It was the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last time that I fell in love with freedom.
I like freedom. I like the taste of freedom as it sits in a cold ball, frozen and perched on an ice-cream cone. It teeters off the edge of the wafer, but I manage to get in five surreptitious licks before mom catches me for buying ice-cream in the first place, and worst off, dripping it all over the floor.
Sometimes I feel freedom whip through my hair like sea-salt. It musses up strands with nimble fingers and teases out tangles after. My hair is usually flat, but when freedom cards through it, my hair expands, puffing up to its true volume. I wish it could stay like that forever, even though it’s not very neat and I don’t look presentable after freedom leaves its mark on my head, in the form of a tornado-ing, flapping curtain of hair streaming behind me.
Freedom is a creature that slips as stealthily as a shadow in the night; it cannot be seen against black satin sky and creeps into my bedroom when it wants to, without my knowledge. The next morning, freedom is always there, tickling my shoulders with mocking laughter and informing me of the latest secrets I’d spilt while sleep-talking – I meant to tell freedom to fuck off, but what came out was a Freudian slip: I said fuck me, all the while staring at freedom’s happy face and grinning eyes and loving the way it slid into my room in the deepest corners of the night, watching over me as I slept.
I love freedom. I love freedom as it sings me to me Siren songs of mermaids at sea, of little black boys swinging lunch-pails to school, of girls like me who are blessed, blessed with money and boobs that fill a bra and blonde hair that freedom likes to play with.
I love freedom and that is why my hair isn’t the only thing I let freedom play with; I let freedom play with myself. My being. Every fiber of my body. Me. I become freedom’s plaything, and as I run to the park – without screams of ‘watch out, don’t come back too late’ like the other kids’ moms warn – and hoist myself up on the swings and shriek a happy tune like freedom taught me and bare myself to the world, like freedom taught me, with my skirt hiked up and blouse undone and hair untied, I feel like the happiest girl in the world.
Don’t they say to live life with the person who makes you happiest? This is my attempt at personifying an exhilarating, wondrous thing called freedom.
I wrote this on a whim (definitely, as seen from the quality of this…), and it’s unedited (who am I kidding, most of the content on this blog is raw as hell), but I’m not going to be self-conscious about it. 🙂
I pick up the phone one day, when my brain is floating in a clear glass jar, separate from my body. My mind isn’t present in my body, and it’s just my limp arm moving forward automatically to pick up the phone when it rings.
“Hello?” My mouth moves on its own, forming the simple syllabelle-d word without much energy, and my caller catches out on my enthusiasm—or lack of it—immediately.
“Hey! What’s up?”
Nothing, I want to reply, that’s the problem. I hold my cell phone away from its previous spot on my cheek, checking caller ID. It’s someone who I suspect will natter off for a long time, perhaps even babbling away ‘til I fall asleep, so I move my tired body to an armchair in the living room, and fold myself into it.
From the corner of my eye, I see my brain, floating in the jar, inch slightly towards the direction of the armchair. My brain is a soggy, dirtied shade of black and seems like it is deflating by the second.
I am incapable of thinking. I am sick of solving problems, and I guess my brain was sick of it too—hence, it became a big problem.
Casting my eyes away, I try to re-focus on my caller’s voice.
“…I know there’s something wrong.”
My caller responds with a sigh that manages to feel like fingers dancing in a comfortable manner atop my shoulders. I let out a sigh of my own, and my caller instantly starts talking again at the sound of ‘life’ from my end of the call,
“You can tell me, you know!”
The fingers of my free hand fly to my temples, and they start to knead out the knots—mental and physical knots—out of my forehead.
“I bet you’re massaging your head now, or whatever weird thing it is that you do”, my caller says, smugness inching into his voice. I roll my eyes.
“Now you’re rolling your eyes.”
“Yeah”, I utter, my first real word of the phone-call, “I’m rolling my eyes at your question.”
I look away from the lint on my armchair for a second, and catch a glimpse of gray.
Gray. My bloody brain, sitting in a bloody jar, has lightened—it’s turned into a bloody shade of gray.
It bloody changed colour.
“T—the question.” I somehow manage to get my voice back from my stunned state.
“Oh, you mean What’s Wrong? Of course I know that you hate telling people what’s wrong…but you never talk about anything that should be talking about, so…”
“What do you mean?” I feel heat rush to my cheeks. “I’m not entitled to tell you my problems—we aren’t even close, goddamnnit. I don’t even know why you called.”
As an afterthought, because I’m still in painful shock from the fact that my brain turned gray—and also the fact that it’s floating in a fucking glass jar that magically appeared in my living room—I spit out, “You can hang up.”
My caller allows me to simmer in exactly one and a half seconds of silent fury, before cutting in the stew of my rage with a voice as smooth and cool as a curl of butter. “You can, you know. Open up. Right here and right now. It’s okay.”
And because I’ve been a selfish, self-centred brat all this time who just wanted to hear the words It’s okay all this time, I let the dam break.
It’s okay to let it out,
A wall, carefully constructed with crawling lattices and stones stacked up nicely, starts to crumble.
It’s okay to cry, I promise,
The first stone falls, and hits the ground on the other side of the wall. More follow.
It’s okay, really.
Soon, more stones fall, creating a large gap in the remaining wall of stone. The lattices have been torn apart by some mysterious force that makes my insides feel all warm.
It’s okay to be human, and act like one, too.
Sunlight filters through the gap, and tears slip down my face. They are wet and warm and streak down my cheeks smoothly, like pearls in oil.
“I—I would love that. To tell you more. Thank you.”
And my caller responds with, “You’re welcome.”
He speaks again, and it seems like what he says is an afterthought, “You’re always welcome. You know that.”
I end the call with a smile on my face, dimples finally finding their place on my face once again, crinkles lining my eyes like they used to. My hands are trembling, my toes vibrate—I feel like a new person, with every skin-pore and fibre of my being filled with joy.
But something’s still missing.
I close my eyes, and clasp my hands together in front of me. I’m sitting up straight in the armchair, because there’s no longer the need to fold my body into its warm fabric—I’m full of warmth.
THUNK. My skull rings with a new weight, an additional pressure that is felt all the way to my torso, wrapping around my abdomen, ribboning down my legs and setting each bone in my body into place.
“Welcome back, brain.” I give my head a little pat, hoping my brain will appreciate the congratulatory gesture I’m offering it. It’s been a long journey, a rough voyage for my dear brain, and you betcha, I’m gonna appreciate its presence.
Now that I’m capable of thinking again, who knows what I’ll think of—the possibilities are endless, and I’m able to do anything, once my mind is set—settled right back down in my body—and once I set my mind to it.
I know it.
alternate title: Voyage
Written in response to this prompt, and written to
“Stop the clock” he says softly, lifting a finger to touch the inside of my wrist, “we have time.”
I jerk away from his hold, because we have none. We have none, and we will not have any time left—every grain of sand in our hourglass has trickled down to the lower-half of the container, and I will not taste his smile against mine ever again.
“Stop the clock”, she says, teary-eyed, wrists wrung and mascara running, “I swear to God—no, this can’t be, we had all the time in the world—stop it, stop it!” It comes out as a plea. I flinch at the harsh desperation seeping into her tone; she grabs the only thing by her side—a blue umbrella, with a nicely-carved wooden handle—and lunges at me, the thing that used to be at her side. I step away, just in time, and as the time ticks away, I think of how my collar will be clean from her powdery foundation. Not sure if that’s the best thing for me, though.
“Stop the clock”, he lifts up the comforter; it cocoons our bodies, fully-clothed, clothes rumpled. With quick flicks of his wrists and jerky movements from his legs, we are untangled. Our limbs are no longer sharing warmth, and his heart—I can no longer feel it expound whatever feeling we shared, against my chest. This time it is not me who accepts that time’s run out, someone else does it for me.
I smile as I go, shaking out my hair and thinking of how I’ll have to get a proper comb now that time’s run out, and his fingers won’t be there to card through my tresses.
“Stop the clock”, he crushes me against a wall, dry lips moving up my neck to my jaw and my face. There’s a knife in my hand, blade glinting eerily but pleasantly in the dark of night; he knows what I know. He knows that time is up on us, and time is up for him, too. I let his hunger consume me for a split second, imagining that the prickly five o’clock shadow is the mane of a lion, and his coarse lips are the dry tongue of an animal needing prey. Desperately. He makes a sound, it unfurls from the back of his throat and snakes into my bloodstream, merging with cells inside of me, becoming part of me.
It’s too bad that I have to kill him. Too bad for me, not for him—I can survive, time and time again, without him. So I don’t hesitate to thrust the knife in him, a place on his chest where we had marked out with several lipsticked kisses the night before—“It’s a team decision”, I say brightly, swiping blood from the blade off with the hem of his shirt.
He groans. Manages to steal a final kiss from my lips. Dies, a man in the alley.
“Stop the clock”, she says, and stops arranging the flowers for one second to look at me. One second was all she needed, and I rob another two seconds from my clock, in order to run my hands through her blonde hair one more time. It’s as soft as the silky shirts my mom used to buy me, and I know my fingers will remember her, if not my heart. “Hey, good-bye”, she says, detaching herself from my hold.
She goes back to arranging flowers, like nothing ever happened.
“Stop the clock”, he says, and hands a package to me. I rip it open now, in front of him, because there is no time to waste later on. There will be no extra time, even though I want it—the clock rules all. It’s a Polaroid camera. He’s grinning sheepishly, rubbing a hand on the nape of his neck, “Maybe you could start taking pictures of them. Recording the faces.”
Instead of turning on my heel and leaving, I just stare at the photo-taking device in my hands. He’d put film in it; black and white film. I have a million questions, how did he know being the one I should ask, but instead I blurt out,
“Why black and white?”
He’s already twenty steps in front of me, but he turns around and yells, “Because they’re the only colours you need.”
“Stop the clock”, I say. I’ve been playing around for too long; dripping saturated yellows and cyans all over the place, messing around with splotches of white and black on my painter’s overalls, getting acrylics onto canvases I shouldn’t be touching. Littering the rainbow on my lips, tattooing red all over my body.
I strip, and stand in front of a mirror. For the first time on the clock, I stare at myself. Take in the red that spills across my right hipbone, touch the red lining the lines of my lips, try to scrub off the slashes of red hemming my ears and the hollow of my neck.
Something is wrong. I shouldn’t be getting this much time to myself.
I close my eyes, and soon enough, I’m whisked off, naked and in another hotel room. Someone is in the shower, and there’s red all over my thighs and ribboning down my legs.
I sigh. Should’ve known that the clock wouldn’t listen to me, either. No matter how much I wanted time to stop.
“Stop the clock”, he says, and slings an arm across my shoulder. Time isn’t even up yet. “What’s your name? I wanna know before you…before you go.”
Startled, I pull back from the warmth of his arm. No-one’s ever asked me that before.
Before I tell him my name, I make sure to whisper an apology. “Sorry, I can’t stop myself.”
“My name is Titus.”
note: titus means Time
alternative title: I can’t stop myself.