Life is movement, movement life
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Some days ago I saw a cat whose will had shrunk so much that it comprised no more than a weak but obvious desire to die. She was in a pet shop, in a glass cubicle no bigger than a fish tank, a prison small enough even for the kitten in the cell adjoining hers. The kitten, at least, could walk a little - it would be too much so say that it could walk around, but it could at least describe a circle, and it did so, one way then the other, expressing in its walk the curiosity that a kitten would normally display with any object that it came across.
The cat, however, was wedged inside her tank, the length of which was shorter than the cat herself. She lay on the floor, bending her back so that she could fit, and unable to move much more than that, moved not at all. Neither her body nor her eyes would move. She had no further presence, that quality of being always there, however quiet, however silent, however apparently motionless a cat might be, that communication of intelligence, observation, calculation and intent that a cat projects simply by virtue of itself. Deprived of movement, she had nothing left: the whole life and personality of a cat depends on movement, on the expression that a cat lends to the smallest movement, on its ability and desire to detect and track that movement in anything else. But it was gone. The life of the cat was gone and what was left, with what was left, she just wanted to end. She was gone. She just wanted to die.
She wanted to die, and I wanted to scream: but I have not yet the Spanish in which to scream. I could perhaps have started: "¿Qué quieres? ¿Intentas matar al gato? ¡Mira, desea morir!" But I couldn't have finished any argument I started: my language, my ability to communicate, almost as absent as was hers. I thought, for a moment, about pulling open her cubicle, on which were written her breed and price - two hundred and forty euros - and hence the reason for her confinement, though not the reason for her torture. I wanted to release her, watch her flee for her life through the aisles of the shopping complex, watch her exhibit the will, the will to live, the will to fight, defy, resist, which a cat possesses in excess of any other creature.
But I was afraid that even that had gone: that if I dragged open her window she would remain just as she was, wedged, immobile. Eyes without life, aware only dimly, if at all, of any life outside herself, only dimly aware that any life remained within.
Only one time in my life have I wanted to die. I mean wanted. I mean, actually wanted to die, not only thought about it, not only felt it as a desire within me, not only considered it as a genuine proposition. Only once acknowledged it, only once said it to myself, only once understood and meant it. Only once known - only once I want rather than I wish.
I wish, you say. I wish. Wish you could sleep and never wake again, wish that there were some way, by the smallest effort of will, to close down, close off the outside world, enter a world of safety and softened noises. You wish. You do not want. Wishing is cursing. Wishing is crying "enough", but crying out. Wishing is crying out for what you do not want. The truth about a wish is that it does not happen. You wish for what you know you cannot have.
Wanting is different. Wanting is without reference to what you can or cannot have. You cannot lie, not to yourself, about whether or not you want. The thought arrives spontaneous, unbidden, not so much thought as revelation. It comes, not as the end of some process of reasoning, but on its own, attached to nothing, expressing itself alone. You speak: I want to die. You speak as if speaking someone else's words at someone else's instigation. There is no possible discussion. You speak. You want. You know.
Only once. Not even in the act of suicide, as that is not the action of your will, but what happens when your will and being are exhausted, when you cannot want because that function is no longer there. You cannot want, just be indifferent.
There are three conditions which often look alike
Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:
Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment
From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference
Which resembles the others as death resembles life,
Being between two lives - unflowering, between
The live and the dead nettle.
Wanting cannot be indifference. Wanting is conscious, certain. Clear.
Once and only once. A few months afterwards: six years ago today. When they came for me unexpected in the morning and by the afternoon I found myself confined. I remember clearly, as if I'd asked to have one memory preserved and chosen this one: the rest is madness, impossible to remember because impossible to believe. But this I remember clearly - that on the first evening I stood in my room, my cell, my place of confinement, forbidden for me to leave but open to the staff to watch. I stood there. I could say that I felt desperate or humiliated or shattered or any word I chose, but the truth is none of those words meant anything to me, not at that time. Not even anger, which overcame me before they locked me up and motivated me later when I fought to get back out.
All these were irrelevant, or at least subsumed, subsumed within the one clear thought that I could still have, the one clear thought that forced itself upon me. I said it to myself. I remember clearly - not quite clearly enough to remember if I spoke the words out loud, but I remember the words clearly. I said:
I want to die.
I said it and I meant it: and I knew I meant it, as I had not meant to say it. The truth comes unrehearsed. I stood there and I knew that what I wanted was to die. And I knew why, as well: not because I had gone as low as I thought possible, but because I thought I would. I saw myself declining, sitting in that cell, medicated, my consciousness smothered by whatever drugs they wanted me to swallow, maybe sometimes in the garden, being visited. Hearing, half-hearing as though muffled, people saying how sad it was and other people saying that they were hopeful and I'd been responding well. I saw myself like that, permanently medicated, permanently submerged, and I felt and knew that I would rather die than be like that.
No more the cat. Life without life. Without movement, there could be no life. She was erased: whatever sort of life it was, she was no longer in it. I looked at her, emptied of life, and saw myself, and what they might have made of me. What they would have made of me, had there not been enough, by way of anger, left to motivate myself, and make me live, and get me out.
And live. But gradually. Poco a poco, they say here. Bit by bit, and many bits still missing. Some of them left behind, that year, in that place and in others. Some of them doubtless gone forever. And I must, now, go and find the pieces that remain. Because I should, because I must. Because something happened, back then, which I need to understand, explain, go back and look at, write about.
I need to write now. I need to write about the meaning of indifference, the space between the will to live and the desire to die. I need to concentrate on that, to grasp at it, to hold it down and wring what truth I can from that experience. For me. For anybody else who cares to read it. Should they get the chance: should I ever finish, should it ever find a publisher, should it ever find a reader. But I must start and see how far I get. To find out how far you have come, you must return to where you started.
So I must go. And here, a hiatus. Temporary one, while I work. Not from indifference, but from the need to understand it. I cannot half-write: I must write in one place or the other. I have had two years in this place: for a few months, I must let it lie. It has been good for me. It has helped me organise and understand my thoughts. I shall be here again. But life is the desire to move and keep moving. I hope, I hope, that cat was rescued, set free to express her life through movement, her own movement and the detection of others'. Life is movement, movement life. I must move. But I shall be here again.