Updated: Mar 8
I could think of no other way to begin this than at the end, where it all started. Huddled up beneath an open grave, littered with mighty beams of light. Each star glistened in symphony, a quiet storm. The type of wonder you never want to lose. You save the image in your mind, but it fades. And you're left with a skeleton of a memory. The essence of who you were before. But it gets better, as time passes. We’re not meant to last in one moment.
I crawled out of bed about a quarter to nine and listened for his voice. It’s clearer first thing in the morning, before reality sets in.
This morning he said, “Mama, what type of snow do you like?”
I thought for a moment, “Blue.”
“Blue?”, he said.
“Blue”, I said. Before he could respond, the phone rang. I looked at the call and declined to answer. Instead, I gathered my limbs and headed for the door. I was late for work and I didn’t need to give them a reason to let me go.
I stopped by the kitchen to grab a cup of chamomile tea before heading to the living room for my first meeting. After checking my emails, I realized that I had already missed it. I slid off the mocha couch and crumpled to the floor for dramatic effect. The Clouds are always watching but I doubt they care. I turned on the tv for a bit of background noise. A crimson ribbon flashed across the screen, with a message:
Citizens of Napstar,
Thank you for your continued cooperation. We are dedicated to keeping you safe. With your help, we can stop the violence. Soon we will reunite stronger than before.
I turned off the tv and took my first gulp up tea. It went down lukewarm and muddled with disappointment. A familiar taste I could not seem to shake.
I woke up to a void of silence, an unwelcome acquaintance. My watch read a quarter to twelve. I knew I needed to get back to work, but something told me otherwise. A gentle tug was all I needed to tuck my laptop away and float off into the distance.
Perhaps a brief stroll would get my mind on track. I tossed on my navy jogging shorts, laced up my Vans, and headed for the basement.
As I descended into the darkness, I ran my hands against the oak rails. At the bottom of the steps, I splashed into an unknown substance. It felt like a mixture of oil and water. I flicked the light on and to my surprise, the ground was dry. No mystery beneath my feet just cracked concrete.
Before my anxious thoughts could surge, I sat down and began to stretch. The frosty concrete felt like fresh lemonade on a luminous summer day. Although my knees would hate me later, I went straight for “the pigeon”. Instant gratification was worth the chalky knees.
After a few minutes, I stood up and found myself fixated on the backdoor. It was boarded up from top to bottom, with dusty grey plywood. Just as I headed towards my next distraction, my phone echoed from the living room. I took the stairs three at a time, arriving just before the phone went to voicemail.
“Zyla! How are you?”
“Good, how are you?”
“Good. Good… I’ve been…I’ve been wanting to talk to you since the Uprising. I wasn’t sure if you were still in the military.”
“No. I’m not.”
“Oh, okay. I thought you might have IRR or something.”
“No, I got out a few years ago.”
“How’s uh Cairo? He’s, 6?
“Right. How is he?
“Well, I’m glad you’re out. I was worried. I thought I wouldn’t be able to reach you… I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“I’ve made some changes to my beliefs. I’m still a Christian but I don’t believe in holidays. They’re not of God.”
“There’s so many lies out there, so many things 'they' aren’t saying. My advice is, don’t take everything at face value. You’ve got to focus on your relationship with God, nothing else can save you. I’ve been readin-”
I was listening, for the sake of listening. But my thoughts derailed the moment her “advice” began. How could someone disappear for years at a time, yet suddenly feel the need to give advice? It baffled me.
“Really interesting stuff. Did you know that-”
“Sorry, I’ve gotta go. I have work in the morning.”
“Oh, no problem. I’m just glad I got to hear your voice. But uh, you know you can always text or call, right?”
“Well, I love you.”
“It was good speaking to you, Mom. Thanks for calling.”
The space between my temples hummed emphatically. I ventured into the kitchen to grab my stale cup of tea. If I can revive you. I can revive me.
My feet dragged behind me as I collapsed on the bed; waiting for my turn to sleep with the morning sun. I pulled a pillow over my face and squeezed, daring the walls to collapse. I wanted to feel the erosion from the inside out. But nothing seemed to tame my boundless thoughts. I tossed the pillow to the side, like a pathetic ragdoll.
My 800 square foot oasis suddenly felt closed-in. The bulbs in my apartment transitioned from cauliflower beige to royal blue. The Clouds manipulated the lights to aid sleep and alter the atmosphere. I’m not sure if either worked, but I loved the way certain shades deepened my complexion. Like blue, I could swim across the walls all night in my murky armor. I never needed a reason to drift off into space, only a destination far from here. It wouldn’t be long before I found a substitution.
A message appeared across the upper corner of my bedroom wall:
Citizens of Napstar,
Please remember to avoid all windows and doors during Restoration. Keep the good light in.
Fuck the good light! The Clouds don’t know it yet, but I’m on my way out. I’ve been planning for months now and the time has finally come. I couldn’t write it down or vocalize my desires; it would be too dangerous. After a slew of bad decisions, I’ve learned to lay low.
What lies behind this home could be one of two things: the answer to my dreams or the spark to my demise. It’s been six months since I’ve seen Cairo. Six months since I breathed cageless air. Six months since the explosion. Tonight, I walk away from everything I've known, into uncertainty. But I’m not afraid.