“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
“But would you kindly ponder this question: What would your good do if
evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows
disappeared? After all, shadows are cast by things and people. Here is the
shadow of my sword. But shadows also come from trees and living beings.
Do you want to strip the earth of all trees and living things just because
of your fantasy of enjoying naked light? You’re stupid.”
― Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
“Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
by Anastasia Cojocaru
The room next to the one I’m sleeping in smells of corpse. It poisons your nostrils as you enter it. These days I never spend longer than a minute in that room. The sight of her is distressing: a dying corpse with a fogged right eye staring at you insistently when she turns around. Her skin and muscles are loose from her bones; a wooden model dressed in cream clothes one or two sizes larger when, actually, they should be tightly wrapped around her.
Her hands are bony. It looks like the phalanges are trying to pierce the skin holding all of them in one place so that they’d escape the daily burden of menial tasks like flushing the toilet or opening the fridge. I haven’t seen her eat and she’s never been thinner than how she is these days. She says she only eats at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and sometimes I ask her to join me for a meal. Yesterday I asked her at 3.40pm. She declined. I guess she eats alone and wants no one around, like a diseased rat in the darkest corner of the barn. She doesn’t look like she’s eating anything at all.
It’s so seldom that we all eat together. And I really mean all of us. There are only four of us living in this house right now and, still, the best we get is three of us sitting at the table and even then, most of the time, there’s some conflict sparking up and someone leaves. My teenage brother is not around. He’s always out, night and day. It was saddening the first time I saw it happen. It was in winter and I couldn’t sleep at the time. I went to the kitchen one early morning to get some water and found my brother and his friend sleeping on the kitchen floor with just their coats underneath them. Someone was sleeping in his bed when he came back that morning. It almost made me cry. Just like me, he never had his own room.
I wasn’t really sure what was going on with him. Never seeing him was difficult because I’m never home. I only come home a couple of weeks in a year. I found out that day that he played video games at night. Then he came home and slept most of the day only to wake up in the afternoon or evening and leave again.
I didn’t really get to say a word to him those days.
I’ve just opened the window of the room I’m sleeping in. The dusty smell of rain outside is welcome in here and nothing and no one else. It was never mine, this room. It just had inside it my mattress smelling of tears, sweat, and burdening heat.
I’m packing my bags once more and I don’t know if or when I will feel like coming back here. All I see is three starved souls living under the same roof, not knowing how to love or make themselves loved.
Photo: Anastasia Cojocaru
‘Memories are killing. So you must not think of certain things, or those that are dear to you, or rather you must think of them, for if you don’t there is the danger of finding them, in your mind, little by little. That is to say, you must think of them for a while, a good while, every day several times a day, until they sink for ever in the mud. That’s an order.’
— Samuel Beckett
‘We are continually, if unconsciously, mutilating and deforming our own character. Indeed, so unrelenting is this internal violence that we have no idea what we are like without it. We know virtually nothing about ourselves because we judge ourselves before we have a chance to see ourselves (as though in panic).’
– Adam Phillips
‘The greatest poverty of all is the absence of love’.