It didn’t work, I tell X when we return to our flat. I’m not renewed, I’m just drunk. We need to keep drinking then, he slurs. I can’t, I say, I’ll be sick. Then we need to throw ourselves out the window, he says. But we’re only on the second floor, I say.
X and I are both hopeless at maps, we don’t know Libya from Israel. Geography never interested us. Our friends at our two different schools used to tease us about our inabilities to find our ways around our separate cities. Get some life skills! they told me, I don’t know what X’s friends told him. Just tell us where we need to go, we both said, I don’t care how. We never understood road or tube maps. Yet we were both always on time, we agree, we were both always scrupulous about time. Because time was a different matter, time demanded great anxiety and scrupulousness no matter where you were. We learned early on that time wasn’t ours, that time was something that was demanded of us, that clocks were things that ticked ominously, echoing in the pits of our stomachs. But somewhere inside ourselves we both began to feel the same way about time as we did about the places we happened to be: that time wasn’t theirs anymore than it was ours. It took a long time for this thought to enter our consciousness, and it was around then that we met. And so eventually our common aim, when we’d known each other for a while, became to escape from time, theirs and ours, because theirs had become ours.
Don’t get excited, X warns me. Stay calm. Don’t let them notice us. They sense emotion like sharks sense blood. You do know they’re noting down everything we say, don’t you? I wouldn’t be surprised if they know what we think. When they come for us pretend you don’t know what they’re talking about. You’ll just make it worse if you start talking, he says, I know what you’re like.
The true and only virtue, then, is to hate self (for we are hateful on account of lust) and to seek a truly lovable being to love. But as we cannot love what is outside ourselves, we must love a being who is in us and is not ourselves; and that is true of each and all men. Now, only the Universal Being is such. The kingdom of God is within us; the universal good is within us, is ourselves — and not ourselves.
Pascal, Pensées (tr. Trotter)
Man cannot live without a permanent trust in something indestructible in himself, though both the indestructible element and the trust may remain permanently hidden from him. One of the ways in which this hiddenness can express itself is through faith in a personal god.
– Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks (tr. Kaiser and Wilkins)
Salvation is said to come like a thief in the night, I say. Maybe it’s a condition of salvation, of our being saved, that it can only happen while we sleep. Maybe it can only happen when we don’t will it. Ideally while we’re in a coma, says X, you can will in your sleep. But then we wouldn’t need it, I say. But it can only happen when we can’t ruin it, he says. When we can’t use it.
X and I sit in the afternoon sun drinking. Drink, he tells me, keep up. Why are we drinking? I ask. To be renewed, he says, because it’s spring. Is it working for you? I ask him some time later. No, he says, keep going.
Dusk is my time of dread, I tell X, my dread time. Yours too, I think? This darkening holding pattern… it’s not a time at all, really, I say. It’s time stopped or winding down with no certainty of starting again – how do we know it will? Dead time, a hole in time that demands: What have you done with your time today? Now, when you should have earned the time to relax, what have you done with the time that was given to you? And tomorrow, if tomorrow comes, what will you do, how will you honour the gift that tomorrow will be, if it comes? Do you know what awaits you? And the answer it gives us is always nothing, isn’t it? I say. You’ve done nothing, you’ll do nothing, nothing awaits you. That’s why dusk is our time, I say, that’s why we dread it.
If salvation comes it will come like a stranger, I say, unannounced and unknown, while we sleep, like a thief in the night. Yes, says X, if it were to come that’s how it would have to come. But would we wake up? he says.
‘Unquenchable fire.’ Do you feel the mystery and terror in those words? I ask X. An eternal fire, which must mean an eternal sacrifice, what could be more just for the likes of us? But how can we even speak of such a thing? I say. You’re the one who’s talking, says X.