Inspired by the writings of Elizabeth Smart.
Above, nothing but blue, stretching through the brief sweep of my closed-in vision. One faint wisp of white drifts into the frame. Below, green leaves soaked in light quiver on the wind’s faint breath, translucent petals drifting on an endless crystal lake. Lying here I no longer know which way is up and which down. Is space suspended above me or I suspended above it, clinging nervous to the side of the world, spinning like Antoine pinned on the Wall of Death? Gravity is my last stabilizer – all that prevents me from tumbling away into nothingness.
What could bring about such degradation in the mind of an outwardly living thing? A shadow arrived at my door this morning and made itself comfortable in my bed. It turned the blinds to the light of day, sheltering me from the prying world. With one click of the key, it settled down on my chest, murmuring soothing unrest in my ears.
Now just being outside is devastating. I walked into the park and almost ran home in fear. Every football kicked was kicked towards me; every laugh hurled cruelly in my direction. Where does this vanity come from, convinced that the world cares enough to feel such disdain? I need reminding that even hatred counts for emotion. Is it worse to hide and be forgotten, or to face abhorrence with a smile?
I choose to not hide, but forgotten is all I long for, lying listless on the grass. With neck craned backwards, I can just make out the white flagpole aspiring towards outdated Heaven. Glasgow exists somewhere beyond these trees; but it is the faraway hills that are my only remaining comfort.
I came here once before, when the sun drowned in charcoal clouds, and I wondered if we’d ever see daylight again. Ranks of the solitary stood on the crest of the hill, glaring mournfully at the city. Among them I found some comfort, that of recognizing loneliness in another living being. Glasgow looked dead in that empty light. But now it is early August, and the sun’s optimism is what truly distresses me.
Small occurrences, like seeing two old friends arm-in-arm on the shady path, send my mind on a skydive. Overhearing the evil laugh of tipsy teens, I mourn for all the objects of derision in this world. So little it takes for my dwindling reserves of elan to evaporate. How can one account for despair when its cause is so hidden? How can one exist when joy itself is the greatest threat?
“The depressive is always confident of one thing: that he is without illusions.”
When and how did I begin walking? Whose legs carry me across the south-western boundary of Queen’s Park? Stumbling up Langside Avenue, I am convinced that hope is a trick. It takes no twist of my arm; I accept gloom like a birthday gift. Even with Southside in sunlight, I am no longer tempted by life. People drink on the grass, but I tasted beer last night and it tastes bitter to me. Laughter I tested also, and it felt like dead insects tumbling across a gaping mummified mouth.
The sober mind recognizes the depressed mind as ill. Like the flu or the common cold, time and attention may guide it back to health. But unlike the flu or the common cold, the ill mind does not recognize its own illness – instead, it regards itself as the only sane one left. Now I am the sole discoverer of Truth – Truth unavailable to any believer in friendship, love, or goodness. I am and will remain convinced by my own untested hypothesis, for I recognize that life is suffering, and I no longer look over fear’s shoulder but stare him directly in the face. What is left but to return to bed and wait for the drudgery of the living to move by?
Family once meant everything – now they mean little. Friends are a nuisance; adventure an effort. Writing? Music? There never was a point to those games. Fun died a sudden death in my arms, and I tossed it out the window like a teenage mistake. Here I float, not on a carpet but on a cloud of blackness, spraying drops of misery on anyone who dares stand near.
The bruised sky moves by like a resigned victim. Purple edges trickle down the endless West. Night approaches, and I hear silence. It is worse than the hell of any noise.
But then, truth is always just one discovery away from falsification.
Eyes closed, I stand in a clearing beneath canopies of green. The earth below is brown and teeming with rich tapestries of moving life. A few droning notes are all I ever needed to hear, and I would sacrifice everything just to have them repeated forever, my own lullaby, unaccompanied.
I dare not believe it; thoughts of things other than misery are being birthed like baby deer. I suddenly know how the world feels, weeping with joy as Persephone emerges from captivity. How long did I pace those nightmarish alleyways alone? Words, words, words, once abandoned and meaningless, rise like bubbles to the muddied surface of my clotted mind.
And so I write, and I write. And I know once more that writing is a celebration only the living can understand. I feel like Orpheus, come to reclaim a lost soul from the grey Meadows of Asphodel. I must not look back. Dare I look?
No, I must not look back.
Paranoia begins to lose its verisimilitude. With more vigour than I have known in weeks, I break down in gratitude. Tear soaked and babbling, but alive – alive! – and bearing worthless wordy gifts to the same indifferent world, content to watch her cast them aside with disdain.
Gas moves through my ears. It curls around my brain and travels downwards, illuminating every energy point as it flows. The invisible chorus begins to sing a melancholic hymn to the Gods. With beckoning arms they usher me back to taste the fruits of the living.
There is only one thing left to do.
Overcome by a ruthless energy, I tear this shadowy beast from my chest. His murmurs and warnings are no longer music in my ears, for I am blessed with the knowledge that every move I make is the legitimate one. Now raw sound envelops me. I open the blinds and the windows wide, blowing forth vivacity, willing joy to creep beneath every door and illuminate the thousand extinguished hearts, the myriad souls forgotten.
I am not ready for the crowd, nor can I think too far beyond this moment. But the semblance of humanity that yawns in my soul is enough to make me scream in delight. To know that creation may once again be possible is enough to call this moment a revelation. All it takes is one idea, budding in a corner of my brain. I vow to crouch and nurture it, to love it with all my snapped heart, that one day the whole garden may blossom again.
I write late into the night, blathering bland poetic prose. It is enough. To write for beauty and not meaning is all I require. There will be time for analysis and critique. There will be time for endless thought and revisions. But since I believed the feelings had died, tonight I bathe in their return. Bursting with radiance, collapsed beneath a single beauty, I dance the heavenly dance of emptiness. The moon gazes down at my work, and her smile is a mirror to my bliss.