Happiness itself, for a man without hope, is a kind of torture. It adds to his life no optimism for the future, but rather stands as confirmation of his wretchedness, that wretchedness which, in his isolation, was merely a speculation he had about himself, but which, after a spurt of joy briefly enlivens his dreams, and for a moment guides his mind’s-eye to a kinder future, that very sensation which suggests life itself may be a blessing also incarnates his misery: He hears a woman’s jangling laughter in the distance, he sees a teary child rushing to his father’s embrace, he feels the rule of love guiding the planets so undeniably, and all the clearer his squalor appears to him: The more the goodness of being is confirmed, and the more his solitude is solidified, the more his hapless thoughts are validated as truth and not some cruel nightmare from which he might awaken this day. It is the sweet moments, the sweet reprieves from the perfidy of existence, which are the worst, because in those moments in which his hopes seem to come alive, he realizes how quickly they must die.
He rarely left his apartment but to go to his cubicle. He desired as little experience as his life could bear. The desire for a woman’s kiss would sometimes arise in him, but it only took a distraction, a video or a jog, to drive it away. But a real kiss, from some woman, at some bar, stayed with him for weeks, and could not be cleansed until reality succeeded, day after day, in purging from his mind that sweetness; reality itself had to erode before he could be content again, and he could not simply replace one thought with another. He had tried giving his heart to women, things, creeds, but he so rarely found reciprocation, and the effort of giving was such a strain, that he could only be sickened by what seemed the injustice of all. It seemed that existence was some infinite gut devouring, eternally, all he could give. He simply wanted to be left alone with his dreams. And he did all his shopping after midnight, and smoked cigarettes only under the moon.