Artwork by @many_bothans
Later, at the beach house she and her friends have rented for the weekend, Elliott takes a pillow and blanket and quietly pads out to the balcony. It is 3am and everyone else has passed out, couples curled into each other, or positioned back to back. She is, as usual the only single person here. Not that she thinks of herself as single. There needs to be some other word to describe the state she has found herself in.
That would do it, she thinks, folding herself down onto a damp, wicker sofa. Someone has removed the spongy seat cushions, Elliott can see them stacked near the balcony railings, but she does not have the energy to drag them over. It has started to rain, and Elliott is glad for the discomfort, for the wet on her face and the unyielding sofa base, pressing into her hip. Back in her room, the world had started to spin. Now, she can see the black of the ocean, hear the inky water slapping against the sand. The sound feels as if it is coming from inside her, it is as if she is the one cresting and falling, and it takes a moment for her to realise that she is crying, out here on this balcony, alone with the rain and the waves and the starless sky. Soon she is crying as hard as the weather, all the accumulations rising up out of her. This is not where she intended to be.
Life, she understands in this moment, has stopped happening to her. She has stood in the middle of too many summers and winters, too many dance floors and other people’s parties, and simply woken up the next day older than before. For so long, nothing has happened. She has been on pause, while he went about making his life. Making the tiniest of spaces for her to fit into, asking her to make herself small so that he could keep her right there.
She doesn’t want to be here anymore.
The plan does not fully take shape this early morning, waves and rain and tears saturating everything around her. Elliott won’t even really know, days later, as she books her one-way ticket, as she scrapes together her savings, just what she’s doing, or why. She only knows that she can’t stay here anymore. That she needs, desperately, for some thing to happen to her.
In this way, our worlds are spinning closer every second.
~ Elliott, What We Have Left
Word over word. One little truth at a time. Pulling myself up that rope, away from the muck down here.
I am saving myself. And I am reaching back to save you, too …
“You live out the confusions until they become clear.” ~ Anais Nin
Your silence hits much harder than any of your words ever did.
And jesus. Your words fucking knocked me down time and time again.
I never expected to be happy. Not in the sense that I would have a big, rich life, a red-like-Christmas life, where every day was tinsel and jolly. I only ever wanted to survive my own heart. To find small moments of light in the dark, to live knowing I’d find that light sometimes, even just a pinprick of it, to guide me.
I never expected to find peace. Not in the sense that I would come to terms, eventually, with what happened to my mother. With what happened to me. I wanted, or hoped instead, to learn to carry what happened, so that I could build some kind of emotional muscle, stronger tissue, and suddenly it wouldn’t all seem so heavy. I’d be able to walk with the weight of it, and just keep going. Like those young women, in their bright cotton dresses and bare feet, who carry water on their heads for miles. The ones who live in those dustbowl places, where everything is far away. If you tried to do that without practice, without years, you’d stagger, you’d spill your water, or crumple at the shoulders from all that weight sitting on your head. But they can do it, because that’s what they do every day. That’s what their muscle has learnt to remember.
I thought perhaps I might get the chance to teach my body what to remember, too.
~ Alice, Into the After
Wednesday April 17th, 2013
Today is my last day. Of what? Of being alive? Of being in this world? Not exactly, because I’m here still, in a way. I can see everything and feel everything, although I’ve been trying to get that right, because it’s not exactly feeling, is it? It’s not the same as wrapping your fingers around a warm coffee mug, or flipping the pillow to the cold side, of finding the cool relief on your cheek, before you go back to sleep. It’s not that. It’s not immediate and ephemeral and lost to the next sensation just as you start to feel the first.
It’s something more complete. Something less connected to space and time. A kind of knowing, more than feeling. Sort of how you can swim under water and through it and across its surface all at the same time. Immersed. Perhaps that’s a better word for the way I experience the world now.
I’m here still, in a way. I am immersed.
At any rate, we’ve reached that date. We’ve come to today. I want to tell you about it, because they keep getting it wrong. The way people always get it wrong when they speak for you. When they tell your story.
My story, the one I lived.
Today is my last day. Today is the last day I lived my story. The last day I lived. There was an I, and it was me, and I was at the centre of my story, until someone else decided to take over. Until that man wrote my last pages. Without my permission.
You think you are the centre, that if you hold on tight enough, even when things try to pull you away, you’ll make it. But then someone enters the space you have created for yourself, they take up all the room, and suddenly you’re pushed right out of your skin.
It’s their story now.
There was an I, and now there is a he, a him, a his.
Today is my last day, Elliot. The last day of my story.
~ Alice, Into the After
There he is, the morning of.
It is summer and he feels good in his skin. Stretched to the corners of his life, filling them out. Everything is as it should be; he is where he should be. He’s solid here, close to the ground, nothing shifting underneath him.
There he is. Oblivious and satisfied, this morning of.
Oblivious: Unaware. Without memory.
Oblivion then, is this. All that stays unknown. There are fires forgotten, under that skin. Little licks in his veins he tries to out-run. Thinking flames can be exhausted this way. Not knowing a single spark can revive.
And how close he is to burning, now.
There. Here. There he is.
He’s out the door, and the sky is blue, and he’s running along, not knowing her name. He’ll hear it today, this name, for the very first time. Unaware of the dreams she’ll soon gather, of the clocks and counting just ahead.
He doesn’t know that he will remember. And that she is his memory, waiting.
(I never, not for a single day, forget)