I spent the rest of the day flipping through my favorite novels and old issues of The New Yorker, pausing to write down words that inspired me, and then watching certain parts of films I loved, freezing the frame to investigate, when there was a book, or, even better, a bookcase in the background of the scene—all in a hopeful attempt to tap into the internal well of my own words. Time to write. As evening fell, I uncapped a new black pen from my shoulder bag and brought the tip to the smooth, yellowish surface of a fresh page in my Moleskine notebook. But twenty minutes passed, and the page was still unblemished, except for the thickening freckle of ink from the bleeding tip of my motionless pen. I picked up my notebook, brought it close to my face, and rapidly flipped through it, fanning myself with its sweet-smelling paper. I paced around the living room, went out to the balcony to stare at the sea and then back into the kitchen, where I filled a kettle with water for some tea and set it over the blue flame. I sat back down at the living-room table. OK—now it’s really time to write.
— Isn’t It Pretty To Think So? (page 130)
“I don’t do well with people. Rather than enjoy someone’s company, I spend my time thinking about why that person chooses to say what he says or do what he does. I never add anything to a relationship because I don’t see the point, when I’m so confused about everything—you know, like, if nothing means anything why should I do anything or care about anything or talk to anyone … ? You see that? I also feel that I’ve been tricked and duped my entire life. I really just want to know if I’ll ever be able to tell the difference between real and fake.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, if someone said, ‘I really want to climb this tree,’ I’d have no idea if he or she likes the idea of climbing the tree or hates the idea of climbing the tree, and I’d probably sit around for hours and wonder which one it is.”
“You’re a young boy. Your age?”
She pulled her hands away from mine, removed the cigarette from her lips, flicked away the ash, and then took a final puff before smashing the butt into the ashtray on her desk.
“OK … so let me tell you what I know. I know that you think my business is phony. I know that you just came here to talk with me because you have no one else. Perhaps you’ve suffered some recent losses and you’re incapable of processing your angst. But … let me tell you what I also know. You’ll be faced with some decisions in the very near future. The choices you make in these specific cases have the capacity to result in extremely divergent life trajectories, much more so than any choices you’ve ever made before. I still see an energy in your eyes, feel a warmth in your blood, but it’s very important for you to understand that, when faced with these decisions, you should not seek darkness. You’re very naive and fragile, because you act as if you don’t believe in anything, as if you don’t care to believe in anything, but, really, all you want is to believe in something with all of your heart. This is a problematic combination. I should tell you that the only way to fit in well with people is to truly love people. And the only way to truly love people is to continue to immerse yourself in social environments where, contrary to what you hope for, you’ll find that people are never what you want them to be. It is at this point of acceptance, if you’re still willing, that you’ll be able to start loving people. And let me enlighten you about something—you must know, for your benefit, that it doesn’t really matter in the end if a person says she wants to climb a tree and doesn’t mean she wants to climb a tree. That’s all I can tell you today.”
— Isn’t It Pretty To Think So? (page 144)
“We have this desire to protect and take care of babies. Babies are cute. We all love babies. But this feeling extends to babies of other species: baby lions, baby dolphins, baby alligators, baby bears, baby anything. So it must be deeper than just having the urge to take care of our own young. Perhaps it’s the realization that babies of all species are existing in their purest state. Innocence. They have not been hardened by the world yet. And for us, it’s nostalgic because we went through it. And we want to go back to it. A baby wolf is the cutest thing in the world because it’s not worried about survival. It’s only driven by curiosity. The baby wolf changes when its mother, already hardened by survival, teaches it how to kill. And I think we all change when we begin to worry about survival. It hardens us. Makes us nonbelievers in enjoying our time. So naturally, we crave the days when we were innocent little babies because we know we can never go back. Back to that purity. Back to that curiosity. Life prohibits it. So what do we do? We spend our time thinking babies are the cutest things in the world. And where is the place to do that? YouTube.”
I couldn’t understand it. I don’t know if it was the drunken sex or the hangover or the travel or Amanda’s dad’s cultish procession or the thought of work in the morning, but something was terribly wrong with me. I lay still on my back, breathing very softly and slowly, and stared blankly at the white ceiling.
The feeling was deep inside me, and I couldn’t fight it; I was forced into submission and taken hostage by it. I could only just lie there and let it wash over me and let it consume me. I was its prisoner and if I cooperated maybe it wouldn’t stay too long; maybe it would let me go free. But if I fought it, it might stay longer just to spite me. So I let it take control and I lay there very numbly, hoping it would leave me soon and bother someone else.
But the most discouraging element of its presence was my inability to describe it. Sometimes an unpleasant feeling comes along and you can make it go away by watching a light-hearted film or reading a good book or listening to a feel-good album. But this feeling was different. None of those activities could rid me of it; I could only just stare at the white ceiling and let it inhabit me as long as it desired. I could secretly long for its disappearance but outwardly I had to be its gracious host.
Maybe this is what depression is, I thought. Ask someone to describe depression and he immediately can’t find the words. Maybe I was part of the club now. I imagined myself in a room full of people, and someone else with depression would notice me and he would look into my eyes, and I wouldn’t have to say anything because he would just know. And he wouldn’t ask me to describe what I am feeling because he would know that such is an impossible task. He would know I had the feeling inside me because I was one of his kind; I would nod at him, and he would nod back and he would smile, and I would smile. Together we knew what we had to go through; the journey was ours. We knew the ones who did not have the feeling inside them would never understand. We were all alone but we had each other and we had the feeling and that was all.
To not die until I’ve accomplished something worthwhile. To not hurt anyone. To have a few lovers here and there. To write about it. To travel. To buy things for my family. To stop making my mother cry. To eat good, fresh food. To cook well. To have a mentor. To learn. To have barefoot excursions and all-night conversations with pretty-eyed girls. To live in a hotel room with a huge, white bed. To have a collection of vinyl records. To have wine parties with old friends who have wondered where I’ve been. To be friends with the invisible people in the invisible towns. To have a local wine-shop owner greet me by name as I walk into his store. To watch the sun rise a few times. To watch the sun set every time. To write a perfect sentence. To read all the great books. To dream about what could have been. To see a perfect opportunity for love and walk in the other direction. To find passion. To make people think.