he didn’t break through my ribcage and set himself free. But how long before he does? How long before an apocalypse of my soul takes place leading to ennui, and then accidie?

Or is there hope in this tragic motel room? My lover has left the room, and I’m still staring at the patchwork carpet. I don’t know if this is chimaera or real, but it suddenly takes the form of a patchwork man. He speaks with a lilt; says: “Hush now. There is solace in iniquity; structure in sin. Find it. It’s a fire burning in the cold. This dichotomy of the Apollonian and Dionysian is the source of all balance. Look at me. I’m a potpourri of colour, and yet filth coats me. I’m furore and peace. Hush.”

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2020)

Photo by Niklas Tidbury on Unsplash

Essays

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