It’s not happiness. If it were, you would know | Fiction | Fresh Soup

I wrote this piece two years ago on the back of a plane ticket, in a hotel room in Colombia. Since then, my sleep has only gotten worse.

Three a.m. is prime time for the soul. Programming should start in a minute, and it’s hard to tell what’ll be on this time, so is it any wonder you’re breaking into a sweat? Sometimes they broadcast anxiety, on weekends it’s depression, and then there’s the big hit—that feeling that makes your whole body shake and closes up your throat. It’s not happiness. If it were happiness you would know. You’ve read enough about happiness to know that it shouldn’t be anywhere near this painful. In bed next to you, a beautiful woman with her mouth open draws a perfect circle of saliva on the pillow. You love her forever but you know she’ll die in the end. You’ll die in the end too, and with any luck it’ll be a minute or two before she does. You’ve never been good at mourning, at tears, at nodding understandingly to visitors who come to console. 

In the other room a curious boy who has yet to learn what fear is snores like an old man sawing off the tree trunk of his life. A woman and a child are asleep in your apartment, as selfish and angry as everyone else in the block, but they’re yours. Not like property that is bought or taken or plundered. Yours like weeds that spring up inside you from the bottom of your soul, poking through the cracks without any plan or purpose. They are not there to beautify or glorify or perfume the air with their blossoms. They’re not there. They’re here.

You shut your eyes, your lids bowing gratefully to the gods of insomnia. Four hours from now, if the sun comes up, you’ll wake again to a magnificent morning erection. It’s pretty amazing that someone your age still gets up every day with such a fierce, uncontrollable urge to fuck the world.

Translated by Jessica Cohen