The story that came too late

Sadness pulled his arms around me and held me close. In the close comfort of grief, I could cry.I could weep and it was justified because I was literally enveloped in Sadness. Sadness waited until the hiccups were gone, until my eyes had run bloodshot and the tears had saturated all the tissue paper I had to spare. It was a strange feeling relishing the sheer volume of tears that I wept and the way my body actually responded to Sadness.

“Are we done with this now?” Reason tapped my shoulder, exhausted from the ordeal and requesting on behalf of the rest of my body and life that I stop stringing my high-strung brain even further. Reason does not understand why I’m sitting here weeping, and why this weeping has to happen. It must be allowed to continue, tissue paper or otherwise. He tapped my shoulder in an attempt to get me to my senses.

“Go. Away. Please.”

“I’ll leave you two to it, then,” said Reason, unable to hide the disgust and left to make my excuses to the rest of the world.

When I woke up the next day, I was cold and without the comfort of Sadness. Perhaps it was a good thing he wasn’t here, and I could tell that Reason was very glad to see him go. I used to ask Reason why and he would always say that he could get across to me only when Sadness was not around.

“Um, so what’s her condition?” I asked of the patient upstairs.

“I don’t know. Someone asked me to leave.” By someone I knew Reason meant me and when he was not on his best behavior, I could tell that I had done something wrong. Something that went against Reason.

“I would have checked in on her if she wanted me anywhere near her”, muttered Reason. He wanted to be helpful. He wanted to show that he could genuinely care, if caring was within reason. But she didn’t want him anywhere near her and she was adamant, even on her possible death-bed, about enforce this restriction. “Reason has nothing to do with this,” she screeched. The rest of us were too intimidated by her to argue otherwise.

I walked into the patient’s room, bracing myself for the storm that was to follow, rehearsing every single line I had thought of to her face and an enumeration of the ways I could convey it to her.

“You’ve been crying last night,” she said.

“I have…”

“Sadness does have comfortable shoulders, doesn’t he?”

“He does…”

“You don’t seem too affected by his presence though.”

“I’m not. For once in my life, I genuinely don’t regret crying.”

“It’s a sign that you’re still alive.”

It’s also why he left me cold in the morning. What can I possibly say to this fragile creature who was withering away before my very eyes, letting go of life finger by finger and taking her time to slide gracefully to death?

“Bet Reason must have been beyond confused.”

“He was. He wanted to talk to you about some things, which he feels might make you better.”

“Poor Reason. Trying to be useful all the time.”

“He’s only trying to help you. You should listen to him.”

“I never listen to reason. It’s in my nature. You, of all people, should know that.”

“I am acutely aware of that.”

“Will you miss me when I’m gone?”

“I don’t know. I suppose if Sadness is around, I might.”

“Otherwise?”

“There’s always Reason.”

“You don’t listen to him as often as you should.”

I was not going to tolerate shrewd observations from her once wild, tumultuous and untamed form. “Maybe if you had, things would not have come to this.”

“Maybe.”

“……There’s something I have to tell you.”

“What?”

“I’m scared of what will happen if you go away and never come back.” Is this what all the trepidation had fallen to? The words sounded like an anticlimax in my own ears.

“You mean when I die? Don’t worry, it’s only natural.”

“Is it though? Sadness never seems to die.”

“Yeah, but that’s what makes him old and immortal and weird. Rebirth is how I keep my skin glowing.”

“Shallow.”

“But true nonetheless. You could say I have an affliction like Reason does. We have to feel useful. We have to feel like we’re driving our goals to an end.”

“….Why can’t the endings be happy?” The tears were about to come back and she nearly hissed at me.

“For God’s sake, I love you and I wanted to talk to you and not Sadness. Don’t you dare invite his creepy form in here.”

“I thought you liked him. As in, you enjoyed his company. Or his shoulders. Or something.” I started to wipe the tears that hadn’t yet fallen.

“Sometimes. Now is not one of those times.”

In all of this conversation, she had been growing increasingly pale and I suddenly realized that if she grew any paler, she would have merged into the background and that would have been almost as good as dying on me.

“Um. So. You’ve wasted all of my time arguing with me. I’m about to go now.”

“Please don’t,” I said, desperately clutching her hand, keenly aware of the shadow of Sadness that waited just outside the door, waiting for me to explode into his arms again.

“It has to be done,” she said with a finality that left me hollow.

“Will you never ever come back? Please? Not even for Reason’s sake?”

But she had gone. She had left me without answering the question and I did not know how to interpret her permanent silence. I reeled for a while knowing that she hadn’t answered. Did she mean yes? Did that mean that she would truly abandon me?

Reason was the first one to come to me when I left the room, but Sadness was waiting behind him, almost respectfully. I wanted to show Reason how much Sadness respected his presence, how humble he was in the presence of Reason, but I knew that Reason would not listen to me as much as I didn’t listen to him.

“Love has died, hasn’t she?”

Crossroads of shame

I have survived many self-revelations this month. But I have come across one that is slowly eating away at my defenses and therefore I am in a dilemma.

I have dug deeper into my psyche to understand why I prefer rationality over emotions, given that I feel my emotions intensely. Maybe this has something to do with denying my femininity all these years. I am tired of having my sensitivity abused, and so I locked away all these feelings knowing full well that my mental state would be a lot happier under the binding rigid rules of logic. My rationality and perception of reality forms a titanium-alloyed barrier between strong, damaging passions/obsessions and my true self. This compartmentalization has worked wonders to my self-esteem and to the general structuring of my life. I allow myself to feel happy or sad, but never overjoyed or devastated, because I will not let something so subjective affect me so strongly. I simply cannot be eaten away by the products of my own psyche.

When this academic year began, I promised myself that I would strictly put an active barrier in my mind to the possibility of romantic relationships. Given how awful my freshman year experiences were, I feel like the rest of my years in college will simple be spent in cleaning up the mess that I made in my naivete. Sincerely, I wanted to be able to survive one complete year in college without feeling emotionally swayed by anything that remotely implies romance, or even bordering platonic. The mechanisms I have developed have allowed me to live the other aspects of my life fully and well. However, a latent problem is cropping up a bit more frequently since the span of last semester. Let me deliver devastation right into your lap.

I’ve started feeling slightly attracted to a friend.

The sentence above alone does not capture the despair with which I write today. This is not the result of an arbitrary hormonal upswing. I wanted to write these passing feelings down in my journal. I thought then that I would close the remarks I had made with a comforting “This is probably the only time I’ve redeemed him from my bad books” and so on. What really unleashed the disaster was the slow horrific realization as I combed through my previous diary entries that I had been ignoring this growing problem for a while. There are many entries where I’ve tried to write off these feelings as something else. This soft-spot has been feeding on an incredibly large  reserve of pity, and mixed emotional boundaries. Every time, every single time I’ve delineated the large expansive list of why I cannot, why I must not and the nightmares of the past come back to haunt me.

At the core of all this, I just want to make him happy. Except I can’t because happiness comes from within.

Even now that I write this post, I am trying to reel in the fallout, telling myself to focus on work. But I desperately need an outlet. I need an external source of information to confirm, strengthen and validate the walls of my logic which are crumbling in the onslaught of a new discovery.   Having crushes has been something that has devastated my emotional well-being earlier and I have been so traumatized by those feelings that I am somehow at risk of punishing myself.

I am at the cross-roads of shame because I feel my safety mechanism against pain is hurt (by having a crush), and there’s the bewitching, unfortunately inevitable outcome that awaits me if I choose the path of action. I could not have been more certain of the fact that my “affection”, if it can be called is return. As it is, I don’t feel appreciated by my friends. But to expect someone as emotionally dysfunctional as him to regard me with a soft spot is expecting the infinite from nothing.

There is a beautiful, self-sabotaging lie that is singing to me that perhaps taking action on this opportunity could result in a golden horizon beyond the immediate obvious wreckage of my bleeding heart. No matter what the illusion, I don’t want to give into this. I have been scarred by this enough. Perhaps the very fact that I am even writing this here means that I need an external source to remind myself that I did not put in this much work into building my self-esteem to stumble upon something like this.

I am so incredibly ashamed and angry and disappointed in myself for even having these feelings, let alone conjuring ghosts of action upon them.

In my defense, the only thing I have to proud of is that nobody besides me is aware of this crisis. Being the alleged open book that I am, I have learned how to mask the feelings from the person who I want to bestow them on. How dare I grant myself the privilege to bridge someone else’s deep internal wounds because somehow I just want to see them happy. Is that pity? Is that affection? Given that I’ve never been reciprocated and I certainly won’t with this, why do I subconsciously seek out relationships that are unequal?

Hear my silent teary denial try to form answers to the rhetorical questions posed above. I’m waiting for the wounds of the past to scold me again. I need to remind myself that no matter what I should never ever take action, because the outcomes of all of these is a very obvious rejection, and I do not want to put myself through that degree of self-worthlessness again. I hope to someday look back and laugh at how absurd these feelings are, and not remember them with the terror that I experience now. I watch the shadows of my insecurities run through the streets alongside whispering to the stranded me, “You’re not pretty enough. You’ll never be worthy enough.” and I hear the distant patrols blaring over them. “You have not come this far to give in. Only you know what you bring to the table.”

Until the tears dissolve my fears, I have to continue to run away from this elaborate self-punishment.

The Lady of Shalott Revisited

Using Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott as a template, Shalott is now a nuclear facility manned by a single lady. This is a poem of what happens as a result of long isolation and distraction.

Image Credits: Cyborg by Itluan on dA at http://ltluan.deviantart.com/art/Cyborg-266216981

Image Credits: Cyborg by Itluan on dA at http://ltluan.deviantart.com/art/Cyborg-266216981

 

On either side the river lie

Landscapes of barren life,
That smother the world and engulf the sky;
And through this outpost, a transit runs by
To the metropolis of Camelot
And up and down the bar-graphs go
Monitoring the radioactive sludge flow
Inside the far off island below
The reactor of Shalott. 
 
The reactor grumbles and gears quiver,
Legions of robots march together
Serving the energy needs forever
By this abandoned outpost near the river
Conveniently forgotten by Camelot. 
Multiple walls and metal-lined towers,
Overlook a space of nuclear power 
And the formidable technology embowers
The Lady of Shalott
 
By an early age, she was qualified
To lead a mission highly classified
Which ensured Camelot was fortified
Being the sole human who supervised
The Reactor of Shalott.
Only robots have seen her wave her hand
And watched her as she carefully planned
When the fuel of the reactor would expand.
The Lady of Shalott.
 
Only covert spies, sneaking in
Among the metal scrap within
Hear a beep that echoes clearly
Of a computer that operates yearly
Courtesy of Camelot.
And by the moon, the spy weary
Puts to rest a conspiracy theory
That a human operates someplace so dreary
Except the Lady of Shalott. 
 
There she works by night and day
A complex graph with colors gay
Her calculations stored in a large array
From which she cannot look away
To admire the lights of Camelot
She knows what the disaster might be
And so she monitors steadily
And little other care has she
The Lady of Shalott.
 
Moving through the glass door clear
That surrounds her all the year
Statistics of the world appear
There she sees the transit near
Winding down to Camelot.
There civilization passes by
Their sleek towers touch the sky
Powered by energy in a secure supply
That must transfer from Shalott. 
 
Sometimes lost tourists in a group
Usually an entertaining troupe
Would unintentionally snoop.
But nobody else would stoop
To visit the desolate Shalott.
Sometimes through the monitor screen 
Came news of heroes in a glorious scene
She has no hero, only a machine
The Lady of Shalott. 
 
But in her analysis she still delights
To project progress and future sights
For often through the silent nights
Our lady sits down and writes
Code that supports Camelot. 
Or when the moon was overhead
She’d contemplate her life instead
“I am half-sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott. 
 
A respected politician of noble rank
Of a smooth face and expression blank
Stepped off on the riverbank
Unflinching as decaying metal stank
His name tag said Sir Lancelot.
The most charming man in the administration
He himself chose this exploration
To discover exactly how the regulation
Of nuclear waste affected Shalott.
 
Without hesitation he announced his presence 
And what followed after several sessions
Of trying to understand the robots expressions
He would strive to garner her acquiescence
This Lady of Shalott. 
From his modest name tag hung
An image that betrayed him to be young
Over his shoulder, his authority was slung
Venturing into remote Shalott. 
 
All in the partially lit, computerized room
Was the stale air of suppressed gloom
Machines pausing only to resume
He did not dare to assume 
Any happiness in Shalott. 
As he initiated the awkward conversation
The Lady could not help but feel admiration
That she could hear his appreciation.
In the functioning of Shalott. 
 
His broad clear brow in reflection glowed
And between them the conversation easily flowed
They discussed machinery and optimized code
Human conversation was such a rare episode
For the Lady of Shalott. 
As he requested to see the stabilizer in action 
Our Lady was unable to resist his attraction
And with no regards to the following reaction
Accessed the thermal core of Shalott. 
 
She left the robots, he left the room
She left the pressure control pointed at doom
She did not hear the subdued boom
Until the klaxons began to fume
At the facility of Shalott.
Out flew superheated gas and floated wide
The screens cracked from side to side
“Initiate emergency protocol!” cried
The Lady of Shalott. 
 
In the stormy reactor core churning
Gases and temperatures were already burning
Automatons kept the dials turning
Equilibrium lost was not returning
At the Reactor of Shalott. 
The access chamber lay beyond reach
The robots could not secure the breach
Dangerous chemicals began to leach
Onto the soils of Shalott
 
And down the river’s dim expanse
Lay the victims of her mischance
To save herself from this circumstance
She promised that she would take a chance
To save the citizens of Camelot
And at the closing of the day
She pulled the lever and collapsed she lay
Suffocated and isolated, lifeless and gray
The brave Lady of Shalott. 
 
After her unfortunate demise
The remaining robots were able to surmise
That she was the only one who could authorize
A complete shutdown that would internalize
The explosion of Shalott. 
As the power lines went down 
Citizens could only frown
Ignorant of the sacrifice that had been made uptown
By the forgotten outpost of Shalott. 
 
Under grey tower and ancient balcony
By greasy walls and radioactive atrophy
A gleaming shape she was escorted by
Pale between the robots hoisting her high
Silent in Shalott. 
Quietly, the unfeeling machines paid their respects
to The human Lady who didn’t expect
Any, and so they disposed of her with no effects.
Down the river to Camelot.
 
Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted city near
Died the sound of urban cheer.
And they questioned themselves for fear. 
All the press and citizens of Camelot. 
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.”
 
King Arthur heard a report concise
From Sir Lancelot and asked his advice 
On whether such a disaster could happen twice.
Human lives were too high a price. 
Especially a citizen of Camelot. 
Lancelot made an interesting revelation
That the robots could function without human supervision
Why risk another soul trapped in perpetual isolation,
Stranded on Shalott?

“I am not my suicidality”

This post was written by my friend, Rakhi Agrawal. She is a brave, strong, woman and I feel that in light of recent events that have happened in my life, her story has touched me very deeply and I think it is worth telling. 

"I am not my suicidality."

“I am not my suicidality.”

http://www.whatibeproject.com/portfolio-item/i-am-not-my-suicidality/

Trigger warning: suicide.

“The seventh grade. I have wanted to die since the seventh grade. Sure, it sort of started off as an attention thing. “Oh, okay. You won’t include me in your plans. That’s fine. You’ll be sorry when I’m gone.” But somewhere along the way, it became real. Very real. Perhaps it was the death threats at home. Or maybe my inability to keep any friend for any substantial amount of time. Maybe it was the hundreds of lunch periods I skipped just so I wouldn’t experience the overwhelming reality of how alone I truly was. Perhaps it was the countless nights where I drove around for hours on end until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, and finally found a dark corner to sleep in.

Whatever the reason, as I matured, so did my suicidality. It became something I kept as a deeper secret, and that I actively desired. And craved. And fantasized about. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to kill myself. I am suicidal on a daily basis. I know that probably sounds crazy to most, but I am. Every day I wake up knowing that if I ran into the perfect situation—a gun casually lying on the sidewalk, a runaway car with no driver or oncoming traffic, a burning building—a way that minimized my pain and didn’t cause harm to anyone else—I would choose to die in a heartbeat. Philosophically, I believe people should have the right to die if they want to—it’s your body, after all. Who am I to tell you that you must live if your pain is that high, your suffering that real.

I say this as someone who has lost a friend to suicide. As someone who knows people who have lost loved ones to suicide. As a person who very much would love anyone who wanted my love. As someone who works to help stop suicide.

But there’s this: every time I am on a subway platform by myself, I look at the incoming train and have to stop myself from jumping. Every time. Every time I’m on a plane, I wish and hope that the plane miraculously crash in such a way that would keep every part of the plane in tact, and every passenger alive and unharmed, except for myself. Every time I hear of someone suffering, I wish every cancer, disease, illness, and misfortune upon myself and away from everyone else.

There are days when I am more suicidal than usual—when most things in my life seem to be going wrong and I see no light at the end of the tunnel. On these days, when I am actively suicidal, I exhibit some tell-tale signs of what everyone else would see as depression—I want to rot away in bed, shut everyone out, quit every activity, job, and commitment that I may have, and crawl into a hole.

I have tried to kill myself. I’ve made a couple shitty, impulsive attempts. I’ve come so close to being kicked out of school for my suicidality that I could taste the pavement on the street. I’ve been hospitalized four times, all which have left me worse off than I had been before.

A former friend who visited me the last time I was hospitalized sent me an article on trauma. As someone who has dealt with her share of PTSD, I eagerly read it, searching for something that resonated and rang true with me. In this piece, they described two types of people needed to survive trauma: firefighters, who will come running in a crisis, who will battle the blaze with you until you are ostensibly safe, and builders who will be there in the long run, who will give you the steady care you need to reenter the world. I think this structure holds true in life more generally, too. And as far as I have found, crises come easy (firefighters abound), but builders are the rare ones. I’ve lost most of my friends because they couldn’t handle my honesty. My dark, gloomy, intense honesty.

I’ve been poor, I’ve been homeless. I’ve been raped, I’ve been beaten. I’ve lived out of a car, I’ve starved. I’ve been essentially orphaned, I’ve been abandoned. I’ve been wished dead, I’ve been told I’m going to rot in hell, that no one will ever love me, that I’ll be found in a dumpster on the street. But nothing ruins me more than being alone. When I look around and don’t see people—any people to call my own, who are consistently there, and will be there for some time to come—this is what intensifies and solidifies my desire to kill myself.

But even with all of this, I am so much more than my suicidality. I am not crazy. I’m not insane. I’m capable. On most days, I am functional. I am warm, I am positive. I am loving, I am not dark and gloomy. (And even if I was, why is that bad?) I am intense, but I’m also fun. I am capable of laughing. I do not need to be coddled or tiptoed around. I need as much support and love as the next person. But I am not my suicidality.”

Columbia’s 2014 Mental Health Awareness and Random Acts of Kindness Weeks

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6H35s_kTmH8

Photo by Steve Rosenfield

 

Tears

Image Credits: Tears by crazythis at http://crazythis.deviantart.com/art/tears-80210887

Image Credits: Tears by crazythis at http://crazythis.deviantart.com/art/tears-80210887

“Officer, do come in,” said the lazy drawl of the suspect. The recreational phosphorescence from the club’s atmosphere had faded away to a dim glow. The silhouette and its accompanying shadow shifted in their position somewhat.

Officer Porter steadied her team and entered the room in stealth mode. She had express orders to sedate this highly mobile suspect before taking him into her custody. Do not move until suspect has been located, she transmitted to the rest of the team. This was unbelievably lucky. After almost two years of tracking down this man via his goods, they finally had him. Surrounded and possibly armed.

“Surrender to this, Delirium.” she spoke aloud, addressing the criminal by his chosen code name. “Central Justice holds you guilty for the propagation of narcotics among innocent civilians, and the crimes that they have gone on to perpetrate.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” said Delirium, bored.

“Do not move. You will be provided counsel if requested…”

Prepare the sedatives, she commanded her team. Green acknowledging blips confirmed their response.

“My dear Officer Porter, I did not come this far and let myself be captured.”

Ordinarily, she would have registered some shock at the fact that he knew her name already. But this wasn’t the time to debate such minutiae. Ready to diffuse on my mark. All the green blips flashed off once and then blinked back again.

“If you try to diffuse now, you’ll never get me, Officer Porter.”

Stand by, team. “State your demands, criminal.”

“Come, come, my dear Officer Porter. It’s been 36 months since you have been chasing me and now that I am finally in your arms, you won’t even talk to me?”

“You will be allowed to speak to legal counsel only.”

“But I don’t want to speak to them! I want to talk to you, dear.”

Some of the green blips went orange in confusion. The criminal was requesting an audience with an officer. Porter did not have the time to send a request to higher authorities for this change of procedure. With a high-sensitivity target, she was alone.

Team, commencing negotiations with the hostage. Initiating a code blue pulse. When the pulse dies out, begin diffusion. Some of the orange lights turned red in protest, but as Porter marched into the eerie semi-darkness, they slowly switched back to green.

She entered a partially lit hallway. Recreational skins littered the floor, and the heads up display told her that the concentration of narcotics in the atmosphere had jumped to about 4 parts per million. A chair swiveled around as she entered and positioned itself. In the poor visibility, Porter could make out his presence through her thermal sensors only.

“Please sit. I have many things I want to talk to you about.”

“Speak.” She remained standing.

“Is that how the new generation works these days? I didn’t know that the lack of emotions necessitated a lack of courteous behavior.”

There was silence, during which Porter re-adjusted her sensors in order to pin-point his location better.

“Might I say you’ve done a lovely job with infiltrating my customer base? In the beginning I couldn’t even tell them apart from the regular ones, until I noticed that their delirium wore off a lot faster. Is it a part of your training, my dear?”

Porter continued to scan the room. Two exits. He was located equidistant from both of them. If he had to leave in one way or another, he would have to physically pass by her. He hadn’t yet asked her a question to which she could objectively respond. She wasn’t in the habit of making small talk to criminals either.

“Silence makes this conversation rather one-sided, so when I asked to speak to you, I expected you to reply back.”

“It is my duty to stop crime” was the mechanic, halting, monotone reply.

“You new generation clones are pathetic. Not only do you make awful conversationalists, but you don’t even accept compliments very well. I think it’s time you ask a question or we could very well be sitting here in silence until one of us dies.”

“How did you know of our methods?” asked Porter, wondering that she might as well ask something productive if he was being so insistent.

“Oooh. An interesting one. I know everything about you, dear.”

“Elaborate.”

“I know your dirty little secret in the rehabilitation center. You’re one of the few with the recurring gene failure, isn’t it? ”

If Porter could have felt shock, she probably would. But with her conditioning, she probably translated the information into the binary category of either failures in security networks or manipulative lies.

“…. Well? Aren’t you curious how I know about your private records?” asked Delirium, in some struggle to provoke a response.

It was true, though. Despite all of Porter’s genetic conditioning to suppress emotion, the logic of the situation did not compute.

“Yes. I am,” said Officer Porter, internally setting her own beacon to a blue light. She estimated that this conversation would take no more than three minutes. Given that this was an extremely dangerous suspect, Porter ordered her team to go ahead with the diffusion when the blue light went out. She could be resuscitated if required. Capturing him was the top priority here.

Porter paused to regulate some oxygen within her suit. The narcotics in the atmosphere were beginning to seep into her suit through the vents. How the criminal survived his manic addiction was anyone’s guess. After legal counsel, he would probably be sent to the labs for testing. If indeed his genes turned out to be as robust as they claimed, they could use it to for further emotional conditioning of the gene pool.

“So, tell me, are the suppressants are working?” asked Delirium, pausing just enough to seem nasty about it.

“What is the goal of this discussion, criminal?” asked Porter, feeling a little out of her element. The rehabilitation story was supposed to be expunged from her records. Memories of her days in rehabilitation passed through rather quickly.

Porter had been “born” just like every new generation clone had, derived from the diluted DNA of some True Human. Most clones did not feel emotions any more, as part of their restructuring and conditioning. However, as it was with DNA, there were some cases when citizens of the new generation failed, and regressed into violence or sadness or happiness. It was ironic how the fresh source of DNA (the last of the True Humans) were also the remaining criminals. Sweeping evolutionary changes demanded that the True Humans be rounded up from the ghetto, from their criminal hubs and submitted into the gene pool centers. Their genes would be extracted and applied, and they would emerge as docile, civilized, urbane creatures. The greater the variation in structure, the stronger the emotional conditioning would reflect on the next series of clones.

“You regressed as a child, didn’t you?”

Porter was silent for a while, and then she allowed a barely audible “Yes” to escape her.

Delirium’s mouth curved up into a smirk. Spontaneous signs of emotion. How long had he been breathing in narcotics?

“Tell me what happened during the siege of the Blaniken outpost.”

Porter’s regression had taken on an incontrollable form. The Blaniken outpost was one of the hardest ghettos to crack, and it was evident in the damages the team had suffered. For the first and probably only time in her life, Porter had been possessed with rage. She remembered that emotion, the wild, inherent drive in her head to demolish all. Regressions were usually fatal as emotions that had been suppressed for an entire lifetime managed to find an outlet. Porter’s rehab had tried to clean off some of the memories, but the feeling of actually tearing a fellow clone from limb to limb in blind rage still tingled on her fingers on the worse days.

“That….that information is classified.”

“It feels beautiful, doesn’t it?” asked Delirium, leaning over the table now.

“I am not designed to….”

“You know what I’m talking about. It’s that unseen power that you’ve been denied all your life…”

Porter knew exactly what he was talking about. She had been so angry that not even physical injuries could deter her. She was attacking anything and everything that was in sight. The thrill of having another creature’s existence completely in her unstable control and that she could, with the smallest of effort end it, was overwhelming.

Delirium allowed himself a chuckle as he saw Porter’s eyes expand slightly through her visor. Marketing emotions was exactly his specialization. The beauty was that each user had their own experience. The drug merely worked to restore the natural chemical balance within the still human brain. Once the cerebrum was capable of feeling the emotion, it was pure abandon for the mind. At least until the conditioning kicked in to place, stabilizing the balance again. To feel happy, to feel sad, to literally feel anything that was beyond the capacity of rationale and logic was obviously addictive.

“Are you under influence now?” asked Porter, registering his smile and laughter.

“No, my dear,” he conceded. “You see, I don’t need narcotics to feel emotions. I’m a True Human.”

Increase the dosage of the sedative, team. Call for reinforcements. Green lights blinked consecutively in order.

“Why does my existence concern you?”

“Another interesting one! My dear, you are absolutely scintillating today.”

Porter did not accept the compliment. She stayed emotionless and counted off the seconds from the blue light timer.

“You see, I just wanted to inform you specifically, that the rehab treatments won’t work. As well trained as you are, I know it won’t.”

“Explain.”

“Let me see your face,” asked Delirium. “Without the visor.”

This was an imminent exposure to danger. It would take a while to purge the chemicals from her system. Given her history with regressions, it might even send her into another one that could very well irrecoverable.

“Why?”

“You see, my dear, you are my clone. My True Human DNA has been used to create you.”

“All new generation humans are derived from viable True Human DNA.”

“Correct. But the problem is, my genes, like me, are a bit of a rebel. They honestly should have politely asked for a sample instead of forcing it out of me, but I’m not exactly compatible for emotional conditioning. I also have a naturally high ability resist chemicals, as you can clearly tell by my comfortable exposure to narcotics. I didn’t know it was you, at first. But after the Blaniken incident, I knew you had inherited my problem.”

“Are you expecting me to empathize with you?”

“No, no, my dear. That would be ruining the medical charade of a spectacularly designed suppressant.”

Once again there was an awkward silence as Delirium expected her to offer an opinion on the revelation. Porter was unimpressed. Or maybe she was conditioned to feel unimpressed.

“Please let me see your face. Just once, without the visor.”

“You have several clones. Why this attachment to me?”

“See, you and I have been the ones bound by fate. You’re the only person who could hunt me down after all these years. In a way, you are my offspring and I feel strangely proud.”

Delirium was getting more insistent now.

“Before I go to the gene pool centers, let me look at you once. Allow me the last privilege of feeling joy before I’m handed into civility.”

This was unbelievably outrageous and dangerous. Catering to emotional needs of a True Human was not her duty.

“Please. For the last time? I’ll never be able to feel anything after.”

“Would you be more compliant with the procedure that is to follow?”

“Would you really deny me the right to see my own offspring?”

Porter activated the timer alert on her blue light. Then, she proceeded to take off the visor, despite all protests by the internal computer that it was dangerous for her to do so. Instinctively, she held her breath as he visor opened up, allowing her oxygen to escape outside. The stench of narcotics was an olfactory attack in its own right.

Then the unexpected happened. Delirium reached out for her face. In some defense, Porter started back, careful not to touch or breathe anything.

“Please….” asked Delirium softly, persistently, his eyes welling up somewhat. Another debilitating emotional condition.

Porter paused stiffly as his fingers traced a line across her cheek. Every logical, rational and even the remnants of emotional instincts were telling her that something was wrong and this was too easy.

It was odd how the sub-dermal injector camouflaged in Delirium’s fingers and Porter’s team diffused at the same time. While Delirium collapsed to the floor, unconscious, Porter frantically struggled to get the visor back on. She gulped in the oxygen, feeling strangely light and confused and scared at the same time. Her brain began to destabilize slowly as she watched her comrades drag him out. While they fumbled in the dark, toxic, low-visibility ambiance, Porter realized that she had just condemned the only sort of family she had to an eternal hell.

She curled up on the floor and felt the tears. Then, almost convulsively her body surrendered and the regression took over. Porter began to weep.

Three enlightening rules on re-evaluating friendships

You may or may not know that I’m a very self-critical person who tends to pay undue attention to what goes on in the world around me. Whenever I sink into this habit, it is a sure indication that my self-esteem is crumbling, because instead of supporting itself from within, it seeks validation from outside. This has led to a rather worrying trend of how I “listen to what other people have to say” too often. Or more accurately, I “take what other people say too seriously”, etc. I sometimes forget that these people I’m listening to are as immature/insecure and fragile as I am, and that they too are perhaps projecting aspects of themselves instead of confronting their true selves.

I had a very enlightening conversation with my father last night. Here’s what I learned from them. 

Rule 1: You are permitted to be selective

I am so tired of apologizing for myself, that I have abused the word sorry a little too often. No, I’m not sorry for liking the kind of music I like, reading the kind of books I like, having the kind of opinions I have. I understand that my world-view is still very young, and that these opinions are subject to the passage of time. However, I’ve spent hours and hours in misery, moping and wondering why my opinion is so different from other people’s, and why they think the way they think. I should have cared less, if not at all. But in times of self-contemplation, I always forget that I get to choose the people I call my friends. I have enough self-respect to know that my loyalty is earned, and therefore, when people seem to abuse it, I have the right to walk away. You don’t have to be with people who don’t make you happy.

Rule 2: There are no standards.

This is sort of derived from rule 1, and while somewhat controversial, I tend to agree. I’ve heard enough of things like, “Oh, he’s usually a nice guy” or “Don’t be so harsh on her. She’s actually a nice person.” This has led my self-criticism to believe that my “standards” are too harsh or too high, etc.

Let me use some observations from my over-analytic mind and make my point as a mathematical proof

  1.  As free, sentient, sapient human beings, we have earned the right to dislike and disagree with things that we dislike and disagree. Sometimes, we can rationalize these feelings. But it is not necessary for us to explain to everyone why we have to.
  2.  All human beings do not judge other human beings equally or by thee same criteria. Hence the subjectivity in opinion.
  3. This brings us to the idea that people have standards. Whether we consciously admit it or not, we do have certain standards for the people we call our friends/employers and/or the people we choose to be in relationships with. Some may make these standards public and obvious. For example, there used to be this rather snobby classmate who decided to include only those from affluent families in her friends circle. (It’s a petty standard, you could say, but it’s her standard and so it’s not subject to our opinions).
  4. Therefore, these criteria by which we evaluate apply to every human being we interact with. Before a person becomes your friend, you are treating them a certain way anyway. A person’s standards do not necessarily apply only when they know that they are being considered as potential friends/lovers.

So, there you go. There are no “standards”. There are only “ways to treat fellow human beings”. You can be nice about it or you can be nasty about it. Those are your choices, but nobody in the world should be able to tell you that your standards are too high. I’ve discovered that when people usually tell me that, it means that they are more lenient with bad behavior than I am. Should I be sorry that I was raised to treat people with respect?

It doesn’t matter what the other person says or does, if they cannot make you feel respected or cherished in their company. It’s simply a waste of time that could have been spent with someone else who truly does make you feel that they are worth investing time and emotion into.

Rule 3: Having expectations is okay

I’ve heard a lot about this. “Don’t expect too much from people, so that way you’ll always be pleasantly surprised.” This sort of misleading optimism is the kind that has made me tolerate many instances of bad, negative behavior for that one in a million chance that they might actually be nice to me for a change.  There’s always the few days when people are having bad moods, mood swings, etc. As a friend and a person, you should draw the line if someone is projecting their negativity onto you by default or ALL THE TIME. 

As someone who has suffered enough of this (and if you’re someone like me, listen up), you do not have to forcibly expose yourself to other people’s crap. Just don’t. It’s unfair to yourself to test your tolerance level. It is not character-building in anyway. I’ve ended up feeling miserable, inadequate, naive, shut-down because of my happiness and the other person continues to thrive among their own biases. It is okay to decide that enough is enough. It is okay to decide when something is not enough. 

More so, it is okay to let these demands be known to the people involved. If they truly care, or were simply ignorant about what was upsetting you, then they will bother to listen. We can’t expect people to change themselves (Fact: they won’t. Time will). But if there’s any relation in which we feel that our sacrifices are unequal, or non-reciprocated, then it’s time to either stop making those sacrifices or let the other department know that there is something bothering you.  It’s okay to expect, especially if you’re trying to meet their expectations.

There you have it. These are what I think should help me re-define the people I hang out with, so that their negativity doesn’t affect me as strongly. Maybe I could grow a thicker skin, or maybe I should have to focus my energy elsewhere in my life so that my social life doesn’t turn into a liability? Let me know if you have similar/digressing/other opinions below.

The power of email

Here’s a really weird thing I’ve noticed about social media. Facebook, Twitter, etc. are supposed to bring people, information and opinions closer to you. But this is also completely generic. There is no way we can be emotionally intimate with 1014 people all over the world, some of whom we have met only once, some we have added only because they are friends of friends and so on. We mirror this behavior in the real world by having circles of friends, and then even smaller circles of “closer” friends.

I’ve decided to send an email to two friends whom I haven’t seen for three months, and who are close to me. One was an extremely dear friend from back home who decided to keep her email account alive only because I refused to join Facebook until way into freshman year of college. We speak to each other very frequently and the emotional support that she provides me with makes me feel truly blessed to have her in my life. The other person is one of the most positive people I’ve met at college. She is so gentle, kind, positive, enthusiastic and artistic that I find it a sheer joy to be with her. She never fails to spread love to everyone and even though I realize that her medical sabbatical is necessary, I miss her. I always wondered what people thought about me when I wasn’t around, and now that these people weren’t around, I wanted to let them know that they matter to me.

I was a bit afraid to send out the emails, actually. I wanted to talk about my life and how things were going, but most of the words seemed to be related to stress and pain and worry, and I did not want to bring negativity to a person’s inbox. I ended up writing about absolutely random things in an incoherent mash of questions about them, opinions about improving the weather and unnecessarily detailed discourses about food. I didn’t want to seem superficial by telling them that “everything’s fine”, so I told them how despite everything I was trying to stay happy.

If I had my way I would have sent a hand-written letter, because nothing could be more intimate than that. But killing a tree, searching for varying addresses and delays in arrival made me stick to a digital medium. An email is the most private message that I could think of.  Obviously, I’m not talking about the kind of emails that arrive with 1000000 people in CC/BCC or carry the “FWD:” tag in subject lines. But I hoped to convey a lot more in the private audience that an email affords, than something that could be lost in the crowd, like a Facebook message.

I got back replies instantly. It makes my day to know that I have made two people feel special.The distance between us has somewhat affected our emotional proximity, but I also try to think of it as a way to provide more content to talk about. I hope they know that they are dearly loved and missed, and I will try my best to keep them in my noisy, busy occupied mind.

Conversations in the darkness

The beautiful woman sat in the corner of the room, anticipating the questions from the semi-secluded stranger who stood before her.

“Do you believe in love at first sight, madam?” came the dreaded attack. It was loaded with powerful words. Belief. Truth. Love. In the simple act of this overt flirting, the stranger had already thrown away the comforts of subtlety. He was inviting the raw truth to him, so he would have it unfiltered.

For a moment, the lady gathered her arms and her words around herself.

“…I don’t know if I believe in love at first sight,” said the plainitive honesty.

Indecision was perhaps worse than a decline. But pushing any further would have been indelicate and the stranger, already ashamed that he had crossed one boundary, hesitated before breaching another. Perhaps deflecting through ignorance was merely to spare the horrors of an outright anticipatory rejection.

“I believe in attraction at first sight,” continued the lady, oblivious to the several branching outcomes that had played on in the stranger’s head.

“I believe in infatuation at first sight sight,” she mused, stumbling through the words, drawing them out through the nostalgia in her voice and  re-populating with the hint of forgotten memories.

“I definitely do believe in bad decisions at first sight but I still don’t believe in love at first sight.” she smiled brightly, knowing that this could have been a generic observation.

The stranger chuckled as he knew that he was being led on by his own curiosity and the flow of the conversation. “Why?”

“…Because I was taught, given, conditioned to feel that the true real, glorious and worthy feeling called love….”

The stranger shuddered as he felt the words power through him.

“…love is mutual, no?”

It was now the stranger’s turn to discover that he did not know the answer.

Atom and Eve

Image Credits: Jenova by IIIustrathor on dA at http://iiiustrathor.deviantart.com/art/JENOVA-331676917

Image Credits: Jenova by IIIustrathor on dA at http://iiiustrathor.deviantart.com/art/JENOVA-331676917

 

1. Breakup and Distance

“I’m sorry, I don’t think this is working out,” said Eve apologetically to her fourth genetic partner.

“Am I not adequate enough?” Linda asked, staring up at Eve’s eyes with eyes that welled up and quivered.

“It’s not you, it’s me,” said Eve, seeking the refuge of a tired cliche one more time.

“After….after all this time? I loved you, Eve. I gave you everything. We were going to procreate together!”

“Linda….I, I…..it’s not that I love you any less..”

“Do you?! Do you really?!”

“I can’t help it that this feels wrong! Please don’t force me into this, Linda. At least you know I’m not lying to you.”

“You’re selfish, Eve. You’re a horrible selfish person. I should have known better when you said you had three partners before me….I’m sorry I loved you, Eve.”

Linda walked out of the door and Eve was certain she would never come back. Her sharp ears heard Linda’s sobs as she transported away from Eve’s residence. It struck Eve as slightly odd how Linda left all her clothes and belongings behind. She probably expected Eve to come after her, except Eve felt as though she had made the best decision in her life. Unlike any other relationship, Eve had never felt heart-broken when any of her genetic partners waked out on her. Linda was the fourth, which meant that Eve had experience with breaking up. There was that odd silence, which flooded with relief and joy.

But still, Linda, the kind, caring, effusive, ever-helpful, slightly bumbling, sort of annoying presence wasn’t there anymore. No more would she have a companion who woke up beside her. No more would she have someone to share her contact with, merge physically and mentally with. There was a fleeting sense of empty. For the first time ever, Eve wondered if she should reconsider her decision. Maybe Linda was right. Maybe she was giving in to a childish impulse. Maybe their relationship just needed more time to mellow out. Maybe she needed to figure things out better.

“I hope you’re happy,” said Azilan, the AI that was wired into Eve’s brain and in all of her technology.

“Come on. I just can’t feel for her the way she feels for me.”

“She’s an adult woman, with very viable DNA. It’s only natural she feel the need to procreate,” came the justification.

“I’m not denying that! I just don’t feel that way…”

“You’re not getting younger, you know? Your eggs are going to die soon. You might as well procreate now that you can.”

“But I just don’t feel like doing this…..”

“This is childishness, Eve. Linda is a superb specimen. So were all of your previous partners. If you don’t know what you’re looking for that’s highly problematic.”

“Maybe it’s me, Azilan?”

“Scanning for the millionth time. Scan complete. Besides your own stupidly constructed psychological symptoms, there is nothing wrong with your physiology.”

“Maybe I just haven’t found the right person?”

“When will you? The longer you delay it, the weaker your genes will get.”

“I’ve still got time, Azilan. Besides, until then I have you to make me feel less lonely.”

“Linda was right. You’re selfish,” said Azilan.

Eve stayed quiet. She was used to failing herself. She was used to disappointing this other metallic voice inside her head.

But what was the problem? Eve couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Was she not normal, by choosing to have normal genetic partners? Why did she not feel the need to procreate?

Eve stepped out, to be transported away. She needed to get away from this suffocating home which smelled of Linda and Eve’s supposed mistakes.

“Running away, now?” sneered Azilan, masterfully.

“Either tell me where to go or be quiet, because I will not stay.”

Azilan had been around her long enough to know when she was being serious. The operating system wondered if it should delete the memories of Linda, in order to make Eve’s emotional turmoil feel better. It was her fourth break-up, but that didn’t mean it hurt her any less.

“Altitude co-ordinates 43.68. Azimuth co-ordinates 29.76. Nearest transport embarking in 36 seconds and counting.”

“Take me away,” said Eve, as a professional cyborg would say to the implanted system.

2. Who man?

“Azilan?”

“Yes?”

“How do species on other worlds procreate?”

“Well, before cloning and before our genetic technology, there used to exist a biological mechanism called sexual reproduction.”

“If it was natural, why did it die out?”

“Our technology produced more viable hybrids and better designs than the natural genetic mixing could ever provide. Those species didn’t host another artificial intelligence inside their heads, like you can.”

“They must have been able to enjoy their quiet moments in peace.”

“Hey! I resent that. I don’t interrupt your quiet moments!”

“You don’t have a choice. We’re both stuck within the limited confines of my skin until I die,” replied Eve, mimicking Azilan’s trademark sneer.

Azilan searched to change the topic. She let Eve feel her displeasure by forcing her aural nerves to a static wash. Eve cringed, but did not protest. She knew she had got the point across.

“Anyway, sexual reproduction required two different species to genetically combine in order to produce viable offspring, which could be harvested either within or externally of the two combining members.”

“Two species?! How were they genetically compatible?”

“Your ancestors, for example, had two species. Each with the same number of chromosomes. However, one species had both X-genes. They were listed as female, they were the carriers of the offspring. The other had one X and a Y. They were listed as male. They propagated their genes in order to create more offspring.”

Eve couldn’t imagine what it must be to have two different species. She paused momentarily, trying to imagine a world where there could be someone who was equal to her, except differently designed, in some way she had no idea about. After a while, her imagination failed, and she simply let Azilan flood her mind with data.

“What happened to the males?”

“As evolution progressed, the males became susceptible to a space-born disease. The Y-chromosome served as a host for this genetic virus and they were soon extinct. The females, who survived the purge, then went on to find other ways to procreate. That was the dawn of the Cloning era.”

“….Then they discovered that clones couldn’t be genetically viable?”

“Correct. Reproductive technology evolved that would use two healthy citizens, combine their genes at random, and using the combined template of both participants, design an offspring that satisfied it’s parents’ expectations…..”

That was the kind of expectation that Linda had of her. The kind she had failed, for the fourth time.

“Why am I scared of procreating, Azilan? It seems so much simpler and cleaner than ages ago…It’s not like I don’t like Linda. I like having her around me very much, but I somehow don’t see us bearing offspring. I just can’t seem to be as emotionally invested as all of my genetic partners are.”

Azilan felt compelled to comfort her host. It was a question that didn’t really have a specific answer.

“Maybe you just haven’t found the right person?”

“After the fourth time? What are the odds of that, Azilan?”

“Statistical aberrations happen, Eve.”

“My parents would consider me a failure if they knew that I can’t procreate.”

“I’m sure Elise and Marie would continue to love you, Eve,” said Azilan, referring to her parents by their names.

“I want to know how the two species reproduction works, Azilan.”

“Why? Males have been extinct for many centuries now.”

“Maybe that way worked better?”

“Eve, you’re grasping at straws here. Our society is complete with all of its given species’ composition. Our ecosystem cannot support any more, simply because it doesn’t need to support any more.”

“……Just satisfy my curiosity, Azilan. Tell me more about males.”

“You understand that I’ll be reconstructing data that is very ancient, at best. I’ll use whatever extrapolation algorithms that I have to offer you a complete picture, but it may not be accurate.”

“That’s okay.”

Eve stayed quiet as Azilan went on a long recursive search. She closed her eyes as Azilan flooded her mind with grainy, partially formed images of what the human male once was.

“Interesting,” said Eve aloud, as she studied the male physiology. It was something so unique, so different than anything Eve had seen before. This species was so old that most biological or genetic annals failed to record them in their listing.

“Azilan, let’s go to my chamber and finish the reconstruction there. I want to be able to interact with a live holographic model of this species.”

“WHAT?!” spluttered Azilan. “I don’t have enough data to be able to do that!”

“Azilan, you’re smart and so am I. Let’s get to my chambers where we can put our combined intelligence to use.”

“This had better be just for curiosity,” muttered Azilan in the recesses of Eve’s brain. She could tell that Eve was determined.

More so, as Eve embarked the nearest transport to her chambers, Azilan was worried. Eve’s sudden determination could not have just been fueled by curiosity alone. Sharing Eve’s subconscious, Azilan could tell exactly what it was that was driving her, but she refused to speak it aloud for fear of creating a psychological construct inside Eve’s mind.

After all, Eve was hungry for more data on these extinct species. She seemed to justify her thoughts on the surface with a prefacing, “Oh, I just want to know how our ancestors procreated, that’s all.”

Azilan almost dreaded to name the conclusion that her analyses of Eve’s psyche were telling her. Maybe, just maybe, was there the slightest hint of attraction?

That, in itself, implied something that could very well shake the foundations of their current society. Eve could be regressing back to genetically “natural” ways.

Nothing. It’s nothing. Azilan told herself, erasing her memory of the last five seconds of internal analyses. But then, as they arrived in Eve’s chambers, Azilan felt worried again.

3. Regression and solitude

“Please enter your access code,” asked the Central Genetic Database system, guarding the entrance to the formidable structure that maintained their world in a constant ecological balance.

Azilan supplied the system with the necessary data while Eve waited. Eve transported to her office and located the necessary modeling equipment.

Slowly, Azilan started pooling the data she had collated from varied sources about human males into the system. Their genetic structure, hormonal composition, physiological variations, sexual dimorphism and other anatomical traits.
Whatever data the system failed to provide, Azilan calculated and estimated. Their numbers, their populations, their propagated methods, etc.

The more Eve discovered about this species, the more she marveled. Her ancestors must have truly been complex evolved beings in their own right, if they could sustain reproduction within themselves with such primitive external technology. She wasn’t just in awe of the Ancient Human Male. She was also in awe of the Female that was expected to be his partner, expected to complete a complex creature such as the Male.

All that was left now, was for the Database to compile a visual, three-dimensional, motile specimen of the entered parameters.

“Eve?”

“Azilan?”

“There’s something you have to admit to me honestly, Eve.”

“Azilan, you’re inside my head all the time. You know me better than I know myself. How am I possibly expected to hide anything from you?”

“There have been occasions where you have made decisions without my control, Eve.”

Eve paused while she remembered, or Azilan made her remember, that she broke up with Linda despite Azilan’s objections.

“Why are you bringing up Linda, Azilan?”

“This whole search began with wondering why you can’t procreate, right? Those doubts about your ability started sprouting up only after Linda left.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Now you’re actually doing research on an extinct species on order to prove that the natural way of procreating was right. You’re here about to run simulations and other environmental factors so that you know what it would be like if human males were willed back into existence.”

Eve stayed silent.

“Answer me honestly, Eve. You owe me at least that much.”

“Maybe that’s the only way I can procreate, Azilan. Look at this way, I can’t seem to work with any of the existing partners that I had, or have available around me. You’ve tested me several times, and there’s no biological reason why I can’t procreate. But there’s definitely some reason I can’t. I don’t know why I’m doing this Azilan, but I have to do it to find some answers for myself.”

“Do you find yourself sexually attracted to this species?”

Eve staggered somewhat under the realization of what Azilan was trying to get at.

“Is it wrong if I do?”

“It’s not accepted in our society, Eve. You know it.”

“What sort of a society dictates to me who I am allowed to feel sexually attracted to?!”

Azilan stayed silent. This was beyond natural regression.

“Besides,” said Eve, feeling the desperate need to justify her disposition, “that was the way it had worked in the past. Why shouldn’t it work now?”

“Many things have changed since those times, Eve. Those people – the males and females lived in a world where population was uncontrolled, many species were dead or extinct. Their ecosystem was polluted and choked with the burden of hosting so many members of each individual species. Today we live in a world where every birth and every death of every species is recorded and noted. Everything is regulated and controlled, just as how the natural ecosystems should be.”

“Are you saying that the human males were the only species responsible for the ecological demise of the ancient planet Earth?”

“I am not. But what I am saying is that our world is functioning at its best. If you were to create and design, or even procreate with a new species, you would be upsetting the delicate balance which we have maintained here for centuries.”

“But they’re not new! They’re old. Very very old. They are even sentient and intelligent! Simply forgotten.”

“That does not change my argument Eve.”

“Don’t you think the world would be better with more men? With more natural procreation? Genetic sustainability within our bodies instead of outside of it?”

Azilan stayed silent. “I do not know, Eve. Our society has been functioning very well thus far.”

“You know that with every single one of my partners thus far, I’ve never felt sexually attracted to any of them.”

“That’s true. At first I thought you were merely scared of procreating.”

“That’s what I thought too. But when you described to me of other procreation techniques and how frightening they could be, I wondered what I had to worry about this process at all.”

“…..And?”

“I realized that I probably simply didn’t feel that way about my partners. I’m sure, no I’m certain, they were all great partners in their own right, and they were more than willing to offer their genetic diversity up to me. But I simply cannot explain why I never felt the same about them.”

“…Eve, please don’t do this,” said Azilan, aware of what was to follow.

“I can’t help it that I wish to procreate with these older species!”

“You’re regressing, Eve. Stop this. Regressors get very severely penalized and you know that. You realize that by what you’re thinking or about to do, you’re going to damage everything our society has worked to build. It’s not just about you, Eve, think of the other citizens of this world as well.”

For a fleeting moment, Eve heard the echo of Linda’s memory. “You’re selfish, Eve…”

“If this is what you’re going to do, you will be proving her right, Eve,” said Azilan, also hearing Linda’s voice.

For the first time in her life, Eve felt compelled to curl up into a tiny ball and cry. Her circuitry prevented her from weeping, as Azilan could get shorted out in that process, but she had to process this sadness and frustration somewhere before her mental capacity was completely overrun.

“What do I do, Azilan?!”

“Statistical aberrations happen, Eve,” said Azilan, realizing that it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Do I go back to Linda? Do I go through with this? What do I do?!”

“I’m not going to say do what feels right, Eve. Because while you may feel it’s right, there are several other citizens at stake here. Maybe you just need to go home, sleep some more, calm down, meet new people and you will come across the right partner this time. Just promise yourself that the next time, you will actively involve yourself in making your relationship work. ”

“How do you know I’m alone in feeling this way? What if I can’t force myself to love the next partner in my life?”

“I don’t know what else you expect from me, Eve,” said Azilan helplessly.

There was a long pause during which Eve gulped and swallowed all of her confusion, angst, misery and the memories of Linda. Azilan distributed the emotions evenly, so that Eve could go back to her natural composed self.

“Let’s just go home. I don’t want to deal with this.”

Azilan tacitly agreed.

Eve transported back home rather quietly, watching a couple hold hands as they navigated together. She watched families with the little offspring laugh as they boarded the multiple transport stops. Never before had it bothered her to such a great extent that she might actually be destined to simply be alone. Or alone with the memory that she could have been a suitable mate for a species that did not exist anymore. All in the limited confines of her head.

Which Azilan shared. “Don’t worry, Eve,” she said quietly. “At least you know I’ll be here for you always.”

Eve stayed lost and silent. “I’m sorry I loved you, Eve” said another remnant of Linda. You don’t have to be sorry, Linda. I’m the one who’s sorry because I’m confused.

Guys with feelings

This is the story I’m going to talk about: http://www.apex-magazine.com/karina-who-kissed-spacetime/

I read this beautiful story today. Honestly, I don’t even know why I think it’s beautiful. But the fact is, once I had finished reading it, I was crying and feeling very quiet inside. Perhaps the realization that a work of prose is capable of reducing me to this state made it so beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not neurotic. Really. I am sensitive and emotional, but because of several school experiences, I’ve learned to suppress those instincts till I’m in a space where I can be myself. So, I am far more comfortable with emotions than my cyberpunk-obsessed-robot-building-geeky-tomboy-dubstep-persona will have you believe. Perhaps that would be one of the reasons we could become friends; if you could see past that for who I truly am and understand that I am inconstant as I evolve.

The story is very simply about a young Indian student falling in love with a Russian senior at a university in Pennsylvania. Already there are several reasons why this resonates with me. I too am an international student in the United States. Through the narrator’s emotional experiences, it appears that space-time appears to rupture and the protagonist is in some sort of visionary limbo, where he can sense the present and know that the future is to come. They fall in love, or rather the protagonist does and he can even foresee the failure of their relationship and how much it will hurt him, but he will not let go for fear of not having tried.

The English is charming. Literally, there were so many themes and experiences that I have felt that were so sensitively portrayed that I was rather moved. The imagery is profound. The metaphors are deep. But these reasons are not why the story made me cry.  I have been suppressing some very important questions about myself and my relationships for quite a while and this story seemed to dig up something that I had been ignoring. I don’t know if it was for better or for worse.

Perhaps one of the things that struck me was that the protagonist was male. It seems massively surprising that human males (especially adolescents) are capable of expressing this depth of emotion. In part this stems from the extremely unjust social stereotype that men have to have their emotions bottled up somewhere in order to earn respect. But all said and done, it is a social stereotype that has taken me a very long time to digest. I have spent years of my adolescence coloring my limited knowledge of the male psyche with my bias, and only now that I am no longer as angst-ridden do I realize it was unfair. It was unfair of me to think that guys/boys/men do not feel anything, or that they do not share the same intensity and passion as girls do.

I was somewhat moved because this male protagonist proved to me that emotions, especially of love and security, transcend gender boundaries. As do many of the stereotypes in our life. But this was one that I was guilty of giving in to and to have this one simple story shatter it made me feel oddly humbled and sympathetic. Some part of my brain breaks the sudden deafening silence by saying that this is obviously a work of fiction and therefore whatever earth-shattering revelation I may or may not have had can be attributed largely to creative genius.

This is not to say that I never believed guys could have emotions or would have emotions. I mean, I understand as human beings we all share certain emotions and that for most guys, or at least most of whom I know, they tend to possess hearts under that cold/stand-offish exterior. Maybe I am being horribly hypocritical here when I say that they don’t exactly make these cores very easy to access. Personally, I have always been attributed with being warm and open. This is a behavioral trait that developed in school shortly after I discovered that my own recycled secrets were being used to spin stories about me. I promised myself that I would never ever abuse someone else’s confidence in me and I’ve been very good with that promise. This has led to me being the confidante of several people in my friend network. But somehow, very few guys if at all, approach me emotionally.

I used to think it was my fault. Perhaps I was too loud, too non-conservative in my views, too forthright in my communication? Perhaps I was <insert adjective of choice from immense list of descriptors>? After failing in several attempts to modify my own persona to make myself understand the male psyche, I arrived at the rather lazy and immature conclusion that the only reason they were not confiding in me is because they probably had nothing to confide in me.

Several things happened that have changed that remarkably, and even though I fundamentally know that this postulate is wrong, I get surprised every time something happens to disprove it. A brilliant isolated classmate whom nobody would have thought had a life beyond homework and coding secretly confided in me of his artistic endeavors. And he actually made a joke. To me. Which was truly, appreciably funny. At some level I am hugely pleased with him for opening up to me but at another level I’m disappointed as to why I had assumed something otherwise. A distant acquaintance has now become one of my closest friends, and actually bothers to check in on me more frequently than my own room-mate does. Another friend shared with me that the biggest reason for his depression this semester was the demise of a close friend in a car accident.

These people have shared in me, which means it is high time I abolish the archaic gender-based stereotype I (unconsciously, mind you) was propagating. Perhaps people will share their emotions with me when they’re ready to do so and if they don’t it’s not for any specific “fault” of my own. Again, kudos to a great story for supporting my decision to clear out what I knew was wrong.