When I was about five or six years old, and my dad was away in Hong Kong at the time, my mum had a tough time looking after me. I say this on hindsight, of course, because children at that age tend to feel entitled to their care. My mum had her job, she had me and she had a household to look after. She had to attend courses on weekends. She was also looking for alternative job vacancies for my dad at home so he could come back. She used to type out his letters of application on the typewriter. I remember waking up from afternoon naps to the sound of semi-predictable, semi-constant repetitive clicking keys of the typewriter, and enjoying it the same way I still enjoy the murmur of a bus engine or the roar of the subway.
One day, I did something that now seems trivial compared to all the other shit I got up to but at the time set my mum off for some reason. I’m sure it’s more the result of an accumulation of factors and not just that one thing I did, which was to write ’7′ the wrong way around like I was dyslexic. Or maybe I’m just trying to assure myself that I wasn’t the trigger. She sat ominously silent as she stared at my wrongly written ’7′, then went off. She stood behind the kitchen counter, which was visible from where I was sitting, and popped a handful of pills.
I knew what was about to happen next. This had happened before. It triggered an automatic sequence of behaviour in me the same way I (sort of) know how to respond to a fire alarm. I pushed my chair back and ran after her as she briskly walked to the bedroom. I was tearing before I actually started feeling fearful of losing my mum. Like I said, I was on autopilot. I cried and begged for her not to lock the door just as she locked the door. I knocked incessantly on the door and continued to beg, knowing it was too late. I should have triggered my autopilot earlier. I should have been in the room before she locked the door. I should have put my hand at the door frame so she couldn’t close it. I was too slow. Even as I was crying and begging at the door, I was reviewing my system of emergency response in the part of my head that’s cold, calculated and aggressively logical.
There’s an euphoric aspect to crying as well. I reached a heightened awareness of my surroundings, a heightened sense that no one is here for me. My mother has turned the world away from the privacy of her room. My father is in a different place, unaware of this (and is still unaware today). The rest of the world has its own life to lead. I am a child, but that makes no difference to my singular existence which will remain singular till the day I die. I was aware of this, and I stopped crying because I got tired of carrying out the emergency response that my body has mandated as integral to the being of a child.
For a long time, I loathed my mum for going into these cruel acts several times when I was young and my father was away, for throwing me into sheer helplessness. I don’t any more. I think I am capable of far more cruel acts if I ever become a mother, which is why I shouldn’t be a mother.
I tell this story because it was the beginning of who I am now. I am capable of love. I am capable of feeling and empathy. I am capable of feeling pretentious indignation on behalf of a cause that has nothing to do with me. But there isn’t a warmth beneath that feeling. There is only a silent awareness that I am doing the bare minimal to spare the world from learning that I really don’t give a fuck. I do not give a fuck about law school. I do not give a fuck about a law career. I do not give a fuck about possibly never being capable of being in a relationship, whatever the fuck a relationship is. I do not give a fuck about dying, only the uncertainty of it. I do not give a fuck about the people who talk to me, who attempt a conversation with me and almost inevitably give up because I am so cold and socially inept. Do I dare say, at some cold level, I give only the sheerest fuck for the people close to me.
I am not saying that I am incapable of love. I am saying that I am only capable of whatever my cold, logical, manipulative brain has extended to me. I do not love from the heart. I do not know what that means. But for the small population of individuals who are capable of extending that respectful recognition of whatever love I am capable of extracting from this cold, acutely aware brain, I am capable of extending that much love. It is a love that pivots on intellectual respect, which is the only love I am aware of.