Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Moon In the Sky, the Stars and I’ll Die, by Inga Morawski

A girl takes a social media break and is confronted with herself, which makes her think about life, and eventually about death, too. Trying to find herself, she understands her mortality and starts to desperately look for answers that give her life a meaning, which, after she talks to her parents about it, might be love.

It was a warm summer evening on the cozy bench in my parents’ big, green garden, the birds were singing, the delicious smell of the neighbors’ barbecue filled the air, children were playing in their backyard, the last rays of sunshine bathed the beautiful flowers in a golden light, and I was about to lose my mind. My heart was throbbing, my hands were sweating (cold sweat, the most disgusting kind).
Everything started as a social-media-cleanse-kind-of-thing. Taking a break from the internet seemed like a reasonable idea - especially here at my parents’ place, where my eyes were glued to the screen all the time, which was a shame, considering I wasn’t home very often ever since I started university. After turning off my phone in the morning, I had spent nearly the whole day with my Mama. In the evening, my parents were getting ready for a wedding party, so I sat in the dry bath tub chatting with my Mama while she was putting on makeup. Then they were gone. I stood in the living room havering, trying to figure out what to do. As a child, I would’ve gone to the forest next to our garden now. I had loved this place; it has always been my playground, my save haven, the oldest place in the world. I knew every stone, every tree. At this point, though, it made me feel bored, if anything. I turned on the TV, but that felt like cheating, so I cooked pasta, staring at the picture on the kitchen wall, a painting that my grandfather once made in therapy.
It was very simple: a green circle, and a smaller green circle within, and an even smaller green circle within that one and so on; the last one was only a dot. It looked a bit like an eye. I was hypnotized enough to forget about the pasta for a while. I had never looked at this painting attentively before, and now that I did, it reminded me of these Russian dolls, matryoshka dolls, I believe, the ones you can open just to find a smaller one inside. I left the house and sat down on the old wooden bench to have dinner. I heard myself chewing, counted how many times I chewed each bite before swallowing. I eat by myself a lot, but always somehow accompanied by podcasts or orange is the new black. The silence now was awkward, which made me feel slightly schizophrenic, like there were people inside my head who waited for me to break the ice.
By the time I finished my pasta, though, it was like a plug had been pulled, my thoughts were flowing, uncontrolled, and I began to realize I had ideas and feelings way deeper than what I thought.
I was kind of dating myself that evening, talking about anything and everything. Now that I started thinking about myself more intensively than I did in a long time, I really wanted to dismantle the green circles hiding the core, I wanted to un-box myself: it was funny how thinking out of the box actually meant thinking inside the box, opening doll after doll to eventually get to the smallest one, to the unhurt core of yourself.
What I had already found out now was how distraction definitely was a box that did a great job at keeping my mind busy, not wasting a thought on who I really was. Pop culture was a box. Education, too, and humor, and fear. Even hate was a goddamn box.
Did you ever spend hours just thinking? The more I thought about how everything I did and saw and thought were just boxes built up around the essence of myself, the outer world started to feel very shallow, fake even. But my world felt real, more real than anything else right now, and in my world, I was the only person that I could tell was real. What if I really was the only person in the world? Do you know the Truman show? What if that was my life? What if the sky was a literal fucking box? No, that wasn’t possible. When I die, the planet will still spin. It won’t affect the world at all, will it? My god. My death won’t. Affect. The World. I was trembling. Am I even alive? Questions flowed and I stood there with empty hands. Here I was, sitting on the bench, losing my mind.
I was so light; I was scared I might doubt the world so much that gravity would stop working for me, that I was about to fly away into the endless capaciousness of the universe. Oh, the cruel lightness of absurdity. Shit, shit, shit. I should’ve left these boxes unopened.
It was getting darker, the full moon was glowing, and the first stars appeared. No, they didn’t appear. It’s only that the sun left and now it was dark enough for me to see they’ve been there all the time.
Looking for distraction, I went into the house, turned on the TV, turned on my phone, but nothing left just the slightest impression. Everything was perfect and boring and absurdly frivolous. I went to the kitchen, drank a bit of red wine from the fridge. Then I finished the whole bottle. When I was a child, I used to sit on the kitchen floor in front of the heater every morning, drinking banana juice before school. Sitting in my old spot by the heater now, the cold metal on my back gave me goosebumps. I started crying a small river, immobile, my shirt was the estuary where a stain was formed by tears. This was an extent of loneliness I didn’t know existed. I unbraided my plait and caressed my hair like my Mama used to do when I was little. I closed my eyes and pretended it was her. The whole world was bathed in a weird light that was actually more of a shadow. What a fucking nightmare.
I thought of the painting. I’ve thought opening boxes I would end up finding myself, but all I found was the brutal truth of my own irrelevance. There was no core to me, no such thing as an essence of myself, just emptiness, the ruthless truth that I matter-of-factly didn’t matter, that I was pathetically small, living for a second and then going into nothing. I was the fucking box, and now I had destroyed all the layers to myself.
Humankind’s try to make our lives look meaningful by filling the gaps of “where do we come from?” and “where do we go to?” with a loving god who gives us a history of creation and an afterlife was so comforting, and seemed, right now, to be the most naïve thing I ever heard of.
In my chest there was a burning feeling of fear, a primary instinct, like this was about life or death. This couldn’t be everything, I couldn’t possibly be that meaningless.
Maybe, if I could understand the bigger picture, I could find peace somehow. An important box surely was my perspective: I was tethered to my time, my space, my brain. Even the dirt under my nails was our garden’s dirt, no neutral dirt. I needed to get rid of my subjective position, and then, maybe I might be able to see myself from the outside, to see a truth I liked better. Maybe I could find a satisfying way out, maybe I could be wiser if I was less myself.  
The next memories come in waves, interrupted by blackouts. Running upstairs, laying down in the bath tub, waiting for the hot water to conquer my body. Feeling trapped in the box that was the tub. Getting out, standing in front of the mirror, looking into my green eyes through just these green eyes, not having a fucking clue who I was, but knowing I was still very much myself. Starting to cut off my red hair to become less me, until I noticed the red spots the hot water had burned into my skin; they made me individual, fucking shit, how could one possibly be neutral? It was impossible to get rid of my perspective, but I needed to at least try. The room was shrinking, I had to get out of this literal box: the fucking house.

I ran; through the gate, around the corner where my friends and me smoked our first joint in 2012, just ran and ran, passing the information board where we met to play hide and seek as children, deeper into the forest, until there wasn’t a trail any longer, just moss and stones and leafs and wood that cut my feet. I ran blindly - blood rushing through my head - tripped often, fell twice. When I gave in to my exhausted body eventually, the impossible had happened: I had gotten lost.
Lost in my save haven, the place I always called home. A sound like from a wild animal escaped my lips, like I was in peril to life. An owl howled, like it was answering me, like I was one of them now, no longer human, like I was hundreds of kilometers deep inside the forest. The tree silhouettes looked like absurdly distorted monsters. “You’re not real”, I said out loud. But what scared me were not these trees, it was the truth that was more real than anything I knew.
I gave in to the pain, collapsed to the ground. There was a weird screaming in the distance, I panicked, didn’t know where to go. I climbed to my feet, half unconsciously. I was hot, way too hot. The heat crawled up my body until I could barely think, I wanted to take off my clothes, and it was only now that I realized I still didn’t wear any. I needed to take off my skin, my breathing became fast and warm and wet. The screaming in the distance became louder, I started running, not knowing where. I couldn’t see. The nightmare forest had swallowed me.
Time didn’t exist. This was my new forever.
My lungs burned, my bones burned, everything did. Agony set me on fire.
I got lost in the sound of breaking branches and heavy breathing and the weird distant screaming that, I slowly started to realize, was probably my own. I couldn’t stop, and it didn’t matter. “I’m dying”, I cried.
 I tripped and fell again. I didn’t bother to stand up.
“I’m dying. I’m dying. I’m dying”, I cried myself to sleep/unconsciousness, for hours, weeks, years, for a whole small infinity.

My parents found me at the end of the night, only some hundred meters from home. Seeing their faces, they seemed like a dream to me, an old, shiny memory. I realized these people, who were always there to tell me it’d be okay, were going to die just as unspectacularly as everyone else. Just another box: the belief that the people who made and raised you were somehow special.
Their vividness, their tears and laughter and the way they smelled like wine felt so real, so genuine and alive, that I felt like I wasn’t any of those things.
I could picture what I looked like from the disturbed look in their eyes. Tearstained, naked, full of dirt and scratches, random strands of hair cut off. They gave me a leg up and touched me. Their questions were one indifferent sound to me.
“We’re all going to die.” New tears streamed down my face but everything was more clear now, and the feeling didn’t sting, there was just this deep, staggering, pressing, empty undertone of an emotion that wouldn’t go away.
They carried me home, my father sat down with me on the bench.
I thought of how my Papa used to feed me sausage on this very bench, when we had barbeques in the early 2000s, back when I was too young to use a knife. The fact that I would never be that young again, that my father wouldn’t, either, that his receding hair would not grow back and his wrinkles could not be ironed away, was so final and intransigently unchangeable that it made me dizzy. My mother came back from the house with a blanket and banana juice. She sat down next to me. “Tell us, honey”, she said. My Mama’s voice could move oceans. I was crying heavily now, ugly-crying, my whole face involved.
I knew my parents couldn’t save me, but I was so tired. I needed them to at least try to.
“Nothing matters”, I summed up as my voice cracked. “Everything is temporary, everything dies, so whatever you might’ve done for this world, it doesn’t matter, either. Not even having children does. They only exist for a very short period of time as well. They die, too. I die, too, and still I waste all my time worrying about nonsense - homework, shoes, Instagram likes! This is what happens in my mind while we’re floating on a goddamn rock! I could drop out of uni, move to Cambodia, literally kill someone, what does that even mean? In a few years no one will care, or even remember, and what are years? Our life span is ludicrous. The universe doesn’t care for us.” I felt relief, but at the same time there was a sentiment of final isolation, the realization of how lonely humans were.
But were we? I looked up. Tears sparkled on both faces in the day’s very first rays of sunshine. All three of us cried.
“Yes”, my Mama said, nodding, a tear dropped from her chin, “I know.” She caressed my hair like she did when I was little. The smile that followed was so sad and so happy at the same time, like it contained all the emotions she had ever felt, “but we have each other.” And weirdly, in that moment, that was enough.
It was not going to be okay. Life would have a bitter aftertaste from now on, the burden of having felt the truth. It would take some time to un-feel this truth, to rebuild the walls of my boxes. But most likely, tomorrow was another day. And that was something.
“You’re a little rebel anyway, aren't you?”, my father added, “if the universe wants to make you believe your life is senseless, why not starting a riot by giving it a meaning?”
And as I watched the stars and the moon, my two shaking, living hands and those two people I loved, breathing and beautifully alive, I thought that maybe that might be worth giving it a try.
Maybe love wasn’t a box. Maybe love was the whole goddamn point. I felt as mortal as ever, but just as invincible; for a second, my senselessness gave me all the freedom in the world. No god, no responsibility. In the gleaming sunrise, we were breathtakingly alive.

No comments:

Post a Comment