A short story.
Don’t Contradict Me
Life seems filled with inconsistencies and contradictions. One example: I like mints, but don’t like mint-flavoured toothpaste. This occurs to me as I’m brushing my teeth, but there are others. I love to run, but hate exercise. I could watch ten movies back to back, but can’t stand more than an hour of television. I hate getting my hair cut, but enjoy the way I look afterwards. That’s not precisely a down-the-line contradiction, but I don’t like getting my hair cut and needed to let it out.
And these inconsistencies get me thinking. Why am I this way? Why is there an internal battle against what I think I want and what I actually want? Is this the reason for my unhappiness? For all unhappiness? Because if everyone is going through this inability to decide what they want, it could explain some of the troubles in the world.
Example: people not happy in their jobs. Maybe, and this is just a stab in the dark, someone thought they wanted to be a nautical engineer. Maybe they wanted it ever since they were eight and got to explore a submarine on a school excursion. So they study at university for six years to get the highest certified recognition in the field, then step out and begin designing new and better watercraft, or whatever nautical engineers do. But, and here comes the inconsistency, they didn’t like it.
That would make me unhappy.
But they keep getting up in the morning and grappling with the physics of hydrostatic pressure at ten knots and what it would do to the internal bearings, all the while being entirely unhappy. They fall back on what they know. They keep designing submarines and I keep buying mint toothpaste.
And maybe we fall back on what we know because it’s easier than discovering a new way to live. So even though we’ve been to this place before, whatever this place is, and we know it won’t make us happy, we go back there because at least it’s familiar.
Another example: maybe Alexander the Great was straight up sick of war. Maybe he thought at the end of the day, ‘I’ve been doing this since I was thirteen and you know what, I hate it. I want to try my hand at gardening for a while.’
But maybe he didn’t know anything about gardening, and so when his lieutenant stuck his head into Alex’s tent to see what the plans for the day were, Alex replied with what he knew.
‘Let’s make war.’
And if this is the case as to why our society exists, even thrives, but is generally unhappy, then you have to wonder who programmed this inconsistency into our wiring. Because it sucks.
By now you may be wondering what it was that got me thinking about this. You’re probably sitting there reading and thinking, ‘It’s just toothpaste; you’ll be fine.’
But this is bigger than toothpaste. This is about a girl. Now your probably rolling your eyes and thinking in a sarcastic drawl, ‘Isn’t everything?’ Well, you can drop the tone, and no, not everything is about a girl. But this is.
My problem isn’t the classic heartache for a girl I want who doesn’t want me. It’s not even the Shakespearean want of a girl who’s beyond my grasp. I can get this girl. I’ve gotten this girl. I don’t want this girl.
And there within lays the oversized, unable to avoid anymore, contradiction. See, I know I don’t want this girl, but another part of me seems to disagree. Now don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything wrong with the girl in question, she’s lovely. I just don’t want her. The problem is exacerbated because the nocturnal me can’t seem to grasp the concept.
Let me paint you a picture.
It’s late, it’s dark, and I’m in bed. Maybe the TV’s on with its white glow splashing over my face, maybe it’s not and moonlight is the TV’s stand in. I’m lying there gazing at whatever source of light is illuminating the dark and suddenly a small cracked voice perks up in the back of my head.
It whispers, this voice, Man, we’re lonely.
I nod slowly, hearing the truth in this.
If there was someone here we wouldn’t be so lonely.
It’s not even a suggestion, just a statement of fact.
I nod again, conceding to the logic. One is the loneliest number, hence through the addition of another number, the number becomes two, and the loneliness is subtracted. Perfect mathematics.
Hey, look, your mobile’s just there on the bedside table.
I turn my head and see the small cracked voice is right. It is there, probably within arms reach. I stretch out my arm to see if it’s close enough to pick up and discover it is.
How about that. So who are we calling?
I’m holding the phone now and so leaf through my contacts.
Amy’s name is first in the phonebook.
Again, faultless logic. By this point the voice is talking quite loudly and quite persuasively. So I follow the instructions, ring her, talk briefly, convince her that coming round is the right thing to do, and then sleep with her. Loneliness dispelled.
Now at this point, things are fine. The small voice and I are very satisfied and drift off to sleep rather contented. It’s in the morning when I wake, see Amy angelic-like in my bed, feel nothing, no feelings of love or fidelity, that I get a giant kick to the head by our friend the internal contradiction. It says in a loud, deep, almost abusive voice, YOU DON’T WANT THIS GIRL, YET THERE SHE IS BESIDE YOU.
And so I get to thinking about contradictions, and am still thinking about it when I get up, very quietly, shower, get dressed and brush my teeth, again, very quietly, and decide that I really don’t like mint toothpaste despite my enjoyment of mints.