An Extraordinary Life...Last years NaNoWriMo, Chapter One.
"We have 50 per cent of the world's wealth, but 6.3 per cent of its population. In this situation, our real job in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships that allow us to maintain this disparity. To do so we have to dispense with all sentimentality, we should cease thinking about human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratisation" - George Kennan, US Cold War Planner, 1948
Before I start, before we start, before anything else, before birth even, remember, no one can conquer death. No one is special. No one is gifted. No one is a genius. One only occasionally sees flashes of genius, and translates them. I wasn't, nor could I ever be, what people thought I was. As a person, I wasn't special.
I did the same things everyone did. Ate food made in the same factories, used the same electricity, slept in the same beds, wore the same clothes, made in the same factories, massproduced individuality. I shaved like everyone else, washed my armpits like everyone else, combed my hair. Like everyone else, everything I did.
I wasn't special. I just had an extraordinary life. I don't have an extraordinary life anymore. Maybe ordinary, or in fact extra ordinary, but not extraordinary.
I remember Castello. By the time you read this I am probably dead. Dead, or disappeared. Found in an impossible, improbable suicide, a rare form of laboratory cancer, a obscure flu, hanged from a stairwell in my own house, a mysterious lack of fingerprints in the house, a single gunshot wound with a trajectory impossible for the weapon I was holding, a multiple cause of death, a drug overdose of 94 milligrams, an impotent overdose with mere traces of Tylenol, a previously secret drug addiction for a man in his thirties with a mysterious lack of a large number of cash withdrawls from my generic bank account. By the time this is published, I am either under surveillance, or deceased. Which one matters not. They know, and they will try to silence me.
I need to stay alive, to tell my story, to sell my story. I need to make money. Fundamentally, I am unemployable. A year - or two years - with a weapon on either arm, placed in high-risk combat situations in countries I can't remember the names of, or countries that don't exist anymore, makes it difficult to integrate. I can't go back to a life of the normal. The prison of the real. I can't live like that. A world of queues and of bills and bank statements. They sentenced me to forty years of boredom.
You train someone for a year, and you make him a killing machine for two years, and for those two years, that's what I do. I kill. I render. And then I'm dumped, like the war was a one night stand, some intense affair that's forgotten about, and I'm left at the corner as they speed off into the night, and I have to forget everything. I forget that if someone yelled at me because I was late for work, or because I wasn't smiling enough and pleasing customers, that in another country I would've been able to jab them with a machine gun until they were quiet. I forget that, weeks earlier, I would've been able to break their jaw with a rifle butt and nobody would've arrested me. Hell, they've made me a hero.
That's what they did. They made a Hero out of me. And they forgot the man. Superman is more than just Super, he was also a man.
I took an oath, under the penalty of death, that no matter what I saw or heard I would never divulge the information. Also, I signed a waiver that states I would willingly give up my life if I was found guilty of 'treason'. I am a traitor. I have commited treason. And the reason? I violated an agreement. I broke my word. I lied when I signed the document that stated an act of treason included disclosing : "ANYTHING that mentions the details of daily operations at this facility, when outside the confinement of this base."
Don't believe me. I am a liar. This is a fantasy. What I am about to tell you never happened. I am an outpatient in a facility. I am on a medication you may have heard of. In a world where our reality is defined purely by electronic signals firning between synapses, by perceptions of reality received inside my head, how can I tell what is real, what isn't real, and when that reality is received incorrectly, when there is a fault between the eyes and the ears and the brain, how am I know what is real and what isn't?
My name is unimportant. But the Official Secrets Act forbids me from telling you what my name is. I could be anyone. I could be living in the block of apartments next door to you. I could be sat next to you on the commuter train. Or behind you in the queue for groceries at the Supermarket. I could be standing next to you in the queue for the ATM. You'll never know, and I'll never want you to know who I used to be and where I used to go. What I used to do. That's a black book in it's own right.
It's not the black book made of former lovers - the details of them all, their names, their birthdates, their foibles, a map of their tattoos, the memory of the shape of their genitals, their backs arched on hotel beds and suburban bedrooms, their hair forgotten as their faces curl into something transcedent. Like drugs, but cheaper. It's not that black book made of 22 names and 17 tattoos and 39 cities and several fetishes and late night, fumbling, lusty phone calls and drunken confessions. It's not that one. That's the book inside of us, made of songs about girls cooking chicken soup and what she said.
That's everyone's story. Your shy glances across nightclubs, across bus stops, across internet chatrooms and flirting sites, across ineedlove dot com, across the cyberspace, the love made out of circumstance, out of financial necessity, out of a desire for a friend, out of a need not to be alone, out of a need not to keep secrets. Out of a need to make a narrative life out of the day to day situation we find ourselves in.
I want to blend in. I want to become no-one. I want to be back in a world and to unsee what I have seen. I want to undo what I have done. It's too late. The past is a country w ecan never revisit and a world we can never change.
I can't talk to my lover about this- if I have one. I can't tell anyone. I know it can't be a secret unless someone knows, but right now, I know, and the secret is like a branding iron, burning my skin. I need to tell someone, so maybe, sometime, someone, somewhere will see this, read this, understand my confession, see the facts and the truth and the whole messy business inbetween, and recognise that this, this thing we called life, is but merely a skin over the muscle, sinew, bone, the blood beneath the veins, the facts of the matter, and the reality lies somewhere between fact and truth, between perception and reality, between desire and orgasm and conversation afterwards.
The one who sees me at my most vulnerable, my gabbering, incoherent self in the moments as I wake or as I sleep, the moments when I come to in the middle of the night and say "Monkey stole my money", they don't know what I am going to tell you. If I die and tell no one, no one will ever know this, and a life will be lost with no story to tell. Even to her, I am actor in the play that is my life.
If there is a her. I miss the love I used to have. I miss what used to be. But the world has changed me. I am less lovable than I used to be. The innocence has been lived out of me.
We're all actors of course. Everytime we stay quiet instead of saying something, every time we profess a diplomatic response instead of uttering our thoughts, every time we wear a suit, or smile at someone who wins the Oscar instead of us, we're acting. We act all the time. The train conductor, the Sainsbury's Checkout Girl, the slut in the bedroom, the mother, we're all acting, fulfilling various roles in our lives, showcasing parts of my / our personality. Our everyday lives are facades, no more real than thinking a Hamburger isn't actually made out of Cow or Pig. And that the animal people make kebabs out of really does have a 3 foot thick leg with a square bone in the middle made out of steel.
Self-delusion is as important a part of reality and survival as realisation that we are all deluding ourselves. We know it's a lie, and we swallow it up, we suck it like a vacuum, and we know that the only way to enjoy this comfortable lie is not to admit that it is a lie. We all believe ourselves to be special, to be amazing, to be unique and beautiful snowflakes, and we're just a collection of cells made out of DNA and semen and ambiotic fluid, fuelled on carrion and water and bile.
We're just one of the millions. Of the 6,000 million on the planet, the telephone number, long hand-memory of Pi type figure, the 6, 243, 172, 098 people on the planet, I am just one. And whilst there may be more atoms in a glass of water than there are people in the world, how big is an Atom? Or more correctly, how small are we? How small am I? Just another parasite on the face of the world. If Earth is a body (of what? Water? Pollution? iPods?), then we are the cancer.
A virus with shoes. Killing the host. We multiply and multiply, and we think not of the consequences or the sustainability of all things. And one day we will be extinct. And we will deserve it. Man is a bad animal.
Sometimes I look at who I used to be in disgust. Sometimes with admiration. Sometimes I wonder why I didn't just take the money and run. Sometimes I think that maybe yes, there are higher powers than money in this world, and what I did, and what I do, is more honourable and more beautiful than just merely doing my job, I may very well have said at one point, to someone, about something, "Just doing my Job Madam", with the mock humility one always should have when they've averted disaster and saved the world from imminent destruction again, but to me, it was never just a job, but a way of life.
Where I live, nobody knows me. Nobody knows the real me. Even then, nobody knew me. I was a cipher, an interpretation, an icon, not a real human being, with real human feelings, and backaches, and stubborn ingrowing toenails. I'm just a man, like Flash Gordon was just a man. You can only do this so long. So far, so hard, before you stop, before you look at your life, and know that you can go no further. And now I am living a life I never thought I would, a quiet, anonymous life. I can mingle in crowds I never used to be able to.
When I first disappeared, it was a long time before I could venture outside. It had been so long as one person, I'd forgotten who I really was. Or more correctly, I'd become the part I was playing, and I had stopped being who I really was. John Doe, born 1973, had ceased to exist, and become a former life, like we become former lovers, like we become former friends, former children, now grown up to be men.
Trying to work myself back to the innocence, to who I used to be before this happened, before I became a Government hired killer, it's like trying to claw back your virginity, like trying to go back to a life without electricity, like trying to rewind the world to a way of life without atomic bombs. It was impossible, and bullshit to think that it could ever occur. The journey of life is always forward, never back.
For the first year or so, I decompressed. Like a deep sea diver with the bends, I spent an age in a cage, bored, reading, watching, waiting, being probed and treated, being analysed and taken apart and being put back together, like a jigsaw, like a Airfix model kit. Except I was a human being, and when you take human beings apart they dissolve, they die. Like an Alien on a Roswell Bench, as soon as you open the skin, remove the parts to see how they work, and then put them back together, they don't. Something changed. The one thing that makes them work, that makes a person live, once that dies you can't kickstart a heart like a bad rock song. It took a very long time before I was able to go back into the world, to stand in an aisle in jeans held up by a belt and wear three year old trainers with flat soles and the tread crushed out of them, clad in a generic t-shirt for a popculture icon, maybe something witty in khaki that mocked our established cultural heroes, a parody of David Hasselhoff that says "You are nothing without Your ROBOT car! NOTHING!!!", or maybe a plain white shirt that is as bland and featureless as the life I am trying to live now.
That's the wonderful thing about anonymity. You can be anyone - and no-one at the same time. Anyone can be a millionaire - but not everyone can. Not everyone could do what I did, but anyone could. It just happened to be me. I can't help that.
We have manifest destiny here in the US. The idea that whatever happens, whatever powers are gifted to us, whatever oil fields we rape and pillage, whoever we have to kill and enslave to get cheap Coke and plentiful cotton, however many Indians we have to ghettoise, abuse, and steal from in order for our 4 x 4's, our ranches, our bungalows, our SUV's, our 10MPG Hulks, our multiplexes, our skyscrapers, our tower blocks, our projects, all these things, they are our reward for being God's Chosen People. Being given this reward is our payment on Earth for what we cannot wait for in Heaven.
I had my Manifest Destiny too. The life I lived, the choices I made, the people I killed, the women (and men) I fucked, these were too, God's choices for me, I was His Will made flesh. If there was a God. I saw enough to know that if there is a God, he is a quiet God. And his long silence, the one that lasts our lifetime and speaks without words, that will keep us in communion, that is his way of talking to us. His way of saying I'm Not There.
Thes ethinsg I did were not my will, but his. If there is a God. Then I was absolved. My sins were washed clean.
After all, if Humans have Gods, surely then, so do animals. Or do they? Does the lack of a Dolphin Diety, a Great Dolphin called say Klof, who oversees the world of all dolphins, and sees their ascenion to heaven in the days before the destruction of The Earth, mean that dolphins are more - or less - evolved? Do Vogons have their messiah?
In these times, we built our strikeforce. We need our myths, our legends. A couple builds it's own mythology, it's own fairytales, it's moments of Great Import within their love, from the first moment they met in a club or a pub or a bar or a trainstation or a website or a supermarket, walking up and down the single meal aisles looking for similar victims or spinsters or bachelors or singletons who may also be looking for Mr Right Now or Miss Right, these all become moments of narrative importance. We can remember the music we heard, the sweep of grand Mobyesque chords on the Movie Soundtrack of our lives, the camera views the nudge of flesh across aisles dispassionately, a conversation that seemingly could be nothing or everything in the movie called our lives, a bit part actors becomes a minor character, becomes the love interest, becomes the woman or man who will define us, the Batman to my Robin, the Yin to my Yang, the Lennon to my McCartney, and all these things become our lives.
I know they're going to make a film out of this. I hope they cast Ewan McGregor if they make it in the next ten years. Drew Barrymore would do well as the love interest.
A man can dream. I dream of a mankind free from our tyranny, a human race that can be won.
In these times, we need our heroes. We need people who show that you can transcend this world, move beyond man and the mundane to become a Superman, an Uberworld, A life outside - extra - the ordinary. An extraordinary life. Popstars, rap stars, entepreneurs. We're all selling a brand.
That's all I was. The physical embodiment of a brand. The moment of an ideal made flesh. My brand? Freedom.