This morning, Victor Kwanza woke up a couple of minutes after half past six. Very robotically, the alarm o’clock made him sit up straight on the edge of his frameless bed; his rolling to the other pillow of his queen size bed made him human. A simple box-spring supported his fourteen-year old mattress. The three-story building, where he lived, had a central heating system in place. Right now, wintertime, he pretty much despised the fact that his cranky landlord had total control of the warmness of his room. In any case, he chose not to curse her out. Today was his last day; he couldn’t possibly let that trouble him.
Instead, he placed his palms on the area below his squinted light brown eyes to hold his cheeks; he wasn’t fully awakened yet. He was still lightheaded. Before acquiring the strength to stand up and carry on with the day, he spaced out. The flashes in his mind weren’t real based on reality but they were very substantial, so meaningful and valuable that his existence had depended on it for the past fourteen years. His ambition was never built on selfishness; he didn’t desire to be a billionaire, nor have special powers. His concept of success was actually very straightforward and simple to measure; he wanted to be an intellect, a linguist with expertise in diplomacy. He also wanted to have a bike; one like a cyclist would have, to cruise around the city to pretend life was flawless. The bike would have freed him from his daily anxiety; it would have been a device that would have kept him sane and enabled him to make it seem life was simpler than what it was. Simplicity was a characteristic he valued more than most things.
Today, Monday, November thirtieth, 2015, the beginning of a brand new week was no longer intriguing. He thought. His ambition had long been stamped in every single day of the previous weeks, months and years, and sadly, despite his work ethic, nothing extraordinary had ever happened. He doubted the course of such regularity would alter from one day to another. He understood that the journey had greater significance than the objective, itself, but he was no longer willing to slave himself. His mind couldn’t take it anymore. Victor was very aware of such reality.
There, naked, chest out, with heavy eye bags he failed to see how his life could improve. At thirty-seven, as a New Yorker, he understood he still had to hike tremendously to be this quick-witted diplomat he so wished to be but his incapability and misery were so present and undeniable that today was the day he had chosen to dictate the outcome of his life. Perhaps, that was his fate, he thought. He still remembered his earlier days as a naïve ten-year-old kid. He used to wake up smiling then, today, twenty-seven years later he was simply depressed.
Jammed tears silently resumed their course and landed on his wooden bedroom floor. The constant lack of signs of progress had made the decision easier. Fourteen years out of college, he still owned the same, low quality mattress. And even for him, a very modest, low-key type of dude, the squeaky mattress needed to fucking go. He, finally, got up, passed by every single light switch and then closed the bathroom door.
Showering made him feel a bit better. He was a bit more determined to tackle his last day at the United Nations but that was only because of his diligence, which he considered to be his religion but as Gabriel, the black coward priest from The Walking Dead series, Victor was now ready to renounce to his faith – his work ethic. His demons weren’t walkers but it was actually himself.
He was disabled. He thought. He gradually self-diagnosed himself to be impaired to learn. It wasn’t due to some kind of inadequate child care during his childhood but it was rather as a result of his own belief that he was incapable to gather, retain and convey meaningful information, which were ultimately necessary to achieve any sort of intellectual goal he desired. Whether or not it made sense, this belief shaped his way of thinking. He was highly convinced now was the right time to do something about it. The moment seemed appropriate, he thought.
As part of his miserable routine, he turned on MSNBC and watched Morning Joe while he got ready to go to work for the last time. Obviously, his supposed disability was very much influenced by his own mind but he would argue that he also possessed hard facts and didn’t just depend on his stubbornness.
In 1988, four years after moving to Brussels from Rwanda, — with his diplomatic father, Antonio Kwanza, his mother, Djamila Kwanza, who had experienced an unfortunate miscarriage a year prior to their moving, and his older half-sister, Anselma Kwanza, who he had always considered to simply be his sister — his school teacher once told his parents, in one of those parents-teacher meetings, that Victor was having difficulties following the lessons and that he couldn’t even write his own name properly without misspelling it. His mother, very new to the westernized world, decided to listen to Genevieve Gorgerat, the wife of a Swiss diplomat. They randomly met during a reception and had become very fond of each other. One day, Genevieve proposed Djamila to consider the possibility of taking Victor to a psychologist. Djamila accepted. Victor attended two or three sessions, which he remembered vaguely:
"How is it, Victor? How’s everything? And what about classwork, do you find it difficult? How about your classmates?" The psychologist lady would ask sitting on a revolving chair with her smart glasses on. Victor’s responses were always very short. Frankly, he didn’t really understand why he was there. He didn’t remember what sort of explanation his parents had given him. Perhaps, they never gave him one. Victor was very uncommunicative, even with his parents; he had always been that way. This modus operandi certainly came from somewhere.
In October, 1989, at home celebrating his little sister’s birthday, her fifth one, — Victor’s mother successfully gave birth to Matilda a couple of months after arriving in Belgium. Genevieve was a very supportive figure during Djamila’s pregnancy. She attended most of the prenatal visits — in the middle of the living room with a bunch of parents and kids, Antonio asked Victor to start singing happy birthday to his younger sister. After a few gazes at his Dad, it was evident Victor couldn’t perform accordingly. He failed miserably. The rhythm of it wasn’t registered in his brain as something totally obvious and of course the silence and his blank stares caused Antonio to go ahead and start it for him. Once again, he was the center of the mockery by his peers. The adults continued chitchatting and pretended nothing had occurred.
The alphabet was also a matter he was shaky about. In 1990, Djamila had the displeasure to find out through a third source, a nosey white bitch, that Victor had failed his classes and would have to redo the year all over again. The nosey bitch’s son had told his mother. Victor used to hide the assignments and falsify his mother’s very complicated signature.
Today, he couldn’t pretend all of these humiliating instances and plenty more hadn’t shaped him. They were the moments his taciturnity was based on. He thought. The fact that his height was considered below average also pushed him to be less confident.
Nevertheless, today, suited up like a GQ model, as usual, he got hold of a sliver of bagel, he never ate much for breakfast, locked the door of his apartment and left. After a few blocks of walking and turning he caught the subway to Grand Central. He was a local employee at the Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the U.N. for the past fourteen years. Once in the office, he worked with the same endeavor than any other day. He made it seem as if it was business as usual but it wasn’t.
At 5:01 in the afternoon, twenty minutes after the weekly staff meeting had ended; he stood up, rearranged some of the papers and pens on top of his cubicle desk, turned off his computer and simply left forever. It was time. Outside his office building, he joined the crowd made of oblivious commuters. He rebuked himself for his lack of participation during his last staff meeting. He always did. “I’m fucking stupid…Fuck! I should have said something… Why didn’t I say shit?! I fucking hate this shit. I’m so fucking useless… I wish I was able to talk how I think in my mind…” These situations, which included any kind of meeting, weren’t just upsetting; they were knife stabbing in the face painful shit. Physically, he could have been all right, but emotionally they were very dreadful. Feeling the gazes at him and imagining the unpleasant comments his colleagues would have among each other in relation to his speechless presence weren’t enough, he also felt as if he had to deal with the stigma of a long and unhealed scar in the middle of his face. That was how he always felt. Formal settings caused his heart to be heavy. He would weep internally. He would feel a liquid, he assumed it was blood, traverse his heart in a vertical manner as if it was inner tears falling away. But he always smiled and suffered in silence.
Along the years, he told himself that he would be better but despite his efforts it became very evident that his aspirations to be a distinguished diplomat were too demanding for the few sets of skills he possessed. He was neither eloquent in his explanations nor an articulate person like Alain Juppé. He wasn’t even a social person, how the hell would he have been a great diplomat like he wished? His inability to express himself in an easy and coherent manner frustrated him terribly. It embarrassed him.
He walked west, somewhere people wouldn’t recognize him, and then disappeared underground and followed the commuters to the subway platform. Even though, he believed he had inherited an unfortunate fear of attention, the walk helped. He, now, looked at ease; free from any type of doubt or concern. He approached a woman and asked:
“Hey…can I ask you something?”
“What’s up?!” the woman said.
“Sorry…don’t wanna be weird and all but…if you had to…how would you describe yourself?”
“What?” she frowned and then continued, “Mmm, I mean this is so random…but, Uh…” she hesitated.
He took it back, he apologized and turned around. He was going to leave but the woman grabbed his arm and said:
“Wait, wait. Where you going, I’ll answer…I think I’m a person who’s very aware of things, positive and negative. I’m happy for the positives and understand the negatives. I don’t ask myself too many questions, I just try to live. And you?" She asked.
"I think I am a puzzled light that brightens in any kind of room when no one is around to notice and flickers with the presence of the crowd."
"What is that supposed to mean?" She asked.
He didn’t answer instead he asked her to hold a white envelope. There in the middle of the platform, he wrapped his eyes under a white handkerchief, told the woman to open the envelope only when he would be gone and then proceeded toward the edge of the subway platform. He reached the yellow part and continued. Unpreventably, the honking subway struck him with a sharp blow and then the bystanders witnessed the train cleave him in two. The woman screamed violently and collapsed on the dirty floor. She was shaking uncontrollably. She didn’t dare to open the envelope. The cops, who arrived at the scene, a few moments after opened it.
I have a broken rubber band that has several knots. I have made them. Some of them are on top of each other, many are next to each other and the rest of the twisted intervals are distanced by random gaps. These gaps, I call them, high periods of knowledge gathering. If this were to be true, I would have placed a rotating hand, like a clock, inside the rubber band. Like that, I would have been able to set up a timeframe to read and learn. I would have been able to accomplish my personal goals; all of them. The rest of life would have been entertained by drug, sex and rock and roll. What a joy of life, don’t you think? Unfortunately, this is all very unreal. So I decided to end everything because if life cannot be as simple as that I cannot live. – Victor Kwanza.
Along with this white piece of paper, the broken rubber band was also in the envelope.