The room was a machine that measured my condition: how much of me remained, how much of me was no longer there. I was both perpetrator and witness, both actor and audience in a theater of one. I could follow the progress of my own dismemberment. Piece by piece, I could watch myself disappear.
― Paul Auster, ‘Moon Palace’
I stare at the whorls and the swirls, the patterns on the wall of my room. My room is a cube, a white cube. I live here. I haven’t gone out of the house in a long time. I have severe social phobia. Though this phobia only manifests itself in this town where I grow up and still live. Walking among strangers in a vast city, I have no problem at all. It’s when I encounter these people whom I have a past with, that’s the time that I have a problem. It’s not shyness, I realize now. I am not a shy person. If I know how I ‘fit’ in the scheme of things, if I know what my role is in a situation, if I know my purpose, then I have no fear. This could be a sign of a deep-seated conservatism on my part. Not a political conservatism, but a psychological and philosophical one. Given the choice of participating in something that I am not comfortable with and just staying in my room and doing something that I like, I will choose the latter every time. Could this be a sign of what is called ‘perfectionism’? I doubt it.
There are empty hangers on a line in my room. The line is held up by these nails that I have hammered onto the wall. The line is made of nylon and they twine around the nails. My room is tiny, and exactly three steps from where I am sitting and typing these words are my dumb bells. There are four of them. Two large ones. Two little ones. I have recently taken up lifting weights once more. It helps me deal with the boredom. It helps me deal with the isolation.
I tell myself to keep things ‘light.’ By this I mean not to think too much of dark and depressing things. This is why I avoid the news as much as I can. It’s not so much that I am saddened by the misery happening in the world, it’s that this very misery is making me feel not so bad about my situation. That feeling of comparing my suffering to others’ sickens me. It’s what the Germans call Schadenfreude. It’s not so much taking pleasure in the misery of others as feeling a bit less miserable because of that suffering. At least that’s my interpretation of that specific condition. So I avoid the news because it brings out this ugly aspect of myself. By this ‘lightness’ which is my ideal I mean humor. Funny things. A light-heartedness. The Thai have a specific word for it and which translates into English as a ‘cool heart.’ I want a cool heart. I want a cool heart and a cool head. It is said that we desire what we lack. Do I lack these things?
I sometimes have these manic episodes where I just clean my room. I dust the furnitures, my books, my things, I sweep the floor, I then mop it, I arrange things. The arranging takes quite a long time. It’s like I want everything to fit into this schema that has suddenly appeared in my head. It’s a mental itch that does not easily go away until it falls into the reality of my room. Often when after hours of arranging, things still do not ‘fit,’ I just overload and stop. I drop whatever it is that I am holding, I leave things half-way done. I simply give up, sit down, like my mind has encountered an error and has to shut down for a while.
I like repairing things. The electric fan that I am using now I repaired myself. It’s a Frankenstein sort of thing, with parts from older damaged fans that I have cobbled together using wires and electrical tape. The electrical tape is red in color. The propeller does not automatically turn left and right because I pulled out those parts of the machine that makes the electric fan do that motion. The grills that cover the propeller gathers so much dust sometimes that I am very careful not to touch it for fear that the dust would be disturbed and fill my room.
I keep the center of my room empty. All my furnitures – the table, the plastic containers with my clothes, my table on top of which are placed my laptop, my scanner and other electronics – all are arranged around this empty center. Above this center, on the ceiling, is the fluorescent light. It’s a white cylinder of glass that has been in use for so long that it’s no longer very bright. It used to be that I could barely stare at it. Now I can look at it just fine. There are spots on the surface of the glass that are yellow in color. I wonder how it came to be there.
My books are arranged to my left. By ‘arranged’ I mean piled one on top of the other so that they look like mini sky-scrapers. I have read most of these books. I collected them through the years. These are the distillation of more than ten years of collecting and donating and lending, and sometimes stealing. I have books borrowed by friends that are still to be returned. One book is entitled ‘The Art of Loving’ by Erich Fromm. It was borrowed by a classmate of mine in a history class back in college. Another book is ‘Living Dolls, A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life’ by Gaby Wood. It was a lucky find of mine in a secondhand bookstore around 2008 back in college in the City. I remember the cover was very iconic. It was a photo of a hand of a marionette. The back has a square hole so that you can see the mechanism inside that makes it move. A few years later I would use that book as a source in a paper on the topic of cyberpunk.
I am now sitting on my bench which also functions as my bed. It is made of wood and it is cushioned. This bench/bed does not have a backrest so I placed it flush to the wall, so the wall acts as a backrest. It is early morning here, and cold, and the fan is blowing air straight into me shooing the mosquitoes and other insects away. I love the sound it makes, I believe it’s called ‘white noise.’ I wind down at around two in the morning, and fall asleep to the sound of the fan filling my room.