When you write a sigh it loses its subtlety, becomes less than punctuation or something strong as a sentence, turns sassy like irony or onomatopoeia. Sigh. So audibly versatile. It could be exclamation or ellipses, exasperated and punchy or forlorn and drawn, but give it textual context and it dries on the page. Sigh with rage. I wish things were simply what they meant and often lament their transmutative action for lack of explanatory traction. I wish a sigh on paper or in aether would have it’s meaning be clearer than being heard in the head or merely read.
Neither of us cries and the air grows thick with precipitation. In times of drought, I tell her, people of the Balkans would pray to Perperuna, a ceremony and god, Pagan in principal. She was the goddess of rain. A little smile breaks, as sunlight does, and penetrates the cloud. ‘Does this mean you would dance for me?’ For you, yes, but not for rain, I say. Naša dodo Boga moli, my aim would be to stave the storm. ‘Then start,’ she tells me, ‘and let us both enjoy the sun.’ We hold hands and move to warmer climes.
In bed with my stuck headed ways, thinking about lie and lay, ley line, lain, lei, lion and lying, dying linguistic miseries over and again. I want silence, stillness, but there’s still no release when these troupes of tropes traipse for days in lackadaisical ways through the malaise of my brain. Like, why is and y in Spanish when et is and in Latin too. Do you see? ¿no o si? Maybe it’s just me, or the inner eye that’s seen too much. I guess oui? Maybe we’ll never know, or maybe I need to give me a rest.
I buried my face in your pillow till I’d nearly suffocated with your scent. Parts of the house move on their own without you. I’d not realised how full your stewardship was, how your body kept the creak and decay away. I breathe you in again and talk to the fibres. All they tell are ghost stories and promises, richly woven but lacking comfort. The nightbirds skylark and the panes rattle; midnight sounds abound. I am deaf, I tell them, and dream of losing myself in your memory. In some other elsewhere I know you smile upon the world.
I perform a thousand compulsions every day, inexplicable obligations to unnecessary notions. My mind forces me into tired retreads of circular ruts, fourth, fifth, and sixth repetitions, wanting to assuaged suspicions in the wake of existing confirmation. I know what I know doesn’t go anywhere, but certainty fades to febrile dusk and shimmers painfully on the fringes of ephemera and unlikelihood. I close my eyes, open my mind, and dive. Deep inside the world swirls and I, lost to potential, die a little as everything that never was and everything that could ever be roils away inside of me.
Six stories up in the middle of the night there’s an owl in my house. ‘It’s actually a frogmouth,’ Arris says, ‘tawny.’ Sat at the head of the dining table, still as old growth in variegated shades of eucalypt bark. It stares at us with deep amber jewels, calculating our worth from its strange stoic perch. A partner waits from the balcony, on guard for prospects and threats. ‘They mate for life,’ I hear. Arris takes my hand and we breathe in the night together. I want this to be good luck, I tell her, reading signs of life.
I look beyond the balcony to the storm clouds floating harmlessly over the horizon and think about cutting myself. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ Sarah says, ‘we choose our leaders and we should pay them accordingly — in money and respect.’ The group moves its head discordantly, nods and shakes and partly gaping mouths full with words there’s no room to utter, opinions stuck between their teeth. I think, someone says, but Sarah shushes sharply so the statement sits stillborn on the floor. ‘You don’t know, though,’ she says, ‘because you don’t listen.’ I look to the storm, longing for a change.
Cynicism and Hope were entwined. They’d just made love. Cynicism lay a hand upon Hope’s breastplate, feeling the delicate web of nerve and bone that cage a heart. Each placid thump sent a wave of terrifying euphoria up Cynicism’s arm, pumping not blood but life through strange osmotic channels. I don’t want to hurt you, Cynicism said. Hope lay a hand to Cynicism’s cheek, grounding a circuit that fed warmth and light to each of them. ‘You could never hurt me,’ Hope said, ‘even with pain.’ They saw each other as though seeing themselves and said, ‘I need you.’
At some point in the night she finds a frown and pulls it over her face. It doesn’t sit right in sleep. Lain like that, with her arms above her head and her breasts exposed in Venus pose, the scowl seems a Janus dream. There are lies the mind won’t tell the body, they simmer in subconscious and tic away. Her expression is a pocket of this fight, gloriously honest and more marvellous for its telling presence than the supine splendour of her body and its beauty rendered limp. How I long to kiss her there, beyond the veil.
I press on the bruise, trying to make hurt again. I do it all the time, worry at old wounds in an effort to evocate their peaks. Nothing’s ever the same though, not even pain. I feel like an artist rendering ruins in digital 3D, disastrously flat extrapolations despite the ability. I could fill a gallery with these abstractions, obtruded into seperate wings with woeful didactics strung as diegeses for each — heartbreak half-formed; scars smoothed over time; anguish in relief; negative space — all would be incompetent. The pains of expression are so acute I’m desperate to sketch them.
She catches my smile upon her face and lets it melt without movement. ‘You make me sad,’ she says. ‘Not for you but because of you.’ She takes me into her eyes and blinks slowly. ‘Your misery is contagious,’ she says, shuttered. ‘It’s an infection.’ We breathe in turns and the air grows thick and warm. ‘It will kill love,’ she says. ‘It will spread its tendrils into my affection and strangle it dead.’ I will find a cure, I tell her, I can be well. ‘I know that’s true,’ she says, ‘but I’m not sure that you do.’
Smiling like someone successfully baking cakes, Dr. Bronte says, ‘You should be relieved, it’s so rare to see such clear diagnoses.’ Neither psychosis nor neuroses, it doesn’t feel clear. Borderline, split like a blackjack bet — two suits, same value, no clear winner. Where does that leave me? ‘We can treat it, of course. Though, I worry they won’t take you since you aren’t hurting yourself.’ I think she means physically. I finger my scars. Should I restart? Would that help me get help? ‘Don’t act rashly now.’ But that’s my problem, impulse control and the point where logic lies.
I put the cask on the counter and the clerk says nothing. I’m making punch, my anxiety says, sangria. The clerk doesn’t care, simply pronounces the price while I collate the cost. I offer thanks and get paid with a nod that haunts me out the door, down the street, and into my first glass. I can hear the ice cracking against the suburban stillness. My thirst never makes a sound. By my last I’m no longer dry and ready to drown. I nod at the walls. It’s a punch, I tell them, but you can’t see the bruise.
The cold realities have started seeping in and scare me more than the nightmares ever did. I see her now, looking sometimes at the mask hung in the closet and wondering if she didn’t like me better that way. ‘Do you have to be sad?’ Syllables soft and sharp. ‘Can’t you just… can’t you be happy?’ I tell her it’s not about joy or despair but honesty measured empirically, I won’t hide anymore. We go to sleep with the monster under the bed half discussed and wake in fragmentation. I tell her I’m trying and she nods, ‘I know.’