I’m walking through the park on my way home from another soul-draining day at the office, looking at the world through glazed eyes, feeling numb. My mind is again my enemy, picking at me mercilessly like a flock of ravenous vultures. Everything I look at reminds me of who I’m not and what I don’t have. I feel like a walking carcass that could crumble apart at any moment.
Where is my place in it all? Such impossible questions fill my head with pressure; like it’s going to explode. I feel dizzy. Get a grip.
I think I might be… losing it; close to… break down. I know that a part of me even enjoys the idea… of giving up.
The sun had fallen from the sky; light was fading fast. The leaves, already turned their cracked autumn orange, were giving themselves to the evening breeze: falling, tumbling, sinking to the ground. The ground…
I watch each foot shift and fall, shift and… fall. The laces, neat bows on tight-fitting, polished shoes, bob in dreary submission.
You’re the captain of your ship. A voice finding egress from deep within. I’m floundering in a sea of hopelessness, buffeted by its rolling waves, feeling sea-sick and lost. Rudderless, without bearings; the only thing guiding this ship is self-doubt and loathing.
Almost home now. One shoelace has become loose–with each weary step, black rubber soles crunching asphalt, it jiggles hopelessly like a freshly skewered worm on a fishing hook.
An hour later
I’m lying on my bed. Maria is just next door in her room.
“Maria,” I eventually call out.
“What?” she says, in her sweet, now familiar, but still slightly funny sounding accent—Mexican and slightly nasal. I don’t reply, rather wait a few moments and call her name again.
“What??!” she says, now opening the door, her head popping from behind it; long dark hair cascading, big brown eyes, the faintest of smiles.
“Can I have a hug?” I ask softly. She comes into the room. I lift myself up to greet her and she puts her arms around me. We hug like that for a while, till I shuffle backwards and collapse on my bed, pulling her with me. Much more comfy here.
It feels good, as always, to hug her; and ever so slowly the cold loneliness of the day begins to recede.
“Why do you do this to yourself?” she asks, finally breaking the silence. I don’t know, and don’t answer, just hold her all the more tightly. There are no answers, but her question sparks a stream of thoughts that grip me; a melancholy mix of emotion churning within.
Sadness. So here you are again. Not always so acutely felt as now. Sometimes no more than subtle whispers in the background. But still numbing me to the world all the same. Still sapping my soul with your deathly murmurs. Are you always there? Even when I’m happy, lurking beneath a fragile smile?
Sadness. How familiar you are. A bond, lifetimes old. I see you weaving your way through the story of my life. Seeding pain and disconnection amidst time. I see you in the defences I build; the bridges I burn. When I hide, you’re hunting me. Chasing me when I run. Watching from the shadows, when I fight myself and others. Recurring patterns and habits. Can I escape you? Or must I continue to mourn my past and fear my future?
Sadness. I feel from how deep within me you arise. A fundamental darkness, that creeps, suffocates and drains. That I should let you leach my power—when did I decide this, and why?
Sadness. Is it really you I run from? You I fight? Am I a rose that refuses to accept its thorns? To release you, must I embrace you?
As we lay together, bathing in the pool of our merging waters, and as I stoke her back, I imagine light and healing energies flooding her being. Behind my closed eyelids an idyllic scene unfolds. A valley stretching far into the distance, carpeted in rich green forest and fringed with faraway mountains, white tips piercing a sapphire sky.
Maria affectionately traces patterns with her fingertips from my head down to my stomach. Gentle, warm, caring. The delicious sensation of our charged energy fields thrums in playful flux. Her hand moves over my body like ripples in a pool, resting over my heart, a gentle stream of tears begins to flow from my eyes—as if her touch had begun to thaw some frozen part of me there. The same tears I’d unashamedly cried with her before. From the same source of disconnect. Cleansing, healing tears, that I’m always so happy and relieved to cry, but which must seem a little strange, alarming even, to another.
“What happened to you?” she asks. Again, I have no reply. Just the feeling of something that had kept me in chains for so long, falling away. An unburdening. A lightening. Tears carrying away pain like… a receding tsunami carries its booty of smashed debris: once treasured possessions. Is my sadness treasure? More than Maria? Fool’s gold.
Lying together. Boundaries dissolving. Bodies still, yet a sense of moving ever closer.
The valley scene had blossomed in richness and detail, accompanied by a growing sense of tranquillity. Hundreds of fluttering butterflies add colour and movement. A hummingbird appears in a burst of emerald brilliance, charming the air with iridescent wing beats, drinks the honey nectar of several bright, orange orchids, and darts away. All the while my point of view becomes clearer.
I was looking out at the valley from high within a giant tree. Maria and I were lazing in the dappled light of the afternoon sun on one of its broadest branches. It was our own form I noticed next. Maria’s arms were wrapped around me, but her hands were no longer hands; rather two golden paws. We were two wild cats, stretched out together, utterly relaxed and immobile; affectionately nuzzling each other now and then. Perhaps this is how it was once long ago between us… Or as it is right now, for some unseen aspect of ourselves, in some other realm…
I feel her hand again move across my chest and towards my heart. Stroking. Stay–let it rest there a while. It doesn’t. I don’t say a word. It’s not a time to force anything. I breathe out, relax again, and allow gratitude for what I had been able to feel.
Leaving the forest and our feline forms behind–but still holding the calmness of that realm–I return to the room, becoming aware of the talking and laughing of my flatmates in the corridor just past my door.
“Do you feel better?” Maria asks me, now sitting beside me on my bed. It’s that moment when ‘the moment’s passed’ and two people go about their business again. I let out a sigh. I did, but I wondered if the tears, now and before, had really meant anything.
“Yes,” I say sniffing. “Thank you.”
She’s shifts on the bed a little, about to leave, but hesitates.
“Charlie,” she says, looking at me with her chestnut eyes. “My grandpa told me something very wise once. He said it’s always good to ask at the end of each day, what did I make possible with my love today? Or, how did I love? Something like that.”
I’m listening. I’m more than listening. I’m tumbling into her words. Rolling with vowels. Sliding down consonants. Letters ring and purr.
“I know it’s not easy,” she continues, “but when I’m sad, or stuck with something in my head, like you are now, I like to ask, who needs my help? It stops us thinking of our own problems. And we’re so lucky, Charlie…”—her smile is filling me with warmth—“we don’t have real problems. Not like some… Charlie?”
I’d closed my eyes, but I was listening, willing her words be heard in every nock and cranny of my being. I give her hand a gentle squeeze. I feel a kiss on my cheek. Light and laconic. Her hand slip away. Hear the creak of the bed as she gets up. Sense her Latina redolence wafting warmly in her wake.
I lie on the mattress. Eyes closed. I begin to rock gently as if the mattress drifts on an ocean. I am a ship. Drifting in the doldrums.
“I just wanted to cherish you, to hold you, to make you feel happy.”
Is she still here? No.
I’m imagining it then...
She’s there with me on my bed again and looks a little sad. The fingers of one hand make melancholy meanderings around my chest. Her long hair flows onto the bed like a frozen waterfall in the dead of night. Her eyes, afraid to look at me, then finding courage, only to flee again. She knows… she knows I cherish my sadness more than her.
“I guess things don’t always come out as you want,” she says. Or do I say? Who speaks?
I drift. Silent. Breathing deeply.
Eyes still closed, but more than awake. I see a ship again. The storm damage repaired; the bow brim full with new supplies. Seagulls soar overhead peering down, not cawing and cackling for once. I notice a white rope in my hand, and pull on it. A sail begins to climb the mast. Hand over hand, I draw it higher. It flaps cheerfully in anticipation, like a puppy skipping back and forth as you approach with its bowl of food. Fully hoisted, a fresh breeze picks up, carrying with it the sweet smell of orange orchids from some distant land. And something Maria whispered to me once: “Accept where you are, and build for the future. There’s a world of joy out there.”
I eye the horizon, grip wheel, and set sail. On an ocean filled from tears. Water splashes the busty, long-haired figurehead with coruscating salty jewels: diamonds from a hidden coal-pit of despair. Her loving ocean-bound gaze leads the way.
I open my eyes, cease my dreaming, rise from the bed and go to the room next door, pause, then knock. No more hiding in sadness.