Real Raw, Revisited
I just wanted to briefly touch on my column from last week. Everyone who feels like an outcast feels it uniquely to him- or herself. Last year, I was writing a novel I eventually put aside after writing myself into a bit of a corner. There was, however, one scene I wrote, in particular, that was not actually about the character but about myself. I turned it into a device to explain some of the character’s idiosyncrasies but, in actuality, it was a sort of admission of “life as perceived by the author.” I’ve used this analogy before in conversation, but I’d never turned it into a piece of writing. In any case, I thought I’d share it here:
The decision’s ostensibly begun to make itself for him. For far too many nights now, he’s woken up from the same recurring dream, vivid, the dream where he is on the outside—always on the outside—of a giant ice-skating or hockey rink—in an arena that is extremely large.
Every person he’s ever known and even more people he’s never met, all of them are out there, skating on the ice, participating, everyone. He alone remains in the stands, in the bleachers, observing from behind the safety glass. In these dreams, he simply only ever stands and walks around—just lingers there—on the perimeter, only ever watching—watching what he knows (but is never explicitly told) is life, his life, playing out in front of him on the ice, yet he permanently finds himself utterly lacking a desire to participate, to venture forth from behind the safety glass onto the ice where everything (and everyone) is happening, living, forging parts of their own narratives and attaching them to the infinitely expansive wall that surrounds the ice, never taking notice of the sole figure watching from behind the glass, those other figures, merely staking their claims around the massive skating rink as proof that they were there, really there.
He is not there, not really. He isn’t anywhere. In his dream, he prefers not to be.
He prefers only to observe and cogitate, to try and make meaning from the infinite variety and combinations that can be synthesized together whenever two ice skaters’ lives meet and coalesce. Brave and inquisitive souls swish their sharpened blades under foot, their momentum carrying them effortlessly to the edge, to the perimeter—his perimeter—and the safety glass behind which he stands, always observing.
Every so often in this dream, some of the people—usually people he doesn’t recognize—will skate over to the edge, this safe perimeter, perhaps noticing him for the first time, him standing behind the glass—those people from the ice, from what he now realizes is the world out there—they’ll approach him, speak to him, make various attempts at communication, but he unfailingly becomes overwhelmed with anxiety, feeling wholly unsure of how to respond to them in a manner they’ll feel is appropriate.
The people from the ice always reassuringly invite him to join them on the other side but he gives them only a timid, boyish smile and tells them he does not know how to skate and thus, implicitly saying he does not know how to live life the way they do—because he has never learned—but he will, however, tell them he enjoys very much watching them skate and is perfectly content to remain doing so from his preferred vantage behind the safety glass. They tell him things like, everyone knows how and don’t be silly, it’s just like breathing… to which he replies that he is very clearly not every-one and that it’s difficult really to say whether or not he is, in fact, even really any-one, at all.
This rejoinder, he deduces, is never the “appropriate” response the ice skaters are hoping for, the skaters who then simply look at one another and shrug before flitting off to rejoin the rest of the people skating, living—the every-one who skates around life’s icy rink as naturally as if it was an ultimately predetermined circumstance that should just simply be so—an automated action.
Every time the dream is the same. And each time, he has never learned or has ever had a desire to learn to skate—which, ironically, he finds sort of odd that he doesn’t find it odd at all. Always the lone wolf. In his “real” life, he’s always found himself thrown into groups where—though there hasn’t been other options offered—he’s still always sought his own council, and wondered to himself, why hasn’t anyone ever stopped to think that perhaps not everyone fucking likes ice skating?