Envy. It’s a funny thing.
When obvious, it curls, a fat anaconda, around one’s neck, to flicker its tongue at every passer-by, arousing discomfort in the hearts of others. Those that come too close are bitten, champed down upon by sharp, poison-tipped fangs.
But when it is hidden, secret, burrowed deep within the soul and away from prying eyes, flourishes in a grand multitude like so many tiny snakes, writhing in their thousands through your body, each and every one sinking their fangs into your own, soft insides instead.
Over time, the snakes become as much a part of you as your veins, as the twists of your sinew, the seepage of dark poison as unnoticeable as your own bloodstream.
Funny. Funny, how it is. How you sneer at those vapid people, with their vapid thoughts and desires! Look at them, gathering together like buffoons, laughing and hooting, chomping their way through artificial pleasure after pleasure, with nothing but sparkles dancing on their tongue and behind their eyes. You, on the other hand, touch upon the pulse of life, sink your own fangs deep into literature, art, philosophy, the wonders of existence, sustenance to be savored and chewed over. Their pleasures may be wild, and in abundance, but yours, though of smaller portion, is none the worse for it, for in its rarity, in its smallness, it is sweeter, like the last few glistening red berries that cling to a branch before winter freezes the world over.
And yet. And yet. For all your berries, you are not happy. You are not entirely satisfied. Your own contemptuousness is but a defense, something to protect your own fragile ego, and assuage your own loneliness and deep sense of unworthiness. In truth, you do want to be one of those vapid people – or, at least, you do want it in your own idealised fashion. Staying by the sidelines, with your nose buried in a book, while those sparkling creatures dance like a meadow of wind-blown starlit flowers, makes you feel drab and dull, like a lone, pale mushroom growing in quiet and dank shadows.
In truth, you want to be one of them, dance with them, laugh with them, wear their pretty garbs and be admired for doing so, for your own mouth to open wide and happy with lipsticked, elegant joy, so elegant, so nice. You want to live in the castles they do, drink the fine wines they do, live the grand and wonderful and luxurious lives they do, and be the recipients of their wild, exciting secrets, whispered into ears and over the rims of champagne glasses in hushed breaths and gleaming eyes. It seems to be almost another sphere, strange and glorious; less pure, yet the more dazzling, than your own, and you long to enter it and shed your wings and grow golden horns like them, be one of them.
But you are not, and you will never be.
As the animals in a herd sense the weakness of one of their own, so too do they intuitively pick up on your faint wrongness, a slight, queer tinge, a faint sourness, and their eyes cast you aside with a single, elegant flick. And then you are left with your books and dreams, all alone, and suddenly all that you love and live for seems to be but dead moths compared to the lush butterflies and gardens others covet, and obtain. All seems cheapened, and small. Deep in your heart, a voice cries out, plaintive and high: “Love me! Love me, too! Please, tell me I am beautiful, please, let me be one of you, perhaps then I will confident and sure, and not feel so awkward and gawky and wrong, so very defective and strange and wrong.” But the words, wild as a hurricane, blows only within you, agitating the snakes coiled around your organs and bones, and not a wisp of it makes it to your lips.
In the end, you know that you do not want to be one of them. Not really. Your sense of self is far too grounded in your separateness, your uniqueness. Even if, by some miracle, you were accepted, embraced into their fold, your soul would rebel like a snared fish, thrashing and thrashing, and, before the first fizzing glass of pure, distilled joy had been raised to lips, want to break free. Even if you ignored it, crammed your soul to the bottom of yourself and asked the snakes to guard it, prevent it from ever escaping, you would never feel truly one of them, even if you did laugh and dance and speak as they did, for some corner of your mind is quite, quite strange, like a stain of petroleum in a puddle of water, refracting in quiet, mad rainbows.
There are worlds we wished we could touch, and only one that we do, and it is the latter which we should concentrate upon. One bird in the hand is worth to in the bush, as they say, and even this tiny conventional phrase, in its banality, tastes bad and ugly on your tongue. You see? You are silly. The fine, haughty phoenix envious of the cooing chatter and second-by-second joy of the pigeons. In your minds eye, you can see empires rise and burn to ashes, again and again – what need have you for their shiny, candy thoughts, so easily dissolved?
So you return, to your books and writing and dreams, and let their ever-welcoming tendrils curl around you, one by one, keeping you safe and secure and true. Tiny sparkles burst off the pages, rise in gentle spirals from the words, falling in showers down your throat to drug the snakes within you, until each lolls and sinks into a deep, deep sleep, thin, membranous lids closing over their watchful, reptilian eyes. And, feeling the weight of the slumberous snakes in you, coil upon fleshy coil, you turn another page.