Prisoner–Fiction by Karthick RM

I tried. But there was no escape. There is none.

I was not dragged in the club by friends. I chose to enter. I chose to enter because she was going in.

Lights. Bright lights. Yellow, green, blue and orange lights. Human bodies around me. Their faces contorted in a vulgar display of ecstasy. Some of them stepped on my foot, some elbowed me and some spilt beer on me. This was the multicultural paradise; a postmodern temple of a decadent civilization.

I was in hell.

She was from Iran. She, the one who brought me here. A liberal and an atheist and an anti-Imperialist. Nowadays, I am not sure what any of that means anymore, but sure, she was brilliant. Our first encounter was at a café in London a few days ago. It involved a theoretical fight about Marxism and Eurocentrism. She was totally opposed to my views. I liked that. Often I argue for things that I only partially believe in. Sometimes, I even wonder if I believe in anything. I am not cynical about a noble idea failing humanity. I just know that humanity will fail a noble idea.

She disagreed with me. She was bewitching.

“Please! People across the world are rising against Western dominance. Revolution is not only possible, it is inevitable.”

She did not speak with the infantile enthusiasm that characterized so many of the leftists I knew. Her diction carried the calm self-assured demeanor of an aristocrat. A revolutionary aristocrat.

“That won’t happen,” I said. “At the rate which military technology is advancing, killer robots will take over the world. And why not? Let’s give someone else a chance.”

Her condescending smile, the way her pale lips curved cruelly downwards when she thought I was making a silly statement, gave her the air of a snob. Yet, her laugh was genuine and her eyes sparkled like Prosecco when she was amused. She was one of those regal creatures who knew that they were royalty and expected to be treated that way; which is why I found her belief in the possibility of equality-for-all most incredulous. There was nothing equal between us, or between her and the other people in the café. I think she knew that too.

I have never understood equating the beautiful with the universal good. Beauty is amoral and tyrannous. The wretched resent it. Cynics undermine it. Only the faithful attempt to see it in all its glory: in intimacy, in passion, in moments that contain eternity. Even if the attempt is a failure.

The next time I met her – that is, the night she took me to the club – she appeared more beautiful, a strange and a very rare kind of beautiful.

Had I been a white man I would be quickly accused of exoticising the Orient. <<Insert appropriate quote from Edward Said.>> But I am from an exotic, weird place myself. This land called Tamil Nadu, the home of 70 million Tamils. If you visit the place you will know that we have passion for the spectacular without flair for the same. The Tamil country, a place that I love so much that it gives me acute depression. Getting out of it was easy. Getting it out of me was a different story.

Identity. Sometimes a thing of succor. Sometimes an object of fantasy. Sometimes an element of horror. I wanted to remove all affinity towards my identity. In the little island called Sri Lanka people who shared my identity were slaughtered for asserting it. Abandoned by a world that was indifferent to their plight. But those Tamils were of a different mould. They had faith. I was searching for mine.

Identity. As much as I ran I could not lose mine in a different place. I wanted to lose it in someone. I wanted to lose it in her. Love sublates identity, so I have read. I wanted an identity of belonging to someone, and to be longing for someone. Not a nation, color, or a piece of land.

An ex-girlfriend told me I was verbose. Maybe. Maybe I’m like someone living in an era when people still believed in things. Where some ideas were still sacred. Nothing is sacred now.

I entered the club for her alone. That’s all. If you knew me personally, you, my moralizing reader, might think I am being a hypocrite since I look down on other men and women pursuing their sexual interests while I shamelessly pursue mine. True. But I have no illusions.

After our first drink we came out for a smoke. Within ten minutes I enquired about her take on Palestine. And on Salman Rushdie. And on Ernesto Laclau. And on Iran’s ill-treatment of Kurdish prisoners.

“Clubbing really is not your thing, is it?” she said with a smile.

I wanted to tell her that her smile, her chiseled nose and her full lips were the only things worthy of attention in this human hotchpotch. That her curly hair that brushed against my face every time she tried to whisper something to me was kindling an emotion that I thought I had long forgotten. That her eyes reminded me of the placid waters of the Pacific. That we were the only two dialectical beings in a null cosmos.

But there was no we. Not yet. I. I. I.

I is all there is.

I have always been a bird searching for a cage. A slave searching for a master. A devout searching for a God. Never found one. This is my curse. This is my strength. Searching.

I was a prisoner of the image that I had of myself. I could not let go, relax, and loosen up, as she told me to on the dance floor. I could not let go anywhere. Letting go is what would have brought me closer to her, but that was impossible for me.

Let go. Of Inhibitions. Let go. Of Identity. Let go. Of I.

I watched her dance. She seemed to be in her element. She tried to get me to dance. “Let go. No one is going to care. Just allow your body to flow with the music.” Easier said than done.

I tried to nod my head in rhythm to the music. I also tried to raise my hands and my legs and imitate the movements that the humans around me were so effortlessly making. The attempt was painful. My mind projected a picture of myself, as a part of the herd, dancing to the anthem, limbs flailing without grace or chemistry, screaming my lungs out like a demented person. I felt nauseous. I stopped dancing. One more scotch on the rocks.

As the Glenfiddich burned its way down my throat I felt I could smell some traces of her sultry perfume on me. It was like her – bold, distinct, powerful. And then, a party animal knocked my drink out of my hand.

I wanted to leave. It was the bright lights. I stayed with her. I believed that the night had promises. Several drinks later, at around 3 AM, we called for a cab.

I found the silence in the cab more hurting than the intolerable noise in the club. I wanted to say something witty. ‘According to Zizek, ‘Love is an Event that involves a Fall.’ No, too mechanical. Something more casual. Too late. Her destination arrived.

I expected a kiss. Or a warm hug at least. But she only said a quick bye. With a quick smile. Too late.

I went home and collapsed on my bed, pushed off the books strewn on it. Exhausted. Masturbating was an option. Maybe it was too late for that too.

But then, it has always been too late.


Karthick RM finds the possibility that killer robots may take over humanity in the future absolutely fascinating, but he secretly believes that the world can be redeemed. He also received his PhD from the Department of Government, University of Essex in December 2015. He blogs at The Huffington Post

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