May 19th, 2020

  1. Curtained


    A window through it.

    It feels dark within her room, even with the lightbulb delicately projecting its softness upon her from where it hangs, not quite from the center of the ceiling, it hangs nearer to a corner where it finds itself encircled by a globe of worn rice paper, its bamboo frame broken in places, fragments poking through, the incandescent bulb a nucleus, the light slowing as it moves towards her. The light falls gently and all appears warm and soothed, yet she senses the darkness lurking in corners, itself a constant, pulling at her heels, murmuring, and she remains unsure. She is not frightened though she feels vulnerable, her footing is not certain and so she steps gingerly around the expanse of her mind, a fractured sense of understanding creaks beneath her pace. She is aware of herself as a separated thing and she looks up at the bulb and stares at it through its protective paper, admiring its stillness as it hangs there, a beacon, a source of stability in a place that remains upturned.

    The sun is rising from its envious place of hiding beyond the horizon, casting the beginnings of its presence onto the panels of a curtain which shields her window. She remains sequestered behind the heavy draped fabric from that which passes outside her room, the smiling faces aglow with friendly thoughts of others, those who walk by without sensing the desperation contained within what they pass, the solitary anguish hidden from them by the frivolous pattern printed upon the curtain’s face, a pattern she selected purposefully, and she remembers the ancient dusty odor of a far-off factory which flowed forth when she first pulled the curtain’s panels from their packaging, themselves adorned with large complicated shapes, circular tangled knots of a similar size arranged almost haphazardly, though with an order to their placement which could be discerned if one gazed upon them long enough, the vacant space between the objects had become her vastness, her view, the printed orbs dangling in parched space, an interruption to a void, and she almost expected a sparrow to alight upon one of them as she stared at what hung there.

    The glow from behind her curtains grew brighter and she considered ruefully the darkness within the space which she now dwelled, like mud at her ankles, herself mired and slow, and from outside her window she could imagine the world glistening as all of its movements began, the day awakening and readying itself, and she felt a longing as these curtains hid her from a rising symphony, the silhouettes of twinkling instruments cast tall by the sun as it rose behind them all.

    She is finding it difficult to ignore that which has begun and so she moves a chair to the window, placing it mindfully before cautiously pulling aside one of the curtain’s panels, affixing it open with a slapdash shoestring knotted to a peg, itself having once been screwed into the wall alongside the window’s frame. She sits carefully so that she is almost hidden behind a corner of the now-exposed window, herself peering out from hunched eyes, her hands clasped between her knees. She is positioned forwardly on the chair and can feel it beneath her, wooden and firm, though she is barely balanced upon its edge, teetering, as if a single breath could topple her completely, a whispered secret only partially heard as she lay splayed on the floor, her world upended once more. Though she sat perched and still, remaining, her eyes following squirrels as they darted then paused, fluffed tails twitching, scattering again, searching, noses beneath leaves, headless rodents scratching at the earth, their secrets buried deep within a soil chilled, her secret having departed, half-heard, a misunderstanding, and she is on the floor once more.

    She pulls a hand from between her knees and traces a spiral into the condensation which has collected on the windowpane. The droplets of water parting easily as her finger passes between them, the circles growing as rivulets form from it, escaping patterns of water running down from her fingertip as it glides still, winding out from the center of the pane, though it is not the center truly, nearer a corner, where the origin of her spiral has become obscured. She winds her finger around until it meets the frame of the window, its chipped paint curling up from what had been disguised beneath, an arched dermis pulling away from its host as if repulsed, curled and trying, and she notices that the blank whiteness of the top layer had been hiding a multitude of colors below, reds and greens peer out from divots and dents, their own eyes adjusting to the light flowing in from the window, layers of a painted past now born anew and witnessed as a delighted discovery, themselves having provided color to this room when inhabited by strangers, ghostly bodies which moved through her space with a pleasantness, cheered smiles and tinkling voices, lovers with fingers entwined, friendships bound tightly without quarrel.

    She picks at the paint and grows saddened, memories which are not hers flood her completely and she chokes, drowning in them, they crash over her and she tumbles from her chair, grasping at the curtain as she falls, herself now crumpled on the floor with the window once more obscured, herself in here and behind it, the bulb swings serenely above her after having been set to motion by the rush of the curtain’s fabric as it was released from its peg. She lays and considers her position, watching as the bulb swings from its cord, a pendulum without pit or purpose, it shall never become nearer to her than it is now, and she aches as its travel slows and she stares, herself lost in its radiance, the floorboards feel cold and the air leaden, the slithy darkness permeates again as the swing of the bulb ceases, incandescent phosphorescence her only friend, and she lays still, unsure and unsound, the whine of unseen machines the only thing which keeps her from silence.