I now have nightmares about everything that is consciously or subconsciously troubling my mind
I keep dreaming about people dying
This is the can of worms. The door to Alice’s Wonderland. A frightful place, really, who fucking opened it anyway? I’m on a bus. What do I look like to a stranger? I’ve always wondered. Do I look younger or older than eighteen, like an American or Taiwanese or “ABC” or none of those, like someone who would do terrible things, someone who’d have a place in your life? My legs are shaking. I don’t want to be here, anywhere. I don’t want to be. I want an “off” button, but I don’t know what for. I’m sitting in a park. One time I brought someone to this park, and we waited out the rain under a children’s slide, even though all I really wanted to do at the time was stand out and walk around in it and soak it all in and maybe cry a little.
“‘Lo.” An old man approaches from my right. I can’t tell if he’s a neighbor. All old men around here kind of blend together.
”What’s a youngster like you doing sitting on a bench for old people?”
”I don’t know.”
He chortles. “In my opinion, if you don’t know why you’re doing something, you should just stop doing it and do something else.”
”My legs are shaky. I’m sitting because I can’t walk anymore.” I say flatly. Like an impatient child. Am I snapping at a stranger, an old man? I’m really losing it.
”You’re sitting because you’re taking a rest,” he corrects.
”How would you know that? Maybe I’m handicapped. Maybe I’ll never walk again.”
”I just have a feeling.”
I don’t know what to say to that. I don’t know what to say to anything she’s saying. For some reason, everything about him is annoying me. Everything makes me want to snap at him or hit him, even though it would be laughably immature, and pointless. This just doesn’t happen to me - I don’t get mad at strangers. How can I afford to be mad at anyone in this place who takes the time out of their life to have a conversation like this?
For an old person, his voice sounds awfully un-husky, I’m thinking, until I realize that the person sitting next to me is not in fact an old man but a woman. How did I not notice that? I guess I don’t remember actually looking at who was standing there. How long has she been sitting here? There’s something strange about her. She looks neither young nor old, friendly nor reserved. It’s not that she’s plain - it’s like there’s some illusory aura around her that prevents her from making any lasting impression on anyone or anything around her. I would have no idea how to describe her if I were to try to describe her to someone. If I looked away right this second, I’m sure I wouldn’t even be able to recall what she looked like.
”You know, normally you’d be an old man or something. Like if this was happening in a book or a film or in my head.”
”Why do you say that?”
”Old men are wise. I don’t trust women; they’ve all got messed up shit going on inside. Including me. I guess I don’t trust men, either, but the old ones are wise. I mean, they’ve been through a lot.”
”But what do you know about what people have been through?”
”I - That’s not what I meant.” Why am I so indignant? I feel like I’ve been slapped.
”Be kind, for everyone -”
”For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I finish desperately, like song lyrics I know by heart, an old house I know to its core, like I’m fighting to claim something that’s mine, mine, only mine.
”Right. You would know that one.”
”I don’t know what to do. Nothing makes sense to me. People are animals, children are monsters, the world has no order. I don’t make sense to me. I’m angry and bitter and sad. I’m happy sometimes, I think, but I’m in a rut, I’m lost, I don’t know what to do. I don’t recognize myself. I can’t remember what it was like before. I used to paint and write things. Somebody once said they were proud of me, the day we graduated. I don’t know how to go back to being good, being normal. I’m too far gone. I don’t know who to turn to. There’s no one - no one gets it. No one really gets each other, not really, and that’s so lonely, it drives me insane.”
”There’s a place inside us, a world or plane or dimension, where no one touches anyone.You’re always on your own there. It’s that part of everyone that no one ever gets to.”
As every word is born from her mouth and released into the air, the space around us is shifting like clockwork, a puzzle filling itself, comprehension of the heart. A moment of alignment. Transcosmicism. Is this what it feels like?
”You’re tired because you’ve been running a lot. But it’s not to find someone to show you where to go, or tell you it’s okay. It’s not reassurance or forgiveness or understanding. That’s not what you need right now. Not anymore.”
Something breaks in my heart as she says this, or is released, or is dispelled, or all three. Something is flaring up, and then burning, and then gone.
I think it might be time for you to get going.
I can’t. I don’t know where I’m supposed to start.
Who knows. Venture deep into the mountains for ten days. Go run in pouring rain, that’s been a kind of crucial memory to you all these years. Have a beer. Or just wake up tomorrow, go to class, go to work, see a friend. When has there ever been a real start or end to anything?
What if I can’t, the question hangs limply, unfinished.
Well then, borrow a sit on one of these benches and have a good heart-to-heart with yourself like you’re having right now. It’s time for the nightly taichi party for the old people here, and that is something that no kid like you has any business attending.
I’m in the park. No one is here yet. It’s dark - there’s usually always a table of old people playing mahjong or old people doing taichi or old people sitting on benches.
I wonder where they all come from.
Where is everyone today? A loud thundering chases every thought out of my head. It’s raining. I hadn’t noticed because I was sitting under the shelter of a massive tree. I run the way home.
It’s quiet. Everyone’s still out there. I’m back, I say, to no one in particular. I’m back, I think.
And I’m going.
I’m existing to wait, waiting to prove something meaningless. I’m running on spite. Bitterness feeds on me, and I feed on things I’m not entitled to. Do you know what drives me mad? There is nothing, now. I am too tired, too angry, too disillusioned to give anything back. None of this will be unseen, unheard, undone, unfelt, unlived. If it’s not something that hurts, it’s something that becomes another hole that can’t be filled, an absence of a presence that eats at you, unconscious and waking. There is nothing that can turn this around. You’re never going to get it, I say for no one to hear. There is nothing to get. And that
is the end of that. How does anyone live with this? How would you How could you Could you? I can’t, I don’t. I won’t. I get by. I’m getting by.