A man without qualities


There are things I want to write, but I don’t know where to start. All the elements are there, swirling around me ripe to be plucked and written of. But which one first, and to what point? I know these things so well, but by collecting them together what is it I am trying to say? I think this will be one of those occasions when I just write and let it out of me and hope by the end I find the sense and reason that led me to write in the first place. To discover the things I knew but did not know until I wrote of them. How often that seems the way.

For the last little while I have been well behaved. A lot has been on my mind in one way or another and so I have been disinclined to complicate things further. At the same time I have been conscious of re-making my life in some way, and was unsure yet what I really I wanted, and where things fit. And to be honest I have not felt the usual desires – or if I did they were more distant, muddied by competing demands on me.

I may pause but the world continues to spin on its axis. Regardless of my inclination I am still subject to external pressures and parties. I move within a society – my society – needing to react and respond to the people in it and to the little events that occur within it; all the while keeping my own counsel. I enter in to this society adopting a variety of personas depending who I am with. Sometimes I am a man of wit and brio, mostly with people I know less well. At other times I am more reserved, more silently strong. Sometimes, with those I am closest to, I am more open, more apt to reveal something of my inner workings – though it is a rare event. In all cases I am pushed and pulled in different directions by the environment around me.

I feel like a character in a novel. It is not something I think often, if at all previously, but of late it seems more true. Being of the literary type this fleeting thought will often bring a small and sardonic smile to my lips. I feel I am in the middle of things, a key character around whom so much revolves, but who despite a proud independence remains at the mercy of events he does not entirely understand. For some reason the novel that actually comes to mind is The Man Without Qualities, by Robert Musil.

Sometimes as part of this I wonder whether I feel all the things that I should feel, as if a part of me is muted. When that happens it is as if I am a character in a novel, at one remove from myself. I am surprised at how casually and easily ruthless I am. It is not so much in what I do, but rather in what I feel – or don’t. It as if there is a part of my subterranean mind that works at these vexed questions while I go about my normal business. Every so often there is delivered to my conscious mind the resolution to these questions, objective, logical and bereft of complicating sentiment. I accept it as it is, a fait accompli, all the associated angst pre-digested and easily swallowed.

Though this process can be used to describe much, I am particularly referring to my dealings with women. What else?

A key part of this life I am looking to design includes the woman I want to share it with. Much in this pretty picture depends upon her existence. The picture is quite clear to me, and though I don’t know who she is, or even what qualities she possesses, I know how and where I want her to fit in. There is nothing sinister in this, I believe very strongly in being equals. I want what I want though, and will never settle for anything less.

Though I’ve taken my foot off the accelerator in recent times there are still many women in my life. I can’t live without them altogether.

Not long ago I caught up with a woman I met briefly before I headed off to Brisbane 4 years ago. We hit it off then in a big way. I liked her; she liked me. It was only that I was moving away that it ended. A month or so ago I heard from her again, inadvertently I guess, but it was enough to re-establish contact. We met for a drink and got on well again. That’s good.

I’ve moved on though. I like her, but I’m a different man to what I was then. I have different needs now. Though I think she is a lot of fun, I doubt I can love her deeply, and know that she will not give me what I want if that picture is to be complete. I’m interested in seeing her again, but already fear that she is becoming wrapped up in me. That’s a nervous feeling most men will be familiar with. I don’t want to lead her on, but I don’t want to lose her either – and so I must navigate a tricky middle way.

There is another, a switched on Chinese girl who thinks I am the bees knees too. I don’t really know yet what I feel for her, but I am happy to persist for now.

Then there are the women long established in my life. I lead my single life and do my bachelor things, my eyes on some far distant prize, while in front of me there are those who would happily join me I think. I have become more aware of this lately, alerted by others whilst knowing it in my own heart. There are two who I see a lot of, who I talk to often and share much of what is important to me. They are women, but I see them as friends. I feel for them in ‘that’ way, yet I think if I turned to either of them and proposed then they would happily agree.

It gives you a strange feeling to know that. They’re at my finger tips. I need only compromise a little and bingo, I’m married to a great girl. Why not then? Because neither are right for me. I don’t feel that edge of excitement that I think is necessary. I will do almost anything for them as friends, but I do not feel that raw desire in my stomach. They are familiar and safe, desired by other men, but for me I hardly even think of them as women. So no, never.

I wrote of Jennie the other day, but in truth all I feel for her is a distant affection. I have no doubt much more could be re-ignited given the opportunity, but equally I know that opportunity will not come. In its place then I wish her happiness knowing I am not to be a part of it. There is some regret, though not so much at how things ended up, but rather about some of the things I did. I did wrong, and would if I could ask forgiveness for that, but know I shall have to live without it.

There are others too, but none that will figure in that part of my life. I’m lucky to have so many women as friends, but at the end of the day it still leaves me here on my own. This is the society I enter into and exit. These are the things I deal with and adjust to day after day. Day after day I am left wondering still, manfully trying to figure things out much like the original man of qualities, Ulrich. And in the midst of all this I wake with a yearning I seek to put down, to ignore, for another not mentioned here and, I’m sure, never to be encountered again.

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