Balcony, with great voice cald the mountain to come to him. When the mountain stood still and mimicked stillness perfectly he was neuer a whit abashed, but said; if the mountain will not come to Balcony, Balcony will go to the mountain.
I have always said, if I ever open up, and my ribs bend, it would be through pages that would have to open up too, and their ribs bend.
I have Eglantine Roses.
A good place to start is this.
I find myself in the middle of a passage. The passage is dark, windy, wet and not much else. It accommodates a luminous light at the far end of it and an ominous abyss at the end opposite.
It is my sole goal to reach The Light. I’ve been here, for too long.
The passage also plays host to a shallow, murky current of water about ankle high that flows away from the light and towards me, against me, decelerating my advances towards it. The Current is so efficiently unforgiving; I almost have respect for him, I despise him. I’ve grasped long ago that he cannot be reasoned with, Physics being his mother.
Sometimes he, The Current, ambushes me with bouquets of love-lies-bleeding petals, cackling his abdominals tense upon my discovery of them. I make a pillow from the petals as they’re the only soft to be found here, they’re bitter to sleep on but I’ve grown accustomed to their bitterness, their scent. My knees and hands are filthy, filthy from grappling at the murky wetness of The Current, he’s impossible to strangle, but that doesn’t stop me trying. My fingertips are bleached, blanched prunes. My nails are of newborn baby strength.
The passage also houses a second permanent resident, The Breeze. The Breeze is familiar and brilliant, my de facto platonic soul mate and The Currents estranged step-sibling; they’re at each-others necks with sibling rivalry. She wants me to make it to the light, she’s my biggest fan. Unfortunately, and again by design, as the light from the passage is the only opening in this hellish vessel, the only vent, she’s left with no choice but to gust against my front, stagnating my progress. I don’t mind much though, a necessary evil, a necessary good. For the duration of my time here she has been my blanket when I have felt cold, my sense when I have felt senseless.
The Light is high and mighty, The Light is silent, The Light simply exists in awesomeness. All it does is shine; it never dims, it never gets brighter, it never changes - reliable as death. It just being there, by design, indicates to me that I can reach it and, heaven knows I’ve been trying. I yearn to grasp at its radiance, to let it restore my prunes to grapes with its inevitable warmth, to rendezvous with it, even if only for a lumen second - maybe that’s all it will take.
I’ve reached The Light countless times, albeit exclusively in my third eye, in my dreams, and in the blueprints me and The Breeze draw up together. We work deep into the would-be early hours before eventually calling it a night; by virtue of a lack of breakthrough, or by reason of The Current deciding to drown our progress.
She tells me I have words on my eyebrows, but she can’t make them out, she just recognises the shape of them. I try to teach her the alphabet but each time she gets close enough to read what is written she disturbs the soil with her breath. She’s upset with herself. I tell her not to be silly, for it’s by design that she can’t read. I try to look into the water to see a reflection of my eyebrows but each time The Current is on hand to cause ripples. I never get to see what it says; I’ve forgotten what I look like.
Thus far, our only plan to make it from the drawing board to actuality has been the practice of dropping a petal from The Current’s cruel offering into The Abyss. I do this each day. We then wait to hear an echo from the petal, which in theory would signify that the abyss has a foundation, a bottom – That’s as far as we’ve got. Each day I make the small journey to the abyss, the forces from both The Breeze and The Current collaborating to make it a relatively easy journey, and each day I drop a petal into the opening and make my way back to the middle of the passage, my home. I’ve adapted myself to keep my ears peeled at all times and have become very sensitive to sound, but the only sound to be heard belongs to The Breeze & The Current, their mother can’t tell them apart.
Legions of days pass.
I often rest in my bedding of love-lies-bleeding petals and muse to myself that it’s impossible to reach The Light. The Breeze lets her feelings known and helps me fix my bed after she is done. She’s right. Coetaneously, I know, in my heart of hearts, that it’s frustratingly attainable, nauseatingly attainable. Sometimes I wait days for the echoes, whole days, but they never come. I ask The Breeze if she’s heard anything; she has impressive hearing, she tells me she hasn’t heard a whisper; I’ve acclimated to the disappointment. I suspect that she’s far too timid to tell me the truth, the truth that she doubts the echoes will ever come, but I know it’s because she wants me to be hopeful, and for that, I appreciate her.
I also suspect she’s in love with me, I’m quite sure, and I’m mystified to why that is. Maybe its pity; an apology for slowing me down, maybe she listens in when I talk in my sleep and identifies with the monologues. Maybe as she watched over me one night she heard her name articulated and became euphoric at the thought of her love for me being reciprocated. She drops me lettuce periodically, I need the lettuce, I have a terrible memory.
Each day, without fail, I make the journey to the abyss, the chasm of hope slowly filling up with love-lies-bleeding petals.
Many nights, I fall asleep. When I wake I make sure to ask her if any echoes had occurred while I was dormant, she shakes her head, no words this time. It’s difficult to be hopeful when my rock isn’t. It’s time to change my strategy, time to change my state of mind, my perspective. All along I’ve been using the same tactics to try and reach The Light, tactics that haven’t worked for me in the past; tactics that aren’t working now, tactics that will never work; that glorious light.
A wise man once said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” The Breeze tells me: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got” I concur, all this time I’ve been chasing the horizon, trying to outmanoeuvre my own shadow, dropping a love-lies-bleeding petal into an inverted mountain of an abyss, and waiting for it to echo.
I muse for days.
One day I have a realisation that turns my body cold, makes my insides freeze, and my heart drop to the bottom of my torso. I can’t believe it, how could I have let this slip by me? My shock is soon replaced by anger, but I remain composed, I’ll ask her first, see what she has to say for herself. I summon her.
“Zephyria” I call.
The Breeze appears, she has Acacia all over her face, she reeks of it, as guilty as a nun squatting in a cucumber field.
“Zephyria, you are The Breeze are you not?”
She begins to blubber, turning translucent.
“Y..yes” She stutters.
“Being The Breeze allows you to wanderlust to any locale and kiss any crevice, does it not?”
She now begins to sob audibly, but answers to what she is asked of, she’s 50% opaque.
She nods; speech has become too strenuous for her.
“Then why, my darling Zephyria, have you been allowing me to travel each day to the abyss to drop petals knowing very well that you have the power to venture down to its depths and inform me if it is in fact bottomless?”
She howls in despair, tears falling with purpose into the murky ground, into her step-brothers plate. He howls too, with laughter.
“Please, stop crying” I announce realising the potential disaster.
“I…I…can’t stop once I’ve started, there’s a lot of hot air” she manages to proclaim before resuming her wails.
Thunder, Lightning, Gust, Rain.
This isn’t good; the water level is rising to my shins. I’m in a storm; I can’t see anything but her face behind dense curtains of melancholy.
“I’m sorry Habibti, just stop crying, we’ll talk about this” I say as lovingly and loudly as I can, my mouth filling with her tears each time I open it, I dare not spit them out.
She can’t hear me through her own weeping though, her tears dropping with verve, cats and dogs. The water level continues to rise; it’s approaching my knees now. The Current is almost impossible to stand in, he’s gaining strength, his eyes narrowing with heinous premise. The situation is desperate. I’m between Scylla and Charybdis.
“STOP CRYING YOU BITCH”
There is swift silence. No crying, she returns to 0% opacity. Her siblings disembark as quickly as they had come to her defence, but not all is well; she looks at me, a look that to this day I’d rather forget.
Her eyes, dried white rose.
We look into each other’s eyes, I reciprocate the dried white rose, I want my bouquet to be bigger than hers, the arrangement to be more extravagant, I want her to see that, I think she does. She stops staring & oscillates around the passage before dropping an object into the knee high water which in turn causes a splash, then, without warning, she disappears.
My mind is a coliseum of solemn spectators, all muttering their disapproval.
I call out to her, but the passage remains draftless, I call out again, and again, and again, but I may as well flare my ears for a petal echo.
I walk defeated to where the splash transpired and glare at the murky depths, at the object. The Current is repelling against its sides, unable to move it, not wanting to move it, wanting me to see it, and sure enough I do; Arbutus – I knew it all along, poor Zephyria. I wish she wasn’t gone, if she was still here I would have dropped Ambrosia and meant it with every last bit of me. Eventually the broken hearted spectators in my head exit the coliseum and I am greeted by The Currents sadistic chortles, I feel almost embarrassed.
The days that followed were my loneliest and hardest yet and I spent them solely in my bed. Wormwood was growing out my ears, but I could still hear The Current and his jeers. I had lost a great deal of hope, any remnants of lettuce were long gone, washed into The Abyss by The Currents new found might. Sometimes I would trick myself into hearing her voice, just a recorded memory playing over and over. Play, stop, play, stop. Eventually, after many days, I found a relic of sense and I put the radio off and sat up in my bed; I’d had enough. The water is knee high and The Current is glad to feel my feet. I have nothing to lose. I have nothing to lose. I have nothing to lose. I have nothing and, my, what a great gift it is to have.
I kick out at the water, at The Current, he is insulted by my defiance, I kick out again, and he becomes furious. I gain spirit from his anger and stand up in the river of current, kicking out with more gusto this time, The Current drags me into his realm, his fingers entering my nostrils; I’m in a world of trouble. I’m heading to the abyss, I’m not too bothered though, I relax, I’m at cooperation with my fate, I welcome it, It was fun while it lasted.
I remember Zephyria, and the fear of never seeing her again makes me explode with power.
I dig my prunes and knees into the ground, as deep as I can, the water crashing against my neck and shoulders. I lumber forward, my destination is the bed. The Current is only as strong as his mother allows him to be and I also suspect he was having too much fun with me and didn’t want to see me perish in that way, he’d rather pluck off my wings than artlessly flatten me. He allows me to lift myself into my bed, spluttering water from my lungs, he laughs and laughs. I lie in my bed and try to regain my breath, happy as I’ve ever been, I begin to feel my bed drying underneath me.
I laugh. He laughs with me, thinking I’ve finally gone insane, I laugh at his laugh, at his state of oblivion, his laugh becomes more nervous, unsure. He doesn’t know what I know; he doesn’t know that while I was in the depth of his hell something offered me its hand and I bit it off. In my right palm rests a sole petal, a Gladiolus petal. I stand up again and he tries to drown me for the second time. My laughter has turned him even more maniacal than before. His attempt to submerge me is fruitless, he doesn’t have the strength, he mumbles to himself in confusion. His confusion is fuel to the flames of my new found strength, my new found spirit.
I’m ready. I’m ready as I have ever been. I know I can’t lose because in essence I’ve already lost - damned if I do and damned if I don’t. So I may as well “do”. I gather every last morsel of strength, bravery and sensibility and walk towards The Light, against the knee high current and against the doubts. My bed of love-lies-bleeding disintegrates behind me.
The Current grimaces, The Breeze is gone and The Light is indifferent.
I stumble forward, maybe for eight steps. On my eighth step I’m sanctioned by thousands of bouquets of The Currents favourite flower which fall from the nothingness of the passages roof, blocking my path towards the light; further complications, further doubts. I stand in obstacle-induced motionlessness until hope breaths against the hairs on my neck, that familiar breath. It whispers in my ear something beginning with “B” but I can’t make it out. The familiar breath grows into a powerful gust and blows all the petals that are in front of me into the direction of the abyss, clearing my route, a drained smile on her honest face, Zephyria is tired.
I welcome her lethargy, she gusts more frailly now and it’s helping my cause. The Current observes this, he won’t be in any haste to repeat that trick, he is in a state of narcissistic rage, he’s so enraged that he heats up and starts evaporating, shedding inches of his height until eventually he cools himself down. He returns to his former height, headbutting against my ankles.
I continue my advance. Zephyria has regained her energy, this time I welcome her strength, although it’s slowing me down -That’s love. The Current is in a state of disgust.
I’m making prudent progress. Sometimes Zephyria stops breathing against me for intervals lasting only a few seconds, instead she just circles around me as I take advantage of the lack of air resistance to trudge forward more freely, until the whip cracks against her back and she obeys protocol again. I tell her she doesn’t need to do that, but I’m grateful when she does.
The Current isn’t idle either. He wants more than ever for me to relinquish faith, surrender ambition and squander bravery. Sometimes he too will go against the laws of physics, speeding up, smashing against my ankles more harshly than he should, until he too feels the crack of the whip, and he too obeys his mother.
I feel a sense of bittersweet nostalgia in the walking, a longing, a purpose, a return to the earliest Déjà vu. It’s like the moment in my dreams when I am faced with grave danger, so what do I do? I look danger straight in the face and simply fly away, higher and higher, increasingly more confident.
~My Danger ~
Danger’s face in my dreams is ghastly, not dissimilar to the face of the monster behind the diner in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive”, so you can understand that sometimes I just fly away, without looking at it. But I’ve observed that the subconscious has an impressive knack for dropping you back to ground the uglier the danger is. When I wake up I check my knees, but they are ok, they would be, it was just a dream.
Ok, I’m almost there now, not much to walk. The Light is inviting, but I’m not completely convinced as to whether I should trust it. I don’t understand it, and I have a suspicion that The Current and The Light have teamed up to refract off of one another and create a mirage which gives off the illusion that The Light is closer than it actually is. I start to doubt The Light, The Current smiles, I second guess myself, The Current laughs. But I forget, and am reminded - I’ve already lost and have nothing else to lose. I look to the ground, through the treacherous Current, and realise.
Cursèd current has planted cursèd mint. I kick the mint aside. The Current curses. How can his mother tolerate his tongue?
I look in front of me; lettuce. I trust a little, Zephyria winks at me, if I can’t do it for me I’ll do it for her, I trust a little more, Zephyria hums and exhales with delight. Then finally, at long last, I trust with every last fragment of my being, and in that precise moment, with a little help from an audacious push from my lover against my back, I am engulfed in the light, 1 million lumen seconds and counting. Zephyria shrieks in pain, diminuendoing proportionately with the disappearing passage behind me, in my past. Sweetpea.
I find myself in a field, a field with alluring, charming qualities. The field is all around me and densely populated with white lilies for miles and miles, horizon to horizon. The air is clear and very still. There is soft song playing, perchance from the sky. There are violet, cobalt blue and off-white butterflies frolicking over the field’s petals. The sky is glass, glass as in transparent, not glass as in clear and blue, but the colour of glass, colourless.
In the distance I notice a lake with a white stag drinking from its contents and adjacent to it a donkey eating from a rare patch of grass.
I’ve made it. Joy. I venture off into my new existence. The unrequited has become requited and I, as sure as death, will flaunt the badge. I run around, jumping. I run around, laughing. For days and nights I sleep with the white lilies and for days and nights I run around jumping and laughing, utopia.
One day I lie in the midst of all the lilies with my eyes closed and a smile on my face. I pick one of the lilies from my right hand side, and I take a whiff. Dread. I open my eyes and sit up in shock, in doom; the lily is a lily no more, the lily is a marigold and I am destroyed. I look around and I witness the domino effect of all the lilies turning into marigolds from where I picked the would-be lily, and it is breaking my heart in two, in four.
I try to stand up but I can’t, I try to struggle, but it’s of no use. I look to my legs, and see that the roots from the colony of marigolds have rooted me to the ground and condemned me to a seating position. I look to the lake, the stag spins around startled and nose-dives into it, the soft music stops abruptly as if a plug was pulled from a record player. Everything begins to darken; the calamity is all-encompassing, I need calm, I need reassurance, I need Zephyria, but the field is breezeless.
Now that the music is off I can hear the donkey, he is braying frantically. It’s almost pitch-black now, the donkey stops eeoreing as it finds strength to stand up, it rotates, and starts walking. At first it appears to be walking in any random direction, but as time goes by it becomes clear that it is walking towards me.
I have no choice but to await its arrival. Once it finally arrives it stands over me, still eeyoring with force. I look at it, its head upside down against the transparent sky. What does it want with me? I look around; the field is now all marigolds, erect like meerkats, each stigma facing me like jurors. I want to feel remorse, but I am unaware of my crime.
The word is uttered, but I am not the one to have uttered it. I look around in search of the owner of the word. Perhaps there is someone rooted to the ground like me, someone with the same curse as me, but there is nobody in sight.
Impossible. I look up at the donkey that is still braying over me “Help, the devils breathing in my lungs” I shriek, the glass ceiling shatters into a infinity pieces, each one landing on me.
I’m dead, but I can still see and think, a never-ending episode of sleep paralysis.
Months go by, seasons, and years. My eyelashes have blossomed, fallen, and froze. Some of the marigolds have eyes between their petals, watching me; they’ve been watching me my whole death, they can’t take their eyes off of me. One day during my eyelashes third blossoming I moved my toes, then my ears, and then my lips. For a year that’s all that moved, and I became disheartened by it and again began to lose hope.
I had become an expert at losing hope.
I had forgotten a great deal, the passage was a vague memory, but a comforting one now. I’d daydream about it to soothe me as much as possible, I‘d smile in my brain when remembering specific episodes of my time there, I’d remember a joke Zephyria said, or when she dropped me a borage the first day we met and The Current rose and smacked her in her face. From then on in she’d learn to drop me flowers in my bedding only.
The cycle of thoughts repeat themselves more than I care to count or record. But all things come to an end. All things.
One fateful day I awoke to a new scent and the sun on my face. I hadn’t felt the sun for a decade maybe. I purveyed my location and it became obvious to me that my surroundings had changed. It also became obvious that I had regained the ability to turn my head again. I didn’t jump for joy though; I was Veteran Connoisseur Numero Uno Per Disappointment by now. But my surroundings were so peculiar that I was taken aback, and dare I say, hopeful.
The field that was once tribunal to my silent jurors had now become a mattress to a blanket of Celandine. The sky was of such a gorgeous crimson you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the direct inspiration for Rashid Babiker’s visual art, God forgives. The horizon was not nothingness anymore, to the side opposite where the lake once was, stood a mountain, a sole magnificent mountain, the sun with its hands on its shoulders.
The newly changed blanket of flowers was not what was peculiar though, what was peculiar was that there was a Coffee shop placed right where the lake and stag once stood many years ago. I mean, I was used to the peculiar but this was just damn strange.
I stood up so I could read the sign on its roof. I dusted off the violations of the Marigolds and their Caesar. I felt brand new. I was dressed in all black; black t-shirt, black jeans, black shoes. But my newly acquired wardrobe was the least relevant of my puzzlements, the lowest rank in my trepidations. At standing height I was able to make out the name of the coffee shop, it read: “Inverse Balc Coffee”~
I headed towards the coffee shop and it soon became apparent that there was life inside of its four walls. I arrived at its door in no time at all. I walked to the shop front. It’s very possible that I turned my head to the right and looked inside past the glass panels of its front window, my walk now in real-time slow-motion.
Everyone inside is a happy oyster, smiling and typing away at their oyster shells. I would smile at my oyster shell too, but it would be a lie.
I try to open the door, but it refuses to budge. I stand there watching them for half an hour, maybe longer, their shells opening and closing as they come & go. I attempt to go inside again when I notice an oyster departing, but I’m thrown back by an unknown force, onto my back, into the field of Celandine. I soon get back up and walk back to the door, I rest my face there, my breath forming vapour on the glass door. I would have stayed there all day watching the oysters had it not been that I was interrupted by the sound of innocent laughter from a child.
I look to my left, there are two of them, maybe brothers, only one is laughing though. The other child is standing behind him, shyly watching his feet and twiddling his thumbs. I’ve never seen children like this before. The extroverted brother laughs again this time at my perplexed expression, while his introverted counterpart can only manage a wry smile.
“You want to go in?” The laughing child asks me
“Yes” I say, as if it is not apparent.
“Open the door then” He says as if it is not apparent.
I try again as if his permission has made the door more lenient.
I’m thrown back again, into the field of Celandines, it doesn’t hurt much physically, but my ego takes a real bruising. The child walks towards me giggling, his associate following closely behind him.
“Why did you do that for?” I ask with no expectation of clarity.
The boy lies next to where I lay sprawled against the ground. We’re both looking at the crimson sky, my arms are to my sides, his arms are crossed behind his head, not a care in the world. He speaks to me, rhetorical rhetoric at the ready.
~What the giggling boy says to me~
“Why the wistful gaze Yung Balcony? , You liken the joyous peons to joyous oysters when they are merely Gleeful Ostreidae, sooner or later their shell will become unhinged and their innards devoured, their blood and the tragic irony of it emulsified into a sauce. You in stark contrast are a Solemn Pteriidae, what is written on your brow will inevitably be seen by the eye, stand up and see what you sit on.”
His quiet brother claps in appreciation of his speech.
I’m in a state of the aporetic.
1. What the sight of our eyes tells us is to be believed.
2. Sight tells us the stick is bent.
3. What the touch of our hand tells us is to be believed.
4. Touch tells us the stick is straight.
Nonsensical riddle or pearls of wisdom?
I try to touch the cherub, in the wings to be polite, with my grapes. He allows me to do so, but I feel nothing at my fingertips.
The muted brother signals to his cohort to come towards him. His counterpart complies.
The quiet brother whispers into his ear, they both nod and walk away, their backs turned to me, heading towards the mountain & sun.
I stand myself up once again and run towards them.
“Wait! What does it say on my brow?”
They both come to a halt and face my direction; the boisterous brother playfully takes a couple steps back whilst giggling again. His subdued kin sees this and pulls him by his wing and whispers again into his ear. They both nod once again and the spokesman speaks.
“Check your pockets”
They both giggle this time and start walking again. I waste no time in checking my pockets, I find a mirror. I look into it, examining my eyebrows, there I see three words, two on my left eyebrow and one on my right eyebrow:
I’m more befuddled then I have ever been, and that’s saying much.
I call out and run towards them yet again. This is severe.
“WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, guys”
I reach them and take the opportunity to catch my breath.
“Guys, this means nothing to me, help me out” I say, pointing to my confusion.
They both turn to me once again, both looking above my eyes. The timid brother squints to try and make out what it reads, gasps and punches his brother in the wing. The social brother rubs his wing and explains to him:
“He was asleep and I was bored”
My favourite brother is unimpressed with the justification and so am I. He gives him a look of poison. My least favourite brother accepts the poison and reaches to my brow, reshuffling the letters around.
His brother smiles at his efforts, they both smile, they both walk to either side of me and pick up one of my hands, grasping it as if I’d passed the test to be their new parent. We head towards the mountains, all three of us, hand in hand.
I’m not ready to be a father yet so I ask the kids where their parents are, and, for the first time, I hear the silent brother speak: “Wake up and smell the Coffee” followed by his brother’s signature giggle.
I almost forgot, I let go of both of their hands momentarily and reach into my pocket, they both stare at me smiling, I notice the breeze.
And may I add, I’m looking mighty gorgeous this morning.