Come; let me take you to a place before it no longer exists.
Some of us are soul-bound to the night. We wake up the same hours as everyone else. We work the same hours as everyone else. And too often, we sleep – though a part of us begs us not to – at the same all-too-early hour as everyone else. At first, we fight it, and in our youth our nights are sacred. The authority and order (sometimes shackles) imposed by the world around us is lifted, temporarily, and the night speaks to us. In the whisper of the wind. Or its howl. Night air is chilled, but not malicious, and our lungs breathe, and create, the very vapor of the sky. And if you’re lucky enough to live by the sea, as I’ve learned, you know those precious hours where the ocean becomes as unknowable as the spaces in between stars. You see the world as it ought to be, or perhaps as it truly is: borderless, nameless, a fold and continuum where there’s no difference where the water meets the sky, or where starlight competes with streetlight. Every ocean is a star, every star, an ocean. By morning, the world is yours. The stars, the ocean, the whole of the night is reflected in your eyes, and through your eyes the night sees that brighter world for the first time.
But there comes a day – never marked on a calendar, never mourned in a journal – that we stop looking up, and we stop staying up. Maybe it’s attrition, or entropy. Maybe it’s the shackles, the prisons we put ourselves in. I don’t know – and may I never know – but I’ve watched daily as the light in others has died, and I’ve seen the empty spaces – the space in between stars – consume hearts, consume lives. Our worlds never truly end in a bang, but in a whimper. We become Hollow Men.
I’ve felt those spaces – I think most of us have – sometimes growing, sometimes receding. Waxing, waning. Most days, a crescent. On the worst days, a gibbous.
Today was such a day.
A friend of mine once told me that the body travels much faster than the soul. He’s an immigrant, though not by choice – an enemy of the revolution, an artist in exile. He spoke of a longing that he couldn’t define, a separation, a disconnect, an odyssey. I didn’t ask him then, but I wondered where his soul was, in that hour, on that night (we always met at night). Was his soul catching up to him? Was it walking? Was it swimming? Flying? On a bicycle? Perhaps more important, did it know the way?
Or what if it refused to travel? Like when you force yourself awake, though your heart is still in dreams, what if the soul simply stayed put?
Or what if it stayed with someone else?
Today I felt that gibbous space, perhaps where my soul had stayed, and I tried to fill it with forgetting. But forgetting doesn’t fill the space between stars. So I tried to fill it with silence, but silence doesn’t fill the space between stars. So I tried to sleep away the emptiness, but sleep – the silent kind of forgetting – would not come, and would not fill the space between stars.
There was nothing to do but to tire myself. I swept my floor. I cleaned my dishes and clothes. Last, I took out the trash, to the garbage can outside. And outside, there was something different. I looked on into the night, and I felt something, in the sea, in the stars, in the wind, in myself. Tired, now, I wondered – should I walk to the sea, or should I simply go sleep?
Tonight, I learned: you must never sleep when your heart wants to tell you something.
There’s a small crag, out toward the peninsula, and from the looks of it there hasn’t been anything there in ages. Its combination of rock and sea are like any in this area – barren, ancient, violent, isolated – but yet, in that spot, there’s something special. Maybe it was an illusion, my tired mind playing tricks and telling lies, but there, on the edge of desert and sea, in that fold of water and sky, I could see the light in the space between stars. I could see all the worlds laid out before us – those that never were, those that are yet to be, those we are yet to create. I could see you. I could see myself. I could see everything. I could feel that space inside me evaporate, replaced only by brightness. All I had to do was look up, and stay up.
And when I came back home, I could still see these things, and I could still feel the brightness. I hear the wind in both its whispers and its howls. And the darkness, just beyond my artificial lights, trickles through my windows and brings my lungs the very vapor of the sky. Tonight I breathe. Tonight I remember. Tonight I speak.
But there are plans for my hallowed place, and they have shovels, and bricks, and mortar. And every morning, their shovels dig a little deeper. Soon, they will build their walls, forcing a border on the borderless, authority and order (some might say, shackles) on the orderless. They will place a fence between the ocean and the sky. And to keep the neighborhood safe, they will ensure that streetlight always trumps the starlight. That crag will whimper, will be forgotten, will fall silent. And one day, no one will look up from that sacred shore again.
this is where I want to take you,
before it doesn’t exist.