Chapter ends

This particular chapter has finally found its full stop. It’s gone on longer than it should, extended by unexpected turns and the wilful obstinacy of the protagonist. There’s been a Russian flavour to the narrative. Lots of intense analysis and soul-searching, in the clichéd sense of the term. In the end the chapter ends just as you thought it would pages before, before all the delaying obfuscations: the protagonist gets tossed out of his home.

That’s me, the protagonist. That’s my chapter, and I guess this is my book. And it’s all there (and a lot of it here). I’ve been kicking and screaming and maybe that bought me some time, maybe not. In the end the result is no different. My schemes and machinations and wild hopes have come to nothing. Reality bites. By mutual agreement I am to depart these lovely lodgings next week, most likely for my sister’s couch. I’m already well started on the packing.

It seems not to matter now how that decision was finally reached. In hindsight there appears an inevitability about it. Besides, it seems irrelevant now: what matter the route if the destination is unchanged?

You might expect me to be depressed by this outcome. I’m not happy, that’s for sure. It’s all very practical though. You pass from one state of being to another. From hope to acceptance. As I have observed throughout life that’s what people do. The most horrible of outcomes are gradually absorbed as a reality that cannot be circumvented. Certainly there is a form of rationalisation, but there has to be – the mind has to be re-shaped to fit the reality or else you go crazy. It dawns on you that to fight for a cause well lost is a waste of energy and spirit. You have to move on, to prepare for the next chapter. Nonetheless, there is the unwelcome thought at the back of your mind that if you continue to make these allowances then one day you’ll be left with nothing. As it stands, I have very little.

There is a brutalist efficiency to this endgame which accounts for my attitude. Whilst life often has the tortured complexity of a novel by Dostoevsky, outcomes like this are pure Carver. This is the is. When life boils down to a few simple equations there’s little space for confusion, and no time for niceties. That’s what the mind processes. In truth these are the equations that have dominated your thinking for weeks, and the hope that you might find a new factor to put in the equation to turn the result from a negative to a positive.

That’s human nature to, and mine specifically. You hope. You find reasons to hope. In my case I’m also positive by nature. I don’t believe in god, these days I question karma, but despite everything I still strongly believe in myself. If it can be done, I think, I can do it. That may be a misplaced faith, but it’s good to have. Along the way that’s led to some optimistic hopes. Looking back I feel at times that I’ve been like Monty Python’s Black Knight proclaiming “it’s just a flesh wound” as his arms and legs are lopped off. Perhaps it has been unrealistic, but you have to fight the fight while there’s still a fight to be had.

The fights over now, this fight anyway. My friends comfort me, and seem genuinely affected by my plight. As I’ve mentioned before, I feel embarrassed for all the effort they’ve put in on my behalf for no reward: now that feels like failure. Now I find myself comforting them. “It’s alright mate,” I say, “I’ll survive. Don’t worry.”

Next. That’s what I have to think about. It’s been a truly terrible few years and I’ve lost practically everything in that time. What I retain is myself. Even I’m surprised at that. I feel undiminished as a person. I feel as capable and confident as ever. Perhaps this saga has made me more steely than before. It’s like working out over time, all the fat drops from you, leaving only the functioning muscle and sinew. I think it works like that spiritually also. The last vestiges of immaturity have fallen from me. I’m free of the indulgent fantasies that would float across my mind. I even think I write differently now to before. I think and feel more directly now. I’m more efficient than I’ve ever been, I think.

The next few months will not be pleasant, and what comes after that is a complete mystery to me. It’s a strange position to be in. All I can do is turn up. That’s the focus, to be there, to do the job, to endure and come out the other side. There are no more grandiose exhortations. Words are meaningless without action, and if I’m willing to act then no words are needed.

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