Bare

Night falls and the stars rise.

The warm dusk fades into dark, a single seamless brushstroke. The air is chilly and crisp now, just a hint of soft caramel wafting through.

In my mind, you are standing in the centre of the chaos, though perhaps that is only a reconstruction.

The night seems to fade out from you, as though you’ve leeched the colours of this world and captured it within your soul.

The night mist billows around, making you seem as though you stand among the clouds.

The light you cast flutters like a moth, extending its warm silken glow to the chosen few upon which it falls. 

 If this world were a kaleidoscope, you would be the momentary confluence of the reflections, the point at which everything ends and begins. 

When my eyes catch on you, this muddled life settles into place, like a lens coming into focus, pieces of a puzzle that finally click. 

You are the apex of my sphere, the cornerstone of my being. Underneath your gaze, I am grounded, yet flying; shackled, yet free.

You are the echo of a tune that I have never heard, and it both bewilders and enchants me. You are the fleeting recollection of my dreams: fading, fading, as I scramble to imprint it into memory.  

You are the only thing I crave, the sole want of my life.

So take my hand, and I promise you art. You will be the canvas of my prose. I’ll dip my pen into the ink of your eyes, and engrave myself onto your heart. 

Let me take your breath away with the heat of my passion. I want to taste that infinite second between life and death before I breathe air back into you.

Let me plant a smatter of kisses within the most intimate chambers of your soul. I’ll watch them bruise and bloom with the flush of desire. 

Let me stop your heartbeat with a flick of my hand and hold- waiting a moment too long- before blood whooshes back into your aching veins.

Let me squeeze my fingers around your throat, and gaze into your eyes as their lustre fades. The light that you once clasped would leak out from you, and gush into me. 

I’ll press a single finger to the kaleidoscope of your world and watch the delicate glass crack, a spiderweb of a fissure making its way across your life.

I’ll watch your world slowly crumble, tremors advancing inwards, until there is nothing left. But you. 

You are clasped in the palm of my hand; I am the only air you can breathe, the only stimulus for your heartbeat. 

I am the only light in your eyes, the only voice that will soothe your cries. 

My blood mingling with yours, we are one flesh, one world. Mi casa es tu casa. And what is yours is mine also. 

You are stripped away, of everything that once shielded you.

No light.

No colour.

Only You.

Bare. 

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

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The One After

The clock struck midnight and she was gone.

There was no spark of light, no crackle in the air, not a single silver shoe left behind.

She had simply vanished- vanished, not dead- when just the second before, she had lived. Her arms had hung limply at her side, breath held in, eyes fixed firmly on the clock as it ticked, closer, closer.

11:57

11:58

11:59

Voila.

And I was there, in the very place that she’d relinquished, breathing in the air that had whooshed out of her lungs, feeling the phantom touch of her, tingling.

Sparks of guilt and anger flaring up, uncalled for and unwelcome.

I felt like a snake slipped out of its skin; pristine in a way that is distinctly unpleasant, the knowledge of my own transience clouding the loss of my former skin.

You are reborn, renewed, they would say. Replaced is more like it.

She was gone, and I had never met her, never seen her. And yet, I knew her, like no else ever had.

She was a memory as faint as a song in a dream, a certain inexplicable sorrow accompanying it. If I pictured her, it would only be as a bright unravelling spool of colour that hung from the cusp of recollection, fleeing away into the wind at the slightest threat of capture, tangling in the smatter of stars ahead.

And she would never return now, her time here was over. Over. That grandiose thought, the utter finality of it, it scared me. I had taken her place. And I would follow.

The longest hand of the clock reached twelve, and I was a minute old.

I had just twenty-three hours and fifty-nine minutes left.

I wonder if the one after me would remember.

 

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

 

I was here.

Today is one of the bad days.

Today, I spend an hour over the page, spelling out my name onto paper, over and over and over again until it’s all I can see.

A curve here. A line there. A dot. Repeat.

A tear drops onto the ink and leaves a speckle of blue that wobbles when I exhale.

I feel my pulse steadily rising, my heart beating faster as I take another breath.

It’s all wrong.

It isn’t me.

The paper cackles as I crush it, mocking me.

 


I feel like a mirage, as if I’m made of smoke, fading into nothingness.

A cold squall of wind could hiss my way, and I’d be gone, only two sets of nails and thirty-four teeth swirling in a spiral down to the ground.

And then, just as quickly, they’ll turn to dust and ash, blown away in a gust of grey.

Maybe someone will look up as I billow past them, a look of distant incomprehension on their face.

Maybe another will mouth a perfect ‘O’ as my hand fleets right through their arm, grasping for a berth.

The moment will be forgotten as quickly as it came.

I’ll be forgotten.

I could have never existed.


On the desk I write on is etched three words and a date.

S.R. loves J.D. 2007.

If I close my eyes, I can look up and see two pale, shimmery shapes rise up from the letters, hands clutched together, eyes shining, a tender glance, a subtle kiss.

I love you. 

No one can refute that now. It’s evidence. Evidence that they existed, that they lived, that they loved.

I would like to have that, I think.

Decades later, I would like for a hand to run its fingers over my carving, sharpen the edges, perfect the letters. I would like to become a part of the wood, to live forever through it.

And if my name is on the page, if my name is scrawled on some distant pillar, I tell myself: I can’t disappear.

I was here.

See?

I told you.

I told you I was.

That’s my name, I was here.

I rip the page and start over.

The paper cackles as I crush it.

 

 

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Resonance

You walk past the street, wind in your hair, smile on your lips. One hand is tucked in your coat. The other clutches a small bag slung over your shoulder.

The crowd is bustling, and you manoeuvre yourself through with a practised ease.

It’s just another day.

Mundane. Normal.

And then, you see me, walking just past you.

If you asked, I would tell you I’ve never met you before.

You’d agree.

I don’t know your name and you don’t know mine.

But nevertheless, you see me, really see me.

So maybe I smile.

Maybe you do.

Maybe you raise up a hand in greeting, a small wave.

Maybe I nod in response.

Maybe our shoulders brush as we cross paths, shuffling through.

Our shadows align under the morning sun. Whole.

Your eyes catch mine, and lock, just for a second. Linger. I look away.

And then, we’re both gone, just as quickly as we appeared.


It was just another day.

Mundane. Normal.

I didn’t know you and you didn’t know me.

We were two ships passing in the night, on different paths in the same waters.

But in that fraction of a second, we were as close as two people could ever be.

Our hearts pulsed to the same beat, and our blood sang the same tune.

Resonant.

We were in resonance.

The moment is gone as quickly as it came.

But in all the years that’ll come to pass, you can’t help but believe.

You will never truly be alone.

 

Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

 

 

 

Castle in the air

There is a castle I live in, with glass walls that kiss the sky.

It holds clasped around it an air of mystique, of whispered secrets and hushed murmurs, cloaked around those four glass walls no one has seen within. There are no doors and windows. No way of entering at all. The glass is tinted, so that everything inside is merely a grey blur.

Inside: the grass is dead, the air stale.

Each day, I step outside, and I am remoulded, recast into different flesh, en vogue.

I step outside and my shadow is lighter, as though I have left a shade of it behind.

I step outside, and my world is anything I want it to be.

I can be one amidst a million again, a thread blending seamlessly into the cloth. Or I can be a single streak of silver against black.


I am a storyteller: telling fairytales of life inside the grey, never lying, nothing true.

Look at the tapestries, I entreat, flourishing the cobwebs that hang from the ceilings.

I am an enchantress: weaving threads of magic in place to fabricate my own reality.

Look at the grandeur, I urge. How the walls stroke the skies, crystal glistening in the moonlight, outshining the stars.

I am an architect: setting stone upon stone, carving a world into being.

Look at the glass walls, I whisper. For you shall see nothing beyond it.

I am anything I want to be.

Your eyes widen, in awe, in admiration. In wonder.

It a heady feeling, that sense of being put on a pedestal, as if the laws of gravity no longer apply to me.

As though I could fly as long as I don’t look down.

I can no longer stop, I have gone too high to fall.

I cannot bring myself to care.

I can fly.

Which is the dream now? Which is the lie?

Then one day, you arrive. You knock at the glass, hand rapping sharply on the walls with no doors. I do not respond. You should not be here.

You knock again.

Silence.

I hold my breath and then sigh, leaning against the walls.

Footsteps echo into silence. You are gone.

I am relieved. Relieved of the truth, of how close you came to seeing it.

But there is a twinge of something I cannot identify right there. Regret? Longing? It is not pleasant, whatever it is, and I dismiss it.

I have only a second’s warning when glass explodes into the air, cracks spiderwebbing along the walls.

You walk straight through: through the tinted glass, the façade of castles and fairy tales, tapestries and skyscrapers.

Lies.

You do not flinch.

Not when the glass shards pierce through your skin, blood dripping onto the dusty wooden floors.

Not when you take in the cobwebs, the damp, musty smell of neglect.

Lies.

I want to scream. To rant and rage. To throw a fit.

You are not supposed to be here.

I say nothing.

The balance has shifted. The power is in your hands.

I want to strike out like a cornered animal, glaring into your eyes, challenging you to make a single misstep, longing for you to just give me a reason to be angry. It simmers just underneath the surface, underneath this overwhelming shame, the guilt.

My pedestal has gone, and I am falling, falling. I look down.

I am Cinderella, without the –ella, only ashes.

Exposed. Vulnerable. It’s too much. Too soon.

Silence.

And then you make an obscene comment.

Laugh.

Offend.

The transition is smooth. Seamless. There is no hitch, no falter in your steps. No pity in your eyes.

The air is stale, the grass dead, but you are the same.

I am grateful.


There is a castle I live in, with glass walls that kiss the skies. There are no doors and windows, no way of entering at all. The glass is tinted, so that everything inside is merely a grey blur.

I pause for effect with all the grace of a serial-gossip about to reveal the biggest secret of her infamous career.

But there are ways, I whisper into your ears. Cracks in the glass.

I nod emphatically for emphasis.

Who knows? One day, she might let you in.

 

Unshackled

A chair, a table, a plant.

On the table, a fishbowl, in the corner of the room.

A splash of golden on grey.

It is an itch that refuses to be dismissed, like a picture placed slightly tilted in an otherwise perfect room.

My forehead leans on the glass box, my eyes pressed against the surface.

A goldfish darts past, a bolt of sunlight. It doesn’t spare me a single glance. I am ignored; as it is ignorant of my existence.

I wonder which one of us is the slighted one here.

The world beyond those four glass walls is incomprehensible to it, only a distant dream, the faintest litany. My world ends with this tank.

The only difference between us is the side of the wall we stand on.

Water and air.

Captivity.


Every once in a while, it buts its head against the glass, striking at its tank with its fins.

It swims around the tank, once.

Twice.

Another thump.

Repeat.

There’s something slightly off about the entire scene. About the way its body moves. Stiff. Almost brittle. The eyes are glassy, unfocused. As if it sees something here that I can’t see, living in a universe completely different from mine.

It swishes past me again, moving in those hurried, jerky movements I’ve grown so used to.

I imagine it wishes for freedom. For the glass to shatter and set it free. To see the world from the other side of those walls. My side.

I trace its path with my hand over the glass.

Another thump.


Then one day, it happens.

At first, the crack in the glass is small. Barely the length of a hairpin. I run my hand along the fracture, feeling the tiny welt scratching at the delicate skin.

The goldfish thumps on the glass.

I press the tip of my index finger on the fissure, slowly pushing in. The glass strains under my finger, cutting through the sensitive skin. A bead of red surfaces.

The fracture spider-webs across the tank, creeping along the surface.

One more prod.

A single crack echoes in the room, a muffled gunshot.

The tank shatters all at once, and there’s a mesmerizing beauty to it, to the way the glass seems to implode on itself as the water gushes out, pulsing. Shards of glass fly around me, flipping slowly end over end, the sunlight catching in each piece. A thousand tiny, beautiful rainbows.

The goldfish is swept out onto the floor, flopping as it struggles to breathe.

Blood drips onto the wet floor from my finger.

I watch as it thrashes on the wood, breathing out the last of its oxygen into the swirls of red.

There’s a certain irony to it.

My life-source mingling with its.

Our worlds have collided.

Hands claw at my throat, and my lungs seem to be surrounded by metal bands. I wheeze in, and my breath whistles, like blowing air into a clogged pipe.

The tank goes blurry. The table, the chair, the plant. Fading away.

Only the fish is left.

The fish and me.

The fish is me.

I was never meant to be unshackled.

 

Photo by Sadiq Nafee on Unsplash