Justin Li

Flowers for Algernon


I just read Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon. It's the first serious fiction book I've read in a while. I empathize because sometimes I feel lonely in the same way - my intelligence not as high as the protagonist, of course. Keyes creates a sad yet loving and lovable character, and I find parts of myself mirrored in him. I suppose that's what people find all the time in other novels and movies.

Then, in a sudden intuition... I knew it wasn't the movies I wanted, but the audiences. I wanted to be with the people around me in the darkness.

The walls between people are thin here, and if I listen quietly, I hear what is going on. Greenwich Village is like that too. Not just being close - because I don't feel it in a crowded elevator or on the subway during the rush - but on a hot night when everyone is out walking, or sitting in the theater, there is a rustling, and for a moment I brush against someone and sense the connection between the branch and trunk and the deep root. At such moments my flesh is thin and tight, and the unbearable hunger to be part of it drives me out to search in the dark corners and blind alleys of the night.

I am solemn right now, as though the book talks not fiction, but describes my future. I don't think I would have the strength to see myself devolve, not after seeing what I am capable of. I would have killed myself.

... I could see how important physical love was, how necessary it was for us to be in each other's arms, giving and taking. The universe was exploding, each particle away from the next, hurtling us into dark and lonely space, eternally tearing us away from each other - child out of the womb, friend away from friend, moving from each other, each through his own pathway toward the goal-box of solitary death.

I just want to say I love you. Really, I do. I just don't know how to show it.

I've been starved for simple human contact.