Escaping out the ‘Fire Exit’

[Trigger Warning: self-harm]

No Exit is the first existentialist work I’ve read by Jean-Paul Sartre. I had to read it for a philosophy class in my second year, and it acknowledged my idea of an afterlife that is pretty much in limbo. It’s about three damned souls in a hotel room, waiting for the punishment of the sins they’ve committed when they were alive. Only there was no fiery abyss, no torture chamber… so what was the punishment? I remember one line that read:

“Hell is other people”

And they’re meant to basically suffer in each other’s company for all eternity. They’re dead, so they cannot die again even if they stab themselves over and over. Shit like that can drive you mad. At least I believe so.

And as the title suggests, there’s no exit. No end to their suffering.

There are many moments I find myself searching for an escape.

Mostly it is to get away from the overwhelmingly negative emotions brewing inside of me. Some days it is fiery, angry, and frustrated. On other days, it’s cold and empty.

When it’s one of those dreary, empty days, I just need to feel. Sometimes I imagine myself as Inès getting stabbed with a paper knife by Estelle, and laughing at how ridiculous it is not to feel any pain. And doing it over and over in hopes of feeling something. Even the slightest sensation. Of course, I know if I do that to myself for real, it would not turn out the same way. I would die… and I don’t think I am ready for that yet.

So instead I turn on some music that will help me feel, or rewatch a movie or show that will. My go-to has been Before Sunset for the past year. I feel Céline’s frustration down to my core. I feel her anger because I’m there. When she expresses her resentment over past lovers in that car scene… that is me.

Because sometimes I want to escape people. If that’s even a thing.

I’ve been in failed long-term relationships because I am not ready to take the next step. I was in my early 20’s, what do you expect?

When talk of marriage and weddings came up, sirens would go off in my head.


Sooner or later, I walk away. I leave a trail of broken hearts in my wake. I’ve never spoken to my exes since, I know they hate(d) my guts. Because I went off looking for a way out once things were getting more serious. I did not see them in my future. I’d rather end it than drag it even longer than it already has. Time has been spent keeping something alive when it was meant to die anyway. And the cycle repeats itself. At least three times over.

You’d think I’d know better now. After all, I’m older… I should be wiser too, no? Nah. I’m just a cynic with major trust issues.

It’s hell to be with someone you don’t want to be with, but being away from someone whose company you enjoy… that shit can also make you suffer. There’s no escaping this torture. That thought itself scares me, but that’s life isn’t it?

Just like what Philip Larkin wrote in one of my favourite poems:

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being 
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,   
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,   
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,   
Have always known, know that we can’t escape, 
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Side note: I loved Larkin’s “Aubade” even before I was aware what the word aubade meant. After realizing it’s a love song or poem about the dawn, I loved it even more (because, duh, my name – I have a bias toward anything relating to my name).

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