I’m itching to write, as if I were presented with a scab that has remained forever unpickable. I crave to write and write and have this pencil glide from page to page to scroll to keyboard, from material to technological, my words shall keep speaking. Kingdoms of two meter waves, rosie autumns, misty minds, suffering, hoping for catharsis. I crave to write about this whole existence, the earth and all the systems within it, and of course, the systems within and of course, the unknown, when we turn the lights off. In this little controversial mind of mine, I shall clear some space for a little writing laboratory. Test tubes and microscopes, sieves, gloves and the whole lot. You see it’s a science. One must first dip themselves into the waters of imagination, with gloves, carefully extract samples from different kingdoms: darkness, despair, adrenalin, jealousy (and we usually go for the nastier ones, harder to grab, more likely to bite your finger). And once you’re back from that expedition, you examine them under a microscope, these little twitching encapsulated potentials. With some wit and pincers, you tie them together to form a little world of yours, where gravity might be slightly different. Another warning: you can’t really control when these urges to dive into these creative, inviting, dangerous waters will come. Whether your head rests on a pillow, hair relaxed, body decompressing for sleep, or whether you’re at a coffeeshop, or on a rollercoaster, this urge simply does not care. You’re thrown into your diving suit and pushed into your subconscious synovial fluid. Down under there, the sky varies often, blanketed by the indigo wine and occasional lighting strikes. You might find some familiar structures, bits of picked up memories. You might find grieving faces- suppressed pain never nurtured. Now… I don’t want to spoil your exploration nor uncover too much of myself in this. All I can say is, remember to take your backpack.
Today, my brother swam in the ocean for the first time in a year. The water was frigid and licked our toes maliciously, tempting us to dive in and merge with the fish. We entered at the same time, and immediately sprinted metres away from the shore. The burn of our muscles fought the tingling cold. With our laboured breaths, we streamlined in and out of the salty water, eyes agape, trying to make shapes through the fog of our goggles. The underwater realm was turquoise, but of a dark tint: the clouds were to blame for this, as they stood above us, troubled and stormy. Yet, the sea was just as calm and welcoming. It took us under its battered blankets of algae and mossy rocks. The pebbles and dark algae armies seemed incredibly alive beneath our floating bodies. Occasionally, big boulders would rise above others, so we would plant our feet on their welcome mats and rise above sea level, looking for the shore like kings. Leo placed both feet and a slipping hand over a rock, and climbed it.
“That yellow, huge box-shaped buoy, behind the smaller red ones…”
He bent forward, slightly swaying like a lanky tree to the force of the tide. “Let’s swim there,” he mumbled, and threw his body back into the ocean.
Wordlessly, I glanced for a second at the yellow blob in the distance. I spit in my glasses, rinsed them twice, and tailed him. Minutes later, we both stopped, and the big yellow buoy, probably the size of both of us, remained just as far. I overtook my brother, then realised he had stopped.
“You’re coming, right?” I inquired.
“No, I’m scared.”
And so I watched his back hunch over the water and each node of his spine dip back into the sea like a while after having come up for air. He swam back towards the shore, and I followed him too.
Half an hour later, we’re both back in the water. We rented two kayaks and we were ready to go looking for jellyfish, like the year before.
“Left or right?” I yelled in front of me.
“Let’s go left, then,” I replied to myself.
Nonetheless, we both ended up drifting to the right. Like falcons searching for preys, we looked for lighter spots in the ocean: sand not populated by the algae, better for finding jellyfish. Having caught a glint of bright blue at the bottom of the sea, we both dipped our heads underwater like ostriches. It turned out to be a piece of plastic. We were expecting to find the big blue jellyfishes from last year. And as we pedalled, we realised that we had reached the big yellow buoy. Out of nowhere, a sense of satisfaction and closure filled my heart. But what truly took me aback was the low thumping that came from around the buoy. I circled around it further, to then gather that the soft humming actually came from inside it. As we leaned forward, with our kayaks uneasily tiptoeing forth, we picked up the melody of a song. The discrete music seemed to vibrate all over the surface of the buoy.
“It must come from the beach, they probably have strong speakers…” Leo mumbled.
But we both knew his assumption was a rather scarce attempt at covering up what was truly happening before us. And as we came full circle around the box-like buoy, we found a small circular window near the water surface, half engulfed by sticky moss. A thin rod poked out of a tiny hole from the window. I pressed my face to it, and saw an old little crumpled man holding a record player. He sat cross-legged, spine bent over, and was completely naked. His skin shone, as moist as an amphibian, and his wrinkled, swollen eyes were closed. In that tiny enclosed space, he somehow still managed to sway slightly to the music’s beat, as if his body were part of the music itself. His beard and hair cascaded over his whole skeletal body in cataracts, reflecting shades of faded brown and grey from the scarce sunlight that filtered through. Before we both decide whether to knock on the window, our kayaks crashed with force against the buoy, and the strong wind opened the window wide. The little man stopped the music and looked directly into my eyes, as my face contorted in shock and embarrassment.
“Well, hello.” His voice was melodious, and flowed like liquid. Yet, there was something to it that made it remain slightly inhuman. He pulled the fishing rod back in and stashed it behind him. At the same time, I noticed his thorax did not expand or contract to breathe.
I struggled to find an explanation. So my brother did, from behind me and remaining hidden.
“What are you doing here?” He asked.
“I’m living. What else?”
“How long have you been here?”
“Oh, a long, long time, my dears. I can’t really truly remember how I came to be here…”
He squinted at my face and I moved back slightly.
“What did you say your name was again?” he asked.
Before I could reply, he checked his watch and swiftly pulled out the fishing rod from behind him. I was surprised there was even space for him to move his arms that way. He took a worm out of his mouth and poked it through the hook. Soon enough, he was fishing from inside the buoy. I gave him another inquisitive look.
“It’s dinner time and my stomach’s rumbling for jellyfish,” he blurted out.
“It’s him, taking all the jellyfish away from the sea,” Leo whispered in my ear. “That’s why we didn’t see any.”
The old man didn’t hear the comment for he had already turned the music back on. He was happily humming again.
“The jellyfish are attracted to this music. And so am I…”
He seemed completely unworried about the lack of response.
“It calms the soul, this soft music, doesn’t it?” He continued.
“Yes?” I barely whispered, still utterly in shock. I couldn’t stop staring at his incredibly moist and shiny skin.
“Why are you here?”
He stopped and really looked at me.
“I don’t know, really. I’m the only one that can fit in here, and I truly do suffer from memory loss…” He scratched his head. “Nature has taken one thing away from me, memory, but IT has given me something else in return. You see, nature is always give and take.”
He untangled his limbs and came towards me. Alarmed, I sat back into my kayak. He poked his head out, nodded at my brother and touched the water. The moment he did that, his face scrunched up and his tiny eyes shrank into miniature fish. A tear slid down his cheek in pain. A few seconds later, he pulled his hand out of the water with a curse.
“It burns,” He hissed. “I can’t touch water, but I can have conversations with it. You want to know what the water told me today?”
We stare back at him, and he continued.
“It told me tomorrow will rain and that your cat died two years ago on June the 25th. Is that right?”
We took one last look at him, and our muscles clicked at the same time. We paddled away as if we were saving our lives.
The next day, it rained like never before. The palm trees outside the small glass rooms shook and shivered in pain, and breakfast was delivered directly to all the rooms. My brother and I didn’t speak about the old little man, nor the fact that his prediction was right. I didn’t tell Leo what I planned to do that night, once the rain had subsided.
At 3am, I WAS awake. Under the blooming sky, I ran to the beach. My heart felt palpable and crazy from adrenaline. It was the first time I was running off, or breaking any rules. I got hold of the the first kayak and ran off into the frigid sea. I found the little man by following the faint music I heard the day before. He opened the window to my knock, not at all surprised. I wondered if he had predicted that too.
“I’m taking you out. I’ve decided. You need to see the world, you can’t stay trapped here forever. I need to save you.”
“Well you needn’t save me.”
“Why?” I ask, incredibly perplexed.
“I don’t want to leave. I may not know much about the outside world, but I know that this is my purpose and my place on earth: to stay in this little buoy, play music and eat jellyfish. I was born into this life with this sole reason.”
“But, don’t you want to explore all this, outside? Let me at least take you to those boulders over there.”
He didn’t protest.
He wrapped himself up in a blanket, picked a few dried jellyfish and told me to not let him touch the water as I carried him on my kayak. We paddled towards the boulders peaking from the water, at the southern edge of island. He didn’t speak the whole ride. I carried him with utmost care, as if he were made out of porcelain and ice and the floor were made of fiery spikes. With serenity, he sat cross-legged on one of the boulders and calmly waited for me to join him. We both sat on different rocks and gazed up at the sky and the water, hugging our knees. He offered me some dry jellyfish and we both munched on them.
“Won’t you ask me about all this?” I asked him. “Have you seen these rocks or trees before? Or those umbrellas at the shore? Do you know what a shore is?”
I was completely bewildered.
He looked around once more, not amused, as if he had seen this view forever.
“You see, my dear, I’ve lived so long in this little buoy of mine, and as time went by, I sat in pain and talked to the waters. And you know what they told me? That I could not be anyone else and could not be in any other situation. My role had been assigned already. Right now, outside my buoy, I am not playing my role and this hurts the universe around.”
I looked at him with a blank glance.
“In every universe there is meant to be a little man in a yellow buoy hunting jellyfish,” he explained. “That role happened to land on me. Just as there was meant to be a role for you, and you’re playing it out accordingly.”
At that time, I was thirteen and I couldn’t understand a word he said. So, we finished our jellyfish in silence and then I brought him back to his little buoy.
He gave me parting words. “The waves tell me that it is of utmost importance that you don’t come and find me anymore. Human contact deteriorates me.” And he looked down on his body. I noticed moss and barnacles starting to crawl up from his feet.
Only years later did I understand his need to return to his purpose. And only after four years later did I return to the little island in Italy. I only remembered him once I saw the same yellow buoy. The first thing I did was to swim there, fearlessly. The music thumped and I was filled with nostalgia. I looked inside the buoy but I only found the record player. Dazed and sniffing from the salty water swim, I looked underwater and followed the cord attached to the buoy. There was a boulder that served as the anchor. Expelling all the air from my lungs, I sank down to the sea bottom, and I saw him. His features and cross-legged position were were mummified into stone. Moss covered him from head to toe. Even frozen, he held held his fishing rod. I stretched out my hand to caress him, but I ran out of air before I could do that, and my legs pushed off the bottom as a reflex. I came up for air calmly.
I’m sitting in this room, having tea and scones with myself. It’s rather a very fancy space. Painted white bricks, a nice table, red velvet chairs. The tea is earl gray, and the scone comes with a little pot of cream. Of course, this whole set up has been stolen from one of my memories- how else is imagination made? I am indeed quite rusty at this process, for fear has been nagging it’s tail in my face. But today, emotion has prevailed and I can’t find myself doing anything else but writing- for it is all I can really make myself do. You got to always give something back in this energy exchange. You take in the form of breath and space and time. You have to give back. It can be in the form of creativity, happiness, awareness… Anything pure. So, everything else has been crossed out on the “giving” list, and writing sits there like an awkward child, waiting for me to claim him finally.
My alter ego sits opposite me, across the table. She’s been served the same as me: tea and scones. I want to say hello, but I’m scared and disgusted. She has my face, and it is really the only time I can fully see myself directly in real life. I have this narcassistic need to crawl up to her, look at her from every angle, but then I remind myself that she is not me. Right? Her name tag says Anthea.
“Speak,” The voice that comes out of her lips is of a higher tone, but of course it is, why am I taken aback? The only voice of mine that I’ve heard is but an echo in my defective human eardrums.
She crosses her legs, and I don’t. Before speaking, I really take a good look at Anthea. Her hair’s flying everywhere, as if no one had touched it in a year: mouldy, hay-like, half-black, half-yellow. But in contrast, mascara, eyeliner, and lipstick has been applied perfectly to her face. Two little ghostly shadows rest on her cheekbones: she is thinner than me. Her skin glows like a halo, her fingers are like a pianist’s, but a real pianist. Maybe she plays piano? She wears a huge white shirt with a blue circle- I recognise it. It fits her like a huge bag, it’s obvious how tiny her body is beneath that cloth, and it looks good. Not the way it looks on me. As she waits for my reply, she brings her hands up to the table, and graciously lifts the teacup to her mouth. Her arm is covered in porcelain ink tattoos, drawings of flowers and some other amorphous slightly dark shapes. The skin is pulsing and red and raw.
“Those new?” I ask.
She stops midway, and places the cup back down. The ding between the ceramic and glass table seems like it is made in heaven.
“Yes.” She speaks with confidence. “Who are you?” she adds on.
“I am me.” I look down at my hands. I’m wearing something I think seems familiar. “And you, are my alter-ego.”
“Oh no, no. You, my dear, are my alter-ego. I am original. A unique creation.” She replies, with that voice that just seems too abnormally high in pitch.
We both lean forward at the same time: I guess we do have the same brain with the same reflex-impulses. I stare into my own eyes.
“What do you do?” The words barely come out of my dry lips. I’m sweating and she’s stone cold.
“I’m an artist, a writer. I’m intense. I like adrenaline, and caffeine and rushes- I like extremes.” As she says this, she lights a thin cigarette that she allows to balance precariously before her food. She cuts the scone into a million tiny slices.
“I like my body to extremes- these bones, seeing them, remind me of my mortality. It’s what drives me to live my life. And the feeling of this smoke? It makes me lightheaded, and the fact that it’s slowly destroying me just puts me in the best mood for creation.” She says this, as she keeps the smoke lurking in her lungs. Her small, pinpoint breasts roll outward, then inward.
“You are destroying yourself to make art?” I say. I don’t know what to feel. This all sounds too familiar of an idea.
“I don’t know, really. This is all just so temporary. I’m just playing around like an alchemist, with these limbs, this face, this living breathing machine. I like to be in control. I’ve written books about my emotions- killed my way to get up top. I have a girlfriend – I think she hates me, but also maybe secretly loves me. You see, I’m just oh so paranoid she’s going to run off, so I like to interrogate her, tie her up. In my free time, when I’m not networking, of course. That’s me, that’s what I do. There you have it.” She says all at once.
“Friends?” I inquire, almost desperately.
“Oh, so many. I get invited to parties, I’m an artist! A self-destructive manipulative artist, testing the limits- who doesn’t like that at a party? I have pictures of my friends, but I can’t really remember all their names, of course. Human memory is stunted.”
My whole body starts shaking and I stare at my veins portruding. She watches this happen but doesn’t speak a word. Goddamnit. I take the teapot sitting next to me and throw it right at her face. I want to watch her disappear, disintegrate like a projection. It hits her, and she bleeds and her head hits the wall behind. She screams. Fuck. Who made me throw that? Why did I throw that? I’ve never heard myself scream since I was 13. It’s a painful sound that cuts me to half and makes me forget everything but that.
She doesn’t disappear. She’s real and she crouches down on the floor, grasping her eyes. There’s no anger when she cries. It’s like she knew it would come.
Salty tears start building up and soon enough I’m crying, at the same rate as her, and in the same position.
“Oh, my alter-ego. Why are you so cruel?” She weeps and squacks out. Her voice is scratched now, patchy.
Those words hit me like ten blows. I want to say, Look at who you are. I thought you were who I wanted to be.
Then I look at myself.
I don’t say a word.
We spend the next thirty minutes patching up. We place the teacups, teapots, scones back to exactly where they stood. We clean the blood off the floor, we place the chairs where they were meant to be. We smell the flowers. Then, for last, we sit at our respective places and eat.
She looks more reserved now, as if scared to talk. Her cat-eyes glance at me, like a hurt creature. We both swallow the food. She takes smaller, planned-out bites.
“So what do you do?” She breaks the silence after an hour.
“Well…I’ve just finished school. I’m hopefully going to a monastery for six months. I’ve been trying to write my first book, but I’ve completely hit a block. I’ve been trying to be a good person, I guess. I have lots to do on my mind, I want to get it done. I want to help. But yeah, I wake up, have some food, try to be okay half the day, try to meditate, think of what to have for dinner. If I have to go out, I need to keep my heart in check: it races like crazy.” I reply solemnly.
It just spills out, as if someone had pressed some inner button.
“So in short, you don’t do much.” Her voice assumes one of a therapist, non-judgemental and full of hidden questions. I recognise that tone.
“Did you attack me out of jealousy?”
I shake my head, after a moment of hesitation. Then I do it with more assertion.
As if some bell rang, we both get up in unison, with force, like little kids at the last class before break. She sticks her bony, pale hand out. I look at her once more. I only recognise myself in the eyes. I stick my hand out too, to shake her hand.
“I will never understand you, my alter-ego. How can you live this way?”
“Me neither, my alter-ego. How can you live this way?” I reply.
Before I can grasp her hand, and have some kind of closure, she disintegrates.
I, too, disintegrate a split second after her.
I can only hope to become a balance between the two.
She always sat on the same swing, and no matter the weather or the day, he always found her there. Mostly still, hands wrapped tightly around the two chains like pillars and guardians by her side. When she swung in the air, the few rare times she did, her grasp would slightly loosen- and he often thought about how easily he could push her off. Did he plan on pushing her off? No, of course. Never. But it was simply a thought, in the myriads he had about the thousands of opportunities presented before him. He often thought of meeting her, but once again, it played out all in his head: as either a simple, “Hello, I’m Tom.” to “Hello, you baffle me everytime I pass this playground to go for work. I’ve thought of the many times I could introduce myself, and I guess this is it.” He never actually even dared to see her face. All he had to do was walk in front of the playground and not behind, but he was scared that too would ruin the moment, her moment. With her spine gorgeously upright, wood-colored hair tickling the swing seat, muscles tense, she seemed deeply engrossed or entranced by something. What was she staring at? Or was she inside the realms of her mind, just like him. So her, and the thought of who she might be and could mean to him always hummed like a bee in his head, disrupting the music coming from his earphones. At 9:20am, as he made his way to the office, he would witness the epitome of beauty. It was a moment in which he found he was most human. He was a simple human, searching for the beauty in life. And somehow, it had always presented itself to him in her form.
She always wondered who the footsteps belonged to. Everyday, when the sun took up a particular spot in the couch of the sky, a particular set of shoes would hit the ground. How could she tell?
She was blind.
She saw in different ways: the feeling of transparent heat tiptoeing from her lap to her arms, would tell her the whereabouts of the sun and whether noon had striked yet. She could pick up the movement and crunching of gravel and estimate the shoe size and heaviness of a person too. So just as she picked up all kinds of patterns in her life, she picked up this one.
It was a slower stride, the gravel moved languidly under the heavy soles. It was a man, she concluded, after the first 3 times of his passing. Sunlight would heat up her fingertips and that was the signal. Scrunch scrunch scrunch. Then there would be a pause. He was probably looking her way. She never turned around though, for she wanted to keep him spellbound, to keep her assumed beauty intact. Refusing to wear sunglasses, her blind eyes remained wide open, like two big milky opals dominating her face. They took all the attention away from her praised facial features, thus, ruining her to-be witchcraft on men.
And both of them went on like this, her hair melting down her spine, merging with tufts of silky clouds in the sky. Him, like a hungry beggar, following behind, yet never getting too close. Both too scared human touch and voice would interrupt the sacredness of the moment. Both never realising they had become each other’s highlight of the day, each other’s break-for-a-second, where breaths felt fresher and life, brighter.
She only ever heard him, and he only ever saw the idea of her beauty.
“Nothing gold can last.”
One day, when fall was undressing into winter, it got too cold and she decided to walk back to grab a coat. Picking the stick lying on the floor, she turned around a minute too early, for the sun didn’t shine that day. He was passing by, as usual. Both were slightly too slow to realise what was happening until a small gasp crossed the air between them. Tom pondered upon those eyes, then regained his footing and walked past her. He walked away, towards his office, and towards finding another source of beauty.
The next day, she didn’t sit on the swing, neither did he walk past it. And neither the day after that, or ever, in fact.
Like humans do, he moved on to the next spark and she moved on with life as if there had never been any interruption.
of books replaced by
(followed by deflation)
bite my pride
like my fluorescent
the world up
mommy where are
(the ocean seems
far too empty)
only we exist (now)
The bus lurches to a stop. I press my coat against the suspended windows and I turn my head. The rain is sliding down, shimmering, running across the image of the moon melting into the clouds. The world is crying.
The bus doors open silently: they are trying to keep the sleeping passengers dormant. Carrying my bulky bag with both hands off the bus, my wallet drops on the floor. I hastily pick it up. Dropping it into my coat pocket, I notice two other strangers by my side. They’re busy. Or maybe they are just scared of being lonely. Either way, I shouldn’t care
“It seems like you don’t have an umbrella.”
One of the strangers glances at me, fleetingly. She has a curious glint in her eyes. Her tight platinum colored hair reflects green highlights. She lets me step under her umbrella and we start walking. A strange feeling of safety settles through my mind.
We listen to the pitter-patter of the rain.
“The rain’s telling us a bed time story,” she states, and I watch her rubbery boots hit a small puddle.
“You’re right,” I say after a moment.
I ponder over her statement again. The more I think of it, the more it weighs on my mind. I can’t decipher it.
We suddenly stop walking.
Together, we look around the half asleep city. Shards of sharp moonlight shine through the puddles. Our eyes trace the fluorescent rows of windows from apartments nearby. I feel my mind has stopped working. I can’t help but behold such sight.
The city is wrapped in the moon’s soft but firm grasp. Looking up, watery streetlights are delicately glowing. My eyes take in each detail, hungrily but cautiously. I am afraid everything will unfold before me too fast. I taste out all the sensations of the moment. Nature has just decided to put together two enemies, the rain and the moon, and made a miracle out of it. It is so beautiful. I lose my breath.
The stranger’s silhouette shrinks and I feel drops of moisture slide down my body. I raise my hand to say goodbye. She winks, one hand in her coat pocket. Just like that, she melts away from my sight. I slide my hands down my pockets too. The wallet is gone.
I really adore plants, of any type, if that matters: young ones you can barely see and those that could almost overshadow you; dying plants, which cripple out complaints, and blooming ones that let out strange green auras. There are just so many types of plants; my head wants to spin in awe. There is so much variety, and they all live along together in a quiet flow of calm.
It’s especially refreshing when I find them in unexpected places. I’ll turn into an alley – and there’s a plant crawling up the windows – “Oh! How charming!” I’ll say to myself. I let its green tenderness sink through my thin skin and into my veins. Maybe at that moment, I can feel a little less worried from this life. Occasionally, the plants exhale a gentle blow of oxygen towards me as a thank-you – that is when I feel grateful.
At times, that even makes my day.
. . .
I hurry a bit faster towards the Yoshios’ apartment. Ms.Yoshio has asked me to babysit her newborn baby. Being slightly broke, I did not refuse such offer. I will exit that house with a bit more money. Continue reading