Photographer: Demi Chen
Part of my blog involves telling a story of my love affair with a dead man. It all started when a copy of The Stranger landed on my doorstep one day. It was a gift from my platonic soulmate who, despite my ocean of flaws and shortcomings, has embraced me so fully and supported me all the way. After I read the book, I couldn’t function for days on end. Suddenly, absurd feelings began stabbing me in the face. I started reading more and more Camus… My notebooks were devoured by his quotes. It reached the point that I broke up with Jean-Paul Sartre (I still see him again once in a while, but I can’t love him the same way that I used to anymore).
I’ve written a lot about Camus. I don’t wish to dump it upon you all at once. So the story comes in chunks, but ultimately, I offer you Camus as a gateway to me. And while he depresses so many, I’ve found all my energy for life through him.
The book that I am holding is Camus’ Notebooks 1951-1959 which was published posthumously. Whenever I read something I like, I bookmark it with a colorful post-it… Hence the lovely rainbow.
I sunk into a state of chronic depression three years ago. The loss of Mark, and prior to that, becoming a victim to unspeakable, horrifying, and painful experiences. I moved to New York for a fresh new start– an escape, only to realize that New York is nothing like the picture that everybody paints. More accurately, it is a broken, abstracted work of art painted by the most arrogant New Yorkers (or those who aspire to be), to justify lives dragged out in degradation and lies.
Don’t get me wrong, I love New York. I love the glossed over version of it, I love it when I’m overlooking the city lights from unbearable heights. I love meeting fifty different people a night and never having to remember a single name. I love these brief and half-hearted encounters because I can secretly retreat into a sociable solitude. I love that I can be amongst eight million people, yet plagued by a bittersweet loneliness. But moving on…
I was ashamed of my depression. Psychotherapy exacerbated it. Dealing with these idiots that treated suicidal thoughts as if they were some kind of a taboo, having never once read Sartre and trying to criticize me for my “existential crisis”. Everyday I would live through the same rut, holding up an appearance of virtue and satisfaction. But what good was there in doing that? You are rewarded with nothing but a numbing feeling of being so furiously misunderstood by everyone around you. Then you whispered to me:
“No, dear … it is not humiliating to be unhappy. Physical suffering is sometimes humiliating, but the suffering of being cannot be, it is life.”
…You penetrated the layer of abstraction I usually place between myself and a work of fiction. I found myself in Mersault. I found myself in Jean-Baptiste, Sisyphus, Jacques, and Rieux. But I found my inhibitions undressing against you… And I began to experience moments of happiness. Joy. It became an almost spiritual feeling, an Augustinian indulgence for me. The only difference is, you are real. You lived. You’re not a figment of my imagination, or a mental erection lubricated by a sickening lust for immortality. But you do have a supernatural power to read my mind.
“For years I’ve wanted to live according to everyone else’s morals. I’ve forced myself to live like everyone else, to look like everyone else. I said what was necessary to join together, even when I felt separate. And after all of this, catastrophe came.”
“Now I wander amid the debris, I am lawless, torn to pieces, alone and accepting to be so, resigned to my singularity and to my infirmities…”
My eyes swell up.
“…and I must rebuild a truth– after having lived my life in a sort of lie.”
So my journey begins. I’m more than ready. If only you were alive right now, I could tell you how much you’ve shaped me. All my life I’ve felt like the largest outcast, driven by an unquestioning need to belong and to conform. I still feel it now. But I’m close to the point of not caring… and when I find my star, I promise to wage a war for the outcasts who feel so shunned by their struggle to live according to artificial conventions. I will fight honorably for these great people I’ve met that have lost, and struggled, and despaired, but in the end, never betrayed their sincerity. Like the beauty in L, that I continue to admire. A graceful struggle. And K, who hasn’t yet found the invincible summer within her years of winter. Or S. I couldn’t care about her past, because I recognize in her this frighteningly strong and powerful desperation for life. Despite having lost it all, stripped of everything, she revolts and wages a crusade for recognition. They call it insanity. I prefer the term bravery.
I always accuse myself of being heartless, incapable of ever loving someone romantically since the incidents of three years ago… Of course, you’ve delivered the same thoughts a million times more eloquently… “My soul lives alone. I love only in absence of recognition or pity. Let us not do harm, but remember also that I cannot live from the depths of my heart with anyone.” This unbreakable defense mechanism, no matter how hard I resist, has made me the sculptor of broken hearts and the grand messenger of bullshit nothings. This desperation to revisit the hopeless romantic I used to be has only burdened me with the awareness that I’ve become a heartless, unloving, ice cold queen. I know that I will live my life an alien to romantic love.
But in these dark hours of night, a full moon, your notebooks, and tears streaming down my eyes…Your words are my sanctuary. I hold you close to my heart, overwhelmed. I confess, with a catastrophic earthquake of certainty, that I love you.
I love you, Albert Camus.