“My body’s a fracture”, he said, “and I’ll be crumbling into dust over time. I starved until the skin was sagging on my skeleton, no seeds, no greens, no fountain to drink from. I cracked the skulls of meatless crabs to chew on, I opened my mouth and caught with my tongue the acid rain before the morning sun—and then I blacked out and when I woke up, the hunger came again.”
There was a little house by the foot of the dunes, overlooking the deserted beach and the tides when they rolled in. I never knew who this place belonged to or who might have come down here to build it but we inhabited it for an undefined period of time that must have been half a life, although neither of us ever seemed to grow any older. An error in the law of physics, we just continued to wander and to romance with the sea for years and for decades, and maybe even centuries, yet when we left, the world was the same, and not a thing had changed about us.
Maybe he’d built the place himself, seeing how well he blent in with the grey stone walls and the dishevelled roof made from wispy twigs like an overlarge bird’s nest. Inside, the wooden planks on the floor were dusty with sand that we brought in from the nights we had been bathing and burying our bodies on the beach’s grainy mounds. The water had often come so close that the walls were soaked and moist if you touched them, and in a house so full of nooks and crannies, we even found algae sprout under crusts of limestone.
Maybe he had built this place during a long winter, putting stone on concrete and concrete on stone with bare hands and sad tears running out of his eyeholes. This house smelled of him and changed with him—it lay silent when he mourned, yet lit up with sound and colour once he roamed from room to room—bouquets of white crest and water lilies would sometimes wither but always blossom.
I collected driftwood of all possible shades and sizes, some rotten and foul and entangled with weeds, some white and brittle, encrusted with salt, bleached and dried out from the sunlight. I made little mobiles from branches and seashells—rose and cream and caramel they dangled against a gloomy horizon, a protective veil of drizzle and murmur from the winds and the birds and the heart of the ocean, a hidden little capsule in a paradox of time, where there was nothing but the universe and its deepest sorrows, where there was nothing but Andrian and I.
“We all go to that starlit place”, he said, “but how we go—if in fear or in peace, or in terror—will it matter still, or has it ever? They’ve cracked my bones but have they maimed my soul? There’s a place where we all gather but until then, we remain intact, my brother—we’ll be whole.”
“With every autumn, I’m passing away a little”, he said.
“Every year, I would be praying for spring to come so desperately, but now I’m embracing the fall and my decay. Visions of lights and colours, they disrupt and rearrange to disarrangement. When the leaves come down and rot away on the cold ground, I’ll be rotting away with them. When the snow settles and muffles their sounds, I’ll be suffocating with them.”
The sun was fighting her way through the clouds, through the white and the blue and the yellows, and cast a shade of purple on his iris.
“It’ll soon be all so silent around us, when the warmth is fading from my skin, and I will lay down between acorns and dry flowers and tiny dead bodies of animals, and an endless white cover will erase my tracks from your memory.”
He smiled and lingered on like a reverie.
“I can only disappoint you, and you know that, Kaspian.”
The sky has been overcast for almost a decade.
Lift the veil.
Bring down the barricade.
“I’m going”, he said. “Going where the stars and the moon go whenever they disappear. One day, you will find my house empty and never see me again, and all that remains is my shadow.”
My fingers went searching for his hands but they were clenched into a fist inside his pockets. It was the prospect of the morning breeze that kept us walking all through the night, until the sun climbed out of the ocean. The sand was getting colder now that autumn came and the seashells were bathed in a soft blue light that fell from the sky like diamonds.
“There’s a quieter place”, he said, “a place where none of you will haunt me, and on my feet, there will be no shackles—it’s a crisp and sweet air that surrounds me.”
The water washed over our toes, foam and salt and cryptic melodies, I could hear the fish and the corals and the seagulls sing, from so far came their gentle little voices.
“I will walk over that bridge”, he said, pointing his finger at the horizon, “and the one who decides to go down that unsteady road must walk his way to the end. There will be a last kiss, a last time that I touch your face, and then I’ll be gone forever.”
A strand of dirty blonde hair danced before his dark blue eyes and grazed the bones of his shoulders. A wild pattern of freckles was sprinkled all over his back and I traced the coordinates of sacrifice with my fingers.
“Kaspian”, he said, “this is a dark time but I will shine like a beacon in the pitch-black night sky. I will echo through the trees and you will dig up my remains from the forest soil, I’ll be floating down that stream when the fog closes in on this town, and my name is what you’ll remember me by.”
And then I started digging.
Andrian, Andrian—where can you be found?
To everyone’s back your name will be bound.
And I shall gush into rapture one day.
Then I am with and without and inside you.
And my lustrous heart will be shackle-free.
The Black Tree.
It’s made of wood in honey colours. Sticky the walls. Sinister the floors. Dark blue sheets on the bed, white pillows, white circles on the carpet, cracks in the windows. One room, one door, many faces.
I am in a fever, a blue fever where everything is hard and cold. And in my feverish dream I am leaving the cabin to wade through the mud, until I reach the Black Tree. A demon with a hundred fingers, tentacles, dark arms, gripping and embracing me. Onyx snakes, bitter milk dripping in a melody. Strange dreams, of black ink dissolving in water, like clouds, like the mountains, soundless. Dry leaves crushing under the soles of my feet. Beetles, worms, evil little things finding their way up my legs and arms, crawling into my belly and into my lungs. Black tar running out of my nose. Black Tree growing branches inside my mouth. Black blood crystallising in the north—that is where you materialise. From the white flowers, naked, unburnt, veiled by a mist. Blisters on your hands, a festering limb, sores on your thighs, infected the night. Bloodshot. Pink eyes. Demise.
Andrian. Radian. Kandrian. Aspian. Inkaspan. Kaspian. Rise.
So many faces. None of them mine.
The Glass Room.
Waking up, falling asleep again. I don’t know where I am. A constant simmering.
Buried on my bed under a blue moon. Rippling and cold the mirror front, I can hear you move. Footsteps on the carpet, a shuffle, no imprint, the truth—there is someone in the back room, someone wearing your clothes. It is not you.
Waking up, falling asleep again. I don’t know where you are. A constant hammering.
Tap water, trickling. The clocks, ticking. Three dozen of them. The walls are all spinning, the windows are breaking, a carousel of you and me in grey tones. Nausea. Apathy. A cut on my knee. There is an angry little spot in my lower body—that’s where you will find me.
Tap water, changing colour, from red to green. Down the drain I follow to flow under the streets. Concrete is my cover, all the animals are dead. I wept for the city. The longtime lament.
Zooming in and out of reality.
Get up and jump down with your eyes north.
Bridge of steel, crushed by metal.
Bright lights, on/off.
The White Room.
Paint drips off the walls like clotted paste and plugs the pores until I fall and choke. White before the eyes, white left and right, and even the shadows have been devoured. White veils a world that does not rotate—like a link in a chain of cheerless fixed stars it dangles in dull infinity.
And in the glittering light I clip Andrian’s soft curls, red-golden ribbons waft towards the ground, smothered in a bright white blanket. And every wisp grows back resistant and more aureate, Andrian’s hair climbs along the walls like meadows and webs spanned to infinite canals, fans and veils made of gold and diamonds entwine around his pallid face. And I let him shear me and above our heads, we interlace and grow together.
And I want to yield but I cannot see, my eyes are sewn up with icy stitches. And from your mouth you regorge dirty ebony, scalding pitch in unstoppable masses, like malodorous tar splashes the viscid sludge and it floods out of your body and into mine. Into the nose, into the ears, into the wide open throat, and inside me it gets hot and dry. And I fall into the torrential rivers made of vicious slime and rigid lime, and I blend in with stripes and chequers and patterns, with mellow grey and tarnished silver and little powdery motes of ash that whirl and get sucked into your lungs.
Andrian, if I could leave then I would go but you hang me up under the firmament, on chains and glowing hooks I no more struggle and my head hangs down on loose ties. And every one of my limbs elongates, as on stilts and taller than the giants of this earth, as on skinny spider legs I support the heavy thoughts. And the ache sings so shrill and impulsive that I sob and suck in the oceans so that even mightier ones will unfold from all the salt and all of the water that flows out of my pores and shapes runnels and the Great Flood by the end of the night.
Andrian, the longtime lament.
No step forward, not one back I can go.
All is white in this hole.
These are excerpts from “The White Room”, a collection of poems, episodes, and short stories I have been writing over the past ten years.