This Isn’t Everything You Are

It is funny how loss can blindside you. Most days I think I’m fine. I think I’m over it. I tell myself I don’t care that you are gone from my life. And then something will happen and the whole illusion comes tumbling down.

The most recent instance was when I was flicking through the first book. Most of it doesn’t make sense to anyone but you and I. The vast majority of it is nothing but messages between us, late night ramblings on MSN about everything and nothing.

I shouldn’t keep it really. I should burn the whole fucking thing and be done with it. But I tell myself that it is a record of that time, it reflects who I was then and how I have grown and so I keep it and occasionally allow myself to torture myself with it. I hate how pathetic I was. A girl so in love with the wrong world.

I found a message where you asked me if I thought we’d be friends forever.

I replied that we’d been through so much, survived so much turmoil (mostly instigated by me and my inability to deal with my feelings for you). We’d always found a way to move past it, to keep walking the path, I thought there was nothing the world could throw at us that we would not overcome.

Until it did.

As is the way of these things, the final straw was actually a rather minor matter. It could have easily have been overcome if either of us had been so inclined. But I think that I had reached the very end of my tether and you were so concerned with protecting your carefully constructed world that neither of us had the will to carry on.

So we walked away.

I had always said you were my heroin and so it proved in those first few days of cold turkey. Perhaps in my mind I thought that the silence wouldn’t last, that one of us would crack and make contact. That had always been that way of it before. I was determined that it wouldn’t be me. Not this time. You had overstepped the mark by miles and cut me deeper than I thought possible. I knew I’d get through it, but I sure as hell wouldn’t be the one to come crawling back.

And then weeks passed and still the silence continued. By then I had started to get perspective. Just like an addict I looked at how I was when I was in contact with you and I realised that I didn’t really like that person. I didn’t want to be that girl. I needed to get clean. You might have been the fire that set my soul alight but the blaze had grown out of control and burnt my whole fucking life down to the ground. Before that I had thought I needed you in my life.

Then came the realisation that I needed you like a fish needs a bicycle.

You needed me because I fed your ego. And while you were busy chasing bright lights and cheap thrills, you knew that I would be a safe place to confess your sins. You lived your adventures and revelled in telling me of your conquests. You said that you needed my wisdom. I think you that you wanted someone who would listen to your boasting and bragging and lap it up. I was the fool that couldn’t get enough.

That is until we had our own adventure. A journey that started by the storm torn seas of San Francisco, through the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, to the neon signs of the City of Sin and back again. Months later I finished my rendering of that story and that was the thing that finally killed our friendship.

I had tried to portray our experiences as accurately as possible. You accused me of trying to destroy your life. Of course, you had gone back to your ex. Of course you had. Your same old safe bet. And you thought I was so full of desire and longing for you that I would tear your world apart to make you mine. For once in our friendship I had all the control and that scared the life out of you. Like a cornered animal, you lashed out. You didn’t need to do that. All you had to say was,

‘Please Eden, I love your book, but keep it for us. No-one else.’

And I would have done that. I would have done that in a heartbeat. I never need it to be shared with the world. I just wanted a memory of you, of our adventure. For us.

For myself.

But to accuse me to being this vicious, manipulative bitch. In that moment you utterly shattered my heart. You proved to me that you didn’t know me at all. You didn’t understand a single atom of my soul. And just like that bit in Labyrinth where Sarah realises that everything is junk and the walls start crumbling around her, I realised that this version of you that I had created was nothing but a simulation.

You weren’t this strong, wise, creative soul. You were just another scared boy who would fight tooth and nail to protect this bourgois fantasy you’d woven for yourself.

You didn’t care about Truth.

My book of our adventures was nothing but a mirror and when you saw it held up to your life you hated the reflection. You blamed me. You wounded me. I was so tired of battling your ego that I decided to withdraw.

I knew it would hurt me, I knew it meant leaving my book and everything I worked for behind. But I knew that if it meant I was free of you it was worth it. I needed to break the power you had over me.

And let me make it perfectly clear…

You have no power over me.

I may say that I miss you. I may say I wish to walk and talk and dream with you. But the ‘you’ that I want to do that with doesn’t exist. He never did. He was a figment of my imagination that was built on the fragments of fleeting memories. I took a real person – you- and rebuilt him into something that was worth my time and energy and love. You are not him and he is not you. You are a knave and he is a knight.

I believed your lies. Sometimes I got so lost in the illusion that I forgot reality. Blinded by deceit, I chose the door that led to certain death.

Now I’m reborn and my spirit is free. I know who you are and I am remembering everything I am.

This is a new beginning.

2 + 2 = 5

Desire was still searing through me from the feel of Seth pushing against me as we stood outside in the Nevada sunshine watching the huge fountains of the Bellagio firing turrets of water into the sky. 

What if I wrote a symphony and dedicated it to you?” Seth said.

“Oh my God, can you stop?” I laughed, riding the thrill of that delicious thought. “By all means write a symphony, that would be incredible, but dedicate it to me as your friend. I’d believe that.”

Seth‘s eyes stayed fixed on the jets of spray dancing in time to the music. “I’ve always wanted to write a symphony.”

“There’s nothing stopping you.”

“I guess,” he said as we began walking again.

At New York, New York someone had rigged the dummy of a man in an orange jumpsuit onto the bridge. Hanging from his neck, it looked like a suicide. The Halloween antics were already beginning. In the Irish pub, a middle aged peroxide blonde of wrestler proportions directed us to an outside table. She took our order of coffee for two, coupled with a Cafferys for Seth and a Guinness for me and left us with the menus.

While we were browsing the list of food, a bride and groom hopped up onto the wall surrounding the tables and posed for a photo. They looked so happy and carefree and part of me couldnt help thinking that it could have been Seth and I sat up there if I had made different choices with my life.

Hey, you cant sit there. The waitress bellowed at them placing a cafetiere before us.

Weve just got married, lady. We only want a quick photo, the groom shouted back at her.

Be sure it is quick or youll get me fired, she said, turning to us and rolling her eyes. Ready to order?

Seth chose a full Irish breakfast and I went for a bacon soda bread sandwich. She nodded her head, made a note on her pad and went to shoo the newly-weds from their perch.

I took a sip of my Guinness and added some milk to my coffee. Have you read Blind Faith by Ben Elton? I asked Seth.

Nope, whats it about?

It’s kind of a modern day 1984. Its set a hundred years in the future when we are lives are dictated by social networking sites. Everyone is expected to upload every detail of their lives as videos to the social network and if they dont they are considered subversive and dangerous. So instead of Big Brother watching us, we have our friends and peers taking on that role instead. Ben Elton clearly doesnt like Facebook.

I suppose that is a natural reaction to new technology he said. Theres always someone who can see the bad side.

Yes and its not that Im unsympathetic to those views but I think the advantages far outweigh the risks. If a social revolution comes I think those sort of sites will be very instrumental in affecting the change.

Seth lifted his cup and blew the steam from the coffee before taking a mouthful. Really? How so?

In the new Dan Brown it says how easy dissemination of ideas is in this day and age. If you had a message to spread it would be so easy to reach out to the four corners of the earth now if you wanted, probably within twenty four hours. Imagine how far the Celestine thing could have gone if that technology was a common back then. Its like what Marx was saying about Communism. I think we are getting very close to the conditions being right for that step now, in our lifetimes. And I definitely think that we should consider using Facebook when promoting the book, give away the first chapter free or something to generate interest. The publishers of the Mortal Instruments series did, only I couldnt read it because it was for US residents only.

Its definitely worth considering, Seth said as the waitress appeared holding two plates of food. She placed them before us, fetched a wire basket containing bottles of various sauces and then left us to eat.

I watched Seth pour streaks of ketchup over his baked beans with a look of mild horror on my face.

What? he smiled, catching the look.

I shook my head. Ketchup and beans, its plain wrong.

You dont know what youre missing, he laughed.

Weirdo. I muttered taking a bite of my sandwich.

Strangelove

Within a mile the town had given way to scattered houses and then nothing but desert. The reservoir that we had seen on the drive down the night before was on the very outskirts of civilisation. It seemed a complete contradiction to find this sprawling expanse of water marking the boundary to the driest place on earth. The terrain was beautiful, we could have easily been driving along the highlands of Scotland beside a loch if it wasn’t for the delicious warmth that was beginning to creep through the morning. And of course all the American power cables. It seemed that no matter how desolate the landscape, how far away civilization seemed, there was always electricity close to hand. The American infrastructure was quite amazing.

We passed a motel on the shore of Lake Isabella and I was pleased that we hadn’t stayed there, even though it and the setting was far more picturesque. Our night in the Isabella motel had been one of the highlights of the trip so far and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Something about it seemed far more Seth and I- waking up and seeing people and mountains and cars and an amazing sunrise- it was though by seeing the world as it really was, it became even more beautiful.

Seth and I didn’t talk much, driving along listening to the greatest hits. Occasionally we would point out something we thought the other hadn’t noticed but mostly we just sat there and enjoyed the moment, one of us singing along to the tunes as the mood took.

“It’s a straight road for ages, mind if I write my diary for a bit?” I asked. “I’m falling behind. Getting too distracted.”

“Go right ahead,” he smiled.

I pulled the black notebook out of my bag with its skull and crossbones pattern and read back over the last thing I had written- Tuesday night’s events. I let out a little sigh, this meant that I was going to have to write about Wednesday and it felt awkward to do so with him beside me.

Its your own fault, Eden, if you had chosen to do something constructive that day instead of lying under the covers, crying and listening to music then you wouldn’t be in this situation now.

There was nothing for it but to start writing and I found that once I did, the words flowed easily. But the energy between us was weird. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was sending it out- something I was making a conscious effort to avoid- or whether Seth could sense what I was writing about; either way there was tension that ebbed and flowed in the air. I tried to ignore it but eventually it became so distracting that I decided to take a break.

“Watcha writing about?” Seth voice was full of curiosity.

“Oh…um…Wednesday.” I said. I hadn’t wanted him to ask in case he thought that I was still upset by the whole thing. “I’ve been trying to keep a day behind but I wrote nothing yesterday so I’m a bit off-schedule. Really need to catch up.”

Out of nerves, I was fiddling with the pages of the diary as I was talking and idly, I glanced down at the page I had stopped on. A word stood out on the page.

“Oh, odd” I said shutting the book and putting it on my bag.

“What’s up?” Seth looked over.

“Nothing, I just happened to open on a page that I had written the title of a song that has just played. Was random that’s all.”

“Which one?” He asked, leaning forward in his seat.

“Strangelove.” I said avoiding his gaze and looking out the side window instead.

“What else is written with it?”

“Good question”.

I didn’t actually know, I had closed the book too quickly to see. Reaching for the diary I knew that there was no way I was going to get away with reading it without telling him what it said. I prayed I wasn’t gushing about him too much and took a deep breath. Its ok, he’s read your diary entries before, he knows what to expect. I thumbed through to the right place and read the whole page first myself, just to check how bad it was. I blushed.

“Well this is one of my typically, incoherent diary entries. Mostly I use this thing like a notebook, ramblings or songs that mean something. I hardly ever write down why though, so often I have a bunch of disjointed information. This page is mostly that type of thing.”

Seth was looking at me like he was expecting me to continue. I sighed, rolled my eyes and began to read.

“Ok, the seventeenth September, The Stars- This Charming Man, Zero 7- Destiny, Al Green- Look What You Have Done For Me, Beyonce- De-ja Vu, Depeche Mode- Strangelove. Can I just say I have no idea why that particular mix? They’re not even songs that I associate with…well… anyway… the next bit says that I dreamt of riding a camel from Dad’s house to Weir cottage three nights earlier- which actually was quite a random dream- and the last bit is me musing about Orpheus and Eurydice and noting that Clair de Lune by Debussy came on shuffle as I was doing that.”

Seth seemed puzzled as though he had missed some connection that he should be aware of and gave me a curious look.

“Its a Twilight thing” I shrugged “The first time Bella gets in Edward’s car it is playing and she names it. He is surprised that they like the same music.”

“Hmm, interesting” he said with a smile. “So you dreamt about Weir cottage?”

“Yeah, can’t get that little place out of my head at the moment. That was one of those strange dreams when you know you are dreaming but it feels real, I could feel the camel rocking and everything.” I said watching the world pass by outside. The whole incident had got me thinking, maybe it wasn’t coincidence that I stopped on that page. I debated internally whether to say anything and then blurted “Do you know the story of Orpheus and Eurydice?”

“I don’t think so. Tell me.”

“Orpheus was a musician, he was either part god or exceptionally talented, Im not sure which. Apollo taught him to play the lyre and his wife was Eurydice. She got taken to the underworld for some reason, either Hades, God of the underworld kidnapped her or she was bitten by a snake. It depends on which version you believe. Basically Orpheus loved her so much that he decided to descend into the afterlife to find her, so he crossed the Styx and walked through hell and his music charmed Hades and Persephone so much that they agreed to her release. The only condition that they made was that Orpheus would not look at her until they were back in the land of the living. So together they walk to freedom, her following him and they get all the way to the exit and he crosses over the threshold and looks back. With that she disappears back into the shadowy depths.”

“And what did you write about it in your diary entry?”

“I was thinking that if he had trusted more in her love for him and not had to reassure himself that she was really following then they would have got away with it.”

“You think that he was uncertain about his love for her?”

“No about her love for him. I don’t think he believed she loved him as much as he did her and that is why he turned around.”

“Interesting perspective.”

“Its so weird, that poem under the subway back home all about Eurydice. It really did feel like a universal message last time I walked past it.”

Seth was silent and I wondered what he was thinking. As the sun crept higher the sky turned the same clear blue as his eyes; the land outside of the jeep had become barren and sandy, only a scattering of scrubby bushes clung to life. Mountains spanned the horizon cradling us like protective guardians, and in their custody, time danced a different tempo. You could feel it slow down, relaxing and savouring the moment along with us.

ENTER

To avoid reality I dream. To reveal the reality of myself I dream.

The sky is indigo. The hour is late. My screen flashes yellow. I scan my fingerprint and it unlocks. A message awaits. It reads – Return to the Labyrinth

We’ve been here before you and I. Centuries ago you would have slipped away from your servitude on the whim of relief. Across the mud and dirt you would have appeared at the threshold of my door. The floor inside strewn with flotsom of a million adventures. The rose petals, the animal skins, blood scattered papyrus, and cracked and tarnished halos.

The sign above my door says ENTER. One simple word. It is a command, an invitation, a challenge. There is no warning. No words could contain the beauty and terror of what lurks within.

Everyone knows that something strange happens here. This is the road that leads to nowhere and everywhere. This is the place that vampires become victims. This is where pilgrims journey looking for saints and leave broken by their sin. Some that travel here never leave at all. Many are lost within these walls.

This is the labyrinth within and without the heart.

Tonight the threshold is the screen and the floor is lines of code. I let the book slide from my lap. ‘The Unfinished Tales of Uqbar’ falls to the ground. The clock on the wall carves out the seconds of this soul asylum but as I open the screen we have already fled. In the virtual arena a few zeroes to the left and our identities are changed. Binary is the mask that disguises us. I begin to type out a world where we belong. The landscape of our escape is the space between words.

Here the present is infinite. The past is nothing more than a fleeting memory. A ghost in a fog of misfiring synapses. The future is the untyped arrangement of endless possibilities. The truth is just a fragment of the whole.

Ever present, it leaks back to us. It leaks back in legends, in myths, in dreams. All we have to do is remember.

We enter the labyrinth as fools seeking paths not yet determined. We find ourselves in dead ends, we catch ourselves in our own traps. When we think it is over, it has only just begun. There is always a new possibility. There is always a hidden door. Take nothing for granted.

What is it I have to remember?

I build this reality.

This is the maze of my imagination.

ENTER

The Scientist

Our steps are slower as we return to the station. It is as if we are both walking towards something that we don’t want, but neither of us knows how to stop it. There are a few seconds of silence. The air is heavy with words left unsaid and no time to say them. Both of us are contemplating the thoughts inside our heads. Out of nowhere, a voice in mine urges me not to waste the precious few minutes remaining.

“I was thinking that our book should be a trilogy. All the greatest stories are. Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials, The Divine Comedy. Remember I said that I was basing it on Dante’s journey and that Virgil was his guide? Well in Purgatory the reader gets to learn more of Virgil’s story…” I let the words tumble out before i can stop them and wait for you to realise what I am trying to say.

You glance at me with fear in your eyes. “I told you. I can’t write anymore”.

“Can’t or won’t?” Because you should, I feel that so deeply. I know it is the truth. And I think that deep down you do too.”

You are quiet. I don’t want to push you too hard but I feel compelled to tell you this.

Too soon we are stood by the train. There’s still ten minutes before it leaves. The doors are stood open and after the coldness of the night air, it looks warm and inviting.

“Come and sit with me?” I beg, pulling on your arm.

We sit next to each other and I turn towards you trying to catch your eye. You won’t look at me. In deference to your feelings I lower my gaze and focus on your hands. I take them in mine and suddenly everything I have wanted to say comes tumbling out.

“I know that you are scared you will become that person. I know that those memories pain you. But I think that it is hurting you not writing because that is what you are. You are trying to deny your god-given talent, to mask what is underneath, but you should know that you can never find true happiness that way. It took me years to work that out, please believe me. People care about you too much to let you become like that again. I care about you too much…”

Unconsciously I have been stroking the back of your hand with my thumb while I have been talking. It is madness to talk more. I know you don’t want me to. This is not what you want to hear and I don’t want to be the one saying it. I am paining you and that hurts me. But with utter certainty I know that no-one else will say it.

For whatever reason this has fallen at my feet and so I carry on my words regardless.

“Whoever you were back then, I don’t think it was really you. It was just your reaction to a bad situation. You cannot be afraid to love because you have been hurt before. It is not the making of mistakes that is the problem; it is whether we learn from them. Please, at least consider this. Please”

“It might be a little abstract,” you murmur.

I can see my reflection in the tears that glaze your eyes. Tears that you still won’t allow to fall. My heart breaks that I am the one who is forced to cause you this pain. I wish I could take it all back, that I could make you forget that I said it. I want to make it better.

I kiss you.

Without thinking, acting totally on instinct, I kiss your lips. I have waited years for this moment; wanted it so much it hurt. None of that matters now. All I care about is you and trying to fix this wound that I have reopened.

I expect you to push me away, or pull away, as our lips touch but you don’t. For one perfect moment nothing else in the universe exists except us and the love I have for you. It is a love that runs deeper than romance or friendship or anything else in Creation. It is a love that existed before time began and will last until the world fades.

It is a love I try to give you with a kiss.

Our eyes meet as I finally move away from you and I wonder if you felt it too.

“I should go,” you say.

In a flash you are out of the doors and walking through the station. I watch you all the way, longing with every fibre of my being that I could follow you with more than my eyes. You look over at me and raise your hand in goodbye. I smile and wave back and then you are gone.

You are gone.