Haunted by the past

30 November, 2007

It is ignominious to be haunted by one’s past. Ultimately, the one brandishing these memories of defeat, injury, humiliation, regret, and foolishness, is one’s own self.

I in particular am subject to this problem; having no present existence to speak of, I am continually in combat with past memories. If you have relationships, loves and hates in your life, these occupy your concerns. If you don’t, then your mind occupies itself by replaying the past. I think this explains the acute nostalgia to which the aged are subject, despite the pretensions of some “evolutionary psychologists” to explain it as a biological phenomenon.

I am daily confronted by flashes of the past, moments which I seem to feel more strongly the further I get from them. Some random embarrassment pops into my head and I try to bat it away – as much as one can bat away anything within one’s own head. “Mistake, mistake, mistake.”

Having been taught no social skills while growing up, I was barely capable of existing in adult society. Perhaps I could have compensated – but the development of acute psoriasis permanently ruled out that possibility. It’s hard to have any kind of friendship with anyone when your hands are covered in red flaky scabs.

So I drifted out of the social world, into a realm consisting solely of CDs, DVDs, reading (though I can’t bear most fiction), and masturbation. The one person who I call a friend has her own issues, and I hardly see her anymore.

Naturally, in this solitary state and with this recalcitrant memory, I occasionally Google-stalk old acquaintances. Have you ever done this? I suppose it’s strange, knowing details of the lives of people you’ll never meet again. The city where they live; how they’ve aged; how many children they have. It’s natural to feel ashamed of such inquisitiveness, but I think that in my position I may be exempted from certain social rules.

The thing that has prompted me to write is this: I have recently found some online details about a person who had a rather disproportionate effect on my life. He was my closest friend for years, and, socially unprepared as I was, I suppose I took him for my model, which was certainly a mistake. He was aloof, self-consciously eccentric, contemptuous and arrogant. I’m not the only one who found him oddly appealing, which salves my feelings somewhat.

What I still can’t get over is his ability to make and keep friends (including people I used to know), despite his basic personal flaws. I know that I can be tactless and thoughtless, have little talent for “small talk”, and am basically a person with whom one would not want to be seen. Nonetheless, I have a “good heart”, some intelligence tempered by wit, and some enthusiasms which I think would interest other people. How does he have a wife, children, and friends, with his basically despicable character (albeit dissembled somewhat), while I have practically nothing? I can’t blame all my problems on my psoriasis.

So I dwell in this sort-of twilight world, where people are phantoms who see each other but not me. I can’t even see them anymore, I can only imagine them out there somewhere, having feelings and sensations as remote from my experience as breathing underwater. But I suppose I am the phantom, not them. I should be haunting graveyards and frightening small children – except I’d get beaten up for my effort.

But I won’t let them beat me. I’m not planning to die anytime soon. I’ve burrowed my way into society’s hide, I’ve made a little hole and you won’t dig me out. My existence is my revenge.

BTW, I’m aware of the grandiloquence of my phraseology in this piece. The phrase “albeit dissembled somewhat” (in brackets, yet!) gave even me a chuckle.