“There is so much that we cannot know and cannot control that we should not think and behave as if we do know and can control”
I’m his last appointment for the day.
His meetings ran thirty minutes over, so he asks me to walk and talk instead.
It’s raining outside.
I don’t have an umbrella, but his is big enough for the both of us.
I’ve got long clumsy legs and he’s got a limp, his knee agitated from the rain.
We bump elbows and shoulders casually as we try to find a stride befitting our umbrella and unwieldy gait.
“Tell me what’s on your mind,” he says, as if we began this journey with the intention of gouging our souls of feeling.
I dodge an oncoming umbrella made slick and sinister by the rain.
“I focused on the image of the rose too much. The next thing I knew, I was talking about the degradation of the human condition over the course of time. That’s not where I wanted to end up. I wanted to talk about the purifying powers of fire. I wanted to write of the world in flames,” I confess.
We pass a huddle of the homeless, all trying to protect their blankets from the cold wet.
“What saddens me is that most women never realize how beautiful they are. Some societal thing—I don’t understand it exactly.”
As he’s speaking I catch the eye of a tall Black man, puffing on a blunt as he leans against a building, looking like he knows where to find all the time in the world and then some.
“But what I’m trying to say is that even the beautiful things come from ashes—people burn and they light the world with them. Take this feeling you have, utilize it. Write down what you feel, and don’t edit. Whatever you have to say is important enough to keep. If not for this work, then for life.”
I stare at the smoke billowing from a manhole in the middle of the street as cars run over it, the fog quickly kissing the front of each as they speed by.
The rain makes broken pitter-patter sounds on the roof of his umbrella, the noise unreasonably satisfying.
He looks to me and smiles.
I smile back.
We part ways.
I only know how to love from a distance.
You call to me to come closer and I do,
Inch by inch, I walk into your embrace—
But your arms suffocate me.
I try to not breathe deep breaths
I try not to want the full expansion of my lungs
I try not to long for the pleasure of a simple stretch, unencumbered by your cage.
But I fail.
I push at your chest and you release me,
I take a breath like I’d never before breathed.
You, angry, hurt, come at me with those same arms, ready to suffocate me again;
And I, scared, hurting, turn my back to you and flee.
The gap widens,
I leave you behind.
When I turn around you are but a silhouette
And I can finally smile.
From the distance I can see your dreams,
All of the good in you.
I yearn to be near you.
But I know it would be better
To set myself aflame
And cast light on your shadowy figure from afar,
If only so you can see
Why you shouldn’t want to be near me.
I look out the window and see the sky, and I’m reminded of outer space. The stars, absent from the blackened abyss, call out silently as my deaf ears strain to listen. How could it be, that I’d forgotten of the universe around me? That the beam of light that struck my eyes was something more than a glass illusion hanging delicately from my concrete box like a purposeless limb dangling from a dead tree. I’m reminded of all the things it would seem my mind would rather forget, those obvious truths that stare so violently into my eyes while my vision ever so purposefully blurs so as to deflect what will hit them regardless. I’m aware of my heartbeat, and the blood—all that blood—flowing in circles beneath my skin as I latch to each breath and hope to survive to the next. I concentrate harder, and I swear I can feel my very compositional molecules decomposing within me; the crick crack of my bones causing my limbs to creak and groan with the effort of remaining whole, despite the constant pressure I assert on them. Coiled, shadowy hands find the taste of my body simply divine as they feed off of me, jerking me down when I attempt to fly and holding me to the earth when I acquiesce to their pull, stretching out, stretching thin to the ground as my physical self tries to reconvert to its original state while my soul says not yet, not yet, keeping me together, holding my body like the hand that clutches at shattered glass in the attempt to erase the damage done. I’m feeling too much, I can’t take it—how have I not imploded? Tears streak down my face, uncalled, unwanted, but there all the same, but those hands that tie me down won’t allow me to wipe away their traces; the wetness on my skin makes me uncomfortable, it makes me tired—I want to sleep. But my tears, like lone soldiers trekking home, find their way to the edge of their world—my face—and free fall, and are met with the good earth, and strangely I feel relieved, like a part of me was able to go home, even though the rest must stay, just a little bit longer. Just a little bit longer. I look to the sky and I wonder at my own ability to shroud my consciousness; ignore that calling into the darkness that whispers ever so softly into my ear as I turn my head, that knowledge that this must end, and soon. I want it. But I’m afraid. My fingers convolve at that word, and, stung like the bitter end of a whip, my mind recoils before lashing back, stomping down at the feeling as I fight for control again. I can’t fear I can’t fear I can’t fear it is natural. What is? Fear? Or darkness. Both call to me and this time my ears are not sewn shut, it’s far too late for that now. I breathe in and I can feel them invading my black body, shifting and turning here and there as they become comfortable inhabitants in me. My mouth opens in a silent moan and I can feel more than see that serpent rise from my mouth, black as night as it lashes itself out of me, choking me in its endeavor to drag the words so hated by my unwilling tongue: I fear. It tumbles messily out of my mouth and the serpent, displeased, lashes again, making me repeat myself over and over and over I am afraid I am afraid, and, finally someone help. I shut my mouth and close my eyes as I lay just above the earth and wait for it to swallow me whole. This word, help, is forbidden in the realm of the free. With freedom comes payment. Payment is loneliness. To ask to be saved from it is to beg for time in Hell, complete with disgust, betrayal, fear, and, most of all, hurt. It hurts. A pain like no other, it is so remarkable it leaves me feeling like a million microscopic holes had been punctured into my body; it looks alright but I will always know they’re there, I will always know there’s no helping me. Fuck that. Fuck the serpent that lies in wait on the tip of my tongue, that weakness that is fear that forces me to call out despite my knowledge of the fact that no one will come to my rescue. My soul, so tired, shakes in its confines and asks me to be still. I am. Though sleep won’t help my weariness, I fall into that grey pit regardless, hoping to be whisked away to a universe entirely my own, where hurt, loneliness, and fear are only things of deeper, darker nightmares.
These words float through my subconscious as I go about my everyday life.
A yellow cab comes dangerously close to my right hip as I jaywalk across the street.
Nothing has stopped me yet, so nothing ever will.
I say yes when a boy four times my weight and twice my size asks me to get dinner with him after dark, alone.
The average lifespan is 80 years.
I hop in the back of an Uber as a complete stranger [hopefully] drives me to my intended destination.
I’m too young to die.
That’s my logic as I go through life. I didn’t realize it until I really watched the news, saw that kids my age are falling like pawns off a chess board. Young black boys murdered at the hands of the police. Little girls being kidnapped and held captive for years, some living to see themselves through the horror that was their reality, others not being so fortunate. Young people caught up in deadly wars that are not theirs to fight, and yet they fight anyway.
I feel invincible because I have been protected from the cruelest parts of the world. But people my age are dying. Young ones who barely realize who they are and who they want to be. Death isn’t just a far off philosophical question to be posed relentlessly with no definitive answer for them. They’ve lived long enough to realize:
God doesn’t care about age when he reaches down to earth with his quietus left hand.