Chapter four, The Fool
“Those who will not reason are bigots, those who cannot are fools, and those who dare not are slaves.”
(Lord Byron, English poet, peer and politician)
Julian lited up another cigarette. The famous last one before the next. The last cigarette before quit smoking, the last cigarette before supper, the last cigarette before going to bed, the last cigarette before whatsoever. Occasionally, something big, significant, unforgettable like a drunken New Year’s Eve or a birthday party that has gone terribly wrong. Julian loved each and every one of his last cigarettes. They are were all special – and not only because it was problematic to get real cigarettes these days. Truthfully, Julian was not a heavy smoker, he only smoked two or three cigarettes per day, generally in the evening on the rooftop, but the blue puffs of smoke gave him comfort and consolation. Smoking made him felt both aristocratic and disobedient. ‘Sin is a mistress’ he thought. Smoking, however, was not always considered inappropriate or illegal.
Allegedly, in ancient days, smoking was part of shamanic rituals, a sacred offering to the gods. The circles of smoke like birds have broken free from the bounding of the earth and reach the heavens. The smoke signals contained messages to the gods, creating a strong and lasting connection between men and gods. The elderly gods withdrew themselves and faded into the darkness of the impenetrable universe, while men forget the old ways of social and spiritual bonding. Eternity ends were memory fails to remember.
Julian was no exception. He couldn’t read the omens from the sky, couldn’t discern between the lines in his palm and identify signs and patterns which may reveal secret aspects of the present, past and future, he did not have the skills of gipsies to turn and interpret the meaning of the cards, he did not have any psychic abilities nor the knowledge to deal differently with life than any other mortal man.
Julian was a light traveller, who had no interest in arriving at any particular destination but he was fully committed enjoying the experiences along the way. Just like the dancing blue circles of smoke, here and now meant everything. The past was drowning irredeemably in the mist of obscurity, and the future was a complicated matter of probabilities and hazards. Yesterdays were forgettable, and tomorrows uncertainties. In between, Julian felt alive. Each second of his life was like a burning match, and he was drawn both by the light and the heat. Every single spark he brought to life took away one little point and moment of darkness. One moment of pleasure blasts into oblivion a moment of pain. Julian thought it is a fair trade, a game worth to play without nurturing any false hopes of victory.
The path he has chosen was satisfactory and never thought of those not taken. ‘What if?’ or ‘what would have been?’ did not cross his mind for a moment. Going back was never an option eighter. ‘The way out is through,’ said an oddly resonating voice in his head and Julian agreed wholeheartedly. ‘Everything happens for a reason,’ he believed, ‘and it’s not worth worrying about what you don’t know, don’t understand, or did not happen yet. Problems, when appears, can be dealt with immediately. Worrying about them, anticipatedly was foolishness and meaningless waste of time and energy.’ And Julian, at least that is what he believed, was no fool.
Ignorance is strength.
People get used to leading their lives and ask no questions. We don’t know, we can not know, and we are quite alright not to know. It was plain and simple, but more importantly, safe. No plans meant no expectations. Every day was identical with the previous one, but he would not have known that.
The alarm-clock is ringing at the exact same time, but Julian always woke up a few minutes earlier and almost precisely counted back the seconds to the waking signal. He jumped off the bed, made a few stretches and go directly to the bathroom. Julian paid particular attention to the colour and smell of his urine. Normally, the urine should be transparent and odourless. Any colour, especially reddish shades and the astringent smell is a clear indication of some sort of infection in the body. And Julian was cautious regarding his health and exigent with continually improving his physical condition. Coming back to the room only with his knickers on, for the next thirty minutes, Julian worked out. He had a strict schedule of exercises: jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, climbers, leg raises, sit-ups, knee-to-elbow crunches, a few standard weight-training exercises, shadow boxing and his favourite, rope jumping. On the days Julian had not to go to work, he used to double his practices extended to a full hour. After the training, Julian get back to the bathroom for a quick shower followed by the breakfast. His regular meal was a cup of chicory coffee, four slices of toasted bread with margarine or synthetic cheese, one energy bar or a few biscuits, and a glass of artificial juice with vitamins and minerals. He vaguely still remembered the times when he had sweet-smelling bananas or crisp and juicy apples for breakfast dessert. He didn’t have a real fruit for years now. The scraps of memories he still had felt like glitches, deleted scenes from a fiction film.
Going to and from work was close to adventurous. Julian, instead of taking a bus, chose to walk about one and a half miles till the nearest subway station. He walked at a fast pace, in the manner of a forced military march, as an outdoor extension of his daily exercises. Marching made him feel alive. Touching and detaching off the ground gave him a sense of reality.
Public transportation was one of the few exceptions when people could get in the human distance to one another. What Julian enjoyed the most about travelling on the subway was observing others. While most of the passengers were completely absorbed by the screens of their phones, he studied their mimics, postures and gestures, imagined who they might be, what they are doing and where they are going or coming from. Frequently Julian fantasised about all the intimate aspects of their lives and imagined complex plots. One of his favourite games was pairing up strangers and weaving wild, forbidden romances. These fantasise sometimes kept his mind occupied for hours or even days and weeks. He was anxious to meet those persons again on the train and compare reality with his version of the unfolding events. Julian wanted a piece of the action, to be at the middle of these adventures, he was yearning for all the excitement and drama that could detour from the normal life and reshape his existence. Playing these virtual role-playing games was the equivalent of a jailbreak.
Work was monotonous and weary. His job at the bearing factory was to supervise and maintain the machine. Although apparently, Julian was in charge, practically the machine controlled in every little detail his schedule and time. Even protected by the earplugs, the noise felt unbearable. Julian realised that it was not actually the level of decibels which almost provoked physical pain in his brain, but the constancy of noise produced the pressure, causing discomfort and irritation.
Seven hours a day, with a mandatory forty minutes lunch break after the first four hours, six days a week, in two changing shifts, was exhausting. At some point, elusively, man and machine become inseparable; one man, one machine. Practically, surveillance became futile when a man ceased to be unpredictable. (…)
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