Putting the stars back.

young adult old soul magic realism writing
Art by: Chootalks

There are times when I need to leave my brain behind.

And I don’t just mean my overthinking, my overly critical mind. But everything. All of my brain, save for practical functions like recognising danger.

I just need to air my mind out, to not carry around all my thoughts and experiences and history with me wherever I go. Because there’s this person I have to be — that other people count on me to be. It is a person I have chosen myself, as we all do when faced with the challenges Life poses us. We all reach difficult situations, turning points where we have to decide what kind of person to be.

Are we the kind of friend who leaves well enough alone when an upset friend assures us they are fine? Are we the kind of person who probes? Are we the kind of significant other who hates conflict, who would rather wait for tension to pass, unaddressed? Or are we the kind of person to meet it head on, ready to make or break? Would we rather be hurt or hurt someone else?

We carry all this and a million more choices in our every step. Because that is who we choose to be.

But I’ve discovered I need a break from my choices.

Whether it is as a friend, a sister, an employee or a young woman, a twenty-something. I need to remove all these skins, these layers of identity and air out my inner self. It does me so much good to be anonymous like this: to be just a girl with no worries or concerns for the day.

So I walk and walk and walk until I can’t feel my feet, until I’ve forgotten they were aching or even there. I go where I want to go. This Saturday, it was an unknown city — a passing place along the motorway where people stop for a while and then…vanish. It’s hard to believe anyone lives here. It feels like a reflection of a city: a wavering image in a puddle somewhere in another world. Maybe this is all a dream, a scene playing in someone else’s mind.

I walk and I explore, I poke my nose in the unknown, tiptoe past too reasonable boundaries set by anxiety.

It feels like opening a window in a closed-off room, like putting the stars back in the sky.

Eleutheromania

charliedavoli
Art by: Charlie Davoli

Eleutheromania (n.): “An intense and irresistible desire for freedom.”

Let’s run away.

Pack our bags and fill the car with gas, fill our eyes with stars. We’ll wave the city goodbye in the rearview mirror. Let’s drive through the night, have the music as loud as we can bear, tendrils flying away in the cold night air, leaving a trail of our journey, our youth. Let’s leave all our problems behind, like used maths books we never want to hear about.

We’ll jump over fences and stop at the next small town. We’ll doff our names, because where we’re going, they’re not important. Where we’re going, you’re just a person among so many others. A star in the milky way. To go from the city where everyone is always trying to be someone, and to sink in the comforting darkness of anonymity…our friends wouldn’t believe it. But there are whole other lives waiting for us out there. Worlds at our feet waiting to be discovered. Laughter hidden in the light filtering through the leaves.

Send a postcard to your family and let them know you’re alright. And when you’re done, let life begin again, the way it should have all these years ago.

Forget about the phones, we’ll take photos with one of those disposable cameras, or not at all. Don’t worry about the deadlines, the deposits, the 5 year plans and boring relationships. Leave it all behind and let’s find home on the road. Let’s be wanderers and make friends twice our age. Let’s try everything the world has to offer, let’s create memories. We’ll stop by the beach and watch the horizon at night. We’ll even catch the first light of day, watch as the darkness suddenly turns into light, how the world changes entirely in just a few moments. We can give it all up and never turn around. We’ll point at airplanes and try to race them to the skyline. Lounge on balconies and soak up the warm afternoon light.

We’ll be fine.We’ll be free.

We’ll tumble down life like paperboats on a rainy day.


Listening to:

Conversations With The Past

luceferous
Art by: Luceferous

“Have you ever wanted to be a thing?” she asks, her eyes wide and expecting.

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of being something other than human. Most days, I’m quite happy being a complex constellation of thoughts and emotions and occasionally, home to one or two indescribable inner phenomena.

“What do you mean?”

Her face scrunches up, thinking. Then, she points to the sky. Too bright, too blue, and scorching my retinas.

“The sky?”

She shakes her head, pigtails swaying with the movement.

She points harder, her hand moving to follow something.

It’s a black plastic bag, stark against the summer sky. It is flying higher than the tallest building, dipping and soaring, flailing and being blown away towards the harbour. It’s drifting, drifting…

Free, free…

Maybe it’ll even stick to the masthead of one of those sailboats. All the while uncaring of the business of humans below. Unconcerned by the clinking of coins, the rustling of bills. Or the man shouting through a megaphone that you get 2 pizzas for the price of one in the next hour. The whirring of the slurpee machine, blending a rainbow of colours and the condensation gathering on the outside of the clear plastic. The crowds of people trying to enjoy their Saturday. Café-goers sitting by the terrace, one leg on top of the other, loose and content, sipping on some cold thing as the wind ruffles their hair, threatens to pick up their large hats. Or even the thick, black fumes of vehicles and the mellifluous yet angry “Dring! dring!” of a bicycle bell caught among car honks.

“You want to be a plastic bag?” I laugh.

Her pudgy little face scrunches up again, growing red and angry this time.

“Hmm, I wanted to be a clear plastic ball once.” I tell her.

She peeks at me, as though giving me a chance to redeem myself. It’s not everyday you get the chance to impress a child, you know.  At least not intentionally.

I don’t know why I still remember though. That clear beach ball. We’d lost it in the summer of 2004 to a roaring ocean. We were playing catch in the sand, right next to the sign that said “Dangerous bathing”. And then the ocean breeze caught the ball mid-throw and it disappeared in the froth of the sea, between the large, black rocks. Afterwards, we could see it drifting ever further from the coastline, reaching for the horizon. There was no saving it, either. We could just watch dolefully as it went away.

Drifting, drifting…

“It’s strange, but I still think about that ball sometimes.” I muse.

And it’s true. Many times after, in class or on the bus, I caught myself thinking about where that beach ball could have reached. Only later did I consider the possibility that it could have burst. But it didn’t matter long, that idea. The image of it drifting away was stronger than any imagined truth.

By now, my little companion has forgotten all about her grudge. Her eyes are twinkling, focused on some blank space, living the tale of the departed beach ball.

She grips my hand suddenly, tugging on my sleeve.

“And then! And then! What else did you want to be??”

I laugh as we walk away into the city, navigating the cobbled roads.

“Well, once, I wanted to be a parachute…”


Listening to:

 

Scared to Be Free

Regate
(Somehow, this photo caused all this writing.)

“People,” I recall her saying, “They are like boats in a harbour. They think they are free, but they’re really not.”

“Where’s the freedom in only being someone you’re supposed to be?” she asked. “Where’s the freedom in being moored to paperwork, to rules that are unspoken and unwritten? How free do you feel to be made to enjoy the sun’s bright glow behind a desk in an artificially lit room?”

“We’re too scared to be free.” I whispered. “Freedom is dangerous. Out at sea, there are storms. The waves are so monstrous that their very shadows instill fear in our hearts. How much trust can you put in one boat?”

“But don’t you want to know?? Don’t you ever wonder—”

I shook my head. And her voice, the light in her eyes died down.

Later, she was gone, her risk had not paid off.  And I was safe, warm and well-fed. But it still felt as though she had won much more than I ever would.