Sometimes, you are afraid. Of lots of things.
You are afraid others know things you do not.
You are afraid of being left behind.
You are afraid of seeing yourself through the eyes of others.
In life, you always feel as if you are some sort of street urchin, besmirched and dropping food in gutters. Panting, you scramble to pick up the scraps, now sodden and dirty. They stain your fingers as you pick them up. There is such a shame in experiencing misfortune beneath the gaze of others. They see you fall and grovel, and secretly they are glad that it is not them. You hate their secret gladness.
You feel gazes too acutely. They feel like needles. They say eyes are the windows to the soul, but sometimes there are curtains, closing them, and sometimes monsters writhe in dark shadows and glints of teeth behind the glass.
This world is nothing but tentacles and teeth, mindlessly gnashing and squirming. You are afraid to face it. You see the monster, lurking behind the buildings and shops, behind the walking people and trees, an immense shadow, and you are afraid to see it when no-one else does. It sees you, too. And it smiles, a big, slobbery smile of chunky teeth.
Sometimes you just want to crawl into a handbag. Handbags are dark and small, concerned with little and safe things, lipsticks and keys and the other bits and pieces of our lives. You would like to curl up in there, and never come out, living on bubblegum and chocolate until you’re sick, staring at your own reflection in the compact mirror.
Hugging walls is another specialty of yours. Walls feel so very solid, and you feel so very fragmented, the atoms making you up ready to fly apart in all directions at any moment, like a spray of paint. Only thing is, the walls never hug back. You can pretend they are hugging back. You can pretend lots of things. But the wall is hard and cold, and your tears glisten on it like snail trails.
There is this heart, this flesh, this sinew, this twist of muscle, this leveraged movement of bone, shifting, pumping, squelching, there is this thing that is you. You know the components, each and every one, but together, as a whole, you do not know what you are. The room in your brain is dark, so dark your eyes do not even need curtains to hide anything, because there is nothing to see.
So. There are flowers and children. There are kisses and hugs. There are hands extended in help, and smiles stretching faces. There is laughter. Is that enough? Is it all just make-up painted on the world, and beneath it the skin is pockmarked and sagging, very old but not very wise?
Like everyone, you want so many things. Damn those clouds that do not twine around your finger like candyfloss when you try to pluck at them. Damn that moon, who never lies flat in your palm like a CD, a promise of lunar music, owned and possessed. Damn those stars, who wink at you like coquettes but never come close enough for you to see them properly. Damn those people, who are not puppets, who are strung on veins rather than strings, whose hearts pump rather than clack.
You want the person to pop his head around the backdrop of the stage and say, “Here, you take over for a minute, hold this sky, this earth, this life, will ya, darlin’? Make sure the sun keeps shining, that lovely little spotlight, or none of the actors will be able to see a thing.” Backstage, there is darkness, hushed whispers. Mysterious things. If only we could be a part of that, instead of the act.
Is there a coffin anywhere? You ask. Please. I would like to lie down in a coffin, but don’t nail in the lid, because I’m not dead, I just want to lie there, feeling dead.
You see, there are things you want to be, and all of them involve shrinking. You would like to sleep inside the closed bud of a flower, or cling to the string of a red balloon floating up into the sky, or on the end of a dandelion blown by the wind, or use a book page as a blanket, or sit in a keyhole. That way, the monster can’t find you. You are too small. It would be like a cat trying to catch a microbe.
Also, you would like to offer your heart to someone, hold it out in your hand, red and mushy like spoiled fruit. You draw your cardigan tighter around yourself to hide the bleeding hole in your chest. You wince at the drops of blood by your feet, hoping they do not notice. Yes, I know, it’s not very attractive, is it? Lots of blood and guts and purplish veins. But I promise it is good. Very nutritious. Lots of iron, soft muscle, so soft. Yum, yum.
There is nothing you can do to hide from the monster, be it shrinking or growing, hiding or facing, chopping yourself up into messy pieces or separating each component carefully, finger and heart and skull and liver, all neatly laid out on a surgical table. Either way, it will come for you, and it will eat you.
And then those windows will shatter. Crack. And you will look out upon a refracted world.