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by Kat Janicka 7 days ago in fiction

to love is to suffer


To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But then, one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.

~ Woody Allen

On a particularly frightful morning full of loneliness, rejection, overwork and senselessness, Irene began moving boys around on the screen of her broken iPhone. She moved them to the left to reject them, and to the right to accept the possibility. The boys moved her around in the same way. She would never find out about the ones who moved her to the left (that's how the app works), only of the ones who moved her over to the right if she pushed them in the same direction.

At this point, you ought to know that this did not happen often. She herself was too picky, her picture was too “out there”, her description too artsy. And despite the fact that she lived in Brooklyn, she was, oddly, one of those girls. You know how it is when everyone is weird: in every society, there is a certain variant of weirdness that's fully accepted as the norm, and another one that, strangely, is not – God forbid someone write’s poetry, enjoys hiking in the mountains, wears oversized men's jackets. Then her girlfriends lose interest, and boys are less apt to cuddle or even just tease.

That morning, Irene changed her description:

I'd like to meet someone without strings attached, light and frivolous,
someone who likes sex, but not the serious kind. Who will come close, but not too close, someone amazing enough to disappear when things get uncomfortable.

(Described several years later by her expensive therapist as "impossible on the conscious level, with the subtext: Who will accept that I don't accept relationships as a form of contact, since I am afraid of closeness and suffer from a fear of unspoken rejection?")

Fernando, drinking his first espresso with a hard cock and a strong determination to find a girl for the night, didn't spend much time coming up with a reply. Indeed, all you need to know about Fernando is that he pushes every girl to the right. He doesn't have a preferred figure, hair color, size, nationality or age. He is refined, but not picky.

After the date, Irene dreamed about a woman with five breasts. She awoke in the middle of the night, totally fascinated. No less than five!

The next day she thought about impermanence, about how a person, when entering adulthood, assumes that will be surrounded by (a) permanent companion(s), and her personal discovery that despite everything, the easiest thing to accept is impermanence. The assumption that what we have will always be available leads to the first major breakdown. Her whole existence expressed a fear of boredom, shallowness and obviousness. Holding on too hard to rules and people terrified her. But because of her twisted childhood, she had become something of a control freak, someone difficult to invite into one's life, someone who keeps a distance but imposes. Who is ready to give up her life for her image. The construct was fundamental. She amused herself by thinking about whom not to invite to her funeral (her ex-boyfriends' mothers, for instance). This penetrating insight led her to Taoism; she understood that beauty doesn't exist without ugliness, good without bad, and this dualism satisfied her. It kept her alive, punishing and rescuing her at the same time.

Jenga engages one's physical and psychological skills. Players alternately remove elements of a construction consisting of 54 blocks. Each removed element is placed at the very top of the tower, forming a much taller but also less stable construction. The word “jenga” comes from Swahili and means “to build”. Fifty million Jenga sets have been sold around the world, which makes for almost three billion blocks.

Dates tore her heart to pieces; she wanted poetry and bananas with Nutella in bed, but of course she knew – that wasn't what she asked for, that wasn't what she openly declared. Leave behind pairs of contradictions, dichotomies, become a paradox, have within you both wisdom and stupidity, ugliness and beauty. Put faith in your strong will and your ability to influence your surroundings, trust the energy emanating from you. Accept the duality of the material world, becoming at one with the Tao.

She was falling apart like a Jenga construction (when you remove elements from the bottom and place them at the top, it doesn't matter how tall a tower you’ve built, you lose your balance).

A superstructure over a hole as a survival philosophy.

After all, it’s scary to return to the very bottom to repair deficiencies.

She wrote poems about the missing element – there, at the bottom – of love, acceptance, about a lack of caresses, a lack of cuddling, about the eternal need to be loved. Every morning, supporting her left breast with her hand, she massaged the vicinity of her heart with warm sesame oil. She felt instinctively that everything would collapse like Jenga if the wrong element were removed. It was close, she was preparing, not to fall but to fall apart.

Full and overflowing, like overfilling a full moon, about to burst like a bubble. Over-stuffing one’s stomach from nervous overeating, as opposed to the satisfying fullness after a healthy meal. Consummation of love in the arms of a lover as opposed to compulsive masturbation. Sweet artistic fulfillment as opposed to toxic, unfulfilled silence.

What is life in a void, is there still life in the space left after an element is removed?
Does an empty space not contain a trace of the missing element?
When cells die, what remains of them, what traces do they leave behind?
Traces of dying cells?
And finally, is the void part of what was?

She knew that nature copes with loss,
so she affirmed: everything is temporary.

You already know it has to fall apart. You feel instinctively that unmitigated despair is coming. A bitch is coming, like winter, not caring whether we are ready.

But do you know what emotional Jenga leads to?

Whom we become when the construction collapses?

Have you ever asked yourself whether this is, in essence, liberating? 

Maybe it’s better than forcibly trying to keep a deficient tower standing?

She thought about German philosophers in the context of her mother, she thought about subjects that are abandoned simply because nobody thinks about them, because they are nobody's business. She dreamed of having a new hand dealt, of being very far away from here, from the part of her life story from which there is no escape, from the person she no longer wanted to be. We are afraid of falling, but we must fall. While there is still a chance, while we still have no cancer cells.

I won't change.

As a resolution, persistence, a constant, I won't give up what hurts me so much, I won't abandon it for the unknown, which of course I crave.

Whom then will I be?

This fear of being torn apart keeps us in check with regard to… Impermanence; being change means endless falling.

Irene knew, but didn’t believe, that she had to collapse.

She said goodbye to Fernando in a long letter and changed her description in the app:

I want to have a boyfriend who will tell me that I have a moustache.

(Why do we hold so passionately to already-formed constructs? And the eternal question – why must it collapse? – she heard after years of expensive therapy).

Kat Janicka
Kat Janicka
Read next: A Night at the Theatre
Kat Janicka

Katarzyna Janicka is a Brooklyn based writer born in Silesia, Poland. Janicka teaches yoga and meditation.

Janicka graduated from Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland (MA in Slavic Studies and MFA in Creative Writing).

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