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I do not consider myself a complicated person. I don’t think many people are. I accept that I have lived strangely for the past four years, and for the past month especially, so I suppose I must consider myself strange, but please forgive me if I don’t wear the word with the best grace. I am not so strange that I take pride in it. I have only tried to live by simple principles with doggedness and honesty, and with an open mind.
Now and then I believe we all glimpse the simplicity of ourselves, whether or not we try. For instance I’m sure you’ve heard people who’ve nearly died saying that it reminds you what’s important, by which they mean that the list of things is shorter than they thought. Soon enough most return to worrying about bills and popularity and lateness. In order to forget life, they get on with living. Those who stay reminded are considered traumatised.
Danger forces this grim wisdom on you, but it is by no means the only route. Most children discover at some point that minds can be boiled down pretty easily by playing a game of Why? Just ask Why? of any statement, then ask Why? of the answer, and continue to ask Why? until you get stuck in a loop, or you reach particle physics, or the grown-up gets bored, whichever is the soonest.
Let me give you an example. Why? Because examples are a good way to explain things, and right now I’d rather explain this idea than get on with the story. Why? Because I’m anxious. Why? Various reasons. Among them, because I’m making tea in the dark. Why am I making tea in the dark? Good question. Because I want to bring her something comforting when I go upstairs, but I don’t dare turn on the lights. Why don’t I dare? Because I don’t want to risk waking her. Why? Because I want to wake her later, at the right time. Why? Because I want to make a good impression. Why do I want to make a good impression? Because I want to be loved. Why do I want to be loved? I don’t know. Curiosity I suppose. I want to find out what it’s like. Why do I want to find out? I don’t know.
Actually it is not completely dark in here, if I’m going to be accurate, which I plan to be. The kettle’s power indicator light gives an orange glow to the waiting cups. The point is it’s dark enough to be anxious about tea-making, on top of all the other things.
We are in the hissing stage. You know the hissing stage? The kettle begins silently, then there are clicks, then the clicks give way to a quiet hissing that becomes loud. That’s where we are, in the becoming.
Her cup is white with a blue feather pattern painted on it. She has an especial fondness for the blue feather design. I don’t know why. I only know that whenever one is available, that’s what she chooses, and this must be a matter of policy because she has a varied, even a raucous, cup shelf. There is another feather cup, but I’ve chosen something different for myself because I worry that if I choose the same it will look like I am trying to be neat instead of thoughtful. And I can’t just say to her, Oh, by the way, I’ve given you one of your favourite cups. That’s not subtle. That sounds like bait for praise. I’ll just let her notice that my cup is different, an obscure green and gold one from the back of the shelf that she rarely uses. Hopefully she’ll understand that I intend it as a modest contrast, like the white of a gallery wall or of the page. It may not work, but I believe in doing more than is required. You can’t control what people think, but if you do everything you can, they’ll notice, and understand that the great trouble you’ve taken must mean you care. You must show almost a mild madness.