El Mortigi Tempo
Real and Unreal, Part Four
When Ursula returned from work that evening, she found a note from Perry that read: Gone to Jan's. Will be back for dinner. Strange, she thought for him to go to Jan's so unexpectedly. Jan was Perry's older sister by ten years, and ever since the death of their mother, the sibling's relationship had become sour. Jan had studied economics at Boston University and eventually got a job as the vice-president of a large company in the United States. But when her mother died, she moved back to England to be with the family.
"Jan," Perry cried," Mum has died."
"What!" screamed Jan. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Their mother had been suffering from brain cancer and she had several brain aneurysms that kept her bed-ridden and hospitalized.
"Perry," Jan cried back, "please, for godsake, tell me that this isn't real. That this is some horrible nightmare. I am going to go to sleep, and when I wake up, this nightmare will end. Goodbye."
"But, wait..." replied Perry to no avail as Jan hung up the phone.
As I was writing about this, I didn't know whether or not to create another subsection titled "Birth and Death." But I decided against doing so because the cycle of birth and death is real. Anything that is born must eventually die. I laughed as a child when I heard of Ponce de Leon searching for the fountain of youth. I laughed when I heard about people trying to freeze themselves so that they one day they could experience the future. I continue laughing at these people who try to manipulate death- fools are they who waste their time trying to achieve the impossible. One day our parents and siblings, friends and foes, lovers and employers will shed their bodies, and we must be prepared for this reality to one day occur. Death can snatch us today or tomorrow or any instant, and when it does, embrace it because it is real and cannot be avoided.
"Hey," said Perry as he walked through the front door of the flat.
Perry and Ursula lived in a two bedroom flat with one of the rooms painted in yellow, and the other a pale orange. The bedroom where they slept was the orange one and it had two windows, and every morning, pigeons would chirp on the windowsill waiting for someone to feed them stale bread. The yellow bedroom had a large mahogany desk where Perry did his work, and in the corner of the room was a torn chair where Ursula practiced the flute, violin, and cello. Ursula played in the London Symphony Orchestra for 8 months, but she quit when she fell ill with pneumonia. When she was 3, her father bought her a violin, and she attempted to play it everyday until 6, when she started taking private lessons. Her sister, Claire, could play the piano, and together, they would play the most beautiful pieces from Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, and Debussy. By the time Ursula was 14, she was quite adept at playing the cello and flute and she would give performances every Sunday at church and at parties and in youth orchestras. But all these activities were exhaustive, and eventually she fell ill. A chronic asthma illness troubled her as a youth, and she often found herself spending more time in the hospital than at home.
"Claire, I am dying," Ursula one day told her sister from the hospital.
"It is rubbish," Claire responded with tears in her eyes.
Claire was 3 years older than Ursula, but the two sisters were very close to each other, and they confided in each other their most intimate secrets and emotions.
"I am dying," cried Ursula. "I haven't been out of this hospital for 3 weeks. The doctors say that I am getting better, but I am feeling weaker and weaker every day. I don't..."
"Hush," replied Claire. "You are going to make it. And you are only 17, and you've got this amazing life ahead of you. The world is your oyster. I love you always. I love you."
"I love you too," laughed Ursula. "I guess the world is one big oyster waiting for me to devour it!"
It was the last time the two sisters were together. Claire died the next day in a car accident, and two weeks later Ursula was released from the hospital.
Ursula and Claire grew up near the beach, and everyday after school, the two sisters would run across the beach, splashing water on each other and digging holes in the sand to create little reservoirs of water.
"I want to play to the Queen one day," shouted a 7 year-old Ursula as she furiously dug a hole in the sand. "I want to be a famous musician."
"I bet that I will be famous before you will be," replied Claire.
"Why is that?" said Ursula.
"Because I am older and a better musician than you are," said Claire.
"Maybe one day you will be as good as me."
Claire's death shocked Ursula because she thought that she was the one who was going to die soon. Claire had been a strong figure in Ursula's life, and her void left Ursula miserably depressed.
"I don't know how I will be able to live without Claire," cried Ursula to her friend. "You always think that something like this will never happen to you. We always think that it is the person sitting next to us who is experiencing death. And when something horrible happens, you think that it isn't real, but it is. It is more real than anything you have ever experienced."
I wonder about the state of the society today. No cold wars or large-scale protests or something to electrify the air. People have become complacent and their attitudes have become "my life is money." Where have the Gandhi's, Martin Luther King Jr.'s, and Che Guevara's gone? These figures have not become extinct. Rather people's greed and thirst for money and power repress their existence. "Bloody greedy capitalists" was a favorite saying of an old friend of mine every time he watched or read about the economy and businesses. He blamed the Americans and the Europeans for the poverty levels in African, South American and Asian countries and he hated the IMF and WTO.
"Capitalism is a type of colonization," he would suggest as he gulped his beer. "Good fucking beer," he would add.
In their school days, Perry and Z were members of a local socialist group called the Student Worker's Union. The SWU met every Thursday night at various members' homes and grew from 10 members to 150 members after its founding. "Fuck capitalism!" was commonly chanted at the meetings by some of the members. The militant members insisted on carrying guns and knives to show their superiority and force, but the intelligent ones knew that this tactic would be detrimental to the welfare of the group. Their elected leader, Sinclair, was a former field agent for the MI5 and had worked closely with the Interpol, CIA, and DST.
"Violence doesn't win anything," he would say at the weekly meetings. "We cannot have the public associating socialistic ideals with Nazism. This is far from it."
Sinclair (whose last name I cannot remember) was a tall and rugged man who sported scars on his left shoulder and upper right thigh from stab wounds acquired from various missions throughout the years in the MI5. After retiring from the MI5, he traveled around the world and developed a dislike for capitalism. In his journal he wrote: "My travels have led me to conclude that people have become slaves and their welfare is in danger. I cannot pinpoint exactly who or what is responsible for this decline, but something needs to change." Sinclair's journal made me think about whether his comments were due to some bitterness with the government or to reflections upon a personal viewpoint. But after traveling to all the places that Sinclair had mentioned in his journal, I have begun to agree with Sinclair. The reader may be thinking that I am a lunatic and a heretic for questioning the institution and principles we abide by, but have you ever walked through the streets of India and seen all the beggars with tattered clothing and putrid odors emanating from their bodies? Have you ever driven by the whorehouses and crack houses in Kuala Lumpur? Who helps these people and more importantly, who put these people in that situation?
The first time I saw images of the poor and helpless people on television, I said to myself that they were unreal. But seeing these people firsthand made me realize that this was real. The corruption in the world due to the thirst for money and power was ruining the lives of many people. "Most people draw an imaginary circle around them and think that this is the world," said a man I had met in a bus station in New York. "And when people step outside of the circle that they have drawn, they realize that the world that they have been living has been imaginary, and the real world is so cruel and unusually evil." Unusually evil. These are two words that I always remember every morning when I wake up.
I used to work for an information technology company some years ago and I did all that I could to be fired because I was quite unhappy with upper management. I would come in late to work or be absent on certain days. I signed up the co-workers and superiors that I disliked to listservs that would cripple their email accounts by sending 5000 messages per second. Despite all of this, I was named Employee of the Month and I received great recommendation letters from my superiors. I wanted to get fired because I didn't want to let this big corporation take control of my life, but in a strange way, it continued laughing at my face. The more I tried, the more I failed. The president was a stout, round man who had serpents of chest hair hissing through his sweaty shirts. His face was greasy and tan and a message in bold black letters read on his porous forehead: "I am all powerful." The "it" had grabbed hold of me as well as another generation of youth.
Shouldn't our lives have more meaning than just to "make money"? Z had fallen into the category of only making money, and it was a shame because in his school days, he had wanted start a social revolution and open a free hospital and a free university.
"We need to fight the power," Z concluded once after a SWU meeting. "I will start a new revolution, and people will follow me."
The SWU, commonly called by the local schoolboys as "Sinclair's Army", found Z to be overzealous and eventually suspended him from the organization. Some neo-Nazis had joined the group, and the group's original motto was eventually distorted.
"They are not a real fucking group," cried out Z in a local pub after learning about his suspension. "Bloody arses!"
"Well, they are doing more than anyone else I know," replied L.
"No," said Z. "That is... pure rubbish. Sinclair and his fucking army... Oh, nothing more than money guzzling weasels. And I will form my own movement and right the wrongs."
"Who will join?" replied L.
"I don't fucking know," said Z. "Someone will."
I am sure than many people encounter interesting personalities throughout their lifetimes, but only a few stick out. I remember sitting in the pub that night, drinking my Guinness, and watching Z ramble on mercilessly to L and a crowd of drunken laborers about rising up and "fucking management up the arse." It was quite a sight to see, and I had had my hopes of seeing Z as the next CIA or MI5 casualty. Alas, the money grabbed ahold of Z and with that grasp, my ambitions and dreams of a better world and future died. I don't fault the route in life Z took. A part of him died when his father passed away, and Z's perspective of the world changed. He quit his job at Thom's record store, broke up with L, and decided that he wanted to sleep with a whore and become ordinary and real to our senses.
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