297 – The Rivalry

Ebony and ivory live together in a bomb factory.

Across the boundary that divides dimensions there is another Campfire Burning. He goes by a different name and has a very different life but we come from same place and are to all intents and purposes the same person. I sometimes catch sight of him in dreams; as I grow older the dreams become less frequent–it’s as if circumstance has moved us so far apart even my astral self–or subconsciousness, if you prefer–won’t travel the distance to his world, fearing it mightn’t be able to make the return journey intact.

For a long time I thought of him as my rival. He’d taken paths I had not, survived trauma that had left me bleeding and gone on to be a son his parents could be proud of instead of suffering the ignominious fate I’d accepted as my own. Every time our paths crossed he seemed to be doing better in his life. His writing career took off; he sold novels and screenplays; he mingled with Hollywood starlets and attended premieres. He was Somebody, and his star was forever in ascendance.

I’d wake from those dreams with photo-flashes still dazzling my eyes and sweet, succulent kisses still resting on my lips. For brief moments I’d basked in the warm light of another world; reticent to move lest I shake the dream from my head, I stayed perfectly still for as long as possible, remembering how it felt to be someone who wasn’t me. His was a world full of wonder and confidence. I wanted never to let it go.

I couldn’t lie there forever. Like flecks in a snow globe when I moved the dream scattered. Bitterness leaked in; I resented my other self for having everything I never could. I wanted to claw my way into that dream, to slay him and take his place. I was jealous of a figment of my own psyche who appeared as if to taunt me, in a hell I’d conjured for myself.

Those recurring dreams were so striking I wonder if other people have them. Detailed, lifelike dreams aren’t unheard of, but these were like documentaries beamed from some unearthly antenna, crossing the gulf of the infinite to land in my sleeping brain. Do other people see brighter reflections of themselves in their dreams? Do they dream of perfect lives, perfect loves, perfection too distant to hope for?

It’s been a while since I last visited this other me. Now my dreams are filled with more pressing concerns. They reflect the new life I’m embarking upon and not one that’s pure fiction.

I have other rivals in the real world. We all do, I suppose: rivals and nemeses, people for whom life seems so goddamned easy, It’s in our nature to want to keep up with the Joneses, something born out of the rewards doled out to us as children–or rather, to classmates who’re better at maths, English, running, whatever. Wherever there’s a reward there’s a rival ready to claim it from under your nose.

Rarely a day goes by without me seeing someone complaining about a specific person in their life who’s irritating their tits off. These workmates, family members–whoever they are they instill an impotent rage in these people, who can only express their feelings on Twitter or Google+ to others who know nothing of their plight other than that they’re thoroughly cheesed off with it. The constant oneupmanship of the classroom is later exacerbated by workmates taking credit for your work. That project you worked your ass off to complete by the deadline? Turns out project leader William did that. All that time you thought he was just playing Mafia War and hitting on Charlotte from accounting, but no: he was putting in a lot of hard work, most of which is curiously written in your handwriting.

“Good Job, William,” says the Big Boss before addressing you in particular. “You could learn a lot from William, you know.”

Of course you realise, this means war.

When I’m not competing with my subconscious my own personal rivals appear frequently, in myriad shapes and sizes. I’m a terribly envious man: a little confidence, a little luck–it doesn’t take much to make you my rival.

Not that I’m so bitter I can’t recognise when people’s work deserves merit. This past week a denizen of one of the forums I frequent had his fanmade animated introduction to the Tintin movie acclaimed by none other than Stephen Spielberg. Good for him–I saw the intro and enjoyed the hell out of it. Aside from the possibility that him chinwagging with Spielberg has lowered the chances anyone else on that forum–including myself–might work with the director in the future I can’t begrudge him his success. The guy deserves it.

But not everyone has the kind of talent worthy of recognition. Hell, most people have so little talent they’d be booed off the Pontins weekly Search for a Star competition, which is routinely won by people who play the spoons and little ginger children whose only discernible talent is that they’ve lost their two front teeth and now lisp,

Fortunately these types don’t need talent because they have the Internet. What they lack in ability they make up for in marketing, whoring themselves out ten re-tweets at a time, besieging celebrities until they relent and throw a nod their way. I view their antics with a withering sort of pride, glad that I haven’t lowered myself to such base behaviour.

But man, if it doesn’t help them get their name out there.

Too often people use the phrase ‘licking arse’ to demean those they’re unhappy with; let me tell you there are an awful lot of arse-lickers out there, happy to get their tongue right into the groove so long as it furthers their career.

And every last one of these people is my rival. I hate you even more than I hate salad.

Maybe it’s because I lack the confidence to promote my wares. Hell, maybe it’s because I lack the talent. Either way, these rivals are the ones getting ahead while I stay stuck in my mad little corner, spewing bile and dreaming of better places.

Sometimes I wonder though, if the people I see as my rivals see themselves as rivals at all. Do they realise the annoyance they cause? Do they realise the wailing consternation with which I assault my good wife’s ears, whining about those living easy lives, for whom everything slots easily into place?

I doubt it.

But let’s put all this behind us. Sure, I’ve been known to envy–even hate–you at times, but I’m moving on to another land that, while not a dimension full of Academy Award nominations, is at least going to be better than the one I’m currently staying in.

I mean, it has to be, right?

And there I’ll probably find new rivals to envy and complain about at length, but at least I’ll have made the jump out of this predicament and moved one step closer to that glorious dimension where the superior me resides.

Not everyone make that jump, you know. For those poor sods still stuck in their own mad corners, I’ll be happy to be a rival.

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