You wonder if life has always been this grey, drenched in a vapor of misery that numbs the skull.
Listless, you carry on as usual, feigning ignorance about the giddy gnawing at the tip of your tongue.
Speaking, you let spill meaninglessness, for what had once held you thrall now seemed like trifles.
‘So…did you read about the…’
The news? Really? Is that what you had wanted to talk about when you opened your mouth?
There is a warmth at the back of your throat. Like the burn of alcohol, only stronger.
You utter a name.
Magic, this name. It evokes an enchantment that pokes a hole into your chest. A tide of crimson spills forth upon all that you touch and suddenly there is colour, a garish red lining weaved around your fingertips, effervescing into the abyssal grey like so many rays of sun.
With it, a searing emptiness.
Your chest, it burns. You hold your hands against it to staunch the flow, thinking that with pressure this flood will cease, like all the trivial others before it. As your fingers clench tight, there comes a false weight upon your mind, made real by your determination that all wounds can be staunched, if one simply persisted.
Then you notice the colours.
How bright it is, this vivid canvas. It drapes over the grey, shuffling out of sight all that is ugly and cruel. At first you are doubtful, for such an obvious lie could only beguile the foolish, for underneath it the vapidity remains, unchanged by the kaleidoscopic light smeared over its despondent face.
But that’s the thing.
You are foolish.
What an insidious accusation. You rail against it, for you are no fool, and no evocation of a singular name should ever elicit such a flood of torturous rainbows. Colours be damned; let it all be grey, as it ever will be. It is the only world in which you have lived, and no miserly lie can lift you elsewhere.
This world of colour is what you have always wanted. All along you knew it to be illusory and fickle, and yet you pursued.
Because it makes the world beautiful.
Speaking again, you relent and let down your clutching hand.
The modern trifecta of discrimination – Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia – will never go away. As long as people remain unique from each other, their differences will engender these behaviours regardless of logic or understanding.
Ask someone why they think women should get paid less, and they’ll give a non-reason: most likely, an anecdote about lack of strength or high emotion, based on in most cases singular experiences with women that have somehow been engraved into their consciousness as universal truths.
Ask someone why they dislike Asians, and they’ll again give non-reasons: something about stealing jobs, communist spies, or being sexually inept, again based on singular experiences or just simple stereotypes passed on through a culture of ignorance.
However, ask someone why they hate gays, nine out of ten times they’ll give a distinctly different reason – that they read it in a book, that this particular book says, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
Unless they are hardcore fans of Mein Kampf or 50 Shades of Grey, people do not usually quote books when justifying their hatred toward Jews or women. Homophobia is therefore unique in that its core proponent is an integral part of western society.
But what is really going on when someone says, “I hate gays?”
Time for a thought experiment. For our purposes, the name of the homophobic person shall be Sam:
Imagine yourself asking Sam, “So, why do you hate gays?” With full confidence, he shall make a quote from a book he has or pretends to have read. Either that or he will give a non-reason. The non-reason will be easy to sort out – as long as Sam is willing to listen – but the quote will be an irrefutable bastion, for it wears the guise of truth.
Now, rephrase the question.
Imagine yourself asking Sam, “Can you tell me in your own words why you hate gays?” Now, there are several ways to answer this question. In order to get at the root of this problem, let us ignore the “real” response – that Sam will be offended that his belief is being questioned and ends the conversation. That aside, there is really only one way that Sam can offer a response without again resorting to non-reasons and anecdotes: “Well, I hate gays because God said [paraphrasing a quote] and I believe in God.”
Now, imagine yourself asking Sam: “But what do you believe?” Confused, Sam will say: “I just told you, I believe in God, and the book contains the words of God.”
The implication of this statement is, of course, that whatever God had decreed gays to be, Sam believes in it – God decreed gays to be abominations, therefore Sam hates them.
There is an important distinction to be made here. By definition, an abomination is a thing that causes disgust or loathing. Typically, a thing causes disgust and loathing by being repulsive on an instinctual level, whether through physical appearance (such as a deformity), mental implication (such as a psychopath) or conceptual wrongness (such as incest).
But consider this: a visually impaired person will not find a deformed person repulsive, a mental health professional will not find a psychopath repulsive, and people who do not understand the implications of incest will not find it repulsive. These respective parties will not find their respective cases to be abominations, even though they are widely accepted as such. (These are, of course, generalizations)
It is all a matter of perception.
There is no such thing that can cause universal disgust and loathing, for each of us perceives things differently, with different perspectives. Perspectives, by definition, can change in a million ways – through gaining experience, for example, or aging, or simply making a decision to change.
In other words, nothing is inherently an abomination; the beholder chooses whether something is an abomination or not.
For someone who has always had the same perspective – such as Sam – it would be difficult to convince them that homosexuality is anything but an abomination. His mind cannot be changed until his perspective is changed – through engagement with the gay community, through the everyday information he receives on the topic of homosexuality, through all the subtle encounters he make when navigating through life.
And especially through the decisions he would make after these experiences.
This is what those TV buzzwords like “changing social stigma” really mean – changing the perspective of the beholder so that what were once abominations cease to engender disgust and loathing.
This process will be difficult, sometimes impossible. It’ll be like trying to convince you that the guy with severe body odour isn’t all that bad, or that the guy who voted for Trump isn’t really a raging rampaging discrimination machine…or that the guy named Sam who is shouting slogans in the anti-gay rallies could actually change his mind.
These are the abominations on the opposite side of homophobia, and they are just as difficult to overcome.
When Sam says “I believe in God”, what he really means is “I believe in my belief of God.” Deities are eternal, and those lines will never be removed from those books…but people are not forever.
In the beginning, cold was the realm of Gaia, and all who roamed under her gaze were slow and afraid; for long and bitter the winters were, haunted by horrors unspeakable, spawns of the frigid dark.
Then arose Ygraelia the Sun-Bringer, greatest of the Elves. A great expedition she led, across the Seven Wastelands and the Frozen Sea; arduous and perilous was their journey, and their host, thousand strong, dwindled with each waning of the stars. When at last they reached the Heart of Gaia and beheld the Forge of Molten Souls, there remained only Ygraelia and two others: Solyak the Strong, slayer of coldspawn and master of the path, and Kalafina, the Magus of Second Light, keeper of the secrets whims of Gaia.
Thus Ygraelia spoke to them: “We triumvirate shall craft upon this Forge a heart of fire and raise it to the sky, so that its warmth may spread upon the face of Gaia and end our people’s plight. For unto our people the gods have bestowed great beauty, yet for uncounted millennia we have worn thick garments of wool and leather that have eclipsed the contours of our bodacious butts. Such cruelty we shall suffer no longer. Lend me your strength, brother, sister. Let us end this eternal night.”
But Kalafina refuted her, for the will of Gaia ever whispered in her hear, and it was displeased. “What are we, brave Ygraelia, to disobey the will of the gods? Gaia has ever been cold and lifeless, and we are but shadows ephemeral, unworthy to tread in its steps. In time, into the Ether our beauty shall pass, and for precious little reason we would have forever marred the face of Gaia with a burning scar.”
Solyak, upon hearing the words of Kalafina, raised his great hammer in ardent defiance. “Heed, sorceress! All this way we marched, countless kin lost in the tundra, and now, at the cusp of final victory, you would question our purpose? Unto you I say this: great is the beauty of our butts. Greater still is the beauty of Ygraelia. Aught there be a cause greater than the beholding of her curvaceous behind in the warm light of a burning star? Nay! This great pleasure you shall not deny!”
And Ygraelia watched with dismay as her friends fought before the heart of Gaia, as the mountains sang with clashing steel and stone asunder. To the Forge of Molten Souls she prayed, with a song woven with love and sorrow: “Hear my plea, merciful Gaia: I have a booty most lavish, most fair. To confine such good in a prison of unsightly wool is an injustice most grave. All Elvenkind – indeed, all who walks this frigid land – desire to admire such a chiselled behind. I beg of you, bestowed upon me the Great Hammer of Kalmiras so that I may craft a star, and its warmth shall bring joy to all Gaia, for unleashed will be the beauty that is freed booty.”
Thus the Heart of Gaia was moved, for it has never before heard such poetry from the one of the elven folk, and its heart was glad. Thus the Hammer of Kalmiras was seared into Ygraelia’s grasp, and she with one mighty blow struck upon the Forge of Molten Souls. A great din echoed in the Heart of Gaia as a great spark rose from the cold tundra and ascended into the sky, illuminating all that which rested in Gaia’s embrace. Solyak and Kalafina ceased their endless strife and raised their eyes to meet the ardent light, and upon their skin there was a great warmth, a balm of vitality, a soul-born ire of that which came to be a Sun for all elvenkind.
Unto Ygraelia they exclaimed, with voices of joy: “Light! Warmth! What delight you have brought us, fair Ygraelia! No longer will we stifle our forms under heavy cloaks. Come, let us gaze upon your beauty!”
Shrouded in hues golden and divine, Ygraelia cast off her cumbersome cloak and revealed that which was gifted to her by the Almari, herald of all elvenkind: a butt most shapely, most exquisite, sculpted as if by the very will of Gaia to bestow beauty upon the land. Clad in but a thin material of midnight black that nigh reached her thighs, Ygraelia raised her fair voice to the heavens so that all her kindred, who have scattered throughout the seven wastelands or taken refuge beyond the seas, would hear her proclamation for the dawn of this new age, this age of warmth, this Age of Butts:
‘Let it be known that elvenkind cowers no more in fear of the cold, of the dampest dark! Gaia’s heart I have beseeched, and it has deemed our butts worthy of warmth and illumination. From this day forth, nothing shall be made to cover our behinds other than the holiest of garments, that which was worn by the Almira as they roved from the Frozen Seas to these once inhospitable lands. Throughout ages we have kept it hidden, under thick clothes that betrayed not our beauteous figure, but I say unto you – no longer! The Age of Butts is nigh! None shall deny us the exhibition of our sainted bottomwear to all who would direct their gaze! Rise, rise, thee Elves of Ygraelia, and bring to bear our most sacred creation to the hearth of mother Gaia: the Hot Pants!”
And all elves rejoiced, for the Sun newly arisen was bright and warm, and they made great pilgrimages to the Heart of Gaia to behold the Sun-Bringer, who wore naught but Almira’s Pants of Hotness, and the bodacious sight brought joy throughout the lands. Some say that even now, those who weareth the sacred garment of the Almira would stir fire into the coldest gaze, and bring warmth to the darkest of nights.
Strictly speaking, the easiest solution to your problems – be it stuck in the infinite 9-to-5 loop of tedious spreadsheets, or making endless lattes for ungrateful suits from sunrise to sundown, or sitting at home all alone in your mid-thirties, drinking boxed wine and wondering why none of these 5-star comedies on Netflix are making you laugh – is to jump in front of a speeding train. Boom. End of the line, end of all your problems.
It would be an inconvenience though.
People are going to be late to work; the train driver will be traumatized and resign three months later despite exhaustive counselling, because the image of a desiccated torso with its guts hanging out on the fog lights isn’t going to go away, ever; and not to mention the agony of that one family member that really cares about you, even though you call them about once a month and had refused to pay for the tow truck when their car’s radiator blew out.
Not cool to be an inconvenience to others when they’ve got their own stuff going on.
Much easier to go about it quietly: chug down that mouth-wash with DO NOT DRINK printed on the back in tiny orange letters, or lock yourself in your shitty Toyota made in the Cretaceous and pipe in the exhaust fumes. Gulp it down, breathe it in. Easy, isn’t it? No. Not at all. It takes several minutes to swallow the green stuff, and several hours before the carbon monoxide even ticks above point-one-percent (those crime thrillers can’t be lying!). Too much thinking during those long minutes. Too many second thoughts. With the train all you have to do is close your eyes and jump.
Lo and behold, the Toyota isn’t starting because you don’t have enough money to fill the tank this week, so you call up the suicide prevention hotline to pass the time – just to see what the gig is about, maybe pay a compliment or two, thank them for what they do, etcetera – and twenty seconds into the call you realize that the lovely lady on the other end of the line is just as stressed as you are, because this is her seventh call today, and she’s already past her emotional limit, but she has to keep answering if she wants to keep the job.
So you hang up, have a sad little laugh, and cynically reminisce that empathy is but a commodity in the modern world, bought and sold by those who think giving money or paying attention is the same thing. It’s not that no one cares, it’s that everyone feels the same as you: hiding in the bathroom at a work function, wanting to jump off the nearest bridge after a failed interview, putting up the three thousandth bottle of Gatorade in the BEVERAGES aisle, slamming head against wall after yelling at the kids, too afraid to go to the doctor for the second checkup, when the results would come out on those neat machine-collated sheets…
This stuff is the same for everyone. Some deal with it better than others, but the consequence is the same: no one wants to give a shit when their own plates are full. Their different-sized, different-coloured, different-volume plates.
If this is the case, might as well just kill yourself. No one cares.
But you do.
Because you have a wish:
You wish that the guy in the ten-thousand-dollar suit who ordered a latte, instead of yelling at you because he actually wanted soy milk, he would laugh about it instead; you wish that when the boss told you that he had to let you go – because you put the numbers in the wrong column and messed up two months’ worth of calculations – he could’ve let you cry a bit in his office and given you a hastily-typed letter of recommendation instead of holding the door open; you wish that when you casually brought out your new copy of 101 Ways To Commit Suicide to show a friend, that the friend, instead of laughing at it then putting it aside in order to keep talking about the bad day he’s had, he would flip it open and laugh aloud at the bit about the Toyota, telling you that you shouldn’t try that, nobody would want to die looking that stupid.
It’s subtle, this wish: it is not a demand for millions of dollars; it doesn’t ask for a change to your daily routine; it doesn’t even need you to be nice. But it is the difference between “another shitty day, better kill myself” and “another shitty day, better get this over with.”
So what now?
The train’s still coming. Still going to jump? Probably. But wouldn’t it be better if a middle-aged woman in a black corporate suit, with her hair done up perfectly in accordance to company guidelines but had forgotten to clean out the wine stain on the collar of her shirt before coming into the office, happened to be passing by and pulled you back? Wouldn’t it be good if she, instead of asking the always-safe, always-pointless “are you alright”, says “That’s my train home. Please let me get drunk tonight without feeling like shit”?
Turn the scenario around. You’re the woman. What will you do when you see someone, hands in pockets, bag over shoulder, casually walk into the oncoming train?
You might think: “I wish I’m doing something to help.”
No. Don’t just wish. Go.
This is the reason why you are still alive: to make your wish come true.