Treading Water

You’re treading water in a vast and dark ocean full of sunken memories and shipwrecked dreams. I’m in my little boat with my little lamp, a carefully protected firelight. Dotted in the distance I can see other boats, other little lights that bob up and down. We communicate with words that float across the water and with body language flickers. Sometimes, many times, our speaking shifts in shape as it travels from one vessel to another, lost in transit our tools for communication are imperfect but necessary and so we keep calling out to each other. We tell stories to share our pain and joy and we cultivate these fierce fragile fires that keep the cold dark at bay.

My eyes are fixed upon you as my mind scans the black, murky water. My body shudders with the memory of the time I too was treading water and how the only thing that got me out was the small cluster of boats that appeared around me. Arms reached down and pulled me out of the water over and over until I had gained enough strength, filled up with enough warmth to once again man my own vessel. I can feel the ghosts of that cold, of those waves, I can remember the fog of my perception, how I saw nothing ahead but the endless treading of water and how I began to close my eyes and let go. Oh the relief of sinking, oh the beauty of surrender.

The horror is bile in my throat. That wasn’t my time. My time will come but that wasn’t it. That would have been unnatural, wrong, ugly. That wasn’t the way I was supposed to go. That wasn’t my time. I still had light to shine in the world.

You’re gasping and choking on icy salt water and you flicker like a firefly. I look down at my hands and see traces of your phosphorescent moonlight which has entered my skin, I watch it travel through the rivers of my veins. I realise that my own light has grown and that the colours and textures revealed can only be observed or occur under the particular phenomena of our light in unity.

My vision of you blurs with the miniature oceans that spill from me and into the infinite everything. I’m calling out to you, imploring you to wait, to hold on, to trust me and to let me help. It doesn’t feel like a choice I have, it feels like I am trying to salvage some precious part of myself.

We only just met.

I pause. Instantly everything is still and quiet and barren and dry like a desert. Who the fuck am I? Who the fuck am I to think I can help? What do I know of the world? Of you? Of your struggles? Is my desire to help you ugly and stupid and selfish? Would it be more humane to let nature take its course? Is this what you actually want? Or is this foolish and naïve? Am I putting my own light at risk? Will I also be sucked down into the murk? Will all of us? What the fuck do I know of anything or anyone besides myself? Who the fuck am I to try help you?

Waves crash across the deck and I am soaked ice cold. My light doesn’t flicker, instead my skin is electrified and my heart pounds and my focus grows more fixed. Who the fuck am I to try help you? I don’t know. I know I’m just one small beacon of light with arms that are weak and easily tremble. But I know that even if I turned around and navigated my vessel elsewhere, every time that I closed my eyes, I would see you treading water and I would never be the same. I don’t know what I am but I know I don’t want to be that.

And I know that I love you.

And as I observe the particular beauty of your flickering light… it doesn’t feel like this is your time to go. Your time will come but I don’t believe that this is it. My heart tells me that you still have light to shine in the world. Phosphorescence, luminescence, moonlight.

So I remain here in my boat that bobs up and down, I remain here with my arm stretched out and my hands open to you. I hope you have the strength to hold on. I hope that I can provide you with enough warmth and light to sustain you and strengthen you so that we can make maps together and navigate us all to warmer places where our fires can grow.

We are weak. We are strong. We are scared. We are love.

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Night Bugs

Due to a window left open too late, night bugs are clumsily orbiting the naked lightbulbs above me. I cup my hands around one dazed moth and throw it out the window but as far as I can tell it only tumbles to the ground. The rest I can hear relentlessly bashing against the hot globes which I haven’t turned off because I’m addicted to comforting warm brightness.

They haven’t evolved for this, for millions of years they navigated by the moon and they are yet to adjust to the relatively recent intrusion of artificial light into their world. I wonder if they will have time to accustom to our modern lightscape or if we will run out of the required resources to keep the cold, deep blue-blacks of nighttime at bay, making this but a brief and violent blip in the history of winged insects.

One green beetle is crawling across the landscape of pillows and ornamental cushions chosen by my mother in eggshell blues to match her curtains; it’s the kind of beetle that lets off an offensive odour when threatened, yet surprisingly I detect no smell. Soon the green beetle stands at the summit of one of the cushion mountains and I decide to take a photo of it with my phone’s camera. While viewing the bug on the screen, I get the vaguely disquieting sense that it is studying me as much as I am studying it but I soon decide it is only disoriented as it slowly rotates on the spot for far too long. I feel gratitude towards it for letting me document it and so I gently wrap it in some toilet paper and take it downstairs where I release it on to a flax plant and hope that it will be okay.

I go back upstairs to finish writing this and while I am doing so, a big, stunned mosquito falls onto my arm. I slap it and it bounces down onto the ground, dead. I contemplate the fact that I would make a terrible God because omnipotence only makes me feel guilty.

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