She is leaving me. Her warmth, her love, her kindness have already left. In the nights I drift further away from familiarity. Slumbers take me into new unknowns, the days wake to places full of fear and uncertainty. They tumble inanely until finally, a place of nightmares forms around me after a night. A stillness like no other. It feels almost definite.
I sense something lived here a long time ago, but it fell prey to an illness. A corrupted force that ate away the sun, the good yellow light of life. It keeps me up.
A cold wind blows across its still surface, screaming through interstices that sharp, splintered shales of broken ice had left behind. They’re not floating free, but are frozen into a jagged cover of the sea that stirs underneath. I’m stranded in this desolate place with no shelter, atop a ground that threatens to crack and open up at any moment, swallowing me into the icy depths below. The wind whips and cracks, indistinguishable from sounds of ice giving way, and the uneasiness of having to stand on this uneven surface wears me down. I think about falling. I look through, into the sea below. There is no life in the whirling currents. Just a vast space stretching far beyond what I could ever see. A cold space of no familiarity, mocking the convulsions of my tired body. There must be a sickness in the water. It stirs as if it will almost speak. I don’t hear, I cannot understand, but fold under debilitating, senseless nausea holding hands with pain. Raise a foot, take a step, I tell myself. Move in any direction, but move. I want to leave this spiked crust of an undulating hollow, but its surface touches all the points of the horizon I can see. It is inseparable from me.
No, we are not one and the same. At least that’s what I hope. It merely took hold of me and now pretends that it has freed me of itself. What mockery to freedom it is to give a cripple all that vastness, the desolate expanse and expect him to embrace it. To give him something he never asked for, something he does not know how to want.
Perhaps some warmth, I kindly ask of no one. I simply want it. I need it. The ice crackles, the sea deliberates. It stirs and thinks. It hears my thoughts, and knows my fears. My most inner workings are no secret to it. I plead further. I am on my knees and hands and I ask: some warmth, please. But then I feel it. A loud break. A crack appears very near to me. Water slips over the ice, colder than the dry surface and rushes over to encircle me. It touches me. The cold.
No, I take it, there will be no warmth today. I am only soaked with the cold that feels more sinister than before. I feel it intently, the surface is less firm, and the sea all the more treacherous and certainly unkind. And I have nowhere to go. The pain bites and stabs. I’m sick with hunger and remorse. Alright. I’ll fall then. I surrender to you, oh treacherous future! I move a foot closer to the fracture. The ice breaks. My stony toes tickle the fault. A snap! And the floe moves. Under my feeble weight it sinks, the far end raises itself from the surface for a cold farewell. I slip, fall. And I slide.
The sea takes me. A constant morphing darkness touches my most inner parts. Thrashing my arms and legs, I only sink deeper. Colour fades into the absolute absence of light. My eyelids give the tickling sensations of an amputated arm, my mind, like the mind of an amputee cannot comprehend the utter lack of their function. The blackness is omnipotent.
The cold is all-encompassing. Every atom is a victim to its regressive chemistry, the ruthless laws of thermodynamics. It is reductive and heavy. Its drudging character slows down even time.
I sink as if I’m dragged down, until a point of equilibrium is met. When the sea has decided where I belong. I settle.
I begin to feel, then, that there is some comfort in this sea. I cannot see, or smell, or feel much but the pain had slowly ebbed away. I’ve adapted to the cold. We have reached an agreement – the sea and I. Perhaps the time has slowed so much that it’s paused for a few moments, for me, and I no longer gasp for breath or feel the need to breathe for that matter. Perhaps, I’ve died.
What a great place to think then, death. It’s quiet. It no longer moves. The physical existence seems suspended. I’m deprived of sensations with no means of tracking time or ways to feel its passing. How long does a thought take? How many thoughts can I string in an instant? How many moments will it take for them to transform? How long has it been at all, in this place? An altogether strange place. A non-place. An unplace.
And what do I begin to think? What took me to the unplace… I slip inside the eye of my mind and look for a place I’ve been to before. I think it out until I can see. The sun shines through the windbreak of pines in the Schönbrunn garden. I see her just a few feet away, in front of me. Ah, yes. It is a warm August day in Vienna. I’d wish to feel that place again. Not the geography of it but the unrelenting confidence in the future that the Habsburg Empire erroneously managed to imbue into a park. They are memories, grand failures to seize those timeless moments. They are twisted replicas, inadequate in every way. Nostalgia reels we play in our mind – the sepia films of some deranged projections unfaithful to an objective truth. A sea of them, within this sea, as I ruminate them into vision. A moment in a café; her laughter in the air; a tear on her pillow, a good tear, a powerful tear.
They stand in contrast to the coldest day in Warsaw’s Łazienki Park; her sobbing; her unrelenting hard shell. They are the stabbing wound to my personhood. A battering blow to my manhood. They are the darkest, coldest island, a floating nemesis with a deep, sharp belly that descends from the surface and pins me to this point in the unplace.
Let me back up to the surface, I have to tell her things. I have to give her hope! This sea is cold and dark, but there is light, I know it!
Let me tell her, oh treacherous sea, that I love her to the point of no return. I love her exposed to the elements. I love her under the crushing pressure of rejection and disinterest. I love her selfishly. I love her forever.
Let me show her the joy, the thumping energy of my heart. I’ll defeat you, coldest sea. I am warm with the flame that won’t be put out. I am mighty and I am fearless. I will defeat you. Watch me find a way.
I sit there and think so. And listen to what the unplace will say.
29th May, Theodore Pako