Monday, June 7, 2010

Loss and Loneliness

An advice often given to a fledgling writer is "write what you know about". Well, I don't know disability. I am not disabled. Nobody I know is. Writing about disability is difficult. Even if I were to spend the rest of my life doing research on it, I can only approximately imagine what it might be like. So, it's easier to write about other things, and that's what I do. There are plenty of other things I write about when I write about Rin and Hisao, eventually even some things I actually do know. But still, I have to imagine loss, I have to imagine loneliness. I have to imagine disability.

Disability has certain characteristics. It's the lack of ability, the loss of limb, it categorizes of people whose bodies don't fill the qualifications of a complete human being. A harsh and unfair expression, sadly true yet not quite the truth. How big part of a human is defined by the body? It is an old problem.

Writing about how people experience this is a challenge. Even if they don't directly confront the issue, it slowly seeps out of the character. Entire time it's balancing on a rope. The characters certainly must be conscious about their disabilities, yet it seems too much if that's all they think about. The characters have extra trouble with various everyday things because of disabilities, but they should not prevent these activities completely. The characters are shaped by their disabilites, but not defined by them. Hisao lost something, but it's on a rather abstract level. You can't see his disability. He doesn't have much in the way of physical impediments as long as he remembers his limits. But he experiences great trouble adjusting to his new situation. He becomes depressed, anxious. His mood changes a lot as exhibited by some scenes that surprised a lot of readers in act 1. I also write one of the characters who have been disabled since birth. She never had arms or hands in the first place and doesn't seem to be particularly bothered about it. Her tranquility is an almost complete foil to Hisao. This is my problem: to what extent Rin experiences the loss of her limbs that never were there?

It's very hard to express the absence of something.

If I can't completely relate to my characters, could they possibly relate to each other? Technically that is a part of why the imaginary school our story takes place in exists. Is there loneliness in that place? I think there must be. And because our characters are teenagers, becuase they are human, there must also be weltschmerz, there must be the heaviness of existence. And this is something I can't avoid imagining: that these characters experience it in a more pure, stronger way than I do. I imagine the silence of dormitories of Yamaku at night. It's the absolute prime time to be melodramatically depressed by yourself. Moonlight illuminates a dorm room and its inhabitant, wrestling with dark thoughts and insomnia. In the next room, another watches the same moon, perhaps thinking about the same thoughts. In the room next to that, another. A hundred tiny rooms, a hundred tiny souls. All connected yet apart. It hits me that I might already have fallen off the rope with thoughts like these, and that maybe the true answer is that there was no rope at all. Maybe there are no disabilities. Maybe it's all a big metaphor of the hardships of life and the feeling of loneliness everyone experiences sooner or later.

"So that's how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing thats's stolen from us - that's snatched right out of our hands - even if we are left completely changed people with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to our allotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable loneliness."

- Aura