That plugin failed again. The one that’s supposed to keep An Unreliable Witness from baring its flabby, scarred arse to the world. I discovered this annoying state of affairs because I was notified about spam comments regarding Bulgarian jewellery.
So as the facility that has stopped me from writing drivel here is clearly broken, I have to decide if and how to delete this site from the web. It’s difficult, though I know from experience it shouldn’t be. After all, I’ve been doing things on the web, either for work or pleasure, for over 17 years. I’m well aware how transient and fleeting web content and websites can (and indeed should) be, yet I don’t quite have the strength of will to pull the plug on this place. Not at the moment. And so I find myself dribbling away aimlessly on this clean white background because it’s too hot to concentrate on doing what I should be doing — trying to earn a meagre living as a distinctly uncompetitive, non-entrepreneurial, anti-capitalist freelancer.
Plus, I want (and maybe need; humour me) to talk about something aloud. Well, as aloud as An Unreliable Witness ever gets these days, which isn’t very much. But it’s more aloud than opening up a text file and frantically typing in the ravings of a very diseased mind for my own displeasure. That soon gets out of hand, to the point where I’m terrifying myself into a gibbering wreck. It feels like masturbation, but of a particularly gruesome kind where you feel even more grubby and unpleasant afterwards than you normally would. Is there such a thing as hate-masturbation? If there is, then it’s me writing in text files to myself.
So. To the topic I’d like to discuss.
For the first 34 years of my life, I had absolutely no concept of EVOL. I’d felt ‘close’ to people, I’d liked certain people more than just simple friendship — confidants, maybe — but never anything more than that. Perhaps I just wasn’t mature enough. EVOL puzzled me. I’d look at happy couples, clearly very deeply immersed in their own unique take on EVOL, and simply not grasp the concept. When I started writing online in 2000, I penned a few posts about EVOL from that point of view — EVOL was a curious concept and I was a questioning, confused bystander. Why EVOL? Why that? Why did these people like each other to the point that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together? How does that even begin to work?
Part of it, of course, was not trusting in EVOL. EVOL was something that had been whispered to me before, promised to me before, used as an excuse before. I’d also heard it used in the heat of anger. This emotion, this EVOL, wasn’t something in which I felt I could put any faith. There was no security in it.
Then my 35th year hit. Something happened. Quickly. Surprisingly. Without sounding unduly dramatic about it, I was even shocked. Because I suddenly experienced EVOL. I said “I EVOL you” to someone and I meant it. Genuinely. I still wasn’t quite sure what I meant or how this sensation should feel, but I knew it was different. That I felt different. I just wasn’t sure how I felt different.
At about the same time, I became seriously ill. I ended up becoming physically disabled and losing a fair amount of my mobility. Maybe they were connected? Maybe EVOL was able to worm its way through my hard, protected, shell-like exterior because of that huge change in life? Maybe because I had other things to concentrate on, I let down the fireproof, bulletproof emotional guard I’d been building up so strongly over three decades. It’s a theory, anyway.
I never met this other person. The focus of this EVOL. The relationship took place entirely online, though we vowed to meet one day. That may have led to me wondering if what I had experienced really was EVOL. Because surely you need to see someone, be with them, feel their presence with you to receive such a powerful emotion? Again, I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. (If you’re reading this in the hope of me finding straightforward answers for myself, you may as well stop now.)
That relationship ended. Not my doing, not my choice. The other party didn’t tell me it had ended, but instead chose to vanish in what I can only describe as a brutal fashion. I never got answers to the whys and the wherefores. I was back to doubting the validity of EVOL.
Then I met someone. She introduced herself to me, which was just as well as one thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have the nerve to introduce myself to anyone. Ever. She took the lead in that, persuading me to meet her. I was very thankful. But since EVOL was a curious concept to me once again — or so I thought — I didn’t express my feelings as clearly as I should have. I was an uncomfortable, edgy mix of pre-EVOL me — confused about the entire thing, feeling it alien — and the me who had previously said “I EVOL you” and then doubted its truth, its validity, and received a firm kick in the teeth some months after I said it. I remain very, very sorry to this wonderful person for the hurt I probably caused with my lack of, well, I suppose one would call it ‘commitment’. Yes, commitment, that’s it. I felt great EVOL for her, but I simply didn’t know how to say it in any clear way.
But. The relationship had provided me with the warmth and companionship I hadn’t quite realised I was so lacking, because I’d become (in the words of the popular idiom) something of a ‘cold fish’ over the years. For a time, the person involved also provided me with the EVOL I didn’t know I was looking for. When this EVOL slowly came to an end, it took me a while to realise what I’d lost and how much it had meant to me.
I genuinely thought that was it for relationships and EVOL in my life. No more. I’d had a couple of experiences of it and been presented with the evidence that it wasn’t for me. I resolved to re-enter the skin of the person I’d been for those first 34 years of life — someone who didn’t understand EVOL and thus didn’t much care for its absence. Yes, it might be a little lonely and leave me as a singular (and single) oddity, but it was at least safe.
I met someone else. She introduced herself to me, which was just as well as one thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have the nerve to introduce myself to anyone. Ever. She took the lead in that, persuading me to meet her. I was very thankful. I liked her instantly and we hit it off spectacularly. Shared humour, scurrilous thoughts, outlandish ideas. Her company was like a breath of fresh air and she was someone I felt I could talk to about anything and not feel ‘strange’ in doing so. But that was it. I was still parroting to myself that EVOL wasn’t for me. Not only could I not understand it as a concept, but I was now certain beyond doubt that any kind of EVOL I felt for the other person in a relationship would be damaging to them. No, I mean it — injurious, mentally scarring, perhaps even dangerous. My EVOL came with health warnings attached. So, this latest person was a wonderful friend and confidant and that was fine, but that was the sum total of it. End of story.
Except. We did have a brief — well, I don’t know what one would call it: relationship? fling? affair? I’m sorry, I am useless at the kind of language one uses to describe these moments in relationships. I need someone who knows what they’re talking about.
There was no sudden end. It drifted to a halt. We remained — and remain — close friends and confidants, and that was absolutely fine. Of course, I wondered why it had ended, but such is my low opinion of myself that I didn’t consider it my business to enquire further. I was a complete coward, in truth, mainly because I’ve always considered that I’m completely unworthy of anyone’s attention, appreciation or fondness, and especially not anything more. I wish I had summoned up some nerve, because then I perhaps wouldn’t have driven myself into a state where I was constantly wondering, just as events five years before had left me with questions in the back of my mind.
Once again, I went in search of the 34-year-old me, aiming to return to his objective, disinterested, somewhat confused mindset. The only problem was that this time, presumably bored of me repeatedly picking him up then casting him aside again, he’d disappeared. Vanished off the face of the Earth. Hadn’t even left a forwarding address.
And now, three years on from continuing to know this person as a very dear friend and confidant, well, I’m sure you can guess. It doesn’t take the gentle coaxing of a TV agony aunt to fill in the conspicuous blanks. Somewhere in the space of those 36 months — and I can’t provide a precise moment because it was presumably while I was looking the other way pretending to be interested in something else — EVOL came and sank its pointed, poisoned teeth into the back of my neck. And he (or she, I have no preference for EVOL’s gender) clearly has a poor, perhaps deliberately poor, sense of timing, because on this occasion it’s too late, it’s inadvisable, it’s unwise, it wouldn’t work, it risks ruining a wonderful friendship, I’m far from being worthy of any such reciprocal emotions, I’m a relationship mental health risk, it’s just plain wrong — and — and — and above all, the last thing I want to do is hurt the person who I, well, you know, all that stuff. Ahem.
I have argued these facts with EVOL for at least a year or more — with EVOL disguised either as the uninspiring magnolia painted wall behind my desk or the cracked ceiling above my bed. Yet despite the strength and frequent profanity of my language, EVOL remains unmoved and certainly unwilling to let me out of its clutches to return to my previous state of relatively blissful ignorance. As a result, I want to rip EVOL’s face off with a clawhammer, but she/he won’t appear before me so I can enact this painful and brutal revenge.
I’ve tried escape routes. Legal medication doesn’t help. Illegal medication is unavailable to me because I don’t know the right people. Alcohol just makes me act irresponsibly and scarily. Music carries too many emotional overheads. Work doesn’t keep my mind quite engaged enough to avoid being distracted by EVOL’s fiendish whisperings. And, of course, EVOL keeps cropping up in books, because books are invariably awash with EVOL, slopping through their pages like so much pungent effluent. I’ve even, of late, tried those extremely annoying sites where people go in search of EVOL. Unfortunately, since faces genuinely mean very little to me and ideas of beauty absolutely nothing, looking through rows and rows of grinning, gawping, glaring or gurning fizzogs reminds me of nothing quite so much as (warning: distinctly bad taste comparison coming up) the photographs of fatalities that flash up on news reports after disastrous air crashes. Even without that problem, there’s the issue of having to describe myself in terms that don’t resort to my tendency for sickening cynicism and grotesquely black humour, while also trying to sell the prospect of physical, mental and neurological impairment. In short: these virtual marketplaces of human flesh really aren’t suited to me.
So none of the escape routes have worked. I am in a state of complete and utter EVOL and the only dubious benefit I can identify from this state of affairs is that right now, in my 43rd year on this infernal planet, I finally understand what EVOL is all about. But please, don’t pat me on the back, cheer loudly or offer me a copy of Roland Barthes’ A L***r’s Discourse to browse, since this is certainly not a triumph. I don’t want this, not a bit of it.
Yes, I now understand the emotions I’ve heard others discuss at length (and yes, sometimes at tedious, soul-destroying length). The effects. What it does to people in terms of their thinking. I even begin, I dread to say, to understand why the heart has long been associated with EVOL, because mine does regularly feel like it’s being dragged out of my chest to leave just a gaping, bruised hole — though I’m also prepared to concede that this could be the result of the general mental health malaise into which I’ve gradually sunk over the past year to 18 months, and in which I currently find myself hovering around Dante’s Eighth Circle with all the nightmares, bruises, scars and miscellaneous other injuries plainly evident, should anyone even take one look at me. (Current outward sign: I cut my own hair at the weekend. Or rather, I hacked at it with a pair of craft scissors and now look like a thug who was attacked by a gang of violent, untrained hairdressers.)
I sense EVOL has probably won this battle. I should accept that I’m never going to get my pre-EVOL self back again. Some might say that I shouldn’t want him to return, that EVOL is natural, that it shows we’re human, that humans are meant to be together and enjoy this particular emotion, even go in search of it because it brings meaning to existence. Lie back in EVOL’s arms, read romantic verse aloud to yourself, pick petals off flowers while dreaming of the other person. No, I’m sorry, I don’t do that stuff. It’s just not me. But EVOL is certainly messing with my head, without a doubt, and I now know how real it is and at least some of how it feels. But with all the other demons leaping about and clamouring for attention in my diseased mind, his or her presence is distinctly unwelcome.
A final thought: I’m fully aware that part of this is an ‘age thing’. I’m 43. I will be 44 in three months. Many people at my stage of life are settled down, some even in their second (or even third?) relationships. Amongst people I know — and by that I mean mostly ghastly social networks, since that’s regrettably my main form of communication these days — I feel like something of an oddity. However, this is about more than just comparing myself with other people — I’m not that superficial. This is personal. Very personal. I still enjoy my independence. I still enjoy my solitude and sometimes I even need it (a strange thing for someone often cursed by chronic, pathological and indeed mentally destabilising loneliness to admit, you might think, but the desire for solitude is a complete separate existence from the worst bouts of loneliness). But do I miss the companionship, the warmth and the simple experience of being with someone, even if that just means sitting alongside them on the same sofa gently holding hands while watching an atrocious television programme? Yes. Yes, I do. Not an easy thing to confess, but I miss it a lot.
However, since I’ve accepted that this scenario is unlikely to happen, I have a closing request. If you see the 34-year-old me walking around, looking a little lost, stop him and quietly ask about EVOL. If his reply is disinterested and matter-of-fact, if he discusses it only as a vague concept, then please send him my way. I need him back. I miss the safety, security and reassurance he provided.