October 3, 2015

Sleeping on a Pile of Dust

When I arrived at my apartment that evening, all I found was a pile of…dust? Ash? Sand? My apartment was not there even if it was supposed to be there because there was no way I would have come home to the wrong place. The tall, concrete tower I have gotten used to entering and exiting for one too many years than I had originally planned to was gone? There were a lot of people—some of whom lived on my floor—gathered around the mysterious mountain. They appeared to be as confused as I was. “Excuse me, what is this? Where is our apartment building?” I asked a thin woman cradling her crying infant. “Termites,” she said. “Termites?” “Termites.”

Termites? Unsatisfied and still desperate for an explanation regarding the whereabouts of my one and only location of residence, I decided to approach one of the security guards, who, in my humble opinion, had not done much securing before the day of that strange event. “Excuse me, sir, what is going on here?” “Termites, ma’am,” he said. “Termites?” There I was, receiving one puzzling answer after another. “Yes, termites. The termites are to blame for the disappearance of this building. All of a sudden, the walls began to crumble, and we were forced to evacuate the residents.”

But the building was still in tact when I left it no more than nine hours earlier! “Yes, ma’am. We were also surprised by how fast the termites managed to destroy everything.” So what am I supposed to do? What are we supposed to do now that our homes no longer exist?!

That was the dream—not “the dream” that people would normally refer to when they talk about the kind of life they truly desire, but the dream. It was the dream that dragged me out of the blissful state of sleep, the dream that made me completely drenched in sweat even when the air-conditioner was on full blast. If I were a child, I would have called it a nightmare, but it was not a nightmare, and I was no child. Nightmares are terrifying—no doubt—but they are easily forgotten because real life is more terrifying. The termite dream, however, did not fall into the category of unmemorable terror. It seemed, even as I was dreaming it, believable. It was as terrifying as real life.

Reality is terrifying because it is boring. Events are not boring, problems are not boring, happiness is not boring, and routines—despite their repetitive, unchanging nature—are not as boring as they seem. But it is exactly the presence of these non-boring things that makes reality so devoid of exhilarating realness. The absence of excitement numbs us to the point that the only thing capable of freeing us from numbness is the unrealistic fear induced by nightmares.

The next morning, as I was tying my shoelaces, an envelope was slipped under my door. The word “urgent”—in capitals and not in English, because this story did not take place in an English-speaking country—was stamped on the crisp surface of the white envelope. I got up from the chair and picked it up. The letter was brief, but its lack of details only increased the sense of impending doom.

Dear Resident,

Our team has detected five colonies of termites in various parts of the garden beside the parking lot. We are doing everything in our power to exterminate the colonies before any damage is done to the building.

We apologize for the inconvenience.


Apartment X Management Group