An open letter to the heart
“... Night clawed into the velvet surface of the heavens, soft silk torn open to reveal dimly lit stars suspended above uncharted darkness. My cheeks flared and a gentle smile eased onto my lips as I watched day slowly fizzle into night. I observed, in silent admiration, an elegant display of colours – black and blue, purple and pink, yellow and red – dance with one another, spinning, twisting and twirling, as they slid across the night, hand in hand, until finally the song was over and all that remained was a tattered veil draped loosely over a battered sky… that and an image of the world as it should always be, beautiful.
I must sound like a complete lunatic, don’t I? Rambling on and on about such inconsequential nonsense, and in such an excessive and exhausting manner, no less. I do apologise, but in my defence, this is the first time I’ve poured my thoughts into written word and I’m still unclear on how much of this tale should remain shrouded in cryptic content and vague innuendo, and how much I should make openly accessible… I’d urge you to not misunderstand my intentions, I do wish to express these thoughts in scripture, to divulge to you all that I know, but the truth of what happened that day is not a tale we can afford to simply be known. Even while I write these words, I hesitate to tell you any of this… but the choice is not mine to make alone, and my continued indecision must not be allowed to triumph the will of the collective.
I cannot keep protecting you anymore.
In the fabric of the universe, that night, all those years ago, might not have meant anything but to me, to you, to us, that night was the first tangible moment of my existence. It was the first time that sounds, images, words, sensations, and experiences were willingly committed to thought, to memory. It marked the first time in recent history that memories were woven into the essence of my very being. It was the first time since my conception that I came to care about anything other than myself and in words you’ll hear me re-tread: ‘that night represents the single greatest achievement of my life and, yet at the same time, is a celebration of my most spectacular failure.’
On one hand, prior to that evening, I had virtually no connection to the world outside. I had no purpose or direction in life, no rhyme or reason behind many of my actions. I was just there. I don’t even think I knew what being alive actually meant. And to be honest, all these years later, it’s even harder to imagine that the most incredible experience of my life started with me doing something as meaningless as staring out into the dark – something I’d done a million times before, mind you.
You see, I remember everything that happened to me that night. I remember it in such detail that sometimes, when I close my eyes and think back to that lonely bench, it feels like I’m there again, reliving every precious moment of our encounter. I remember the tingling sensation that crept down my spine and rippled over my arms while cold winds lightly brushed their frozen fingers across bare skin – the simple dress I wore that evening did little to offer any protection against the arctic touch. I remember trembling, desperately rubbing exposed flesh in a hopeless attempt to stay warm, all while silently cursing myself for not choosing to wear warmer apparel.
I remember the strands of hair that moved into my line of sight – they forced me to pause and for a moment consider my appearance. There were black marks beneath my eyes, I didn’t need a reflection to know they were there; those bags were always there. And even under layers of heavily applied makeup, I’m sure the luggage made my once soft features appear older than they should have seemed. My skin felt icebound, like the surface would crack at the slightest movement. It looked sickly too, unnaturally pale, even for someone like me. It wasn’t long before noticing that normally straight hair was replaced with fuzzy fur that shot out in all directions – no doubt caused by the wind.
I probably looked terrible, but I don’t remember trying to readjust my appearance or straightening my hair, though. I just sat there, quivering and staring vacantly into the night. In what can only be described as ‘a moment of madness’, I inched back and flinched almost instantly as flesh touched frozen steel – the backrest wasn’t cold so much as it was unexpected. But again I didn’t move. I remained perfectly still. I stayed seated until my back became accustomed to the frostbitten bars. I remained seated until I numbed. I surrendered. I relinquished my control and became a willing slave to the allure of begin lulled into a dreamless sleep, to the idea of tightness around my back and shoulders cautiously beginning to unwound, to pain slowly sinking into the furthest corners of my mind where stabbing throbs of torture coursing through my feet transformed into gentle pulses emanating from within the confines of tiny black heels. I cursed, this time for not having the forethought to secure more comfortable footwear… but even that was soon forgotten.
My shoulders relaxed, my breath steadied, and my mind wandered; slowly drifting from memory to memory until nothing of my consciousness was left to explore. It felt like I was floating aimlessly, as though I were lying on a slab of ice, being pulled along the surface of a lake. In my mind, it was me and a vast void where I simply existed, without thought, care, or awareness.
I must admit, sitting alone in the middle of an empty park felt somewhat strange, especially when everything around me looked so different under the cover of night; lawn previously painted green had turned into an ocean of grey with ripples of wind-formed waves being blown periodically along the surface, trees that had been bursting with life during the day looked on the brink of death in the dark, and what used to be a field brimming with the sounds of laughter and the joy of children playing was replaced with a dull hush – an unnatural silence that stole from me my sense of hearing.
In retrospect, the absences of ambient sounds might have been because I was exhausted. Maybe that’s why time seemed to behave like a drunk, stumbling and swaying while it inched forward. I’d been there less than an hour but it felt like I’d lived a thousand lives, years enjoyed while I hung at the edge of consciousness, right on the borders of slumber. A tiny push in any direction was all that was needed to throw me back into the depths of my subconscious. It never came. I remained in that unfocused haze, suspended between the realms of reality and dream, unsure of whether my eyes were open or closed, but that’s when it happened.
A strange scent brushed passed my nose, lingered long enough for the smell to engrave itself upon my mind and then drifted away. I cannot even begin to describe the scent in words: it was a fragrance so intoxicating I felt myself drool. An exotic mixture of potent aromas; I smelt lime and ginger, there was a touch of diesel and black gold, mint mixed with a hint of strawberry, and something else... something deliciously metallic. I could almost taste the scent in the air. It was maddening. Then, a small figure emerged from somewhere behind the bushes and staggered forward, almost limping as it moved. Oddly, the closer the creature came to me, the more difficult it was to make out what it was or what it looked like. It was as though light refused to show the creature, parting as it passed, allowing shadows to conceal the beast’s form as it moved through the night. I suppose it was inevitable, but after waiting on the edge of my seat with my heart in my throat, it – no, he, a person, stopped right in front of me. The beast was no monster, it was just a man, a tiny, frail-looking man. Clad in black with a hood masking his facial features like clouds over the moon. I don’t think he noticed me at first, and had I not attempted to make contact I doubt he would have turned his head. But he did. He tilted his head to the side and just like that... our eyes met – the effects were devastating.
I was assaulted by a multitude of contradicting sensations. I was both composed and delirious, both serene and frantic, both contained and overflowing. I switched between hot and cold at speeds that left me numb. At one point I couldn’t tell whether I was standing or sitting, awake or asleep, laying on a bed of needles or rolling around in the sand. Nothing made sense. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me; my own body had been turned against me. I opened my mouth to speak, to make some sort of noise or offer myself some semblance of appeasement, but found my mind unable to grasp even the simplest of words. When the letters, words or sentence seemed within my reach, when it felt like my tongue would move, my mouth was completely unresponsive. My lips could only quiver, shamelessly shifting between open and closed like a fish out of water. I have little doubt that I looked like a fool, standing, sitting, or laying there like a complete idiot while I hopelessly drowned, as my breath was captured and held captive, as my thoughts were thrown to the side and lost in the depths of bright green. My whole world was reduced to a pair of sparking emerald eyes that gazed at me as though they could reach into the depths of my mind, as though they could see into my soul, into my darkest secrets, into every single inch of me, even the parts that haunted me. You see, these were eyes that knew everything I was and ever hoped to be, eyes that completely captured my… everything. In that one moment, my entire sense of self was on full display; there was no place to hide, he could see me – all of me, even the darkest and filthiest parts that frightened me – he could see them all.
Yet all there was for me to see was my own reflection. I couldn’t see anything about him; not the structure of his face, the colour of his hair, not even the shape of his body. All that existed were a pair of picturesque… - I blinked, and just like that, it was over.
He was gone.”