Since the past two semesters, I have started this tradition of having a jar of Nutella deep inside my drawer. I keep it there for special occasions. Sometimes, after a long day, I close my door, and latch it so that no one disturbs me. I bring out a spoon and my beloved jar out, lick the spoon with relinquish, and tell myself this is the one good thing I get and deserve that day. I do not ask for much from that one jar, just an assurance that if tomorrow is one of those days when I do not really feel like getting out of bed, the Nutella would be waiting for me at night to tell me today was worth looking forward to. Yes, it is chocolate. It is, however, not just that. Of course, it tastes amazing. But truthfully, it is not the essence of Nutella to be delicious. In life, assurances come rarely and come few. It takes entire lives to either learn to survive without it, or build a fort of protection so that there may be some antidote to distrust. So yes, it is not about the Nutella. That jar is symbolic of my freedom to feel, in a midst of restrictions and commotion.
I was reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” a while ago. It was an interesting perspective that she watched from while writing the book. A religious regime that Atwood imagines is grey and cruel, and upturns the slow boil of a political and social movement. I’d like to think that the world is moving towards a better place in terms of empathy and compassion, but she possibly thinks otherwise, at least as far as the story of the novel is concerned. The woman is a mere extension of her ovaries and uterus, and is known as a prefixed version of the man she lives to serve. The protagonist of the story Offred (literally, ‘of-fred’) is a young ‘handmaid’, a woman who is still fertile and has an offspring for the couple who can otherwise no longer conceive. Her job is to have intercourse with the man in question once a while, while the wife holds her, and pray that she is not thrown away like the rest of the ‘Unwoman’. Her past is clear and disfigured. She had been a married woman, with a child, a chain-smoker, and the daughter of a previously active women’s rights’ activist. She is so free, that she does not understand the freedom that has been handed to her on a platter. Eventually, we find her helplessness in the way she looks at a cigarette because that is what the woman can do. Her life gains the weight of finding no freedom where initially she had all.
However, the man who she serves (the Commander), finds her company exciting, and showers her with presents, which in this case is the freedom to read, write and play games. When she finally finds an underground movement against the said regime, and how she could help by giving in information about the Commander, she forgets to perform the task. In her small freedom, she forgot the larger question of why she had not been allowed to dress however she wanted, have a child only if she wanted to, or have a cigarette whenever she wanted.
Is this the way that the human mind works? Even in terms of our personal lives, is a small amount of happiness or assurance enough to brush aside everything that happened to us? I could hate what I do for the rest of my life, so as long as I find one thing that makes me happy. I think that is how most lives pass by. We find assurance, not joy, in things that we can control. I have been willing myself to believe that there is more to making choices than just this. What I fear most in my life is to lay in my death bed, thinking of all the things I could have done. And then sometimes, I come across poetry like ‘I heard a fly buzz when I died’ by Emily Dickinson that tells me that maybe death will not be the eventful play, but the inconvenience of going to sleep and never waking up. It might be that simple. It might even be desirable. I will never lie in bed in the hopes of waking up the next day to suffer through every excruciating little detail of my life, but I will find my heart aflutter when I think of going to sleep at night.
Little things which we can let go someday by choice, things that we convince ourselves won’t matter. Maybe we can choose to stay at a job that sucks because we find ourselves greedy and pulled towards the money, but we will tell ourselves a jar of Nutella awaits us that night. Maybe we can find grimness in every bone in our body, but our tongues will still understand the value of that one touch of melted, hazelnut chocolate.