Gradually, then suddenly

This was Ernest Hemingway’s response when he was asked how man falls into the stupor of his mortality.

It is not so late in the evening, roughly 10 minutes to eleven, when the urge to device a plan for a perfect crime forces itself on my brain. I have no right to refuse; the only option I have is to succumb and to agree with whatever the mastermind of this crime directed me to do; I am a mere accomplice, after all.


I take a cup of brewed coffee, open the first chapter of part three of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and start to scribble the plan while simultaneously following the train of thoughts of the criminal who refuses to think of himself as a criminal, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, the novel’s protagonist. I had a hiatus of several weeks in reading the rest of the novel after the feeling of weariness got the better of me. Now I’m back.

I start to write and to think about the next thoughts that come gushing from between my ears. The humidity in the atmosphere does not help; neither does the heat of this early March evening. The instant coffee solution, whose taste and supposed aroma I have a hard time distinguishing from an expensive brew from a high end coffee shop in Glorietta, hardly alleviates the wringing pain in my head. I might need another five cups in order to bring me back to my senses, which can also mean heart arrhythmia, or worse, a full blown myocardial infarction (I sound like a learned man in physiology and human anatomy. I’m far from being one).

I find my self suddenly standing up, opening the valve of the liquefied petroleum gas tank an arm length away from where I am seated, and lighting a cigarette stick. I am about to pull the rubber tube connecting the stove and the gas tank when a message alarm from my mobile brings me back to the now that I am beginning to forget to have existed. My idea of real time has been totally mixed up with the virtual-ness of the now that has existed even before the present came to life but a now that is already finished in the future.

It is a message sent by my mother asking about the health of his son who is living a solitary life in Manila. She has this way of saying her prayers for me through her messages that have gnawing effect in me. Mama thinks I am doing very well, that I am getting closer to my dreams each day. I’ve never told her how hard it is, that the errors I made are mounting.

I am unable to remember the perfect crime I originally devised per order of the mastermind whom I am yet to meet. Sleep is starting to assert it jurisdiction on me. I suspect sleep is the mastermind, although I am yet to gather enough evidence. For now what I only have are circumstantial evidence that implicate sleep based on the modus operandi that have been replicated more than fifty per cent of the time.

The death of Semyon Zharovitch Marmeladov after being run over by two horses with a carriage in front of Raskolnikov almost brought me to tears. How could life be so useless, so meaningless, so irrelevant, and so immaterial? If this is what life means, if this is where life is heading to, if this is all there is to life, then there is no use writing these thoughts, no use opening the valve of the LPG tank, no use lighting the cigarette, no use reading Dostoevsky, no use ending one’s life even.

The banality of life wears me.

I then rather fall in to the stupor of my mortality – in Hemingway’s words – gradually, then suddenly.


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