"What do you want to do now that you're done with uni?" he asked as he walked back in from the kitchen with my refilled glass of water. I hadn't seen him in awhile, but I was incapable of estranging him. Even if I lost all memory of him his familiarity would never leave me. We would rediscover each other in a heartbeat.
"I don't know," I replied. "I'm going to leave it to fate and whim."
"Whim?" he replied, cocking his head to one side with a slight smile. I felt tired at the thought of explaining myself, but he was the one who taught me the necessity of not leaving the other lost in my vagueness.
"I'm experiencing a brief interlude of liberty", I said, "and I'm feeling rather spontaneous. Spontaneity can be fickle, hence the whim".
"I don't understand," he replied. "You were always the sort to plan everything, why are you taking the easy way out? Isn't leaving things to chance or fate a little cowardly?" He said those last words insistently. I understood him. He didn't want me to change in anyway. He encountered happiness in the predictability of people.
"I suppose it could be cowardly, but only when you accept things without free will," I said. "I let things impose themselves on me, then I deliberate and intervene only when necessary".
He gave me an incredulous look. "How can you speak about intervening with your own life as if you were an intruder?" He leaned forward with a flash in his eyes. He was easily fired up; easily impassioned. He liked to find a cause in people and it sometimes overwhelmed me.
"It's not that," I responded quietly. "I just don't think life is something you always have to grapple with. Sometimes you go through the pain of creating something new, sometimes you let things happen to you. I feel like letting things happen to me."
"I don't understand your passivity," he said, looking a little dismayed.
"I don't understand your aggression," I echoed. "If you stop looking so much into the future you'd be more present in the present instead of living from one moment of despair to another."
"What makes you think I'm in despair?"
"The constant, restless anticipation of the future doesn't make you feel futile somehow? Like a hamster on a wheel."
"You can't compare me to a hamster," he retorted, but with halfhearted indignation. "Besides, I have ambitions to live for," he continued. "What happened to your aspirations?"
"You have ambitions to live up to you mean. Sometimes we poison ourselves with our self-expectations. I feel so much lighter without them."
"How can you take on any meaning at all without them?" he said vehemently. "Isn't that to say you've given up on yourself?"
"No. It just means I'm more self-forgiving. I still have self-expectations you know, like living an ethical life and such..."I said weakly. I hated how the conversation was taking him further away. It was as if he was trying to convince me of who I really was, and in doing so he was essentially abandoning me.
"But what do you really want?" He asked. "Surely you must have some kind of conviction no matter how abstract to go on living." He sounded almost desperate.
I hesitated. What I urgently felt like telling him seemed silly and insignificant, and much to vague to count for anything. I avoided his eyes. "I just want to be compassionate, whatever that means. I don't want to run out of people to love. If I didn't have somebody to love I wouldn't be able to express myself, and nothing would save me, not writing, not music, not art...I'd be ruined. Nothing else counts for much."
I don't know if he understood me, but he sensed the finality in my voice and remained quiet. It was already evening. The grills on the window were making shadows on the floor. Outside in the garden his dog was barking at some invisible intrusion. I had nothing more to say and got up to leave. At the door he gave me a gentle smile. "Take care of yourself", he said, and I was momentarily ensconced by the warmth of his voice. It moved me to think that he always tried in earnest to understand me, even when I myself had given up.