Listen, for one fucking minute. Listen to what I’m trying to say.
It’s difficult, you know? Trying to express yourself, trying to convey your feelings, trying to take the excerpts of your life and convey them in some coherent fashion – to express the content of your existence in such a way that some hypothetical other might interpret them in a meaningful fashion.
We all struggle with it, even if it’s unspoken, unthought even. Who really sits down and considers the barriers, the impossibilities of communication? Me. That’s who. I can’t escape it, watching a face wince and distort as I expound upon my real understanding of the world. So I mediate, I compromise, I settle. I convey my life in calm words, I soften my existence with humour, with nonchalance, I calm down.
In these moments I become less myself, I become, as it were, a conduit for understanding, a communion with another. I cease to be the man that thought these things and merely the organ of their transmission. I raise myself, I lower myself, I sink or swim to connect, to engage and become one in a moment of connection.
Honesty, real honesty is a joke. How could we be honest with ourselves? How could we face the truth of our being with any sort of objectivity, especially the objectivity required for such total honesty? At the heart of this, we’re all liars – there are things about ourselves that we don’t want to know, that we’re unwilling to accept or admit to.
Vanity is a shield. I am a vain man, look at my self-portraits, look at all these carefully posed and costumed pictures of myself – I present to you the man I wish I was.
Vanity is a shield. I pretend to be a vain man, look at my self-portraits, look at all these carefully posed and costumed pictures of myself – I present to you the man that I can’t escape.
It’s a conflict. A war between whatever part of me wants to go on living and the part of me that’s happy to dissolve, to cease struggling and just fade into the night. I can’t quite contain it, right now life seems worthwhile – I am entertained. Who knows where this will leave me, I’ve feared in the past that this condition is terminal, that one day I’ll just cease existing. This is life.
I tried to be honest, I tried to face who I really was and all that brought me was emptiness. I’d had my inklings, I’d stumbled on the possibility, but you put it off, you push it to the side and carry on with your life, whatever that might entail. You engage and walk away from the person you are, you connect and dissolve into other times, other places and other people. You cease to be.
I was twenty, hurting, alone and I wanted release from the pain another had brought me. She never meant it, she never intended to cause me pain, I was a side-character in her story at the time, a distraction, whatever narrative I had constructed in my head was wrong, I was no longer the protagonist, but a bit part, collapsing into the past. Pieces rearranged, gravity displaced. I was not the hero here – I was a possibility, floating, nebulous and fading.
And so I died, but that body kept on living. I struggled on, in darkness, a husk, until some new story came along. I was still fooling myself, trying to cling to whatever was left, but the emptiness that I’d touched, that void was the truth I could never escape. I tried to deny it, I tried to embrace it, but both ended with disaster. I write about these things in poetic terms, I talk about this matter from a distance, with a wink and a nod, because it’s ridiculous isn’t it? You can’t understand, after all, I’m lying to you, just like I lie to myself.
And you keep on lying to me. Good. I like you that way. I like the person you’ve constructed, the person you’ve practised hard enough to believe in, just like me.
What does that say about me? What truths, unspoken can you glean from my revelations, from my confession? Don’t tell me, I’d rather not hear it. I am Matt Illman. That is the lie that keeps me living, that keeps me sane.