Sunday, March 17, 2013

Schöne Lügen

  "We all get a bit less emotional as we grow older."

The above reply confirmed that the pragmatic attitude I've developed in the past year is natural. I find myself relieved to realize that I've done away with the expectation that happiness should be manic and overwhelming. If you are on the verge of losing yourself to, or conditioning your happiness on others, then the word you're really looking for is 'insanity', not 'happiness'. And since insanity won't sleep next to me and keep me warm at night, I have no use for it.

It was precisely one year ago - mid-March 2012 - that I found myself in a similar position: filled with an unenthusiastic shyness which was under constant erosion from fatigue and the lukewarm smell of spring filling my lungs. I was very tired, and against my better judgement, I was craving the crush of some form of emotion all over again.

I happen to like fast cars, so I signed up for a Mazda drive test. I remember waking up on the day of the appointment feeling nervous, yet excited. I was happy for my reason to put on a silk shirt, a nice tie, and my good suit, and I felt my knees soften a bit as I walked into the showroom and shook hands with the iron-faced, middle-aged, and similarly black-suited representative who would be my host.

   "It's a pleasure to meet you." he said, showing me the way.

Half an hour later, I was buckled in and passing under the overhead sign that announced the start of the A1 highway. Traffic picked up, I released the tension in my calf, and slowly but steadily stepped down on the gas pedal to listen to the purr. The double espresso I had had before the drive test was making my temples pulse in an anvil, and there was a pleasant, reassuring shiver through my wrists as they fell heavy and locked on the wheel and shift stick. While the force of acceleration was driving my shoulders back into the leather seat, I forgot to breathe. All that horsepower under the grip of my palms intoxicated me. I felt so alive, that time seemed to slow down to to catch up with my heightened awareness of the world.

   "Would it be all right with you if I broke the speed limit?"

I turned my head to check for an answer, and saw the Mazda representative shudder and breathe out heavily with discomfort in the passenger's seat. But... he didn't reply.

   "OK. I'll take that as a 'yes'.", I echoed to myself...

*  *  *

I pulled in the showroom's front parking lot. I stopped the engine, put my hands on my knees, looked back at the salesman, and gave a resigned nod. The time had come to put a damper on my brief moment of infatuation. I didn't want to get out, but I knew that any further moment spent behind that wheel would have been detrimental to my wellbeing. Even if I were rich, and even if I did afford to buy such a car, until I could learn to keep myself in check under those circumstances, I had to stay away. I shut the door and followed the man inside the showroom, where he sat down and started filling in forms.

He looked like he was going to take his time with the papers, so I turned my back on his desk and tried to catch one last glimpse of the car. Light breaking on the black paint revealed strong, subtle, and seemingly liquid contour lines. It looked sexy. Not nice, and definitely not cute. Sexy. I liked it.


I suddenly snapped out of my daydream and realized that he had been growing impatient. He'd probably called out to me a few times before. I felt slightly embarrassed.

   "I apologize, I got distracted.", I replied. He got up and I turned to face him again.

   "As I was saying, we could arrange a 2,000€ discount if you want to be placed on the waiting list before the end of next month.", he said, and held out a business card.

I tightened my lips and lowered my eyes.

    "I like this car. Believe me, it is one of the most beautiful cars I've ever driven. But I am afraid that the timing is not right...", I replied in a half-calm, half-sad voice, while firmly shaking his hand and putting the business card away in the inside pocket of my jacket.

I walked out of the showroom feeling completely exhausted. However... while making an effort to pick up my thoughts, worries and commitments from where I had previously left them off, I also felt grateful...

The following morning, I was leaning over the sill of the window in my room on the fourth floor of dorm P5, propped up on my left elbow and right forearm, rubbing the staleness of sleep off my face with my left hand, and letting the orange sunrise burn its way into my eyes. As I was standing there, lost and staring back at the dawn in complete silence, I caught myself smiling like a fool. I was nowhere closer to having a sports car than I had ever been. And in a way, maybe I wasn't really prepared for one -- the power it held over me was enough to make me surrender my objectivity, and that terrifies me beyond description.

But that hadn't been the point. What I had wanted was to make sure that I would still be capable of feeling that inebriating passion come over me. I still had no idea how to handle it back then.

For a long time, refusing to objectively make inroads into understanding the intensity and (ir)responsibility of the beautiful lies we live by kept me from enjoying them, while growing as a person.

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