The Others

Chapter 5: I Made a Mistake

“The topic for my presentation is the difference between the quality of life of a religious person and the quality of life of an atheist. I know it’s a… a difficult subject, but I’ll try to explain it a bit.” Seth says a bit nervous, quickly glancing at me, every now and then. “There are… many differences between atheists and religious people, apart from the fact… that some… someone is probably right and the other is not, they live their own lives. But whose is worth more, who will be happier throughout this life?” Seth glances at Mr Hampleton, as if to ask for permission to continue.

“To answer this question I asked someone for help. This someone we all know very well, namely the anonymous blogger.” A silence falls over the class. The teacher has a disapproving look on his face, but doesn’t interrupt Seth. So he continues. “I asked him to write a blog post about this, so I can use that as a source. This is what he wrote:

Life is scary. Not only for me, but for all of us. No, I should take that back. Not life, but the thought about the lack of life, that’s what scares us. That’s because we, the human race, are not able to comprehend limitation. We’re not able to comprehend the fact that everything has an end. That’s logical, because nothing ever really ended in our lives. Before we were born, we didn’t have a conscience and we didn’t make any memories. But if you really think about it, isn’t the part before our lives started exactly as scary as the thought of a time after our lives ended. Just the feeling of not being there anymore, scares the hell out of us. At least, it does me.

That’s why I want to state the next thesis: people within a specific religion that take this limitation away and replace it with infinity, are living a better life than people who live with this fear every day.

I may have been very negative towards religion in my last posts, but that doesn’t mean I can’t envy those who believe. I recall I even said something like that once in an earlier blog. If anything, I wish I was able to believe in a god, a heaven and a hell. Because that does take a lot of fear away.

Here we can clearly see a religious person has, according to this well-known and respected writer, a better life. He doesn’t have a lot to worry about, because he thinks he’ll end up in heaven no matter what.

I want to end this presentation by agreeing with him. Thank you for listening.” He sighs, not hard enough for everyone to hear it, but the movement of his body said enough. Seth turns to the teacher, probably waiting to hear his annoyed response. And for me, the only thing I can think about is the email I got last week. It was from Seth. Seth is the anonymous reader. He wanted to show his school that my blog was worth reading. Of course he doesn’t know I’m the blogger, but I still feel flattered.

“Wow,” Mr Hampleton says. Immediately Seth stands up and looks a little bit more confident. “When you told me you were about to quote the anonymous blogger, I feared the worst. He isn’t our friend, he is our enemy. But finally, for some reason he didn’t say anything bad about our beliefs…” He looks directly at me, as if he knows I’m the author. “But I can’t believe that’s all he wrote.” With that he opens his computer and gestures Seth to sit down. He doesn’t need to do that, because the boy is already on his way back to me. He looks pale once again. He knows, like I do, what comes next and I immediately regret my choice to write about the hate religions cause.

The teacher is now reading out loud what I wrote next. I don’t have to listen to it and direct my attention to Seth. “I didn’t know he would read the rest,” I whisper without thinking.

“Of course you didn’t.” Seth says. “I asked the blogger to write, for once, in favour of religion. He started that way, but he felt like he needed to ridicule us once again.”

“So, according to evolution it’s no wonder religion was made up,” Mr Hampleton finishes his reading. “Mr Martin, how many times did I tell you to quote everything an author says, instead of the part you want us to hear.”

Seth swallows. “A lot, Sir.”

“I can’t even begin to imagine why you’re quoting this heretic. I wonder if maybe you have more similarities with this blogger than we think. Maybe I should direct you to a counsellor?”

Again he swallows.

“Of course, I can’t give you a sufficient grade for your essay, because you didn’t quote the blogger in a correct way. You purposely held information away from us, blurring our judgment about the blog. Okay, next one!”

“Why did you do it?” Marc suddenly asks. I didn’t even see him standing right behind us.

“Because I like his blogs,” Seth says softly.

“But why?”

I see Seth's face dropping three levels of happiness and decide to finally do something good and less harmful. “I like them as well,” I say.

Okay, that gets the full attention of Marc. Luca apparently heard it as well, because she moves her chair and places it next to me. “I never really gave them a chance.”

“Do you guys hear what Mr Hampleton is saying about it? You really don’t want to be associated with this stupid blogger. He is an atheist and it won’t surprise me if he’s gay! Mr Hampleton…”

“Since when do you listen to what teachers say?” Seth calls out. He walks out of the classroom, which earns him a questioning look from Mr Hampleton, who was trying to listen to a new presentation a student was giving. I know I should feel guilty, I am the reason this is happening, I am the reason Seth will get a big fat F for this essay, but instead I feel flattered. Seth just walked out of the class, for me. He doesn’t know that, but it doesn’t make any difference in my mind.

“I never saw Seth like this,” Marc admits.

“Maybe you were a little too harsh on him, Marc.” Luca responds.

I start to nod my head, when the teacher suddenly calls out: “Okay, mister Rills, I’d like you to sit over there. And you two,” he points at Luca and Marc, “keep your mouths shut so you can listen to your classmate.”

It’s past four o’clock when I finally make it home. Without looking for my mom I go to my room and immediately start my computer. I expect Seth to have mailed me again, telling me what happened, and for some reason I’d like that, even though I know exactly what happened today. I don’t know why, but I like the fact that I know who he is, whilst he doesn’t know about my existence. It feels like I have the chance to be a total different person.

My mind wanders off to Yuri once again. I was so happy that I managed to forget about him for almost a week, but in the end he’ll always sneak back into my head. I know I can’t ban him for life. The worst part is the fact that I start thinking about him unconsciously. The memory of that part of my life hurts like hell and still it’s like I want to scratch open that wound over and over again. Why would I do that?

Simple, the pain reminds me of life. And the memory is all I have left. In fact, I believe the memory is the pain. Because, what would pain be if you don’t remember it? What is anything if you can’t remember it. Our lives, they are nothing more than memories. It scares me, we’re nothing but a thought, nothing more than a heap of nerves able to recall what happened. And maybe this memory isn’t even right, who knows, and who would tell us if it isn’t?

I open my notepad and quickly write down: the importance of memories. That’ll be the topic of my next post.

Then I open my inbox, and as expected the anonymous reader mailed me again.

“To the anonymous blogger,

A week ago I asked you to write a post about the differences between the quality of life of a believer and that of a non-believer. I asked you to favour the believer so I could use it in my presentation.

You started off that way, but you managed to give the atheist a better appearance in the last part of your blog. I really wanted to convince everyone that maybe your blog is worth reading, so I quoted the part I could use. Unfortunately, my teacher decided to read the rest of your post. Long story short, I failed it, thanks to you.

You really helped me a lot with problems I had. Without you I’m not sure I would’ve made it this far, but you let me down. You probably won’t read this whole email, you won’t mind losing a faithful reader, but I won’t read your blog again.

Goodbye and thank you for proving me wrong.

The anonymous reader.”

I swallow. What does he mean, he wouldn’t have made it this far? Does he really have so many problems? And did I actually help him solve them? I never considered my posts would be able to actually help someone. Hell, I don’t write them to help people, I write them to help myself.

For some reason I really do mind that Seth won’t read my posts anymore. Crap, I’m gonna get too involved with my friends. No! The others.

When I first met the people who are now the others, I expected them to be hollow. I expected them to cover me during high school, laugh with me and that’s it. I never wanted Samantha to understand what I think and I never wanted to feel bad for hurting Seth.

I think it’s some kind of automatic reaction when I feel bad: I open the picture of Yuri again. I take a look at his smile, a smile that once made me smile whenever I saw it. It’s weird, I’ve only seen pictures of him, only stationary images, but in my mind he moves around. He was the last person I really called a friend, even worse, I called him my boyfriend. And he is gone.

I start writing.

“Imagine yourself waking up tomorrow, without any memory of today. You don’t remember who you were, what your name was, what you liked or didn’t like. In short, your old life is totally erased from your mind.

Now tell me, were you alive before you woke up? People around you may or may not remember you, it won’t make a difference, because you do not feel what you once felt. Your life starts over and it’s like your previous life never happened. The only proof of that life is the effect you had on your surroundings. You wake up in the room of a unknown person and you will try to understand him.

Now tell me, would you feel obligated to start where you left of? Would you ask around and try to find out who you were, picking up your life? In movies they mostly do that, but why would you feel connected with your old self? You’re the same body, but your mind starts all over. You finally have a chance to start your life all over again, but you don’t remember your old self, so you won’t feel that way.

I want to tell you what you are. You are a memory, nothing more or less. If the memory is gone, you’ll be gone as well. The ancient Greeks already discovered this, they said you’ll live forever if you manage to keep your memory alive. When you are successful enough so that people who will live a thousand years after you will still remember you, then you didn’t die.

When someone punches you in the shoulder, the moment itself isn’t that bad, but it’s the second right after that, when the memory of the punch is made, that’s what hurts. The only reason you still remember that pain, is because of that memory and this memory hurts the most, though it reminds us of life at the same time. That’s a story for next time, though.”

Or should I write about what happened to Seth? Could that help him? He said he wouldn’t read what I’m posting from now on, but for some reason I don’t believe him. Should I say I’m sorry in a blog post. Would he feel flattered by that?

Arghh, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what he thinks! I don’t freaking mind what happens to the people around me. The only person important enough to think about, is me. Please stop thinking about what happened. I chose not to do what he asked me to do and apparently that got him a bad grade, so what?

I don’t want to feel connected to people again. Yuri made me realise that.

I decide to respond to Seth.

“Dear anonymous reader,

I’m sorry to hear this. I really intended to write in favour of religious people, but while writing this it was automatically what came into the document. I’m not blaming some sort of mysterious force, making me write what I write. No, this is just my honest opinion and I’m really sorry for what happened to you.

I have to admit, you really got to me when you said my posts helped you a lot. I never considered them to be helpful. You said you weren’t going to read any more of my posts and to be honest, that hurts.

Okay, before you leave me, can you do me one more favour. Tell me how exactly I have helped you. Maybe that way I can help others, because after hearing what happened to you, I plan on taking more responsibility. It’s time for me to think about my subscribers instead of myself.

Thank you!

the anonymous blogger.”

Before I can reconsider what I wrote, I send the email. I immediately regret what I said, but there is no way back now. I don’t want to know what happened to him, do I?

I hear the door opening and I walk downstairs to greet my mother.

“Hey mom!” I say, but I don’t get a response. She has a worried look on her face and wanders around. “What’s wrong?”

“Tyde.”

I sigh. Every time my mother is worried, it has something to do with him. “Did you find him?”

“Tyde is in the hospital.”

Wait… What? Shit man. No, I don’t mind. Seriously, I hate him, he spoiled my youth. No no no, I start sweating. “What happened?” I ask with a crack in my voice. Argh, I don’t want this, I don’t want to feel anything anymore. I want to stop my emotions. I don’t want to worry about my brother, or my mother and especially not about Seth. What is happening? I don’t want… I don’t want… Tyde to be hurt.