i have been thinking about maps and stars and constellations, can you tell?
i have been thinking about landscapes, how they have invisible ties to the unseen things that happen inside human beings. the sky is the best movie we will ever see, watch it melt into the distant sea. stare at it until you forget which way is up and time has smothered you away from physics. when that happens, remember to spit — spit to know where the centre of the Earth might be hiding. then dig or die. have you ever wondered what to look for when you get out?
set sail, be blown away. i want to walk aimlessly again, but there’s so much i have to learn. from the start. again. i mean, how do you use your body as a compass without getting lost in the dark, this dark, this overwhelming dark? tell me, how do i make the stars speak when the waves crashing against the roaring air keeps me away from me? lullabies fit for Gorgons, this migraine hasn’t left me since the day i dented my head against this awful wall. i can’t do it.
i don’t know enough about maps and stars and constellations, do not hire me as your navigator. i might lead you straight into sleeplessness.
in dreams, men who shape-shift into monsters and back chase me through large buildings riddled with clues. where will this letter lead me to? what hidden doors lurk in between those shifting corners? which forgotten memories are waiting to eat me alive, to kill me for the third time tonight? a warning from a past self: there is more running up ahead.
someone far away starts singing in tangled syllables. nobody here speaks in the language they were born into. messages bleed through the winds but they rarely make it through. stairs melt upwards into the ceiling, mocking old bedrooms and the screams i hid in them. miniature bicycles appear at arm’s length when pyramids happen to my limbs.
not fast enough.
nurses catch and shepherd me in and out of cold rooms where they explain how broken i am, how my brain doesn’t tick the same way as others, how my internal clock is warped beyond any hope for obedience. i am dragged from hospital white walls through murky shit-stained cages, right into the arms of ghosts who spend eternities rebuilding houses.
the people i know flicker on and off like indecisive electricity. they too are shape-shifters. they too require a chase and a run and conversations about where the ground goes when your world has been shaken up.
kidnapped and nabbed, run. taken away and brought back, trapped. none of this happens with permission but they happen without surprise. i become all of my selves, squirming under leather belts with broken cloth-hangers digging into my back. having footsteps surgically removed from my feet, all that blood.
when awake i explore loss by hoarding. everything and anything of even remote interest, never mind if they’re relevant or not. never mind if they were bought, found or not. if they remind me of the warmth you find in the palms of someone you trust, i must have them. like chasing after the dead.
then there are the books. with the books, i think:
– this might help
– this will help
– this looks like it would have helped years ago, but it might still help now or sometime soon
– i need this
– i might never read this, but —
with the books, i think what i am really doing is flailing around in the dark while choking on things i have said and done that did absolutely nothing. maybe, drowning in how hard it was to let these things out only for the pain to drip right back in and wash me over in greys and greys and deeper greys. the realisation that nothing was heard or heeded and yet, all that bleeding.
i’m sure i can make a raft or two out of all these books, but we’re not talking about things that float here.
maybe i am building mountains — forests and deserts i know i will never see. the books turn into piles outlining new landscapes. stacks, stacked underneath new bags and old sweaters. shapes accumulating intricate details — roads and pavements, tiny places to walk, tiny places to be. for who, for what but the dust. i forget how many of the books i haven’t read. when i step out to look for more, i forget what titles i already have.
i think, i’m keeping my cage crowded so my life feels busy. on the side, i collect the empty spaces from my drawings, knowing that all this is just another language for something i’m too upset to learn.
Dhiyanah Hassan doesn’t know how to behave and drops her vital organs on the floor every December.