Bilal Mohamed
writer. artist. curator.





21 June 2019
Power and Expression

My best friend Clarence traded his Aprilla motorbike for a van once. One day, he invited me over to his house and enthusiastically assisted me into his latest experience: an aqua blue 1989 Chevy Astro, fully equipped with radio, carpet seating, and electric windows. It was weary and heavily used, yet ahead of its time when it was new. Futuristic and revolutionary. A staple of our nostalgia era.

I got in eagerly as these times with him were the most memorable. Passively consuming his energy had become revival-like for me. Neither him nor I had ever healthily adjusted to living in solitude, and so whenever necessary we supported each other in that respect. Our sporadic rendezvous were amongst the only times that we could genuinely exist with an audience present. A nonspecific audience that over time had built itself on trust.

Clarence: a 21-year-old, eccentric Filipino, writer, artist, botanist, and many other things (that I will never know), is very much like me. We have spent the majority of our lives directed towards people’s entertainment. We have always been the ‘characters’, the ‘weirdos’, the ‘odd individuals’, the ones whom people loved to question, but equally loved to have around. Possibly because our presence directed any scrutiny and judgements somewhere besides themselves.

For as long as I can remember, Clarence and I have had a special unwritten agreement. On the days either of us lived in power and expression; the other would simply exist. Our interchangeable relationship roles over time, became something like two highs in contrast. One person, under the influence of a drug, amphetamine-like. Full of emotion, vibrance, ecstasy, wide-eyed, and a fantastic energy that can never deplete. The other, a polar opposite. A stimulant-like high with depressive qualities. That individual becoming slow moving, dank, fatigued and uninterested in anything colorful.

Last I saw him, it was my turn, and he was in the worst state that I had ever found him. He did not seem like the keen and witty heartbreak kid the world knew. It seemed that he had lost his spark. His face thickened and the eclipse tattoo on his upper left cheek had stretched into a spider.

I could see it in his face. The shame and self-disappointment. The defeat in his eyes when he exited his front door pleaded me not to mention it. His eyes asked me only to accept him, and so I did; because whether he knew it or not my own self-hate was present. Only mine, in a place that I pray, today still, no one discovers and excavates.

I talked mostly at first and told him how I felt. Expressed to him what I thought, where we were going, and what we needed to do. Similar to what we usually did when it was either of our turns. The difference this time was that he listened. He sat still and truly heard me.

He knew, just like I did, that this time was different. This time he would say goodbye to the bad old habits. He wouldn’t exit the online world we all physically live in. He wouldn’t separate himself from the present, or humanity, or from his being. As we both possessed similar tendencies, for the reason that we ‘needed to exist’, when in reality we were doing quite the opposite.

These times of power and expression actually demanded very little time from us. It could last for two days at its maximum, two to three hours being more than enough. The other portion of our lives we would spend in limbo, consuming others and expressing what we had left in life’s corners and crevices. These were the places we’d reflect upon together whenever we met. Today, however, we have found ourselves to be our own destination. No longer traversing unfamiliar lands in search for comfort. For the only place we could find contentment had been within us the whole time.

//


That day in Clarence’s Astro van, we got pulled over and let off by a fortunate policeman. Fortunate because he had a soft heart. My friend had not registered the vehicle yet was given a second chance. On our way back home, it broke down. Then, it turned back on to bring us home in thanks. The van broke down again a few days later, then was towed and impounded. That was many months ago.

Clarence never got the van back, and he doesn’t plan to.