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The woman looked at her from afar, gazing through the window. In her eyes something mirrored, shone in the bright lights of the lanterns surrounding her. She couldn’t see it, of course.
A dull humming, dissonant, strange, lulled her to sleep.
The girl looked over her shoulder, back at her, and looked her in the eye. Something blurred out of sight. There was something off, the woman thought, something was missing.
Did she miss something?
The girl looked away, returned to her frozen state of being, glitched out of sight.
Then—a sharp pain in her forehead. The woman cried in surprise and stumbled, almost falling to the ground. The girl in front of her didn’t move.
With one hand she leaned against the window, causing the glass to stain moist where her sweaty hand had touched the surface.
She tried to focus, but the girl was gone.
‘I am here to serve you,’ a voice echoed. It was a memory, she knew. It was not the truth, nor reality. It had happened, before, and now her head played with its sound. A distant drum in her core—her heartbeat?
‘I am here,’ the voice echoed.
‘Yes,’ she whispered. No, she thought.
You left, she thought.
The memory was as dissonant as the painful buzzing in her head. Wrong. Causing her muscles to tense, but for what reason? It didn’t fit this reality.
She had left. It had passed, it was gone. There was nothing to be tense about anymore. The girl is out of sight.
‘I am here.’ The voice.
‘Yes,’ she replied. What else was there to say? She had tried to fight it before, tried to cast it out, to ignore it, tried to hurt it. Hurting did not help, it made it worse, she had understood later.
The current stage was acknowledgement, acceptance. Though she wondered whether belief was necessary in order to acknowledge.
She did not know the answer.
‘Yes.’ She acknowledged.
She waited for the voice to repeat, to be here—to tease her, again.
It did not come.
She was so tired.
The fields seemed frozen over. It was a lake, made out of cotton. She knew how there was nothing to walk on, how the flat surface was an illusion, but the perfect stillness of each petal of flower created a strong truth. Sometimes she wished she could believe in what the world presented her.
And then, a sift of air, and the lake was broken. The surface rippled, and then parted, like Moses’ sea, only without the will of a being commanding the sea bounced back into shape, recreated the frozen lake, until wind destroyed it again, until it regenerated, and broke once more as wind picked up, bubbled and bulged out of shape, over and over and over.
It was a sight, certainly, she thought. She could watch it for hours. She might not have the faith to accept it as a shifting reality, but she could certainly enjoy its aesthetic.
The wonderful thing about it was that it didn’t need a spectator. She could be invisible here, she could not be here, and it would still be happening. She was not the wind: she did not have influence on the rippling and shaping of the body.
Now she was frozen, she thought, smiling vaguely, as her limbs got stiff from standing still so long, and the cold night air creeped into her bones. It was very silent here.
Silence somehow always came with cold, she thought. It didn’t make sense of course, but it certainly proved itself to be accurate this time.
Funny how her body could never be perfectly still, as the beat of the heart forced it in waves, to creak and shift in its joints. Her bones could be lifeless, her flesh and her blood and all that could be perfectly still, were it not for the pumping, thumping rhythm of the central muscle, the organ in the heart of her, that pulsed through her in every heartbeat it completed.
She watched the field, the wind rising and falling, like the tide, but on land, and pondered about all these things.
She liked pondering. It was an abstract space, a space in which to leave realism behind, to think conceptually and confusingly, until your brain became tired and your body became stiff. She wondered was dying felt like. Reaching the ultimate state of pondering, was that the death of her? It would not hurt her to go that way.
There were no insects, no buzzing, no rustling of leaves, but the grass and flowers in the field. There was no flame, no stars, no moonlight, there was only her heartbeat in her ears, and the white noise of the wind in her ears and through the field, which in itself became noiseless after all this time of watching and listening. She cancelled it out completely.
Which made it more and more strange to realize a low base sound, slowly creeping up frequencies until audible to her flawed ears. It seemed part of the scape at first, but did not blend in, seemed to share a different source than the background sounds she had gotten used to by now. And it gained, in tone and frequency, terribly slow, but rising.
An itch suddenly startled her and surprised, she looked over her shoulder. There was nothing there. The landscape was the same as the one before her, endlessly stretching outward, boring even.
She turned back, realized how sudden her frozen state had left her body, smiled about it, and stepped one foot in the field. The bass tone seemed to enter her body, through her foot, seemed to settle inside of her, and resonated in the hollow parts of her bones, in the air that filled her lungs, in the skull and the flesh, it dimmed, seemed to come from underwater, from inside of her? And as she walked, kept walking forward, traversing through the fields, the grasses rustling against her bare legs and feet, the bass seemed to infiltrate her. It seemed to bounce inside her, and gained intensity.
It was not scary. There was something very soothing about it, something that made her continue her path toward, toward nothing, really. Maybe she walked towards the bass, she thought, but that was strange, as its source did not seem clear to her at all. It any, its source would be located inside of her, she thought.
She looked up, the low humm ringing in her ears, and saw a black sun. It was not usual that the sun was black. It had never been black, ever, as far as she could recall. But maybe it had been and she just hadn’t looked at it when it had been black. Maybe it shifted color exactly when she stopped looking at it, she thought.
Strange, she also thought, a black sun. Contradictory, it seemed, in a way. Though she was not worried at all. It was ok, somehow. She looked forward again. Nothing had changed visually. The wind felt like it had picked up somehow.
Again, she felt a sensation on the back of her neck, as if there was s conversation happening behind her that she was part of somehow, yet could not access. This time she contained the urge to look over her shoulder, kept walking.
Somehow this state of walking had turned into a new kind of frozenness. The movement was very mechanical, slowly lost her consciousness and became automate.
She kept walking, not really having any goal in mind, not really having any goal in mind. She just kind of observed her state as she moved, and her muscles became soar, and her bones became cold, and then warmed again, as the world raised in temperature and daybreak happened. She still walked, not seeming to become tired of it. The sun might have still been black, but she didn’t look at it again. She wondered if, when the wind stopped blowing, she would be shocked, or if she would just accept the change. She would never know, for it kept blowing, waving the path before her in the grass and wildflowers in front of her.
T. looked at the two from aside, from afar, as a trainer waiting for the party to make the first move. She knew neither would make a move, it would just play, as a video, until it ended. It was predetermined.
Which did not make it less sad, she thought, as she felt her heart ache when she saw the scene play out, again, the girl looking forward, refusing to acknowledge, the woman with her hand out, against the glass, flattened.
Every iteration seemed live, T. thought, but in her mind she knew that it was a rewind. It was not more real the second time she watched it, the third time, the fourth time, the fifth time. But it was there, that was certain.
She felt a hand on her shoulder. She knew who it was. She looked behind her, but looked back almost instantly. She need not have looked to know who it was.
‘You have to stop at some point,’ they said to her. Soft.
‘Yes,’ she replied.
No, she thought.
She felt a smile caress her back, but could not look back—her eyes fixed on the girl in the grass, the hand against the window.
Was it actually happening? she wondered. In this moment? It could be. Even though she had seen it many, many times before.
It was a loop, she thought, but only for her eyes. For the girl, it was real, for the woman, it was real: every iteration of it was the truth, was the moment. They did not know time the way she knew it.
The hand left her shoulder, seemed to say a physical goodbye, but it meant nothing, as she would feel it again, tomorrow, or tonight, depending on whether they were still awake, whether they cared enough tonight to come by again, to try to convince her again to stop watching.
‘Please,’ they would say, ‘it is late.’
It was, she would think.
Her mind played the tape.
‘I know,’ she would reply. ‘I’ll be there in a minute.’
What was a minute? A minute it took for the girl to look over her shoulder, to start walking, to keep walking, and the minute ended somewhere during the time of walking.
‘Okay,’ they would reply, not losing their composedness. A hint of sadness would shimmer through, in a tired crack of the voice, in a twitch of the ring finger, In the swiftness with which the hand would be removed from her back. And then the footsteps would leave the room, and then their physical presence would follow, until she was alone again, until she was not alone, but shared the room once more with the two girls, one behind the window and one in the empty, endless field of grass.
A roar of thunder threatened the sky. It did not roar, though, but it loomed over the city, stretched out its jaws, grew dark and grey, and swept with winds, until lightning hit the windows of the city’s inhabitants, until rain swept the city’s streets, poured down its sewers, banged on the beggars’ roof and dripped down their residents. But thunder did not come, it was a strange, silent sky, dark and ominous, but silent, and only the pouring of rain could be heard. It seemed peaceful somehow, without the danger that lurked beneath its illusion of a storm.
Mind you, there was wind, there was rain, there was lightning, but it’s finale, its fourth wall of thunder did not come.
It was a strange experience for the many that looked from their windows frightened, that peered up and counted the flashes of lightning until the clap of thunder to determine its proximity to their homes. But they kept on counting, the flashes kept coming, leaving no trace of sound, but a sweeping rain, fat drops of water flooding the city.
It was strange, they all thought, thunderstorms without thunder were no storms really. There was no thrill, just the sadness of pouring rain.
It didn’t stop, too. For days and days, it kept going and going, flashing and flashing, until people got sick of staying indoors and were temped to go outside. In hurried step, they covered their heads and traversed the rivers that were streets, too, crossing boundaries of water, trying to keep their hair dry. Some started to make noise, to cheer, to amp up the daring ones that tried to reach others, family, or friends, sometimes. But together they couldn’t do much else, for the rains made everything terribly impossible to do. At some point, doors started to seep water into homes of the daring ones, and a little bit later, started to seep into the lives of the frightful ones. The weak ones started crying, started to become a part of the flood they feared, as others kissed their loved ones and said “it sure is strange, a thunderstorm with no thunder”, and smiled thoroughly to try to keep spirits up.
Everyone, and everything, was wet at this point, the bread was soggy, the clothes stank of drainage and heaven’s rain, and the air smelled of wet grass, and mud, and thunderstorm, though there was no thunder, after all this time, still no thunder. The children counted the time between the flashes, though it made no sense of course. They did not seem to be bothered by the situation as much, didn’t seem to be impacted as much.
When some looked up, they saw nothing but dark, stormy, ominous clouds, rainy and thunderous, yet no thunder had been seen during all this time. Strange, it surely was, some said to their siblings, and parents, and loved ones, as they kissed them and watched the lightning.
When some looked up, they wished for something like a difference in the heavens, a shade of blue, or white perhaps, some opening in the fog that was the rain, but there was none, ever since it had started, it had not changed. When they would look real hard, they could have seen how the sun had not had its usual color, it did not shine as bright as usual, but was a black shadow it self. Ironic, they could have thought, but none did really ever see the sun, for the rain fell in their eyes and blurred their vision, and the clouds blocked the sky above, and the lightning lit up nothing but the soggy streets, and rooftops, and the soggy people that somehow still lived in it.
He looked at her form, against the bright light of the screen. Unwavering, as cast from stone, she stood there, her eyes fixed on the glass surface. He put his hand on her back, asked her, but she replied like a ghost. She was a statue, he thought, but he was a respectful being, and turned around, left her alone.
In the other room, he sat against the headboard of the bed, turned off the light, and stared into the dark, but not black, bedroom decor. In the other room she would still be staring, maybe she would cry, or just be very still, as the visage of whatever it was creeped into her mind, haunted her for the entire night. He wanted to soothe her, reach her, but every reach turned into rejection. Sometimes he wondered what was needed to break the flashing imagery’s spell, the curse she was under. Maybe it was no curse, maybe it was a blessing, his evil, dark alter ego replied to him in this mind. After all, isn’t the reason she still stays with you, the fact that you do not disturb her? Isn’t the respect you have to trust her into doing what she must do, the single reason she is yours?
His eyes blinked out of the staring, teared up because of it. A blurry night shifted back into view. It was dark, but not black. He couldn’t sleep in total darkness. Maybe it was the lack of perspective about it that freaked him out, or the illusion of reality that would fade as soon as total darkness enveloped the scene. Maybe he was not as different from her after all, he thought. Maybe he needed the flashing, flickering lights of something resembling reality, to be able to let go of the things he held onto during the day.
A sour taste in his mouth.
He wondered how much time had passed by now. He wondered how she could keep staring at something empty, for hours, hours, hours, time and time and time would pass and she would still be looking at it, at the flashing screen.
What did she see in it? Was it what she missed in him that kept her from turning it off? Was it the resemblance of him that she found in its bright surface? The thing she could not interact with in real life, but that answered her through the screen?
He wondered how much time had passed. He could look at his watch, but he left it somewhere and he couldn’t remember where. Also, more importantly, his body seemed to have been frozen over, as it sometimes does when you ponder too much, he thought.
In the other room she would be looking at the screen, and he sat against the bed, in this room, years away from each other, yet physically sharing a somewhat similar space, quite close to eachother, even. One could say they lived together.
Was this his screen? he wondered. Was this staring, this thinking, the same thing as what she was doing at this very moment? Was this the thing they shared? Though so different in physical experience, so similar in expression? Would she think about him the way he mulled her over?—time and time again, every time he left her room, and sat on the bed, until it was time to ask her again, if she maybe would stop, until he left again, and sat on the bed.
In a way it bonded them together, tied them up until they couldn’t leave each others space and minds cape.
Something vague resembled a definition, a biological term, that fitted this state of being. Mutual something, he thought. It was a mutual relationship, he thought. She needed his hand, his ‘isn’t it time to stop for now?’, he needed her rejection, and the cycle continued, balanced each other out.
He stepped out of the bed, walked to her room, put his hand on her shoulder.
They could not look each other in the eye, sitting on top of the couch, that they had tipped over, to be able to reach the air above their flooded basement. They could not afford anything, so they made do with what they had: a shitty, soggy couch that was almost long enough to keep them from having wet feet. And there they sat, onto the side of the left armrest of the once couch, now shitty, soggy pillar of survival. They had to squeeze together, to fit, even. They barely had anything that was as long as this couch. All their furniture consisted of small, shitty cabinets, all loose, and open shelving. Perched on top of their tipped-over couch, they sat, huddled up together like an old couple, thought they hated each other.
‘Should we do something?’ the one said.
The other said: ‘I heard the guy from above left the apartment.’
‘Left like what? Like left?’
‘Like left,’ the one grumped. ‘Like jumped out the top window, into the water, swam, made a boat, reached his family, sailed off to dry land.’
The other said nothing, looked angry.
‘Like left, I don’t know, left anywhere, left here, that is,’ the one said. ‘It’s nothing I know, I just heard it.’ They were silent for some time. Water dripped. Every so often a silent flash lit up their soggy interior. Instinctively the one waited for the sound of thunder. Silly.
‘Should we too?’ the other said.
‘I haven’t looked outside.’
‘No,’ the one said. ‘I don’t know.’
‘Is it still raining?’ the other said.
Her smile was contagious.
‘I am here to serve you,’ she said. And then her face cracked open in a smile, wrinkled her features until she was as soggy as a walnut, but bright as the sun, smiling as hard as she could. It was a sight to behold, and soon everybody surrounding her was smiling, though her voice had revealed no joy, had refrained from expressing emotion at all.
‘I am here,’ she repeated, and then the twinkle in her eyes shimmered like moonlight on a frozen lake, though no one had seen the sun lately. It had turned black, leaving a circular hole in the sky on clear days. People had wondered where it had gone, if it was gone, or merely covered, if maybe their eyes had simultaneously refused to look directly at it, created a collective blindspot for the object that we now recall as being the sun. People wondered if it had ever really been there, or if their memory had suddenly started to refuse playing tricks on them, if the reality had suddenly decided to be truthful and show them the sky the way it really was: sunless.
‘I’m here,’ she said, again, and there people would see it, people would be reminded of the sun, the bright, white, light-emitting sun that had once been in the sky, and her smile had become so valuable people tried to copy it, to cherish it and mimic it, until they themselves would possess something sunny and light, inside of them. It worked for few of them, yet many had tried. When she smiled, people smiled too, studied her facial features, the wrinkles around her nose, the glimmer in her pupils, the warmth that her skin suddenly seemed to possess, her freckles that seemed to darken, almost as if she commanded the sun, the old sun, to enlighten her from within, and people tried to learn her ways, to be enlightened like she whose smile was contagious.
The sun had turned dark, had left a hole in the sky, and as the first had realized it had turned, people started to realize their need for it, the loss that the darkening of the sun would be for them, for their lives, the influence it would have, though not literally but more on a vague, higher level.
She was here to serve them, she said, and people followed her, people were served, with that beautiful, strange, hypnotic smile of hers they were entranced.
It was all they ever heard her say, it seemed like she didn’t know any other words, but it was enough, for her face told a thousand tales, and reassured them of her intelligence, her faith and truthfulness.
People wanted to believe, which sometimes is enough. And so they tried to steal some of her smile, tried to copy it so truthful as to clone it, tried to be thought the trick of smiling. And when that did not work, the people tried to mimic other things, the people tried to say what she said, to dress the way she dressed, to walk the way she walked. They said: ‘I am here,’ and she smiled at them in recognition, which made the people feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It was a drug, a beautiful warm hug that worked like medicine, that treated their confused hearts and troubled minds—if it was just for a second—that made them long for another serve. ‘I am here to serve,’ they said, in that same emotionless voice, as their faces cracked open, sweating, blanking their teeth, opening their eyes, smiling?—and she had slowly walked away, and the people had not even realized she was gone because they were so busy trying to emulate a smile. Some others stepped forward, the most talented ones, the most faithful ones, and took her place, as the people tried their best believing in the smile, as the sun was dark as ever, and time passed, and people tried to smile as best as they could, and soon no one even remembered the sun being light, and the tales that the wrinkles in their faces told, were ones of a world in which sun was white and warm, and people could not smile, for the sky smiled for them.
He had been old, very old, when he had first met her. She was restless, in a way, and she couldn’t make a sound. She was born tongueless, and her mouth was an empty hole of flesh. She could barely breathe, and sucked up air as if her last second had just started. Her face was wronged and mangled, her body uncontained and jumpy. She had to move, all the time, could not submit to stillness. She was thunder in motion, she made no sound but possessed roaring, yelling anger and darkness. Her eyes were dark, two black pupils in a clear sky, her face was wrinkled like an old walnut, unsure if her age. She made no sound but the reckless, strange, bodily sounds of stamping, clapping, hitting, breathing.
He had seen her, in a space, that had bordered his own, and at that time he couldn’t help but stare, into that space in which she raged out, lashed out physically onto anything and everything that seemed to contain her, though invisible to his eye.
She was a demon, a devil contained in a flesh-born body, and she performed her ritual. It took days, it seemed, and he had become the spectator, the silent audience of her play, the scene that unfolded, furiously, aggressively. Her body was red of blood, her face sore from frowning and contracting, spasming. Then her dance was finished, at last, and she fell down, finding bodily silence, and tried to catch breath.
He wondered: should he approach? Was this his fight? Or should he stay within his space, just looking over the border but not crossing it?
He stepped forward before his mind finished thinking, and slowly approached the roaring thunderous girl. Step by step the distance grew smaller, until her senses picked him up, something lupine seemed to hold her in their grasp, and made her jump up, shocked and afraid.
He stopped, a few steps from her, and looked at her, tried not to look her over, remained still, calm, he tried at least.
She remained where she was, though tense.
He stepped forward, even slower, joined her space, they shared a spot now, and he sat down beside her standing, hunched over form. She smelled of sweat and fear.
He sat there, took off his coat, and closed his eyes.
She growled, and he could hear her rasping, unhealthy breath squeak through her nose, in and out, in and out. He tried to follow her rhythm, and then felt how her presence sat down too, in front of him, eyeing him over. He opened his eyes, and caught her looking, but she was calm now and didn’t look away. He was impressed, slightly.
He now thought back at this moment, that first moment of strange friendship, shared solitude, though not similar in nature, similar in heart. She was sore, he saw then, and she was sore still, but it was a different type of hurt. It was something from within, rather than superficial, physical, bodily. It was something that could not out itself.
He sometimes could touch her face, her wrong face, and it was rough and twisted and strange. All the component of a human face were present, yet seemed to have put together piece by piece, an abstract artwork, arranged randomly, aggressively. She did not speak any tongue, her mother tongue was movement and anger, and he tried to teach her how to make sense of the world of language. It was a rough path, an empty roar, a thunderous road with long, deep pitts, and high mountains, and winding rivers, troubling the path. And she was angry, all the time, with tangled hair and dilated pupils, and tried but failed constantly. He would take her face in his hands, his normal, human hands, look her in the eye, and say: ‘I am here.’
She would cry, sometimes, or attack him, and on the rare occasion, her mouth would move, soundless, mimicking his attempt at communication, trying to learn his ways. Those days were the hardest ones, and the longest ones, for he would do nothing but repeat: ‘I am here’, as she tried to access the part of her that longed for communication. Sometimes she would be silent for hours, wouldn’t even try to move her mouth, just resting her forehead against his, accepting the words like wind flowing through grass, just watching it happen. And sometimes she would groan, and sputter, and bark and squeak out words that resembled his words, sounded horrible, but attempted at sound.
He didn’t know what had attracted him to her, what had made him decide, at that strange moment of recognition, of observing her rage, to step forward. But he had, and now this was his task, until she was at peace, whatever place they would end up at.
But he was old when he first met her, very old, and though she didn’t look at it from the outside, she was young and lively in her heart and spirit. And soon he had to leave her, and she was alone in the world again. He didn’t think there would be anyone else that would care for her, for she had never been with anyone else during the time they spent together. He hoped for it, of course, but was unsure. He was sad to leave her, for there was barely any progress, there was this rage, all the time, and sadness, and his heart ached for her, and the moments in which she tried her very best were bad at best.
His life before had happened too, of course, this had not been his sole purpose or experience in life, but he was old, and was ready for leaving, when suddenly she had entered his field of vision, hit him in the face, killed his soft fading, slapped him back into reality, and made him realize he was very capable, and she was not, and he had something to give.
This plant is very dead, she thought, suddenly.
The line was long and she had slowly been creeping up to the front desk, inch by inch, but the line was very long. It seemed like one of the dreams she had about running in a field, running towards something, but there’s nothing at the horizon, and the field just keeps going and going and going, there is no end to it, and that is how she felt now.
From the corner of her eye she looked at a windowsill on which stood a sad plant. It was potted in a very big pot, and had a few thin stems with brown, green and yellow leafs on it. They hung from their stem as a gloomy day with rain.
Every day she had been standing in this line, she knew it by heart by now, it was certainly very long, very long indeed. But she was used to it. And everyday she had been looking at the windowsills she passed as she crept forward, inch by inch, and she had noticed the plant everyday. It had not changed since she had started standing in line here daily. It really was a dead plant, she thought. Why the owner of it didn’t throw it away, was a mystery to her. It certainly looked dead, there was no way around it. It looked even more sad because the pot was so large, it was ridiculous, really, she thought to herself. Who potts a tiny, sad plant like that in a massive, oversized pot like that? It barely fit on the windowsill.
She had never seen the owner of the house, but had imagined him—she thought them to be male, older, balding, but intelligent-looking somehow—with his plastic, white watering can, watering the plant every week or so, maybe in the weekends, when she did not stand in line. And then the man would have to look at it, and think: is this worth it? She thought it impossible for this man to not see how dead the plant was, really. It was a dead plant for sure. She almost found it insulting how this man would keep watering the plant, weekly, as if it had not died. Couldn’t he buy a new plant? she thought, frustrated. Couldn’t he spend all his time and energy in a plant that would actually grow? Why didn’t he just throw the damn thing away?
She moved forward one inch as the bodies in front of her made an inch of space in front of her. Behind her she heard the shuffling of those behind her in line, do the same.
Maybe he did it just to tease the bystanders, the ones that had to stand in line in front of his window every day. Maybe he wanted her to see his dead plant, see how it slowly started to fossilize and die. Maybe it wasn’t even a real plant, maybe it was a fake plant, that seemed dying, but was a frozen body, stopped in time, seemingly sad but really just plastic. How could you showcase a dying fake plant? Why not buy a beautiful fake plant? she wondered.
Or maybe he was blind. Maybe he couldn’t see straight and had thought all this time that his plant was fine, that it was happy and flourishing and growing because of his care.
Or, she thought, as she crossed her arms in front of her chest, maybe he really had forgotten about the plant. Maybe he didn’t water it at all, maybe he had not been home in forever and his house had been collecting dust and the water from the earth had evaporated into air and the plant had dried out completely as he had forgotten about it completely.
But she hadn’t forgotten about it, no, she had been confronted with its state of decay daily, as she passed his window, every day.
She moved up another inch, shuffled, away from the window bit by bit, as she looked away from the plant.
It was a sad plant, she thought. Looking outside to the world, seeing it grow and flourish and blossom, and he was dying, all this time he had been dying, sad and lonely, maybe watered but maybe not, and either way it wouldn’t have mattered, for it really was dead already. It was a shadow of something like a plant, but it wasn’t a plant.
Er is een soort van gevoel, dat zich in mij brandt, een diep grauw verlangen. Soms is het aanwezig, een bonkende herinnering achter mijn slapen, een zwarte olievlek die mijn zicht belemmert en strepen trekt in mijn geestesoog.
Soms is het passief aanwezig, is het er wel maar zachtjes, sluimerend, een winterse slaap waarin het zich roert, af en toe omdraait, en mij zich weer van zijn aanwezigheid bewust maakt. Maar ik kan ermee omgaan, ik zie het maar loop er omheen, kijk er vanaf een afstandje naar, vraag me af of het ooit zo ver weg van mij zou komen te staan dat ik niet meer kan zien of het nog leeft, dat het een stipje op een horizon is die zich kromt naar de planeet.
Op die dagen verwacht ik onweer, en storm, maar zie ik slechts lichtflitsen, een storm in de luwte, een grijze waas van regen in de verte, een spookstad. Ik verzin mezelf een stad aan de horizon, een regenachtige stad op palen, die lang geleden zich omhoog heeft gekrikt om water op afstand te houden, en zich jaar na jaar hogerop weet te krijgen, totdat de palen hoger zijn dan de stad zelf, en er een bos is ontstaan van hout, van steigers en pilaren, waarlangs de grijze regen naar beneden druipt, en zachte modderpoelen ontstaan aan diens voeten.
Ik kijk omlaag, en zie mijn eigen voeten, in sokken gehuld, niet in modder maar op zand, droog zand. Ik ben veilig, denk ik, en ik hoor een ademhaling, ver weg—van iemand anders?—maar het is een diepe slaap, en ik ben veilig. Het zand is stevig, windt zich in dorre windvlagen om mijn enkels heen.
Het is koud, denk ik, en ik kijk weer omhoog, naar ver weg, naar de stad in de verte, in de geluidloze regenstorm.
Iemand anders kijkt naar mij, in een andere wereld, vanuit een ander jaargetij misschien, een andere tijdzone, uit een verleden dat ik niet ken. Ik voel prikkende ogen achter glas, een platte hand tegen het scherm aan. Ik vraag me af of diegene naar mij kijkt, of zich ook een stad voorstelt, en mij niet ziet, in deze zandvlakte. Wellicht prikken hun ogen me voorbij, denk ik, ben ik zelfs voor de buitenstaander onzichtbaar te midden van het opstuivende zand. Daarbij, denk ik, is de stad veel indrukwekkender dan ik ooit zal zijn, het is een fata morgana van de woestijn waarin ik me bevind. Een luchtkasteel.
Wellicht dringt de kou van achter het glas mijn wereld binnen, denk ik, wellicht is de kou geen deel van mijn wereld, maar sijpelt er een zuchtje realiteit door het glas naar me toe, toont het me dat er meer is dan de woestijn, en het zand, en de regen in de verte.
Een zucht verlaat mijn lippen.
Een zucht verlaat haar lippen, terwijl ze haar hand terugtrekt en er een dampe vlek achterblijft op het gladde oppervlak.
‘No time,’ she says. Haar hand trekt in verveling strepen over het glas, forgetful.
There no time, she thinks, there is never any time.
She turns around, faces the wall on the other side of the room, faces the orange-colored shadow on the wall in front of her, that is hers, and is created by the shrieking desert light that seeps through the glass.
She likes her silhouette in orange. It makes her look dark and mysterious, grainy. A forgotten picture, mysteriously undefined.
She leaves the room, leaves the glass unsheathed, allows the other world to seep in. Even though she is not there to catch it.
As she left the room, she felt how the warmth of the heater surrounded her. It was a different kind of warmth than the dull, painful, desert sun she had been gazing at for a while. It was present in a different way, in a more complete, enveloping way. Cozy.
Only the light next to the couch was on, the rest of the living room was shrouded in dusk. The lights of street lights and passing cars on the highway lit up the opposite wall every so often. A soft breeze made the curtains flow, pale ghosts of white cotton, bulging outward, then shrinking, a breath. On the couch the half open book ’The Disaster Artist’ remained. A trace of James, who had been reading until he was tired and went to bed. She smiled, warmly, and picked it up. She wondered if he had been killing, or reviving the book. The sentence “I hate being part of them” had been circled. A boy named Friedrich had cried the words out loud, after which a silence fell between him and his conversation partner. Who “they” were, she had no clue. She straightened the creases he had made, saw his pencil markings on the page and erased them, took out the bookmark and closed the book.
She walked over to the lamp, turned it off, and put the book back on the coffee table.
>You are Karla?
>Correct! What about you?
>Teddy. It’s my real name, I promise.
>Sure haha. Teddy. It’s cute I think.
>How do you know my name is Karla?
>Friedrich told me about you, sorry I thought you knew?
>Oh OK I didn’t but it’s fine. Friedrich hasn’t talked to me about anything lately.
>You guys are not fighting are you?
>Nah, he does that sometimes. Goes all back into his own spiraling mind, until he cannot deal with it anymore and he blurts everything out.
>Oh, ok? I guess you guys know each other well.
>Well… I guess. You have siblings, Teddy?
>Nope, I’m a born loner :)
>Do you like it?
>Well… sometimes, but really a lot of times not. I am good at being alone physically, but I cannot be alone mentally I need to have conversation with people, anyone really. Which brings me to you, I guess :)
>So I’m your filler?
>In a way :p But I like you because of it, it keeps my mind off of other things.
>You have a lot of other things, Teddy?
>Nah. The usual stuff. People dying, forests burning, worlds ending, water boiling. There is a lot I need to do, but I don’t. I just think of doing them, and then I think about thinking about doing them, and the cycle continues.
>I know that feeling.
>You’re a thinker, like me, I know one when I chat with one.
>You got me, haha. But yes. I like thinking. It is a frozen state of mind, in a way, a state of continuous pondering is the state in which I thrive.
>Well said. So you don’t need the physical, if I understand correctly?
>Nope, I don’t need physical. Mental is what I’m good at.
>Mental beings. That sounds epic. An album cover is in there somewhere. Do you like music Karla?
>Yes and no. It’s complicated I guess. I like it, but i have this thing where I cannot get rid of music in my head. Not like an earworm, but seriously, a piece of music gives me headaches for days because it keeps stamping in my mind. It is bad for the mental, I would say.
>That sounds… sad. I would die without music to listen to.
>I want to, and I love it, but I would literally die with music to listen to, so I can’t. I live a silent life. But I’m fine with it, really. I’ve come to realize I like visual content just as much as audible content, and it doesn’t hurt me.
>You’re an artist? Or you just like to watch? Senses are funny, if you ask me.
>I draw, but I don’t think I could call myself an artist. I am realistically a mediocre amateur. Which I am fine with. I like doing it, I like the outcome, that is all I expect of it.
>Sorry—I have to go, Karla. But talk to you soon?
>It’s ok! This was fun.
‘You know,’ the girl said, ‘there’s nothing wrong with relationships. It’s not about the person, or the gender, it’s about the spark between you.’
‘No,’ the boy replied, quickly, sweating, ‘I know that, mind you. I know how relationships work—it’s just… I can’t watch you just throw yourself into the deep with a woman you barely met.’
The girl frowned. She seemed to think, and slowly emitted words. ‘I know her barely, yes, but I know her very well at the very same time. I have had contact with her for over two years now, that is a long time. I didn’t know at that time that she was on the other end of the screen, but I certainly got to know her as a person. That has to mean something. It cannot mean nothing.‘
The boy looked at her. ‘It does mean something. But people are filtered when met in a parallel world, they are not the same person as they are in reality.’
‘Well,’ she answered, ‘maybe I don’t even need to see her in real life then. Maybe I just want to bind myself to the filtered version of her. If I have fallen in love with her filtered self, the unfiltered self is unnecessary to me.’
‘But,’ he replied, surprised, ‘don’t you want to hug her? And kiss her, and touch her without asking? Don’t you want to perform caressing on a real human body, rather than through text and glitch?’
She was quiet, which meant “yes”.
‘Yes,’ she said, which meant: ‘I’m not sure if I want that.’
‘Yes,’ she said, again, ‘but there is caressing in a different way, too. We have our own language somehow, that duplicates the feeling that caressing gives me, and translates into the realm of filter. It is unphysical, I am aware of that,’ she said, ‘but it provokes the same feelings within me.’
A silence fell between them.
‘I am not like you,’ she then said, softer, a hand on his cheek. ‘I know you value the physical body, but I don’t, I really don’t. That you experience a transition does not mean I need to accept transitioning into another type of reality, only to make my relationship physical. I don’t want to meet her, I already have. There is nothing more to be said.’
He looked as if she had hit him.
‘Sorry,’ she whispered.
‘I know I care about my appearance,’ he said, his voice emotionless and distant. ‘I know I am like all the other transitioning human beings, that long for bigger boobs, and bigger penises, and softer skin, and tinier boobs, and strong muscles, and freckles, and abs, and eyelashes, and all of those things. You don’t have to explain that to me.’
‘Sorry,‘ she whispered again. She took him into a hug, and he let her. She felt fresh flesh on different places, adjusted her stance to his other form.
‘I know that I am literally an embodiment of the cliche of all transitioning humans. I want to be big, and beautiful, and naked and curved, feminine.’
She said nothing, just held him there, as he kept talking, tried to vent out what had been on his heart for all this time. There seemed to have opened a door that let out a lot of anger, and confusion, all simultaneously blurting out.
‘And I despised them too,’ he spitted. ‘I hated them, the travesty and the inbetweeners, I hated them for not going all the way. I hated to see their forms, somewhere stuck in between male and female. And I suddenly find all that shit in myself, as I notice how much I want big boobs, and a butt, and long fingernails and eyelashes. I hate being part of them, and it makes me hate myself.’
She held him there, as tears streamed down her face. His hurt was tangible, and she tasted it in the air, all around her, bitter and gross, a dark purple anger and sadness, twisted into the form he was currently in, the in-between, as he had called it.
‘I know,’ she said. ‘But I don’t see it that way. I admire any stage you are in, whether you decide to stay there, or whether you feel like it’s part of a bigger journey. I cherish any form you take, whether male of female or in between. And I think just because many have done it before you, do not make the emotion less real or unique to you, as a human being.’
He tried to breathe, but cried only.
They sat there for a while, and the buzzing of far off vehicles and airplanes reached their consciousness.
He said: ‘I think it is wonderful that you can love someone despite their physicality.’
She smiled in his shoulder, and wanted to say, but:
‘I just can’t see it,‘ he continued. ‘I don’t want to see it.’
‘Physical is beautiful,’ she replied after giving it some thought. ‘Not my beautiful, but it certainly is someone’s beautiful. including yours. There’s beautify in any preference, no matter how common or archetypical that preference is, or the people that embody that preference. There’s nothing wrong with being a part of them.’
Is it true?
Is it true?
Is it true? the walls whispered. Is it truth what the boy was saying?
The boy was an artist, he was a ponderer, he was truthful but naive and vague in his thinking and communicating. Therefore his truth was clouded, was floaty and glitchy, soft crackling, a humble piano chord, over and over and over, repeated thinking, a spiral.
The walls have ears, and the walls heard the boy whisper to himself, whisper his truth in front of him, kicked it outward, muscled his thoughts through his body until it lay there in front of him, looking back at him.
The boy was an artist, and he was cloudy. His judgement was cloudy, his opinions gray as a passing rain cloud, shrouded in mist.
The walls looked at the boy, and saw him in dubio, saw the doubt form his brows, saw how the doubt twitched his eyes, twisted his knuckles into white. And the boy could not decide. For he was an artist, many would say, and those types just cannot be decisive.
It wasn’t true, the walls whispered, no artist is indecisive if they are any good. The boy was just sad, and confused, is all, the walls whispered. His sadness clouded his decision. He is perpetually sad, it seems, or?
He had been described by many as a mistake, an error, a lost soul, wandering off against the grain of the fiber the world was made of. He doesn’t have it in him, the walls echoed, he is trouble, up to nothing.
But it is the truth, that the boy was saying. The walls had whispered it, and the walls never lied.
And the boy said: ‘I am here.’
And the walls echoed, he is here, he is here, and the touch of a spectral hand caressed the boy’s face, tenderly, motherly, wiped away sweat and blood, tears also. But they were inside, they were harder to reach.
The hand reached for his, and he took it, and he was less alone, and the walls echoed, they are here, they are here, they are here, and he was an artist. He was here to serve them, the truth.
A spark, a flash of spectral light—the boy had vanished, with a hint of a wrinkly smile on his lips.
Is it true?
Is it true? the walls echoed.
The sound bounced back and forth between the empty walls of the space, floating like dust, slowly dissipating as time went by.
What is true? wanderers wondered, but the walls only echoed, they did not answer. They bounced back, and bypasses did not wonder what had happened here, who the boy was, who the spectral hand belonged to, why he had smiled, for they didn’t know, only the walls knew, and they were merely echoes of a past long gone. Only they carried the traces of a forgotten situation, yet could reproduce only shadows of what had occurred.
A passer-by wandered the stone halls of the place, had a destination but was not in a hurry, therefore casually strolled down each hallway, inspected corners and listened to the sound of her breath and the hollow echo of her footsteps inside empty corridors. She wondered what had happened in this place, why there was a certain quiet that held such mystery. She felt so little among all the stone, the brute force that a silent, empty past can contain. And she loved the halls for it, and her sigh was carried by echoes of the walls, and within moments the whole space sighed, and seemed to finally catch its breath, after years of solitude and anticipation.
Was it true? they whispered.
What was true? she asked.
The walls hesitated.
What was true? she echoed.
Was the artist a disaster? the walls asked.
Was the artist a disaster? she echoed. Was he?
The walls were quiet.
‘Was he?’ she asked out loud, more to herself than to any other. He was an artist, she knew. And he had been a disaster, at least some thought that. Some might have not thought it, but perhaps everyone had thought it and only the walls had questioned its truthfulness.
Can disaster be artistic? she asked herself. Can disastrous artistry exist? Can they be united in one and the same person?
Is it true? the walls whispered in her ear.
‘I don’t know,’ she answered, truthfully. ‘I don’t know anything about him. I am just passing by.’.
He awakened by a mournful sound, a short cry, strange in nature. He was unable to ascertain its nature. Man or beast? It sounded monumental, yet small, tender, private, painful. Someone had lost something. Or something had lost someone. It had happened on the periphery of sleep and awakening. Was it even true? Did it happen if no one could recollect its occurrence?
He stepped out of the bed, and his confusing state of almost awakening slowly softened into a morning slumber. As he turned on the coffee machine, he wondered what had happened to his story.
He had been writing, you see, he was a writer. Been writing many, many words, pages, sentences, entire lives he had put down on his computer, and then he edited the words into emotions, and dialogue, and chapters and structure, with pencil he scratched out every typo, every sentence that he was touched by, every dialogue that sounded real, and he took the parts he liked least and cut them out of the file, scissored all the bad pixels away until a scrapbook of a word-document remained.
But something had happened to it. All its edits, all his most recent versions, had vanished, as if they hadn’t ever been there at all. What remained was version 7, the version that was something, but definitely not good, not the first, not the worst, but definitely very bad. It was the version in which Friedrich had cancelled halfway, rather than completing the transition completely. It was the version where the girl fell through the window rather than staying on her side, merely staining the glass. It was ridiculous, and stupid, and child-like, and raw and not ready.
He wondered if the edits had happened, if they were ever even there. He remembered many of his waking hours performing edits to it, changing the file, saving a version 8, 9, 11, 22, 25. But all traces of those hours of work had lost. His computer was humble, showed him version 7 as the latest version, as if nothing had happened, patiently waiting for him to continue writing.
He had sat down in front of his computer and had tried, by memory, to change version 7 into something like version 20-sth. And he had saved it, twice, and then once more on his hard disk.
The next morning the new edits had not been saved, had vanished from his computer, but version 4 had been gone as well. It didn’t matter of course, for version 7 was still there, but it was strange and frightening. He sat down behind his computer, and saved random text files, all named differently. Some were named Version08, others versionXX, v008, veight, random name, Document (4), try-out, and so forth.
The next day they were gone, but version 8 was suddenly there, had reappeared from oblivion, and versionXX was there too. It was a nonsense file, just some gibberish, a dumb try-out.
He couldn’t make any sense of it, and decided that he should see this as a sign. The universe was trying to tell him something and he had to believe in it, otherwise it would keep failing on him.
This sign, it had occurred before. In another place, some time later, way later actually, though in chronology it was on the same page as the previous occurrence.
It was a girl, and she was sitting, in a train, and then there was a ridiculous sound, inhumane, but very vocal—not vocal in the way of loud, or hard, but in the way of the human voice. It was a voice that sounded unable to make words, but panted, with melody. Not in a sexual way, merely in a strange, repetitive, childlike manner. A way of wanting attention, possibly? Anyway, the girl was just minding her own business, she had set up her environment to be able to be undisturbed by others invading her personal public space—that is, the chair on which she sat, the chair to the left of her, were she had strategically placed her bag, and the about quarter of a square meter of floor space on which both her feet and her backpack stood. This space has to be meticulously crafted, there was an art to it, to create the most uninviting and intimate space within the boundaries of the public space that is a train wagon. It has to be occupied with personal belongings to own it, it is a question of territory, but must not be permanent. For when it is permanent, or at least very harsh or obvious, it becomes rude, and it must not be rude, for being rude in occupying space around you becomes noticeable. And in order to create the perfect personal private public space, it must be as unnoticeable—mentally—as can be. Of course you are present, and your stuff is present, but it must be a soft boundary, a grey zone. For when it is very busy, in the train, someone might come up to you and ask for the other chair. And this temporary private space has to be mobile, and change shape quickly. For it is rude to be occupying a space obviously, gauntly, permanent. It must be a space that can fold back up, that can evaporate within seconds.
And in this space, suddenly a scent drifted. A scent of wet cloak, of mud and dirt and smoke, of mirroring lakes drenched in algae and shit. Scent does not know boundaries, she figured, as her peaceful, unnoticed, unoccupied space of mind had suddenly been infiltrated. By a smell, a stench, rather, a puking disgust that wallowed within the private space.
At first, she was unsure of the smell, but then the corner of her eye caught a glimpse of the hairy hind of a fuzzy animal. Rather big, as big as a dog, but very fuzzy—in fact, it probably, very probably was a dog—what else would it have been?—but it was so fuzzy. It had to be a prize dog, a very expensive one, the one that is bred as far as possible, unfunctional and all—like the chihuahuas that have to be carried by their owners because (1) they are so naked and cold and thin that they cannot walk without shaking (2) their owners are unaware of point 1 and like to own something that is helpless, they feel the urge to protect it like a baby. Sad, she thought. This dog must be very expensive, for it is so fuzzy the dog stinks, and sweats, even in summer, it cannot deal with all this coat he has to wear all day long, there is no washing that will undue the stench of this dog, she thinks. God, what a smell.
However, she has a strong déja vu, for it has happened before. Not long before, actually, she had sat in a very similar train, with a very similar destination, and in a very similar piece of mind, and the same rotting, dying stench of filth and death had reached her nostrils. But at that time she had not been able to dissect its origins. And then the same panting had happened, yet faster and multiplied, and it had sound more like weird old man, or someone with an illness. She had heard and smelled before she had seen, and she had made many assumptions, and she had been alert, suspiciously unnoticeably staying still, until that moment when not a dirty, weird old man, but three small stinky dogs had walked past her, followed by their owner, who was stinky as well (she wondered: was the owner first or the doggies? They must have been rubbing off on eachother). And then she had to laugh so hard, bubbly, but she had kept it in, except for a wide smile that she wasn’t able to hide. This preposterous panting, it was just ridiculous, and these doggies were so small and agile, they were flitting and fumbling about, annoying every passenger right next to them, and boy, was the girl glad she sat a few chair back.
The woman in front of her, a passenger, had been surprised at this sudden burst of contained energy from her neighboring train passenger, and had to laugh as well, slightly, cautiously, for she wasn’t sure what the laugh was about.
But the girl had felt similar as to this moment, this second moment of a stinking dog in a train. She felt disgusted, and relieved for some reason, but mostly disgusted, for smell did not know barriers.
And also, she wondered whether this was a sign. It must be a sign, for she had never ever experienced a stinky dog in a train, and now she had had this experience twice within two weeks. It couldn’t be coincidental.
She also wondered whether this meant she would have to cope with more stinking dogs in the future. Was this the way for God to reach her now? She believed in him, mind you, but vaguely, like a far relative that is still somehow related to you though you never ever see him and don’t really actively care about them, just passively. But now, this God must be toying with her. Of all the ways, she thought, and the anger rose within her, she could feel the muscles in her arms tense, off all the ways he could have let her know he was real, God decided to sent stinky dogs her way. What about trees on fire? What about pregnancy, about angels or crickets, floods, poisoned apples? Why did it have to be stinky doggies that provided a sign of faith for her? She would gladly be drowning in Noah’s flood, she would happily bite the apple of poison that the snake would convince her to eat, she would stand outside as the crickets rained down on her. Anything but soggy stinkdogs.
She hated herself for putting so much emphasis on this specific occasion. If she had not been so agitated about the whole thing, this would not have manifested itself into a way of belief. Why couldn’t she find meaning in pretty things, in flowers, or the changing of seasons, or a kiss? Why did it have to be stinky dogs?
She sighed. The more she thought about it, the more real it became, she realized, sadly. This was a dark day.
The big fuzzy rotting dog and it rotting owner had left the train a long time ago. But still the scent of sweaty fur and the anger caused by stupid decisions by stupid deities didn’t leave her body.
She was cursed now.
Sunrise, sunrise (though it is very far from this), Norah Jones is in my eyes, it’s head’n for ninety-fifty five… And I said, oh, oh, oh o, oh…
The lyrics are jumbled up like a kid remembering sounds not words, not knowing the English language but very fondly remembering the music itself, the sound that the words make, the way they resonate is remembered perfectly, the tone is there, it is only not communicative, is all. But is that a problem? I wonder? It is a problem for understanding, certainly. I only recently found out what Amy Winehouse was singing in Rehab, but does it matter, I ask myself? I am uncertain. Yes and no, would be my answer.
I watched a movie, and it was unclear what the message was. My roommate watched it with me, and she found it sad, it had a resolve, but it was sad nonetheless. The girl was rejected in every scene, it kept building and building, yet I remembered this movie fondly. It is a movie about reflecting during a period of rest, about the beauty and simplicity of nature, the importance of forgiving and forgetting, laughing about it, moving on. Funny how the girl reminded me of my roommate, how I realized she might have recognized herself in the girl. The girl became a different protagonist all of a sudden, her identity shifted because I found her to be different, because my mind filled in her character differently this time of watching.
And I came to realize how two people can watch the same movie, and see a different movie. How one person, in two different situations, can watch the same movie, and see a different movie. The movie is a good movie if it changes its nature every time it is viewed. I wonder if movies have this right alone — no, of course, but for me it certainly is the medium that is most empowering in this form of rewatching, reiteration.
A slap hovers in the air, then hits—impact!
The moment is over. Her face turns from pure shock and white to red and teary on one side, then bursts, runs back inside, all ugly and runny.
It was the first slap. And the last slap, possibly.
But it did not hurt them. Or harm them, really. They just observed the situation, from the side, as the looming presence of the whale god in the sky, hovered above them, seemingly judging, but not interacting.
The whale god seemed funny, or childish, or fake, but he was real. And he was a god in the shape of a whale. A giant, translucent whale, as big as a zeppelin, flying also. It was a being of tales and myths and stupid rhymes and children’s games. The whale god will catch you and gore you with its thousand pincers for teeth. Whales don’t have teeth, which makes it quite funny, and the whale god is literally see-through and intangible so it is not possible, however! These stories have been immortalizing the whale god. The whale god is in no need of a capital letter, for he is fine with this sort of downgraded status. He doesn’t care, really, about the tiny humans on the ground. Sometimes he wonders if the title of god would even give him any credit since he doesn’t really actively care about anything other than swimming, and, well, other stuff. He is a simple being, though his looming presence can often scare the shit out of the tiny humans on the ground. They start screaming, or whispering, or run away until they’re back out of the shade. He is so big, you see, his shadow casts a darkness onto the world. Though see-through, so there is a gray sort of shadow there, rather than a complete block of the sunlight. He is quite warm, he is a warm being, he likes staying close to the sun, which means he will shade the tiny humans every now and then. Is that a crime? he wonders, but he is a bit tired. He doesn’t like thinking about stuff when he’s tired.
There is a sound, the soft hum of a voice, it sounds like noise. It is not, though, but it sounds like. Noise, but it is a voice, probably human, most likely human. Light, high-pitched, but smoked, like an old, dusty theatre, the smell of grain on a television. Deep purple, colored, thick. Thick and light—there is contrast.
There is a sensation, like one that comes forth when looking into the eyes of someone you recognize from somewhere, but can’t place, can’t seem to pin down. Have you seen this human before? Yes, but no satisfaction can be derived from that affirmation. It’s funny, how a voice that sounds like thickness, and is light, can be one and the same. Thick and light is not similar in nature, yet it is so, in this sound.
This voice is clear, not scratchy, it seems to say words, but the language seems unknown. Can words be if there is no system surrounding it? Can it still be words? Can something be meaningful without association?
This voice, it is present, it has not faded. Lingering, it is. This voice. Then—
—a memory stirs. It makes you think of someone. From long ago.
Its content seems to be rooted in history, it has a real, factual origin, it seems, though there is no way of knowing. How can one search for sound if it does not contain words? What are lyrics in a song without words?
The song sounds like the wind. The wind through the leaves, but darker. Thick. Rustling, but reverting through something thicker than air. Syrup. The moon seeps through like a lantern in the black of a night, any night. Yet this song happens in one night solely, it is no repeating phenomenon. There also happen to be more, more than the singer alone. There are listeners, live listeners, to the song, but you cannot hear them. They are present, but make no sound, and all that you can recollect is the sound. They sit around the singer, a muddy circle of bodies, quietly listening. Hymnal, the song suddenly seems—
—you suddenly see the audience looking at you. A vague surprise, but soon they turn their attention back to the singer, the singing, the song, that rings across the plains they are all on. It seems to happen slower now, as if something is coming, the rhythm shifts, yet the singer’s face, who is still unknown to you, remains unchanged, stone.
The memory tries to shape itself, but fails miserably, leaves gaps of dark unknown knowledge, stains on the white cloth that is the deja vu. It shifts again, liquid, and suddenly the audience circles you, looks at you, realizes how you are now the singer, and then you realize it too, and your throat emits the memory, though you have no knowledge of singing, no practice nor experience at all in the performative arts. A vessel, really, for the memory.
And then, as your gaze travels past the thousands of pale faces devoid of emotion, it staggers and stops, as the eyes of a woman, sort-of-young but not really innocent looking, stares at you. There is no difference between her and the other faces, no way that she could have stood out for you in comparison to the others, she is not terribly near you, she did not move or make any noise, has no distinguishable features whatsoever—and yet her face seems to be stuck on your peripheral vision. There is something about her that makes your thoughts shift direction. Did she just smile? you wonder, but the moment passes as—
—you are again decentered, and suddenly you realize that the place of memory is not a void plain, but a real actual location, a location that exists, or has existed, or will exist in the material world. There is grass, and air, that smells of spring, and smoke somehow. There is wind and muscle and time, and suddenly, different from before, your body seems to be heavy, so much more heavy than before, and it slaps against the grass, a damp thud as your body falls limb to the floor, unable to adjust in time to the change in weight. It seems like you have time travelled for real this time, and from afar, the sound fades into reality again, the same song, a woman’s voice, thick and light, but now, as you look at the center of the audience, the thousands of staring faces and bodies, you recognize her face. She has one of those faces that you would forget if it didn’t stick so much to your mind’s eye, if she hadn’t made such an impression. And there she was, centered and singing, she was the singer, and you were the listener. And you realize now, how physical the voice is, how it is sourced in muscle and body and mouth, and you realize it is a bodily phenomenon, and it fascinates you.
Time passes, for a while, as the song swiftly turns and lingers between all the ones present. After a long while you realize the song has words, because the audience starts to move, and react, and show emotion to the lyrics she sings. The words are unrecognizable still, yet the audience speaks the language now, and all of a sudden you realize you do too.
There is something obvious about a road movie. On the one hand, it stirs feelings of nostalgia, it creates an atmosphere of regret, or forgiveness, but on the other hand all the cliches are present, there is nothing new about it. There is wind through hair, there is the sound of car wheels against old asphalt, there is the crappy sound of radio music.
Then there are two young adults, one driving, the other one, window open, eyes closed, wind through hair. They are performing the road movie. They look new, freshly pressed, crisp. Though the desert sand flares up behind them, a trail of dust, in a space of nothing, of dry land, empty earth.
One of them, the one looking out of the open window, thinks of something, turns to face the other. They look each other in the eye for a glimpse of a second, but then the one changes mind and turns back, stares outside again. The view hasn’t changed.
The other, the driver, wonders what it was about. But they are not concerned. There is a lot of unspoken air around them that does not bother them either. What difference would this particular incident make? There is enough silence for both of them, why bother breaking it if they are both enjoying it? Their eyes peeled on the road again.
The one looking outside of the window thinks about the way the driver had looked at them earlier. There was something about it that made their train of thought lose its tracks. Not in a romantic way, just in a sudden way. There was something sudden about their gaze that changed the atmosphere, made it promptly unable to speak in. Weird, how they could have such power. They glared back at the driver, secretly, from the corners of their eye, saw them unmoving, hands folded onto the wheel, somewhat tense.
The driver looked not at their partner, but felt their gaze reach them. Funny, they thought, how the senses can pick up an invisible stare yet not see it happening. There was something physical about a stare, at least it provokes something physical within them. They didn’t move, eyes peeled on the endless, boring road ahead. The creeky radio was on. Sounded like a very crappy version of a Fleet Foxes song. Couldn’t hear a thing with all this wind and noises the car was making. Something in them shifted, there was something very terrible suddenly surfacing in their stomach. An ominous something, an omen? Something from within rumbling and stirring their insides, wanting attention. They ignored it.
The one looking out of the window suddenly felt something dark, low, in their stomach, as if they were at a concert with only the bass volume turned on. Was that the music of a single guitar they heard? They were very confused, but optimistic, as the instant the soft strumming of the guitar made them relax, made them stretch their bones and soften their muscles, and suddenly the world was a softer place. They looked back at the one driving, and wanted to smile in forgiveness, but suddenly saw how the driver’s knuckles had turned white, and their skin had turned white, almost a translucent blue, and their eyes were closed, tightly shut, banned, and their arms had returned to stone. They were driving, still, their foot was pressed against the pedal, and the both of them were lucky they drove an endless, straight road. The driver had been completely locked up, imprisoned within themselves, and remained this way for a long time, the other would know. They recognized their state of being, their frozen self had presented itself to them long ago.
There was this other person, they would describe, afterwards, that crawled up from within his chest, that pierced their insides and slowly creeped into their consciousness, taking over. There was no way of shutting them out, it wasn’t even a “them”, it was a hideous being, object, an emotion, or a certain kind of pain, that had to be lived with. The way of dealing with it was uncertain. The only way they knew so far was shutting off, completely turning to stone, so as to not allow this something to escape. Besides, it was a way of not collapsing, of not fainting from anxiety, during the process of take-over. Because that is what they called it when they first explained it to them: take-over. One word: take-over. It was a coup, in a way, a temporary state of emergency that their brain was sometimes forced to take, until the feeling slowly leaked out of their body, disappeared within the seems of the chair cushions, faded away as the sun hit their face, and they melted back into their regular form, the old form, the first form.
It was not very recent, they would explain, that this thing has nested inside of them, but it has not been their entire life. It had first occurred around their twentieth year, and they had fainted because of it, had thought they were just very tired, or mentally unstable. They had seen doctors, and psychoanalysts, and psychic mediums, and psychologists, and it had remained within them, had travelled with them and carried them at times. It was, in a way, a reassuring thing, frightening, yes! but reassuring. This state of mind had often hit them unexpectedly, but had also been saving them, at times, when they were unstable themselves, and had needed help, or were on the edge of something, and then they had froze, and the being had seeped into their being, and prevented them from reacting, had froze them until they were numb. It was a mechanism, unhealthy but necessary. This something was the embodiment of the Necessary Evil.
And it happened again, now, on the road, next to the other, and they felt their arms crack into paralysis, transform into matter and statue, and felt his face shut tight, completely turned inwards, and mentally happening what had always happened.
And the other had looked at it, had experienced this strange illness that the driver possessed few times before, and had seen the Evil at work—or rather, had seen the output, the remains of the Evil at work. And they had realized they could not prevent or help the driver in any way during this state. So the other peeled away their fingers from the steering wheel, feeling like they broke their fingers, as stiff and cold as they were, and the other tried to drive the car, carefully, to remain on the road.
Of course nothing happened, the road was winding, but terribly long, and desolated, sad, still, and the road movie zoomed out, seeing the two of them, on an endless road, the wind and dust trailing behind them like a veil of newly-wed. Creaky Fleet Foxes on the radio. The one in the driver’s seat seated like a statue, frozen in time, hands forward, and the other, with open window, curved around the driver to reach the steering wheel, eyes on the road. Their speed a perfect unfaltering number, even.