View Full Version : Misdirection; the Illusion (Language Warning)

Jon Prosser
November 15th, 2011, 01:15 PM
This is another coursework piece I wrote a few nights ago. The subject is displacement, and I tried to explore that idea on multiple levels. I've attempted a new narrative style and attempted some satirical humour but am unsure how it comes across so am looking forwards to your comments :) Cheers!

She lost her patience one day and never found it again. I can’t blame her, and in fact agreed – I too hated being drunk all the time. I hated the hangover, the cloying aftertaste of stale whisky, the passivity. I hated the fact that I didn’t need it. Addiction is an excuse at least. Thing is, I hated being sober because that allowed room for thought, for logical cognitive processes to fester and turn on me vehemently, a whirlpool of inevitable self-pity and simultaneous self-contempt.

I told her I drink, because. Just because. So she left and I laughed. Last I heard she’s living her dream, vomiting out abstract and nonsensical paintings of a suspiciously familiar face, desecrating the canvas with her bodily fluids and selling it as art; all whilst promoting ‘sexual liberation’ and ‘uniqueness’ amongst a crowd of paint-regurgitating, sexually-liberated, misunderstood idealists shouting decontextualised quotes that have no relevance to the point they don’t have. Once, I oppressed her by pointing out that her new beret conformed to the stereotype she so often preached against. She smugly claimed that it was precisely because it was a stereotype that it was unique. Subversive mocking, achieved by conforming to. Despite it all, I feel I did her a favour. By pushing her to leave she found herself among exactly-the-same-likeminded people and found the illusion of belonging. Plus I did myself a favour – there was definitely something wrong with her.

I stayed put for a while after she’d left, until I realised I missed home. So I went home only to find that it was home only insofar as it was where I’d lived. That sentiment works for most but I felt disconnection – my room, exactly how I’d left it, stood to only further the gap between the boy who had lived there and the stumbling, jelly legged ‘new guy’ who’s being I was still trying to work out. Nobody ever likes the new guy. The source of practical jokes, the coffee carrier, the scapegoat. So I played a prank on myself. I’d realised I missed home, and returned to find that it hadn’t missed me and then I realised I missed my apartment. The punch-line? I returned to realise it was my home only insofar as I’d lived there.

‘Nothing stays the same’ had slipped the rug out from under my feet and so I returned to my solitary bottle of whisky and blamed it for my problems. It didn’t judge, it knew I was upset, just as a true friend should. It simply burned my chest reassuringly and numbed my synapses. Morning came and I blamed the whisky again, only to find it couldn’t hear me – the bottle had died during the night, drained and devoid of its life substance.

Blame fell displaced. My mother for not warning me, the ex for not understanding me, my father for not pushing me and my brother for pushing too hard, my friends for being unaware and successful, the whisky for running out. In self-destruction and poor impulse control, I joined the army, with notions of guts and glory, insanity and direction. Two weeks later, with an almost regretful ‘we don’t think army life is for you’, the military heartily threw me out on my arse. I put down to the government lacking the funding to train new soldiers. They were always lacking the funding for something.

Seeking affirmation for my existence, I travelled. Settling on Europe, being nearby, I began my journey of self-discovery. I discovered that Escargot tastes exactly as you’d expect; Venice’s beautiful history is invisible behind a solid curtain of pigeons; Barcelona will empty your wallet if the pickpockets don’t; and wherever you go in Europe, always, always keep your ears open for the dreaded tinkle of bike bells. What did I learn about myself? That I never want to vomit snails ever again; I am Ornithophobic; overseas calls to your bank are expensive; I am also Cyclophobic.

Despite my misadventures, I found what I assumed to be love when I visited Germany. Picturesque, friendly, traditional and modern. Clean and safe. After I’d made the move I began to learn the language. Despite its difficulty, I threw myself into learning it with gusto. Yet I never achieved fluency. Alone in my apartment at night, I would flick through the channels on the television. An American film, subtitled but un-dubbed; the BBC news, faint and crackly but just legible; a gardening programme. None of which I would have given the time of day in the UK, but in Germany, I latched onto. My native tongue, spoken in authentic British or American accents - I would revel in it, a symphony of beautiful familiarity.

I made an effort once. Looking for the train station, I asked a man on the street – entshuldigan bitte, wo ist der Bahnhof? With a helpful pointing hand and a warm smile he’d answered – go two blocks down, cross the bridge then take a left and you’ll see it. Danke. You’re welcome.

The new guy. No one likes the new guy. But in Germany, it is not so. They are friendly and helpful, welcoming. Always. I could have lived there ten years with a full citizenship and always be a visitor. I had a home in Germany but I never felt at home. So I went ‘home’ again.
Once again in the UK, I drifted from job to job, always the new guy, aspiring only to pass on my bane to the next newbie. Every time one came, they’d get promoted, demoting me back to ‘that fuckin’ new guy’. My mother and father said that hating your job was a given. There is no enjoyment in working – it’s a necessary evil. My brother loved his job. He just hated everything else.

I began to drink again. I sank into depression but couldn’t get it right. I found a smoky, underground jazz club where melancholy men and husky women hunched onto the small stage to sing our collective blues, and locals hunched over their spirits, nursing them gently and sipping them away. But the smoke made my throat scratch, and my eyes burn, and I couldn’t get into the music. So I began moping around the cold streets, moving like a ghost, drinking forlornly on park benches in the false light. But the police would keep interrupting to move me along. I tried to access a rooftop to sit on the ledge and contemplate a demise five centimetres forward and five story’s down. But I set off the fire alarm on the roof access and had to run away. I tried to enlist the help of a counsellor that told me I was depressed and needed a therapist. I enlisted the help of a therapist, and she told me that the counsellor was incompetent. I went to a doctor who told me to stop wasting his time and that if I was suicidal I’d have done it by now. I called him incompetent, and he called the police.

Home is where the heart is but I didn’t understand love. I couldn’t tell the difference between it and expectation-based delusion, the difference between a working relationship and habit. Believing I was happier alone, relationships gave me up, but I blame that on Hollywood. I couldn’t tell the difference between happiness in solitude and acceptance of loneliness.

I began to watch survival shows, believing that my place was not in society. It became an obsession and I began plotting to travel again. My heart yearned for nature, simplicity. No concerns but the next meal, no structure but my own. I chose Alaska but immigration turned me down. I wound up in Canada, but the wild didn’t want me. Ravaged by mosquito’s, chilled by rain, starved by fish that wouldn't bite but jumped all around my line, outwitted by the squirrels that evaded my traps but still managed to steal the bait. 'The grass is always greener on the other side' kicked me in the teeth – I could find the same back at ‘home’, just scaled down. Yearning for hot showers, easily accessible food, and safety from bears, I went home before the locals could laugh at my romanticism.

I got ‘home’ to find everything and nothing had changed. I bumped into my ex on the street and didn't recognize her smart clothes, her executive job or her new personality. She'd switched illusions. I binged on Cherry Bakewells and blamed then when I needed a filling, binged on Super Noodles and blamed them when my guts ached, binged on Fosters and thanked it for its forgiving hangovers. I laughed at my friend when he told me nobody just has a place - you have to find it for yourself, carve it out and work to fit into it. He didn’t see the irony in him staying late at the office to avoid his wife, of camping out on the toilet in the office block to avoid his office, of reading Playboy on the toilet to avoid working, of sleeping in staff room to avoid working late. Just a Goddamned rough patch.

And then it came to me: everyone is utterly bat-shit insane. I am a misfit and by virtue of being so, that must make me sane, unless I am un-categorically bat-shit insane, in which case the system is flawed and insane in itself. I further realised that my place is to have none. Just like everyone else, but without the delusion to the contrary. Home is where I live. Home is where I come from. Home is where my heart is. Home sweet home. But home is just a word.

November 15th, 2011, 02:06 PM
Very nice writing and expression, Jon. You might consider tightening the prose with removal of a few of those 'I'

Since the mc is the voice, from their pov, there is no real reason for so many. Ha - about Canada - ain't it a bitch of a country. :)

Thanks for the read.

Jon Prosser
November 15th, 2011, 02:33 PM
hey seyenlint, thanks for the comments :) that is true, i'll try to refine it a bit. haha i've never actually been to canada but i'd love to visit. i have however watched enough les stroud to gather that you have a lot of mosquito's up there and canada's wilderness isn't the kind of place to take on lightly!

November 15th, 2011, 04:14 PM
Right, Jon. Where to start? Gotta say, mate, I'm a fan!:sunny: I really, really liked the piece. What I liked about it in particular, is the fact that no character names, descriptions are ever used throughout the piece - and if character descriptions (physical) were, then they were so subtle that I didn't notice - yet you managed to create such vivid 'personalities' out of the narrator, and 'her' - the one who left him.

I had the sense that he was very bitter, yet it was used in a way to show his deep insecurities and his lack of a 'home', and that, revealed at the end, 'home' was only a term/word and not a feeling to him. I just got the sense as a character he felt things were moving too fast for him, too many changes and nothing was left to settle. Hence why I believe the girl left, because she had a different outlook.

Really, I don't have anything negative to say about this. Maybe only the line:

'I canít blame her, and in fact agreed Ė I too hated being drunk all the time.'

I'd add a 'of' between 'all' and 'the'. Just sounds better in my head when I read it. But that's so minor that I feel I'm being too fussy over something.

Although I agree to a certain extent about the other users feedback about the numerous uses of 'I', it is such a difficult thing to minimize when you're writing in first person. If I'm honest it didn't bother me, I hardly noticed. But because it was highlighted I looked over it again and noticed it on the second-reading. But yeah, I'm sure you'll tweak it and it'll be fine.

I also like the last few words of the piece: 'But home is just a word.' - it summarizes your story perfectly! Concise, and shows the characters mind-set. And you've done it in a few words. That's a very fine art, in my opinion.

Great job, mate. :bigsmurf:

Jon Prosser
November 15th, 2011, 04:46 PM
hey, cheers, i'm really glad you liked it! :) what i was trying to do alongside the idea of displacement was to question the idea of social expectations and success and the superficiality of the satisfaction gained from it. so while his ex finds the illusion of belonging, i added a later line 'I bumped into my ex on the street and didn't recognize her smart clothes, her executive job or her new personality. She'd switched illusions' to show the ironic change in her views - the non-conformity and 'sticking it to the man' ideals she'd had before weren't really her views, but the views of a label she chose to try and fit into, and later, grows out of them and goes on to work for 'the man'.
i think ultimately i wanted to say that nobody has a consigned place and we're all as lost as each other, but the difference with the main character is that he is able to honestly admit it, and though he tries to find his place, knows when to give up, whereas he laughs at his friends and ex for pretending that they are satisfied.
i'm glad you liked it though, i will amend that sentence! and you're right, it is hard to drop the 'I's in a first person narrative but i will do my best! Cheers.

November 20th, 2011, 02:42 AM
I really enjoyed reading this, I felt there were definitely areas that a had a great flow. Is it an attempt at a stream of consciousness? Well done you!

November 21st, 2011, 01:04 AM
This is a good read. I loved the first line and the last sentence the most, but everything in between resonated with me. Well done.

Jon Prosser
November 23rd, 2011, 12:02 PM
Hey JudeAllenQuinn, thanks for your kind words! Yes in the sense of plot more than anything, it is a stream of conciousness, although I did often stop to think about the next line. Glad you enjoyed the read :)

Jon Prosser
November 23rd, 2011, 12:03 PM
Hi egpenny, thanks very much, I'm glad you enjoyed reading it :)

November 23rd, 2011, 11:16 PM
No problem, always nice to have an unexpectedly enjoyable read every now and again. Keep em coming!

December 5th, 2011, 03:20 PM
Nice Job, it's good to find a short story that draws you in like that, good representation of a "Mind's' thoughts

Jon Prosser
December 11th, 2011, 02:58 AM
Thank you, much appreciated :)

December 16th, 2011, 06:09 PM
I liked it very much - I especially liked how he was jaded and yet kept searching; those are hard things to correlate and yet present in a believable way. Also, we are fighting for him to overcome, even though he kind of seems like a loser - maybe because he is so candid in his exposition of what his motivations were along his journey? I particularly liked the philosophical questions on love - your character seems like the kind of person I would want to discuss that with which is great. His end conclusion reflects the end of his journey, and he seems resigned to fate, or to his having obtained a view of the world he can deal with - very well done.

Jon Prosser
December 21st, 2011, 12:23 AM
hey trent13, thanks very much for the comments :) i'm really glad you could empathise with the character and find him likable. cheers for reading, glad to see that the piece came across as i intended :)