The extra funds allowed him to live comfortably, if not lavishly, he had no urgent need of anything, and when necessity is absent, initiative sees no reason to hang around. He was not an ambitious man, the simple pleasures were quite enough for him. An outing once a month, an occasional feast, a room full of books, a few close friends and a videogame as a relaxant, he could not see too many reasons for complaint.
He had just moved to this city, he didn’t have a lot of friends here, but met a few people who seemed nice enough. He was still in the process of getting to know them and was negotiating the awkward phase where neither is sure if they are a fit, but are giving it a try anyhow. One girl in particular had held his attention from the first day, he definitely connected with her, but past experiences with quick connections had made him cautious and he repeatedly reminded himself not to read into it too much.
Having completed the daily formalities of bathing and brushing his teeth, making himself look mildly presentable, he contemplated what to do for the day. He had no classes that day, and the work had been light that week, he did not have any immediate plans, which is just as he liked it. He decided to take a walk around the neighbourhood and brainstorm for ideas to add to his poetry collection. He wrote poems as a hobby, an amateur undertaking at best, but recently had begun increasing his output as a result of all the time he had on his hands.
The world outside carried on in its usual hustle and bustle, and they remained as ignorant of his presence as he of theirs. He covered ground quickly with his long, loping steps, walking to the cheerful sonatas of Mozart. Two kilometres and four cigarettes later, he still had no concrete ideas, and he gave up and turned back towards his house. Fixing himself a quick meal, he settled into his bed and watched eight episodes of The Simpsons, his favourite television show. He would have been quite content to continue in that vein for the rest of the day, but a call from his new friends put an end to that plan. They were going out for a night of drinking and dancing, and he was to accompany them. Stifling a groan, he got up and got dressed, walking down to their house, in the next lane from his, he met them with his customary jokes and quips which were so amusing to new acquaintances and which got old so very quickly. The night turned out to be quite a riot, the group had just the right amount of crazy in them to win his respect. He sat next to his potential love interest all night, and they had a wonderful and stimulating conversation on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from the farcical to the absolutely profound. The dancing went on late into the night, by the end of which he banished his caution to the deeper recesses of his mind and admitted to himself his obvious attraction to her.
Life went on along the same lines for the next few months, his bond with his friends deepened and his attraction to the girl grew more concrete. She and he shared an understanding that immediately elevated their friendship to a level far above anything he had experienced before. It didn’t go unnoticed, and before long he was on the receiving end of much good natured teasing within his circle. Never one to back down from a good laugh, he joined in and had many a fun nights playing along to their theories.
A lot of truth is said in jest, however, and before long he confessed his feelings to her and they became a couple.
During this phase of his life, Usman was full of plans for the future, which seemed to hold for him unlimited potential. He changed his mind often, almost from day to day, and in his companions he found a group supportive of his fanciest whims. He thought of learning how to play the guitar, learning martial arts, writing a play, writing a novel. Every day he would think of a new idea, and discuss it, and every day they would nod approvingly and discuss the pros and cons of the undertakings in question. None of these plans ever materialized, but that did not seem to matter.
His relationship with his girlfriend too deepened into a solid bond. They shared everything with each other, talking for hours on end, whilst walking hand in hand down the streets or lying side by side in bed.
He found her a wonderful partner, they shared many common interests and the conversations never seemed to run out of steam. This was the first relationship he had had where it did not take a monumental effort on his part to keep the peace. He was a man of many eccentricities, of this he was aware, however they did not seem all that bad when he was with her.
All in all, Usman decided he was happy with his decision to move cities, and looked forward to years of fun and frolic. He also considered, in the long term, the possibility of settling down with his girlfriend.
As is usually the case, these differences did not come to the fore immediately. However, gradually, as he got to know his friends and the city around him on a deeper level, the casual attitude towards mediocrity began to rankle. It was all well and good for a person to be ignorant of a subject as common and relevant as world history, but then to profess pride in that ignorance was one step too far for Usman to bear. He felt alienated by this acceptance of ignorance, and he was not a person who dealt with alienation well. Repeated rejections and betrayals in his past had hardened Usman into a stubborn, opinionated man, who did not appreciate the necessity for diplomacy when speaking one’s mind. If faced with a mindset not to his liking, his usual recourse was to mock and jibe at the person in question with relentless sarcasm with copious amounts of snobbishness. A one off case would have been forgiven, but these situations seemed to arise with increasing frequency as the days went by. His friends began to get uncomfortable around him and repeatedly advised him to tone it down. It was far too ingrained a habit for him, however, and the well intentioned advice to the contrary only served to aggravate his feelings of alienation and misunderstanding. He began brooding in silence often isolating himself in the midst of a party, listening to Beethoven rage at his ears with his fantastic, angst filled melodies.
His girlfriend too, patient as she was with his idiosyncrasies, began to show frustration at his lack of tact and uncompromising nature. His conversations with her had morphed from stimulating debates about musical and literary geniuses into long, whining rants about the sheep mentality of the people of the city and the lack of initiative on the part of the people to educate themselves about what he considered “proper art”. Nothing was exempt from his criticism, from the food at restaurants, to the music played at clubs, to the books available at the bookstore. His girlfriend tried waiting it out, hoping the choppy waters would calm down soon and that he would return to his original self, but the possibility had begun to occur to her that maybe this was his original self and it had taken this long for it to come out.
He began by reducing his visits to their house, going there only when no excuse was forthcoming and if his girlfriend was coming too. The friends seemed only too happy at this turn of events, and Usman took this as confirmation that his decision was the right one and it stiffened his resolve. His evenings, suddenly free, allowed him to resume his voracious reading and he restarted his creative exercise and began writing poems and short stories again. He craved conversations, he craved verbal stimulation, but he convinced himself that books and television shows could provide him with all the stimulation he needs if he gives them enough time. He became more and more of a recluse, shutting himself in his room for days on end, only emerging to eat and then retreating back into his shell. He stopped taking calls, sometimes went without human contact for days on end. He would read a book a day, then contemplate its meaning, have discussions with himself, and come to a conclusion in his own head. The only evidence the outside world had of these mental ramblings were the occasional cryptic SMS’es he sent to a select few friends. His nights were spent listening to the desolation in the music of Erik Satie.
His seclusion did allay his fears of rejection from his friends, after all in this case it was he who was rejecting them and not vice versa, but it had a side effect which he did not foresee. Even the most sympathetic and understanding companions have a saturation point, and after his moody episodes, his girlfriend found his intermittent disappearances too much to handle and one day called him to let him know that their relationship was over. Somewhere, Usman had known this was coming, its arrival nevertheless was a thunderbolt. She was his last remaining friend in this city, he now found himself completely alone in a city he abhorred, and the two years he still had to spend here seemed to stretch out in front of him for eternity. He glanced up at the sky and immediately identified himself with the lone star, twinkling within full view of the world, and yet completely and utterly alone.