A small boy asks what I’m scrawling in the sand.
Isn’t it obvious?
“I’m writing a novel,” I say.
”What is it about?”
Another obvious question. I answer anyway.
“About my life…the futility of life.”
He smiles, “When will it be published?”
“Never!” I snap.
He’s a boy of about nine years, fat, with a bulging forehead and thin-slit eyes. He stands akimbo above me as I crouch on my haunches scribbling. He’s in a chequered blue school uniform with a brown bag slung across his shoulder. Holding his hand over his brow to shade his eyes from the blazing sun, he squints as he tries to focus on my writing. His frame casts a shadow along mine in the sand. His, standing; mine, crouching. He wipes sweat off his brow.
How can I publish an unfinished story? I’m writing a story never to be finished. Does he not know that writing is therapeutic? And if I let the story be finished, then there goes my catharsis. I do not write to be published. I write to be numb. Numb to the past. Doesn’t he understand? Writing makes me feel like a god. I can, at will, establish or mar a character, kill or keep alive, make and unmake, enrich or impoverish, name a stupid dog after someone that has offended me – my way to even the score. I feel like a co-creator with Divinity. You think I’m eccentric? Show me a creative artist, truly creative, who isn’t. Michael Jackson? Leonardo da Vinci…? Creativity and eccentricity are like the hen and the egg. Is it that creative people are eccentric? Or eccentrics are creative?
The boy hisses and strides off mumbling. I shake my head at his ignorance.
He seems to remember something, turns back and asks, “What’s your name?”
“I have no name.”
“I’m the writer formerly known as Ozimede.”
“So, your name is Ozimede.”
“My name was Ozimede.”
“What’s your name now?”
“I told you. I have no name. I’m the writer formerly known as Ozimede.”
“So, your name is The Writer?”
“That’s not a name. I am the writer formerly known as Ozimede.”
“Your name is,’ he pauses, ‘The Writer Formerly Known as Ozimede?”
“No!’ I yell. ‘No name, no name. Don’t you get it? I, formerly known as Ozimede, am now nameless.”
Looking frustrated, he throws his hands up in the air, blows out his cheeks and strides off.
I have not always been like this – living on the street, naked save for my ragged boxers, scavenging food from garbage dumps. Until She, I do not remember her name, left me. She left me as though love is a thing to be plugged and unplugged – one moment she was in love with me and the next she was no longer in love. Perhaps, I was deluded, she was never in love. She dumped me on our wedding day. While I was waiting for her at the altar, someone came in with a note. She said she couldn’t go on with it because she didn’t love me any more. Any more? It was not a nice feeling to be loved one moment and then to not be loved the next. She eloped with somebody – my best friend, not sure. It’s a past I’d rather not remember, like the painful memories of an adult that was abused as a child.
So, I took to flight right from the venue of the wedding, and have been on the run since then. On a destination-less journey. The numbness produced by this trip would become ineffectual if a destination were to be ascribed to it. I discarded everything. The first thing to go was my clothing. Then my name and entire identity. I needed to be free and unencumbered on this journey. And I soon found out that nakedness is a covering in itself, against the cares and worries of this world. I own nothing and nothing owns me. I owe nobody and nobody owes me. When you are bold enough to live naked, you have conquered the urge to live up to people’s expectations, you have become truly free. Nakedness is liberating! All weights, constraints and regrets dropped. And my writing is no different – bold, fearless, revealing, unreserved. Writing this way is emancipating.
The body is designed to take flight from too much pain or too much pleasure lest it dies. Orgasm is momentary flight from pleasure, your senses become briefly blunt to pleasure. Escapism – as powerful and as salutary as orgasm – is flight from pain. I chose to flee from the pains inflicted by She by forgetting her and the past. My fleeing is not cowardice; suicide is. Escapism and suicide, same objective – release from pain and pursuit of happiness – different routes.
I get up from my crouching position and head to the dumpsite by the marketplace. I pass a group of boys who jeer at me, Madman, get away from here! I ignore them. It’s close to the end of the market day and I need to forage for food, and scraps of paper with which to continue to craft my story. I go on my way laughing – I have gone through a trauma that cannot be mourned by weeping but by laughter and escapism. To the soul, weeping is analgesic. But laughter is more. Laugher is anaesthesia. I do not wish to be taken out of this newfound paradise, whether it is a fool’s or not. Paradise is paradise. I have discovered a cocoon that shields from the hopelessness of life – something most people desire but may never find. I laugh my way to the marketplace.