This week’s themes are never-ending and windows
Nothing’s really never-ending. We’re just mortal things. Late at night you can hear the sound, thump-thump, of the restless ghost that animates you chipping its way out of its fleshy prison. Things can feel never-ending, I’ll grant you. This week it was the flood of requests from our customers needing help with things. No sooner had a request been completed than two more dropped into the inbox. thump-thump. The only thing to do in such cases is decide which is more important and do that. Then keep doing it. And then stop when you run out of time.
They are at least discrete units. A flood of discrete, countable units that can be quantified. We could put a number on them. We could count how many we did and how long it took us and work out, approximately speaking, how much work we can do in a week. It is very much like putting one foot in front of the other. You simply do it. Sometimes you do it quickly and you write absolutely gorgeous prose about it after, and your friends all marvel at how lucky they are to know you.
There isn’t much of life that’s like this. Relationships aren’t made of discrete units of work. How many moments make up falling in love? My friends who are parents say,
and my friends who are lovers say,
exactly all of them,
and my friends who are just my friends say – well, they say a lot of things. I wonder if they wonder if I’m asking because I love them. I do. Loving your friends is Not The Done Thing, because love is a pure and solitary affair to be conducted only (at most!) as a pair. Like bank robberies or skydiving.
Relationships are not discrete units. The relationship I have with myself, with the spirit that animates me, is a thing that is ongoing. I cannot eat 12 apples a day for a month and then not worry about my health any more. It is a never-ending process and is so, so terrifically boring.
This is why I am a little grateful and a little sad that I will not be doing support again next week.
“I’m really sorry”, the missive starts, “but we need to reschedule…” This time it’s an interview I’m supposed to be having. It’s the second rescheduling, and it hammers home to me the peculiar overlap between dating and job hunting. Still, since you’ll be spending much of your waking hours with the other half of the conversation, maybe that’s to be expected. I feel rejected and let down. I feel myself shutting the window.
I learned about the window from a sitcom I watched at university. The male characters – they’re always male – were discussing a brush with romance one of the two had experienced. There’s a window, they reckoned: 48 hours to realise that moment before it dispersed forever like breath on the wind. I don’t know whether it’s true and I can see evidence of it or it’s made up and I’m making it true by acting like it is.[mfn]That’s the kind of thought that’ll keep you up all night[/mfn] For the moment, let’s just use it as shorthand for a bubble of a moment that won’t hold together forever.
These bubbles are discombobulating. They offer a sudden giddy glance into what might be. You look, suddenly, deeply into someone’s eyes and for a shining moment a bubble forms. The pearly sheen is blinding and there’s a sensation of another world that’s a word, an action away: as if with only the right incantation you could swap this life for that.
It doesn’t mean they’re true or that they should be pursued. Suppose you could. Suppose you found the secret word or the sigil that should be traced. Bubbles don’t last. That world is, to the untrained eye, exactly the same as this one. The world is just…stuff, filtered through your lived experience, marinaded in the things you repress, tightly coupled to emotions in a way that nobody else will ever really understand.
The world is just you, really. And the bubbles are not gateways to a new world. They’re windows. The world is the same and you are the same. The world is the same because you are the same.