Sajid Bhai

Out over in the distance, a bus finally began making its way down the road. The handful of individuals stared aimlessly at the oncoming lights, patiently or impatiently? It was hard to tell. The horn bellowed as the vehicle lumbered its way over at last. The light from the inside revealed the absence of any empty seat and as per the norm, a large crowd of standing passengers were brushed up against one another. When the bus finally screeched to a halt, the scrawny helper yelled out the route and names of the many destinations they would be taking.

 

Instantaneous movement.

 

Both parties rushed; those attempting to get out found themselves obstructed by the ones attempting to get in, leading to the exchange of some choice language.

 

Sajid looked on in dismay. He had stayed up the previous night for a midterm and he wanted nothing more than to give in to his exhaustion. The last thing he wanted was some creep rubbing up against him while he dozed off. His wallet barely had fifty taka remaining, and as such, taking a CNG or calling an Uber was out of the question. He sighed, mustered up strength and pushed himself through the crowd.

 

I regret this.

 

Sajid had ridden public buses routinely over the past few years. They were rarely ever empty and the passengers were rarely ever bearable. The cramped interior, the sweltering weather, and the general lack of hygiene was an unpleasant combination to say the least. Whether it was due to his lack of sleep or the terrible day he had, on this particular journey every little negative emotion felt amplified. He could not even decide where to look. Straight ahead at the beard that was pushed up against his face? (Ack!) To the right where someone was asleep, visibly drooling? (Hayre, even snoring is better than this). Maybe to the left where a group of hands were desperately grabbing onto a glistening pole for support? (Iss!). Ultimately, he decided to angle his head in an attempt to look out the window.

 

Blues and blacks and lights! and blues and blacks and lights! and blues and blacks and light

 

Sigh.

 

Sajid closed his eyes. He shuffled around to find comfort, an action that was met with little success. Letting his eyelids fall, however, was quite wonderful. His neck muscles followed suit moments later and Sajid’s head drooped down ever so slowly.

 

Ei, why’d you step on my foot?’

‘Hah?’

 

Head and eyelids flung back up. In his drowsy state, Sajid must have accidentally stepped on one of the other passengers.

 

‘Er…sorry.’

‘What?’

 

What did he mean ‘What?’

 

‘Huh?’

‘You intentionally hurt me and then have the nerve to just say ‘‘sorry’’?’

 

Exhaustion was now injected with fear. Sajid eyed the man cautiously; he was large, possibly half a foot taller. A broad nose decorated the center of his face and jutting out of his mouth were teeth of the most distinct shade of yellow. He sported a dirty maroon shirt that shone impressively even under the sparse lighting of the bus. However, that was nothing compared to his hair. Parted midway and falling to both sides, the man’s head must have never seen a dry day. It was smothered to the roots with oil. Sajid could have sworn he saw a drop or two make their way to the shirt below. Maybe that was why it was so shiny. However, with all that said, the defining feature of this stranger could not be anything but his eyes. Bloodshot and unblinking, a permanent scowl was etched onto his face. That penetrating expression bore straight through Sajid, dispelling any thoughts of rest he previously had.

 

The poor boy gulped. What had he gotten himself into?

 

‘I…’ he began, ‘I didn’t intentionally step on you, bhai. It was a mistake…’

‘What the hell did you say?!’

 

Oh crap.

 

Shala, do you know who I am? Do you?!’

‘No, I-’ Sajid stammered.

‘I have men who do whatever I tell them to do. Do you know how many people I’ve killed? We could find your family and cut them into pieces, do you understand?’

‘Yes I-’

‘No you don’t understand, you son of a bitch! I will rip you apart!’

 

Sajid felt like a rabbit caught in headlights. Most of the passengers were now staring. He eyed them wordlessly, hoping someone would come to his aid. But he knew better. Twenty four years as a resident of Dhaka city taught him better. No one would help. He knew it. They knew it. They knew that he knew that they knew it. He needed to think of something to do, something to say. But what? The lunatic was not willing to listen. Maybe Sajid could be more submissive? Bow down perhaps? Lick his shoes if it meant not being ripped in half? No no, there was no way this was going to end well. What could he do? Come on, he thought. Think harder. Think. Think. THINK-

 

‘Ai Mirpur!’ the bus boy called out.

 

THANK GOD.

 

This was not Sajid’s stop, but he was all too happy to walk the rest of the way. He rushed forward.

 

‘OI WHERE ARE YOU GOING?’

 

Sajid squeezed through the horde of people in front of him, pushing, shoving, elbowing anyone who was obstructing him from the entrance. In record time, he had jumped out of the bus, and ran. He ran fast. He ran past curious onlookers. He ran past barking street dogs. He ran past fruit vendors and rickshaw pullers and owners of little shops. He did not even think of stopping til the bus was just a speck far behind.

 

After about seven minutes, he came to a halt at last. The adrenaline was beginning to wear off and amidst the fear and exhaustion, Sajid made a mental note to begin jogging from the following day. Who knew when he would have to run away from a madman in the future? Almost involuntarily, he gave out a nervous laugh; boy, would this make for a fun story. When he regained enough of his composure, he made his way to one of the small shops nearby.

 

‘One bottle of water.’

‘Here.’

 

He would pay in a bit, but first he really needed to quench his thirst. Sajid emptied the bottle entirely in one go and threw it into the roadside.

 

‘Fifteen taka.’ stated the shopkeeper bluntly.

‘Yes, hold on.’

 

Right pocket.

No, not there.

 

Left pocket.

Not there either.

 

Right back pocket.

Nope.

 

Left back pocket.

Definitely not.

 

Sajid sighed.

 

***

 

image credits: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avikbangalee/8043023586/

A Few Thoughts from a Spider-Man Fan

Superhero stories. Love ’em or hate ’em, one can’t deny that today they are all the rage. Whether it’s Robert Downey Jr’s unyielding charisma as Iron Man, or Gal Gadot’s powerful yet elegant portrayal of Wonder Woman, these larger than life characters and stories have become a cornerstone of modern popular culture and it appears that they’re not leaving anytime soon. I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about my very own favourite superhero: Spider-Man, or more accurately, the brand new iteration of the character that Insomniac Games has blessed us with.

First of all, why Spider-Man? Why out of all the colorful heroes of Marvel, DC and beyond does Spider-Man appeal to me so much? What stops heavy hitters such as the Dark Knight or the God of Thunder from taking the number one spot? The answer is quite simple actually: relatability. Our favourite wizard, Stan Lee, introduced the web slinger in 1962, an era where superhero comic books were heralded by very large, very masculine figures. Readers wanted to see the exploits of super men triumphing over super villains. These heroes were usually adults with little to no flaws, always knowing what to do, always saving the day with the blatantly moral lesson that ‘Evil will never prevail as long as the superhero is present!’ When Stan Lee pitched the idea of a spider themed teenage superhero, his editor, Martin Goodman, did little to hide his disapproval. His argument was that teenage characters were not meant to take the center stage of these stories, rather they were to be delegated to the role of sidekicks such as Robin and Bucky. Add to this the fact that most people found (and still find) spiders to be quite abhorrent, and it’s not hard to see why he had such a strong reaction against the idea. However after some negotiations and a lot of persuasion, a decision was reached; Spider-Man would be featured in The Amazing Fantasy #15 and any subsequent actions for or against the character would be made after observing the audience response.

Suffice to say, said response was overwhelmingly positive.

But the question is: how? What did Stan Lee and Steve Ditko do that resonated so strongly with the readers? Simple. They made a hero that had flaws. Peter Parker wasn’t a billionaire. He didn’t crash land on earth from a far-away planet and he definitely wasn’t a mythological deity with the powers of a god. No, Peter Parker was just a kid. Under the mask, he was an ordinary teenager with ordinary teenager problems. After the fateful spider bite, he did what most teenagers would do: use those powers for money and fame. And why wouldn’t he? Would any of us have done things differently at that age? We all know where the story goes from there. Peter allows a criminal to get away, leading to the tragic death of his beloved uncle Ben. 

This is where the issue ended: Peter Parker, a 15 year old boy contemplating on choice, power and responsibility. He didn’t fly off into the sunset, he didn’t go back home to a fancy mansion or a loving wife. He broke down. He cried. He cried because you and I, in that same situation, would have cried. Spider-Man, no, Peter Parker was you and I. He made the decisions we would make, and he paid the price that we would pay. That’s what drew the audience in. That’s why with just one issue, Spider-Man stole our hearts.

Fast forward almost six decades. 2018. Spider-Man has decades of character development and story. We’ve seen countless cartoons, games and even movie franchises try to tackle the webhead’s mythos with varying degrees of success. And then, out of nowhere comes Insomniac’s Spider-Man for the Play Station 4. Instead of taking place in the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or being an adaptation of one of many famous storylines from the comics, Insomniac Games crafted a whole new universe, taking inspiration and elements from 60 years of the character’s lore. With love, care and time, they did not just make a video game. They told a story. They told a beautiful, well written, heart wrenching story. They made us laugh, cry, and feel everything in between. But above all, they made us fall in love with Spider-Man and his world all over again. If the audience can still care and connect so strongly with Peter Parker after eight cartoon shows, eight movie appearances, and a whole plethora of video game adaptations, then Insomniac must have done something very, very right.

So what happens in the game? Now an adult, Peter Parker has had eight years of experience being the masked vigilante. Cutting out the high school origins we’re all familiar with, Insomniac decided to take a different approach with the character, giving us a veteran hero who has seen and done quite a lot. Spider-Man’s world feels alive and lived in. From character interactions and the way the city reacts to your activities, you can really feel that the past eight years have been quite the experience for Peter. He’s faced a large number of enemies from his colorful rogues gallery, having put most of them behind bars by the time the story begins. What fascinated me is that even after almost a decade of fighting crime, Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, has held onto his moral obligations with an iron grip. He has learnt that it’s difficult, almost impossible to constantly do the right thing and not be selfish. And you know what? He of all people deserves to actually be selfish once in a while. He of all people, after fighting and losing so much, should be allowed to catch a break, and do something for his own benefit at the expense of someone else.

But he doesn’t.

And that is what makes him so special. That is what makes him so endearing and so timeless a character. There is a scene near the end of the game that really encapsulates what I’m trying to say. Peter has to make a choice, and in the few seconds that you watch him grappling with the decision, you can see it tearing him apart from the inside. But he’s Spider-Man. He’s a hero. And a hero, regardless of how difficult it is, has to make the right choice. That is exactly what he does. It is heartbreaking. It is beautiful. It is Spider-Man.

Now what is the point of this essay? So far it has probably sounded like a typical Spidey fanboy gushing about his favourite superhero. I guess, in part that is what it is. But aside from that, this entire process has been a cathartic experience, from watching Peter Parker waking up at the start of the game, to seeing him take everything thrown at him, all the way to me sitting down at a cafe and writing these thoughts down. When I see Spider-Man go up against impossible odds and give it his all, it inspires me to be greater. When I see Peter Parker fall and get back up, it inspires me to be greater. When I see my favourite superhero, time and time again choosing to do what is right, choosing to risk losing everything in service of others, asking nothing in return, it inspires me to be greater.

And that’s the tagline of the game. Be greater. It’s so simple and so eloquent, but it says volumes in just two words. It never claims that the journey is going to be easy. It doesn’t hold your hand and give you reassurance that everything will be okay. It just pushes you into the adventure and tells you that at whatever point in life you are now, you can always strive towards becoming more. You can always become a greater version of yourself.

So, thank you. Thank you Insomniac Games for giving us an unforgettable Spider-Man story. Thank you Peter Parker for continuously inspiring people like me. And finally thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to go through the thoughts of someone who is and will forever be a proud fan of The Amazing Spider-Man!

Dr. Jekyll, the Shadow and the Modern World

 

Popular fiction has always had the unfortunate reputation of being looked down upon by literary critics. Therefore in 1886, when Robert Louis Stevenson published The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde he was expectedly ridiculed by his peers. However, the story of Jekyll and Hyde contained within it an essence that struck at the core of society in a manner so profound that it has resonated through time, and has remained within the human consciousness even in the current post-modern age. This essay aims to deconstruct this novel through Freudian and Jungian psychoanalytic theories, and thereby will attempt to answer the question as to why society today gravitates to the concepts presented by the novel in more or less the same manner society did more than a hundred years ago.

To summarize the novel briefly, a well known doctor by the name of Henry Jekyll creates a concoction that transforms him into a hideous man who is capable of carrying out vile acts of crime. This man, who goes by the name of Edward Hyde, does not present even the slightest hint of remorse for the horrors he commits. While initially carrying out this unnerving transformation process for the simple purpose of scientific experimentation, Jekyll soon begins changing into his alter ego without his own volition and in horror of losing himself completely, the character takes his own life. Both Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis can be utilized to dissect what is actually going on. Freud speaks about the three levels of awareness of the mind. According to him, most of the contents of our psyche reside within the unconscious, and much of our actions and knee jerk reactions occur due to how this unconscious segment of the mind operates. He states that when it comes to experiences we wish not to tackle, we instinctively push them into the deep recesses of the unconscious, i.e repression. In the novel, Jekyll is a law abiding, well respected citizen. However, he longs to let loose his instinctual, ‘uncivilized’ urges which reside within the id. His ego is always trying to confine these urges, as they will be in very heavy conflict with what his superego dictates. As a result, they are repressed, simmering and boiling inside the unconscious until Jekyll is unable to come to terms with what is going on. He concludes that if he were to separate the two, “life would be relieved of all that was unbearable”  (Stevenson 74). Most unfortunately, however, Hyde turns out to be what leads to his own downfall. This character embodies what Carl Jung describes as the ‘shadow’. Jung states that everyone has a shadow and the less it is brought into the forefront of the individual’s conscious life, the more powerful and difficult to manage it will become (Psychology and Religion 131). He further emphasizes that the shadow could be an individual’s connection to primitive animal instincts that gets hidden away in early childhood (Answer to Job 12). Hyde’s appearance is described as ‘something downright detestable’ (Stevenson 45) and in some instances he is referred to not as man, but as an ‘‘abnormal and misbegotten’’ creature (Stevenson 94). Jekyll’s primitive animal instincts have thus manifested themselves in not only mannerism and action, but in actual physical form as well. Here, one may look at Freud’s list of defense mechanisms. Repression, as mentioned before, falls under this category but there are others that also apply. Once Mr Hyde is let loose, these repressed urges find an outlet through displacement and projection onto innocent civilians; Jekyll has also regressed back into a primal form in his transformations. Unfortunately, the two sides cannot be reconciled, sublimation is not achieved and there is no individuation between the shadow and the ego. Like the contents of a container that finds even the tiniest of openings, the shadow bursts forth and takes over Henry Jekyll, in both identity and livelihood.

Now, the question arises as to why this dark tale has lingered within the populace for so long. Perhaps a valid answer to that would be because it strikes at a central dilemma and duality of the human being. There are countless tales of good versus evil, where the morally righteous triumphs against those who wish to tarnish the beauty of innocent life. What then does the morally righteous do when they find that the very evil they have been battling against actually resides deep within them? In The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker writes that man is both a complex, self aware species capable of symbolic thought, yet in the same vein, is self aware to the point where he knows that at the end of they day, he too is nothing but an animal with animal instincts who will one day perish (Becker 26). This conflict within him is what, the author argues, causes much psychological problem. This conflict is then perhaps at the heart of what man views as good and bad within himself. In modern times, this has gone past mere psychoanalysis and literature, and has become a trope in new areas of creative works such as comics and film. For example, if one is unable to remember Jekyll and Hyde, the image of the meek Dr Bruce Banner and the earth shattering Incredible Hulk can serve to be very close substitutes. Even in some popular video games nowadays, the player is not limited to one linear storyline. He or she can choose to follow multiple paths to reach different endings and either be hailed as a hero or feared as a villain. One such game that puts an interesting spin on this concept is Infamous (2009). The protagonist is in search of a force of nature known as ‘the beast’. If the player chooses to take the villainous route, the twist unravels itself magnificently as he utters the simple line ‘‘I have become the beast.’’ Apart from the character of the Hulk, a similarly brutal figure is that of Wolverine, a much beloved hero of Marvel Comics. Wolverine’s character exudes strength, brutality and ruthless savagery. Even his superhero name is that of a vicious animal. Thus, it is quite telling that the 2017 film, Logan, deconstructs this animal nature and strips the character down to his most vulnerable human form. The title of the film, too then, speaks volumes.

It is apparent that the modern, and subsequently, the postmodern world, has made man’s duality a central dictum of thought. Whether it be a self realization of Freud in Disillusionment of the War (1915) or the physical confrontation of Logan against a bestial clone of himself in Logan (2017), the idea of the shadow behind the civilized man is a concept that is not retreating from the mass consciousness anytime soon. This is why the story of Jekyll and Hyde, though being one of shock, awe and lacking high literary merit, has survived to this day. Modern man knows instinctively that at the heart of the novel, he can find himself at his most powerful and his most vulnerable. His duty, then, is to achieve what Jung calls ‘individuation’, i.e the process of bringing the shadow and unconscious into the conscious mind in as safe and healthy a manner as possible, because for every Jekyll out there, a Hyde lurks not too far behind.

 

Works Cited

 

Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death. Free Press, 1997. Print.

 

Jung, C. G. (Carl Gustav), 1875-1961. Psychology And Religion. New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1963. Print.

 

Jung, C G, and R F. C. Hull. Answer to Job. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973. Print.

 

Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. London:
New English Library, 1974. Print.

 

Image: https://www.goldstar.com/events/williamstown-nj/jekyll-and-hyde-tickets

Wounds

3:57 am.

 

Nisa Shah awakened minutes before the alarm. She slid off her bed and passed along the shadows til she arrived at the gargantuan punching bag that hung lifeless at the center. She could barely make out its shape. Outside, the moon was perhaps a gleaming orb of radiant light. Inside the breadth of her living space however, darkness was her sweetest friend. No, darkness was so much more. It was an intimate lover. It caressed her. It touched her body with a tenderness no living, breathing being ever could.

 

Punch.

 

Or ever did.

 

Punch-punch-kick-elbow-swipe-kick-jab-head-punch.

 

The enormous leather body barely felt a force. It continued its eternal slumber without as much a second thought. Nisa would not have it.

 

Kick-kick-kick-elbow-swipe-punch-kick-punch-punch-kick-strike.

 

Perhaps the giant’s soul was finally being roused, for it sensed a slight uneasiness in its surroundings.

 

Punch-punch-kick-punch-strike-strike-elbow-punch-head-strike-kick-punch-punch-head

 

The beast had finally moved. It did not appreciate being woken at the dead of the morning, and as a response, it lazily pushed back.
‘No. ‘ muttered Nisa.

 

Strike-strike-strike-elbow-punch-kick-knee-elbow-punch-punch-punch-kick-elbow-kick-punch-kick-punch-strike-punch-strike-stab-stab-

 

-SLICE.

 

The man staggered back, unable to speak. A creamy stream of crimson flowed gracefully from his neck, down to his torso, gliding across his skin and in time, to his withered genitalia. It was a shame that he had lived to be sixty three. The light above flickered.

 

‘M-m-’ he uttered with his remaining breath, ‘Magi-’

 

Slice-slice-rip-gouge-tear-slit-slice-break-tear-slice-rip-slit-tear

 

Velvety redness splattered in every direction. It bathed the shelter with its radiance. The walls received a much needed new coat of paint and the floor too had been cleaned and carpeted at last. After years, the orphanage had been cleansed. After decades, it had finally seen life inside its walls flicker.

 

*flicker*flicker*

 

For the smallest of moments, darkness had stepped inside to see her handiwork. Darkness was impressed; it admired the renovations and gave her the smallest of winks before leaving.

 

Sixty three years, she thought once more, looking at the gorgeous work she had done.

 

What a shame indeed.

 

Stab-slice-tear-slit-break-pull-break-stab-slice-gouge-stab-slit-stab-tear-stab-slice-stab-stab-stab-STAB-STAB-STAB-STAB-

 

A smooth stream of sand began flowing gracefully from the fist sized hole. It cascaded onto the marble floor, hissing in defiance of Nisa’s actions. She was making a mental note to buy another punching bag (perhaps the 263rd one by that point) when her phone began blaring the alarm.

 

Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Stayin’ alive! Stayin’ alive!

Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Stayin’ alive! Stayin’ alive!

 

Nisa slithered over to her bed once more to put it to rest. ‘4:00 am’ it read obediently. Sliding her finger across the screen, she found herself face to face with the black wallpaper that had adorned her home screen for so long. Darkness.

 

No. Nisa pressed the lock key.

 

*click*

 

Darkness.

 

Breathe – Part II

There is no string of words to describe what happened; no known set of vocabulary that can give you even a semblance of the pain that ripped through me.

Must have fractured a hundred bones. Organs probably became jelly from the impact. A bone and tissue soup. Yeah, that’s it. That’s a nice set of words, isn’t it?

But I didn’t die.

What the hell. What in the actual living hell. I would have screamed, I would have cried. God, I would have even laughed at the absurdity of it all.

But there was nothing left of my face.

I was just…there. The pain had stopped and I was simply existing, aware of all that happened. I couldn’t quite see, hear or even smell. My senses were dialed down a few thousand notches, lacking the whole sensory perception thing which we usually have.

Hashtag I’m alive, right?

Time went by. Moments, seconds, minutes. I should have been losing my grip on reality. Should have. But the whole thing was just so…insurmountably absurd. Did I die? If I did, how did I retain my consciousness? Or was this a long drawn out hallucination before everything went dark? Was this some sort midway point where my soul was patiently waiting to be severed from my body? I didn’t know.

Time marched on.

Suddenly.

Pain.

Would you be surprised if I told you that I would have rather preferred hitting the ground again? No? Jumping off was quick; it hit hard and it hit fast. This time though, oh boy, this time the pain was slow. I hadn’t realized due to my mulling over the situation, but a few seconds earlier I had begun feeling sensations again. Thank you, human body. You never fail to disappoint, even in death.

Ugh.

It was as if I was being fed through a meat grinder in reverse. Very intimately. Very slowly. The pain tunneled through my arms, legs and torso. I felt my body split open a million times over. Every synapse reconnecting, every nerve ending coming back to life tore me open from the inside. But it was the head. It was the head where Satan himself had perched down with the entire weight of hell. Have you ever seen soup clumping together to form flesh? Because that was happening to me.

Breathe.

I opened my eyes. My head had almost returned to a fully functioning form. Once the rest of my body had become solid enough, convulsions and writhing took over automatically. I flailed here, I flailed here; limbs cracked and smashed against the ground and one another. If I didn’t re-break bones in the process, then hurrah.

And then, my new throat climbed up the inside of new neck.

And then, my vocal cords returned.

And then, I screamed.

My cries ripped open the dead of the night, rising in intensity, building and cascading and drowning itself. I wanted it to end. I wanted to die. But this WAS dying. No, this was worse.

Breathe.

This was me being denied the one thing I had been building myself up to for two months. This was punishment. This was God, or karma, or whatever the hell was out there shoving the middle finger to my face. This was life saying in ever so an unsubtle manner: fuck you.

Panting, gasping and bleeding I pushed myself up with whatever muscle I could use. My consciousness was distorted. Comprehension of the whole ordeal was out of the question, but even in that state, I knew that being found by the neighborhood would be a horrible follow-up to everything that had happened so far. I crawled: elbow, drag, elbow, drag and pulled myself into the bushes.

To me, the entire experience felt like it had lasted hours, when it could not have been more than fifteen minutes at most. Still, that was enough time for the residents of the surrounding buildings to begin snapping open one after the other. Crap. This was bad. My brain had just come back to life. How the hell would I have any time to plan my way around this? I needed to run. I needed my legs. Effing hell, they were still part jelly.

Through the narrow passages of pain and helplessness, fleeting sparks of anger cried out for attention. I had suffered enough. I had been in constant agony for weeks. I had been mutilated by the laws of physics, only to have the laws of biology turn themselves over on their heads. I couldn’t die. I was angry. I was furious. I wanted to scream. But before being able to do anything, the laws of biology had one final thing to say; as I focused on my legs, they accelerated in reconstruction.

In seconds, I pushed myself to my feet and looked around the darkness, still panting, still bleeding, but still alive. What the hell?

Breathe.

What.

Breathe.

The-

‘Who’s out there?’

Fuck.

Breathe – Part I

It took fifty seven days. Eight weeks and twenty four hours of insomnia. Forty nine million and twenty five thousand seconds of nausea and suffocation to finally come to terms with what needed to be done.

Breathe.

I looked around at the stretch of darkness, ever repeating, clawing into every crack and crevice it could victimize. At 4 am, even Dhaka city’s screams are muffled. At this junction of night and dawn, its heartbeat flatlines.

Breathe.

A sea of darkness greeted me; a familiar friend, simply garbed in different attire. It really was quite difficult to see anything. The street lights had reached their end a week back, and of course it would take months for any government branch to respond. Someone has to get hurt, killed or raped for people to begin talking.

Either that or a girl has to not wear an orna. Whichever’s convenient.

I carefully stepped onto the stone boundary of the roof.

Breathe.

I felt cold. My legs seemed to be freezing up; every movement I made felt unsteady. Unfocused.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Seemingly on its own, my body began dancing to some silent music. It jerked ever so slightly one way, then another.

Was this fear?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

I hadn’t felt fear in so long. It felt…quite liberating honestly. I smiled the smallest smile. Fear would be the last thing I felt? Pathetic.

Move

STOP

-stop.

Stop.

Steady. I almost lost my balance.

Breathe in, out. Breathe in, out. Breathe in, out. Breathe in-

God.

-out.

I almost fell. I almost fell.

I had to steady myself, which I did. Unsteadily.

With each passing second, I believe I had begun feeling more and more unsure about the whole thing. But fifty seven days of being lost had led to this. Fifty seven days had paved this road for me. There was no turning back. Not now. Not after finding a light at the end of the tunnel after…after so long.

Not now.

Not.

Breathe

NOW.

I jumped.

Charlie Puth: How Long – Music Video Analysis

If you have watched the music video for Charlie Puth’s ‘How Long’, then it is highly likely that some things have crossed your mind. Namely:

charlieputh-howlong-airplane
What-
charlie-puth-how-long-weird-lip-bite
-the hell-
charlie-puth-how-long-fly
-is he doing?

You’re not alone, my dear stranger on the interwebs; just about all of us were scratching our heads through most of the video. A little bizarre, a little charming, Puth’s physical performance in this was quite an interesting spectacle. However, though it appears nonsensical, a close observation can bring to light the deeper implications of what he is trying to tell us. So sit back, relax, and let a lonely twenty four year old man on the internet break everything down for you before he breaks down in tears himself. 

The video begins as Puth quietly walks into view amidst street noises, giving way to the bass intro. Though appearing a little somber at first, his demeanor changes quickly and he begins singing and dancing to the upbeat rhythm. The dancing he displays is quite objectively horrible subpar at best, lacking proper coordination and style. Could there be any deeper meaning behind this goofball behaviour? M a y b e. Maybe it could imply that he is not taking the entire situation seriously, letting go of control. This claim can be juxtaposed alongside the lyrics of the song itself, where the speaker is talking to his significant other. It is apparent that he is exasperated at her attitude towards him because he cheated on her after being intoxicated by alcohol. Can we say that he had lost control in a situation where he needed to be more in control of himself? I suppose we can.

As the video progresses, Puth enters a building, still dancing around.

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Even on a table!
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The more you look at it the creepier it gets.

Ultimately he stops in front of a painting of a woman who appears to be engulfed in flames. Her eyes are covered by a red ribbon.

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*obligatory Dragon Ball Z reference*

In this instance, Puth’s entire upbeat demeanor comes to a screeching halt. His expression takes the form of a quiet sadness; you see hints of desperation and tranquil fury in the longing way he looks at the painting.

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Aww 😥

It’s a short ‘look away and you’ll miss it!‘ moment but he lets his head hang down in sorrow at the very end of the shot.

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Or is it shame?

Many fans speculate that the woman portrayed is supposed to represent Selena Gomez, though there is no proper evidence to corroborate these claims. Regardless, a point of interest can be raised: is this the woman Puth cheated on? Or is she the one he had the drunken affair with? In the lyrics, he appears to strongly favor his old partner and fervently denies that he has any emotional attachments with the other woman. The flames engulfing the figure could portray Puth’s disdain and perhaps even raw hatred towards her.

While the visuals focus on this painting, the song itself is in the middle of the bridge by this point, right before the final chorus. The next shot has him looking quite…

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…high. I didn’t have a witty remark this time okay? It’s 4 am and I should be in bed.

But let’s roll back a bit. The scene just after he lowers his head is very nice when it comes to video composition. Observe:

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It’s a sudden shift from solemn sadness to elated intoxication! Puth has taken to clouding his mind to run from the pain of this whole experience until eventually…

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WHAT?!

He begins levitating, of course. The final chorus kicks in with full force and Puth gets lifted off the ground and into the air, somehow dancing even more awkwardly than before.

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B*tch I’m FABULOUS.

I’m terribly sorry for the chronology issues but we must roll back once more! During that moment with the painting, the video lingers on a woman in a car for two small shots.

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That face you make when you don’t want to have your picture taken but in case the picture does get taken, you want to look cool.

You’re probably asking, in your most eloquent manner of speaking: ‘who dat?

She could be his beloved who, in her disappointment, has chosen to leave him. The car symbolizes her lack of desire to remain and and to quite literally move on.

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I guess she…DODGED a bullet, am I right?

😀

No?

Jokes aside, it’s time to wrap things up.

The building in which the painting has been housed could serve to represent Puth’s own mind, a space of shame and regret, which he enters to wallow in his sadness and eventually leave. The increased ridicule of his dancing and disregard of physics as the song progresses may be a way of him trying to get over the sadness of his actions through increased partying and distractions, until at the very end, reality sets in and he must come back down to join the real world again.

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Telling us that it’s time to snap back to reality as well. What are you doing reading this? Go do your homework.