The Material

Having only managed to finish 3 or 4 books a year, I read 28 books this  year. I got plenty plenty time to read and write as I mentioned earlier this year when I decided to go on $3/day to spend so I can be full time writer—which was succeeded. There are several wonderful books I read, top ones: Less by Andrew Sean Greer, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (which I have not finished yet), but my favorite of the year is The Color of Light by William Goldman.

That was earlier this year when I met Amir Muhammad, my publisher. We talked on the top floor of a shopping mall in KL. He bought me ice cream. I usually kept everything to myself, but that moment, it was built up of so many things that I told Amir about everything. I was so open it made me insecure and  at the same time glad that I have let it all out. At least I got a listener. And then he recommended me this book by William Goldman, The Color of Light. “It is about a writer.” He said.

Well, he never recommended me anything before. So I started to look for it. Only that it was a book published in 1984, just a year before I was born. I looked for it everywhere from KL to Europe a whole year. Only then find it through an online second hand book store and have it shipped from the States.

I read the book very slow. Not because of it is boring, but I enjoyed it that much and I don’t want it to end, not in the way I have expected. It has everything. It has almost everything that means a lot for me. A character that portrays things that I like, what I afraid of, the anxieties, the ideal friendship that I long for, and the depth and the new understanding of self that is scary because it is true, it understand sadness very well. And the stories that the main character writes is brilliant. The book speaks a lot to me. (although I cant lie that there is a part that I really dislike, and I fucking want to tear it up). If you look at my copy of the book, you will find a lot of highlighter markings. Another scary part is that the main character is the same age as me right now when I’m reading it for first time. But anyway, at the end of the book the narrator came to realization:

“that life was material—everything was material—you just have to live long enough to see how to use it.”

But long before I knew the book, I remember one particular night: last year in Germany I was invited to a house of a group of rich, nice, sometimes arrogant, but friendly, young people. We talked about helluva lots ideologies and stuff that actually happening. But, knowing me, you will familiar with my absent attitude. When asked, I don’t usually have an answer or oftentimes response with: ‘it’s fine by me’ even though the talk was about chaos. Which then, after sometimes, one of them said:

“what is it with you? Why are you looking at the world and people as if you are the third person? Like you are just viewing? A spectator.”

I did not answer that because at that time I did not know that I was like that.

“Well, he’s a writer, anyway.” Said the other young guy. And everybody started to understand that. I started to understand that too.

Few months flew by, I was in Bangkok. I was with this guy, talking, we barely knew each other but he read about me somewhere. He studied me online. And then out of nowhere, after hinting how much he does not like the way I think, he said: “isn’t tiring being you?”

“what do you mean?” I asked.

“Not enjoying the life as it should be. That you see the life and your life just simply as a tool, as a research. For your novel.”

I could not answer that one either. Am I really doing that? Am I tired?  “Sometimes, I want to enjoy life too. But there’s nothing much for me to enjoy. I think maybe some people was meant to be not to enjoy. I was built that way, I guess.” It was very lonely after that.

Back to the Color of Light, the book, the character said that everything in life is material. Is that the purpose of my life? Am I doing this right? What am I, just a tube of feelings? A capturer of actions needed to be written on blank sheets of MS word. Is that worth it? Am I happy? Will I ever be? Is this ‘the material thing’ is somehow just a defense mechanism I created so I don’t feel hurt? That everything that happened, no matter how painful it is, just somehow only a writing material. They are just things. They don’t matter. I don’t matter.

Now before I go to sleep, which I rarely do, I contemplate and questioning myself: “was it real? The things that I remember in my head, did that happen? It feels very distant, almost surreal. The past. All the feelings, all the actions, all the people I met, all the things I did, all the places that I visited, were they real?” I’m losing a lot of weight.