[This is a portrait of me, during a darker time during this year abroad. It is not an easy thing, living in such a strange, foreign land. You get so wrapped up in all the new things, that unawares creeps in that alienated feeling, which suddenly hits you and drags you down to this place where you question everything that you used to be before you came to this place. But only out of this place can you begin to find yourself again.]
This morning I woke up and I didn’t feel real. I was an un-person. It was as if I’d forgotten my identity completely. Who am I? What makes me real? Why am I alive? I had become a simple organism, knowledge limited to eating and sleeping. I couldn’t fathom what I should want beyond that.
My name swam through the murky morass that was my dream-state, landed on my face, and became a mask. For a while, it still meant nothing to me, that name. I wore it like an ill-fitting dress, uncomfortable, the skin that held me tight and loose in all the wrong places. It did not feel like my body. I rolled over, a flesh creature with glass eyes that saw but were powerless to react. This place looked familiar, this room that belonged to the person with my name. But no sense of belonging or attachment stirred within me when I saw it.
Like a robot, my daily requisite actions snapped into my brain, every movement scheduled, and my automaton body began to move. Surely, I thought, these actions make up a part of me? These actions make me who I am? Yet still I had my doubts. It seemed like a lifetime ago that I was that person, that this was my life. And still, buried even deeper, dragged upward through the murk like salvage dredged from a bog, come memories of those other lives, lived in other places. Were they but dreams as well? Memories overlapped with memories and I was lost among the waves of time, confused and bewildered. At a loss, I kept to my automaton routine, going through the motions with an absent heart. I want to reassure you, dear reader, that this all has a happy ending. Yet even now, as I apply words to a blank page, I am unable to tell you who I am.
I have been away too long, you see, my past and identity faded to mist, a mist that coats the back of my eyes, in dreaming and in waking, playing with my perception and evoking emotions that rise from seemingly nowhere. The emotions birth tears which in turn rinse that very mist away from my eyes. The now un-obscured vision that assaults my senses is unwelcome; I don’t want to see this reality that is really mine, this reality that belongs to that name that fits me like an uneasy glove. I am itching now to tear it all away. I don’t want to be what I’ve become, yet I cannot go back. I am still an un-person, glass-eyed creature caged in flesh, the fire that used to burn so brightly within, burn that those glass eyes danced with laughter, is lost upon the plains of Memory, adrift upon the swells of Time. Is there anything capable of calling it back home? Or do I wander so far because I do not wish to return…
The identity and the self are not the same. I am the fire, and that is my self. But that fire would blind the world, so it needs a shell, a mask behind which to hide, that mask is the identity. And when I woke up this morning I realised that my fire was gone, and my identity a formless piece of flesh. Whilst my fire wandered amidst those distant memories, I lost track of my identity, and until I rebuild it, I remain a mechanical doll, glass eyes staring lifelessly at the strange and heartless world around me, hunting for that spark that will bring my fire back to its home, and create anew an identity for “me”.