Requiem for Sleep

1.

Under the bright lights of a glass-and-chrome clock, on a black cushioned chair, Cecil is sleeping, his two pieces of black luggage in front of him. A police officer awakens him,

“Excuse me, sir,” he says.

Cecil sits up startled. He is wearing a flannel suit, a luxurious warm cashmere scarf, and an overcoat. Eyes red and puffy, his face gaunt and pale, Cecil sits before the police officer, who studies him with bemusement.

“Please keep your bags close to you,” the police officer says, picking up Cecil’s carry-on and sliding it under his chair, and says, “I have never seen anyone frown so much in their sleep.”

“I will keep that in mind officer,” Cecil retorts with an insincere smile trying to lighten the moment, and watches the law enforcer walk away. He glances at his watch, and then looks at an overhanging clock; check-in for his flight begins in a few minutes. He’s been battling sleepless nights, and this is his only chance to catch up on some much needed snooze. In the silence of the nights, Cecil fights his imaginary battles; his unrealized dreams, corruption and unjust occurrences to which he turned a blind eye, the moments of timidity he manages to conceal from other people, but not from himself – and the love which he lacked the courage to embrace. The thought inevitably occurs: if only I had said or done x instead of y, if only I could do it over. He tosses and turns from side to side on his bed, and still fails to fall asleep. He keeps recalling the day’s events; tomorrow’s planned events, and next week’s planned events. His mind keeps spinning in circles, and though he is exhausted, he simply cannot fall asleep.

He overhears the couple behind him chatting about the weather in Florida, and the possibility of rain. He recognizes the smell of fading perfume that women are wearing, Chanel, clashing with the smell of popcorn and toasted sandwiches. The mechanical, yet pleasant, voice on the public address system starts calling for someone to go to the nearest courtesy phone, then announces that flight 446 is now boarding at gate-4B. He hears snippets of conversation from other passengers passing him on their way to the next gate. Underneath Cecil’s functional surface is an undercurrent of excitement, anticipation and impatience.

If the end of the year is a time to reflect on mistakes made and relationships lost, there may not be a better way to start the New Year than with a long overdue vacation. Airports are passageways to life’s biggest moments: celebrations, weddings, and funerals. Along with overstuffed bags, laptops and treasured souvenirs, travelers carry joy and heartache.

Cecil starts moving through the security screening. It’s a beautiful choreographed ballet of a bag handle collapsing, shoes coming off, a laptop in a separate tray, wallet and watch sliding into a shoe, his boarding pass sliding into his back pocket.

2.

Once up in the celestial clouds, strapped into his tight seat, in the climate-controlled can-like cabin, the seat-belt sign goes off. With the hope that in the end, the destination will be worth the discomfort, the inconvenience, and the anxiety, Cecil decides to watch an epic movie.

The film depicts a fallen hero in a medieval epoch. This hero’s village is destroyed by a rival neighboring clan, his wife and child raped and killed, his friends beheaded, and his puppy roasted on an open spit. Throughout the movie the hero justifies his actions, cloaked in religious rhetoric, claiming that it is justice he is after, not vengeance. One cannot be in a moral position not to root for this hero. All the same, as the movie develops, Cecil notices how the more the hero hunts the cause of his woes; the more he takes on the villain’s personality and mannerisms. Justice is probably a mere feeling.

Cecil is fascinated by this kind of heroism because it evinces a kind of strength he wants to emulate. In reality when a man looks in his heart he doesn’t discover something valiant and dangerous, but instead finds anger, lust, and fear. The heroism Cecil finds in the movie has a melancholic sense to it since the hero is all alone, but keeps fighting because without friendship and love, even the strongest man cannot live long. The human soul needs a kindred, familiar heart, a place to rest and lie down. What a precious flower friendship is; we can never value our friend highly enough if he is a true friend, and can never run away fast enough if he betrays our trust.

“Damn you, Iago!” Cecil mutters under his breath, shaking his head in disappointment.

Man will always be man because there is no new man. Civilization, a culture that promotes democratic values of being fair to one and all, the importance of fitting into a group, and knowing how to cooperate with other people. We strive so hard to create a society that is equal where there is nothing to envy your fellow man. But there is always something to covet: a smile, a friendship, something you don’t have and want to claim as your own. There will always be rich and poor, those fortunate in gifts, and others wretched in affliction. There will always be those blessed in love, and others poor in love. A kiss was to be a sign of love and friendship, Judas came up to Jesus with an act of affection but all the while in his heart he was going to betray Jesus. Cicero once said that a nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious, but it cannot survive treason within. Cecil died a million times when he heard that she was happy with Iago, and spent sleepless nights wondering why someone so close would turn around, ruin the best part of him, and leave him empty. More troubling and complex, however, are the battles we face with those who are supposedly on our side – “Et tu Brute, then fall Caesar,” as Shakespeare would say. We laugh extra hard at each other’s jokes, since honesty rarely strengthens friendships, one may never know how a friend truly feels.

Cecil resorts to contemplating, over-thinking, and wishing that they suffer the consequences for what they did to his heart, allowing them to hurt him a second time, this time in his mind. Cecil can’t quite remember who he is anymore, and nothing makes any sense. His significant other is no longer significant, and his closest and oldest friend, the very paragon of benevolence, stabbed him in the back with a velvet glove on his hand, and the sweetest of smiles.

3.

The passenger sitting beside Cecil, an old man, presumably a priest by the clerical clothing he is wearing looks at Cecil with confident loving eyes, and asks,

“What’s the issue young man? You seem troubled, unfinished business?”

“No,” Cecil replies. “Everything is tied up just fine, knock on wood,” Cecil says. He smiles positively; mirroring the confidence exuded from the old man, and then says,

“However, I find myself wondering what the chances are for this particular plane we’re sitting in to sending us into a spinning, rotating, and nose-diving spiral of certain death?”

“I presume you are not fond of flying,” the priest says cracking a sardonic smile.

“No, flying is not really my cup of tea,” Cecil replies.

In reality, the priest’s presence made Cecil ponder about heaven and hell. If the plane actually crashed, killing everyone on board, hell! The thought of anyone suffering at all, let alone for eternity makes Cecil’s stomach twist. He then decides to ask the priest a question,

“May I ask you a question about your faith?”

“Yes, you may,” the priest answers.

“Is God really so vengeful?” Cecil asks.

The priest takes a moment of silence to respond, looking at Cecil pensively, and says,

“The Lord hears the prayers of those who ask to put aside hatred, but he is deaf to those who would flee from love.”

Cecil remains quiet, nods at the priest slightly embarrassed, and mutters under his breath a platonic reply, “Interesting!” his voice trailing away weakly. He looks out the oval window to the earth’s landscape covered in clouds and water. He keeps thinking over what the priest said about the conundrum of love.

For some reason Cecil finally manages to fall asleep.

 

END

The Village Bicyle: Unfaithful Love

“Everyone has a ride”

My friend’s girlfriend worked in a lingerie boutique and in came a man for Valentines day, buying two beautiful and sexy ensembles. He asked for them to be packed separately with two Valentines cards. One for his wife and the other for his mistress. On the same day, at a popular lounge, as I sat waiting for my date, I overheard a group of girls talking. One of the girls was telling a story of a guy who came back to return an engagement ring that he had purchased at a jewlery shop she worked at. They kept laughing at him as they downed their Daiquiris. What they didn’t know he’d walked in on his girlfriend with another man. The next morning, as I was leaving my apartment for some random errand, I bumped into my neighbor, Hellen. I had not seen her in a while. She looked thin, pale and gaunt. I asked her if she was alright, she did not answer. She just looked at me with dispair, as she started weeping silently as she tried not to. It was an akward moment. I reached over to her trying to console her while asking her to tell me what was going on. She told me that her fiance, Michael, was about to get a child with another woman, and was going through with the child. A few months earlier, I thought they had a perfect relationship if such a thing existed. I asked her why Michael would do such a thing, I told her that they seemed madly in love with each other, or at least that was what it looked like. She was a successful lawyer, he had potential, he was an up-coming lobbyist in Governent coming from a well-known and respected family. He inevitably proposed to her, she said yes and he moved in with her. They had support from both families and friends. Everyone on both sides of the families loved them both. A year into the engagement, they begun trying for a child only to find out that she’s infertile. They both refused to adopt so they  seeked assistance to numerous different doctors, trying many other things but still, she could not get pregnant. It was a rough patch but they still seemed to be able to pull through, at least that is what she thought.

Four months before their planned wedding, he confessed to her that he had been cheating on her with another woman (it was actually an acquaintance of hers). Futhermore, she later learned he cheated on her with many many more other girls. She had never taken the time to reflect and pay particular attention to the signs and redflags. She was in love. So smitten was she when they met, that she would nonchalantly pay for their dates. Michael had so much potential and respectable reputation around town. He supposedly possessed all the qualities she was looking for in a  possible husband. To endear herself to him, she would often prepare meals for him at her house, which he happily wolfed down. Soon, he was calling for dinner daily. As he ate her food, he would charm her with jokes and tell her what a marvelous cook she was. She was flattered and even more besotted with him. She soon started lavishing gifts of clothing on him. On his birthday, she bought him a Range Rover. Although he was employed, he spent his own money sparingly. He hardly contributed much towards his upkeep, as they were now co-habiting. He always had a ready excuse not to chip in. In actual fact, he was putting away as much as possible in savings, building up a nest egg for himself. Since he was living rent-free, he managed to save a tidy sum in the 3.5 years they were together. He was the smart talking type, the kind who can sell sand to the Arabs. In fact, he was often in trouble with the Authorities. He talked of deals that would net in millions of dollars. The truth is, he had never worked hard enough to bring home even $5,000 yet claims to have a proposal that will soon place him in the world of the rich and famous. He dismissed getting employed, claiming that he is worth much more than the peanuts that he’ll be paid. He liked being his own boss. He would spend a lot of time trying to see his big shot contacts to get the deals. He used to report to a certain politician’s office daily for three months. He would wait at the reception from 8.30am. The politician would leave for lunch and give him an appointment for 2.30pm. He would wait patiently up to 5.30pm without seeing the politician. This went on daily for three months, until he got the hint. In the meantime, the rent  were being paid by his long-suffering partner.

One fine Saturday morning, he woke up, dressed very smartly. Hellen wondered why he was so niftily dressed that day. He just smiled as he entered his Range Rover, new shoes and all, and left without saying a word. He came back after four days and confessed. Detailing all the different girls, using the car that she bought him to go see those girls, lying that he travelled for work while he was in a different state, just to see a particular girl. He used her most sensistive insecurity against her in such a massive betrayal that it ourtright ‘broke’ her. She stopped going out, stopped socialising with friends, got into alcohol, stopped eating, etc etc. She lost all her self-esteem and became incredibly over sensitive to everything.  She now suffered from huge abandonment issues and depression. The person we all knew was lost.

It’s amazing how women/men get trapped in these sorts of relationships. I see these types all the time. They usually have a background: their parents are usually rich and influential. These men/women, however, do not know the meaning and value of hard work. You will find them smartly dressed in hotel lounges, timing their victims. They try hard to look well-off and only patronize high-end hotels. They are quite particular about the way they dress, their shoes, the cologne/perfume they wear and watches they wear. All this is a façade createc to overwhelm their targets: lonely, well-off women/men, and they do not care about their target’s marital status.