I wrote a thing; a Virginia Woolf inspired thing. It’s for uni, but I’m super happy with how it’s turned out and wanted to share it with some other lovely people. If it’s italicised, then it’s quoted from VW. And it’s semi-autobiographical, but not entirely.
Here’s my attempt at scribing life:
Several violent moments of being, always including a circle of the scene which they cut: and all surrounded by a vast space – that is a rough visual description of childhood – VW.
There is not much I remember, but I remember the violence.
The violence itself, and the moments accompanied by violence, and other moments
which only solidify in the presence of violence, as if that is the plaster
withdrawing the splinter. I remember the sparks of pain, and the curled fists.
I remember the blossoms of purple and grey bruises which adorned my arms and
thighs, later to be joined by slivers of silver and red, like traces of a map
leading nowhere. Surrounding the violence there is only vast space; a sort of visceral blackness, nihilistically disguising
any and all other moments of being.
Between the space and the sensation of violence, there are
of course images which threaten to throttle me. These images are not clear;
more of a reflection, a mirror; as if another being occupied the space of my
body and I was the observer looking down upon the scene, ashamed that I had too
little courage to intervene at the opportune moment. That looking-glass shame has lasted all my life. It renders me a bystander,
even when I am in the prime position to intervene. Much like children at the
zoo, I can do nothing but helplessly watch on as events unfold around me,
surrounded by a blanket of shame that smothers details into blurred
Apart from the bruises and the blood, I remember very little
of my own life. There is mostly only an impenetrable void of subconscious, and
the walls I’ve built to prevent memories escaping. This void mostly blurs from
existence my childhood, my adolescence, and the beginnings of adulthood. Only
particular pieces of the past remain, and for what reason my mind chose to
retain them, I cannot say.
I’ve been encouraged to write what I remember, to bind it in
a tome and send it out into the world into the open arms and eager eyes of
others wanting to pity another human being. I understand the need to make
oneself feel better by comparison with another lesser, weaker body; it’s at the
core of humanity to seek refuge in another’s undeniable despair. Realistically,
one can write anything at all and label it ‘memoir’. Because who would dare
question that these events did not happen at all, or if they did, then to
someone else? Does it matter if I write another’s story and claim it as my own?
Are some of these not implanted memories, embedded into my own mind only after
glancing at a photograph of the event? Perhaps these questions are ones of pure
irrelevance. This I know: whether my life happened or not, I make it real by putting it into words.
I have never been able to label emotions, or thoughts either
for that matter. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that all
emotion was left scattered across the linoleum along with my childhood, and the
shattering of feelings accompanied the shattering of my soul. I don’t know what
happiness feels like. I don’t know what it is to experience. The closest I have
ever gotten to such a thing is a sort of sad, lonely contentment. In this, I do not know how far I differ from other
people; just that I do.
The night that my feet bled, my brother didn’t come home,
and somebody was being attacked in the alley behind my house. I leaned out over
the back fence, and cocked my head like the dog that I am (I hope you can appreciate
my frail sense of self-deprecating humour in this wordplay – we’re in this
together now, you and I). I leaned a little too far, and tumbled into the
street – not, rather fortunately, the same street where the fighting was
occurring. I don’t know who was winning. Punches were being thrown from all
directions by the sound of things and there were several distinct flavours of
groaning which leads me to believe it was a tie. Regardless, I did tumble into
the street, and I started to run, because a caged animal will always run at the
scent of freedom, and I kept on running until I reached the beach, and only
then did I realise I was barefoot.
My feet bled into the sand, staining it red, and I watched
it bloom, and after I walked home, I found the family sewing kit and a bucket
and some ice, and suspended my foot in the cold until I couldn’t feel it
anymore. Then, just as I had done on countless jeans and shirts, I carefully
threaded a needle, and pretended the skin of my heel was just another item of
clothing, except clothes don’t bleed as you patch them up. The line of black
cotton turns into a crooked branch as it crosses towards my toes, because my
hands shook as I stitched the edges close.
When I think of my brother, I trace that scar. Not because
we found him, but because we didn’t. I said I don’t know feelings, but this was
one even I could name: it was a feeling
of hopeless sadness.
I next felt hopeless-sadness after one of these voids of
indeterminable length. I know I was thirteen or so at the time of the first
memory, but I cannot begin to guess the age I was when this second memory took
place. Fifteen, sixteen, twenty-two? I certainly know which age I was not, but
that’s all the indication I have of how this event is located in my life’s
If the first memory is defined by blood, then this second
memory is defined by breath.
Not my breath, as you may have first suspected; but our
breaths – the combined mechanics of our breathing. Hers were long and calming,
mine were short and gasping; and as we pressed our lips together, I was struck
by the music of life in all of its sensuous symphonies. Sound and sight seem to make equal parts of these first impressions: the
colour of her minted shirt is as sharp to me as the luscious scrapings of
tongues against teeth, and the cackle of cicadas outside the window serenading
our virginity from our bodies. Our intertwined forms are foregrounded in this
memory, and we roll over one another like playful children, but with deeply
adult thoughts suspended between each other. Her face is blurred in this
memory, but her taste, her sound; these retain the clarity of the curves a
ripple takes across the glossy surface of a lake.
And suddenly, she becomes still. The motion of two lovers
ceases, and the ebb and flow of movement is replaced by the haphazard lust of a
lone individual – of me. She says, I might be dying, before rolling out from
beneath me. She says, my heart wants to stay on earth here with you, but my
head can only see the infinite blackness of the background, and refuses to see
the stars that light the sky.
She rolls away from me completely then, and a sense of horror held me powerless as
she stepped towards the window, threw the curtains back, and gracefully stepped
from the house to the ground, where her crumpled body lay until morning, because
she looked so beautiful lying there at the intersection of grass and brick
path, and I couldn’t bear the burden of moving her.
The night my lover died, my breaths changed, and were never
quite the same again. Before, they billowed out of my lungs through my
oesophagus and reached freedom at the open orifice of my mouth, tickling the
enamel of my teeth before rushing into the world. But now, my breaths remained
stuck. They refused to exit my body and blossom out into the universe. They
remained short, sharp, and shallow, the same kind of breaths that marked our
night together, and they refused to dissipate, just like this memory, and my
feelings towards her.
After that, the void recedes, and is slowly replaced by
events in my life, but my individual memories remain blurred like smudges
across a polaroid, with exceptional moments such as the pair I have written
about here at length embedded in a kind
of nondescript cotton wool. The moments gain vividness only as I scribe
them into existence. I don’t know if these memories are true or false; if they
happened, or are a fantasy I constructed for myself for comfort. But this I
know, even if this is the only truth in my life, then this can be the truth I
live by: I make it real by putting it