When Men Were Kind, Their Words Inviting

I had a friend, once.

 

In high school, Jecht was the rock that kept me from drifting downstream, never to be seen again. He was, at first, my only friend, my only ally against the crushing waves of opposition I faced. He offered me kindness when everywhere else I turned I received scorn, or worse, indifference.

 

I loved him from those early years, and I looked up to him. He inspired me to be as strong, talented, indeed as handsome as he was. There was nothing he could not do: literally everything he tried he excelled at (as far as I knew). In all the things I prided myself on, he bested me with little effort, and it both tore me apart and filled me with admiration. Such adventures we had together, exploring the limits of our human capacities, executing Operation Spiky Pineapple, jumping off balconies and waking up in the early hours of the morning, tanto in hand. He introduced me to more friends (by proximity, I suppose), and I felt nourished and included in ways I hadn’t experienced in years.

 

After high school we drifted apart. He wasn’t on social media as far as I knew, and eventually he stopped replying to my occasional calls and messages. I was worried at first, and then I realised he had probably changed numbers and forgotten to tell me.

 

One night when I was at a party (one of the only ones I’ve ever attended), I heard he had just arrived. In spite of myself, I was nervous he had been avoiding me and procrastinated seeking him out. By the time I’d plucked up the courage to speak to him, he had left. I have a fleeting memory of him walking away without turning to look at me.

 

Some time later, I happened upon him while ordering dinner: he was the waiter! When he saw and recognised me, we smiled and laughed and talked like times gone by. We taught me new things about The Legend of Zelda, my great love, and I became self-conscious of the way my unruly hair was, and how daggy my outfit appeared. I felt like I was fourteen, and he was a man, and I was greatly pleased that I had been mistaken about our friendship and that we were just as close as ever. He gave me his number (his old number! He’d never changed it!) and I walked home elated. I texted him that night and waited for a response.

 

A response never came. Months passed, and in desperation, I asked one of his friends how he was. It turns out his mother, whom I was very close to, had fallen very ill and he had not seen fit to tell me. I messaged his girlfriend on facebook asking for his new number, and she told me he didn’t want to speak to me at the moment. I racked my brain for a reason for this, if I had offended, neglected or upset him somehow, and could produce no possibilities. A year later, I messaged her again and asked if I had done anything wrong, and her silence was just as confirming as his.

 

I never did find out why Jecht stopped talking to me, though I’ve dreamed of him several times. I recall dreaming that I went to his house, his old house where so many memories were made, and seeing him and his brothers and being greeted like family again. I woke up with tears in my eyes when I realised it wasn’t real.

 

Last night I dreamed I saw him again, and I told him everything I’ve written here. He was angry, in the dream, but willing to explain why he had been avoiding me. He started telling me a complex metaphor that I didn’t understand before we were pressed to move, and the situation required us to stop talking. By the end of the dream, he hadn’t been able to tell me his reasons, though he had told me he was willing to give our friendship another chance. I thanked him for the opportunity, and woke up feeling… sad.

 

Jecht was one of the defining people of my life, there for me at a time when I was vulnerable, and there to inspire me at a time when my identity was impressionable. I wish I could stop dreaming about him, to let him go lovingly so that he stops wounding my heart with what could have been.

 

They are just dreams.

The Bonds of a Charr

I had an elaborate dream about Guild Wars, and when I was telling Beth about it she convinced me to write it down. I’m glad I did, though you might notice it doesn’t perfectly correlate with the game (such is the nature of dreams. Also, it would have been ridiculous if Atakus was an omniscient wizard who could transform into a kitten.)

***

Gyron Burnteye limped into his hut, leaning heavily against the doorframe while his pupils expanded to adjust to the dim light. Aneiwa, his human wife rose to help him, slinging an arm around her strong shoulders and helping him to the bed.
“My leg,” he growled in the old Charr language, drawing up the material of his pants to reveal an inflamed wound. The edges of his dark fur were stained a worrying purple, and despite being weeks old it wasn’t getting any better.
“Gyron, it’s infected. You have to do something about it,” Aneiwa said gently, her eyes filled with concern. At that point, their ten-year-old human son walked in, a question dying on his lips as he saw his father’s injury.
“Not now Sam!” barked Gyron. Sam closed his mouth and left promptly, running out the back door. To his wife he said, “Get some bay leaves, red oak bark, powdered sage…” he rattled off a list of ingredients as she hurried to their small larder. Aneiwa sat by the bedside and began carefully mixing the concoction. As she was adding a bright green powder there was a knock at the door, and she looked at her husband questioningly. Uncertain, he shook his head. Against his wife’s protests, he forced himself to his feet and limped over to the window, peering out into the daylight. Aneiwa’s heart caught in her throat as her husband’s ears flattened against his skull unconsciously. Across the street from their house, Sam was talking to one of the Queen’s Men as four others loaded their rifles. Gyron had known the boy hated him, but he never thought it would come to this.

“Back!” he hissed to his wife as he considered whether he had time to arm himself. Before he could, the first of the men reached the open doorway and let out a yell of surprise as he was grabbed firmly by the jacket and hurled against the wall. The officer slumped to the floor unmoving as the shelves crashed down around him, a basket of cucumbers spilling across the floor. Gyron peered out the window to reassess the distance between the remaining men. The remaining officers were yelling now, their human words sounding harsh and cruel to his ears. They had fanned out, guns raised and were slowly advancing towards the open door. He had only moments to act before they were upon him, and his wounded leg was forgotten as he burst through the door and took the first human by surprise. He smashed the rifle from the man’s grasp with a terrifying snarl and struck him hard in the side of the head with vicious swipe. Without stopping to watch him crumple, he bounded to the next man and seized him by the throat. Gyron’s claws tightened and the officer’s scream died in his throat as he went limp. Gyron’s eyes were wild with rage as he looked for his next mark. An explosion cut through the daylight like a thunderclap as one of the soldiers fired. Gyron staggered from the impact of the bullet, and a moment later another there was another burst of fire and smoke. Gyron had no memory of falling but he found himself on the ground, blood trickling from his chest. Through the intensity of the pain, some part of him was aware of laughter before he felt himself being dragged, lifted and then shoved roughly into a tight space. The world suddenly went dark and he found he could hear only murmurs above the ragged panting of his breath. His heart sank as he realised he had failed, and that he would never see his wife again.

Atakus had just arrived in the great human city of Divinity’s Reach. He had heard about its grand palace and proud spires all of his life, and the first time he had glimpsed them from the road his heart had skipped a beat. He had been travelling for months to get here overland from the Fields of Ruin, a distant human settlement, but it had been worth it. He dreamed of finishing his studies as a lawyer in the The Reach, where he could finally gain the qualifications he needed to assist with the negotiations in Ebonhawke. To this end, his heart had lead his feet all the way to the University of Queensdale. Or at least, it tried to. Somewhere along the line he had taken a wrong turn, and he was now thoroughly lost in the slums of the city. He was deeply engrossed in his map when he heard the sounds of a scuffle, and looked up to see a dark-furred Charr kill two men in uniform.

At first he was alarmed by the violence and assumed that the charr was some kind of criminal being arrested by the Ministry Guard. But the way they laughed as they brought him down unsettled him, and he couldn’t help but notice a woman’s visage in the window, a haunted look upon her face. Some instinct inside of him told him things were not as they seemed and without thinking he sprinted after the carriage, catching it just in time to hang onto the back of it as it hurried through the streets. As Atakus clung on for dear life, he caught sight of the wooden trunk that held the prisoner (though it was barely big enough to contain him). He knew it was his imagination, but he could not supress the vision of the charr curled up at the bottom, alone and in pain. Absurdly, Atakus wished he could crawl inside there and comfort him. His fantasies were cut abruptly short as the carriage began to slow. The young student slipped off before they had quite finished moving and stepped away to observe their surroundings. They had drawn up in front of a grand building which read in gilded letters “MAGISTRATE’S COURT”.  Atakus slipped inside and joined the growing audience who had begun to gather at the sight of the carriage.

It was several minutes before Gyron was dragged before the court, his wrists and ankles bound together by heavy chains. He stood on his own in the centre of the ampitheatre, facing a raised dais upon which sat several councillors in their official robes. Central among them and raised higher than all the rest was a man whose smile curled at the corner of his mouth. The excited murmur of the audience hushed as he spoke:
“Do you know the weight of your crimes?”
Gyron looked at the ground in front of him, breathing heavily. Blood trickled from the side of his maw and dripped slowly to the wooden floorboards. The magistrate’s eyes hardened.
“Answer me, charr. Taciturnity will only worsen your fate.”
Gyron raised his gaze slowly, catching the minister’s eye and holding it for a long moment. The air was heavy with the silence.

“Your Honour,” called Atakus, breaking the tension like ripples upon the surface of still water. The crowd parted for him as he pushed his way forward to stand beside the charr. “Our friend may not speak English. I will speak on his behalf.” The judge started. This had never happened before, and the fool clearly had no idea what was happening. One of the guards moved to intercept the man but the magistrate raised his hand to stop him. This was an unexpected spectacle; perhaps the idiot would provide further entertainment to the proceedings.
“Very well,” he said sitting back in his chair and folding his fingers in front of him. “Let it be known that I am not an unfair judge. You may answer for him.”
To the charr, Atakus quickly said in a feline tongue, “I am a friend. I will help you. You must tell me what has happened.” Gyron couldn’t help a surprised flick of his tail as his eyebrows raised in astonishment. In short words Gyron clenched his teeth against the pain and explained how he was a gladium who had been outcasted by his warband after falling in love with a human. After fleeing to Divinity’s Reach, he could barely provide for his family. There was no work and no food for the likes of him. In desperation, he had begun stealing from a farmer in Queensdale, who had finally shot him in the leg.

Atakus hadn’t dared to believe the stories he’d heard from travellers on the road, but the truth was before him and he could not avert his eyes. In Ebonhawke, there was little love lost between the human and charr.  The two races had fought each other for generations, and there were still factions of separatists and renegades who were too hurt, too blinded by their grief to know anything other than war. But the Fields of Ruin were the forefront of a hard won peace, and Atakus had seen firsthand humans and charr working together. He had always believed that Divinity’s Reach would be a paragon of peace, but it seemed that the rumours of xenophobia were true. All he could see in this great hall of law was hatred, ethnocentricity and corruption.

“Well?” asked the magistrate, tapping his finger on the bench with impatience. Atakus swallowed. He stepped forward to face the council, standing between the charr and his judge.
“Gyron is innocent.” Gasps rose from the audience as the magistrate smiled a smile that showed too many teeth, his lips twitching slightly.
“He is a thief, and a murderer.”
“He is a victim,” Atakus replied, heart pounding in his chest. “He is a refugee who sought peace behind the walls of this great city, and all he has found was injustice and poverty. The government might tolerate the charr’s existence, but they will not support them as citizens, nor help them when they are starving. ” The councillor found he was stunned and then furious.
“The Government does not have the funds to hand money out to every beggar in the streets who-”
“How much gold does the city spend on plays?” Atakus asked suddenly, cutting him off. “How many billions of silvers are spent each year on festivals and feasts? Could not even a handful of coppers be spared to help an old man see his family fed?” He turned to face the audience as he continued his challenge. “Where do all those taxes go? Surely not to the pockets of those who collect them?”
The crowd began to murmur, and that murmur began to rise. Someone yelled something at the councillors that Atakus couldn’t make out over the pounding in his ears. People loved nothing more than to think they’d been cheated, and he knew he was winning them over. This was a dangerous moment: either he would break apart an ancient institution, or he would himself be broken.
“Now see here-” the Magistrate began, trying to regain his composure.

The courtroom exploded into a jumble of yells. Atakus returned to the benches where the public were able to view the proceedings of the court. In spite of it all, the crowd drew away from him, and he found himself alone. Not even the Magistrate would meet his eye, though he could feel wrath emanating from him like steam. He looked at Gladium Gyron, whose golden eyes glittered in the theatre. The old charr dipped his head slightly, and after a moment of surprise Atakus responded in kind. Whatever happened, both of them were bound now, and they would face the end together.

A dream in time gone by, when men were kind, their words inviting

Last night before I went to bed, I sat down and wrote my affirmations for fifteen minutes. “I see my future as positive and bright. I am happy, I feel good. Regardless of external circumstances, I remain centred and calm.” This last one (a new edition) has made a surprisingly significant impact on my approach to and peace with life. As I slept, my lines filtered into my dreams, and the result was quite… insightful.

I dreamed I was on holiday in Singapore again, exploring the country. I kept my journal with me, writing letters to Beth and filling it with pages of affirmations. And, for some reason, I was enrolled in a high school. I got into an altercation with one of the “alpha males” (for what, I can’t remember) and he cornered me in a bathroom to intimidate, and possibly harm me. For once, I did not try to pacify my oppressor – I knew that the only way to assert my right to safety would be to meet his challenge full in the face. I stood half on the bathtub to make myself taller, threw a kingeri to his groin and punched towards his face, twice in quick succession. I pulled all of my attacks more than I normally would, stopping before contact with a kind of insipid overcommitment. But as I stood there, eyes cold, posture straight, relaxed and waiting for his response, he dropped his eyes to the floor and took a few steps back. He turned and walked away, defeated. Unfortunately, as I had risen to the bathtub I shattered a number of wineglasses, and the glass had cut my feet (though I had not shown any weakness before my adversary). As he left, I tended my wounds and cleaned the destruction wrought from my violence.

Shortly after that, my dream transferred me to a Year 2 class. I had to spend a week with six-year-olds, and the teacher of this class manifested as one of my least-liked teachers from social work. And in this dream, she hated me.

For reasons I could not identify, she loathed my existence and went out of her way to make me suffer. (Writing about it now, I can see similar experiences in the waking world that likely inspired my dream as it transitioned from short term memory.) She would call upon me in class to make sure I was paying attention, calling out silly noises with the six-year-olds designed to humiliate me, but I participated in good spirit. She noticed the mitsudomo I had on my necklace and marched up to me, telling me that no unauthorised jewellery was permitted. I found this ridiculously unfair as I noticed she herself was wearing a mitsudomo on a knotted steel chain. When I pointed it out to her, she clutched it defensively and told me in a pained tone, “This is who I am. Someone died to make this chain.” I responded “My chain is ordinary, but the pendant is my identity.” She let me keep it.

And finally, she started reading from a book out loud during storytime. I wasn’t interested, so I started writing to Beth about my experiences with this scornful woman. She finished reading and announced to the class that we would split into groups to act out the chapter she had just read. I had no idea what it was about, but I went along with my group willingly. Before I could stand though, she demanded my notebook from me because another group needed it for paper. I hesitated a moment, knowing it was full of my personal affirmations and about my experiences with her, and then gave it to her in trust that she needed it more than I did.

As I predicted, she flicked through it to see what I had been doing – she read the affirmations and hesitated. She found a page I had recently written on the different ways to hold a sword, the different styles of cutting and so on. She circled some of my illustrations and said to me, “I’ve drawn this too.” As she read over my notes, circling some and musing over others, her countenance flickered. Her scorn was giving way to a mutual understanding, a shared experience and the sympathy that comes with it. She paused at one diagram she hadn’t seen before and asked me “What does this mean?” It was a circle intersecting two other circles beneath it, which had four beneath it, expanding into a large triangle (like bowling pins, though numbering the hundreds.) “This represents the consequences of our actions. One action affects multiple people, and in turn they affect those around them. One becomes two, two becomes four and so on, until all the world is changed by what we do.” She thought about this and said nothing.

Later as we were practicing our skit, the bell rang for recess. One of the teachers came up to me and told me that Mrs X wanted to see me. I knew that she had reached the part of my journal where I spoke of her cruelty and unfairness. With courage, I sought her out, and she took me aside to talk to me. For a long moment we looked at one another without saying anything.
“Did you take offense to what I wrote?” I asked her at last. She said nothing. “Was it an untrue account of my experiences?” I pressed. She ignored my question and gave my journal back to me, saying with a sudden urgency, “You’re so close to understanding the nature of the universe. But your ambition blinds you.”
I felt offended at how direct and personal her comment was, but I swallowed my feelings before I responded. All of a sudden I felt I knew her intimately. She was once and intelligent, happy and loving person, who had been hurt so deeply it had cut to her heart. In her pain she lashed out and distanced herself from everyone for fear of being hurt again, but deep inside she was still that same good person. I said to her, “I mean no offense by this, but who are you to judge me? You who are so hurt, and who clutches your pain to your heart like a burning coal. You, who are intelligent enough to know that at any moment you can let go, yet still you cling to your grief so that you can show it to everyone you meet and inflict some of it upon them as well. I thank you for your feedback – I care a great deal about what you have to say – but have your own shit to work on. I’m far from perfect, and I’ll take your advice on board, but you have your own burdens to deal with. Let me help you with them.”

She paused a good long moment, staring me in the eye until she finally asked, “Why would you help me?” She glanced towards my journal, as if this contained all the proof she needed to assume that I despised her.
“Because I care about your happiness,” I told her. “And because I can see that you are smart enough to be happy at any moment you choose.”

I woke up shortly after. But it was a humbling experience that fundamentally altered my perception of humankind. I hope this is a lesson I do not readily forget.

I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad, that the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had

Last night I dreamed I was doing to die. I had found out from a doctor that the chemical in my brain that allows you to breathe while you’re asleep was being inhibited, and for some reason I didn’t think to use a respirator, or to take medication. I simply accepted the knowledge that the next time I fell asleep, I would die and never wake up again. And you think something like that would get you upset- you’d be mad at God, sad at life and scared of death. But I didn’t have time for any of that crap, because when you’ve got about six hours to live, all that really counts is you tell things you’ve been bottling up inside, and that you are kind to your loved ones. I hugged goodbye to a few people, like Craig-kun, who was on the bus with me, and I briefly considered organising a will, but Eugene said it was very straightforward and for good reason- most of my stuff, if unattributed, would go to taxes (which was apparently a very good thing). There was a moment when Beth became hopeful that I could put it off somehow- just stop sleeping or take the medication, and I actually got angry with her for trying to keep me there when I had already decided there was nothing I could do about it. Then I told her there wasn’t enough time in the day to be fighting, so we didn’t. (I don’t know why I didn’t try and preserve my life, but I think I knew at the heart of me there was nothing I could do, or no other right course of action.) Other than that, the day continued as normal- I helped Beth run the inn we just bought together, and I sent a text message to everyone on my phone saying goodbye. And then I went to sleep.

When I next woke up, I was in a traveller’s lounge. A teenaged girl in a school uniform walked through the door and said “Hey”. “Hey”, I said. “I’m dead.” She looked at me before asking thoughtfully, “What are you doing here?” “Oh-” I paused a moment. “-just on my way out I guess.”

At that moment, another man in the hostel yelled out if anyone had seen his books. I said to the girl that they were just on the table, underneath some magazines, somehow intuitively knowing that no one else would be able to hear me. When she went to the table and checked, there were a few cutouts from adult magazines there. He went to take them but she grabbed them, scrunched them up and declared that he shouldn’t be reading that rubbish and no one else should. Then she turned to the barkeep and ordered a beer, handing it to me and saying that she didn’t trust that other guy with it so I should have it. So I drank it slowly, savouring the flavour, the texture, the scent of that golden, frothy drink. And as I was drinking it, I realised that the barkeep hadn’t actually poured a drink- the girl had asked for an imaginary drink for her imaginary friend that no one else could see. And I was overcome with such a small act of generosity, that she would go out of her way to be kind to me and that the bartender was loving enough to do it even though he didn’t understand touched me deeply. I woke up crying.

So I just wanted to say that, having gotten a little perspective overnight (though it’s already wearing off as I forget it), life’s not worth being upset or angry over. There aren’t enough hours in the day to fight with those you love- if you must, yell at them once, and then forget it forever. Let it go. It really, really isn’t worth it. Be kind to everyone, because even the smallest gesture can have the greatest effect when given at the right time.

Wandering

There’s just something so strangely appealing about being insanely tired all day and then staying up ridiculously late to finish assignments before going to sleep around 2:30 in the morning and getting up four hours later for uni. I don’t know why, but I kinda love it.

Thoumoh

I slept in this morning until 11:30. For anyone who knows me, that’s exceptionally late- my body normally wakes me  up around 8:30am and says "All right, get up you lazy bastard," and kicks me awake every time I protest. Today, I found myself able to go back to sleep despite the kicking and woke up three hours later. I had some messed up dreams while I was at it, too.

Firstly I remember dreaming about getting into a fight. Friends and I were playing basketball, it rolled away, I jogged after it. A huge bunch of teenagers and young adults (18 or so of them?) were hanging out by the docks where the ball rolled and I ducked and weaved past them to retrieve it. As I was leaving, one of them jumped in front of me and pretended to punch me. Everyone laughed (Hahaha, what a great joke, that was hilarious), so against my better judgement, I hit him. The next few seconds involved such a complex array of dream attacks I won’t try and describe exactly what I did. In essence, though, I moved very quickly, very fluidly, very accurately, to attack and defend myself from all of them with a series of kicks, strikes and throws. At one point I was held by about five pairs of hands, and I managed to get out of that by throwing the basketball at the person who was about to attack me, and then wrenching myself free of everyone and decking the guy with a complex armbar-cum-hip throw. When everyone was lying around, unconscious or trying to breathe, I saw one guy running away and so I chased him. I didn’t want any of them to escape, and so I threw him to the floor as well. I later realised he was a civilian, and apologised. I felt very guilty, but explained my reasons to him and he seemed to not want any further trouble.

That segment of the dream was a cross between awesome and guilt-tripping. I remember just how it felt to fight against multiple opponents, to use their confusion and numbers against them, how quickly I had to strike and how, if I didn’t hold back or didn’t allow myself to hesitate, I could floor pretty much any number of people. I also realise this is highly improbable, and if they were to grab me and I didn’t have my trusty basketball at hand, I would be utterly screwed. That said, it felt really good not having to hold back in a fight for once.

From there, the dream warped to a Battle Royale scenario. For those of you unfamiliar with the Japanese manga (and later, movies), it’s about a class of high schoolers who are randomly selected to battle to the death. They are taken to a deserted island, given weapons and rations, and are told to kill each other until there is only one survivor within three days, or they all will die. I dreamed that the Year 12’s of Trinity College last year were chosen, and so there we were, all the Trinity boys, in the college, with guns, supposed to kill either or both each other and the teachers. The teachers I recall were our main enemies, barricaded in the staff building. It was an interesting, disturbing dream, and while I shot many people in the head, none of the bullets seemed to hit or have effect. That’s probably the last time I take movie recommendations from Sanyu and Daniel Jenkins :P

If anyone’s wondering how the dream ended, I told them that Mum was waiting for me in the carpark so I had to go and would come back at 9am tomorrow morning to resume. They let me out and I woke up shortly after.

In other completely unrelated news, I got my results for my second semester of uni. They are as follows:

Unit

Grade

Mark

Unit Title

001973

9

92

Anthropology 112 – Anthropology in a Gl

001638

7

77

Behavioural Science 171

001635

7

71

SW 121 – Introduction to Welfare

001636

8

84

SW 122 – Practice Models 1

That’s 2 Distinctions, 2 High Destinctions. Nice. Really happy about the Anthropology- too bad it’s an elective and doesn’t count for anything. Ah well, at least I’m maintaining the average 70-80% for social work students. I’m told it’s a pretty easy course. Least my marks look good.

In other other news, I think I’m about 70% recovered. Still coughing, but staying at home today and hopefully fully recovered by tomorrow. Every morning when I wake up, I think "Am I well enough to go to Taekwondo tonight?" So far it’s proven elusive. I might have to wait til next week. Man, full health couldn’t come soon enough.

EDIT: Just for fun, I worked out what marks I got in my exams. They are as follows.

Anthropology:                29/30, or 97%
Behavioural Science:      29/40, or 72.5%
Introduction to Welfare: 32/40, or 80%
Practice Models:           26/30, or 87%

Doppelgangers

I had an interesting dream last night. Basically, good-Eugene said he’d be right back, and then bad-Eugene pushed me out of his room and locked the door. When the door opened, good-Eugene was gone. I’m not sure what my logic was, but Eugene had taken Eugene from me, and I desperately wanted him back. So I fought with him. I used all kinds of weapons, including a lead pole which I used to break his nose with. Of course, because it was a dream, all I  did was graze his skin a little and tap him heavily enough to hurt a bit but not to do any damage. He seemed impervious to all my attacks, even when we were dueling with radio antennas. I just kept yelling at him to tell me where Eugene was, and when I wasn’t attacking him, I was tearing his room apart to find the secret passageway that lead to the safe where Eugene was being held. Mum came along and asked what was happening, and I assume Eugene told her the reason why he was bleeding. I eventually yelled "MUM! WHERE’S EUGENE!" out loud as I opened my eyes. Fortunately, neither Eugene nor Mum responded. It was very interesting, and very troubling.

I hate 2am stops, and yet I find them so… Embracing.