you’re ten, and you’re bored.
first of all, whose idea was school anyway? you’ve never cared much for anything beyond books, and you certainly don’t intend to spend any more time around people you don’t understand than you need to. class is dull. recess is dull. by this time, school has ceased to amaze you; after all, everything you’ve been taught here was old news to you. a textbook speaks more clearly to you than a teacher. you want more, but nothing’s really the ‘more’ you’re looking for.
you’re twelve, and you’re boring.
in the short time you’ve been alive, centuries have turned, people have died, buildings have fallen. science has uncovered new things and writers have written new books. people younger than you have done more, and you’re stuck in a classroom six hours a day, every day, for the next six years of your life—six years, one might add, to the six or seven you’ve already spent learning. beyond that, what are you? a student; education is all you’ve ever known. you have no friends, no goal, no life. school is boring, but you’re just as.
you’re fourteen, and you’re tired.
life crashed down on you while you weren’t looking, its rapidly tightening cinch winding around your neck like the noose you fight so feebly to avoid. everything that was easy before is just as easy, you know; it’s simply perception that’s changed. everything feels so much harder now, but you’d get it down if you tried. you know this; you’ve learned it, just as you’ve learned to cram study, to brew yourself coffee in the morning, the proper method of bullshitting your way through an essay. you’ve learned a lot, but you’ve lost more.
When I wake up, it’s night.
When I wake up, it’s morning.
When I wake up, five minutes have passed.
When I wake up, fifteen hours have passed.
I sleep haphazardly: on the couch, in a bed; at four a.m., at five p.m.; for two hours or twelve. Some people have people have alarms, and I respect that. I have alarms too. They just don’t always work, aren’t always set, or are simply ignored at the most critical of times. Deadlines are imminent: I sleep for twelve hours. I have extra time to sleep before class starts: I stay awake all through the night. There’s not much rhyme or reason to it all; I am a creature of impulse, someone who, upon seeing a cliff, feels the inexplicable urge to jump.
I can’t even say I have ‘bad habits’, since you’ve got to have habits for that. Sometimes I adopt a normal schedule, one others would probably find agreeable. But it’s never for long. I’m a very inconsistent person and I get bored easily.
I’m talking about myself here. I’m always talking about myself. I’m a bit selfcentered, if you haven’t noticed already. You probably have; it’s fairly prominent. Everyone comments on it. ‘You’re always going on about your own stories but you’re never interested in what others have to say.’ Other people aren’t me. Empathy beyond the entry-level was made for other people. I can’t speak for others, I never know what they’re thinking. I sleep to forget, although to forget what is something I haven’t yet remembered.
This is getting out of hand. This is getting personal. I didn’t intend for that. Hopefully you’ll regard this as some sort of abstract work, something that’s not entirely about me, but about… something. Nonexistence? Apathy? Something, something. Something erratic, unfathomable, illogical. Something I don’t even understand myself.
Maybe that’s what writing’s about. Purposes and all that, right? There’ll be some day when I’m at the top of my game and I can write sentences that are simultaneously succinct and stimulating in the intellectual sense. That’s not today. It’s never today, is it? We’re flawed. Can we ever actually reach our full potential? Or will we—I, bringing it back to myself—always be limited by our doubts, our insecurities, our fundamental weaknesses? Who knows. I don’t.
Having an inconsistent sleep schedule is an odd thing. Nothing seems as definite as it should, and you’ve never got much of an idea how much time you’ll have to do what you need to. When will I fall asleep? When will I wake up? Will I sleep fifteen hours or two tonight? (I’m just guessing here, but most often it’s four, then ten, then two, then twelve or some such.) The word ‘usually’ cannot apply in this case, which is a word that I use very frequently.
Personally, it’s gotten to the point that time—abstract at best, inexplicable at worst—seems either to rush by or come to a standstill. I’ve described this with an analogy a couple of times, sounding somewhat like some pretentious hipster dressed fashionably in rags wandering around a side alley in Seattle: time is a train and I am caught in the tracks; I can see it coming but I cannot fully register the gravity of the situation and am powerless to stop it.
Here we step from the discussion of time and sleep to one of time and death. I want to assume that was a decent transition, but that might be hoping for too much. Well, no matter. No one’s going to get any younger here; you can’t exactly rewind time. The two—sleep, mortality—are naturally related. After all, they do look remarkably alike from afar, and plenty of people die in their sleep. Old people, sure, but people. As someone who sleeps a lot (or none at all, for that matter), I think I’m qualified to say that waking up in the night, not knowing where you are, why you’re there, or what time it is, is disorienting. Sometimes, it’s even a little disappointing. I like to sleep. It’s one of my favorite pasttimes, as dull as that sounds. If I could sleep forever, I probably would. I wake up, and it’s like, why. What could this day possibly have in store for me than being inordinately lazy? For what purpose am I awake today?
…For what purpose am I alive now? The counterpart to nonexistence is, obviously, existence. The question is, then, is sleeping really that similar to death? Nonexistence, that is—or at least not existence as we know it. Are we really that close to the end all the time? Or has the train stopped in its tracks? I keep asking questions that everyone’s already explored, that we still haven’t found any answers to after all this time. Time, time, time. Time to think, time to live, time to die. Time to be unoriginal and poke at topics as old as the concept of time.
clocks and time are not synonymous—tick, tock goes the clock, but time is silent.
time is the ache in your bones at dusk.
time is backwards and forwards, and everything in between.
time is vapor in the wind, flowing, moving, impossibly fine.
clocks are finite; they shatter,
spewing shards of glass and wood and god-knows-what-else onto the floor for the living to step on
(shit! the man cries out, his foot dripping blood onto his oh-so-white carpet. he cares more about the carpet than his feet.)
time dips and flows, sinks its teeth into existence.
time changes, and is, in return, changed.
the elder no longer counts the days gone by;
the adult hides, days flickering out as the sun goes down like so many lights;
the adolescent laughs at the idea of numbered days, invincible in youth; the child knows every second, every minute, every hour as if it were the first in creation.
the clock will lull the baby to sleep, but only time may say when.
out of sync, it is nothing but a broken metronome, and a moon that has fallen out of orbit is no moon at all.
we are all tiny and irrelevant
life is brief
the earth will continue spinning after we have all died
and long after earth has ceased to exist, the universe will roll on, spreading, unraveling in perpetuity
basically, we’re all equally fucked. there’s no reason to sugarcoat it.
When she listens, she closes her eyes and turns the bass up, unconsciously drifting towards the intangible beat like a moth to a flame, a sailor to the sea. Headphones up, unwieldy on her delicate frame, she dances against the urban landscape—the world is lost to her, and she to it.
When she speaks, her voice dips and flows, a smooth cadence forming in the contours of her speech. Her breaks for air are as part of the sound as her words (the breath whispers as it glides between her lips, a reminder of how very human she must be, to need something as mundane as air).
Her laughter blows in the wind like the piping of a flute, and her footsteps are rolls upon the drum of the earth.
"Spring was always my favorite season," I remark absently to an absent audience. "I was born in spring, did you know that? May the fourteenth, in early morning. My mother did always say I was a morning person."
No one is listening, but it’s never about the hearing, you know? It’s all in the telling.
I think that, but I don’t say it. It’s not quite true, and I know it.
For a story to live, someone has to remember it. I can write as easily as breathing—sometimes easier—but I cannot make people listen.
Perhaps that’s my problem.
"Spring was my favorite season," I continue. "It’s warm, almost too warm. I suppose I just like the feeling of sunlight on my skin. Waking up to a room bathed in the stuff. It’s hard to describe, really. You know the saying, ‘turning over a new leaf’? That’s what spring is like every year. New beginnings—endless possibilities. Not necessarily for me, but…."
I pause. My eyes drift around the empty room, an unspoken sigh on my lips.
"I wonder what changed."
On a cloudless night like this, she could write about the stars, scattered like dewdrops across the blackened sky. She could pluck the sun, still warm, from its throne amidst the planets, and cast shadows across the universe with its thoughtless illumination. If she’d breathe just so, her breath could crystallize into galaxies, overflowing with light; she could turn stardust into words, paint entire worlds with a flick of her fingers. It is with great surprise, then, that the sun is still there, with the planets dutifully occupying their assigned seats around it.
She tells others that she finds them beautiful, as they do, but that is a lie; when she gazes up at the constellations, it is never for longer than a glance. They are brilliant, she sees, but there is something off—something broken—about them. She knows this, for it is as familiar to her as the ink on her fingers, as the beating of her heart. In the chilled night the frost calls and the stars seem bleak, so alone, so desolate, scattered to and fro across the blackened sky—however can they stand it?
She does not write about the stars, any more than she will write about the scars on her skin, the scent of the earth after it rains, the sound of trees swaying mournfully in the breeze, or the color of mist just before dawn. Loneliness is just that—alone. Sorrow was never meant to be shared, but it was meant to be felt; she knows this, for it is as familiar to her as the streetlamps outside her door, basked in amber, silently keening, waiting for someone, anyone, to notice them, or her bedroom curtains, pulled tightly shut against the night as if to keep the light in, that last remnant of hope.
She writes, instead, of life and love. She writes of home and hearth, and she writes, if not about happiness, then about contentedness. And she writes to please not others, but herself.
There is something about sadness that is beautiful, she admits to others.
She does not write about sadness.
It’s always the quiet after the storm, the aftermath of chaos, that revitalizes you. The night is dark—but you like it that way. You like to think that you could lose yourself in those stars, pinpricks of light sparkling like the glass at your feet. You could scatter into a billion tiny dots, you could become nothing but the stardust from whence you came. You know this impossibility to be true. Your fingers drag against the grass as the cool breeze drags its light fingers across your skin; it tastes of promise and freedom, of perhaps and maybe. You could become the very wind itself—drifting, seeking, never finding. You close your eyes, breathing in the scent of fresh air, damp soil, and hope. And for a moment, startlingly bittersweet, you are you. No facade, not the caricature of yourself worn to appease society—just you.