Twenty-Five

At first, it was dark. Then I could see as if through a tunnel. And at the other end, there was snow. There was a man running around with a child on his shoulders. Or rather, it looked like the child’s body was where the man’s head should have been, upside down, with his or her legs dangling up in the air. They were running around a bit like that, then they fell on the snow. They reminded me of a headless chicken, how they used to twitch and jerk when my mother and grandmother cut their necks, blood sprinkling all over the sand of the yard…

I was not sure whether I should go closer and have a look at the man-child. Then I saw the kid get up, and there was the man’s body where their head should have been, and the child was pulling him with them, like a colorful whirlwind, like a tornado. And the child was running and running, head lost in the tornado (which was the body of the man). And then I couldn’t see the kid anymore, only the tornado, whirling, their body was whirling (the head still invisible), chairs and pieces of furniture whirling, and lots of sand…

And then I noticed my fairies whirl. Even though I did have a doll or two, my favourite toys were the fairies I made from my mother’s handkerchiefs and camisoles: I tied a knot on them, the knot was the head, the shorter part the hair, the longer one the body. My mother hated it because I put knots on everything, tablecloths, curtains… the house was a forest of knots… I surrounded myself with the fairies. They were my friends.

All at once I was in my childhood home, playing with my fairies in the room. My parents were in the kitchen, I could hear them arguing, but only faintly, because I did not want to. I looked out through the window and noticed that the tornado was huge now. Only it wasn’t a tornado anymore, it was water, very muddy water, carrying bits of broken furniture.

Then I saw something – or someone: he knocked on the window. For a moment I thought it was my father, but I wasn’t sure. I hesitated whether I should or should not open it, worried that the water would flood the house.

But I didn’t care anymore, I opened the window, trying to swim in the direction where I saw my father go. But all I could see was mud and broken furniture. I swam to the surface, raised my head above the water and shouted “Dad, are you here? where are you?”. But there was no answer. I was desperate.

Suddenly, someone grabbed my leg and pulled me back into the water. It was the Siberian man. He held my hand and pulled me with him, we went deeper and deeper. It was almost dark now, but the mud dispersed, the water was almost clear.

Then I could see a pulsating light, like a lighthouse. We swam closer. The light seemed to have antennae or tentacles, rising and sinking in a gentle rhythm. Like an octopus. As we went closer, I was suddenly sitting on a horse in a carousel. I was not sure I wanted to be there, I started to get dizzy, nauseous, afraid. “I want to get off, please, I want it to stop”.

I heard my mother’s voice “you wanted to get on the bloody carousel, you wanted to try, now you will stay there until it stops. you wanted it, you got it, now you hold on tight until it’s over”. My tears started to fall. I could perceive something moving with me, to the side, something big, but I didn’t dare to turn my head, I was afraid I would fall off. The shadow was moving together with the carousel. Then I was grabbed under the armpit and lifted up. It was my father. He ran by the carousel so that he could take me off the horse. He hugged me tight. “You are spoiling her, always spoiling her. She was nagging for the carousel, she deserved to stay on it. Where are you going? what…” I couldn’t hear my mother anymore, my father was running, holding me tight. I could feel his heart beating, stronger, stronger, we were throbbing together, we were one huge pulse.*

* This is not an actual memory. I have never been on a carousel.  I was a very fearful child. My father did convince me once to try the roller coaster with him. I got so scared that I turned blue and rigid, like a corpse. When the ride was over, he took me in his arms and did a runner towards the entrance to call an ambulance. But by the time we got there (and my mother caught up with us), I didn’t need help anymore, I was alright.

Nineteen

I was at the seaside, breathing with the rhythm of the sea. Then I was in the town where we lived until last year, with gardens overlooking the river. I was lying in one of these gardens, and there was Venus, as a young woman, partly covered in feathers. My belly was filled with soil, like a flowerpot, and Venus was planting flowers in me.

I looked at her hands, one of them looked like the claw of a bird.

And I asked:
“What is it like, being a hybrid? Is it like being sick?”

“No” she replied, “when you get sick, you had a “healthy” self that got somehow distorted by sickness. But I was born like this, it’s not a distortion, it’s my being. When you are one type of being or another, you have a home in the land of this or that. When you are a hybrid, like me, you live at the crossroads, your only home is your skin, not even that, because even that might be forever changing”.

“Are you a shapeshifter, too?”

She just smiled.

“But doesn’t it make things difficult for you, to be so different? I mean, Venus is about relating to others, connections, self-worth and such…”

“All that bull*t about what I am and what I am about. You read too much”, she laughed. “Well, okay, relating, connecting… let’s see.

Your mother lives in an imaginary symbiosis with a duplicate of you, an image of her daughter who resembles a lot like you in some ways and not at all in others. She gets upset and feels betrayed when you “split” yourself from this image, and she refuses to accept that her fantasy-daughter and you are two different “people”. Relating and connecting, indeed.

And your father. He didn’t really get the difference between reality and imagination, inside and outside, child and adult. You were two kids playing together, or two grownups enveloped in darkness… you were his best friend, his comrade, the only soul who could “understand” him. He didn’t have close friends; the only sibling he was close to, his brother, lived in another city; his mother died; his marriage was a catastrophe… and he was mentally “fragile”. I know he meant the world to you, but you also meant the world to him. And that’s not okay. And it couldn’t work. No matter how hard you were trying. You were a child. Even an adult cannot be everything to another person.

Eight

I was in the forest, again. I heard birds, and as I looked up, I saw a group of cranes flying by. They turned and started to fly in the opposite direction, as if they bumped into a wall and had to change course. Then they turned again, to and fro, as if they were sewing the sky together, and the distance between one end and the other was becoming smaller and smaller, and I saw that indeed there was a wall, one of water at either end, closing. I was not sure whether the cranes were bringing them together or the walls were pushing the cranes, but at one point they touched and the whole world submerged in water, including me. I saw sunlight filtering through, playing on the grass, and it was so beautiful, so peaceful…

But then I noticed something moving, something red, like a snake. When it came closer, it looked more like a Chinese dragon. It got quite dark, all I could see was a big, gaping wound, I don’t know whom it belonged to, but I heard my mother and grandmother panic “we should call a doctor”, telling each other what to do, shrieking, I couldn’t understand them anymore, and I couldn’t see them, either, or anything else.

Next, I was in the forest, again. It was almost night, and a group of crows were flying to and fro the same way as the cranes before, but it was not water they were welding together and pouring down on us but darkness…

When the night fell, I saw a figure made of bright smoke. I couldn’t make out its shape, but it had wings. As it was approaching, it looked more and more like somebody riding a winged horse. As soon as it reached me, it froze, went black, and made a clanging sound, like metal hitting metal, and I heard my mother say “it is cast iron, it’s from the factory” (my mother used to work in a cast iron factory called “Vulcan”). She went on clanging and clanging, but I could not see a thing, it was so dark. Little by little, it started to sound more and more like a bell, a huge bell… For a moment, I was in a cemetary.

I saw the group of crows again, tightly clinging together, facing me, cawing, and their cawing was more and more like words, until they were screaming “it was you, it was you, it was you”. I got frightened, couldn’t move for a moment, and then when I could have moved, I decided I would not, happens what happens.

Then, from behind me, came something like an old peasant woman dressed in a large, black shawl. She charged at the crows, “shoo, sparrows, shoo, shoo! shoo pidgeons, shoo, shoo!”, again and again. I recognized the words from a folk tale.

These words are uttered in the story when the young couple – who were kidnapped by the devil when they were children – decide to escape from him. The devil sends his servants after them when he realizes they are gone, and each time the girl can feel him coming, the boy casts a spell and they turn themselves into something else. The servant doesn’t realize it is them and goes back to the devil empty handed. First time the boy tunrs himself into a priest and the girl into a church. The second time the girl turns into a field of wheat, and the boy into a man guarding the field. When the servant of the devil comes and asks him whether he saw a boy and a girl running this way, he just keeps saying “shoo, sparrows, shoo, shoo! shoo pidgeons, shoo, shoo!” until the servant’s had enough and goes back to the devil. The third time it is the devil himself who comes after them, this time the girl turns into a lake and the boy into a golden duck. When the devil arrives, he knows the duck is the boy, but he has to go into the lake to get him. When he enters the water, the duck keeps swimming towards the middle where the water is the deepest, and the devil drowns.

I decided to let the woman deal with the crows, and slipped away. First I was going slowly, then I to run, and at one point the world was turning upside down, around and around.

When it stopped, I was relieved because I first thought that I was on the upper side, but then I noticed that what surrounded me were not winter branches but roots, I was below the ground, and I got really scared. I saw a pool of water, and as I started going towards it, the world turned around, again. I realized it was more like a river… I sat down on the bank and put my hands in the water. I saw something that looked like roots growing into the water, but they moved. They started to look more and more like human hands, and my own hands looked small in comparison. As the branches or roots were changing into a person, I knew I should look at my companion, but I just couldn’t get myself to. “it’s okay” – he or she whispered “everything is okay now, you don’t have to look at me, you will look when you are ready, it’s okay, it really is”. It felt warm, it felt safe, just sitting side by side, the sunlight playing on the water…

Two

I tried to go back to meet the Sun, but I couldn’t clear my mind. Then I thought, what if i just went back into that sphere, maybe the golden bee could help me, maybe just standing there and observing it go round and round in its elliptical orbit would quiet my mind… So I entered the sphere, and there it was. I went closer and wondered whether it was the Sun in some other form, I don’t know why, maybe because of its golden colour… or maybe because I thought the Sun would want to stay with me wherever I went…  or maybe it was Mercury, because once I had a dream with Hermes, and in that dream, it was a flock of golden bees that merged together to give him human form… I asked, but the bee didn’t answer.

As I was just staring, at one point I noticed some dark figures emerging out of the fog of the sphere, I was not sure whether they were trees or people or something in-between, but I got tense, and I could feel pain in my belly. “Don’t be afraid” the bee said (she had a female voice), and I tried to focus on her instead of the creatures around me, but couldn’t quite manage. Then she started to circulate around me anti-clockwise, embracing, “don’t be afraid. breathe. slower…. slower”. I could feel her warmth, but sometimes the shadows seemed to have faces, staring at me, and I felt so… guilty… so ashamed.

It reminded me of my father’s funeral, all those people staring at us, “the family”, we had to sit on a pedestal. and I felt so numb, so dead… my mother kept poking me with her elbow “your father loved you the most in the world, and you can’t even cry, look how people are staring at us and you don’t even cry, aren’t you ashamed, and I thought you loved him so much. You’re big enough to understand he’s dead.” But all I wanted was to go the coffin and look into my father’s eyes. “Can I see him, mom, can I just go and look into his eyes? why are they closed?”. – “Don’t be silly, he probably doesn’t even have them anymore, when someone dies, they take him to the morgue, cut him apart, take things out, put some of it back just so that he looks okay in the coffin.”. I was shocked. “where are dad’s eyes? what did they do with them?” – “maybe they are in formaldehyde somewhere, or in a dustbin. why does it matter?” I was horrified. All I could think of was my father being chopped up, his eyes taken out and thrown away…

It grew very dark and heavy around me, and the room shrank very small, stifling, like a casket. At that point, the bee entered my belly and started to circulate within. It was a very strange feeling, at first it was even painful, but at the same time, very warm,  and I started to feel lighter. I looked up and the sphere was growing quite large, and becoming transparent, I could see the starry sky above me. But when I took my eyes off the sky and saw those shadows, the sphere suddenly got obscure again and suffocatingly small. “Breathe” said the bee, “breathe, slower”. It felt very warm, and I was pulsating, vibrating like a tuning fork, and the sphere started to grow again, turning transparent to the stars…

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