Joie de Vivre

I had an old friend come over one night. He’d brought some wine (port) and we decided to spend the evening drinking.

He saw me looking under a cupboard, looking a little stressed.

‘What are you looking for?’ he asked.

‘My joie de vivre.’

I looked under the cupboard, searched my room, under the bed, in the closet, the bathroom…

Nothing. It wouldn’t show up.

‘This is terrible,’ I told him, ‘I lost my joie de vivre!’

‘Don’t worry,’ he said, sucking wine right out of the bottle, ‘we’ll find you a new one.’

‘Uh-huh.’

As we took turns drinking I started thinking about it. Where had I last left the damn thing? Where had I lost my joie de vivre?

Then I remembered the words of Charles Baudelaire, whom I had recently been reading:

Le poète jouit de cet incomparable privilège, qu’il peut à sa guise être lui-même et autrui.

The poet can be anyone he chooses to be.

I realized that I had been spending so much time being someone else that I’d forgotten how to be myself. As I spent night in, night out busting my gut, bleeding filthy words into white pages, I was hopping from one beer drunk soul to another – often flirting with loneliness, poverty, love-sickness, hunger and certified insanity.

I remembered relating to the homeless, the voiceless, the mad, the envious, the greedy, the tyrant, the weak, the wicked….

I remembered becoming the corrupt businessman, the drunkard of a husband who constantly smashes beer bottles on his wife’s head, the pimp, the cargo man…

I remembered walking on the borderline of death occasionally.

I remembered twisting and turning multiple times while on the trail of a story that seemed to have no end and suddenly came to life out of nowhere.

I remembered finding corners in straight roads, playfulness in the night, company in solitude, loathing in people…

I also found joy in drinking, and it was there that I fully experienced the senses and tastes of life.

It was there that I got to express and explore every hidden chamber in me. It was there that I saw the light and got a glimpse of freedom.

Life – a prison for man, an irreversible journey that we must embark on. We walk on this fine line with the fear of falling at any moment yet the courage and stubbornness to pull through and make it to the other side.

Some call this foolishness, stupidity. Some call it bravery, determination.

I make this road daily, in every book I read and every story I write.

I slap a poem on a piece of paper and it takes me to unimaginable places. It shows me visions of alternate realities, horrible lives, better people.

It makes me think of those I’ve met, of those I’ve become over time.

Yesterday, I was in the mind of a Mexican with a fancy mustache. Today, I enter the mind of a poor Lebanese man living in crime and corruption. Tomorrow, I will be a single mother raising two children on her own.

There are also the places, the bars I tour regularly, the madhouses and asylums I pay visit to…

All through a piece of paper with words on it.

But over the course of this, I’ve lost an identity, I’ve lost a soul. I’ve lost a heart and a mind. I’ve lost the presence of myself.

And that’s why, I thought, drinking from the wine again, I’ve lost my joie de vivre. That’s why I’ve lost the desire to carry on. I’ve been too busy leading the lives of others that I’ve managed to lose track of mine. A life that has derailed far beyond repair, now in the clutches of alcohol and darkness.

It was 2 a.m. and everything was quiet. My thoughts had settled in my head.

I looked over my shoulder and surely, my friend was still sitting there, waiting his turn to drink from the bottle, a silent gaze drawn upon his face.

I’d made such a racket in my head and he managed to stay this quiet? Hadn’t he heard anything out of it all? Not even a peep?

I thought to myself: maybe I should explore his mind someday. Maybe I’ll get a turn at being him sometime. Hell, maybe I’ll play him for an entire week since, well, I figured I was already on an impressive roll and my list of candidates was growing fast.

But then again, his mind wouldn’t handle my madness. His mind wouldn’t be dark enough for me.

The bottle was finished and I was done for tonight. I was done drinking (for now) and I was done being myself. I discovered it wasn’t the best role I could pull off.

My friend got up and left as abruptly as he’d walked in some hours ago.

I was now alone again, alone with myself, alone with all the white papers waiting for me to dive into them and carve a new path, a new story, a new person.

I’d given up on trying to find myself and set my sights on becoming another yet again. But my quest for the elusive joie de vivre wasn’t over. Sooner or later, I was going to dig it up again.

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