The Placekeepers

We saw you then, we do not watch you now, you're no one to us, not anymore. Lost to us, that's what you are - lost, and who will ever find you? We will not; we are not looking. What interest have we in you; we have other things to do; we have our tasks, our projects; we are busy, always busy, and for that reason you are always far from our minds.

But sometimes, unbidden, a memory comes. Sometimes one of us looks up and remembers: him. Him: you. That is how we remember you, by starts, by turns, and we look up from our labours, we who are so busy, and it comes to us, our early days, when we were young and you were young, but it was really by your youth that we were young; in truth, we lived from your youth, we drew strength from it, for it was the youth of hope, of the great dawn. It was our youth: the whole sky, the dawn; everything was possible; the world gave itself anew.

Who were we, so young with your youth? What had we become? Ah, we were young, then - young as you were young, and full of hope! But our youth was a second youth - or a third; our innocence was innocence regained. Your splendour was that you lived youth and innocence for the first time. What splendour! How splendidly did you greet the day! How splendid, your strong arms that stretched up towards the day!

The morning of the world, that's what we called it. And you were a son of the morning, just as we, watching you, likewise became sons and daughters of the morning. But what happened? When did it set in, the long decline? About when did it start, the decline? Because things are different now, aren't they? Things have changed irrevocably, haven't they? It's all changed; the earth turned from light into darkness; the great earth turned its great bulk away from the light. Night was coming; darkness was coming, the long wane of strength.

You were stronger than us, then. Stronger: you had not lived before, as we had lived before; you had been innocent from the start, but ours was a borrowed innocence; it was not ours, not truly. We became weary before you'd even noticed how the day had changed; for it had changed. As a boy, you cycled around the housing estates. Older, you walked around those estates at night with others, and a bottle of Thunderbird. Older still, and you fell ill in those estates; you fell and did not rise, and so passed the afternoon of your life, recumbent, the sun no longer at full strength above you, no longer the splendid sky; now the white and indefinite expanse; all cloud, a single, unbroken cloud that had covered the world.

What chance did you have? Yet older, and you rose, but you did not stretch your arms up in the morning. Something in you was destroyed; strength had turned against you; you were not young. Who were you then? And who were we? Shadows of ourselves, who were only shadows. Shadows of what we were, and we were already shadows, nothing more. What a curse you were! What a burden! It was if you lived from us, that you took our strength.

What could we do but let you go? What other fate awaited us? If let you go we must, then ... We let you go; you went; lightened, we imagined, disencumbered, we imagined, lighter in step. Where would you go? The day was yours, the housing estates spread in all directions; the whole world had been conquered. Space was accounted for, and time - time was worktime, and it was time for you to work. You disappeared; we busied ourselves with tasks; we watched everyone, we watched no one, we who had taken the place of the old gods and were waiting, yet for the new gods, we who were only placekeepers, the ones never quite there, the waiters, the watchers, the ones without power.

But now we fear we will be stronger than you, who were once so strong. That is why we do not look for you. We are afraid; afraid to know in you our own ruin - afraid to have it confirmed, to see what we were not and never were, to see it in you. Who are you, now? Where are you? Forbidden questions. We do not speak of you. But sometimes, still, memories come unbidden. Sometimes, yet, we remember your youth and your hopes, and how our youth and hope were reborn with you.

Inside

You phone me, panicked. - 'I can't leave the house; I'm stuck here. I can't leave the house!' Okay, I'm coming round. Out of the door, over the bridge. Your house. 'I can't leave.' The old, blind collie, eyes almost gone out. The Aga. The long dining room table.

They want you out, they've told you. They're expecting you to leave. You're already supposed to have left. But there's a family celebration coming soon. Family coming from all over the country, and you're not family, are you? A tenant, but not family, you know that. A tenant - you'll have to leave, won't you? But today you can't even step out of the front door.

We're in the house, the enormous house. So vast! A family house! A garden. The Aga. The old collie. The family are out. 'I need to get to the bus stop'. - 'Sure, let's go.' - 'I can't go, I can't go anywhere.' - 'Come on, we'll take it slowly. Let me open the door.' Daylight streams in. - 'I'm going to stay here, I think. I can't go out today.'

You've been served notice. Served it in a friendly way, but they need the room, and you've got to go. But how can you move out when you can't get out of the door? How when you are too sick to open the door and too sick for the open air? In streams the daylight.

'They don't want me here.' - 'They just want the space, that's all.' - 'Where am I going to go?' - 'You'll find somewhere. It'll be okay.' Drinking tea in the dining room. The long table - how many does it sit? The house around us - so vast.

'Do you think either of us will have a place like this?' - 'No way.' Not a chance, not for us. I look around - room for everyone. Everyone can come here, the whole family. The whole family, round the table. Everyone but us, round the table.

Hibernating

We're out for a drink, a rare drink. I haven't seen you since - when? I won't see you again until - when? Out for a drink, then. Out in the bar for a drink. - 'What have you been doing?' - 'Oh - you know. Smoking. Staying in. Not doing much. Just staying in. Smoking. I'm a bit tired of everything, really.' - 'What are you going to do?' - 'I don't know. Might go back to college -'.

Out for a drink. Afternoon, five o'clock, still light. Haven't seen you for ages. 'How are you?' -  'I've been feeling so tired lately. I don't know what it is. I think I'm ill.' - 'You look thin.' - 'I'm not eating - I'm off my food. Off everything, really. Maybe it's the time of year. February, you know. So depressing.'

A drink, late afternoon to early evening. February, the last time I saw you, the first time I'd seen you for a long time, your torn jumper, your cigarettes. 'Any plans?' - 'I don't know - I can't get it together. I'm so tired. And bored - you know. Just smoking, really. Every night. Too much, really -'.

Out for a drink. Old friend, haven't seen her for a long time. Still pretty. 'How are you?' - 'Okay, okay - not been up to much. Haven't been out for ages. Holed up for the winter. Hibernating.'

In the bar. 'How are you?' - 'Just bored really. Not doing anything. Smoking - that's about all.'

The bar, February afternoon. 'What are you doing?' - 'Nothing really. Might get an allotment.' - 'Aren't you going back to college, then?' - 'No, don't fancy it. Sick of studying. But tired of everything really -. I want some time out.'

'How's it going?' - 'Alright, you know how it is. I hate winter. I'm hibernating.'

Staying In

Ill, and the city is spreading all around us, in all directions. Ill, and the city is bigger than us and how will we ever escape it? Ill from the city. Illness - from the city, and by way of the city. You'll never leave, said the city, and you won't even stand upright. You'll never get up, said the city, you'll never be vertical again. Lie down - accede. Lie down, give up, I've won and you are mine. Lie down - you're mine.

Are we ill from the city? Are we sick from the city, and the extent of the city? It's everywhere, and who are we, lost in the afternoon, getting off the bus into the day. The city - everywhere - and who are we who go to and fro beneath the day? Give up - get sheltered housing. Give up, find a flat you'll never have to leave. 'Doctor, I'm ill, I can't get up ...'

I'm going inside, you said, I'm never coming out. In - and never out, you'll have to come to me, the world will have to come to me, I'm staying in. I'm inside and the world is everything outside, the light across the windows, the traffic jam on the street. Inside - that's where I am, I've given up, you know where to find me.

Ill

The specialist's office was in the basement. I was sent to her because of my symptoms. 'We have an in-house specialist', said the G.P. Very well; I'd see her - I was happy to see her. I'd been feeling tired for months, and worse than tired. Anything - I'd do anything. Down to the basement, where there is a multiple choice to fill in. When do I feel most tired? Do I feel pain? Do I ache anywhere? 'Everywhere', I wrote, across the boxes. I ached everywhere - I was tired. No pain, unless pain was that diffuse throbbing which filled my whole body.

Then, later, the diagnosis: there's no question about it. I have it myself, you know. So the specialist. She had it too! We both had it, the pair of us! And my sister has it, she told me. She stays in bed. Someone else is looking after her children. The specialist tells me how to handle my symptoms. Take it easy, she says. Plan everything when you have strength so that when you feel weak you are not overwhelmed with worries. Arrange your life so there's no panic. Very well; why not.

It's common to highly successful people, she tells me. I laugh. 'I'm hardly successful'. Highly motivated, intelligent people, then. 'I'm hardly intelligent', I said, 'and motivated? I don't think I'm that'. Wasn't that the problem? Wasn't it the lack of motivation that was the illness? Wasn't it the draining away of motivation, of all forward movement, a life that had lost its grip on the future. Is it really an illness?, I asked her. It was an illness, she said, and I saw that for her it had to be an illness. We were both ill, physician and patient. Both of us - ill.

She lent me a book. 'Read this'. It was full of practical advice and cartoons. The list of symptoms was endless. All this was one illness? Then it was everything and nothing, this illness. It was like hysteria or neurosis - a name for everything. Home on the bus. I can't stand the bus. I get off and sit on the wall, alcoholics around me. Are they ill? Is it the same illness? Then, I walk along the narrow pavements. They're all ill, I thought, looking around me. Everyone's ill, I thought, I know their secret.

Do they know of it - their illness? Probably not, I thought. They haven't been diagnosed, I thought, and laughed. They haven't been diagnosed by a fellow sufferer, I thought. It takes one to know one, I thought. But I'll diagnose them, I thought. I will diagnose them all. I'll put notes through their letterboxes: you're ill! - and crosses on their doors. We're all ill! We're all tired! Time's passing us by, it's over! There's no forward movement! Nothing's going to happen! Nothing's ever going to happen, not now and not ever and we're all ill!

Inside

You were in sheltered accommodation, you said. A woman brought your meals a couple of times a week. 'I don't go out much. I can't go out'. We drank tea in your flat that evening at rush hour - the cars were jammed outside. 'I'm too clever, my doctor says'. Too clever - but for what? Who was she, cleverer than us, who had to be kept away from us? She kept herself away. 'I don't go out much. I can't'.

Outside - you were frightened of the night and frightened of the day. Food was brought to you, money came to you. Your flat was dark. When we spoke, it was in darkness. I had promised to call on you. A mutual friend had said I should phone and call in on you. 'You'll get on. She's interesting. Besides, she doesn't see anyone. She could do with company'. In the evenings she smoked pot. Where did she get it? 'A friend sends it to me'. The flat stank of it. 'I need it. It keeps me calm'.

What did we talk about? Of your former life and your present life. Of your intelligence. You were very bright, you were convinced. 'I read a lot', you said, so I brought you books. We'd talk about them. 'One day, when I get better ...' you would begin. What then? What would you do, you who'd come back to this city after a breakdown, who'd put on so much weight and now never left your house? What would you do, with your panic attacks and exhaustion. 'I ache - all the time'.

You saw the same illness in me, you said. I went for tests. 'They don't know what it is', I said, 'but I do feel tired'. You told me of your doctor. 'Go and see her. She's really nice'. I saw her, a large benevolent woman in a shared practice a bus ride away. She asked me some questions, I knew what to answer. Would I, too, get a flat in sheltered accommodation and a woman to bring my meals? Was that what I wanted - to disappear for a few years, to live inside for a few years? I was sent to a specialist. The diagnosis was confirmed. I was to attend counselling sessions.

'I thought so', you said, 'I thought there was something wrong'. I remembered The Magic Mountain. 'I don't think I'm ill', I said, 'just tired'. You thought I was ill. 'Don't fight it'. I looked around me, the flat was dark, outside, the rush hour traffic. It's true - I was frightened of it, the outside; I wanted to stay inside, in a flat of my own, in the darkness. 'I'm not ill', I said, and that was the last time I visited.

Not ill - but what was it I feared? Why not admit to it, and fall into the arms of illness. Why not claim the sick instead of the dole for a few years? I had the diagnosis, a sympathetic G.P. ... I could sign off the rest of my life and live inside. I was tired, my limbs ached. I was afraid of everyone I passed. I got off the bus, panicked. Was it contagious, your illness? Had it contaminated the books you gave back to me?

Several times, your voice on the answering machine. You were hurt and drowsily high, as you were in the evenings. Your voice - temptation. I left the room when I heard it. I left it and went outside, to prove that I could. Outside! Terraced houses in both directions. I was frightened and thought of others, too, who were frightened, who'd given up on sleep and on waking up. Thousand of them. Thousands of us, all over the city, stranded and sheltered.

The Idiot

I am not a spokesman for anyone else, God knows, I would like just to be a spokesman for myself! To be that, just that: a spokesman for myself, that would already be enough. What did you expect when you asked me those questions? What did you want from me, with your questions? Did you think I could answer you? Did you think I could summon myself to the edge of myself and answer you? But I cannot speak for myself, that's what I wanted to say. I cannot even speak for myself.

My tongue is too thick, it is too big for my mouth. And there's my stammer, remember that. I can barely squeeze a word from mouth, and when I speak - whose word is it? When it is spoken, when words are spoken from my mouth, whose are they? For they are not mine. I cannot speak, I know that - and what I say is not speaking. I will not say a word. No words - not one, not two. I am not the spokesman of myself. I speak for no one, and not even myself.

You'd like to ask me questions, I know that. There are questions to extract from me, I know that, too. It's your job, it's nothing personal. You bear me no particular grudge. It's not between you and I, two people, I know that. Is that why you're so friendly? Is that why it's all first names and shaking hands? Nothing personal - but still, the questions. Nothing personal, but there are questions to ask, and we might as well get it over with.

I am to be assessed. For how long have I been sick? I can't remember. For how long have I been claiming them, the benefits? That, too, I can't remember. If you force me, I will speak. I will say something, but in so doing, I've said nothing, and that's what you have to understand. I cannot speak - understand that. I cannot say a word - can you understand that? Or when I speak, those words are not mine. There is speech, but look at my eyes - look at them, imploring. Eyes which say, ignore what is being said by that, the mouth. Which say: no one can speak for me, not even myself.

I am not my own spokesman, and I will not be my advocate. I am not in my own corner as counsel or advisor. Am I a member of my own prosecution? Not even that. Nor even a case for or against. Because I cannot speak - I cannot say a word for or against. Do you understand that, you who would ask questions of me? Do you understand, interrogator? I know I'm taking too much of your time. I know you have more of us to see, other clients - that's what they call us now. I know you'll be gauged according to your success for getting us back to work. No promotions for you, otherwise. And perhaps you'll not be able to keep your job. Perhaps, one day, you'll be in the position I occupy, I who cannot speak in my own name.

Deal with me then. Fill out the form. I will give you answers, any answers, but understand they are not my answers. Understand - I do not speak for myself. Everyone speaks, they are always speaking, there is speech everywhere, but I am the one who speaks without speaking. Unless everyone is like me, unless there are no speakers, and none of speak. Unless I am the only one who sees it; I am the one to whom it falls to experience it. I have no words. I speak - but they are not mine, those words. And I have no name, I who have fallen beneath all names.

My body says no. My body refuses. My body's is the dark word of negation. And what does your body say? In what words does it speak? Does it struggle with you? Does it struggle against you and leap up against you so you know every word you speak is a lie? Does it ever turn upon you and say: 'I will not', except without those words, without the 'I - will - not'?

How old am I? I have no age. Where am I? I am everywhere; my body is joined to the body of the world. Why do they want us to speak? Why is speech demanded of us? Why must accounts be rendered and these great structures impose themselves between us? I want to say to my questioner, you have a body like mine. I want to say, our bodies are joined, do you understand that? I will say, there are no words, and these are not words, only words that undo words. Only anti-words, which uncurl themselves in the ones in your sentences. Only the weight of words, their idiom, as every sentence falls in upon its own heaviness and draws the world into it.

No words, and no silence - not even that. No words, and not even the consolation of silence. Who am I, who speaks? The same no one who is writing now. The no one who, through the mercy of strength, is able for a few moments to write of what he cannot do. Who, strong for a moment, writes words that would undo themselves as they are written. Double negation: this post would be the white snow. This post would be a twig or a wall, obdurate and thing-like, contracting upon itself and taking with it the world, the whole of the world.

They're going to dock our money, £10 for the first interview we miss and £20 for the second. We'll be interviewed, each one of us, up against the wall. But why don't they know - I can barely speak of myself? Why isn't it clear to them: I am not even my own spokesman? Idiot - that's the word. Barbarian - that's the word.

But there are more like me, you should know that. There are others, too, like me - know that. Each of us bears all of the others, know that. Eliminate one and the others will come. Pass us through training, process us and send us back to the world, there are always others to be trained and processed. But that doesn't bother you, does it? Questioner, interrogator, you know you are not a member of the S.S., but part of a vast, benevolent army. There is love in your eyes; you're thinking of me - you're sympathetic. And in my eyes, that give onto nothing in particular? What do you know by them - my eyes?

He needs a job, you tell yourself. He needs to get off the sick, and that first of all. He needs confidence, you say to yourself. He needs to return to the world. But what do you know of my needs? What do you know of the size and the shape of my desire? For it is without contour, my desire, and without shape. We are stretched from horizon to horizon, each of us. Our bodies are taut, and stretched across the horizon. We are each the size of the world. That's what I want to say, though I can say nothing. That's what I'd like to say, if I could speak in my name.

Beneath Time

The Blind Sky

Simone Weil: God's great crime against us is to have created us; it is the fact of our existence. And our existence is our great crime against him.

Unemployment's great crime against us is to have made us; it is the fact of our existence. And our existence is our great crime against unemployment. Unemployed, we are beneath time, subjected to it. That is why routine is so important. Wake up at a set hour, never later than ten, if you wake at ten-thirty, disaster, but before ten and you are okay, better still if you wake before nine. But before ten is sufficient, there is the whole day ahead of you, but at ten you are not yet beneath time, you do not fear time, you take a stand at the head of the day. Before ten, and you have a chance to get something done, the day still holds promise, outside, faraway, the world is working, a great deal is happening, but for you, nothing has begun, you are square in the time before the beginning, ready for the day.

After ten, and around ten-thirty, you've lost the day, it's already too far ahead of you. How can you catch up? The day will have to be endured rather than lived. You will get no purchase on the day; time does not offer you a foothold. You will suffer from time and you will not cease suffering from it. But before ten, you still have a chance, there's still promise, the morning leads up to lunchtime, and lunchtime finishes with Neighbours, and then's the afternoon, always too long, but in the evening, the workers come home, it's time for the news. True, there is the afternoon, but if you get up early, the afternoon can be dealt with, there's always a way of bracing yourself against it, always an activity you can invent for yourself.

Unemployed, I would cycle to town to do nothing but wander. Unemployed, town was the place where wandering was possible, where attention was absorbed sufficiently that you did not suffer from time, where there was enough variety, enough events to occupy you. True, they came from without, those events, they happened to you, you were not their origin, but at least something happened, which it does not in the suburbs. Town is for events; passing through town, inventing errands for yourself, you experienced the forward movement of time, time passing.

But eventually, before rush hour, you would have to go home. Eventually, it is time to cycle home and there is the risk of that terrible passivity which brings time towards you. Eventually, you find yourself not above but beneath time, in the eternity of the everyday, in the eternity beneath time as beneath the blank, white sky. You had no chance! Time was waiting for you, it knew you, the whole sky was its eye, looking for you.

But this all-seeing, all-knowing eye is a blind eye, its whiteness whiteness of the sky is the whiteness of blindness. It sees without seeing - it sees and you are seen by no one; no one sees you, no one is watching out for you, it is not even that you are alone, you are not even that, for what is witnessed is your disarray.

Now there is no boundary between you and the everyday. Seen is your dispersal, as though you had fallen like snow across the whole of the Thames Valley. The sky sees the whole Thames Valley and sees you spread across the Thames Valley, the whole Thames Valley that you are, the spreading-across that is all you are. Just as Prufrock was spread across the sky, so you are spread across the Thames Valley and the sky is spread above you. As you are spread across, so is the sky spread above you. And you look up to where you are seen, and the sky sees you, even as there is nothing to looks and no one to see. Even though what is seen is only your nothingness, your scattering. So does nothing see into nothing. So does unemployment see itself and see too much.

Who am I? Who was I? The one witnessed by unemployment, the one in whom unemployment saw itself. I was not made by unemployment in its image, but unmade in its image. I was undone in its image, the image of unemployment. Who was I? The one undone by unemployment in the image of its perpetual undoing. Who was I? Undone by unemployment, dispersed by unemployment, unemployment sought to know me as it knew itself. So did unemployment suffer from me as it saw itself in me. So did it suffer as it saw its truth. Unemployment tried to pass me, to void me from its body. I knew I was to be voided; unemployment suffered from my existence. It suffered as it knew its crime against me was to have created me; my existence was my great crime against unemployment.

Ten Thirty

It's ten thirty, I've woke up too late, I stayed up too late, and now I've woken too late. Ten thirty, this is a bad start, the world's already left me behind, time's left me behind. Ten thirty and I live in the wake of time, and there's no catching up. Should I rush? Should I go quickly downstairs and go out? Should I get the cycle out of the shed and ride into the day? But it is too late; I've missed my appointment with the day, I've missed my chance, the day and I are no longer on equal terms. The day knows this. The sky is white, but when I look up at the sky above the trees, I see that it is moving with great, imperturbable confidence. It has won, it knows it can only win, that eventually I slip and rise too late.

The day is a glistening surface without purchase. It is the smooth wall of a pyramid without surface. I cannot climb, I cannot ascend, there are no footholds. Should I read? Should I take down a book from the bookshelf and begin to read? But I will not be able to read a line. The sky is already in the page, waiting for me. The sky is already looking up at me from the page, I am seen, I am scorned, I am laughed at. The imperturbable day is already there in the white page.

What chance do I have? Always the effort to rise earlier than the day, to wake early enough to discover its ruses and its secrets. Always the dream to catch out the day, to observe the celestial takeover, to see night as it changes into the day (the day did not come first!). That's why I used to stay up, past three, past four, to the dawn. I used to stay up until dawn and then sleep after dawn. Until I discovered that to rise late was to have no chance, that to rise at twelve, at twelve thirty, was to destroy all hope of resisting the day, that the day would win and could only win.

The Great Destroyer

Neighbours is the hinge of the day, its articulation. Neighbours, from 1.30 to 1.50 is the true noon; noon lies at its centre. To watch Neighbours is to know the morning has become the afternoon. Neighbours is the turning point, it is fate. The afternoon has come; it opens after Neighbours. True, there are other programmes to watch after Neighbours. But who wants to watch Columbo in the afternoon? It's too old a programme, it comes from the past, and you should never watch old programmes in the day. It comes from the 70s, and you should only watch contemporary programmes in the day. It takes enough effort to remain contemporary without watching programmes from the past.

Neighbours is contemporary, and so is This Morning. Watch and you are up to date, you are up on current affairs, on the lives of the celebrities, on actors and actress doing the rounds, on authors doing the rounds, on pop stars and film stars doingthe rounds. With Neighbours, something is always happening, there's always a cliffhanger. Always suspense, always events which lead to suspense, to the brink of the next programme. The new episode of Neighbours begins with the last moments of the previous episode; it orientates you. Aha, you say, that's what happened. You never think of Neighbours when you are not watching Neighbours, but when it returns, when another episode begins, you are orientated, prepared, you remember what happened in the previous episode and in the last run of episodes.

Neighbours remembers itself in you. At the turning point of the day Neighbours sets itself back into your memory. Neighbours happens; Neighbours unfurls out of itself. Neighbours emanates from itself, and it is only emanation. Perpetual event, perpetual unfolding, Neighbours is always hungry for new events, for new sensation; it is unstable; it is instability itself; happiness must be destroyed, the 'solid' family at its heart must be torn apart. Time is merciless in Neighbours. Time, the thirst for events, is the great destroyer. But what is it that destroys? The same everyday that destroys me; the same non-event that seeks to hide itself in events; the turning over of the great non-event of the everyday.

It is the everyday that is the navel of Neighbours, its centreless centre. The need for the events in Neighbours is the need for the everyday to give form to itself. It is the everyday that holds itself as a kind of reserve in Neighbours, which holds itself behind every event that comes forward. But the everyday cannot happen; it calls for events, but cannot occur. The everyday is non-event, it is unemployment which seeks only itself as non-event. All the events of Neighbours turn around this same non-event, the event which cannot come to completion, the happening which cannot round itself off, but always returns to happen again.

The everyday is the navel of Neighbours; Neighbours is the navel of the everyday.

Rats

I promised myself to write on the way reading opened a path out of the hi tech industrial estate where I used to work. A path - no, that's not the word. All paths that led out of Winnersh Triangle lead back there; there were only an infinite series of Winnersh Triangles all over the world, one after another, each more or less alike, each staffed by black and yellow and white employees, each traversed by great company cars that I have never been able to drive.

Yes, a great network of industrial estates and then, on the fringes, the great plains of misery where wandered the starving and disenfranchised, the unnetworked and disconnected. In truth, the plain was everywhere and the industrial estates, as well as the gated communities to which they were linked (and to the towns like Wokingham which were, in their entirety, gated communities) were spread only at intervals across it. How often, falling from a temporary job would I find myself back on the plain, not starving or thirsty, it is true, but at one with the hungry and the starving, in a great solidarity not of workers but of non-workers.

The unemployed! The sick! Those sent mad by work (and I will use that simple, undifferentiated word mad)! If you could not link hands with the others, if you were as yet unnetworked, depending on the slow, too-slow computers at your local library, and wandering through streets from which everyone you once knew had moved, if you were carried on the vague breezes that pass across the everyday it was not because you were the only unemployed person, the only wretchedly dependent one relying on everyone but himself. But where are the others and how might you recognise them? There are only the elderly and young mothers with toddlers or with prams. There's no one your age, not here. Everyone has been assimilated except you. The light falls in steady benediction on everyone but you.

Now the plain opens at your feet. Every step you take opens a suture in the everyday. You are that scar, you the wretched one who does not work. The mothers with their prams hate you. The elderly, who've worked their whole lives, resent you. What are you doing on the streets, young and fit? What in you is broken? What's wrong with you? The office workers pass around you at lunchtime. They have an hour to look for rolls or for toiletries. They move quickly, purposefully, thinking of their upcoming meetings or of networking opportunities. Some, you imagine, would like to work creatively. They would like to take a risk. They feel dissatisfied.

And what about you - what would you like to do? What? There must be some way, you think, of draining money from those around you. How can you tap the rich for their money? But when you talk to these young workers, they are pleasant, polite, there's nothing to loathe. They talk of career pressure and taking time out; they'd like sabbaticals; they envy you with your free time and open afternoons. When you visit them, you find they have the same books as you: there's Lacan, there's Woolf, there's Said, there's Spivak.

These are humanities graduates, still shocked by the world, still reeling from the fall from university to the working world. How is it possible, they ask themselves? Then they stop asking and the corridor encloses them that they rush along with the other graduates. You imagine, rats, amiable rats, running everywhere, on top of one another, beneath one another. How busy everyone is! If it's not work, it's 'home admin' and if it's not that, it's the attempt to find a partner. Where is he? Where is she? Another rat, perhaps? Another rat who might turn her rat face to yours?

But you are not a rat. You're not even a rat. Who are you? What are you? Scarcely assembled, scarcely held together, you haven't a chance to become a rat. And the rats, looking for partners, will not look at you. Who are you, after all? You are unnetworked, unconnected. You are not one for whom the computer is that great portal through which you reach others in the world.

I want to be a rat, you say to yourself. But then you say: I despise all rats. In the library, you read books about apocalypse. The end is coming, you say to yourself. The end for all rats. But an image comes to you of a swarm of rats running across a blackened planet. Nothing will stop them, you think to yourself. Not even the apocalypse.

Black, hot skies and still the rats are running, crawling on top of one another. Winnersh Triangle has spread everywhere. Cars used to run on petrol, but now they run on hydrogen. Airships and not aeroplanes fill the black sky. The economy collapsed in 2014 but now it's up and running again. It's 2020, 2120, 2220 ...

One day, I know it, the rats will transform their bodies into airborne locusts. They'll live in the black clouds of the ravaged earth. The rest of us will be long dead. But the locusts will live from what little sunlight passes through the thick clouds. Then, further on, the great exodus: the locusts spread to interplanetary space. Then, even further into the future, they will spread themselves as dust between stars, buying and selling, exchanging light, still dreaming of what they might create, of their sabbaticals, of early retirement ...

Then, with the heat death of the universe, they will upload themselves into another dimension and, discovering another universe, a host of universes, will disperse themselves across everything that exists and could possibly exist writing themselves into genetic code and into the heart of every atom. They'll make sure that you, the aberration you are, never could have existed. They'll find a way back through time and eradicate the possibility of your birth. You'll have never existed and there never would have been an open afternoon or an open sky. Passing the wrong way through the office workers you think: and that is how it should be!

What is painful, infinitely is painful, is that capital will not admit you as one who would willingly be sacrificed. There is no place to offer yourself to the altar of capitalism. You want to say: I will give you all I am, all my life. You want to say: I want the knot of me untied. Or, better still, simply to disperse into the air. To disappear, every particle of you, into the air which drifts above the industrial estate. Then, seeing you, the sleek workers would see nothing and you wouldn't trouble them by your presence. Yes, their sight would pass right through you as they look up through the sky to the empty interstellar spaces they will one day inhabit.

Meanwhile, in the present, on this day as on any other, you stay in to read the books you borrowed from the library. You lie on your belly in your room and read. Dust motes float in a shaft of light. The cat lies on the patch of carpet touched by that light. The air is warm and stagnant and the pine trees behind the houses across the road stretch into the sky. A way out of the Winnersh Triangle? There is no way out that does not lead back here. History has ended, or it never began.

Day Million

Some days you can work, some not. Today is a day without work; I am at my desk, ready, but nothing comes. I ask myself: who is the ‘subject’ of this inability to work? Who is the one who waits to write? It is as though the day itself, the blank grey sky, had somehow turned itself inside out, rediscovering itself in my inability to write.

I would like to commemorate this unpropitious day which did not burst into flame, in which nothing in particular was possible, this millionth dead day of empty time-space that laughs gently at the idea of work. ‘It’s too late’, said the day, ‘nothing will happen’. - ‘But I’ve been here ready since the morning’. ‘But you’ve forgotten, haven’t you, what it was you were to work on?’ – ‘I’ve forgotten everything’.

My desk is crowded: Duras’s Practicalities, from which I’ve transcribed the line, ‘A man who drinks is interplanetary. He moves through interstellar space. It’s from there he looks down’, Bernhard’s Correction (I’m up to p. 200), a pile of CDs (The Low boxset, orchestral works by Strauss), chapters from W.’s book and from mine.

January 15th 2005: I wonder how I will remember this time? I know that today and all the days like it – so many – will be what I forget when I remember, even as such days make up the substance of my life. My secret history: life lived in the infinitive, a ‘to live’ without subject. What has happened today? Is it possible to write of an event that does not occur – that, as it were, reverberates through everything even as it leaves it intact?

When I come to myself I think: this is what the executives do not know – not those for whom time is scarce and a day will never stretch forever. Not the ones for whom all time is accounted for. Then I think: I belong to old Europe, to what crumbles like the buildings in one of Max Ernst’s paintings. Whatever happening, I think to myself, is not happening here. Nothing is happening, I think, and then, pretentiously: but that is a sign of the event. I’ve caught it out and here it is, happening without happening.

Nothing happens. To say this 'nothing is happening' is corrosive, that it is meaninglessness, even absurd is not to assimilate it to nihilism. It is nothing, diffuse nothing which has as though spread everywhere. What does it reveal? Now I think of a scene from a film I show sixth formers when they visit the university: a bag swirls up into the air. The voiceover: it was as if I saw God and he looked right back at me. And I think: only what I see is the blind gaze of the day, and the gaze with which I meet it has as though congealed somewhere in between the office and the sky.

Scum

Tonight George W. Bush will regain his presidency. At first I thought to write of something else, something completely different. But what I wrote in my stupid way became a lament for hope, for the end of hope.

My boss speaks of the chasm between the ‘generation of hope’ to which he says he belongs, and the ‘generation of shit’ to which he says I belong (and he means this not unkindly – he knows from what I have said what the absence of political hope must mean). Another friend, a man who died too young, used to tell me of the monks who taught him, of their brilliance and their inspiring example. I said: didn’t they try and grope you? weren’t they sadistic? remembering of my own encounters with mediocre, bullying teachers, with figures of authority from one could expect nothing but massive stupidity. This was unthinkable for him: they were his teachers, his guides, they demanded a great deal, but they gave a great deal to their pupils.

He told me stories of his enchanted childhood, of the full student grant, sufficient in those days to eat out every night, to develop a taste for fine wine and port, to assemble collections of the complete works of this or that author, to buy a gramophone and records, to entertain. He remembered the 60s when he grew his hair long and wore rings on each of his fingers. He spoke of seminars which lasted all afternoon and then all evening; he would take his students home and talk with them into the night and then, next morning, would take back to university. The 60s: you can't imagine it, everything was possible, he said. It got silly, he said. He spoke of houses of friends where everyone would have sex according to a strict rota. You can’t imagine it, he said.

As he spoke, I thought to myself: you are secure in a town you never had to leave. You rose to prominence here, restauranters greet you with delight when you walked through their doors, taxi drivers vie for your custom, streams of visitors come to your door. You live on the outskirts of the city in what you call the earthly paradise. You are a man of hope, hope was always there for you. You always had a future because you had a past, a chance to begin.

And compared to you? We are the generation of shit; we are pallid, transparent; you can see through us. You can see our guts and our heart; we barely exist. Our past? Nothing happened. Our present? We are dispersed across the world. Our future? We will be dispersed across the sky. We are the ones without substance, one of the transparent creatures through whom shines the light of the long afternoon of the 1980s and 90s – those terrible decades in which political hope evaporated.

You remember (but it didn't touch you): new housing estates spread everywhere. House prices rose; every home became a fortress closed against the world and the suburbs a wall closed against the poor (and you were never poor). Jobs were casualised; temporary workers serviced the great corporate machines. Incomes rose for a few; for the rest, they withered. The utilities were sold off. Workers closed their eyes in the workplace and opened them when they got home. A thin film formed over our eyes and our ears. You know this, but you were protected from it; it never touched you.

The 80s, the 90s, and now the 00s. You survived, entertaining everyone in your great house. You were alive, still alive, hope was alive in you. You could retire; you lived on the sidelines. And for the rest of us? We'll spend a life on the dole and on the sick. We'll live on the sick till the end of our lives. A life to lie sick from the new ennui, the great consensus, the crushing awareness that nothing is possible, that there is no foothold from which we could begin. Sick and alone, each of us, fallen to nothing. With only a dim hatred for those who had risen above us like scum. For the scum that had floated to the top and seethes there.

In my boss, in you, the world says: you came too late, you missed the party, now the final adjustment has been made and we'll march in lockstep to the end. It says: you haven't a chance. You are braced against the future because of you past. But this means, too, you cannot understand what will happen. You said you had never experienced boredom; I thought: you will understand nothing. You had the past, the richness of the past. Was that why I was drawn into the orbit of your house? Why, in the end I had to admit that all I wanted was security, continuity: a corner in which to curl up, a room with a table and a chair, some hours in which to read and write.

You gave me a room; I was grateful. I was indebted, but you never reminded me of my debts. We disagreed on everything, but we spoke for hours every day. And every night I ate with others at your table; I was in from the cold. You said grace and I closed my eyes. You took in those I thought were beyond hope; I warned you against them; you were right. The house was full, day and night.

In your attic room, I read, I wrote; it was dark, always dark; in a pool of light, I finished my dissertation; I began my first articles; I received my first rejection letters. Eventually, I left; I took a job, I moved further north; I went to another city and you, who phoned no one, who despised the phone, rang only once. And then you died, not long ago. You died a few days after I had tried, for the last time, to phone you.

Tonight, Kerry admitted defeat; George W. Bush has retaken the presidency. Tonight, I remembered the days we stuck Socialist Alliance stickers on the door and the window. That was 2001. When I left in 2002, the stickers were still there. And when I visited in 2003, they were there still. You hated Bush; you hated Blair. You spoke of other leaders, of different times. You spoke of the past, which gave you strength to endure the future. I thought: but they are politicians like the others, all the scum who have ruled us. You spoke from your hope; I answered from a resignation beneath resignation. I said: they are scum.

Gracchus

Roquentin, from Nausea:

I am bored, that's all. From time to time I yawn so widely that tears roll down my cheek. It is a profound boredom, profound, the profound heart of existence, the very matter I am made of.

It’s true, I miss boredom, I’m no longer bored, I have too much to do, there’s always work and never the expanse between, that fog which billows up from the middle and obscures everything. Boredom: recall many years ago the madness of reading this and that preparing for an interview in the daytime. Sunlight through the window. Dust motes. It is the afternoon, the most frightening time, the time of dispersal. Pine trees over the houses opposite. The blue sky, too vast. Options: cycle to town. Catch the train from town to another town. Or stay here and drown in the afternoon. You are reading Kierkegaard; you take extensive notes.

Meanwhile, there is the day. You are – how old – twenty-three, twenty-four, already too old to endure the afternoon. You feel guilt: you’re not working. You’ve no money, and you’re not working. You know the great opportunity is close, that if you can get funding, everything will change. Everything depends on the interview. In the meantime, there is the day, the madness of the day. And there is a kind of boredom in which the day says to you: I am all there is. I am all there can be. That morning you had a dream. A cycle ride to Bracknell, only this is an unreal town, and nothing like Bracknell. You go to a library that is nothing like the library in Bracknell. Then you realise: this unreal town is the heart of all towns. It is every town and every suburb in the world. What does it matter where you are?

The dream fades and you wake up. Where were you? Where had you been. Days pass. You cycle to the woods. You know the lake is there ... a break in the trees ... promise of a vista. The lake. Stones to skim across the water. Somehow, you’ve been left behind. Boredom has caught you; you are enmeshed. As you imagine the weeds in the water would enmesh you.

The madness of the day: really you should disappear. Have the sense to disappear. Aberrant, out of time, you are up against the future, right up against it. Before, at the age of nineteen or twenty, there was all the time in the world – the future as the sky was then: distant, a blue screen upon which you could project many futures. But now: it is too close, unbearable close (that is what Bergman said once of the Mediterranean sky. I saw that sky once and had to agree).

The sky is too close and the future is right by you. The future says: what will you do? You have no words to reply. Because you understand the future’s question is the corrosion of your present. That it is coming apart, fraying. Like the celluloid that burns in Bergman’s Persona. What alibi do you have? What excuse can you give for your life? You have been pushed up against a white light. It is the day itself which interrogates you. The whole sky interrogates you. Only there is no answer to the day. The question turns. The question turns in the instant like a whirlwind. The question is boredom, a kind of acidic boredom which rots you from inside.

Yours is the condition of Gracchus, the man who could not die. The one who was dead-alive, alive in his death. You say to yourself: I am dead. Or: I have died. Or: everything is dead and only I am alive. Or: it is AD 51 and everything else that has happened is a lie.

The Infinite Wearing Away

Stagnant lives, bored, caught in the great non-event of the everyday, that place where no one speaks and no one listens. The everyday! Politicians are scared by it. That’s why they have focus groups and phone surveys. But you will never plumb the depths of the everyday, I say to myself. Because it has no depths. It is superficiality, nullity, the eternal nullity politics cannot penetrate.

The politician shaking hands with ordinary folks, the Prince who starts foundations for the unemployed and hopeless: it is a mockery. You will never understand, you busy politicians, how the everyday revolves like a great hurricane, slowly absorbing into itself all meaningful action. You are too busy to be engulfed, to understand that great ennui so beautifully captured by Shane Meadows in 247 which stops you from trying anymore. I won’t fill in that application form, or that claim for benefit. I won’t come in to sign on. And soon, I will never leave the house at all. I will stay in, now and forever.

It happened to a schoolfriend … we visited our friends to see what had become of them, they were inside, living with their parents, watching Eastenders. A life inside. There was nothing of them left. Did they recognise us, their old friends? We weren’t sure. It was disturbing. Something had devoured them from the inside, our old friends. It took years to understand that it was the everyday that had eroded them. That infinite wearing away.

Some, it is true, found jobs and lived together. They passed the time (there was always too much time) with the help of marijuana. It helped them endure the evenings and weekends. That and consumer durables – the video recorder and the television, and later, when they’d made some money, the DVD player and the widescreen TV.

All this in a town where there was work – plentiful work, and some of it well paid for what it was. But a town infested with the everyday, in which only the money-makers existed in their big houses. Whose sons and daughters, we knew, would exist as they did.

Imagine our delight when those sons and daughters tumbled to our level! When they had crashed through drug abuse or depression to the level of the everyday! When they were cast out of their homes because they were touched by madness! We loved that madness – we marvelled to hear when one rich individual or another had joined the travellers.

We, however, we protected from it. We were steeled to the everyday. We understood it at its own level. Yes, it was nullity itself, it was the great whirlwind which turned inside us. It was the madness of the day which lasted forever, of one day after another in weeks which were mini-eternities. Belle and Sebastian sing about it: ‘A Summer Wasting’. And there are the Smiths too, of course: ‘Still Ill’.

But we paced ourselves. We were like the characters in 247: there were slow pursuits to undertake, analogous to fishing, which were counterforces to the infinite wearing away. We knew nothing happened in the everyday; that there was no ‘subject’ to its experience. But we knew, too, that there were ways of passing the time without allowing ourselves to be spun in all directions, spun apart and scattered across the world.

Always, though, that dispersal. Friendships ended for no particular reason. One person moved away, then another. Until only you were left, reading the papers in the town library, cycling to Tescos in the afternoon for bargain sushi. True, you saw others like you, other ghosts. But they worried you: did you want to spend time with those who mirrored you own dissolution? Did you want to see what you might become? Because there are casualties of the everyday: the mad, the depressed. What is Prozac but a cure for the infinite wearing away? No: you had to be careful.

One solution was television, which was always at a safe distance from the everyday. You became a spectator, especially with daytime television. Watch Oprah or Trisha, The Wright Stuff or This Morning: these are programmes for those who want to brace themselves against the centripedal force of the great whirlwind.

For myself, television has always been a great bulwark against formless time. Especially News 24, when I had it: there on the screen the time was always displayed. One minute, another, and then a news update after fifteen minutes. Beautiful! Calibrated time!

Heidegger, by the way, is wrong to claim that everydayness is characterised by the time of now-points. He didn’t know unemployment, for then he would know that it is infinite time, the instant which doesn’t pass which is the temporality of the everyday. The nonsense of the distinction between authentic and inauthentic life!

The great achievement is not to seize one’s project as one’s own, but to live time in a series of now-points. To hold onto time. To escape the infinite wearing away which turns the instant into an eternity. For nothing happens in the everyday – no event completes itself, which means there are no events.

For Lefebvre, it is still possible to speak of the everyday as a utopia, as an idea. He still has faith in the people of the streets, of those who gather in the places between other places, who find common cause in the demonstration. Ah, but did he know the poison of television? Did he know the extent to which it would withdraw us from the streets? No one speaks and no one listens.

As I type, Saturday morning television plays in my flat. It is true, I have switched sides, I have a job, this is a miracle, and barely experience the great scattering and dispersal, the infinite wearing away. When the revolution erupts from the street, I saw to myself, put me up against the world. For I am on the enemy’s side.

Proof: I visited, a few years ago, some friends who never found a foothold in the world of work. Who was adrift. We went out, there was trouble at the nightclub, a hospital visit. I should have phoned, visited, but I never did. Much later, an accusatory phonecall: he had been beaten up, he said, he was still scarred, and where had I been? Why hadn’t I phoned? It was my idea to go to the club where the squaddies went! We spoke until I thought: I need to escape him. He said: I’ll come and visit; I thought: no way. So it was that I never again sought the open spaces of the everyday from which, I dream idly, pathetically, derisorily, the revolution will come.

Stagnant Lives

The everyday … between jobs, and sometimes with no hope of ever getting a job at all, unemployed, perhaps unemployable, or finding employment only in those marginal jobs with no security and which seem to accomplish very little at all (data entry, telemarketing …) I have felt the great force of what Lefebvre calls the everyday.

1992-4: the recession hits the South, where I used to live. No jobs, no temporary jobs, just aimless drift, signing on fortnightly, applying for this training scheme or that. Cycling from home to town, no one around, friends long since moved away, here I was back in the home town I left, knowing no one. An invisible existence. Fortunately there was the university library, a long cycle ride away …

1998-9: trying to write, to finish this or that in order to have any kind of ‘career’ such as they call it … journal rejections (any number of these. W. envies my record), book proposal rejections, nothing published, living in an attic room freezing in the winter and baking in the summer, listening to Smog and Low, the absolute correlates to the mood. Never depression or defeat, just steady melancholy and steady determination. I thought to myself: for all this, your life has a shape, you are struggling for something …

Then 2000-2001, the same, punctuated by a few hours teaching here and there … once I struck gold in teaching Libyans to speak English, it was bliss. Then I taught Russians, happiness itself, we would read Tsvetayeva (they would read her to me) and they would speak of Pushkin. Then the Spaniards – pure delight – I loved these Europeans. All the while the City Council in a mix up over benefits, meaning no money, vast delays, endless queues at the Town Hall.

Through all of this (not to mention years of study): the vast presence of the everyday. It is true, it is only experienceable when you have no specific hope for the future. When you find strange allies in the workplace, readers of Genet and Burroughs, ufologists and part-time artists, depressives and trouble-makers whose magnificent sarcasm would transform mundane office tasks. Pure laughter.

But I always thought to myself: we barely exist. No one notices us, disposable labour, appearing at one end of the warehouse for a week, two weeks, then disappearing and reappearing somewhere else. No one knew us, we hardly knew one another. None of us had any money, no means of transport, we lived in the suburbs where everywhere seemed infinitely far from anything else.

Stagnant days, stagnant lives which did not merge with the great current of life which we knew was flowing somewhere. For there was money, great amounts of money somewhere … great houses and expensive cars. The virile workers, the office managers, full time employees of incredible power. Certain in themselves.

Recall Levinas’s word: embourgeoisment. Is that what we wanted? We felt equivocal. On the one hand: power, money, transport … on the other: we knew it wasn’t for us. That we were dispersed, and would disperse further, barely appearing, near invisible, scattered across the vast plain of the everyday.

I knew that the suburban world I inhabited would spread everywhere and consume the world. There would be nothing else. One day: there would be the workers, the powerful drivers of company cars whom we would scrutinise for depression and suicide attempts (bliss to hear of a nervous breakdown, of a depressive collapse: it fascinated us, for what did they, the full-time workers have to be miserable about: perhaps their lives were not as graced as they seemed) and then the others, casual workers, workers whose work counted for nothing.

On the one side, the great current of life, on the other stagnant waters, an inexhaustible supply of half-labour … There were government initatives, it is true, to get us back to work, or at least into employment, what no one understands is the amount of people on sickness benefit, who have exited before they began, young and old, capable and incapable. That’s where they go (it tempted me once): a life of sickness …

But now I have been allowed to switch sides which means I have no right to speak of the everyday. I barely experience boredom, my old friend, that mood which allows the everyday to become manifest. Nor frustration – the difficulty, say, of affording to travel to an interview, the labour of applying for this or that job.

Embourgoisment: I am one of them, a worker whose work contributes to the whole. In short, an enemy.

Once, between you and I, I delighted in wrecking what I thought as a bourgeois household: champagne socialists, a big house in the UK, a holiday home in the Canary Islands, I was happiest when I had caused absolute misery and watched, fascinated, as the husband had something like a nervous breakdown. All because of me: or so I thought. In the end, this is probably sheer illusion, self-flattery.

I wanted power – wanted to achieve something which refused to disappear from the world. I achieved it, or so I thought. A breakdown (his). Real misery (his - and he was a successful man). I was exultant. This was a long time ago, and unthinkable now: I would never do it. But it will be done to me, and rightly so. For nothing is more disgusting that embourgoisment, or at least so I tell myself today, miserable hypocrite that I have become ...

Who?

Loss. Think of a melancholy so profound you forget your name. Who am I?, you ask. ‘Who?’, the answer comes: your question returned. In your place, echoing, the empty space of the question: ‘Who?’, ‘Who?’, ‘Who?’ … the question mocks itself and laughs at the one who asks it.

The Blazing World

The melancholic looks at everything with 100 year old eyes. I have seen it before, he says to himself, it is all the same. But the melancholic is drawn to the same because he wants to confirm in himself the dread that always prevented him from seeing the world as anything other than the correlate of his dread. The ultimate horror of the melancholic would be a world in which there is nothing to justify his melancholy. Fortunately this is not the case and never can be because this is the melancholic's chance and his joy, since it is the state of the world which prevents his dread from devouring everything.

It is accurate to write of the black sun of depression, but it is a sun which reveals itself piecemeal, and not all at once. This is because melacholia is a form of attention and it is always possible to pick out something in the world to identify as a cause of that same melancholy. And even if one knows that to so choose risks falling under the category of Nietzsche's 'imaginary causes' (a cause we invent for our own sake), it is still worthwhile, still righteous insofar as it is linked to the world's plight, to the madness of the world. In these days, I have dreamt of an army of solitaries linked by their madness to the world's madness, of the ones in whose blazing death might be discovered not the black sun of melancholia but a blazing world within this one, a utopia that can only be hatched from fire. Ah, but this is a melancholic's dream.

Time without Project

Horror of unemployment: the day is too long, too vast; there will be another day, as long and as vast and on forever. Not having nothing to do, but the feeling that whatever you did could not fill the vastness which beats against you as if asking the question (is it a question?) who are you? No - not a question, but a kind of interrogation: again and again you are made to account for yourself even as you are reminded that in the vast expanse of days you are nothing. No wonder I always try and carve time up into specific projects and tasks, to forestall the moment when I am up against nothing in particular, undetermined time. I fear it ... this is why I fear drifting, reading, writing, wandering. Yesterday, my office wasn't open. I couldn't escape my flat. I felt the same old horror ... I thought books could distract me, but reading Bergman, Tarkovsky, Bresson, Blanchot only exacerbated the problem. Then I remembered what someone wrote about Mahler: he was a neurotic, the great existential questions that resound in his work are those of a neurotic. But then I also remembered the pages on anxiety from Heidegger, which disclose the other side of neurosis. But Heidegger provides no solution, because it was not death I dreaded, but time without project.