It’s my first time. Half of my motionless body rests inside the white, clinical, cylindrical machine, in my head resembling an intergalactic coffin. I feel an itch, but I have to resist moving. I want to cough, to sneeze, to yawn, ugh, of course, at the most inopportune moments, for no reason I have to, and I have to keep it under control and be still. My legs are too tense, my lower body feels heavy. I am mentally calm. But my body wants permission to move. Since this is just a brain scan, I try to make a slight leg movement, but it feels like trying to lift an anchor. My mind keeps freezing. There is the buzz. It’s getting louder. And stranger. Then the clanking. The whirring. Suddenly thoughts of the few MRI safety incidents and fatalities I’ve read about vaguely infiltrate my mind in a weirdly serene way. I should have double-checked there is definitely no metal anywhere in or around this room. Oh come on, when something like this enters my mind, I think – what are the odds? and what is the point of obsessing over the odds?- and the thought melts away. I can remember basic aspects about my life, but there is something peculiar about this eerily cold, sterile room, this atmosphere; it’s holding back any specific memories, any feelings, any complex thoughts- I can’t really visualise anything about my past or about life outside this tube. I mean, the noise is quite obstructive, so whenever a thought or a mental image starts materialising, it quickly dissolves. I have a rare, evanescent, uncanny feeling that there is a higher presence or force watching over me. This reminds me of my pre-atheist, childhood days when I had an agnostic belief in animism and in magical thinking- the belief that one’s thoughts could influence reality, which was problematic whenever I had dark, “forbidden”, ungodly thoughts resulting in fear of divine punishment and futile attempts at suppression. There is a surreal atemporality about this space, it’s like reality is suspended. If my whole body slid into this alienating horizontal cylinder, it would really feel like I’m inside an eccentric, futuristic coffin. That’s spine-chilling. And yet, despite my claustrophobic tendencies, I wish I had a full body scan so I could be encapsulated and see what it would be like if my consciousness or my spirit found a way to return to my corpse a hundred years from now. I don’t believe in it, but I like fantasising. My ego is temporarily numb and any vivid memories are gone, replaced by brief, fleeting perceptions, and it’s one of the few moments in which I’m not living in the past or in the future. I’m living in the now. I feel alive and calm, oddly calm. An oddly calm combination of cells, lying down in a tube, with an ego on snooze mode. Oh, it’s time to get back out there…
She was standing by the window, her face seemingly puzzled by the familiar noise of trains rushing incessantly and birds making harpy-like sounds. It was really taking her back. Back to the days when she made connections between the number of the floor she was living on and the corresponding circle from Inferno, in hopes of attributing some grandiose meaning to her existence. Those were bleak times. It had to be the seventh floor. You were destined to dwell among the violent, submerged in boiling blood. Or the violent against self, being fed to Harpies. Harpies! Eyes shut for a few seconds. Opened again by the distant desperate sound of a cat in heat. I am here now. Rooted in the present, very rarely floating towards the realms of the past and the future.
Their music submerged my body in cold waters- red, blue, and purple lights piercing into the depths. Their voice embraced me, the melody wrapped me up in a liquid swirl, whilst my mind was surrounded by the haze of the late 90’s when I was a child and the very early 90’s when I was not born yet, but it somehow made sense. The fabric of the universe, the condition of being human and of simply being, were reflected in the icy singing. It could be the soundtrack of a trip to the moon, or a trip into the underworld. Of running and never stopping, following an endless white line on the ground, or running and jumping off a cliff not knowing what is on the other side and whether you will survive the crash. Of brides saying ‘I do’ in glittery white dresses inside Christian churches; of a little girl’s tears on her grandfather’s coffin. That moment extended into infinity, the music encompassed everything, and that is how a thousand experiences enriched my mind in an instant.
On the other side, I see your face distorted among plants and fish; you smile and I’m happy because I know you know how I love rivers, lakes, and the sea from afar, and how I used to take swimming lessons when I was little, yet was never eventually able to swim for long distances as I always ran out of breath. You might also remember that I loved facing gigantic waves during storms, letting myself be lifted up and carried by the motion of the sea. Despite this, we probably talked about how I would not want to live by the sea, rather, I always wanted to find out what it would be like to live up in the mountains for a while, with the people I love, a dog, and a cat, surrounded by the warmth of a fireplace, drinking hot chocolate, watching the snowflakes tracing patterns on small windows. Would it be nicer than getting lost in the chaos of a big city?
I have experienced it while watching Valerie and Her week of Wonders at Hyde Park cinema, listening to Alcest, or simply waking up in the morning feeling rays of light caressing my face through Venetian blinds and fences. At times it is something outside me that triggers this inner feeling, other times it comes wholly from within. It is similar to what Proust describes in his Madeleine cake epiphany. I have tried to explain it to myself and to others many times before, and yet I can never encompass its essence. It is so elusive, that is its charm. Whenever it happens, I try to keep hold of it, never let it go, I try to re-live those moments, feel their texture, their intoxicating effect on my mind, their infantile freshness. In such moments and the ones that follow, I feel spiritually aware. A temporary rebirth, eventually replaced by my less magical self. The magical one is carefree, lighthearted, pleasantly lightheaded, yet fully awake. The world traveled is beyond language.
Back to reality, everything is a game of words. Everything in this world. Even within oneself, everything is mediated through language, including one’s relationship with oneself.
That fairy tale sentiment happened at home recently: it was the sound of a metallic colourful glimmer, followed by its image projected in a haze in my head. And then by all the veils lifted up, exposing my heart. A moment of epiphany, but also mystery. What was revealed and what was concealed? Indeed, it was strangely familiar. Familiarly strange. Was that a dream, or is everything else?
Melissa. solipsist. architect. undertaker of her soul parts.
She was lying on the wooden bench covered by soft pillows and by the still cold, refreshing blanket. The view from the balcony was pure bliss – her secret refuge amid that demanding, unnecessarily and excessively cheerful world. She wanted to immortalise that private earthly heaven, as she knew those moments were as relieving as escaping from a cage after dreadful weeks of physical abuse and food deprivation. She could feel it in her bones. They felt light, surreal. Her body felt light, as if she was transcending from matter to spirit.
While taking a picture of the scenery, she noticed it looked like a framed painting. The mirror on the wooden wall to her left reflected that characteristic intense look on her face, the one that always made people order her to “cheer up” when she passed them by on the boulevard.
“If only I could paint.” she says, sighing. She could visualise a wonderful painting within a painting, inspired by this place. The flowers from the pot on the sill would look as if they are growing on the hill and as if they are trying to reach out to the viewer. Trying to step outside the picture frame… for what purpose? To defy the idea that art is lifeless or separated from life or perhaps, the idea that nature can be captured in a painting.
The painting was so gracefully and ethereally alive: The grass on the hill was dancing in the tender breeze. The vivid green leaves from the closest tree were touching in such a way that they seemed to be clapping at the miraculous spectacle of nature. Upon looking deeper into the picture, her eyes lingered on the graveyard at the top of the mountain. For a brief moment, a white butterfly drunkenly crushed into the wooden frame, but was not able to step outside the frame. It was as if it was stopped by an invisible barrier.
The solemn picture of the graves was not sad at all. It did not inspire death, but the cycle of life. The painting was breathing and radiantly emanating life and love. Birds were flying above and around the tombstones while the sun filled the funerary inscriptions with light. The clear white clouds resembled a beautiful, noble, yet unrecognisable creature that was flying above the happy, contentedly submissive trees – like a celestial king protecting his realm.
It all started with her eyes: Their glow disappeared completely, leaving her face blank and indistinct. She blinked once – nothing happened. She smiled for a few seconds, thinking that, perhaps, her sudden worry was silly and unnecessary. Then she frowned and blinked twice. Nothing: the landscape was still full of vitality and vividness. Still suspicious and somewhat confused, she closed her eyes for 5 seconds this time. When she opened them, she was looking down – her gaze fixed somewhere under the ‘painting’, where she saw seven red petals that had fallen from the potted flowers. She looked up in panic and noticed that the flowers which were stepping out of the frame and crawling down the white wooden wall were dying. They could not survive the impact with the real world for long.
Her heart was racing as she looked up higher, at the rest of the painting. Her face became pale, corpse-like, when her eyes reached the threatening shape of the clouds – which no longer formed a fairytale creature, but a dark, monstrous, deadly fiend from the realm of Hades. The trees were no longer dancing or worshiping the king of the world: rather, they were bending in disgust, wailing and playing their symphony of decay while the branches were brutally slapped by the wind. The leaves no longer clapping, but trembling in terror – at which point Melissa realised her body had been shaking continuously.
Staring at the distant graveyard, she knew that the inscriptions were no longer illuminated by the healing rays of light; they were instead covered by blood and cobwebs. Soon she felt the horrifying stench of decayed matter infecting the air. Her limbs felt heavy, her body was now weary. A broken spirit trapped between worlds, l’appel du vide invaded her fragmented being like a plague. With a tear in the corner of each eye, she climbs the sill and makes her first and last step into the frame.
Red cheeks and fairy dust in her hair.
Fragile lips and bones, pointy ears, rosy shiny skin.
What is our purpose, Magna Mater? What is it with all the human images flashing in my head, leaving this bittersweet feeling in my body, just before they transcend it? I feel the chaos of the sea, the murmur of the trees, the warmth of a sweet dog’s coat, the loneliness of the ruins. I feel all this – it seems to have happened centuries ago.
The aftereffects of the trip…You shouldn’t fear. What is left now is to revel in the delights of the present – to lay on the soft warm bed of leaves, gazing upwards while the clouds become stars. I am telling you this because there is no purpose, not in the way you think. The effects of hurt and human agony are latent – they will remain concealed within you until they lure you in their net once again.
She awakened only to realise that the echoes of the past were still there. She got up and ran towards the end of the hallway, where she used to tell jokes and laugh with her sisters. The statues were staring at her, from both sides, from above, through hollow, yet somehow luminous eyes. These eyes, both demonic and divine, had been following her every move ever since she was left alone in the house, years ago – centuries ago in her mind. She never knew their verdict. She found herself in front of the back door, never the front door, never on the way out. The garlic was hanging above the door as ever, next to the artificial withered-looking flowers. She never understood why the lord insisted upon keeping such strange, unwelcoming decorations. They used to have many unpleasant visitors lurking around the house indeed, but they were the kind that fed upon her happiness, not upon blood. And the flowers… what was the point? Artificial flowers looking withered – how peculiar!
There it was. The garden where they dwell. Their souls were entrapped in the past – they succumbed to a dreadful repetition of agony; an eternal reenactment of their fate. There was something tragic about the way in which they were displayed: each in their own place, yet all bound by the obligation to keep the Show going beyond time. Like pieces of a living puzzle, or fragments of a graphic novel, or carvings in the Cave of the Making, each depicted one sad episode. They were surrounded by glittering blues – portals through which M. could relive the suffering of the ancient.
The pleasure of feeling beams of light piercing through tired, stained windows and caressing the air impregnated by particles of dust. The pleasure of being inside, away from the unbearable, threatening sunlight. Expressionistic shapes are formed on old grey walls holding Pre-Raphaelite portraits of mythical women. A shuttering of a window, a shuttering of a book, a shuttering of a mouth after a hasty yawn. Steps – some confident, some shy, some confused or determined, intermittently disrupting an enchanting silence. Wings cleaving the warm air surrounding a five storey building populated by anxious or dreamy souls. A crow gazing straight into the eyes of a figure that returns the gaze, seemingly bewildered. The sound of the wind shouting at buildings. The sound of nature against architecture. The sound of destruction, the sound of collapse.