TG: you know
TG: when i was a kid bro would drag me on all these overseas holidays to crazy places i think he just picked off the map at random like timbuktu or somewhere
TG: places that any self respecting american should just stick to spelling with one too many es or getting confused with tibet rather than planning the dream family outing in rickety campsites
TG: bunch of maps on a corkboard and darts i swear
TG: once we actually flew over bermuda
TG: as in the goddamn triangle
TG: all the time wed get these criminally long air flights at a million hours a stretch
TG: the sort of flights where you cant even remember if theres an earth or not and maybe the universe just tore out this last shuddering sigh and ripped itself into an abyss of perpetual nullity or maybe its all just empty roaring sky and you never noticed till you woke up now
TG: it was awful
TG: our fucked up little familys yearly spate of ritualised torture
And then there had been one flight in which he had been seated at what would usually be the window seat, but did not actually possess a window; there was simply a curved stretch of blank wall where the opening ought to be. It struck him as oddly surreal, if not wholly unnerving. It was utter claustrophobia, total isolation, like blindness. For the life of him, he cannot pinpoint exactly why anyone could get so worked up about a window, but there it is; he was practically cartwheeling straight into a miniature panic attack over the absence of one little strip of sky. It wasn’t even fear. It was an intense form of nausea; it was struggle, and the excruciating, bursting sensation of being too small for one’s own body.
It was the feeling that, without some glimpse of confirmation - without the afterglare of clouds lingering as nacreous driftwood against his vision – the outside may as well be illusory. And inside? Inside a floating, pressured tube untouched by gravity or the ground, he may as well have been dead. Sectioned off from everything organic and ushered into one’s own little square of seating - where suddenly personal bubbles are so sharply delineated that if the person in front leans their seat back so much as an inch it’s torture, rape and infanticide combined - life is postponed, and these are simply the worthless moments in between. Dust between the tiling. Negative time. Even Bro, sitting right next to him, may as well have been some kind of light fixture, connection severed by the sounds of the in-flight movie (Kung Fu Panda apparently deemed suitably ironic) delivered to his ears via headphone.
Strapped to a hollow prison full of people on pause, Dave Strider melted out of existence.
TG: it was a wing seat
TG: they dont even put windows on those seats because theyd be blocked by the fucking wing itself
TG: god i hate planes
TG: but thats not the point the point is about bro
TG: its like hed cultivate an absolute calm that reminded me of that airplane
TG: standing there all portrait-esque and enigmatic like a dilemma within a conundrum within a maelstrom of labyrinthine cryptofuckery or the gogdamn mona lisa
TG: brona lisa even
TG: wow that was terrible
TG: anyway he had a way of remaining totally motionless without ever bothering to stop moving
TG: like the stillest deepest water you ever saw
TG: disregarding the endless circularity of whirlpools and tidal waves as tall as a city that split the surface into fragments
TG: it was like he could snap himself out of the world just like that
TG: blink and hes gone even if you can still see him
It is a form of detachment, of ontological absenteeism; the very quintessence of cool. It is the art of affecting others deeply, yet remaining unaffected oneself. It is the act of turning oneself into art - and there he is, Dave’s ineffable Bro, perfecting life as a statue, and somehow glimmering with vivacity despite it all. If he ever feels, he never shows it – and yet, he could never be in danger of flickering out of being, like a cowed twelve-year-old on a cheap rustbucket to Moldova. How could he, when he is the oxygen to kindle the flames themselves; life’s robust and witty catalyst?
He is an icon; an ideal – and every perfect movement, each incomprehensible stroke of irony serves as further testament to his unreality.
Dave keeps imagining that, if he only waits until he is that tiny bit older; once he learns, re-assesses, becomes all the more subtler and all the more knowledgeable – someday he might get it. Someday, all those layers of meaning and double intent will dissolve into something less bizarre: still intelligent, yet intelligible. He still waits for the day when things will make sense: for that momentary flash of comprehension which is actually the consolidation of a thousand reactions, and a thousand further moments, where all experiences coalesce into something resembling understanding. There is no such thing as a moment’s enlightenment; there is only accumulation of all the requisite factors. It startles you nonetheless.
The trouble is, of course, that he is constantly on guard. To be surprised by his own sagacity would be impossible.
TG: so i tried to i don’t know emulate that or some shit
TG: be this incredible unflappable cool dude
TG: and the thing is its all in the words
TG: its all in what you make and affect and how you dont let that so much as breathe or brush against you in return
TG: yeah thats basically exactly what it is its about how your words have impact
Because Dave does not maintain his trademark poker face out of some kind of pathetic social anxiety; he keeps his composure due to a very basic recognition of cause and effect.
Truth be told, he loves laughter.
He loves the hysterical bubbling of unprompted emotion; the flash-fire mirth that a choice comment can so magically ignite. But most of all, he loves remaining unaffected by it all; an impossible catalyst in the midst of reaction. The motionless epicentre of a cataclysmic earthquake – still, even as seismic jolts of hilarity course through the rest of the world.
Pause for laughter. Like an actor, perfectly deadpan in that liminal moment between lines of script. Just wallowing – imperceptibly – in perfection, as though he were not the one to prompt it. It is the most intense, addictive kind of satisfaction – but priced accordingly.
Impassivity must be flawless. It takes agonising control to remain impervious to all.
TG: and i could almost smooth over the ripples most of the time
TG: its not because im scared or insecure or any other piece of amateur crap you could extract from a textbook
TG: it was because of who i wanted to be
TG: i mean become
TG: through what i said
It was because words are the brickwork of perfection. As poet and architect, no-one could hope to match Dave’s reverence for mastery of language. He is slave to both assonance and dissonance; equally skilled at sounding out the perfect linguistic harmony - and gleefully shattering it with a well-placed devil’s interval. And through an intricate mesh of chord and discord, he weaves his music well.
Words can be faultless. As for organic fault lines – they can be disguised with relative ease. After all, the only thing more gloriously ironic than constructing a seemingly pointless screen from the world at large is actually having something to hide.
CG: STRIDER, THIS IS UNMITIGATED NONSENSE. ORDERED, PERSISTANT AND HALFWAY COHERENT BUT FOR THE PUNCTUATION – YET NONSENSE NONETHELESS.
CG: AS MUCH AS I’D LOVE TO SCRUTINISE EVERY ELABORATE BRUSH-STROKE IN THE CANVAS OF YOUR EXISTENTIAL ANGST, BOTH OF US DO ACTUALLY HAVE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO BE DOING.
TG: shut up i havent even got to the end
TG: look in actual life and i mean honest-to-god punch-a-wall hug-a-tree physical reality there are a million ways of stumbling upon yourself
TG: its like youre cutting wrapping paper and the scissors are gliding along all smooth and geometrically passable and then suddenly it snags and you get this ugly jagged line that screws up the rest
TG: and how did you even do that your hand was completely steady
TG: but i dont think you even care about that when youre typing
Karkat Vantas is so very different. With him, Dave can scarcely breathe. Witty and abrasive, the two weave their way in and out of each other’s discourse like the most insanely complex pattern his paradox sister has ever attempted to weave out of wool – and revel in it, no less, with a raucous, symmetrical delight. Words are their lifeblood – and sparring is the necessary conclusion.
In being far more similar than it is necessarily comforting to acknowledge, Dave finds that the most significant aspects are their differences. And unlike him, Karkat is actually afraid. He deflects not out of style, but out of a genuine wish to conceal. Yet, paradoxically, he grapples face to face with emotion, hurling himself headlong into whatever entanglement he consciously wished to avoid. With him, Dave cannot be catalyst. To his horror, he finds that certain phrases – certain jibes – can pierce through certain barriers, stirring the waters mercilessly until they scarcely deserve the name of still. Karkat is a goddamn tempest, and it takes so much effort to stay blank in his wake.
Conversation is no one-way street or one-man show – but honest-to-god dialogue, with reaction on both sides of paradox space. For all of a moment, Dave ceases hurling witticism into a void, for this void throws them back with renewed vigour: a flash of vibrancy from a dead screen, and his barriers cannot contain the resultant glare. He is no longer on that plane; he is here, and he’s something more than purely derisive. In that beautiful clash of personalities which almost but not quite fit, he finds something spare within himself, like shrapnel. Something entirely novel: unexplored, and inexplicable.
Dave has spent most of his existence striving to avoid humiliation. But when Karkat stumbles, he retains magnificence – solely by being the most supercilious freak ever to disregard his own fall.
TG: this is nothing i expect you to understand
Because as far as Dave is aware, this notion of kismesissitude is based entirely on the aggregation of misunderstanding and mutual incomprehension. You are contractually required to know everything about the other down to the last detail of their behaviour – and to understand jack shit. You must know exactly how, and never fathom why. It is equal parts knowledge and utter, enraged disbelief.
It is simultaneously all about veneer and all about vulnerability. Gradually, Karkat dredges Dave’s imperfections to the surface – yet the dialogue remains unfaltering, and through text they are both invincible.
Often, the two scrape a tad too close to understanding for comfort.
TG: i mean everything you do is so stupidly candid its probably all unconscious or some shit
TG: and in retrospect this was like the most needlessly convoluted compliment ever devised
TG: but i suppose in the end what ive been scrambling around this scrap heap of metaphors to say is vantas
TG: you got
TG: you got a way with words.
Because, in the end, that is where the importance lies. And for once, he is fairly certain Karkat gets it.