idle instruments, 2003
(Another one about my old “BFF”, how synchronous. In grade 12, I used drugs to still my violent emotions which provoked such a negative reaction in others. Although I went to an all girls’ school, we socialized with boys from the local private boys’ schools. I never had a boyfriend from one of these social groups, where the level of the intelligence of conversation topics depressed me terribly. Here, I compare BFF’s obsession with her boyfriend du jour with my obsession with ways of escaping my depression, namely, through self-medication. I like this piece quite a lot, actually )
The second they emerged from the theatre, “BFF” pulled out her cellular phone, an invention Scars had never chosen to take advantage of herself, and began dialing her boyfriend’s number. As Scars watched a familiar look of urgency cross over her best friend’s face, the appearance one takes on during that pivotal moment in which anticipation reaches its peak before its fulfillment becomes a reality, she understood for the first time that the two were very much the same. Both had sat watching the movie, seemingly absorbed in the fictional dialogue, yet actually both were secretly detached as gripping images flew over the screen in front of them. Both were unable to escape a common obsession living in the subconscious mind, a desire for something external that could release them from eternal captivity within their own bodies, something other than their own emotions and motivations that could govern their feelings and actions. Both possessed a great need to be taken care of.
Scars saw the premeditated, almost panicked movements her companion’s fingers made as she dialed the number that would produce his voice, the voice of a person who satisfied her indigence. They could have been her own. But the patch of green light from the cell phone that reflected onto BFF’s face directed her to another realization. BFF was, in that moment and always, placing her faith, well-being, and ultimately her survival, in another human being. BFF’s power ended with the pressing of these buttons; she could make a call but it was another person who had to answer, the response did not lie in her hands. As Scars watched relief erase the lines of excited desperation from BFF’s expression when his sound assured her of his presence, she understood for the first time why she was not making a similar phone call to a person whom she had given the responsibility of making her still.
She then saw the movements of her own fingers, earlier that day in the aloneness of a public bathroom stall. They executed the raw movements of pure need, swift but graceless, as she had removed a little plastic bag from her wallet and then pinched a tiny green pill from within it and brought it towards her mouth. The pill would release her from the shackles of unaltered thought, it would soothe her limbs and caress her eyelids, it would look after its weary consumer. The pill was not human, not the owner of its own desires and needs that could contradict. The pill could be trusted to complete its task reliably, abiding by a uniform set of commands. On the rare occasion of failure, it could be replaced within hours and without any pain suffered by the user. Pain occurs when doubt arises. There is no doubt when disappointment causes one not to slow down, but to run faster.
Scars knew BFF’s fix was superior to hers on many levels. She knew it because she had also been the recipient of another person’s caring, she had felt before the security and liberation that can only be felt in the arms of another. She knew the pill could provide removal, but never reciprocation. Still, Scars did not feel envy as she listened to BFF speaking to her saviour in the way one speaks only to such an object of prevalence and dependence. For Scars had learned long ago that an incredible danger lies in allowing oneself to speak that way, as people are mortal and flawed, people cannot be mistaken for objects. People can leave, fade away, or disappear without any warning, unplugging the life support system of the one who loves without offering any indication of a replacement. People are irreplaceable, a fact whose remarkableness is counteracted by the possibility for despair it presents.
Scars realized she had slowly begun substituting the ebbs and flows of human relationships for the consistency of relationships with inanimate sources of satisfaction. She had spent the last few days in turmoil as she found herself returning to chemical means of finding contentment despite having finally relocated the person who had played this role in the past, hating herself for allowing habit to grow larger than her deepest desires. Now she saw it was not the habit she would have to fight with, but the desires, the all-encompassing requirement she had for rescue, for relief from the noise in her head. Pills had shown they would always be there, they would be there when people were not. Pills had been there more often than he had, and of course she should find them difficult to depart from after they had earned her trust. She wanted him to fill all of her empty spaces more than anything, but she also wanted stability. More afraid than she was of choosing in favour of a solution often associated with weakness, she was afraid of being hurt again. The past’s pain cannot be forgotten, and she had known pain so terrible after relying on people to take care of her, that she must question whether any result is worth risking its repetition. So after BFF mouths the words, “goodbye”, and before Scars starts discussing the movie with her, she stares into the black, summer night sky, imagining it is a screen like the one in the theatre, and she is the one being watched. She wonders what will happen next, what decisions she will make, if she has the strength to abandon certainty for the fleeting warmth of a body as vulnerable as hers. Her mind becomes as blank as the sky at trying to determine which choice is more likely. The vacancy is calming until she looks down at her hands, the idle instruments of her every need.