1:42am, Ho Chi Minh City // August 20th
Down a dark alley way, a dog looks to me in suspicion, indecisive if I’m worth the taste.
I feel he senses I’m out of place; that I do not belong here.
Is this why I’m here?
Is it possible I’ve grown to hate the idea of “belonging”?
All I know is this is the perfect place to get lost in.
To be a nobody.
I walk past, keeping its presence in my peripheral, while directing my vision toward the iron bars ahead, and the crowd behind it.
If you truly pay no mind to a nervous animal, they tend to lose interest.
As I approach the gate I discover a smaller, open gate within it.
Stepping over the threshold, I look for a man in a green jacket, carrying a precious box of cargo: sushi.
To my left is a large group of mostly young men, sitting on milk crates and tiny chairs, sorting through produce.
Behind them, a noodle shop that to my surprise, remains open.
I don’t see who I’m looking for.
He seems to be finding it difficult to enter the alley with both entrances being gated at night.
The solitary man to my right, who appears to be attending to some sort of food and drink stand, seems to take notice of me.
I begin to realize what a strange sight I must be.
Asking if I’m hungry, he pulls out a chair from under a table, waving for me to sit down.
I try to make it clear that I’m waiting for somebody, deciding to walk back for a cell signal before returning once again.
This time I spot a man in emerald, making extended eye contact with him in my assumption, but he’s a deer in headlights.
I flash my phone’s screen at him; he raises both hands in an open palmed gesture, signifying he’s empty-handed.
I nod and turn as the same solitary man from before asks me if I want coffee.
I would have indeed enjoyed a coffee, even at this hour, if I wasn’t trying to retrieve my dinner.
Unsure if my attempt to communicate “no thanks” translates as he begins to shovel ice, I finally see who I’m looking for and head towards him.
I begin to think of how strange this situation is; that all of this is taking place at two in the morning.
It seems like business as usual, other than the occasional person sleeping on the sidewalk.
It all strikes me as so foreign; so trusting.
As an apparent “night owl” I actually find it quite enticing.
There’s something special about being lost in a city where nobody thinks they know you; when you’re seen as a ghost.
As a foreigner, nothing’s really expected of you.
You don’t know the culture very well, you don’t know the lingo, or the norms.
You’re not weighed down by the expectations of another’s mind, which when go unfulfilled, tends to be aghast.
Expectations are the natural result of a conditioned mind.
And I find the notion of no expectations, extremely attractive.
Amongst this feeling of profound freedom and timelessness, this lack of landmarks to remind me of who I’m supposed to be — is the knowing that someday, I’ll be back.
Alas, it is tomorrow, around noon, that I must leave.
In many ways, I’m ready. But it’s bitter sweet.
It always is.
Was I really here at all? Or was I off somewhere in my mind?
Trapped within idiosyncratic walls, mirages, smoke and mirrors.
It’s true that we tend to identify ourselves, meaning, generate an image of ourselves, based on how we imagine others to perceive us — or by how they tell us they do.
Perhaps this is what Sartre was trying to communicate with the line “Hell is other people” in his play, No Exit.
But Sartre acts as if this is where the story ends. That there is indeed, No Exit.
If he does offer a way out, I’m not aware of it.
There is indeed a way out.
And it begins by coming to the profound realization that there is no other.
If this is not understood, along with all of its, quite frankly, revolutionary implications — then “Hell is other people” is certainly an appropriate way to describe most of humanity’s living experience.
If we look to others to suture together the pieces of our self-image, that is most certainly a hellish experience.
However, where most people falter, is when they begin to believe that if it’s them and only them stitching this thing together, that it will be any less of a hellish Frankenstein in comparison.
But it won’t.
No, this is a puzzle that cannot be completed.
And even if it could be, all we’d have completed is cementing shut the entrance to our own personal prison.
When we tell ourselves who we are, when we create a label, especially one we consider to be “positive” or admirable — what we’re really doing is creating a new ideal, that we must now live up to.
For if we do not, we begin to feel “bad” in contrast to it.
When we build the image of being a “good person” we forever live in fear of defiling a holy deity.
This is why I no longer want to be “good” or to adhere to anything.
I’ll openly admit that this has caused me to act in ways many would consider heathenish.
If you know me by now, you know I do not consider family to be a sacred thing.
I do not reach out to people because it is “right” to do so.
I do not attempt to fulfill others wayward needs.
Partly because I know this is the path to ruin — that it is false — that it cannot last.
But mostly because I find it to be a waste of my time.
Yes, it is primarily a selfish thing. But perhaps not caring about how this is perceived is the least selfish thing of all.
Either way, it doesn’t really matter.
Trying to call it one thing or another is what creates problems.
It simply is what it is and these non-actions simply are.
And perhaps now that I am invested with the knowledge that to serve others, or at least, how most perceive the phrase (which is to fulfill others needs), isn’t really serving them at all.
You see, most people live in Limbo, the outermost circle of Hell.
They are not “bad” people. They do not commit “evil”.
But they are trapped in their own minds.
And they are miserable because of it.
And, as you know, misery loves company; they want nothing more than for you to join them.
To validate their eternal plight as normal and healthy.
If you do not do this, it makes them very uncomfortable.
And if you’ve not yet reached a certain state within yourself, this in turn can also make you very uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable to be the one not playing the game. To be the outsider.
Uncomfortable amongst the outrage and “justified” judgements.
Subservient to the need, for people to understand.
To the need to quell, the negative feelings.
It may even be the case that people take pride in their mediocrity and suffering — in their perceived virtuous willingness to serve out their remaining years in this prison.
This is why if you do not they are very quick to cast stones, to curse, and to judge.
If there’s an evil, it’s this.
And it is for this reason, and so many others, that I am not one for relationships and socialization.
Quite frankly, if you’re not interested in talking about the truth, there’s nothing for us to talk about.
My time is slowly but surely being allocated to very certain things. A very certain way of life.
It has always been this way, even without my knowing it. And it is now beginning to reach a certain threshold.
I am eager to return to what will become by cloister.
I am eager to learn the secrets that await me there. For this is a place that only I have the key to. A place where the possibilities of entering secret realms are numerous and real.
When I think about not doing this, about sacrificing this, about not living this way: it has quite literally brought tears to my eyes.
And so has the idea of missing out on certain experiences with certain people.
But, as I have written previously, or alluded to: most people aren’t really there.
You don’t get to talk to them, they don’t get to talk to you.
They visualize you as a certain someone: a hopeful, self-serving image that you can never live up to. For no one can truly live up to an idea, or an ideal.
Especially one based on another’s disastrous whims.
Relationships are almost invariably based upon a false foundation that’s ready to fall out from under you in any given moment.
What I’m saying is, what’s the point in regretting something, or feeling guilty for making a decision, which has already been made, without your consent?
What I’m saying is, there is nothing you can do, or that I can do. It’s already happened.
I am already, alone.
You are already, alone.
It’s incredibly rare to find someone not caught in the whirlpool of their own life. So rare, that you’d be best served assuming its non-existence.
And there’s no way to fish someone out of this. Not without the presence of an overwhelming desperation for the type of assistance that, almost nobody can provide.
About the best you can do, is see them for who they really are, when they’re not cognizant — not reacting to who they think you are, or who they think they are.
Then you may catch a glimpse.
But that’s it.
That’s where it ends.
Or perhaps that’s as far as I’m willing, and able to go with it.
Because to me, right now, the alternative remains the most obvious, grave mistake of all.
The people of this world, are simply not available.
It would be a mistake to think that people needing something from you is a contradiction to this statement.
And so if they’re not available, and the most likely outcome is confusion, posturing, reaction, emotion — is it worth it?
It seems to be one, or the other.
The mind, or no mind.
I’m no Buddha.
I am not “there” — to the point that, I am impervious to these things.
So what choice do I have?
But, being under the gun . . .
With time, gripping us by the throat . . .
It is a difficult situation indeed.
Roam free, or succumb?
Leave this world, or remain within it?
Remain incomplete, unperfected, broken?
No, this cannot be the way.
Nothing in life works out just the way you’d like it.
The timing will never be perfect.
It is, what it is.