18/10/2022 • 5 min • meaningless fiction

"What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves."

—Milan Kundera

Usually, instinct dictated me to wake up as early as possible, to disappear before that someone’s home could become my own cage, one suitable for pets; the most exciting ones are always other people. The preceding night, there are only two types of commodities that people seek from bedtime: that of comfort, and that of control. Both being two approaches to solve one’s own internal emptiness depending on individual personalities. The former seek comfort in having a space to express vulnerability, without a revolting crippling existential feeling of nothingness in an infinite universe. Truth be told, I probably uttered “everything will be ok,” more frequently at night than any curse word. A connection to a soul is still there (if one pretends enough,) however transactional the origin. The lather can be more fun, but between the lines are the sad, desperate attempts to compensate for what one does not have; or more simply—they are a psychopath.

My nights can be just about anyone’s, but my days are mine. Come morning I leave the lonely souls (or psychopaths), quietly slipping out the bed and then the front door. I’ve been everywhere already, and the only mental map I remember better than Vignelli’s is where to eat. Brunch depends on my mood: meat in tube form in buns and papaya in liquid form, smoked and cured fish on chewy buns, or naked—and arguably too soft—noodles with excessive red sauce, balls of a different kind (equally mixing older and baby cows and pigs), and mountains of sawdust cheese (the only correct amount).

I had that uncomfortable feeling of being in an elsewhere I barely recalled going to: where the bedsheets—however cozy, if I was lucky—just felt ever so slightly off. This was a regular occurrence given what I do. But today, I truly didn’t remember where I started, and the apartment itself was empty, and there was no sign of anyone having left before myself.

Apartments tell a lot about someone. After having “met” so many people, I realized I could learn more about them from their appearance and apartment (barely anyone here owns,) than anything they utter out of their mouths. I never remember it anyway, and the sob stories just follow similar patterns. But in their apartment you get that feeling of their true self that no words they say can ever capture. If life is defined by what we do the most, it means that it can really be reduced to what we dream of and our unconscious and instinctual behaviors that make up the “self,” and what expresses that more than one’s own home?

But this apartment told me nothing about this person, and it wasn’t that it was particularly different either. My mind—for once—just pulled a blank.

While most people look for soul, I really looked for body. It’s what makes this terrible industry so worth it for me, because it was what I could get appraisal for and what I could pretend for. And when I can only pretend, I will only ever be defined by the dreams I have. All those half-remembered stories about kingdoms and empires, concrete forests and those taken over by desert, war and love, gold toned mushrooms, stories of dying—the stories of others that look more like myself than myself. Today, it was my turn to become the lonely one. It was then that—in a voice that wasn’t mine—I screamed as loud as I could and no one could hear me. My morning is other people’s night, and I was most likely dreaming. At least that’s what I tell myself—sometimes—every time. After over 200 restless nights, I finally found what I searched for; in a house, one almost under water.

— Laurens Spangenberg