Being Without Presence

Ann-Sophie Barwich
3 min readOct 26, 2023

How can we possibly find a voice that expresses a frequency others may hear? When I read the novels and diaries of past writers, a strange sentimentality, a strange longing, and a sense of unfulfilled tingling inherent to a mere reflection of despair befalls me. Just enough despair to think about a drink, but not enough to pour a glass. So I sit here, sober, reading about a reality of past lives lived that etches itself into my restless mind with words. Mere words. And yet these words open an existential rift into being, just wide enough for others like me to peer into that gaping hole that is this frail brilliance of humanity. Not only are their protagonists an enlivened fraction of existence, but these writers’ own lives also feel lived when clothed in words. In this entrapment of close encounters with other minds, I sense my own emptiness.

Listen to this.

Everything that grew took its time in growing and everything that was destroyed took a long time to be forgotten. And everything that had once existed left its traces so that in those days people lived on memories, just as now they live by the capacity to forget quickly and completely. (Joseph Roth)

My youth is like a scab: under it there is a wound that every day leaks blood. It disfigures me. (Gottfried Benn)

That’s what they want: a God damned shows a lit billboard in the middle of hell. That’s what they want, that bunch of dull inarticulate safe, dreary admirers of carnivals. (Charles Bukowski)

Where uniformity reigns, movement from point to point is no longer movement; and where movement is no longer movement, there is no time. (Thomas Mann)

Faced with such a deep embodiment of one’s voice, I find myself without it. I struggle not to find words, but I am at an utter loss to find my voice. Because I cannot hear myself. In a restless buzz of minutes inching by, stretching mindlessly out in time with deceptively accelerated pacing, I can already hear the call of the next day before I even feel a readiness to give this present day its rest. And so each day seamlessly passes by into the next with a loss of hours in days and days in weeks passing by. Today is Wednesday. And I feel my past wounds leaking into my imagination of the near future. The next day is reaching out to my mind, and I am already losing myself in its aging breath. Becoming a being without presence.

I am thinking about the sea. It is a sudden thought, and like gravity bestows its will on water, my own wanting dissolves in sight of its unknown depths. I sail on the surface of my being, letting my mind wander until it finds the time. Unforgivingly passive, I find the time on my watch. It is Thursday.

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