From the rooftop terrace of the apartment building that had been gifted to him as a coming-of-age gift from his parents, Matthew looked down towards the neat files of people; tiny, tidy and organised, and the corresponding lines of cars that stopped and went at regular, calculated intervals. It was mesmerising to him; the perfect synchronisation of all the elements, the lack of faults or flaws in their movement, when there were so many factors to take in, so many things that could go awry. He thought back to himself, and the long-withstanding question of his own life. When did it all go wrong?

Matthew became aware of his privilege (his fate, he later reflected) in primary school. Whilst all of his classmates walked or commuted by means of public transport, he would be dutifully driven, daily and unfailingly, by the family chauffeur to and from school. Twenty years later, he still remembers distinctly the smell of leather, of looking out the dark tinted windows and glimpsing, for a split second, the squads of bright, laughing children. Of the exclusion, the envy he felt in that moment, of longing with all his heart that he could be out there with them, giggling away without a care in the world. But no matter how hard he wished, how he bargained, he always remained trapped within the cool, air-conditioned car, gliding smoothly away from the simple craving of his young heart.

As time passed, he learned to tuck these small jabs of desire away into the darkest, deepest corners of his mind, to joke and gloss over them whenever he was reminded of their existence by the normality, the nonchalance of his peers. Although lacking in many aspects, his parents had never failed to remind Matthew constantly of his advantage, his standing, and of the great things he would accomplish in life. And, truly, there once was a time when he believed in these visions of his future that his parents had created for him, with all its extravagance and grandeur; when he was able to fit himself into that perfect model of success, and see what they saw, envision what they prophesied.

Growing up as the only child of wealthier older parents had, no doubt, been a double-edged sword; there was never a lack of attention – of love, one could say – and his whimsical materialistic greeds were always granted, but perhaps it was also this constant suffocating scrutinisation that doomed him, and the man he was going to become. He became bitter and stubborn, grew impatient to leave the house, leave the sanctuary and security of his would-be life and to prove, mainly to himself, that he was not a lucky, lazy, untalented jerk taking advantage of his parents’ money, and that he, too, had his own dreams, his own aspirations. This was the story he told everyone; the only viable justification that society would be able to understand and accept.

But no matter how he tried to forget, to fool himself, he knew that it had really been an act of spite; of resentment and revenge. He had wanted to hurt them; to make them feel as inhumane as he did, for once, to be in control. A stupid, childish sentiment to harbour he knew, and indeed it was; but perhaps he was still a child; perhaps time had suspended itself for him, and he never really moved on from the days of staring wistfully out the window in grade school.

This was five years ago, when he still felt some degree of appreciation, some gratitude for the wealth of his family. Now, all Matthew experienced when thinking of the fortune was a great deal of dread and discomfort: an unyielding, insistent pressure to achieve the same, to achieve more. Perhaps this was because he now felt an unmistakable separation between his current identity and his former one; a sense of estrangement, alienation from the hesitant but aspirational boy he once was, as if that person was not, and had never been him.

The occasional doubt that, perhaps he had made the wrong decision after all, maybe he had ruined it for himself, and the hysterical desperation to prove this wrong. It’s equally disconcerting as it is marvelling that one could grow so far from oneself, stray so easily from a path that had once seemed so real, so definite. Sometimes, when he thought back to his childhood and late years of youth, it would be like watching an old film, in which the series of events were detached from him; separated by the fourth wall, just like the way he used to watch his fellow classmates from within the car window; quiet and invisible, but this time, with no more sentiment than an impassive observer.

When he was young, he ran from his future; now he was running from his past, and god, he was so, so tired. His life had (unintentionally, but who cared?) become a perpetual race; a contest of momentum, and ability, and monetary values that he now knew would never end. He thought that perhaps if he abandoned his latticed fate and surrounded himself with creatures of spontaneity, he would grow to be like them, eventually one of them. But in this moment, as he stood over the twinkling world below, he saw the wretched, gospel truth, and all the while the cold wind rushed through his hair, slamming against his chest and transcending the layers of cloth that enclosed his body, biting at his heart. And it was times like these that he would throw his head back laughing, arms spread wide, teeth bared to the world, times like this when the lake that was his life would feel very large, the promised ocean very far, and the eternal night very dark.