The man sat in the dark alone. He smoked while thinking, occasionally out loud to no one’s attention. At times he walked about in his apartment, switching on a light in another room as he entered in search of the explanation. His thoughts were often muddled, yet there was a central core to them, a theme that was not easily dismissed.
“I am doing everything I can to be a good person, to be a good human being,” he repeated at least once daily. “But it’s still not enough.”
He occasionally recalled past events in his life which he regretted, when he behaved badly and spoke inappropriately to others. There were times when he shouted at people he loved, and in retrospect he felt that his abusive words were uncalled for. Some relationships became irreconcilable due to mutual misunderstandings, and the realizations still hurt him although several years had passed.
The good person was a being that was inaccessible to him, a foreign persona that no one else could conceive but himself although the conception was unreachable, because he could not comprehend it. He did not understand what exactly would declare himself a good person in the eyes of others or by his own heart. His faults, not to mention past follies, clouded his judgment. There were too many incidents that occurred which he now found absurd, and the very fact that they came about in the first place persuaded him to believe that the concept of good may not be attainable. Yet he wrestled with these thoughts that plagued him at odd, random moments each day.
He married for love, but it would be revealed that it was one-sided. The woman to whom he would dedicate himself was obliged to marry by the gentle coaxing of her parents, who fancied him as a husband for their girl. She was told that he was a righteous man, with a steady job and ambitions to start a family. But their girl was restless and entered the union with reluctance. Although on the surface she showed her undying love, repeating her words of conviction to him often, she secretly resented him and all that he intended. Her independence was being sacrificed, something she could not tolerate for any one or any thing. There were no children conceived for this reason as she made him take preventive precautions, proof of her inadmissible desire to form and foster the family. She loved him enough to live with him, but not enough to commit herself, so she left him alone.
“I am doing everything I can to be a good person, to be a good human being.” After some time he no longer knew what he was talking about when reciting this phrase, what he intended to accomplish. What did it mean to be a human being, he mused. Were not all people in society human beings? What did it mean to be a good one? The concepts of good or bad are subjective, he believed, ideals dictated by morality in accordance with the laws of religious practice and doctrine. Yet he did not feel affinity to any one religion, thus there was a detachment. “I am trying my best to be good…” But where was the faith, he wondered.
He worked as an office administrator for a start-up software company, a comfortable, well-paying job. The employees liked him and he them. Virtually no conflict existed in the office, save for a couple of disappointed workers who wanted extended vacation days but were refused by him. Company outings were organized; they celebrated their firm’s success with toasts and feasts. There were no indications that he was not liked by any one of them. Yet he felt out of sorts amongst them, a disconnect.
His friends were dedicated. They conveyed several times their appreciation for him, their admiration for his kindness, his warmth and wit. He sought their companionship often after his marriage was destroyed. They never refused him, always pleased to assuage his solitude. But he was not convinced that he had anything to show for the compliments he was paid. He was not confident that he was good because the negative points of his past plagued him. The memories of various blunders haunted his soul, they taunted his conscience. He regretted being far away now from those he had slighted some years ago-he wanted to reach out to them, to find reconciliation, but he could not. He felt that they would not accept his overtures even if he tried.
Loneliness had followed him his entire life. He dragged his loneliness behind him by a tie forged with guilt, shame, and longing. Romanticism was his downfall; he dreamed of ideals, of lofty professional successes, grandiose expectations, and of nurturing offspring with a faithful, devoted wife to guide him. The romantic obsessions of life would cruelly scathe his inner essential being, unexposed to common sight.
While his marriage was crumbling and the inevitable conclusion was forecast he did all he could to convince his wife to stay, but she persisted to pursue her own life-dreamt career. She left him with no remorse; a man who had shown unwavering love for her but was a protruding obstacle along her path that had to be exploded for allowing safe passage. He was a threat to her survival as a free soul fated to wander, and he was killing that will in her mind. He wept bitterly the day she left him, but several days later managed to collect his faculties and persist forward. Some time passed. There was no recoil; she was part of his past and would remain cast into his memories dangling on the chain of inconsequential grainy obscurity.
“I am doing all I can to be a good human being…” but there was nothing more left for him to accomplish than he already had. He had not committed murder, never inflicted severe physical or traumatizing psychological pain onto others. There was not anyone he believed in his life who scorned him, who secretly wished for his downfall in health or fortune. There were only the past interpersonal mistakes, the actions that caused him his anguish which could not be revealed to any other fellow soul. They were collectively his secret torment. But he yearned for freedom.
Copyright © Christian Garbis, 2007