Affective is a collection of fresh reads, perspectives, and thought pieces

Second Person


May 03

The Second Person is a project exploring the various identities that converge into who we are, the hundreds of worlds we inhabit in a day, the roles we play that are always changing. Through second person prose pieces, we try to bring out various versions of ‘you’, virtual and real, internal and external, and create an archive of self by examining interactions, beliefs, experiences or moments.

From inside the car, all that you can think about is the invisible problems. The growing sense of dread that threatens to take over your entire mind, that seems to be leaking into it like an oil spill.

You argue with yourself, trying to cling to logic, to think of positives. It’s crazy to see this street and think of these abstract threats to the future. It is just a road, in a crowded city, being constantly renovated. Just another traffic jam, like the many hundreds of thousands in various parts of the world right now.

But in your mind, it’s far more than that. The alarmingly brazen bikers and cyclists and pedestrians are a constant threat, forcing you to be alert every second, and to imagine the consequences of a moment or a slip that may lead to chaos. Still, they are the least of your worries.

Worse are the tufts of smoke, the dust in the air, the rubble by the side of the road. They are a symptom of the nation, and immediately remind you of statistics. Statistics of rampant air pollution, of no safety standards, of long term health problems that you have begun to feel certain you will contract.

The car inches forward and you arrive at the junction. The sidewalk is lined with hawkers of vegetables, fruits and street food. Instead of tempting you, it leads you down another spiral. Of thinking about the pesticides in produce, the chemicals that make them seem riper, the levels of lead or mercury or whatever is most dangerous. You imagine having to eat at the street food stalls everyday, imagine how many stomachs or intestines or kidneys or livers have been ruined by it.

The light finally changes and you try to focus on the road, to take your mind away from these absurd worries. Your phone buzzes and of course that takes you into another kind of worry, a tizzy about loneliness and connection. You resist the urge to check it and keep driving. You wonder about the mechanism of a message or e-mail being delivered to you, of someone typing from somewhere and invisible signals transmitting their words instantly. You wonder about the towers and radiation and satellites that you know are somehow involved, about various ways in which it could all go wrong, about all the possible cancers they might cause.

You try to push aside these fears, the looming danger that seems to be hanging over every aspect of this journey. Breathe in and out. There’s nothing you can do about the radiation, the pollution, the struggle. Just ignore them, control your reaction. Turn on the radio, focus on the road, and dream of a different place instead.

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