In Search of an Ending

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Prologue

My day begins, but I am not aware of its beginning. I am not aware of the unconscious stirring from sleep, the easing into consciousness, the separation of self from dreams, the awakening to a world that is disappointingly familiar. I was about to say that I surrender to this awakening reluctantly; but not immediately. There is a moment of uncertainty before the awareness of other, more fearful possibilities induces the reluctance to change. But gradually, that liminal state ebbs and the painful awareness rises slowly but inevitably like a mist clearing from a landscape as the air grows warmer; like the sun at the beginning of its diurnal cycle, insinuating itself into all the shadowy crevices wherein the darkness has retreated. Then, my day begins, my awareness begins, the pain and joy of being, begin. The eternal recurrence reoccurs.

I often go to sleep wishing that I would die in the night. I am not afraid of death itself; but I find the process of dying to be a fearful thing. I would rather not know that I am dying. I would rather that I should simply drift smoothly from sleep to death, between those not so dissimilar states of blissful unawareness, one temporary, the other final. I don’t wish to die. But waking, finding that I am still alive, that I have missed my nocturnal window of opportunity and I still have another day to live, is often the first of my daily disappointments.

Otherwise, my life has become a catalogue of routines. In some ways, I like that; but in others, I don’t. I am happy for the mundane aspects of my existence to be repetitive: meals, bathing, sleep. I don’t want to have to think about them, plan for them, prepare for them. I want them to just happen, regularly and on time, without fail. Thus, I am content to have a dependable framework around which to construct the narrative of my existence. But I don’t want my existence to consist only of the humdrum. I hanker for surprises, the little unexpected pleasures I used to enjoy before I entered this place, this state, this slow descent into oblivion. Sometimes, I feel that all my little unexpected delights have been sacrificed for the safe predictability of routine. I suppose that those who plan my life – our lives, for I am not the only one here – believe that routine is good for us, that it provides us with certainty, stability, reassurance, balance. And perhaps it does, up to a point. But at the same time, its inevitability is a form of torture. It means that my last day will be exactly like this day, only incomplete – unless I contrive to die in my sleep, in which case I will die unaware of its incompleteness. And that every day between this day and my last day will be like this day – an endless repetition of a pointless clinging to existence, of the same waiting for the dreaded day when the routine will change, when the routine will end, when my everything will end.

For those who work here, routine is good. The regimen helps them count off the hours until it is time for them to leave this place and re-enter their other lives, their lives of not being here, not doing what they do here; the lives where they are free to choose what they do, when they do it, how they do it, with whom they do it, for whom they do it, to whom they do it. But we who live here, subjected to the endless routine, have no such choices. We who live here sing the same song, day after day, the same fearful dirge that we wail in order to deceive ourselves that today is not the end, not the last day of many days, once beautiful and bright but now tedious and interminable. And even the sing-songs are facsimiles of the same program, the same song sheet, the same sing-a-long songs, sung-along endlessly, the same barrels rolled out, the same Kathleen to be taken home, the same troubles packed up in the same old kit-bag for the umpteenth time; the same torture, day after day, the same toothless faces croaking the same laments in stubborn, stupid cheerfulness, or acquiescing in what Sartre called bad faith. And to think it has come to this. I used to make an impact. I used to have influence. There was a time when the world in my wake was different for my having sailed through it. But not anymore. The equilibrium is hardly disturbed by my presence now. I have become a burden. I lie here, remembering, telling myself my stories, marking time, changing nothing. I lie here, remembering, wallowing in my reminiscences. Do I have one last fling left in me? Do I dare embark upon one final journey of self-exploration? Do I dare? Do I dare not?