Letters to Strangers: Così Fan Tutte

By Maria Amir

It’s no good trying to get rid of your own aloneness. You’ve got to stick to it all your life. Only at times, at times, the gap will be filled in. At times! But you have to wait for the times. Accept your own aloneness and stick to it, all your life. And then accept the times when the gap is filled in, when they come. But they’ve got to come. You can’t force them.”

-DH Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover112_by_Zahiruddin

I find myself flummoxed by life at present. This is an odd place for me to find myself, especially seeing as it’s November and this has traditionally been my month to wind down, consume inordinate amounts of coffee and listen to disproportionate dealings of Dylan. I reserve my annual existential crises for this particular season, but my personal and professional clocks seem to have miscalculated my gestation period this year. I have way too much to do, and this means that my self-prescribed procrastination must be held at bay. So I make do with small snippets of existential angst as I drive to work each morning.

Mind you, I am not depressed. I have never thrown that word about as casually as most people do when things fail to go their way. Having battled with genuine depression, I can generally distinguish between melodrama, the odd funk and full-blown doldrums. I suppose my current state is best categorized as a rather portent blend of aggressive ennui. I find that ennui makes me pretentious. It has got me listening to opera again. And, for those of you who haven’t tried it, listening to Puccini or Beethoven in Pakistan is a particularly nocuous negotiation. The magnanimity of the score coupled with the surreal gritty roadside miseries somehow become poignant without meaning to. It is the most uncomfortable mingling of opposites that I can think of, and that is perhaps why I find it all heartbreakingly beautiful.

The person that I am… resides in a cocoon of literature, music, films and sonnets composed to a conglomerate of fictions that do not require justification.
 My current playlist includes Massinet’s Meditations; the more robust Ode to Joy and, when I’m feeling particularly vindictive, Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Wagner, in particular, should come with a warning label and an R-rating. Beware: Contents are liable to cause overflow of latent phobias and passive-aggressive angst. I can trace all this back to my very own ‘Remember, remember the 5th of November’ as I casually sifted through my mail to stumble upon my divorce papers. Ordinarily, I would be glad seeing that I have hardly given my misnomer-of-a-marriage much thought over the past few months, and instead devoting most of my energies towards overcoming it with politically incorrect pizzazz. Still, there is an odd power to a piece of paper, formally drafted in a language you cannot comprehend, announcing your freedom from your biggest mistake. I spent the first two hours pretending I hadn’t seen the papers; another two hours rejoicing over them and the next few days trapped in a miasma of ‘what ifs’. Not about the decision to get divorced so much as the repercussions of having put my emotions on the line, and realizing that I should have stuck with my original instincts and kept my own company.

A friend recently visited my house and upon seeing my room whimsically remarked, “Wow, your room seems really well-inhabited.” It was one of those odd, offhand, too-precisely observed comments that one cannot help but deflect with humor in the moment. My room has – for the most part – been my periphery planet. When I was ten, it was another room locked from the outside for ten years. The last ten years have meant a perverse sort of decadent independence, but this doesn’t change the fact that I still locate my life within a room, this one locked from the inside. I suppose, it boils down to a Stockholm Syndrome-like conflation of being imprisoned and eventually learning to enjoy it. Both prisons lead to a locked room, whether or not it is of one’s own choosing.

That is the odd place I find myself in right now, negotiating between being a person I wish I was – one that I now find I am rather good at affecting – and the person that I am. The former has friends, and the latter resides in a cocoon of literature, music, films and sonnets composed to a conglomerate of fictions that do not require justification. I have always been one of those people who lack balance. I can ‘act’ balanced better than most people I know, purely because I am all too aware of how vulnerable my innards are on this score.