Chapter 1: White Cards, Blurred Lines
Embellishment | Lie
Deception | Self-deception
Self-perception | Perception of the self
These words smoulder with charcoal ferocity on a piece of thick A5 white card which I slide across the table towards Nathanial. He looks up at me like a quivering Satan facing his God or his Betrayer - not that there’s much difference between the moral and the immoral, the Lord and the Deceiver - and then flutters his eyeline back to the card between us. ‘Let’s play the line game Nathanial’ I say to him with an omniscient shimmer in my voice which ripples around the room in cruel prophetic splendour. ‘Let’s start with the first set or the first pairing, Embellishment and Lie, we can get to the others in a bit.’ He squirms, I smile, he writhes, I watch. ‘Think about those two words, can you think about them as separate concepts or does one blur into the other?’ He stammers but gulps his words down like they are cold beer on a flaming summer’s day. He’s useless, he’s guilty of affiliating too closely with embellishment and lies, but how about you? Think about the words. Where does one draw the line between that subtle beast, that trickster, that joker we call Embellishment and that fatal villain of whom we call The Lie. At what point do they shake hands and grin toothily in cordial recognition of their differences and at what point does Embellishment gain a dagger at his hip and give birth to a sharp wrangling litter of suckling Lies that suck voraciously at the teats of the embellisher’s mind like a dagger-toothed gaggle of new-born babes? Or maybe Embellishment is just Lie’s slightly more attractive identical twin, or is that wrong, are they fundamentally different things? Perhaps Embellishment is just the celebrated lovechild of the Lie, that adult almighty, that shapeshifting fiend, that coward, that brute. Just a few thoughts to get your cogs turning. Have you embellished and have you lied? Ha, of course you have, but have you ever stopped to think at what point embellishment becomes a lie and at what point a lie becomes so embellished and so complex that no trace of truth exists to judge that lie against? In fact, without truth, a lie simply cannot be. Hm it was Hegel and Blake who said it: there’s no synthesis without the thesis and the antithesis; opposite forces require one another to create progress. Yet this stagnant man who sits in front of me has lost the truth entirely. Oh yes that’s right, it sunk like a boulder of gold in his Atlantic sea of lies. He doesn’t really know what’s real or not anymore. It started with Embellishment and now his life’s a Lie.
Nathanial introspectively mused on the topic with gloomy green eyes of emerald regret as if he were Mark-Antony already slain on the self-defeating sword of his own lies. I’m sitting opposite him; I’m laughing inwardly because if you look close enough you can see his perfect little pupils grow larger and larger in diameter as he considers this topic in profound and self-pitying depth. Hey, you, reading this, yeah, you, try and imagine it yourself. Imagine walking up to Nathanial really slowly and bringing your head up to his head until his whiskey-soaked breath mingles with yours like brown ink in crystal water. Fix your eyes on his. Pause. Breathe in. Forget about me being in the room with him as I currently am and then whisper with full conviction: “you have lied Nathanial, you have lied and destroyed”. Look, quick, it’ll be happening at 1/10000th of the rate of time it takes you to read this sentence. In the flicker of a millisecond you will see those tiny pinhole pupils expand outwards into astronomical pits of woe. You could say they grow like lies do, infinitesimal to immense until one hardly sees the colour that sits outside of them, the colour of truth, and oh, those forest eyes have long been felled by the chainsaws of his guilt. Pull away now, you’ve seen his eyes, come back to the imaginary chair, your chair, that is positioned between myself and Nathanial. You can only imagine it, remember! You are not allowed in the room where we sit in this present moment, this room with 4 walls and 2 chairs, like the set-up of a therapy room, bright with the light that soaks through a 5th story window in a dusty old building in Finsbury Park. Only I am not his therapist, I would only be his therapist if he listened to my advice. I don’t think he even realises who or what I am yet and if he does ever come to attain this understanding then I’m really not sure how he’d react. Perhaps he will embrace me or perhaps we are too distant now to ever be reconciled. Don’t worry, you’ll get to know me in good time as well. Now, hey, look, I’m not much better than him, don’t get me wrong. I lie all the time. Perhaps I am lying about Nathanial, maybe his eyes are not in fact a forestine green but a hue of blue denim or like two melted pools of honey brown oozing out from deep set eyes like two cracks of lava amidst a sheet of pummel rock. Ooo, watch out, maybe his name is only Nathan and I thought I would embellish this by adding the “ial” because it sounds more regal and fitting for an individual whose excesses have entirely corrupted his sense of self. It seems far more delicious to endow him with a grandiose name only to let you watch him fall to nothingness, aimlessness, namelessness, as I tell you more about him. I hope you are licking your lips at the very thought of such a fall, trust me (wait, don’t), it will be a Miltonic fall; there’s no Paradise to be regained when you’ve held a lie like a clot of blood in a hand that will never be washable. Maybe I am lying entirely, his name could actually be John Smith like that awful stout beer you get in dodgy English pubs and yet it’s curious that you will simply have to believe me when I say that his name really is Nathanial and that he has the most beautiful green eyes you’ll ever see. When he cries, as he so often does with me, I sit there and imagine his eyes weeping out huge jungles and watch the vines of green trickle down his cheeks like strings of a willow tree in harsh winds. Now my friends, that description was pure embellishment, he’s cries like we all do; be careful not to quickly believe everything I say. However, you will really have to promise to believe me when I say that Nathanial is real. That’s right, he’s living like you are right now, breathing like you are, you may have bumped into him in Soho without even knowing it if you are unlucky enough. He is a real living man with 46 chromosomes and approximately 86 billion neurons inside that brain inside that skull, which sits inside that olive skin which has a host of floppy panther-black curls sown into it atop his head. Ha! 86 BILLION neurons yessir, yes madam, isn’t the human body a bloody miracle? I hardly believe it is real and yet it is, unless of course this whole world is a lie and we aren’t real at all but then again, I believe in that Descartes business, you know, that I think therefore I must be real. Wheeewwwww oh god let’s save the Cartesian cogito ergo sum bullshit for a bit later, I wouldn’t want to piss you off so soon with my meditations. Now here’s something that will shock you, I know everything about Nathanial that there is to know so let me tell you the story of a man that blurred the lines of opposed forces so deeply that he no longer knows what they mean. He is a slave to his own excesses and no longer understands what is good and bad, a lie, an embellishment or indeed a truth. Rage and love are hand in hand, embraced in a hip-clutch of brutal affection for he lives a life of corrupted deluge devoid of pure intent. Raw, broken and entirely effervescent here is the story of a modern day overreacher who bites from the forbidden fruit each waking minute of his poor existence.