Outside a bookshop in Paris, Alexander, 22.
Carefully hand rolling his cigarettes with tobacco stained fingertips
Holes in his Jeans, but wears a clean, if worn out, dinner jacket
Speaking and smoking, he wouldn’t blow out his cigarette smoke, but rather continued talking as it plumed out of his lips and nose
Speaks of the past quietly, but with reverence. He is obviously passionate and knowledgeable about history
Planned to go to Italy to become a tailor
Mentioned a girlfriend
Twenty two years old but seems much, much older- ancient
When you die there is no afterlife. Nothing happens. There are no pearly gates or welcoming symphonies of triumphant angels.
The last memory of your time on earth still etched into your conscious as you first open your eyes and see… nothing. A perpetual nowhere. A space as empty as cities and crowded bus terminals are not. It feels like a very big room, a very small room, a room with a thousand walls, and no walls at all. Completely and utterly whole and fragmented, eternity and zero, at every point in every time. There is no ceiling because there is nothing to attach a ceiling to. No backwards, sideways, beginning or end. It feels… calm. Your previous life was filled with cars backfiring and coffee spilling, chores to be done, and words to be spoken.
Even when words weren’t being spoken there were always words to be seen or thought. A seemingly endless combination of 26 letters on billboards, milk cartons, cereal boxes, office memos and scribbled on the back of hands. Yelling and whispering, crying, laughing, joking, clapping, chewing gum, a constant stream of sounds. Even the silence was deafening.
But not here. Here, there are no sounds. No words. No noise. There doesn’t really seem to be quiet either. Just nothing. It is peaceful – a relief almost. You are the one something in the great Nothing. There are no children to scold, shelves to dust, or people to dislike. The never ending appeal to your energy has vanished.
You are a droplet welcomed home into an immense ocean. All of your boundaries have disappeared. There is a releasing of identity, obligation, anxiety, and stress. A lightness of being. None of the things that constrained you exist anymore. There are no high expectations, no surly people. No people at all in fact.
It’s nice at first. It’s quiet. Though soon, the heaviness of weightlessness begins to settle itself around your shoulders. There are no sounds. No words. No noise. The shelves don’t need dusting because there are no shelves. There are no children to be scolded.
You begin to miss the chaos, the clamour. A stubbed toe, the feeling you used to get when you looked at the grey walls of hospitals, the sound of a leaky faucet at 2 am. You find yourself wishing you could talk to the cashiers at McDonalds again, the countless people you smiled at in elevators without thinking twice.
Once, out of curiosity, you try to make things messy. Dirty up the counters, throw fruit at the walls, spill the ketchup while trying to get it out, stop washing the towels, track mud through the living room. Eventually, you stop. How can you dirty up a stream of consciousness?
Self begins to fall away. The second skin of pollution and personality is shedding from your body. Memories begin to go. What are you if you aren’t your memories? Your hands are turning to space; your lips are fading from your features.
What was your job on earth? How did you take your coffee? Things are slipping. You can feel Nothing slowly chipping away at your existence, expunging the spirit.
You are impossibly vast, and tiny as a… as a what? There is nothing to compare. No progress, no narrative. No tragedy or comedy. Endless and empty all at once.
One time I wrote a list of the Reasons Why I Love You in red ink on white receipt paper and I was going to give it to you but then we drank vodka and ate maraschino cherries on your kitchen floor and you told me something about timing and I recited one of my poems in hopes that you’d think I was deep and stop asking me why why why are you so sad.
One time you told me you loved girls who always smiled so I stitched my lips into a grin and as I sat there bleeding on the kitchen floor I wrote with red ink on dirty tile a list of the Reasons Why Things Happen in hopes that you’d come back and take it back and take me back and clean up all the broken glass.
Why why why I’m so sad is because instead of filling myself up I fill you up and it leaves me dry and angry and cracked on your kitchen floor with maraschino cherry juice running sticky down my fingers and there’s not enough ink in the world to say what I need to say.
Honey please come home. The coffee pot misses you
The floors aren’t creaking right
It’s a quieter kind of alone and there’s too much bed for one person.
This silence is weighing on my bones.
Honey please come home.
my crippling commitment issues are starting to conflict with my crippling abandonment issues
I want to be a poem she said
Leaf through my chapters and dog ear the corners of pages worth remembering. Tell me I’m beautiful. Tell me that dusty spines and torn edges are what you want. Because the coffee rings have made crescent shadows beneath my eyes, they hang like weighted fishing hooks ready to be cast. I have ghosts in my bones and you can hear them breathing when I open my mouth. Lick your fingers and turn my pages, write in my margins, cry when I cry
Remind me not to fall apart.