Another piece from No Cure for Shell Shock today…
There are no secrets here. No lies, no surreptitious half truths, no unwitting falsehoods. It’s terrifying. This honesty. This stripped down, acid cleansed, bare-bones city of truth. Full of brutalised inhabitants, eyes fixed on the inanimate, exhausted by anything human now that all that is human is laid so bare.
Even the children have seen raw, exposed life. The most trivial of paternal and maternal indulgences once so essential now shorn of comfort and revealed as tainted reflections of the screaming truth of feeling behind them. Love, hate, fear and doubt, all distilled into pure forms, painful to see and burning when consumed. Too much of each of them lost in each instance, the veneer of presentation shaved away to nothing.
I visited, a blind man in the world of 20/20 vision. Honest eyes and astute vision, a curse, a hyperactive sense driven to the point of crippling disability. Immature, that’s what I wanted to call it. The unrefined vision of the naive. Sheer and un-sculpted feeling. Not adult, not wise to the nuance of who we are and how we live. Not grown enough to don the delicate web of armour that obscures the painful and the overwhelming. Un-aged feeling looks up though, it forces itself in tantrums or laughter, it makes no excuses for it’s existence and feels no shame in it’s expression. But the city was silent. Eyes averted, observers exhausted. They weren’t waiting for the lies and untruths time grants us as a defence, they’d lost them long ago. Torn away by the relentless immediacy of corrosive experiences endured. Children who’d never even known that comfort weren’t going to be granted it, not now that they’d been rendered toxic by truth.
I couldn’t stand the place. The pungent honesty of it. I couldn’t deny it and if they chose not to meet my stare I simply wouldn’t meet theirs. I longed for falsehood, I had no envy for their judging glances, although I did resent them. I longed for the veiled and sanitised experience which I knew to be real life. I left them to it. No guilt, no remorse, no regret. Meaningless emotions to them, too obvious an attempt at blindness to even be noticed.
But I left too late. I could already see more, my world was already sharper, starker, as I walked it.
I went home, to civilization, to recover. I knew my time in the honest city had affected me. Comfort would dull my sight though, save me from their affliction. I could return to the world as it should be. Not a lie, nothing so crass, I may have run from their city but I was no coward. I could look at the truth, see it, feel it and not recoil. But they took it raw, still no resentment but was that not the diet of animals? To feel savagely, nerves ruled by instinct? Our art, our device, that was no lie, simply a human way to ingest the bare matter of life. It added meat to our bones, flesh and form to the hard and jagged. There was no lie in that.
Yet I couldn’t do it. Day by day my vision improved. I started to see deep into the frame, missing the rest. They’d infected me. The city had infected me and suddenly the truth was everywhere, abrupt and unyielding. My eyes would fix on the ground, afraid of who and what i would see beyond the safety of carefully nurtured grey neutrality. Music, art, words – once passions now insults, mockeries of my condition. What truth did they hold that was new to me? None. Just trivial plays for the near sighted. Beautiful, I had to remind myself, but not true. Or at least no more than the bones of humanity which they sought to cover and which grew up in walls around me.
I recoiled from it all. I even thought to run back to the city though I wasn’t sure why. To sink further into the silent company of it’s inhabitants? There was no point to that and even less desire. What comfort could there be to my newly inflicted sight in like company? I’d seen their city, they endured raw humanity, it gave them nothing in return.
Instead I did the only thing I could think to do. The only thing I could bear to do. I closed my eyes. And all I could see was my own truth, the truth of that city.
This is from No Cure for Shell Shock, a collection of short stories and poetry. It’s available as an eBook or paperback here.